Paper Walls - 2. Chapter 2
“Want to throw the ball around?” I ask, not sure what else to do.
He nods, “Yeah, sure, why not.”
“Cool, I have a ball out back.” I tell him, leading him to the back yard.
He just laughs, “Of course you do.”
I get a little self conscious at the statement; I guess there isn’t much else to me besides football. “Yeah, my dad and I normally throw it around after school and stuff, but probably won’t be doing that for a while.”
He lobs the ball to me, and I catch it with ease, “So, your dad is pretty intense.”
I toss the ball to him, a perfect spiral, “Yeah, sorry about that. So, how old are you?”
“Seventeen. Just turned it about three weeks ago and nothing to be sorry about. It’s pretty cool that he’s like that. I mean, everyone on the team is stoked to have your dad here. Look what he’s done in his football coaching career. The man is a legend,” he says, throwing the ball back at me.
“Yeah. he pretty much is…..I’m sorry that my dad kinda bombarded you with the tutoring thing. I mean, you totally don’t have to do it…..I know you have other responsibilities like your brother and work, so don’t feel like you have to study with me and all,” I tell him.
He thinks this over as we toss the ball back and forth. My mom comes out and hands us a few Gatorades and we take a break, sitting on the deck chairs. “So, do you really have a 4.0 GPA?” He asks looking at me intensely.
I don’t know why, but him looking at me like that causes me to blush, “Yeah, I actually have higher than a 4.0, but they don’t go past a 4.0, and I am in all honors classes. So, like, it’s really no big deal if you want me to help you out, man.”
“I don’t want you to think you’re forced to, but yeah, I would like it,” he says after a while.
“I don’t mind!” I say a little too soon, and I blush again.
“If you want, I can talk to the guys to see if they will cut you some slack.”
I just laugh, “No, it’s cool. I will win them over on my own,” I say with total confidence.
“So, you’re fifteen and you’re in better shape than half the team. I just don’t understand it!” he says.
“Well, I get up at 4:00 a.m., run 1-5 miles, depending on what’s going on, then I get home, do push-ups and sit-ups, then shower and get ready for school. Like I said, I don’t drink soda or eat candy. Eat clean, train dirty,” I tell him.
“You think you’d ever want some company on the running part?”
“You asking?” I smile.
“Yeah, I guess so,” he tells me, smiling. That’s when I notice his white teeth, and how happy he seems, but underneath I can still see the sadness that’s there.
“Hey, would you be open to the idea of me helping you with some QB stuff?”
I see his mood change quickly, “So this was what it was all about?” he says, getting defensive.
“What?” I ask, getting confused.
“Invite me over, be nice, and offer this so you can tell me how shitty of a quarterback I am, to ridicule me, to make me feel even more like shit?” He stands up now.
“No, no, Shawn I already told you I am not going to be QB!” I say, standing up.
“Fuck you, Kessler!” He yells at me and shoves me back into my chair.
I didn’t think he was so strong and I hit the chair falling backwards. He just shakes his head at me and walks away. I hear him tell my mom that something came up, that he can’t stay, he has to pick up his little brother.
Dad doesn’t really ask what happened when Mom tells him what Shawn said. He just accepts it Dinner is quick; we have pork chops, and dad tells me to get my ass into the shower and hit the bed, which, honestly, he doesn’t even have to tell me because I am tired. Tomorrow will be the weight room, and I will have to deal with Shawn then, because we’ll be lifting together. Dad always makes the QB’s lift together.
6:00 a.m. comes too early for me. I couldn’t sleep because I’m nervous about having to lift with Shawn, especially after yesterday, but I am already up and go for my run. I meet Dad downstairs. He is pretty quiet on the way there, “You know the drill you and Shawn lifting together, and might be another person, not sure yet.”
“He probably lifts more than me,” I say.
He lets out a sigh, “Figure it out. You two are both smart enough. We will be in there for the first half of the morning, so if you need to change the weight, so be it.”
I roll my eyes and I’m glad he can’t see me. I would be in so much shit. We get to the field house before anyone else. Not even the other coaches have gotten here. I go ahead and change into my workout clothes, and open up the weight room.
I make sure all the doors are open and set up the fans, so we can get a proper breeze, because it’s muggy in this Texas heat. I feel so awkward in this stupid field shirt that barely covers my stomach. I mean, I know I look good, but it’s going to be hard to focus on lifting when everyone will be wearing short shirts and I’ll be worrying about sprouting wood.
After about ten minutes, most of the team comes staggering in. Mostof them look half dead or still asleep. I finally see Shawn walk in with our receiver, Garret. I know for a fact he doesn’t like me at all. He’s given me death glances ever since I met him. I watch the two of them say something and he looks shocked and laughs. Shawn probably told him about how I never drink soda so they are probably making fun of me…
After a few more minutes, Dad and four other coaches come in the weight room. “Take a knee!” one of them calls.
