Chapter Ten-One good kick deserves another

Posted on Wednesday, April 20th, 2011 at 9:10 pm

Mrs. Mitchell was back to her usual self the next day, and I was surprised when she said we could still look after the rabbit for one month.  She started a list of children who could take the rabbit home for a weekend if their parents agreed.  My name was on that list, but I didn’t think it would be a great idea to have him and Gabe in the same house.

At lunch I noticed a sheet on the bulletin board for soccer tryouts.  I loved soccer but I wasn’t very good at it.  It would be held on the school field Saturday at 1:00.  As I was reading it and trying to decide if I should go, someone shoved me from behind and I hit my head on the board.  I was about to say, “what’s the big deal, stop shoving,” when I saw who it was.

“Going to try out?” asked Bruce and he pushed me again.  “I didn’t think they let chickens play soccer.”

“I’ll be there,” I said trying to sound brave, “and I bet I’ll be better than you!”

I almost believed myself. It felt good to stand up to Bruce.  It didn’t last long though.  When he was gone all I could think was what have I done?

When I got home the smell of chocolate hit my nose. Bursting through the door I saw Mom was putting the eggbeaters in the dishwasher.

“Wait!” I shouted, and she almost dropped them on the floor.

“Sorry,” I said, “I want to lick those before you put them away.”  That was one of my favorite parts to homemade chocolate pudding.

“I see you’re feeling better,” she laughed.

I talked to Mom about soccer as my tongue slipped in and out of the metal grooves. She thought it was a great idea, that it didn’t matter how good I was, as long as I tried hard and had fun.  She didn’t realize how embarrassing it would be if I didn’t make it.

Mom lifted Tara up out of her high chair. She had been eating and licking her own bowl of pudding. She sat her on the floor and went to get a rag to clean her up.

Her face was covered in a crisscross of chocolate swipes and her hair, which was covered in the thick brown sauce, stood in spikes. Gabe quickly spotted an easy target and began to lick

“Gee, I thought her face was a lot messier than that.”  Mom said as she wiped the remaining smudges of chocolate from Tara’s face and searched the floor and walls for a mess.

I thought about soccer tryouts from the moment I got home until I woke up in the morning. I didn’t make up my mind until 12:30 the afternoon of the tryouts. I had to do it.  I couldn’t hide from Bruce forever, and I loved soccer.

Gabe and I arrived at the field at 12:55, and we watched the other kids being dropped off by their parents.  I recognized Scott who sits behind me in class, I liked him a lot.  He always whispers funny things to me when the teacher isn’t looking.  And I saw Murray, a quiet kid with blond hair and glasses from my computer class. Most of the others I had seen around the school and they nodded to me or said hi.

Then I saw him.  He had on a bright orange and black goalie shirt, goalie gloves and white soccer socks over his shin pads. I couldn’t believe what I saw next.   Two of him, except one was a bigger version. He had a crew cut like Bruce and dark eyes, and he was wearing a white T-shirt that was one size to small.       I could see every bulging muscle on his body. I shivered and my stomach ached.

But something was different about Bruce that day.  When his dad saw the coach he shook hands with him and started joking about something, always keeping one hand top of Bruce’s shoulder. Bruce turned around, looked and me and waved.

Our coach was a slim man with dark hair and small round glasses.  He called us over and told us his name was Mr. Freedmont, but we could call him Coach.  He explained some of the drills we would do, and told us not to worry, but to go out and have some fun.

My first partner was a boy named Rockerfeller, Rocky for short. Our drill was to run down the field passing the ball back and forth. Then we had to take it to the net and shoot.

Rocky and I passed the ball carefully back and forth. We looked pretty good together.  I felt like nothing could stop me. I clapped and cheered Rocky on.  He made a perfect pass to me as I waited to shoot it at the net.

“Decided to show up city boy.  Come on, show me what you got.”

Looking at Bruce, my heart thumped in my chest.  I ran forward but I lost my timing, and took too much of a wind up. I missed the ball completely and landed on my rear with a painful thump.  I got up right away and wiped the grass off my shorts.  I looked around.  Rocky had seen me and unfortunately, so had Bruce.

Rocky was pretty good.  He told me not to sweat it; we would get the big boy next time.  So we passed it back down the field ignoring Bruce’s laughter and rude comments. I watched Bruce as he fended off every shot on net.  He was good!

His dad stood beside him the whole time, talking and coaching him along, and after a while Bruce wasn’t smiling anymore. When Bruce missed one his dad started yelling and waving his arms and telling Bruce what he did wrong. Bruce didn’t look like a bully anymore.

Our next chance at net I was ready for Bruce.  I felt bad for him, for the way his dad was treating him, but I was determined to make the goal.  When we reached the end I took the ball from Rocky. I quickly glanced up to see where Bruce was standing and then I kicked it as hard as I could. The minute it left my foot I knew I had made it too easy. It was heading straight for him.

For most of the practice Gabe had been doing his own thing; sometimes watching, and sometimes sniffing at the ground, or rolling over on his back, twisting and turning to scratch an itch. So it surprised me to see him running behind the ball I had just kicked.

Keeping his nose to the ground, he guided the ball to the right.  When Bruce made his move, Gabe shoved it past him on the other side. Everyone cheered, except for Bruce, and his dad.

Gabe stayed beside me for the next drill.  I had to dribble the ball down the field in and out of orange cones. Every time the ball inched away from me too far, Gabe nosed it back to me. I looked over my shoulder and saw that the coach was watching and smiling. I was going to make the team, I knew it.

“Okay boys,” he said,  “one more time and we will have a scrimmage”

I felt unbeatable.  I raced down the field again in between the cones. pushing the ball right and left, timing it perfectly.  When I came to the end and turned to go back I saw Gabe off in the distance chasing a bee.  He hadn’t helped me at all that time. I did it on my own.

After the scrimmage I walked home. My T-shirt was damp and sweat was pouring down the sides of my face. Coach said he would post the names of those who made it on the sports board at school on Monday.  I hadn’t gone very far when a voice called out “Hey wait up Trevor”

Oh great, I thought, just when I was feeling good about myself.  But I wasn’t going to let Bruce bring me down.  I kept walking pretending not to hear him. He ran and caught up with me anyway.

“Great practice” he said, “Where did you learn to play like that.  You must have played a lot in the city.  I didn’t even think the city would have soccer teams.  We’re going to be the best team around this year.”

Bruce kept on and on, talking like a normal regular kid.  No put downs, no bragging, and no threats, all the way home.  I left thinking there was hope for a friendship after all.

“I’ll see ya Monday, Trev,” Bruce punched me in the arm and took off down the street.  Things were turning around.  Things were going to be different.  I knew it.

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