©2000 The BookCASE - Eric Case
Thanks to all those who have given me support over the last couple weeks too: AJ, Joshy, Cathy, Derek, Derrick, Jason, Joshy, Craigory, Jim, Joey babe, Chad, Shippy, Richard, Kyle, Mike, Pat, Andrew, Clay, Gabe, Phil, Rob, Don, and of course Dwane along with everybody else.. you all know who you are (especially you Davie) : ) I've got soooo much feedback from people asking me to keep up with writing this series and saying they didn't want it to end, so I'm picking it up again while still writing my Nastradia story, After the Dance, as well as starting up the next Julian.
And to a certain two lovebirds who just "got together" a couple weeks ago..... Hehe congrats you two!!!
Eric J. Case
Mark and I started working with Elliot the following week. Mark was a great teacher - I guess he'd learned from the best (tongue in cheek). Now that it was a project we were working on together, Mark was much more enthusiastic. The three of us would run the track once or twice a week, while Mark and I kept our own track time for the other five days of the week, and I took extra-special care that we still did all the things we used to do. It was also extremely fun to watch Mark teach Elliot the same things I had taught Mark. He went over the concepts, and motions methodically the same way I had done with him, often using the same wording to explain what I meant. By the end of our little pre-season training camp, Elliot was ready to step into Mark's position on the Junior Marauders. He could never replace Mark, but then again that's impossible, and Elliot was as close as anyone would get.
Mark had also continued to develop. As I had found myself, teaching something to someone else, often improved your own understanding of the same topic. When his season began, I knew he would be ready. We were sitting down eating breakfast on the balcony one morning when Mark's parents came onto the balcony to join us. "Well Myles, it looks like your new captain's working out well.." Aaron said.
"Well he's had a great teacher, and a good example to follow," I said smiling at Mark.
"I just helped you teach him what you taught me last year," Mark smiled back. "So are we gonna win the championship again this year dad?" Mark asked turning his eyes to Aaron's.
"Well if you mean the Junior Marauders, I'd say we will definitely make the playoffs. I'm not sure about your team this year.. maybe, maybe not." Aaron said softly.
"Either way, Mark will be dominating his game again as usual," I said getting another one of Mark's killer smiles. "Midland's team isn't all that great this year either from what I understand."
"Man squash Midland!" Jason Washington said as he announced his presence. "How ya doin' Myles?"
I stood up grabbing his hand squeezing it soundly and slapping him on the shoulder. "I'm doin' good how are things with you?"
"They'll be better when you stop squeezing the hell outta my hand!" Jason laughed looking over to Aaron with a smile then nodding to Mark. "I just stopped by to make sure you're playing this year."
"I was planning on sitting this one out.. stop while I'm ahead kind of thing you know?"
"Bullshit, you're scared," Jason fired back.
Looking back I realize he was using some pretty simple psychology on me, and that I bit on the bait quite happily. Well not quite happily. "SCARED?!" I asked in disbelief. "Of what?"
"Of coming back for your last year and having a bad season," he answered plainly. "You're coming back to school.. you can't sit a season out while you're still at school! One more year Myles. One more championship." He paused a moment looking at me. "Besides, you stole the defense from me when you kicked my ass last year in that practice. They'll never look to me for leadership the way they look to you." I smiled knowing it was true. The hit I'd put on Jason had set me above their leader and their best defensive player, as well as my comeback against all odds. "Plus I've seen you running up at Seneca, and I know you've been training. Look at the size of you Myles. How much have you gained, twenty pounds?"
"Laying it on a little thick now don't you think Jason?" Aaron asked smiling. "You can stop talking.. he'll play."
"How do you know?" I asked.
"That twinkle in your eyes," he said in a 'well it's pretty obvious' tone.
"One more year in the trenches Myles?" Mark asked softly.
I took a deep breath. I had decided to move on. I had decided that it was time to leave the game, and just when I was getting used to the idea again and the dust had begun to settle, Jason comes into my house and throws everything back up in the air again. "First off, you tell coach to give me a call either way. I'll think about it."
"Okay Myles, I'll see you in two weeks at training camp I guess huh?" Jason laughed slapping my arm.
