Jack found himself intent on telling the stranger his whole story. Frank looked like the right kind of person, someone you could trust, and someone, you know, who might kick in a few grand for the football program. Jack knew the type.
â€œ . . . I knew the game was over at the half, but I couldnâ€™t leave the locker room without telling my kids they could come back.â€
Jack eyed the stranger for some hint of understanding. Still, the man continued looking straight ahead.
â€œI just wish the kids would listen, ya know. I mean, I put so much into this job, and sometimes they just donâ€™t seem to get it. I mean how hard is it to beat a Ju-Co with a total enrollment of less than 500 students? I mean, heck, my daughter couldâ€™ve played QB for them.â€
Out of the corner of his eye, Jack saw Frank sigh, then run a hand through his wet, gray hair.
Jack felt energy surge through his meaty arms. Frankâ€™s response felt like a validation of Jackâ€™s comment.
â€œYeah, you know what Iâ€™m talking about.â€ Jack slapped Frank on the shoulder, making a loud smacking sound on Frankâ€™s soaked dinner jacket. â€œ90 hour work weeks and nobody seems to care or notice. What the heck, Iâ€™m not doing this for my health. I sacrifice my life for this job.â€
Frank turned to Jack and locked eyes with him.
â€œSacrifice?â€ Frank said.
â€œSo you understand?â€
Frank nodded, his eyes set, still, fixed on something far in the distance.
â€œFinally, someone who understands. My wife sure doesnâ€™t. I tell her and the kids all the time: â€˜the reason Iâ€™m not around a lot is Iâ€™ve got to keep my job.â€™ They donâ€™t seem to understand that glory exacts a price of those who seek it.â€
â€œGlory?â€ Frank asked.
Jack snorted. â€œWell, not actually glory, if you could call coaching Piedmont to a runner-up finish in the Coastal conference the last 10 years, but something like it, maybe success?â€
Jack paused. â€œHeck, I donâ€™t even know if I could call it that. Call it what you will. The next generation will have to decide for us.â€
Jack looked for eye contact from Frank, validation that Frank who looked to be a successful businessman understood the pains of pursuing success.
â€œYes.â€ Frank said. â€œThereâ€™s no two ways about it.â€
Jack took his eyes away from Frank and studied the road. Where the heck are we going, anyway? Jack wondered as he continued on Lee, the road running straight through Thomasville.
â€œBy the way, are we close to your house?â€
â€œSorry I was gonna study game film tonight.â€
Jack rolled his head around in Frankâ€™s direction then smiled. â€œI know weâ€™ve got a bye this week, but I always study game film on Saturday night.â€ Jack laughed. â€œThe adult channel filters in every now and again, too.â€ Jack laughed again. â€œGot me?â€ Jack reached over and slapped Frank on the knee, then elbowed Frank in the side. â€œI bet you like to look, too?â€
Frank made no motion, just continued looking straight ahead.
Jack noticed Frankâ€™s unflappable expression so Jack straightened up. He often had to do that for his wife and some of the stiffer boosters. He let it all hang out with his team, but he knew he couldnâ€™t be loose with everyone.
â€œJust stay on Lee?â€ Jack asked.
â€œYes, then right on Pine.â€ Frank turned to Jack. â€œYou were saying?â€
In the brief glance, Jack could see understanding in Frankâ€™s bloodshot eyes. Eyes that had seen a lot: work, suffering, and death, all quite possibly in the pursuit of glory.
â€œItâ€™s all I can do sometimes to keep the desire in, you know, to succeed. I mean finishing runner-up in the conference for 10 years running is killing me. Every year at our athletic conferenceâ€™s meeting Coach Hall, Coastal Universityâ€™s head football coach, says the same thing. â€˜You guys had a pretty good team this year. You were our toughest win.â€™ You believe that? He rubs my nose in it every time. Iâ€™ve never beaten him either.â€
Jack saw the green street sign for Pine light up from his truckâ€™s high beams.