secrets

By ts0509

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AUTHORS NOTE:

 

This book is a work of fiction. Parts of the story are reflections from my own childhood and some from my professional life. Most of the games depicted are close reenactments of actual contests but are not necessarily used in the actual time frame they occurred.  All of the game action actually took place.

This is a book that delves into moral and social issues as experienced by young teenage boys, many of which, in my opinion have been ignored too long. The characters, I believe, reflect the real life world of teenage boys.  Their struggle happens all the time in every town in America.  I think the issues confronting the characters are real and need to be written.  Feel free to disagree.

I debated with myself about the content of chapter one more than a few times.  In the end I decided that masturbation is part of life so I included the chapter. I was simply attempting to be real and tell it like it is and thank you Howard Cosell.

 I have to imagine that somewhere along the line I have coached a gay athlete.  I don’t care.  If I were to have known it would have made no difference.  I would have treated him just like all the rest.  I have a very simple rule, “Best Player Plays.”  Understand this is not a book about gay rights, just a book about people.

I come from a family of educators and writers. My grandparents on my father’s side of the family were both English teachers.  My father’s sister’s son is a published author of fiction and lives in the San Francisco Bay area. Fifty years ago the family published a small work of fiction titled “Kernels From a Cracked Nut” to which many of the family members contributed.  It was a play on classic poems and you won’t find it in any bookstore but it was humorous.

I think I got all my wit and humor from Dad’s side of the family. My interest in sports certainly came from the athlete in our family, my mother. I’m not sure where the rest of me came from but I was born in Omaha, Nebraska in 1940. My blood is Cornhusker red and although I confess to being liberal in some of my views, certainly in my coaching life, I believe my acquaintances would agree I tend to fall mostly on the conservative side of the fence regarding a majority of social issues.   

The people I have been fortunate enough to known and be touched by in my life inspired many of the characters in this book.  If anyone thinks they recognize themselves or parts of themselves in any of the characters I hope they will understand that none of the people in the work represent a single person in real life.

Coach Davis is pretty much a reflection of my high school basketball coach, one of my four high school coaches  to whom this book is dedicated.  He did die of cancer and he did come by to say goodbye and I did cry a lot. 

The three musketeers are composites of many young teenage football players that I have had the pleasure to coach over a forty plus year career. They are the representatives of over one thousand kids I’ve had the pleasure to work with. D’Artagnan is a completely fictional character.

I enjoyed writing this book.  I hope you will laugh at times.  You might even cry at times but in the end my hope is that you will understand that our imperfect world is made up of all kinds of people and none of them deserve to be ostracized.  And specifically to teen age boys I offer the following advice; The role of a real man has nothing to do with athletic ability, sexual conquest or social position because of your profession or your inheritance. It’s ok to cry.  It’s ok to hug; honest emotion is good.   A real man knows that by treating all people, regardless of their sex, race, religion, economic position or social status, with respect and dignity  you will eventually rest in peace.

 

FORWARD

 

This is a story about young teen-age boys growing up in Seattle, Washington.  The story centers around four friends.  Each one is searching in his own way to find out who he will become.  They are going through that sometimes very difficult period between adolescence and manhood.  Their friendship will help them through the rough spots and each will in time become a crutch for the others.  They are all athletes and their story is about a football season and how the teenagers adjust and adapt to the balancing act between sport, social and academic challenges. 

The main character Ryan Jones is late to mature although he is very athletic and his struggle with reaching puberty dominates his beginning at his new school.  His family had moved from Oregon to Seattle during the summer before his freshman year in high school.  His parents are supportive and understanding of his plight.  He manages to make it to puberty just in time to become a major factor as an athlete in the story. 

 His best friend, Eric Rose, helps him through his pre-pubescent period with an unconditional loyalty.  Their developing friendship is a large part of the story as they both meet the challenges facing young athletes.  Eric is gifted both as an athlete and a student and has very high moral standards.  He lives with his mostly absent father in a single parent family but handles the situation with a determination that demands self-discipline, which is a trait of strength for him.  His dad is black and his mom is Italian but being a product of a racially mixed marriage never becomes an obstacle to him.

The third member of the group, Trevin Rice, is a coaches son and is the most romantically active of the boys.  He is a talented athlete, average student and constantly on the lookout for sexual conquests.  He plays the roll well and constantly makes light of that fact. He reserves his best effort for the athletic arena and the challenge of being a Romeo to the schools female population.

Scott Thomas, the fourth member, is gay.  He keeps his secret from nearly everyone but Ryan.  He is very smart and quite popular among the student’s of Roosevelt High.  The eventual discovery of his sexual preference is the underlying plot of the story and in the end ties the four boys together in a close bond of friendship based on trust while at the same time ignoring prejudice.

Their story is at times full of laughter and at time tears.  It is an account of four young boys coming together during a life period that is challenging and demanding.  The up’s and down’s of a teenager’s life have need of friendships that endure those periods of trial and tribulation.  This story of the musketeers is a typical teenage roller coaster ride through the life of young friends. 