"Nope. If I play, I'll show up for the first regular practice. No training camp."
"You can't miss training camp! Coach will kill you!" Jason said.
"I'll deal with the coach." I said flatly. "Don't worry Jason, when I decide, you'll be the last to know." We all laughed and Jason said he had to leave. We all said goodbye and he let himself out. He must have come through the service entrance since to get in the gate of the main entrance you had to be buzzed in from the house. Either way, that wasn't important. My mind was racing as the call of the wild began it's brassy blaring in my mind again. Those trumpets of glory blasting out the Marauders fight song while we ran up the score on the opposing team. Sometimes I'd wished that I had played on the offense just so I could score touchdowns on a more regular basis. Besides, wide receivers and quarterbacks are always spoiled. Everyone else has to work and take their hits while the pretty-boys run untouched down the field and score their touchdowns. Oh well..
Mark and I went out back to the field house since I wanted to talk to him about playing. Once we were safely behind the closed doors of the conference room, I looked him squarely in the eyes. "What do you think?" I asked solemnly.
"Think about what?"
"About me playing this year," I answered smiling at Mark who was trying to defuse the discussion by playing ignorant.
"Oh yeah.. well.." he paused thinking. "I don't know. You love the game and it is the last year you'll play I think unless you plan on going to the CFL and leaving East Valley behind. You could probably meet Eric if you did that. But at the same time, you're healthy right now, and one more season could wreck your knee." He looked me square in the eyes and took my hands in his. "Myles, whatever you decide I'll stand by you, but I can't make this call for you, and I don't really know how to advise you on it either."
I nodded understanding. It was my choice and my call. Mark loved, and respected me enough to let me make it. I had been hitting the weights a little harder over the last couple months too, and maybe sub-consciously I was hoping this would happen, and I did want to play again. I pulled Mark to my chest wrapping my arms around him snuggly. "Thanks Mark," I whispered.
"I love being in your arms like this," Mark said softly.
"Oh hey uhh.. hey coach. Hey Mark.. I didn't mean to barge in," stammered Elliot. He had entered the conference room looking for us and was now standing looking slightly uncomfortable at his intrusion.
"Hey Elliot, that's okay," I answered as Mark and I reluctantly pulled away from each other. "We'll talk some more about it later," I whispered to Mark who nodded and smiled.
"You guys weren't like gonna.. do it just now were you? Cause I can come back later," Elliot giggled as we headed out of the conference room and down the hallway to the film room.
"Nah we had just finished!" Mark joked as we entered the room flipping the lights on. We all laughed at the remark and sat down to go over game film from the previous season one more time before the first practice. We went over responsibilities and reads in each formation - more than any player needs to know at that age - and by the time Mark and I had patiently gone over each game with Elliot, I was confident that he was ready to start playing games, let alone practices.
When we retired to bed that night, Mark was snuggled up against my side. I was looking forward to three seasons this year; my own, my coaching, and Mark's. I didn't know what the year would hold for us, but I had made up my mind for my own part, and was prepared to commit myself to my cause.
* * *
"So are you gonna help me practice or what?" Mark asked tugging my arm out towards the back yard.
"Look Mark yeah just gimme a minute to change okay?" I asked. I was still dressed in my business suit from a meeting I had early that morning. Mark was dressed in full equipment missing only his helmet.
"Come on.. chicken," Mark said giggling.
"Chicken?" I asked smiling.
"Yeah.. you're scared I'm gonna hurt you!" Mark laughed between giggles.
I laughed and looked at him seriously. "I'll be back in just a second then if you wanna call names," I said. I turned and jogged through the house to "the vault" as the family called it. I ditched my suit on the door hook and threw on a pair of my old football pants with the thick knee pad, and put on my shoulder pads with the mesh practice jersey I had worn in high school. It was funny that it was tighter now than it was the previous year in what was supposed to have been my last year of university. I traded my dress shoes for a pair of cleats, and grabbed my helmet along with Mark's helmet.
I met Mark waiting in the back yard next to the pool. "Oh so I go and get ready, and come back to find you lounging out here?"
