Glory – Part 2

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.

“ . . . I knew the game was over at the half, but I couldn’t leave the locker room without telling my kids they could come back.”

Jack eyed the stranger for some hint of understanding. Still, the man continued looking straight ahead.

“I just wish the kids would listen, ya know. I mean, I put so much into this job, and sometimes they just don’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 could’ve played QB for them.”

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. Frank’s response felt like a validation of Jack’s comment.

“Yeah, you know what I’m talking about.” Jack slapped Frank on the shoulder, making a loud smacking sound on Frank’s soaked dinner jacket. “90 hour work weeks and nobody seems to care or notice. What the heck, I’m not doing this for my health. I sacrifice my life for this job.”

Frank turned to Jack and locked eyes with him.

“Sacrifice?” Frank said.

“So you understand?”

Frank nodded, his eyes set, still, fixed on something far in the distance.

“Finally, someone who understands. My wife sure doesn’t. I tell her and the kids all the time: ‘the reason I’m not around a lot is I’ve got to keep my job.’ They don’t seem to understand that glory exacts a price of those who seek it.”

“Glory?” Frank asked.

Jack snorted. “Well, 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?”

Jack paused. “Heck, I don’t even know if I could call it that. Call it what you will. The next generation will have to decide for us.”

Jack looked for eye contact from Frank, validation that Frank who looked to be a successful businessman understood the pains of pursuing success.

“Yes.” Frank said. “There’s no two ways about it.”

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.

“By the way, are we close to your house?”

“Yes.”

“Sorry I was gonna study game film tonight.”

Jack rolled his head around in Frank’s direction then smiled. “I know we’ve got a bye this week, but I always study game film on Saturday night.” Jack laughed. “The adult channel filters in every now and again, too.” Jack laughed again. “Got me?” Jack reached over and slapped Frank on the knee, then elbowed Frank in the side. “I bet you like to look, too?”

Frank made no motion, just continued looking straight ahead.

Jack noticed Frank’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 couldn’t be loose with everyone.

“Just stay on Lee?” Jack asked.

“Yes, then right on Pine.” Frank turned to Jack. “You were saying?”

In the brief glance, Jack could see understanding in Frank’s bloodshot eyes. Eyes that had seen a lot: work, suffering, and death, all quite possibly in the pursuit of glory.

“It’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 conference’s meeting Coach Hall, Coastal University’s head football coach, says the same thing. ‘You guys had a pretty good team this year. You were our toughest win.’ You believe that? He rubs my nose in it every time. I’ve never beaten him either.”

Jack saw the green street sign for Pine light up from his truck’s high beams.

“This it?”

Posted in Fiction, Short Stories