 

 

 

 

Excerpt

 

PROLOGUE

 

I

 

I was sitting in the back yard watching my three boys play in the wading pool.  Eric the oldest was five.  He had the long legs of his dad and the sweet smile of his mother.  Light hair and blue eyes his Nordic features favored his mothers side of the family.  Trevin was three and looked like a miniature Eric except that his hair was curlier than Eric’s ever was as a three year old.  Scott, the baby was just nine months old and took after his dad.  His head was filled with straight light brown hair.  His brown eyes were alive and never languid. 

Eric was the only one with anything on. He was wearing his favorite baseball cap.  Well sort of wearing.  The Yankee cap was worn backward, like the older kids did in an attempt to look cool.  God I hope that wasn’t already beginning.  His skin was well tanned and their was no swim suit line because the kid almost never wore one while playing either in the wading pool or swimming in daddy’s pool, as Trevin called the kidney shaped pool that dominated our back yard. The little guy could be a poster boy for Coppertone.

Their mother, my energetic wife was insistent that we teach all the boys how to swim. Her idea was ok with me but I thought we should wait until after they proved they could breath.  She was the one though with enough time to take them all to the club even before they could walk.  She was probably right, she was about most things. I had been a pretty fair swimmer at an early age, so   I certainly wasn’t about to hide the fact I thought lessons were a pretty damned good idea.

Three kids frolicking naked oblivious of the crowd of people who had gathered in our back yard.  There were about twenty people with more to come I’m sure, who had dropped by after the reunion of our 2002 State Championship football team.  No one seemed to take notice of the kids.  Everyone was pretty busy getting reacquainted after being on separate life paths for the past two decades. 

This had been a pretty special day for a lot of reasons.  Of course it was nice to see old friends again and listen to how bad our memories were.  I’d been told the older you get the better you were and to listen to some of my teammates talk that was certainly true.  But no one really cared.  We had lived through a special season and all grown considerably because of both the good times and those not so good. 

The other reason it was such a special day was coach Davis’ wife and son were there to present us with copies of a scrapbook that he had compiled during that eventful season.  Coach had died two years ago of cancer and his loss was felt by all of us who knew him so well.  He had come to see me about a month before he passed and mentioned nothing of his illness.  In fact he looked great, certainly older but still trim and distinguished.  His hair was only tinted with grey and his eyes were clear and warm.

We had a great day together sharing stories and getting to know each other again after a long time going in separate directions. Coach went into a deserved retirement in Arizona the year after I graduated from Roosevelt. I entered college and then after teaching for two years left education and went into my father’s business.

I asked him why he had retired? 

“Ryan Patrick Jones, the time was just right.”

“But your health was good and you were still the best football coach in the entire state.  And I would include college and pro coaches in that arena.

“When I began my teaching career the administrators and the teachers were on the same team. We belonged to the same union, we believed in the same things.  We worked together to try to make things better.  In my opinion the day the administrators left the union and formed an alliance with school boards was the day education began to fail. 

The truth is I was disgusted at the direction education was heading and I would have been miserable watching it fall apart.  For example, the support groups only supported themselves. Administrators let them do it because they were too afraid to take a stance. The rally showed up when they felt like it and then only did their little required state routine, acting bored as they ignored the actual game action. The band wanted equal billing and demanded to sit on the fifty-yard line, do their half time piece and then leave.  They were so brazen and weren’t accountable to any one.  It was like they were untouchable.

Everyone wanted to be the show. It made me sick to see what had happened to programs when everyone demanded an equal piece of the pie. No one was satisfied being Ed Mc Mahan, they all wanted to be Johnny Carson.

Kids could pretty much do what they wanted and there was little or no accountability for them either.   It just seemed to me the inmates were running the asylum. 

Most administrators had never been in the classroom.  The worst of them saw themselves as management and the teachers and coaches where nothing more than labor in their eyes.”

He didn’t sound bitter just disappointed in the direction the place where he spent over forty years of his life was headed. He sighed, took a long drink of water and continued.  “They told me the kids had a ‘right to fail’.  Ok maybe so, but the problem with that was the jerks then made life miserable, with their shenanigans, for the teachers and those kids who wanted to get an education.  I didn’t think their ‘rights’ included that but unfortunately I was in the minority.

I certainly agreed with him.  “I guess I know what you mean coach, that’s probably why I only lasted two years in education.  I had the ‘right to fail’ in business as well I guess, but I love the competition too much to give up.  Besides I sure didn’t want to end up in the welfare line asking for food stamps, while working people paid my way with their tax dollars.”

He took another drink of water and paused to gather his thoughts before continuing, “My boy, I’ll tell you one more thing. I may have been disgusted with where education had gone but I never lost my passion for the game and the infatuation never left me.  Now, son I didn’t come to your home to lament about past history.  Let’s change the subject.  “Who do you think will win the Super Bowl?”

The rest of the day we visited about sports, family and mutual friends and when he had to go I thought to myself, God I miss that man and the sad truth was that young kids in our educational system missed him and people like him and they didn’t even know it.  

