“Where is my car?!” Mrs. McAllister was panting with anger as she leaned on her fists, stretching her prune lips, over the desk she once called her own. The cool face sitting behind it was enjoying this.
“Your car? What kind of car was it?”
“You know very well what kind of car it was. A brand new Crown Victoria, Prussian blue and parked in ‘my’ parking space!”
“Oh, was that your car in the principal’s parking space? Well, surely you can see that we couldn’t allow a vehicle abandoned here to deprive me of my rightful parking place. Parking is so very expensive on the streets these days. Yes, I had it towed. Canfield Towing will be glad to help you and please, feel free to call them when you get home tonight. Such matters should not be done at the taxpayer’s expense.”
“You had them tow my car?”
Smiling, she added, “We had no way of knowing if you were going to serve a life sentence or what. What was I supposed to do, wait until they let you out with a walker and a respirator? I figured that by the time they let you out, you would be too old to drive anyways. And as you can see, I wasn’t far off the mark.”
“I was only with them for the weekend!”
“‘With them’? Oh, I’m sorry. I thought you were under arrest. I didn’t know you were, ‘with them’. In fact, it looked like they didn’t like you much. Or, do they put handcuffs on all their friends? And here I thought you were in the slammer, joint, big house, prison, Department of Corrections, or whatever else you wish to call it. I never knew you were ‘with them’. Just like a chum. Did you make any new friends when you were ‘with’ them?” Her voice was now thick with sarcasm.
Mrs. McAllister fumed. “How dare you talk to me this way!” She leaned in getting her face inches from Ms Petrie’s.
Ellie Petrie steeled herself and rose to her full height. “Let’s get one thing straight right now. I am no longer a cowering little girl afraid of the big bad bitch. I fully intend to show you why you should be kinder to your subordinates because someday you may end up working for them. I intend that you be locked away in your little dungeon until you whither to dust and just blow away.” She spoke in a factual, firm, quiet tone until she finished. Then she donned a cheery tone and smile as she went on, “And see! You’re almost there. So, why don’t you go do what little you are still permitted to do and let me get about the important things, like running the school and ruining your day.” The smile left her face as she resumed the bitter, hateful glare, “Now get out.” She stood tall and firm, holding the door for her to leave. Mrs. McAllister slowly walked to the door and paused, smiling her defiant little smile. She pursed her prunish lips as she looked Ellie Petrie in the eyes. “This isn’t over yet. You may find that you are a guppy in a tank of piranha. When it’s feeding time, don’t come running to me.”
She stepped through the door. “Mrs. McAllister,” she called back, allowing her to reach the center of the outer office amongst the teachers and secretaries. She turned in response to the hail.
“I’m so glad you are out of jail. I do hope you can overcome the experience. Some people let their time sleeping with hookers and crack whores ruin their whole life. You’ll let me know if anyone is unkind to you, won’t you? Regardless of whether or not you are deserving, we will not tolerate harassment of any kind. After all, you have paid your debt to society, so why should you still be counted as and treated like the common criminal you have pled to being under oath in a court of law? Have a great day and welcome back.”
Mrs. McAllister scanned the room at the snickering smirks as she slunk out of the office and down the hall to her dark, windowless box, her wheels turning as she walked. As she disappeared behind the door and closed the blinds, she made up her mind that she would get back at her if it was the last thing she ever did. She sat seething.
“Okay Elliot, all you have to do is stay inside this little box and watch for two things. First, the ball coming to you to kick into the net and the other thing is to make sure that you are not closer to the goalie than the next closest player.”
Elliot had a glazed over look. “I have to watch for the ball being kicked to me so I can kick it into the net. Okay, I can do that. The next part I’m a little fuzzy on. I have to watch that the goalie isn’t whosit-watsit?”
“You have to make sure that there is one player from their side closer to the goalie than you before you touch the ball.”
“Well, how do I do that? I can’t control where their people are!”
“You need to run downfield to get the ball from a point further from the goalie, so that you are not off-sides. Now, if you are on our half of the field, then it doesn’t matter.
“I don’t see a box on the field. There is a big circle in the middle.”
“Uh, no Elliot, there isn’t any box.”
“You told me to stay in some little box! That was rule number one. Remember, you said it was going to be easy, I just had to stay in my little box . . .”
“Elliot, there is no box on the field. It is just a way of showing you the area of the field to stay in. The team will expect you to be in this area so they can kick the ball to you. Right here!”
“So, there is no box?”
Jan took a breath, “No box.”
“Hey Jess!” they both said
“Out showing Elliot the position?”
“How’s he doing?”
“Just great. Yeah, he has it down.”
“Alright Elliot, you go over there and I’ll kick it to you a few times so you can see what you have to do.”
