My Best Friend

by Victor Thomas

Chapter 14

There was no practice after school on Friday because it was game night. I almost couldn't believe our first game was at hand. I had been playing my last three years of high school, but I was still excited and anxious. The game wasn't until seven, so I went home for supper. Dad came in about five so we all ate together. We hadn't done that for quite a while. It used to be an every night thing before I started playing football back when I was a freshman. We still ate together most nights, unless I had an away game. My whole world was changing. I would be going off to college next year. I had recently come out to myself about being gay and having a crush on my best friend. I liked this little piece of familiarity. I liked the meatloaf, mashed potatoes, green beans and hot rolls with butter.

"Are you excited about tonight?" dad asked.


"I'm glad you enjoy playing football, son. The McCall men have a long history in football, going all the way back to your great grandfather."

"He knows, dear," mom said.

We both heard that fact from the family history more times than we could count.

"It's not all ancient history either. I played football in college. I'm so proud of you going on to play college ball next year."

"Even with me going to Kansas University instead of the University of Kansas, " I teased.

"You're a man now, son. You're free to make your own decisions, even if your father is a University of Kansas man."

"We're coming to your game tonight," mom announced.

"You are? That's great!"

"We're proud of you, son," dad said. "I look forward to seeing you play college ball next year, even if you are playing for the wrong team."

He laughed.

I wonder if he'll still be proud of me if and when he finds out that I'm gay, I thought to myself, not that I intend to tell him, or anyone else.

"We would have been proud of you even if you hadn't made the team," mom said. "My baby is growing up," she continued, getting a little weepy.

Dad began reminiscing about his high school football days. I guess he had been a good player, at least if you listen to him, although he was never quarterback material. I don't know how I would have managed if he had been the quarterback in his day. It was hard enough standing in his shadow as it was.

There was a pre-game bonfire at six, so after supper I ran up to my room. I walked over to the mirror and stripped off my shirt. I flexed my muscles. I'm decent looking, even if I do say so myself, and had a somewhat muscular body. I'm in decent shape, at least I think so. If only I could find myself a boyfriend. I fantasized about Todd all the time, but I'm realistic to know that nothing is ever going to happen between us. There are several other cute boys in school, as well as Brian, the cute cousin of Mark's I met earlier in the summer. He would be the perfect choice, very cute, a hot body, and the fact that he didn't go to my school meant that no one had to know we were dating. If only!

I sighed and pulled my shirt back on. There was no use in whining about it. I likely wouldn't find a boyfriend until I went to college and that was almost a year away.

I ran downstairs, told mom I was heading out, and then did just that. I walked toward the football field, excited and nervous. It's not like I haven't played before, but this is the first game of the season. It almost didn't seem real. It was the first game of my senior year, my last year in high school.

I thought about Brendan, our quarterback. He was incredible. He had a passing arm that was unbelievable. He passed like a pro. He was just as good at running down the field. He had a way of dodging the defense that was unreal and could he run fast!

Brendan Barrett. I swear I think he's gay and dating Robert, but they've neither one ever said anything. Not many guys were down on him. Most idolized him, at least secretly. Maybe being gay gave him superpowers. If it did, where were mine?

I could see the bonfire near the football field as I approached. There were loads of kids and plenty of older people milling around. It was kind of weird seeing teachers outside of the class room. Sometimes, I didn't think of them as real people, which is stupid I know, but when I spotted one of my teachers buying groceries, or eating at the Hornet's Nest or the Chouteau Café , it just seemed odd.

I joined the members of the team who were gathering around the fire. As soon as I stepped into the circle of my teammates, I became part of the center of attention. Guys kept coming up to encourage us to beat the crap out of the other team. Girls flirted with some of the guys and boys gazed at us, wishing, if only for a moment, that they were us.

I saw one of Cody's friends slip him a drink from his coke, which I was quite sure was as much whisky or some other alcohol as it was coke. Disguising alcohol in soft drink cans was a very old trick. No one offered me any, which was a relief. I probably would have coughed and sputtered and looked totally uncool. I remembered the punch at Kolton's party the other night. It was nasty.