“Morning gentlemen. Glad to see most of you here. Whether you’re awake is another question entirely. We are not going to be maxing out today - do some reps and some bonding. Do not push yourself. We will have time for that later. Break up into groups, linemen together, QB’s together, receivers and so forth. Garret, go with the QBs. It will even the group out. I am leaving it to the rest of the coaches. I have to go stop in and get the freshman and JV teams acquainted. “
“Stretch em out!” Coach Q calls.
We run through our stretches, and then we break into our groups. Both Shawn and Garret are by the bench, so I make my way over. Garret rolls his eyes as I approach. “Aren’t you supposed to be with your daddy with the freshman and JV team?”
“That would mean you, as well, considering you are mentally slow.” I shoot back.
He steps up to me, and I don’t back down. “Enough,” Shawn says, rolling his eyes. “Let’s lift.”
We do warm ups first, just the bar. I will be honest. I am not much of a weight lifter at all. We never went to the weight room. Something about being younger than fifteen, it would mess up the bones, but now I am all good to go. I can easily bench 25’s on the bar, and we move up to 35’s, which are a little bit more of a struggle, but I get it up.
“Can you do 45’s?” Shawn asks.
“I bet his shrimpy ass can’t. He struggled with 35’s on it,” Garret says.
“Yeah, it’s no problem, just give me a lift off,” I say.
I watch both of them knock benching out with ease. I take my place under the bar, and Shawn gets behind me to spot me, and I have to keep concentrating because his crotch is above my head and I can see up his shorts, but nothing that I would like to see is viewable. I hear them chuckle and when I look back up, Garret is putting 5’s on as well. “Lift it, mister all-star!” Garret mocks me and moves Shawn out of the way to spot me.
“Lift off,” I tell him.
He acts like he is going to lift off for me, but he just scoots it off the rack, and I’m not ready. The bar hits my chest with a thud and I give a cry out while they both laugh. “Get it off of me!” I wheeze out. They finally lift it off and they are still chuckling.
I cough and grab my chest, “What’s wrong, all-star? Can’t handle the weight?”
That’s when I let my emotions get the best of me. I shove Garret into the wall, and Shawn grabs my arm. I shove him off me, and Garret shoves me over the bench. Coach Q is already there before I can get up. “What the hell is wrong with the three of you? Let’s go!”
Another coach grabs me and Garret by the shirt, while Coach Q grabs Shawn. All I can think is Dad is going to be so pissed. We are escorted to my dad, who is out on the field with the JV team.
I see my dad look over as we approach, and I can see the hard look through his sunglasses. He says something to another coach and meets us at the other end of the field. “Coach?” he says as he approaches.
“Fighting in the weight room, coach, these two against him,” he says, pointing to me.
“Thank you, coach, I will deal with this. Let the team understand I don’t tolerate fighting in my house!”
All three of us stand there; no one meets Coach’s eyes except for me. I know I am probably in deeper shit than any one of them. He takes his hat off and runs a hand through his hair. “Any one of you gentlemen want to tell me what happened?”
I look over to Shawn and Garret who just look at each other. “Okay. So no one wants to talk. Guess I will bench all of your asses for the whole season,” Coach says.
“Coach, you can’t do that!” Garret objects.
Coach laughs, and puts his hat back on, “I think you are mistaken, Garret. I can do whatever the hell I want. It’s y’all three clowns who can’t do what you want in my damn house! Since you want to tell me what I can and cannot do, Mr. Tondrew, tell me what happened or both of these clowns are off the team!”
Garret looks over to Shawn and he gives him a look, “It was mine and Shawn’s fault sir. I was taunting Ryder that he was weak and couldn’t hang with us, and I put more weight on the bar, and we both knew he couldn’t lift it. He asked for a lift off, and Shawn and I switched. I didn’t give him a proper lift off on purpose and the bar came down on him quickly. He struggled to try to get it off his chest, and we kind of found it funny. When he got it off his chest, he came at me.”
I don’t even dare look at my dad in the eyes at this point. “You do realize you could have injured him, you could have injured your own damn teammate? Tell me right now why I shouldn’t kick your ass off my field and out of my program,” he says in Garret’s face.
“Please, sir, I need this. I have a football scholarship on the line,” Garret says, almost looking like he is going to bow to him.
My dad steps up to Shawn next. “The captain of the team condones this behavior? I guess I was wrong about you. Maybe you shouldn’t be the captain. Because a captain shouldn’t be a coward. I offer you help, guidance, and you spit in my face by trying to injure a teammate. Didn’t I tell you that you would be held to a higher standard? I remember that conversation, do you?”