Jan watched Elliot wiggle upfield and adjusted himself. Elliot turned, looking back at them, when he tripped on his own feet. “We are so screwed,” Jan said, casually.
Jess chuckled. “Nah, we’re okay.”
“Dude, they are going to eat him alive.”
“I think he’d like that,” Jess said with a laugh.
Jan grinned, a slight blush coming over him as he thought that he might like that too. Even watching.
“No dude, they are a top team. The first time they charge him, he’ll wet his pants.”
“Well, we’ll have to make sure we mark the guys around him well. Don’t worry. We are going to take care of him. We have a full back who is going to move forward. He’s good and he will take up the slack.”
“There is no way we are going to win this and you know it.”
“You’re right. It’s one reason I asked the coach to do it now. Even with our best players in, there is no way we could win this. We are outclassed. So why not use it to make a point about kids being free to be who they want to be.”
“So, you know they are going to eat us alive?”
“Anyone who has seen the roster knows that. But I’m thinking that maybe, just maybe, we can unnerve them enough that even if they win and we lose, we will look better than them. I’m counting on the fact that they are almost all sophomores on the other team. And it’s an all-boy’s school.” Jess was grinning at Jan. “Their hormones will be driving them nuts anyways. Now parade that cute, little, wiggle in front of them and . . . well . . . who knows what can happen.”
“So you think this little distraction will give you an edge?”
“I have an uncle who is on the Olympic Shooting team. He is a long range shooter. He told me some of the ploys they use to unnerve an opponent.”
Jess kicked the ball to Elliot and Elliot swiped at the ball and missed, landing on his butt.
“It’s okay, Elliot. Stand up and kick it into the net, then get it and kick it back to me.” He turned to Jan, yet watching Elliot. “For instance, he would get bright pink shoelaces, too long for his boots and leave them untied when he went up to shoot, anything to break their ability to focus. One time, he took a girls sanitary napkin and stained it with red dye and just left it sitting next to his shooting box. It totally unnerved the guys so bad they complained. But it was not illegal, so they had to allow it. My uncle goes on a steady diet for two weeks before a competition of white rice and water. He is steady as a rock when he goes to shoot. It is a sport where focus is everything.”
“So you think we should hang a couple of those on Elliot?” Jan asked solemnly.
Jess looked at Jan and they both broke up laughing as the ball came whizzing by them. “See! It can work just like that.”
“Coach, I think that was brilliant. Having your son come in to speak and being flexible and supportive. I’d like you to write up the program and how it has evolved. The pro’s and the con’s as you see them. I think we need to consider a district wide revision. Can I count on your help?”
“Dr. Peticone, I think what we have done here is groundbreaking, but you have to understand that a lot of it depends on the kids. We’ve had a series of things happen that have really changed and guided this program, one of which is having a gay kid that has a terrific sense of humor about being gay. If he was a shy, hide in the shadows, kind of kid, this may not have worked.”
“Call me Jim, Coach. Let’s look at how we can make it work. I think it’s important and long overdue. Tell me, would you consider taking the Athletic Director’s position for the District next year were it offered to you?”
“Athletic Director. Hmmm, that would get me behind a desk a lot more and away from the kids. I’ll have to think about that. I’ll consider it. Thanks.”
“I know you prefer to be in the mix with the kids, but think about how you can best help them. Being with them let’s you help maybe 150 kids a year. As director, you are guiding them from the start to the finish in High School. Every one of them. Literally thousands of them. Think about it, Coach.”
“Doc. . .uh, Jim, there is something else coming up that you should be aware of. At tomorrow night’s game, it’s called Operation Tutu. . .”
“Chip! Good to hear your voice.”
“How are things on the Sports desk?”
“Not bad. You know, same old story, give ’em the ball, they won’t hurt you kind of thing. How about you? Life good at the Human Interest desk?”
“As a matter of fact, it’s getting better. Turns out there is hope for humanity yet!” he said with a bit of levity to his voice. “Look, I got wind of something that may add a little variety to your day. Think the network can afford to send a crew out to a high school?”
“Depends, are there explosives involved?”
“Well now, that’s a perspective thing. It could be a military exercise. It’s called Operation Tutu.”
“Okay,” Jake laughed. “You’ve got my attention. So there might be the sacrifice of a virgin or two?”
“I think that is a certainty. Well almost. How long do you have to go without sex before you’re a virgin again?”
“It’s age progressive. I think at fourteen it’s, like, ten minutes or something.”
“That long? Then perhaps not. But it looks like it will be a great story. It is unusual enough to perhaps get picked up. If nothing else, it promises to be something different.”