Wood smoke scented the air and there was just enough of a chill to make the warmth of the bonfire welcome. I talked with the other players and a few of other kids until it was time for us to go in and suit up. As we left the bonfire for the locker room, the crowd began chanting 'football, football,' and my teammates began whooping and hollering. I was amused until I realized I was yelling right along with them.

My heart began to beat faster as we stripped in the locker room and put on our uniforms. The air was filled with testosterone and I feared my jock wouldn't be able to conceal my excitement. Brendan helped me put on my pads. He already had his on, but hadn't slipped on his jersey yet. The sight of him wearing those pads with his bare chest showing… if I didn't believe god existed before then I would have upon seeing him. He was beautiful.

When we were both suited up, he closed in on me. I could smell his cologne. I wondered if that was the scent Robert smelled right before he kissed him.

"This is going to be a tough game tonight, Scott," he said. "I'm counting on you and the other guys to play your best and we can beat these fuckers."

"Don't worry about me, Brendan," I said. "I'm ready for this. I may be one of the smaller members on the team, but you can count on me."

"That would be Brendan!" Cody said.

"What?" we both said.

"You said you were one of the smaller members on the team, Scott. Oh, never mind, you weren't talking about your dick, were you?" he teased.

"Hey, Cody, why don't you play for the other team so I can kick your ass," Brendan said.

"Kiss my ass? You can kiss my ass if you want, Brendan. Here!"

Cody began to unfasten his laces.

"Keep your big butt in your pants, Flynn," Brendan said.

"My butts not big! What I've got big is right up front."

He groped himself and I felt a stirring in my jock.

"As I was saying before the idiot interrupted," Brendan said. "You're one of the better players on the team, and a great receiver. Just stay focused."

Cody began to open his mouth, but Brendan glared at him.

"Shut it, Flynn."

Cody laughed.

Coach Benson stepped into the locker room and called us out on the field. I felt great and was ready to play my first game of the season.

I loved wearing my football uniform. The pads made me look a lot bigger. They made it harder to pass through doorways too. I banged my right shoulder into the wall as we left the locker room. The pads sure worked. I didn't feel it at all.

We walked over to the football field. The stands were crowded with fans and the band was playing. We warmed up to get our muscles limber. Our opponents did the same at the other end of the field. Coach Benson pulled us into a huddle, gave us a pep talk, and then gave us the lowdown on the opposing team. The Blue Devils were tough, probably the toughest opponents we'd face all season. Their team had almost won state the year before. Coach was expecting a tough battle. The team took the field. Among them were Brendan, Cody, Todd, and me. I'm glad I wasn't the quarterback, even if I had the talent, which I didn't. It was too much pressure. The coach might set up the plays but the quarterback had to make it happen and had to be ready to change the play in an instant as conditions changed. If the team won, he was a hero, but if it lost, he could easily get blamed for the mistakes of others.

I looked around me. The crowd was talking, laughing and yelling while waiting for the game to start. Guys were snuggling with their girlfriends.

I turned and looked back at the other players. I needed to focus on the game. We huddled up and then took our places on the field for the opening kickoff.

The game went wrong from the start. Brendan was sacked on the very first play. Our receiver was taken down on the very next play the moment he caught the ball. I'd played in a few games over the last few years so I knew we were getting our butts kicked. Not because we weren't a good team or weren't playing well, but because our opponents were just that good. The Blue Devil linemen were bigger than ours. Our biggest lineman was not quite as large as their smallest. Most of the linemen on the other team looked too big to be in high school. I could just imagine what one of them would do to me if they tackled me.

At the end of the first half the score was 0-21. Our guys were playing well, but just couldn't penetrate the Blue Devil defense. On the two occasions someone did get through they didn't make it very far. The situation was just as bad when we were on defense. Our guys could not hold theirs back.

