It was sort of like a magic act: "Ladies and gentlemen,
for your evening entertainment, Matt Price and Andy
Phillips present the Vanishing Interception!"
My connection with Matt on the football field continued
to be a thing of beauty: passes that shouldhave been
picks frequently ended up in my hands and resulted
in yardage. As time put some distance between me and
that troubling night we played the Hurricanes, our
on-the-field connection became less a source of turmoil
for me and more an out-and-out entertainment. It
made us laugh; it frustrated our opponents. And
quietly, inexorably, it bound us more firmly to each
other, as we continued and deepened this intimate
conversation between our bodies.
It was a conversation for silent partners only. After
that lame and frustrating dialogue on the bus, where
Matt made a half-hearted attempt to understand and I
made a sincere effort to avoid, we didn't talk about
it, didn't think any more about it. We didn't really
have the words. But something in me felt that it was a
good thing that we didn't. So, on the surface anyway,
it was business as usual between the two of us. To my
relief, the wonder and dread of that Friday night
During September the school always fired up the
machinery to create that year's Student
Council. Elections were held the first Friday of
October, the week after our game against the
Hurricanes. Prior to the voting that day, each of
the four classes got to listen to short campaign
speeches from the various candidates for Student
Council. Freshman assembly was scheduled for 1 p.m,
followed by voting in the classrooms at 2. Matt was
running for freshman class president, and was opposed
by a girl named Angie Hartman. Angie was a freshman
cheerleader. She was beautiful and personable and
popular with guys and girls alike; on top of that,
she was sharp as a tack.
I was running for freshman representative. Each class
sent its president and an additional representative to Student Council.
I had no interest
in running against Matt for the President position, but
I did want to be on the Council. Matt, for his part,
was convinced I was fated to be on STUCO with him.
Opposing me were Jared Jacobsen, the rich, arrogant
kid Matt and I were determined to neutralize, and
Tricia Bailey, who'd been Student Council president of
her junior high.
Campaigning had started the first week in September.
We'd gotten our friends and teammates to help us
campaign. Matt even went around to a lot of the other
cliques, clubs, and groups, introducing himself
personally, talking a little about why he wanted to be
class president, and asking for support; then he'd tell
them he needed their help.
On a Saturday in mid-September he held a campaign
workday at his house, and invited a whole collection of
different types to help out: brains, nerds, athletes,
cheerleaders, druggies, theater freaks, band and choir
kids, auto-shop thug types,and wood-shop rats.
I thought it was a brilliant plan. Coming from anybody
else it would have been cynical and manipulative. But
Matt was almost militant about refusing to shun
or stereotype anyone; so the request for help and
support, as far as I was concerned, was genuine.
They painted signs, made flyers, planned campaign talks
to their friends and groups and organizations, and
amazingly enough, began to get to know each
other without the labels, as human beings. Some
unthinkable friendships were made that day which lasted
throughout high school, simply because it never
occurred to Matt that you couldn't mix druggies with
And though I didn't know it at the time, all this was
playing right into Matt's grand design.
I was worried about Matt's speech, though. Matt was
great at one-on-one, or even at firing up a team, but I
wondered if he had the verbal skills to match those of
his opponent. I had some uneasiness that Matt was going
to come off as a dumb jock and that Angie was going to
slice him up with the sharpness of her presentation. I
tried to suggest nonchalantly once or twice that he let
me help him with his speech, but he declined each
time. I wasn't happy about that, but I knew better than
to press it.
The day of the campaign assembly came. All the
candidates were seated on the stage at the front of the
I had to go first. Along with almost every other
candidate that day, I came up with the usual
blather about "representing you," "working for you,"
"changing things for the better," "making your high
school experience the best it can be," nonsense like
The other two candidates gave their speeches and sat
down; then it was time to hear from the two candidates
for class president.
For once Matt's luck hadn't held and he'd been picked
to speak first. When his turn came, he stepped up to
the podium confidently and, I noticed with
horror, without a written-out script. Oh, god, I
thought, and, slumping down in my chair, I waited for
the coming disaster.
Matt cleared his throat. "Okay, a lot of you probably
know me," and at that point a little applause rippled
through the audience.
He continued: "I'm Matt Price.