“Thanks Chip, if it pans out to be worthwhile I’ll owe ya. If not, then I’ll owe ya anyways. I’m about to go stir crazy in this booth. It’ll be nice to have something to laugh about. Operation Tutu. God, the network will go nuts over this. I think we used to play a game like this. It was a bit rougher than soccer. We used to call it Smear the Queer.”
“Well, today they are a bit more politically correct. That’s called Rugby. But this is soccer.”
“Well, it may start that way. Anything with the name “Operation Tutu” has the potential to turn into a version of the fight club with a ball.”
“Well, I think that any way it goes, it’ll be worth a couple minutes of air time on a slow news day.”
“Make you a deal, if there is no blood or broken bones we’ll send it over to your desk.”
“Deal. Hey, how about I meet you there and afterwards we kick down a couple brewski’s?”
“Just like college, eh?”
“It’s a date, then?”
“Well, I wouldn’t call it that exactly.”
“You will after two or three. You always were the shy one. Fortunately, you were also a lightweight when it came to booze.”
“You always were the randy one, no matter how much you drank.”
“You say that like it’s a bad thing and some things never change.”
“Looking forward to it now. I better get going. This place is out in screw your cousin land.”
“Coach Hansen, I understand you are starting with your second string for the McKenzie Bulldogs game. That’s sort of rolling the dice on a sure thing, isn’t it? I mean, why take a chance when you can assure a win?”
“Mr. Reynolds, those kids, for the most part, are thirteen and fourteen. Our kids are mostly fourteen and fifteen. That one year jump for most of these kids adds four to six inches and an average of about forty pounds. Along with that, is a massive amount of testosterone that these kids have no idea what to do with. They bulk up and don’t realize their strength. That’s how kids get hurt in a mismatch like this. Even with my weakest players, we will probably still slaughter these kids. I just want to minimize the chance that some of their kids get hurt. That is my first concern. Winning takes second.”
“But coach, there may be scouts out there.”
“I don’t think the scouts will come to a game so mismatched. They can’t really judge kids abilities when they play without a challenging opposition. This is closer to a backyard romp. If I see anyone but the most devoted of parents there from our side, I will be greatly surprised. But if I see any scouts, I’ll be sure and put Jose right in there, don’t you worry Mr. Reynolds.”
“You ready to do this Elliot?” the coach smiled. “There is still time to back out.”
“No, these guys have worked really hard on this. I’m scared to death, but I’ll give it a go.”
“If it gets to be too much let me know and I’ll pull you out.”
“Thanks coach. I feel a lot better knowing I can get out if I need to.”
“Let’s get ready then.” The coach gave a short burst on his whistle which echoed in the locker room. “Okay guys, it’s game time. You have all worked hard and are going to do great. These guys are a lot bigger than you are, but that means they are also not as agile. In short, they may be able to kick your butts, but they have to catch you first. So play fair. Do your best and remember that winning is not the goal tonight. Teamwork is what we are here for.” The coach paused for a moment looking around. It seemed the entire team was dancing like they all had to go to the bathroom. “Why is everyone dancing around? Are the bathrooms broke?” Giggles filled the locker room.
“No coach, it’s this tutu stuff. They made the ruffles in the garters too big and it itches.”
Elliot spoke up, “Well, it’s a cinch you guys won’t be cross dressers.” The room broke up in laughter until the coach, laughing so hard he almost couldn’t blow the whistle, managed to get a little tweet out.
“Alright, well, the itch should keep you moving. Give me a knock on your cups on the way out. Let’s hit the field! Everyone do a lap and then get in positions for stretching.” The coach followed them out, but coming to the door to the field he stopped at the clot of boys. “What is it?”
“Coach, there are like a bajillion people out there,” one boy said.
Another pointed, “Look! A news truck and cameras!”
The coach worked his way to the front. “Shit,” he mumbled. “Well, you guys wanted to make a statement. Here’s your chance. Give me a lap, everyone. Not too hard, just a jog, I don’t want you burnt out for the game. Let’s go.” He pushed the door open and held it. Nobody moved. He motioned them to back up and he stepped back inside and closed the door behind him.
“Look, guys. If you don’t want to do this, then say so. We can forfeit right now. But you guys have worked really hard to make a statement of solidarity with a person’s right to be who he or she wants to be. And I’m very proud of all of you for that. You all planned Operation Tutu so that you could make your statement to people outside our school, to the world, or at least anyone who wanted to listen. Well, apparently some people recognized it is time for a change and that what you guys have to say is important enough to share with the whole world. That is a huge thing. Think about it. You have the opportunity to change the world, right now, here, today. Don’t be afraid just because your audience of people who want to hear is greater than you expected. The cameras are so that they can record for history what happens here today. Your children and their children may remember this game like Rosa Parks or Martin Luther King, Robert Kennedy, Abraham Lincoln. You have a chance to make history. Just keep your eyes on the prize. Now, do we smile for the cameras or forfeit?” He looked at Elliot.
