Printed from https://www.writing.com/main/books/entry_id/1037348
by Seuzz
Rated: 18+ · Book · Young Adult · #2204735
The description will be updated when I've figured out what the story is.
#1037348 added September 5, 2022 at 11:51am
Restrictions: None
Chapter Eight
A COLLEGE SCOUT. That would be big. I hadn't been counting on anything like that.

The fact is that I hadn't been counting on anything like college after graduation.

Not that there was anything really wrong with my grades, not if you didn't look too close at what classes they went with. In English, math, science, civics, and Spanish, they ranged from C-minuses to C-plusses, with the occasional B-minus thrown in by a teacher who liked me and didn't want to give me the grade I earned, and a D-plus or three by teachers who thought I should get everything I had coming. But these were balanced by B-minuses that stretched up to A-minuses, though in classes like P. E. and woodworking and metal and arts appreciation. Also lots and lots of Health and Life Experience classes. So, academically, we all knew I wasn't heading anywhere.

But I wasn't expecting a sports scholarship either. Even if Cole hadn't been in the same class, same school, same town, same talent slot as me, I wouldn't have impressed anyone, except by being better than guys who were even less impressive than m. So the most I was expecting was to go to the big community that Causey and Menefee and a few other small towns shared. Much the way my dad ended up there when he graduated school.

But now Aunt Heather had called to say some college scouts wanted to talk to me.

My dad and I talked a little about it on the drive home, tried to figure out where this scout could be from. The best we could guess was Eastern. It sure wasn't going to be one of the big state schools.

There was a big black SUV parked out front when we pulled into the drive. It was a real monster of a thing, the kind of SUV you'd expect FBI agents to come swarming out of. The windows were tinted and the front grill and bumper gleamed like metal teeth. Even if it didn't still have that new car smell, I would have bet it was vacuumed out and sprayed every day to keep it as fresh as possible.

Which reminded me ... I opened the truck door again and grabbed out the last few squashed fast food bags I'd forgot to dump on my way to school. Aunt Heather was always getting snippy with me when I didn't keep her truck clean.

And on our way up to the door, my dad quietly remind me that she'd want the front yard cut first thing next morning.

Neither of us called out when we went in, because Aunt Heather called out first. "Charlie? Tim? Is that you?" We looked at each other like, Like who else would it be? After wiping our feet on the mat, we went round the corner into the little living room. But it was empty, so we turned back and walked to the other side of the foyer, into the big living room. The one Aunt Heather kept for company.

She was sitting in the corner of the good sofa: a dumpy, pear-shaped woman with a baggy face under hair dyed the color of a basketball. She scooted forward and sat up more straight while her two visitors hitched themselves out of the easy chairs they'd been relaxing in. I was surprised to see two of them when she'd only mentioned one to my dad.

And I was even more surprised, in a way that made me flinch, when I saw that one of them was that cadaver-on-stilts who'd talked to me outside the pizzeria. His deep-sunk eyes were still too bright and his smile still too big and hard as he beamed at me. His friend was shorter, with a big, drooping lower lip and a pudgy nose that bent at an angle, and furtive eyes that peeped out over roly-poly cheeks. Both of them were dressed in dark suits that, in the case of Mr. Skellington especially, looked like it belonged on something laid out inside a coffin.

My dad introduced himself—"Tim Tyler"—and put his hand out, then withdrew it in some embarrassment because it was still dirty from work. He introduced me and the two men introduced themselves: Jack Scalise (that was the walking corpse) and Thomas Hill. My dad offered them a drink, then saw they both already had a beer.

"Mr. Tyler, we just want to start off," Hill said as he and his friend settled back into their chairs; my dad sat on the edge of the sofa with Aunt Heather, while I stood and watched and listened, "by telling you that we've had our eye on your boy for a little while now. And what we saw out there at the game today at Meneffee"—he popped a finger gun at me—"has sealed the deal as far as we're concerned. Is he spoken for? For a university, I mean?"

My dad looked at Aunt Heather, then gave me startled look before saying, "Heather told me you're college scouts."

"That's right. Saint Athanasius."

"Mm," my dad said. I blurted out, "Where's that?"

They both seemed surprised when they looked at me. "It's about two hundred miles south of here," said Scalise.

"It's in Lexington?"

"Uh, no. A score or so miles east of there. In the country."

"It's a small liberal arts school," said Hill.

My dad said, "But you have a football program."