I guess you've seen I can play some football." A few
more chimed in with the applause this time. "Angie's
gonna talk in a minute and I'll tell you this, she's
smarter than I am and she'd do a great job.
Seriously,I may even vote for her." The audience
Then Matt looked out at themand said, "Actually,
though, I won't. Here's why I want to do this.
"Some of you have gone to school with me since
kindergarten and you know the kids I've hung out with.
I'm gonna say something we all know and nobody says
out loud when teachers are listening. Sometimes we're
freakin' brutal to each other and the popular kids can
be the worst."
I looked around a little nervously and noticed several
of my classmates doing the same.
"Every school in the world has popular kids," he said, "and I guess
I've been in that group for a long time. I like it.
Man, who wouldn't? But it's like--I mean, it's just a game. I
don't know why it happened to me. I'm just a regular
guy. I'll never do brain surgery. And my life hasn't
exactly been normal. I can play a little ball, I guess.
But I got nothin' really special about me. It's
just luck, really. I didn't do anything to get to be
standing up here. It's all just luck.
"I think about things sometimes, like other people and
their luck. It's like the dice rolls and you end up
where you end up. Not everybody at this school got
a rich or smart mom or dad. Not everybody even has a
mom and a dad.
"Not everybody in this school lives in Willow Heights.
Some of you live over at the Village Estates.
"Some of you aren't gonna ever be football heroes
because you're skinny and clumsy and can't bench press
"And some of you aren't good-looking, which really
sucks because you have to be good-looking to be
popular. We have some really talented ugly kids who
are great people. But when kids talk about them, do
they talk about what great people they are? No way,
they talk about how ugly they are.
"And some of you don't talk much when you're around
other kids because you're scared they'll laugh at you,
so you end up with no friends.
"And some of you don't do well in class so the teachers
treat you like dirt, and you feel too ashamed to talk
to them about it and get help, and you don't have a
buddy like Andy to help you out the way he helps me out
when I feel too stupid to ask a teacher for help."
I blanched at this point and stared at the floor.
"And some of you--well, man, the bad luck fairy sat on
your face and you got it all. You're ugly,and you
can't play sports, and you're poor, and your daddy ran
off, and you make bad grades, and the teachers think
you're worthless and you don't have any friends 'cause
you're scared to talk to people. And you wonder just
which day of which year you're gonna reach for the
bottle and take all the pills because it sucks too much
to go on."
There was a deadly quiet in the auditorium. Several of
the teachers looked visibly uncomfortable.
"The reason I want to be on student council is simple," he said.
"I want every freshman in this high school to feel like
he belongs. I want the popular kids and the student
leaders to treat everybody right. I think with the
right leaders we can make it the popular thing to do. And if you give
me a chance to make that happen,
I'll do all the stuff that student council members are
supposed to do. I'll help plan the fundraisers and the
socials and I'll come to the meetings and I'll
participate in the service projects. But the main thing
I'm gonna do is do my best to see that we treat each
"I've had some tough things in my life. I know what
it's like when it sucks. I know what it's like when it
hurts and you can't let anybody know. You make me
freshman president and I don't care who you are; if you
come to me I'll be your friend. I'll never put you down
and I'll never talk trash about you.
"I'm not saying I'll hang outwith you. But I'll
listen. And I'll do anything I can to help you figure
out how to deal. If a teacher's not being fair to you,
we'll figure out what to do. If another kid's giving
you shi-- ...uh, givingyou a hard time, I'll pound his
face in; I mean, I'll help you work it out with him. If
you're a druggie and you're scared about
what's happening to you, we'll figure out something. If
you live in a trailer park and you're ashamed of your
clothes, you don't have to be afraid to talk to me.
You'll never get nothin' but acceptance from me. I
want to be your friend, and I want to do what I can to
make this high school a place where good stuff happens
to you, not a place to make your life suck.
"And I'll tell you something else"--and here he paused
for effect as if he been doing this kind of thing for
years--"I don't want to be your stinkin' football hero
if it makes you think I'm better than you. I want you
to feel good and not just be jealous of what somebody
else is. If you make me class president I'll do
everything I can to make that happen.
"That's all I have to say. Oh,and another thing--my
buddy Andy's on the same page with me on all this, so
if you vote for me, vote for him too.
"Okay, that's it; I'm done."And with that, he smiled
nervously and sat down.