“Don’t look at me coach. It’s not up to me. I could go out there and parade in my Tutu all night long and it would say nothing. I’m just the poster child here. It’s what these guys have to say that is news. It’s what good people like Jess and Jeremy and the rest of you have to say that is important. And look, I’m scared so bad I’m about to wet my pants right now. I’m about to out myself to every person on the planet. Now, that scares the crap out of me, because there are a lot of people who would just as soon kill me as look at me just because I’m gay.
“But if you guys are willing to stand beside me and tell the world that I’m okay, that I’m a good person, that you think it doesn’t matter, then I am willing to show that I’m not afraid of them. I’m hoping there are a lot of good people who will stand up and maybe even a few homophobes that may change their minds. But it is all up to you. But let me say this. Those guys are here for a story and setting up that big truck has got to cost them a bundle. So they will get a story one way or another, I think. So the question is, what story will they get? The gay boy seeking a better life, supported by a great bunch of guys, or the gay kid that nobody really gives a shit about? Which became apparent when the going got a little tough? Either way it goes, I just want to say thanks. What you guys wanted to do for me is the coolest thing that has ever happened in my life and I won’t forget that. So, if you want to call it off, I won’t hold it against you. I’ll always be grateful.”
Jeremy Steiner stepped forward. He looked at the coach, “I’ve got something to say.” He looked at Elliot, then back at the coach. He turned to face the team and backed out the door towards the field. He held the door open and Jess caught on and followed, as did the team. As they started around the track, cheers and whistles could be heard from the crowd. As the coach took to the sidelines, Coach Hansen walked up to him, extending a hand and a smile.
“So, want to tell me about it?”
Coach Russell smiled, “You mean they aren’t here with one of your lot? I figured we had a movie star on your team or something.”
“Well, the camera guy over there was under the impression we were going to see some kind of ballet or something.”
“Well, I confess we have a kid that is rather amusing to watch, but I wouldn’t exactly call it a ballet. No, it must be something from your lot. Do you have a superstar player?”
“I’ve got a couple of really good players, but nothing to warrant this.”
“Well, I guess we’ll just have to wait and see. Look, I’d love to chat a bit more, but my guys need to get stretched out before your guys smear us.”
Coach Hansen smiled, “I’m starting with my second string. I don’t want any of your boys getting hurt.”
Coach Russell smiled, “Thanks, but you sure those cameras aren’t for one of your boys? It could be a chance for some of them to get recognized.”
“Yeah, but recognized for what?” He turned and sprinted across the field back to his side.
(On the communications headsets from the production truck.)
“Listen up, all techs on com. Camera one?”
“Yo, Mac on camera two.”
“Cecilia here on camera three. I’m in the stands with a wide shot.”
“How about grips? You guys pulling cable, stay on your toes, these camera guys can’t watch their feet in the camera cable and watch their shots too. So don’t get so wrapped up in the game that you aren’t paying attention to the cable.”
“C1 Grip Ken, copy.”
“C2 Grip Phillipe, copy.”
“Okay folks, it is almost game time. Chet is calling camera. No unnecessary chatter as this is going to be fast moving. Stay on your toes as we have no idea what the plan is. All we know is that the team is going to do something to show support for one of the gay kids and it could be anything, so keep your eyes open. Right now, we don’t even know which kid it is.”
“Alright, did anyone get a copy of the team rosters?” he asked, looking around the production truck.
“Chet, this is camera two.”
“Go for Chet.”
“Check my shot, do you think it could be the boy who runs like a girl with the number sixty-nine on his jersey?”
“Mac, I think you just got a tip. Alright, everyone get a good look at the kid wearing the number sixty-nine on the McKenzie Bulldogs. Know what he looks like and where he is. Mac, you saved me a bunch of time. How did you figure it out so fast?”
“Wasn’t that difficult sir, he winked at me on his way past.”
(Off com Chet mutter) Mac for the post game interview. He looked over at the video guy. “Luke, can you commit camera two to ISO record? We might want to go back and edit something in that may occur while we are on a different shot.”
“Already on it chief. We’ve been rolling record for 2:38 seconds so far.” Luke responded.
“That, gentlemen, is why he has the job he does! Thanks Luke”
(Back on com)
“Okay, camera one, you stay on the ball as best you can. Likewise, camera three, stay on the action. Camera two, you stay on our boy, but be ready to pick up any action on your end of the field.”