The second half was just as bad. Our guys managed to hold the other team back a little better but there was no stopping those guys for long. Brendan is a good quarterback, but there wasn't much he could do. The receivers couldn't get past the Blue Devils , so most of the time he had nowhere to throw the ball. He just tore out and went for any opening he could find. He even made it past the defensive line a couple of times, but never came close to making a touchdown.

I think he was the only player we had who was as good as the Blue Devil players. I could not believe those guys. We had played them last yare and they'd destroyed us then too.

The minutes ticked away until there were only four left. Ethan had to be carted off the field on a stretcher. Brendan jogged over to Coach Benson. The two spoke briefly and then he walked back onto the field.

The team huddled up and he began setting up his play then the tone slowed down as he looked at me and continued speaking.

"I'm going to pass to Scott. Scott, as soon as the ball is snapped, I want you to fall back and get right behind Cody and Kevin. Cody and Kevin, I want you to plow between the guys blocking you. Don't tackle them, deflect them to the side. Scott, you zip through the opening. You're going to have to be fast because when you drop back that's going to leave one of their linemen free. I hope he'll come after me, but if he sees what we're doing he may be after you."

I swallowed hard and tried not to let my fear show.

"Just push them aside, huh? Have you seen the guy I've been trying to block? If he was green, he'd look just like the Incredible Hulk," said Cody.

"I thought you said you loved a challenge. I know this is risky guys, but what have we got to lose?" Brendan asked.

"Consciousness?" Kevin said, then laughed.

"Let's make it happen guys. They are kicking our asses all over the field."

Brendan hung back just a moment after he broke the huddle.

"I know you can do this, Scott. Take any opening you can find. Use your speed. You can't match their strength, but you can outmaneuver them. Get into the clear and I'll drop the ball right into your hands."

I nodded and took my position. The lineman across from me was huge! I couldn't see anything but him.

I listened for thirty-four as Brendan began to call out numbers. I knew it was coming soon. Then, there it was, followed almost instantly by, "hike."

I zipped behind Cody and Kevin. They surged forward, but didn't get far. They ran into a wall of muscle. They wedged themselves between the Blue Devils . There was only about a space of six inches between them. I knew that was as good as it was going to get. I ran forward and jammed through the space sideways. I got stuck, somehow pushed through, and then stumbled. An enormous lineman reached for me. I dove for the ground and rolled. He overshot me. I jumped up and sprinted, zigzagging to dodge the Blue Devil defense. I broke into the open, turned and looked to find Brendan even as I ran. He was dodging Blue Devils , but he spotted me. He passed the ball and, just as he promised, he dropped it right into my hands. I tucked it into my chest and ran as if my life depended on it.

I'd like to tell you how I dodged this way and that, got past the entire Blue Devil defense and scored the only touchdown of the game. Oh, how I'd love to tell you about that! But it didn't happen. What did happen was almost as good. The crowd roared. There hadn't been much to cheer about during the game, and anyone from our team breaking through and making it more than two yards was cause for celebration. I made it to the forty-yard line. I almost got nailed right there, but I dodged at the last second and slipped by the enormous lineman that tried to tackle me. I made it to the thirty-yard line. I could hear the crowd begin chanting, "McCall! McCall!" I swear it happened. I'm not making it up. I got to the twenty-five and then the twenty. I began to hope I'd actually make it, but twenty yards is a mile when you're being pursued by guys twice your size.

There were only two defenders between the goal line and me, but they were both closing fast. There was one to either side of the field. No matter how I dodged, they kept on me and closed in. I sprinted, but I knew I couldn't pass them before they reached me. Just before they closed on me from either side, I lowered my shoulder and aimed for the gap between. I closed my eyes as we collided. My body was buffeted back and forth as I slipped between them. I stumbled, regained my balance, and took one step forward before they took me down from behind. I'd made it to the ten-yard line.

I just lay there on my stomach for a few moments, in less pain than I'd imagined. There was the goal line, so very close. I felt like crying. I pulled myself to my feet. The crowd was still cheering, even though I hadn't made it.