The auditorium was dead silent.
I was stunned at how polished, how sincere--how
But why drag me into it? That part irritated me. I
didn't need Matt's charity. Jacobsen was glaring at me,
and Tricia stared at her hands as they rested in her lap.
Mrs.Sullivan, the Student Council sponsor, leaned over
to me and scowled, saying, quietly, "He can't say
"I had no idea he was gonna say it," I protested. "I
don't like it either."
She started to say something else, but by then the room
had begun to react. I couldn't hear her over all the
applause, whistles, and foot-stomping coming from the
Total chaos ruled for two minutes.
Mrs. Sullivan got her composure back, and stood up and
quieted the crowd. After everything had died down she
invited Angie to speak.
I'll give Angie this: she hung in there like a trooper
and gave a great speech. The election was already over,
really. The whole freshman class had just been
delivered into Matt's hands. But she spoke as if she
didn't know any of that. Her speech had charm, and
congeniality, and wit. I felt my heart go out to her a
little. I wanted Matt to win, but I felt bad for
Angie. So when she finished her speech I started in
with the applause, maybe a little too early and a little
too enthusiastically. The rest of the stage and the
rest of the auditorium followed suit, though, and
applauded politely, though with reserve and little
The assembly came to an end and everybody shook hands.
Matt came up to me afterwards, slapped me on the back
and said, "I know I shoulda got you to help me, but do
youthink it wasn't too bad?" The playful glint in his
eye made me a little angry as I remembered the
embarrassment of having him try to pull me in on his
"I didn't need your fuckin' help, Matt."
"No, maybe you didn't," he said unapologetically. "But
I need yours, and I'll do what I can to make sure I get
I snarled at him--but who could stay pissed at Matt for
any length of time?
"Okay, bud, we'll see," I said. "But don't count your
chickens. Angie gave a great speech too."
"I know," he said, smiling. "Wasn't she awesome? She's got
the brains, no doubt about that. And, damn, she's beautiful too.
I punched him in the shoulder. "Just worry about your own love life,
"Why should I worry?" he deadpanned.
Matt won, of course, probably by the most lopsided
margin in the school's history. I got elected,too, by
a margin that was not as large as his, but wide enough
to stroke my ego.
And from Day One in his role as freshman class
president--and on through his years as
sophomore,junior, and senior class president--Matt
somehow managed to do exactly what he'd promised in
that first campaign speech. His commitment to accepting
people became contagious, just like he said it would. People who wanted
to claim Matt as a friend learned
quickly that they couldn't disrespect others just for
the fun of it. During the years that Matt and I and our
group of friends were in official and
unofficial leadership positions, no kid in our class
ever had to fear that the popular kids would humiliate
or insult him in public.
Our football season that first year ended impressively,
with a 9-1 season record. We finished first in the
district, which was more than could be said for the
Varsity team, which went 4-6. "They need me up there,
Phillips," Matt said to me more times than I cared to
hear. But I understood his enthusiasm. I shared it. We
ate, slept, and breathed sports. It was a channel for
our aggressions, a metaphor expressing our vitality and
love of life, a source of self-identity.
We were set. By October Matt and I had carved out a
niche for ourselves in school, both on and off the
playing field, a niche which was to function as our
base of operations all throughout high school. It was
the solstice of the Endless Summer in our lives, a time
that, while I now understand it as cruelly brief and
ephemeral, seemed during those days as if it stretched
out ahead of us forever.
In April, baseball season was in full swing, and I was
playing on the freshman team. One Saturday afternoon I
was at the batting cages working on my swing. Just as the
pitching machine fired one past me, I heard a
"Eye on the ball, freshman!"
Cole's sensuous, resonant baritone startled me and
caused me to miss the next pitch too. I moved out of the line of
fire and turned
around to face him.
"Up to no good, like always. You gonna tear it up in
baseball bad as y'all tore it up in football?"
I put down my bat and came out of the cage. "Shit, man,
I don't know, but I'm givin' it my best swing."
"Your mom said I'd find you here," he continued.
"Why were you looking for me?"
"A bunch of us are going down to the beach next
weekend," he answered, "and we wanted you and Price and
Ruben to come with us. Y'all were awesome last fall
and we thought that was worth an invite into our little
My eyes widened. "What group is that?"