“Okay, we are about to start. Camera three, take the drop ball and cam one, standby to go live. Cam two, check your back-focus, I don’t want my images going soft. We only get one shot at this. There’s the drop, camera one follow the action and stand-by to go live as soon as you are on it. Cam one you are live. Cam two, if they do what I think they are going to do, then our boy is going to get it. Standby two. Two, you are live. One, regroup get your shot.
“Oh my gawd, did you see that? He kicked the ball and their goalie didn’t even try for it! He looks like he was in outer space. Cam three, push in quick on the goalie, take it to three. Oh, priceless! The kid didn’t even know there was a game going on, totally asleep at the switch.
Shit, take camera two, now! Damn, we have to watch it. The kid almost reached in his drawers to adjust himself. The network won’t like that much.”
“I got it in the delay, chief. I pulled a lower third and the score board covered the action,” Luke responded.
“Great, you brought another camera?”
“I brought my little Sony GL-1. I have it static on the score board from the top of the truck, thought we might need it.”
Camera two, stay with him. Luke, you rock. Stand by camera three. Stay on the goalie, take three. Oh my God, did you see that!? The goalie missed the ball completely! Camera two, take camera two.
“Look at that kid. If he isn’t a screaming fairy, I’ll eat my triax, Camera one, get their left full back.”
“Which one is that?” Todd asked.
“The big guy, standing midfield, watching our boy. Oh shit, Luke did you do the score board?”
“Yeah, but I was a little late on the draw on it. I was sorta scratching myself. The kid has the right number, doesn’t he?”
“Ha ha. Hell, we can’t get them all. And yeah, if Marcie. . . Camera two, take Camera two. Standby, camera one. Go, camera one.
“If my Marcie wiggled like that, we would have been married months ago. Camera three, stand by and go, camera three. You guys are doing great. We’ve got about two minutes left of the quarter.”
“Cam one, follow it. Camera three, what’s that? Zoom in, take camera three as soon as it’s framed up. Did you see that guy foul our boy? Man, that had to hurt, an elbow to the side of the head. Camera two, stay with our boy. Camera one, stay with the jerk. Camera three, take the ref shot. Man, that had to hurt. This may be the end of it, gentlemen. If that kid doesn’t come back out to play, it may be over. Stay on it. This will work for a station break anyways.”
“Elliot, you alright son?” Elliot opened his eyes and tried to focus. He heard it again, “Elliot, are you alright?”
His eyes came into focus, “Yeah. Shit, that hurt.” He started to get up and the coach pulled him to his feet and started walking him to the sidelines.
The coach signaled Jeremy to resume his place. He looked up and his team, during the ruckus, had moved their garters to the outside of their soccer shorts. The plan was to just let them show under the cuff of the shorts, but the coach suspected it had something to do with them being itchy.
He smiled and turned to see that Jeremy had taken the field and the coach froze. Jeremy had taken Elliot’s tutu and slipped it on over his jersey. Jeremy was bigger than the kid that fouled Elliot.
“Elliot, look!” the coach said in Elliot’s ear. “Look at Jeremy.”
Jeremy smiled at the guy and winked. Jeremy lined up for the free kicks as the ref’s whistle blew, and play resumed. Elliot gasped.
“What?” Coach Russell asked.
“He should have his ass kicked just for poor fashion sense. That pink clashes terribly with his hair. He should never wear pink.”
The coach doubled over in laughter.
“Elliot are you alright, honey?” Karen asked, pushing past the coach.
“Yeah mom, I’m fine, but that really hurt.”
“Coach! What are you doing? First, you have some limp wrist playing my son’s position. Now, you have my son parading around in some queers ballet thing. And on national TV!”
“Mr. Steiner, you said you wanted your boy out front where the scouts could see him. Seems even when you get what you want, you aren’t happy. It just so happens that your son did this in support of Elliot. I had nothing to do with it. I’m pretty proud of him myself, you should be too.”
“Proud? What if someone thinks he’s queer?”
“He isn’t too concerned about it, why should you be?”
“He’s a kid. He doesn’t think of the consequences of his actions.”
“I don’t know about that. He did this after seeing how Elliot got fouled. I think he is looking at the consequences and look at all the boys, look at their pant legs. They are all supporting Elliot. I think they know maybe better than you, the consequences.”
“If you don’t do something about this, then I am going to pull my son out of the game.”
“On national TV? I don’t think the scouts will like that much. Look, if you tell me to pull him, I’ll do it, but there will be guys from the press all over you. Are you ready to answer their questions? Why not let it go to the half and talk to Jeremy then yourself? Then, if you don’t want him to play, you can leave quietly. They just won’t see your kid on national TV for the second half. I figure if the scouts aren’t watching the first half then they will be by the second.
