The Maxwell Thomas
By: Eric Case
To those whom it may interest, this story, and all my others - some of which
won't be on nifty - are available at my website "The BookCASE", so you
can check it out and let me know what ya think. Oh and if ya go puleeaaze sign
the guest book! :)
http://thebookcase.tripod.com/ - The BookCASE
I mean, you try living in a house with Maxwell, knowing you're in love with him, and not being able to do anything about it. It wasn't even like there was a mystery factor of "oh maybe he's gay too.. maybe we can hook up!" No. Nothing. He had said it himself, he wasn't gay so there went all my dreams down the tube. Try walking past his bedroom while he's asleep knowing he's in there dreaming away, and knowing that you can't go in and snuggle up to him. Try sitting in your room listening to the shower running knowing Max is washing all the parts of his body you'll never get to touch. Yes it was great having Max living with me, but it was depressing at the same time!
Over the course of that week, I discovered a great many things. Nancy, for example, had thought I was a pretty good guy to begin with so when Max asked her to "baby-sit" me at lunch time she had accepted readily. Now the poor girl was actually taken with me! We hung out every day at lunch, and sat together in all the classes, and all the guys looked at me enviously when Nancy would hear some witty comment I tossed out and giggle. Max chuckled telling me on the Thursday evening when we got home from football practice, that Nancy had told him she thought she was falling for me. Like I said most guys in my grade would die to have been in my position, and here I was obsessing over Max.
I mean who could blame me? It isn't like I was obsessing over some teen idol on television who smiled to the cameras and was a jerk in real life. Max was a sensitive caring individual who knew very compromising information about me, and hadn't even shared it with Nancy when she told him she was falling for me. Now there was Nancy to deal with too! Let's face it, at thirteen years of age and homosexual, what did I know about girls? I had never even dated before, forget breaking up, so how was I to break it to Nancy, this beautiful girl, that she and I just wouldn't work out?
"Jared," Nancy said in that sweet tone that I was really getting used to.
"Yeah?" I answered, and took a sip of coke.
"Do you wanna get married some day?" She asked.
That did it. I gasped and sucked a bunch of my deliciously corrosive soft drink into my lungs and began coughing like I was about to die. She started rubbing my back gently while I tried to empty the fluid out of my lungs. "Cough married?" I asked still spluttering.
"Yeah.. someday," she repeated.
I coughed a couple more times but was breathing more easily. "Married?" I repeated. Nancy giggled and nodded. "You mean to anyone or do you mean to you?" I asked frowning nervously. I didn't need this right then, and her question had scared the hell out of me.
"Just to anyone I guess," she said smiling. "Some guys have issues about marriage and can't see past the dating stage."
"Oh.. uh.." I said pausing trying to choose my words correctly. "Yeah.. I hope I can get married someday," I said slowly.
"I want to get married some day too," Nancy said folding her hands in her lap staring past me into space.
"So what do you think of Max?" I asked trying to change the subject.
"What?" Nancy asked seeming to wake up from a dream.
"Well you asked me what I thought of him before.. what do you think of him?" I asked again.
"Well," she said pausing in thought, "Max is a big sweetheart and a softy," she said. "It's the cutest thing since he walks around the school like he doesn't care about anything when he's actually a sensitive caring guy."
"Sounds like love to me!" I said jokingly getting a soft punch in the arm from Nancy.
"He would be quite a catch," she said giggling. "Max sees me as more of a sister than a prospective girlfriend though."
Anyway, it was now Friday and I had spent the week as the new manager for the football team. That was the other thing I discovered that I mentioned earlier, was how much fun that job was. I mean picture this: your job is to make sure the players have enough water at practice and enough clean towels out in the change room. I didn't have to do any laundry since the team actually had other people to do that, my job as the manager was simply to manage! During practices I'd talk to players here and there when I saw something I thought I could point out to improve their game, and they actually listened. The first person I talked to was Max at home on the night after the first practice. It was nothing major for him, just that he could do better to take a stronger first step forward with the nose tackle out with his academic probation. He tried it the next practice and found he could more easily take on the fullback than the way he had been playing middle linebacker before.
The second person I talked to was Leo during the following practice. He was the rush-end on the right side, and had been practicing this week against the offensive playbook of the opposing team. The Colts had a fullback who would come as a lead blocker and in practice Leo was working on taking the man on and fighting to the outside but it took too long.
"Hey Leo," I said a little unsure.
"Yeah J-man what's up?" He asked after taking a few gulps of water.
"I was just noticing you seem to be a little slow on fighting off the fullback," I said hoping he wouldn't hit me.
"Yeah," he said wiping his face with a towel.