Mark giggled. "Well yeah! I mean you get ready slower than a girl so I figured I'd have a couple hours to relax," Mark said then paused thinking. "I wonder if you hit like a girl too.."
I couldn't help but laugh at that as Mark's parents came out to see what was going on. "What's up you two?" Aaron asked.
"I'm about to kick Myles' butt in a one-on-one scrimmage!" Mark said excitedly jumping to his feet. "Come on let's go ooold man!"
"Old?" I asked handing him his helmet. Aaron and Laura stood outside on the patio and watched as Mark fastened his helmet on.
"Go easy on him Mark," Laura joked.
"Yeah yeah yeah," Mark said smiling. We lined up fifteen yards apart, Mark with the ball. "Dad you say go!" Mark called to Aaron who nodded.
"Ssssset..... HUT!" Aaron called out, and Mark and I broke into smooth motion.
Mark picked an angle that headed towards the low hedge, to his right. Of course he never really stood a chance and when he broke down to cut back the other way I turned up the speed and caught him up in my arms falling onto my back on the ground. Mark let out a high pitched squeal as he flew through the air in my arms and was laughing his fool head off by the time I landed on my back. Since I had him in a compromising position I took the opportunity to tickle the little devil and within seconds he was laughing even harder and squirming around on top of me.
"Who's old?" I asked through my own laughter.
"You are!" Mark yelled back still giggling like a nut.
"You are Myles, ya big lummox!" Mark said in a fit of giggles. He managed to squirm out of my clutches and took off running across the grass, but I gave chase.
I could heard Laura and Aaron calling "Go! Go! Go!" as I closed the distance Mark had gained in his head-start.
"Think you're so tough Myles? You and me.. right here.. right now. No shoulder pads and helmets.. just a good old fashioned wrestling match!" Mark said grinning from ear to ear, and he promptly pulled his shoulder pads over his head and tossed them aside. His helmet he had already taken off and tossed a few yards away and he now stood wearing his football shorts and a t-shirt. I shrugged and tossed my own equipment aside, and was soon dressed in similar fashion but was shirtless. "So it has come to this," Mark said moving his mouth oddly like the characters do in the translated Kung-Fu flicks from the 70s. "Myles and Mark in a duel to the death."
I stood shaking my head chuckling with my own big grin plastered across my face. "Do you remember what day it is?" Mark asked.
"Of course," I answered. "It's Friday."
"Remember what time it is?"
"It's about 4:30..."
"And what happens on the big lawn in the back yard at 4:30 on Friday's?" He asked as his grin widened and he put his hands on his hips in triumph.
It took me a moment to realize what he was talking about, but as it hit me and as I looked up to meet his eyes with mine, the sprinklers all popped up out of the grass and began drenching us with water! Mark, of course laughed with glee and lunged at me in the falling water, catching me by surprise and tackling me to the ground. He jumped to his feet standing over me with his feet on either side looking over at his parents. He held his arms up and bellowed "MARCUS DAVIS... THE WINNER AND STILL UNDEFEATED HEAVYWEIGHT CHAMPION OF THE WORLD!!!" He started walking to his parents while singing the Pomp and Circumstance March (also called "Land of Hope and Glory", also known as the song played at graduations). I rolled over onto my stomach and watched his water-logged form walking away from me.
For all that I was now soaking wet because of him, I couldn't have loved him more at that moment. He was fourteen now and still just as playful as the day we met so many years ago when he had come with his brother and I to the mall. I looked from his strong developing shoulders, down along his back to that round, firm, and fully-packed rear end. I looked at those shapely legs and back up to that blonde hair as he turned around and flashed his blue eyes at me with that coy little smile of his and knew I couldn't be anything but in love with him. He had stolen my heart completely and I would never get it back, and the truth was, I didn't want it back. Mark held me in the palm of his hand, and wrapped around his little finger, and he knew it as he paused waiting for me to come catch up to him.
I picked myself up off the soggy ground and walked up next to Mark and lifted him easily, tossing him over my shoulders. "You're such a stud-muffin," he said playfully. "Mah he-row!" Mark added mimicking the "southern belle" accent.