“Mr. Steiner, what these kids are doing is to show the world that they have exceeded the tiny, bigoted minds of the generation before them. They know that gay is a normal condition. It isn’t ‘the’ norm, but it is like being left-handed, that’s all. Your son is taking a stand against small minds that would be afraid of someone like Elliot here.”
“So you are letting my boy change with queers?”
Elliot’s mother stood up and turned a vicious eye towards Mr. Steiner, “No, he’s letting my son change in the presence of children who have better sense than their bigoted, pea-brained parents! Here, Mr. Steiner,” she said, stuffing a pamphlet in his hand. “I brought a pamphlet that might make you at least as smart as your son. It’s called, “The Truth About Being Gay”. It dispels the myths about being gay.”
Mr. Steiner glanced at it and threw it back in her face as he stormed off.
“Sucks to be Jeremy,” Elliot said. “Better give a copy to Jeremy. I think his dad is going to be more interested later. ”
The coach was back on the game.
“Chip, why don’t you go over at the half and see about scheduling some interviews after the game. I’d like to get a glimpse of how willing they are to talk to us after it’s over. See about this Jeremy kid that came back in for our boy number sixty-nine, uh Elliot Glicksman. Hey, what do they have on their legs? We didn’t see those before. Am I losing it, or were those not there?”
“Chet this is camera one. They had them on, but under their soccer shorts. I watched them slip them out and over the pants legs when they took the gay kid off the field. I think they planned it.”
“You think? Maybe they all just happen to carry pink Tutu garters with them in case they have a ballet emergency. Brilliant! Okay, Chip, find out about the mini tutus while you are over there. Find out if the cute kid with the wiggle is coming back for more, or is he out of it.”
“I’m on it, Chet.”
“Luke, has the network sent you any messages?”
“Yeah, Gerald wants to talk to you on the half.”
“How did he sound?”
“He’s hard to read, but he didn’t sound like they were drinking hemlock or anything. I’m guessing good.”
“Thanks Luke. Looks like we are back in it. Camera two, stay on the kid in the tutu. If shit is going to happen, then I’m guessing he will be the target. Camera three, stay in tight on the action. Camera one, same thing. Camera one, follow the ball. Camera three, the goalie, quick! Take it. Good. Back to camera one.
“Camera two . . . Oh shit, stay on it camera three! Get the gorilla that just decked the kid in the tutu. Oh shit! Camera three, pull back and give me the action! Holy gamolies, this one won’t be going to the Humanitarian desk. Look at that what are they doing? They formed a line between the kid and the gorilla. This is great! Camera two, pull back, give me a shot of the back of the line. Camera three, give me a wide shot. Whoa, whoa, whoa! Just as wide as the line. Good, take it Camera three, you’re live. Isn’t that the same gorilla from the earlier incident? Luke, did you note the number?”
“Yeah, same guy.”
“Someone call Chip! Tell him we want to interview that kid, too.”
“Look! The Steiner kid is pushing them off, he wants to stay in. What’s the coach doing? He’s talking to that Jeremy kid. Isn’t he the coach for the Churchill Falcons? This is crazy. Shit, he asked the kid for his tutu. And he’s giving it up! Camera one, push in for tight shot on the gorilla. This is great. Oh, look! Oh my gawd, I’m loving this! It looks like the coach has had enough and he’s making the gorilla wear the tutu. No, he’s refusing. Looks like the coach is giving him an ultimatum, the tutu or the door. Oh man, this kid will never live this down. Camera one, pick up the kid coming from the sidelines. He’s the team captain. Look! He is taking the tutu from the coach and putting it on. This is great stuff. Camera three, pull back to get the full group. What are they doing? The team is asking for the garters. They’re giving them up to the other team. The ref is blowing the whistle for the half. Anyone know how long they break?”
“30 minutes is what they announced.”
“Okay, if anyone needs a bio break, do it now. Back in twenty, on cans.”
“Jeremy, what do you think you are doing out there in that queer getup?”
“Dad, first of all, it is not queer. They say gay and what of it? I know who I am and don’t care much what other people think. You raised me that way. Remember, sticks and stones can break your bones but words will never harm you.”
“Yeah, but Jeremy, this is different. You aren’t a little kid now.”
“What? You lied to me? Words can hurt? I haven’t felt any pain from it, except for my father yelling at me for doing what is right.”
“What do you mean by that?”
“You always told me to stand up for what was right. Helping a kid who is gay to be accepted is the right thing to do. He didn’t do anything to be gay. He was just born that way.”
“Right, better you should understand now son, that isn’t and never will be accepted as normal. The things they do together . . .”