“Yes sir…..I wasn’t thinking. I’m sorry, coach. It won’t happen again,” Shawn says.
“You’re right, it won’t. So, team captain, what should I do with the three of you, because I am this close to kicking your sorry asses off my field.”
“Please, coach, don’t. Garret needs this, your own son lives and breathes football…coach, I need this, I need something good in my life,” Shawn whispers out and he’s almost in tears.
Dad seems to accept this answer and looks over at me. “I’ll handle you at home.”
“You two clowns think it was funny, what you did to him? Well, I hope you find suicide drills hilarious! I hope you know what they are. Start at the 0 yard line, run to the 5, touch the line, run back, run to the 10, run back, and so on ‘til you get to the other end of the field. If you don’t think that was funny enough, you will do it ‘til someone is puking up breakfast, and there’s a catch because you two clowns don’t want to include everyone into the team. If Ryder pukes before you two, guess what? You will be doing this for the rest of summer! Get going, ladies, I don’t have all damn day,” he says and walks away.
I chuckle to myself; my dad knows I won’t be puking. This is child’s play, considering I run 5 miles every morning and 10 on the weekends, but they don’t know that. I jog over to the 0 yard line and wait for them to join me, and we start running. No one says anything, and I can see my dad watching us from the sidelines. He is also keeping an eye on his other teams. We get to the other side of the field and I feel good still. Garret, on the other hand, is dragging his ass. Shawn is doing better than Garret. He’s keeping up with me, but I figure I need to show him that I’m better. I pick up the speed and he knows what I am doing, so he picks up speed as well. We’re back at the 50 yard line. I look over at Garret, who is barely jogging, and I see Shawn blow chunks. I hear the whistle and my dad comes over chuckling.
“Not bad gentleman. So what have you learned?” He asks.
Garret, who is finally joining us, raises his hand, “That your son isn’t human!” he says, huffing while taking a knee.
I smile, and I see my dad’s face and it falls off. “Yes, Garret, he is. Hard work, dedication, and persistence pay off. I have come to a conclusion about what’s going to happen. Garret, you’re suspended for the first game. You started it. You were reckless and irresponsible.”
“Coach!” He starts to protest.
“Want to make it two?” Dad asks.
“No sir,” He says.
“Captain, you’re free to go. Just know I am disappointed in you. Actually, wait,” He says.
“Ryder, you thought you would finish this, and you know better than that. Have I taught you nothing? Then you dare to try and show off on my field! That’s like spitting in my face! So Mr. Hot Shot, up-downs till you puke, and I know your endurance is strong.”
I shoot a dark look at Shawn and Garret. This is such bullshit, and I peel off my shirt and start doing up-downs. I start to lose count after 100, and I am thirsty as hell. To make it worse my dad made Shawn stay behind after practice to make sure I didn’t cheat. He doesn’t even look at me; I start to feel the burning sensation in my legs. There were never any pops in my house when I did wrong - there were only up-downs or suicide drills. My dad didn’t believe in fighting; he believed in discipline of the body.
“Maybe Garret is right and you aren’t even human,” Shawn finally says, and at that moment I puke my guts up.
I am soaking wet with sweat and my shorts are soaked. I grab my shirt and wipe my mouth off. Shawn hands me a water bottle and I snatch it from him. “You dumbasses could have ended my football career,” I say, looking at him.
“Look, it was supposed to be…” I cut him off.
“Save it! You and your dickhead friend win, I am quitting the team. You were right. They will never accept me. Neither will you, and all I wanted to do is be a friend and try to help you. You let your jealousy get in the way of that. Trust me, Shawn, I know I am a better QB than you, but I’m not trying to take your spot, or the team. So fuck you and the team. I will just move down to JV,” I yell at him, trying to control the emotions.
Everyone is already gone by the time I stumble into the field house. I don’t even change out of my shorts. I just hit the showers. I let out the tears; it sucks to be on a team when no one wants you on it. Football is my life; there is no life without it. It’s what I am good at, but I can’t deal with being bullied. If this is how they are because I am good, I cannot imagine what it would be like if anyone finds out I’m not even coach’s biological son, and that I’m gay on top of that.
My dad is standing outside of the showers with a towel and I take it from him. “What happened?”
I just shrug, “He freaked last night when I offered to help him with plays and all, and no, I wasn’t being cocky.”
“Knock off the attitude, are you ok?” He asks.
“I’m fine. I want to go down to the JV team,” I tell him.
“No,” he says and walks off to his office.
Fuck…..this annoys me so much; well, at least its only one more day ‘til the weekend. Maybe I can work on him and get him to agree to it over the weekend.
Hope you all are enjoying the story! I definitely love the feedback I look forward to it!
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