The two scouts stared, then looked at each other with gigantic grins spread across their faces. "Your son wasn't doing a poetry reading out in Menefee today!" Hill chortled.

Aunt Heather leaned forward. "Tell Tim the offer you told me."

"Mr. Tyler," Hill said, "Saint Athanasius is a very exclusive private school, which is probably one reason you've never heard of us. But we have partnerships and exchanges with some of the most exclusive prep schools, boarding schools, and private high schools in the country, along with Canada and Europe and elsewhere. Our connections and relationships with them are not just academic or"—his eye strayed to me—"athletic. They transcend that. They are personal. To attend Saint Athanasius is to enter a world closed to most people. Even to most people in the so-called Ivy Leagues." A chortle rattled in the back of his throat as he said that.

"It sounds expensive," my dad said.

Hill smiled. "I will not soften the blow, sir. It is expensive. The cost is more than a hundred thousand dollars per semester, when accounting for all fees. It is, however, a quite modest price, considering the advantages that come from attending our school."

Dad didn't look impressed. He just slowly sighed and said, "It's a price out of my range. I'm sorry, but—"

"Tim, let the man finish," Aunt Heather cut in.

"I am emphasizing the cost, Mr. Tyler, so that I might emphasize our assets. I don't want you thinking we are making empty boasts." But I could tell by his expression that my dad still thought he was hearing a lot of baloney. "The fact is that, under our offer, neither you nor Charles would have to pay a thing. He would be given a free ride, including a stipend to handle all his living expenses. We would pay him to attend our school." Hill sat back with a plump smile.

I'd been standing on my own two feet all this time, but now I shifted to lean against the wall by the window. My ankles were getting tired, but mostly it was because I wanted to see my dad's and Aunt Heather's reactions.

Her face was as easy as to read as a first-grade primer. Her jowls curved up into a fat, smug smile, and she rocked on the sofa like she wanted to jump up and accept on my behalf. I knew she would have accepted the offer, and make me accept, if it was up to her.

And it probably would be up to her, because even though I told all my friends that "my Aunt Heather lives with us," in fact it was the other way around. My dad, since the divorce, had no place to go except to her.

And she'd been trying to get rid of me almost since we'd moved in.

But my dad was keeping a poker face. Not so much of a poker face that I couldn't read it, but enough of one that I was pretty sure those two guys couldn't read it, not completely.

For a moment he didn't say anything, just blinked kind of sadly at them, then glanced thoughtfully up at me. I kept my own face in neutral, and fought the urge to fold my arms. He lowered his eyes, then looked back at the men.

"I know what the kid's got," he told them. "What do you think he's got?"

Hill smiled and shot back, "What do you think he's got, sir?"

My dad said, "I asked you first."

"Moxie," said Hill. He pointed to his partner. "Jack here worked with the pros, several pro teams, and he—"

He rattled on for awhile, excited and persuasive, about Jack Scalise's ability to spot talent. He named great players that Scalise had picked out when they looked like bad bets, and great prospects he had dismissed before they turned out to be damp squibs. He assured my father that when Jack Scalise saw something in someone, it was there.

"Not that we're saying your son will be another Tom Brady. He may never even make it to the pros, even if he pursues a career in football. But we are not a football school, Mr. Tyler. We don't even play in the college leagues, we have our own private league." He was so excited now he started shaking his finger at my dad. "We do not train our students, our athletes, to be great players. What we do, and what our athletic training is bent to do, is to train them to be great men! Excellent men, men of excellence! And from what Jack saw of your son, of Charles, on the field today—!"

I stopped listening and didn't hear the rest of what he said. I was looking at his partner. Particularly, I was looking at the way he was gripping Hill's knee, so hard that his knuckles had whitened to the color of chalk.

I'd had enough experience with Madison that I recognized the kind of grip he was giving him. It was the kind of grip you give someone when you are trying to tell them to shut up before they say or do something really stupid.

I glanced over to see if my dad had picked up on it. But he and Aunt Heather were completely absorbed by the look of ecstasy on Hill's face.

The man eventually ran out of breath, and it was like he took my dad's breath away, because it took him a minute to shake himself free and turn and look up at me. The skepticism I'd seen behind his eyes was gone, and they were bright and shining. I saw that he was looking at me with the glowing appreciation that Jack Scalise, through his partner, had for me.

So before he could speak, I said, "Dad, I played like three minutes in the game today. I don't know what these guys think they saw out there."
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