“. . . Is none of our business! Any more than what you and Mom do is anyone else’s business. And it certainly doesn’t define the kind of person you are. There are a lot of people who have what you would call normal sexual desires and are barely fit to be called human. What about pea brained parents who have gay kids going off the handle at them, smacking them around, beating them, kicking them out of their homes just because they are gay. I suppose that is alright with you, too!”
“Jeremy, it isn’t that simple now, there is more to consider. Look, even if it is right, you have to remember that it is still not considered normal and there are scouts out there watching. They may pass you up for your dream to play soccer. All because of this silly stunt so some kid can suck another kid’s dick! Well fine, if he wants to do that sort of thing, then have at it, in private. But, you don’t need to ruin your dreams to help him do what he can do anyways!”
“Dad, I don’t care about soccer. It’s your dream, not mine. I want to be a chef. I’m good in the kitchen and like it. I’ve never seen a culinary school yet that even has a soccer team, so I don’t really give a rat’s ass about the scouts.”
“Are you a queer son? Those are all queers in the kitchen. I don’t think there is a real man in the lot of them.”
“What if I was? What if I was a screaming, limp-wristed, dick-sucking, faggot!? Do you think for a minute that playing soccer or choosing a more macho profession would change that? Let me ask you dad, could you choose to be gay? Could you?”
Jeremy paused for a moment, “Of course you couldn’t. You are who you are. And what I am, I am, and regardless of what I am, you and Mom are genetically responsible. So get off my back and stop worrying about it. And like it or not dad, I’m going to be a chef and a damn fine one, I hope. And if it turns out that I’m looked at as just one more queer in the kitchen, then so be it. Better a fag in the kitchen then a straight queer in the closet. So get over your ancient ideas about what gays are, or are not, because straight or gay I’m in the kitchen. And if they are all seen as gays, then it would behoove you to try and do your part to normalize how gays are seen, since I’ll be in their company, don’t you think?”
“Jeremy, did that boy do something to make you queer? I’ll sue the bastards if they did.”
“Dad, you aren’t listening! Dad, if I dropped down on my knees right now and sucked your dick, would that make you gay? What if I had two guys hold you down and then fucked you bleeding. Would you be gay then? Dad, if it was a choice, do you think so many would commit suicide over it? Why not just choose to be straight! Dad, it’s like choosing to be right handed when you were born left.”
“So, you are then? You’re a faggot? Have you been thinking about me that way?”
“God dad, you are so stupid some times. Christ no, dad, I do not think of you that way. I was just driving home the point and as usual, you hear what you want to hear. So hear this pop, I am indeed gay and no, you have never been part of my sexual fantasies. In fact, I might need therapy just from the thought. So what now? You want me to move out? You want to wait ’til I get home so you can try and slap the gay out of me? What dad, tell me, what now!?”
Mr. Steiner just looked at him in a distant stare before slowly turning away and walking to the door. He paused, his hand on the door. “Son, I still love you. Your ma and I, we’ll always love you.” He pushed the door open and silently stepped through. Jeremy thought that he had never seen his father look so defeated, his shoulders slumped, looking down, he made his way down the hall and out of the building.
The coach saw what had happened and listened silently. He watched as Mr. Steiner left and then as Jeremy slumped onto a bench. He moved in and sat on the bench and tapped Jeremy on the shoulder. “Come here,” he said softly and pulled him into a hug as Jeremy sobbed uncontrollably. “Let it out son, it’s going to be alright now. The worst is over. He knows now and he can start to deal with it. The important thing is that he told you he still loves you and that means he will work through it. Relax, the hard part is over. You need to buck up now. We still have half a game to play, or do you want to just stay here? You don’t have to play, you know. But playing might let you focus on something different for a bit. Give yourself a chance to settle into the idea. Show your dad you can still play a man’s game because you are no different. You are still a man. Perhaps the youngest of men, yet you are still a man, and a damn good one by my judgment.” A hand took hold of Jeremy’s shoulder and gave it a squeeze.
Jeremy looked up to see the hand belonged to Jess. “Come on. We’ve got some ass to kick yet.” Jess smiled.
“You heard?” Jeremy asked.
“Didn’t have to. I knew what was going to happen when I saw you in that tutu and then saw your dad. I knew someday it was going to be a mess. Why do you think I was so eager to do this? My best friend was going to have a time with it.”
“But you know about me, then.”
“I’d have to be blind not to. You’re my best friend. And before you go there, no, I don’t think I am. I like girls way too much, but hey, everybody can’t be perfect, right? Come on, we’re going to be late getting on the field. We have a long time to talk about this.”