I was taken totally by surprise when I learned of his death. It dawned on me that he had come to say goodbye.  I was overpowered with the emotion of that realization and I cried for a long time that day.  Next to my dad coach Davis was the most influential man in my life and I was going to miss him terribly.  Education would miss him more.

 

II

 

Maybe no one noticed our naked kids because they didn’t want to chance getting close to Joey.  That would be our three-year-old Doberman.  He was brown to me and officially Red Maple in color as my wife often took pains to point out.  He came from purebred stock and his parents were champion show dogs.  We had found him at a breeder in southern Oregon where I spent the first fifteen years of my youth.  Joey’s real name was Franz Joseph after the last emperor of Austria.  That part’s a long story and I’ll tell you all about it in good time. 

Joey was actually a coward but his physical presence and the reputation of the breed usually caused even the most active dog lover to take heed.  We had gotten him after Trevin was born and he immediately became both kids’ protector.  Now his charge was increased by one but I don’t think he cared.  He followed them everywhere and stood close by the pool whenever they were playing in or out of the water.  He was also great with other kids and other dogs.  I always had the feeling that he just took others for granted and always with great patience simply ignored the pests in his life.

The two other musketeers were there.  I was the third.  Had it really been twenty years?  It seemed like yesterday when the three of us were innocent, well not so innocent, high school kids just trying to find our place in life. And what a great time it was for all three.  Of course the fourth member of our little group was who brought everything together.

It all began when my family moved to the Seattle area from the beautiful Rogue Valley in southern Oregon just before my freshmen year in high school.  The first friend I made was that good looking young man sitting over there with his blonde wife looking like they both had just graduated from college.  How could an almost forty-year-old couple look so young and vibrant?  Oh well, Eric is one of those guys who will always keep his youthful countenance.  He’ll never look as old as the rest of us.  And of course he picked, or did she pick him, a bride who was his equal in nearly everything.  Certainly in looking about ten years younger than her actual age.  Maybe it was the smooth skin.  Mine already had way to many blotches and wrinkles.

The second member of our troupe was standing by the mini-bar, of course he was, carrying on a conversation with a lady, someone I didn’t immediately recognize.  Trevin was always on the move, so he didn’t last long making small talk with whomever he met.  He flashed his easy smile and moved on toward a nice looking lady who was standing momentarily by herself under the shade of the awning protruding from the side of the house. She greeted him like a long lost sole and maybe he was.  Trevin went through so many girl friends in high school he must have know every girl in the entire city.  I think Trev always had the words of Julio Iglesias’ duet with Willie Nelson, “To all the girls I’ve Loved Before” on his lips.  Looks like things haven’t changed much.  Except he did look his age.  Two divorces before the age of forty will do that to a man I suppose.  But I adored the guy.

 “Daddy, daddy here comes Uncle Scotty.”  Eric was waving towards the patio where the fourth musketeer, D’Artagnan stood. Scott waved back and began slowly making his way towards us.  He looked great, although maybe a little thin.  I think he had lost weight since the last time I saw him.  But he was tanned and moved with the same easy grace he did when I first met him twenty years ago.  He wore his hair in the same short style of his youth although I noticed a little white at the temples crowding its way into his still light auburn locks.  He nodded or smiled at everyone as he made his way toward where young Eric and me stood.  God I loved him.  My only hope is he will be able to reach the contentment in his life that he seemed always to be searching for.

“Hey Eric how’s my little toe headed buddy doing?  Looks like you’ve grown a foot.  Are you in Junior high already?” 

“Quit teasing me uncle Scotty.  You know I’m only getting ready for first grade.”

“Well you could have fooled me.  How about showing uncle Scott if you can get a ten from the Russian judge off that spring board.”  At that Eric raced off toward the big pool, leaving his Yankee hat tumbling to the ground behind him.  Joey the guardian chased right along.   I hope he didn’t scare anyone with his exposed butt and tiny dick.  Oh well that would just prove to everyone he was a chip off the old block.

I gave Scott a big hug and kissed him on both cheeks with my best European greeting.  “You look good my friend, really good.” 

“Thanks, you know I always try my best when I show up at your little hacienda. Give me another one of those Vienna greetings, I really miss that.”  He grinned and we embraced again.  He whispered to me, “I love you but you know that.”

His was a great story.  Let me tell it to you.  It’s really the story of a bunch of guys growing up together in a northwest city. Four teenagers.  Three Caucasian’s, one black.  Three heterosexual’s, one gay.  We were learning all about life and trying to come to grips with our own sexuality at the same time.  We of course thought we were grown up but we weren’t. Like teenagers everywhere we would have a bunch of ups and downs before we would realize that fact.  And we all had our little secrets.

The story reminded me of the Randy Travis song that went something like…”Never sell your saddle and never lose your pride.  Never sell your saddle cause life’s a long, long ride.”  Fortunately I hadn’t sold mine or lost my pride.  Neither had my three friends’.

Eric, Trevin, Scott and me.  Seems like yesterday but to tell it right I’ll have to begin…well, hell to tell it right, pardon me but I’ll have to begin where it all began, in my bedroom.

 


 

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