"Why don't you just try dropping your inside shoulder on him.. I mean you'll still have your outside contain cause your outside half is free and if the running back breaks out wide you can use the fullback's block to help you wider, and if the back goes inside you can just crush down on the fullback and try running him over. You're bigger than the Colts' fullback anyways and you against him with a shoulder block will send him flying in the game," I said watching his look change from frustration to almost a look of revelation.
"I'm a' tell ya J-man," Leo boomed smiling. "I think you're on to somethin' here man." I could just smile as Leo gave me a slap on the back and jogged back out onto the practice field and his back-up, Iverson, came off. On the next play, the skeleton-team fullback, Nick Jones, came around the corner to block Leo who dropped his shoulder and ripped under Nick's outside shoulder and sent him flying backwards into the tailback who fumbled the ball. Max burst through the offensive line almost untouched, and scooped up the ball and jogged into the end-zone with Leo for the touchdown. "Yeah baby!" Leo yelled in my direction as he jogged back to the defensive huddle. "Hell yeah, that's the shit I been talkin' about!"
I couldn't help but laugh as everyone else burst out. I learned quickly that Leo is a real amusing character especially when you toss him and Max together. We headed home after that practice in the Jeep Max, Leo, Davis, and I, when the topic of the "toughest player in the league" came up. "Isn't Leo the strongest?" I asked a little naive about everything.
"Nah," Leo said pretty matter-of-factly.
"Too reticent to say yeah?" I asked.
"Man who you callin' resistant?" Leo said frowning at me from his seat on the other side of the Jeep.
"Reticent," Max repeated. "It means quiet, or reserved Leo."
"Ohhh I'm impressed pretty-boy," Leo said smiling at Max. "Looks, wrought-iron nuts, and a big vocabalary," Leo said.
"Vocabulary," Max said correcting him again. "You still bench more than I do, and you've got to be one of the strongest players in the league man so don't be modest."
"Y'damn straight I bench more than you," Leo said raising his voice in pitch just a bit complimenting his accent enough to make him sound like one of those little southern black preachers with the high voices... all except the 'damn straight' part that is. "You still give me sound beat-downs in all the one-on-one drills though... Maybe you're the toughest one in the league."
"Probably," Max said simply holding his straight face even though I could almost feel he was smiling on the inside.
"Yeah that crazy attitude you got," Charlie laughed. "Max the crazy mad dog." Charlie and Leo burst into laughter.
"Yeah I'm a crazy mad-dog, and I'm 'bout to take a bite outta your ass if you don't shut up," Max said cracking a smile.
"Whoooaaa..." Charlie said looking suddenly fascinated. "Is that a smile?"
"Yeah man," Leo said from behind Charlie's seat. "I think that is a smile! Looks like somethin's melting that heart of ice of yours Max!"
Max laughed and shook his head. Soon Max and I were home and it seemed that minutes later, we were at my house. Max and I ate dinner together since my parents hadn't waited since practice sometimes ran late and they had no way of knowing how long we'd be. After dinner, Max and I went to the gym for a quick workout. Max didn't do any lifting since he had a big game the following day, but for me, I was just a manager and had some muscle to put on. It was another arm workout and I was now up to 10s on either side just two arm workouts later. Max seemed pretty impressed and that was more than enough to make me happy with myself. It was just before I went to bed that Max said something to me that really made... well made my whole year!
"Hey Jared," he had said almost shyly as I walked through the hall to my room after my shower.
I was dressed only in a towel, so I didn't really want to stand and have a conversation in the hallway where my parents could see me so I walked into Max's room. Then of course, once I was in his room I had realized I was in no better position in front of Max, and blushed. Still, it was Max who I was standing half naked in front of, and not my parents. "Uh... yeah Max?" I said still feeling a bit embarrassed.
Max was sitting on his bed flipping through a book, and I stood quietly waiting for him to look up. He lifted his eyes to meet mine and he gave me that warm smile. "Listen.. Jared," he said pausing. His face changed a little as if he was fumbling with words. "I just wanted to tell you, that I'm really glad you're helping out with the team Jared. I mean... it's really cool having you around with the team, and I know most of them really appreciate the pointers you've been giving them. Leo mentioned it yesterday, and... I just... thanks for helping us out," he said. Max not knowing the words to say was an oddity in itself, but I was still pretty flattered about him thanking me of all people!
It was so hard not to rush over and wrap my arms around him tightly. I mean he probably wouldn't have been offended or anything, but I knew that if I did, I wouldn't want to let him go. I was just falling more and more in love with him every day. I just wished he could have told me he was gay the day he moved in! "Thanks Max," I managed around the phlegm clogging in my throat. I quickly formulated a sound plan to go to my room and cry myself to sleep. "Yup that's just what I'll do," I thought to myself.