“Guys!” Coach Hansen said to quiet the guys in the locker room. “Guys, I have to tell you that I couldn’t be more proud of a team than I am right now. Mostly!” he said, glaring at the guy who committed the foul. “It takes guts to stand up for what is right, especially when it isn’t a popular idea in society. But what is that old saying? ‘Whatever is popular is not always right and whatever is right is not always popular’. And James, being the captain, you took the lead and that took courage. I have always believed that it was what was between the ears,” he glanced again at the boy who committed the foul, “and not what was between the legs that makes a man.”
“I’m sure the press will want to talk to some of you after the game. It is up to you and your parents if they are here. But don’t feel pressured into talking to them. Just say ‘no comment’ and come to me. They won’t be permitted in the locker room, so you can retreat there if you want to be out of it. James, I am sure you will be on the short list of who they want to speak with. It might be good if you speak to their captain and see what they intend to do, maybe a joint statement or something. Come on and we’ll visit the other camp before we go back out, if you want to that is.”
“Yeah coach, I think that would be good.”
“Hey, Coach Russell, got a moment? Could my captain and I speak to you and your captain?”
“Sure, let me get him.” He turned to the locker room, “Diaz, front and center!” he yelled. Conrad Diaz came forward.
“Yeah, coach?” he said, looking at the coach and the kid in the borrowed tutu.
“Coach Hansen and his captain wanted a word with us before we took the field.”
“Yeah, we just wanted to know if you plan on talking to the press when this is over. They’re asking and naturally we support the cause here. But, we certainly don’t want to steal your thunder in this.”
Conrad spoke up. “This was an idea some of the guys came up with because they wanted to harass our boy and I wouldn’t go along with it. My brother killed himself because he was gay and afraid. So I told them and they knew Phillip. So it changed their minds. But they needed to do something if one of your guys noticed our Elliot. And he did and we did what we did. I have to say, it took guts for you both to do what you did. Thanks.”
The boy looked up at his coach, then down and then to Conrad. “Thanks. It was coming to a point where I wanted to say something and this just made it easier. I planted a seed anyways. Even if it doesn’t come out, I have certainly tested the waters. I mean, dad or mom hasn’t called yet, but I am sure they will hear.”
“Look, you don’t have to come out if it isn’t right for you. Just say you were standing up for what you thought was right. It is your call.”
“I think I’ll play it by ear. This isn’t about me. It’s about a lot of me’s. We’ll see how it plays out. But I think you should talk first.”
“Thanks. I had no idea this was going to get out or even be noticed by anyone but your team. I guess we are on to something. I just hope it makes a difference.”
“I think it already has,” Coach Hansen said. “Phelps is sitting the game out and the team has shamed him by their support and by his narrow minded actions. I’m pretty proud of my lot.”
“And so you should be. It took guts for them to do what they did. Thanks for standing behind them, coach.”
“It’s easy to support what’s right. Let’s go finish the game,” he said, extending his hand.
“Thanks, glad you agree. Let’s get together after all this and talk. I’ve made some changes to make it easier for kids to be themselves and it has worked out rather well. Maybe it would work for you and your kids too.”
“Sounds great, I’ll make sure you get my number before we head back. Good luck on the second half.”
“Thanks again, coach!” Conrad said, bumping knuckles with the other captain on the way back to his team, who were making their way back to the field.
Conrad stopped Jeremy, “Look!” He gave a nod towards the bench. Mr. Steiner was sitting next to Elliot’s mom. He had some pamphlets in his hands and was listening intently. He looked up to see his son looking at him and gave him a little wink. Jeremy smiled and headed out on the field. The play continued with the Churchill Falcons winning by 2 points. No more fouls, no more grief.
“Oh, no. Not you again. Are you the only cab driver in this city?” Mrs. McAllister said curtly.
“Look lady, I just go where they send me. If you think I like your kind rippin’ farts in my back seat and not even tipping a buck, then you are sadly mistaken. So either get in the car, or you can wait for another one. This time of day and you should still get to your whore corner by midnight.”
“Well, I Never!”
“Yeah, I thought we established that fact this morning. Do you need a ride or what?”
“Take me to Canfield Towing. And try not to speak on the way.”
“Right. Do you mind if I hang out after I drop you off? It’ll be after five o’clock and I want to see your face when they tell you the after-hours fees for opening the gate. I think it was a buck and a half last time I checked.”
“Yes, well, a dollar fifty is fair and I’m willing to pay it.”
“Ha ha. Yeah, I bet you would. A buck and a half lady is a hundred and fifty smackeroos. And that is on top of the towing fees and storage. And if you are thinking of asking me to loan it to you, well, you can forget it. Oh, and they don’t take plastic. Who knows though, maybe if you take out your teeth you can take it out in trade!”
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