"Well, it's kind of a tradition," he said. "The top offensive
players on the team, we have this little crew we call
the Jock Posse. It's no big deal but it's kinda fun.
You know the guys I hang out with? Well, that's the
Jock Posse. The team captain chooses who gets into the
Posse at the end of the season. That's Jeff Blizzard
this year, of course. See, it's supposed to
make the offense play harder during the season. Because
if somebody's lookin' better than you in the next year,
they'll get in and you're out.
"Anyway, you get to be really close with the other guys
in the group. And Coach really relies on us for
leadership, especially with the new players. It's kind
of a little leadership core. It makes the whole team
"Didn't work this year, did it?" I grinned.
"Look, smartass," he snarled, "Varsity football's a big
step up from the freshman team; you'll see. We had too
many underclassmen havin' to play this year. Next year
we'll be better--and you'll be ridin' the bench."
"Hey, I was just messin' withya," I said.
"Well, you better show some respect," he said. "No
freshmen have ever been invited into theJock Posse
before; y'all are the first."
He clapped me on the shoulder and smiled. "Nope, no
shit. Anyway, here's the drill. We provide leadership
for the team, on and off the field. And we have a lot
offun. And when the weather gets warm, we do trips to
the beach. You know, party a little, play some beach
football, bring some stuff to get a little happy, and
cruise the ladies."
I started packing up my gear. "What beach?"
He shrugged. "Padre Island, or Mustang Island, or
Galveston once in a while, or South
Padre...well, actually, we only went to South Padre
once, 'cause it's too damn far."
I sat down on the stands that faced the cages. "The
others aren't that close either. How many guys go?"
Cole grabbed a spot next to me and sat. "I don't know,
we usually take between 6 and 12 of us whenever we go.
There's four Posse members out of each class. Well,
except for freshman, of course. You guys don't get in.
Until this year."
My mind began to wander a little. He was sitting close,
and his words began to take a back seat to the impact
of his physical presence in my space. Cole's wardrobe
was almost as well known as he was, and today he was
sporting a perfectly coordinated Tommy ensemble. The
day was warm, and the clean but compelling scent of his
skin, combined with his trademark cologne,
was distracting me.
Gradually the import of what he'd said registered with
me. "Awesome. And so now you're gonna start letting
"This is a one-shot deal, bro. Just you three. No
promises about next year."
"Dude. I love the beach," I said. "And you know I like
hanging with you and your friends, Cole."
He raised an eyebrow and, throwing me a wicked grin,
said, "Yeah, it has some advantages, doesn't it?" I
knew he was talking about his birthday present to me.
"So tell me some more," I said. "Like, how much does it
cost and what about food and gasoline and shit? And how
long do you stay?"
He climbed off the stands, picked up my bat, and started
swinging, sending imaginary home-run balls into
imaginary stands. "Usually everybody gets packed up
by Thursday night," he said. "That way we can leave
Friday right after school. We take a couple of cars,
whoever has the biggest ones. We split the gasoline
bill. We make up a food list and everybody has to bring
something. We eat out once or twice, do fast food
sometimes, and cook out on the beach. Most of the time
we stay all Saturday and leave for home around noon or
one on Sunday." He handed me my bat and sat back down
on the opposite end of the stands from me.
I took the bat and set it next to me. "How often do
"Most years we start on Spring Break," he said. "We're
just getting a late start this year. Then we go, like,
once a month till school's out, and once a month
all summer, or maybe sometimes twice a month."
"Where do you stay?"
"Usually right on the beach," he said, scooting closer
to me again. "There's public camping down there in
spots, and we always have a couple of vans or
minivans, or big cars. We set up tents. Some people
sleep in the tents, some people sleep in the cars."
"Awesome," I said. "Do y'all ever bring girls?"
He laughed. "Shit, Phillips, you are the horniest
freshman I ever met."
I felt myself blush a little as he went on. "Sometimes girls come
down. But that gets
hard to pull off for a whole weekend. Parents check
around. So lotta times it's just the guys."
"This damn city's too small," I said, shaking my head
at the thought of parents checking with each other and
interfering with our sex lives.