"I mean it," Max said smiling. I turned to go and Max called "goodnight Jared," after me.
"Night," I replied quickly as I almost broke into a run for my room since the tears were flowing. They had finally broken through my defenses and again I started crying over Max. "Damn it!" I thought almost angrily. "How can he make me feel so good, and so rotten all at the same time?" I curled up on my bed still wearing my towel. I couldn't even be bothered to change, I just wanted to go to sleep, and wake up in the morning with the energy to make it through yet another day of my torturous torment that I called a life.
"That's it boys!" Coach Harrison yelled.
We were up on the Colts 10-0, although they were threatening a touchdown. Max and his defense had just stopped them on second and three from our five yard line, and the stands were absolutely insane! The fans for both teams were cheering like crazy and there were just 23 measly seconds left on the board for the first half. If we could stop them for two more downs, we'd leave the first half with the ten point lead. The two teams lined up on the ball for the third down, and Leo looked over towards our sideline, pointed at me, and drew a line from his left shoulder to his right thigh. This, of course, was the sign he'd developed to tell me "Jared.. dis one here's fo you lil' man!" The Colts snapped the ball and the fullback led out to their left side, right in Leo's path. Leo sprinted hard into their backfield and dropped that shoulder I'd told him about and the sound of shoulder-pad hitting shoulder-pad that came across the field to our ears on the sidelines brought us all to excited life. The fullback nearly did a back flip from the smack Leo had put on him, and he grabbed that tailback, spun him around, and slammed him face-first into the ground.
Leo had knocked the ball loose when he hit the tailback, and Max was quick to scoop it up. For his own part, he had leveled a guard on a delayed blitz, with a nice blind-side hit while the guard was engaged with Burney our left defensive tackle. Max sprinted down the field with our free safety Eric who had also blitzed, and the two quickly made their way down the 95 yards of open field to the Colts' end zone. They were joined almost immediately afterwards by the rest of the defense and engaged in a quick celebration. Leo came off the field and rushed over to me and grabbed me under the arms hoisting me over the head. "You see that J-man???"
"Yeah I saw it, I saw it!" I shouted giggling feeling a bit like a rag doll.
"That's right!" Leo shouted setting me down happily and bouncing off giving high-fives to everyone. "Just like in practice!" I heard him yelling.
We kicked off, but the touchdown had really deflated the Colts, who had bolstered a little confidence during their previous drive. Halftime came, and we went into the locker room leading 17-0. "Well I'm not really sure where this extra bout of energy is coming from with you guys," the coach said smiling during the half-time speach. "But whatever it is, has got to be a good thing. You're not making those stupid mistakes you guys usually do, and I don't have anything to complain about at halftime for the first time this season! Now I want to know who's responsible," he said chuckling and looking around at the guys.
All the eyes turned towards me. "It's the J-man's fault coach," Leo said with a big happy smile.
"The J-man huh?" Coach said turning to look at me. "Well Jared, you're doing a great job at whatever you're doing differently from the other managers we've had... so keep it up! Alright guys we got a second half to play," the coach said turning back to the players and pausing. "Now let's go kick some ass!" He yelled, and with that everyone jumped up and headed back out onto the field where they were met with animated spectators, and the sound of the school band blasting our fight song while the cheerleaders did their thing. We won the game 38-0, and were flying high when we left the field. The forth quarter saw all the second and third string players adding two touchdowns to the score themselves while the starters celebrated on the sidelines. The whole team went out that night and got their free meal from the local hangout. The owner's son had played the previous year and so the restaurant was one of our official boosters so anytime we won a big game it was free dinner for the team.
Now everything seemed to be going just great. I was actually getting recognition for something other than being the small guy, and the whole football team seemed to really like me. Heck Leo practically loved me, and before long I'd probably have to sign him as my promoter! He took me around to all the tables at the restaurant, many of which were occupied by upper classmen and introduced me to everyone as the new manager. Yup I figured things were finally evening out, and had no idea that Monday would be the day I was outted to my class, grade, and pretty much the whole school, but I guess I just wasn't meant to be at the top of my game quite yet!
Okay there it is. Questions & comments can be sent to Eric_Case@hotmail.com
and I'll get back to ya ASAP. To all those who've written me in the last couple
months and haven't had a response, I'm reaaally sorry. I really do appreciate
all the encouragement, but it's been a tough couple months and I haven't had as
much time (or energy) to keep up with stuff like I used to waaaay back in the
day. At any rate, thanx to everyone for your support and talk to ya l8r!