I hobbled back toward my teammates. Brendan and Todd slapped me on the back, and so did plenty of others. It hurt, but I didn't mind. I was probably grinning like an idiot, but my face guard hid my expression from most. You might think the crowd and my teammates were overly excited since I didn't score a touchdown, but my almost touchdown had been the highlight of the game for Chouteau.

Time was running out fast so Brendan huddled us up.

"Let's fake them out," he said. "That play was the closest we've came to scoring, so let's make them think we're going to try it again. Scott, Cody and Kevin do exactly what you did last time. They'll likely be waiting for it so you probably won't get far, but maybe we'll be lucky. Scott, if you do make it through, run into the end zone and I'll pass to you. Now, here's the real play. Todd, when I get the ball, you drop back and try to run around the left side. With any luck, the Blue Devils will be focusing on Scott on the right. If you can get into the clear, I'll get you the ball. Got it?"

Everyone voiced their understanding and the huddle broke up. The clock was down to just seconds now. There was no way to win the game. This was our last chance to score.

The center hiked the ball. He was right. The Blue Devils were ready for us to run the same play. When I dropped in behind Cody and Kevin, the lineman who had been facing me was on my tail. I darted back to the right to keep from being flattened and found myself momentarily in the clear. The Blue Devils were all over me then. It seemed like half the team turned in my direction. I was hit hard and went down. I couldn't breathe and I saw stars. My breathing returned to normal when the linebacker who had knocked me down climbed off. The clock ran out. I looked up at the scoreboard, but the score had not changed. We lost 0-28.

I hobbled over to join the rest of my teammates. I was in pain. I wondered if I'd ever be able to walk upright again. Todd filled me in on what happened as we headed for the locker room. When I darted to the right to escape getting nailed, so much attention was focused on me that Doug was able to make it into the clear. Brendan passed to him, but Doug was knocked down just as he caught the ball and he dropped it. The play hadn't worked, but it had come close.

Allison ran over to me just then. She brushed my sweaty hair out of my eyes and kissed me on the lips. I concentrated on not recoiling. My teammates didn't miss seeing her kiss me.

"See you in the locker room, stud boy," yelled Mark as he ran past. That kind of embarrassed me, especially when the other guys all yelled, "bye, stud muffin. Bye, hot lips," as they made their way to the locker room.

"You were awesome," she said.


I don't mean to sound conceited, but I was pretty awesome during the game. Our opponents were tough, and I had made the best play we could manage during the game. It's no wonder they whipped our ass.

Allison's admiration made me feel like an asshole. She was all excited over me and I was only waiting for the right opportunity to dump her. I felt like a traitor. She'd given herself to me and I didn't want her. My elation over my performance dissipated and a cloud of doom formed over my head once again.

"I guess I'll see you tomorrow night," I said to her.

"Call me tonight," she said.

"I will."

I didn't really want to call her at all. I didn't want to have anything to do with her. I was glad I was spending time with Todd and the other guys later. It spared me from yet more uncomfortable moments with my 'girlfriend.'

I had to find a way to get her out of my life. I couldn't keep avoiding her and making up excuses. A thought crossed my mind. Even as it entered my head, I felt wicked, but it might bring an end to things without me having to tell her I didn't like her. Before I lost the courage to act on my plan, I kissed her again so my remaining teammates could see, then ran into the locker room.

"Hey stud," said Steve as I entered. "Allison looked like she was ready to undress you out there. Is there something you haven't been sharing with your friends?"

"Maybe," I said, then began undressing for a shower.

My answer was calculated to bring on the questions I wanted my teammates to ask.

"You and her been doing more than kissing?" Mark asked.

I smiled in such a way that the answer was clear.

"How was she? Come on, tell us."

I looked around the locker room like I didn't want to tell, but was being badgered into it.

"Nah, I can't tell."