"You got that right," Cole said, wistfully. "But it's
okay because there's always girls on the beach. There's
places to meet 'em and spend time. Sometimes we
sneak into the pools at some of the condos. There's
always girls there. And kids from Port Aransas just
hang out on the beach. Those girls are wild too," he
"Anyway," he continued, "we're going next weekend for
the first time this year, and we voted to ask you three
guys along in honor of your kick-ass freshman season.
So are y'all in?"
"Man, I don't know," I said. "It sounds awesome.
But how does everybody get permission to go? I mean,
with no adults and everything?"
"Somebody always has an older brother or cousin in
college or something," he replied. "They come along to
chaperone. A lot of the parents know about
this tradition. It's gone on for years and nobody's
gotten hurt or gotten into any kind of trouble. We
don't let anybody go crazy or get arrested or shit like
that, otherwise that would be the end of the whole
thing anyway. But seems like there's always one or two
whose parents won't let 'em. If they made the cut then
sometimes just so they can go we'll get their parents
to chaperone once in awhile."
I considered that for a minute and asked, "What
adult-type is going along this time?"
Cole smiled. "My brother."
"Oh, brother," I said, rolling my eyes.
Cole cracked up. "Always the funny man, Phillips. But
Brad's got all the grownups fooled with 'what a fine
young man' he is," Cole said, imitating some clueless
parent. "Really, dude, my bro's Da Man. He wouldn't let
anybody do anything really stupid or dangerous, but he
was in the Posse once. He knows that guys gotta have
some fun. Having somebody like him around is good
for both sides of this thing...Anyway, don't worry
about him curtailing the action; with that bod and that
killer smile you'll get some female attention down
there; just don't let 'em know you're closer to 12
than you are to 21."
"Fuck you, dickhead." I hated being called a little
kid, but I was proud that Cole thought I looked good
enough to catch the attention of the girls.
He laughed, reached over, and ruffled my hair with his
hand. "Hey, I only speak the truth." Then, after a
pause, he asked, "So what do ya say? Will you boys be
the first freshmen in history to join the Jock Posse?"
"Shit, yeah, I'm in," I said with enthusiasm, "I mean,
I am if I can convince my parents. What about Matt and
"That's Blizzard's job," he told me. "He's calling
both of them, 'cause Ruben's Varsity Bro isn't in the
Jock Posse. Anyway, call me tomorrow and let me know
I nodded. "Okay. I know I can work it out at home.
"No hay de que, Little Bro,"
he said, smiling. "Y'all
We shook and high-fived. Cole left and I picked up my
stuff and started walking home. I didn't much feel the
sidewalk, though, because I was on Cloud Nine.
It didn't take much talking to convince my parents. My
dad had already heard of the Jock Posse. It had a good
reputation with the parents who knew anything about
it. I'm sure some of them must have known that with a
group of a dozen jocks, there was a darker side to the
camaraderie too. But apparently the guys who'd come
before us had kept their noses reasonably clean.
I called Cole the next night and told him I was a go.
"Excellent, Little Bro," he said. "Your bud can't go,
I frowned. "Matt declined?"
"Just the weekend, not the membership. He already
promised his mom he'd help her do some spring cleaning
and landscaping all weekend."
I was disappointed. Still,this wasn't the last time
we'd be doing this.
"Oh, and something else," headded. "Ruben's going."
"Yeah?" I didn't understand his point.
"Well," he said, "did you know his folks have a condo on
"Shit, yeah," he shot back." And he talked to them and
they said if we give 'em a little notice, we can stay
at the condo if his older brother Manny comes. Does
that not kick ass?"
I was impressed. "That rocks! Do you think we can
snag it the next time we go?"
"We're gonna try, bro," hetold me. "Man. Think of
it...the Jock Posse goes upscale!"
We finished our conversation; I hung up with a little
sigh. Being on the Gulf coastline was a mind-altering
experience for me; I couldn't really put it into
words, but I was thrilled at the thought of getting to
go there a lot with my buds. My memory took me back to
that night on the beach with Staci, and I winced a
little. That area was still a little raw and tender.
I thought about the moon shining on the waves at night,
the sun and the surf and the clear blue sky during the
day. I thought about the feel, the smell, the way it
transformed my entire consciousness.
And, to my dismay, I thought about the way Cole would
look bare-chested, wearing a pair of board shorts.
Copyright 2004 by Adam Phillips. Thanks for reading; you can email
me at email@example.com and I'll do my best to write you back.