From the series: Old, Embarrassing Shit that Lies Dormant on Writer’s Cafe That’s Gonna Get Lost if I Don’t Transplant it Somewhere. So here’s its new home.
The boys in their cleats and long cotton stockings slap hands as their lines move in parallel but opposite directions.
“Good game. Good game. Good game,” is repeated with various inflections and enunciations and degrees of sincerity. The Eagles have won today, 4-0.
Andy and William’s fathers stand together on the sidelines, awaiting their boys.
William approaches his father first.
“Fantastic job. Two goals today. You really showed them,” his father says.
But William walks right past him, grim faced and staring at the ground.
“He might not be feeling well,” he tells Andy’s dad. “We’ll see you next week” – then chases after him.
As he turns, he hears Andy’s father say to his own son, “A win’s a win. You’ll do better next week.”
Andy’s dirty and exhausted. His father pats him on the shoulder as they walk down the hill, behind William and his dad, to where everybody’s parked.
Andy’s father can see them discussing something but, from their distance, he can’t tell what.
If he could, he’d hear, “don’t just walk by me like that. It’s disrespectful.”
To which William replies “Nah. It makes you look stupid. That’s all.”
They reach their car to hear the chirps of auto locks from the new Lexus parked beside them. Since Andy and his father are approaching, it must be assumed that it’s theirs.
“New wheels, eh?” William’s father asks.
He wonders why this wasn’t mentioned during the game. Must have wanted to check his reaction. But he doesn’t like being a sideshow for anybody.
“Yup. Decided to finally gift myself.”
“Own or lease?”
“Buying it,” Andy’s dad says.
William and his father get in their car. It’s a little older and nothing very fancy. Mostly just practical. But not a junker.
“See, I don’t need to be a showoff like him,” William’s father says in their sedan.
William remains silent. He stares out his window without acknowledging his father.
“You scored two goals today. You oughta be proud.”
“Andy didn’t score any and his father treats him as if he won the game. Well, if anybody won the game, it was you. You deserve the credit.”
This is meant to make William feel better but it doesn’t.
Earlier in the week William and his father had been practicing together. His father had some stupid drill he was forcing on William, which he wasn’t too good at. William kept messing it up so his father kept barking, “come on, stupid. What’s wrong with you?” and “a girl can do this but you can’t?”
This is what motivates his father so it should motivate his son too. This is his father’s thinking, anyway.
There was even some profanity thrown in there, which really hurt William. His father later apologized for that. But William knows he wasn’t sorry enough to not do it again.
“Two goals in one game, William. That’s what our hard work gave us today. That’s a lesson.”
Then William breaks his silence, “My hard work. Not yours.”
“What do you mean? I was right out there with you. I could have been loafing around on the couch Wednesday night but I wasn’t. I was out there with you, coaching you.”
They hear a short honk. It came from the car still parked beside them.
Andy’s window is down. He twirls his finger to say roll down the window, even though windows are mostly electric these days.
Andy’s father leans forward to speak around his son.
“We’re going to Ted Drewes for custard. Want to meet us there?”
William’s father replies, “Nah. We go things to do.”
“Ah, come on. William, how about it?”, he asks. “Andy here likes the Strawberry Shortcake.”
William looks to his father.
“Maybe next time,” his father says.
The windows roll back up. Each car pulls out.
William will tell his father on the way home that he likes frozen custard. And asks what they have to do that is so important.
His father replies that he just hates standing in line at a place like Ted Dewers. It can take a long time.
And all that is the truth. And the reason.
The next game Andy scores 1 goal. William, none. They lose that week, 1-3.
At team practice the following Monday, William pulls Andy aside.
“You know my dad says your dad’s a showoff with that new car.”
Andy is puzzled. He’s never had a beef with William before. He tries to keep things cool and understand what’s happening.
“My Dad works hard for what he’s got. He told me he’s earned himself the best of one thing, at least,” Andy says.
There is a pause. Then Andy adds, “come to think of it, William, my dad never talks about yours.”
“Yeah. Well, my dad says Cadillac’s better anyway.”
“Okay. Whatever, man.” Andy walks away wondering what just happened. Where’d this spat come from? They’re supposed to be teammates, after all.
After practice, each pair of father and son goes to their separate cars. Today they’re not parked together.
Inside their car, William’s father asks him, “Did you tell him his Dad’s a showoff?”
“Did you tell him he’s a spoiled brat?”
“No. I didn’t get around to that.”
“Well he is, don’t you know.”
William goes back to staring out the window again, giving his father the silent treatment again.
The next game their fathers neither stand nor park next to each other. And they won’t for the rest of the season. And as William rides away from that day’s win, he thinks about frozen custard but knows better than to say anything.