"You'll tell. We're not letting you out of here until you talk, right guys"

My teammates gathered around in a tight circle. I knew if I got mad, they'd give it up, but I wanted them to pressure me. Everything was working out just like I hoped it would.

"Come on," said Robert, "spill it. You fucked her, didn't you."

I looked around the circle like I was embarrassed to talk about it.


The locker room went crazy with guys hooting and howling.

"How was she?"

"I've had better," I lied.

It had to be a lie; before Allison I was a virgin.

That caused more yelling.

"I bet you banged the fuck out of her. No wonder she was so happy."

It went on from there, with crude comments and claims of prowess on the part of every guy in the room. It was typical locker room bullshit. Of course, not all of it was bullshit. I really had fucked her!

I showered, then dressed, listening to my teammates still going on about Allison and me, and their own sex lives. I hoped the seed I'd planted would take root. With any luck at least one of the guys wouldn't be able to keep his mouth shut. When what I'd said got back to Allison, my troubles would be over, at least as far as she was concerned. I didn't feel very good about what I was doing, but I couldn't stand another minute with her. Besides, if my plan worked, it would allow her to dump me. It would be better for her to be angry than hurt.

The next day I was in my room getting ready for another date with Allison. I had hoped that she would have heard by now the things I had told the guy's last night in the locker room, but no such luck. Not really all that surprising I suppose, after all it had only happened last night. I wasn't looking forward to it, especially when she informed me that her mother wanted to meet me. Luckily, her father was not going to be home, so maybe it wouldn't be so bad.

Dad ruined things before I even left the house. He didn't do it intentionally, but right as I walked into the living room, I heard him say things I didn't like at all.

"He's a queer. I know he is."

I stopped dead in my tracks, my heart pounding like a hammer. For a moment, I thought he was talking about me.

"Who's that, honey?"

Apparently, mom was paying about as much attention to dad as she always did, which wasn't a lot.

"This guy trying to play football for KU. Why did they even let him on the team? Oh, for Christ's sake, go after the ball!" he bellowed at the TV screen. "God, the faggots are ruining everything, even football. They should just take all those little pansies out and shoot them."

Dad often had conversations about what he didn't like on television, sometimes with mom, sometimes with me, and sometimes with the TV set. He was always going on about something and, more often than not, he was complaining about queers. It made me feel like hiding in my closet; I guess I was in a way. I knew it wasn't safe to breathe a word about myself to my parents. If my dad even guessed I was gay he'd probably beat me senseless, or toss me out of the house, or both.

He just looked at me and grunted as I passed on my way out the door. I said bye to mom and went out to my car to pick up Allison. I was not looking forward to tonight, but knowing dad's attitude, what could I do. I had to at least pretend I liked girls.

I was nervous about picking her up at her house. She had assured me that her father wasn't going to be home, but I was still a little uncertain about what I was doing.

I'd been hoping that the shit would hit the fan and that she would dump me, but my little plan hadn't worked out yet. Perhaps it never would. I wondered if I should start coming up with a new one. Or perhaps I should just be a real dick so she wouldn't like me anymore. I didn't like the idea of mistreating her, however. I felt like I'd already done enough to her without piling on more pain. Of course, she wasn't experiencing any pain yet; that was to come. She was as happy as could be, but she was living in an illusion.

I made up a lie about having to be home early. That would save me from any suggested walk in the darkness, a walk that would surely lead to sex. I wanted to avoid that at all cost.

We went to a movie. I made sure we were positioned near the center of the theater, surrounded by several other people. That way I wouldn't be expected to try much of anything. I did kiss her a couple of times, because I knew that's what she expected. I hated it. I felt like I was being a traitor to myself. I found it repulsive as well. For most of the movie, I just sat there with my arm around her and tried to pretend she wasn't there.

A few hours later, the date was over. I was relieved. It really sucked that I had to waste my Saturday night on a girl. Hell, I'd rather have been home doing homework or watching television than spending time with her. I couldn't wait until our relationship was over.

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