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CHAPTER 6: FOOLISH GAMES
Colin arrived home from school after finishing basketball practice. When he entered the apartment he was surprised to find his mother’s coat hanging up behind the door and her purse and keys on the shelf by the door. It was only four-thirty; it was unusual for her to be home this early. He didn’t see her in the living room or kitchen so he decided to check the bedroom. He found Aileen lying on her side in bed and he could hear soft sobs coming from her.
Colin’s heart stopped as he feared the worst. “Mom, what’s wrong?” he asked, his voice filled with concern.
Aileen looked up at Colin; her eyes and nose were red and she was clutching a handful of tissues. “Oh nothing,” she said, “I’ve just been shown what a complete fool I am once again. Nothing new.”
Colin climbed into the bed behind his mother and laid down spooning her. His arm went around her waist and he held her close to him. “What happened?” He asked her softly.
Aileen retold the account of the conversation she had with Patrick earlier in the afternoon, pausing periodically as her voice cracked or she had to dab at her eyes with a tissue. She finished by saying, “After I left the pub I felt so ill I called in sick at work for the rest of the day. I just wanted to come home.”
“I’m so sorry Mom,” Colin said giving her a hug. “Please don’t call yourself a fool though, because you’re not. I would never have believed Uncle Pat would condone something like this either.”
“Colin what if we just picked up and left after you graduated?” Aileen asked. “What’s keeping us here? We can just leave and move anywhere, somewhere we could be known as a couple. The only reason I would have wanted to stay here was to stay close to family. But I know now, you are all the family I need.”
“You’re all the family I need,” Colin said, “and nothing is keeping us here. After I graduate we’ll move anywhere you want. As long as I’m with you I’ll be the happiest man in the world. We’ll be free and live like the married couple we really are in our hearts.”
“Oh Colin, you are the best thing that ever happened to me. I love you so much!”
“I love you too.” Colin said hugging her as close to him as he could. He really felt he held the most precious thing in his life in his arms and the feeling of joy she brought him was almost too much to bear.
“Colin, please promise me you’ll stay away from your uncle and Seth until you graduate. I’m so afraid something might happen to you. I know this means you’ll have to quit your job and the basketball team again and I’m so sorry, but I need to know you’ll be safe.” Aileen said.
“I can stay away from Uncle Pat, I all ready decided I was going to quit, this time for good. I can find a new job anywhere. Seth is going to be more of a problem. Mom, I can’t quit the basketball team. Not again, not after just getting back on it.” Colin said.
“But what’s the point? If Seth is fixing the games what point is there in playing?”
“I have to find a way to stop Seth from fixing those games. I owe it to Coach Fletcher. He’s been a roll model for me since I started going to Liberty. There’s no man I know with greater integrity than him. I can’t let him down again.” Colin said.
“Please Colin,” Aileen said with fresh tears. “I’m asking you to let this be, just stay away from Seth, don’t provoke him!”
“I…I can’t do that,” Colin said sitting up.
“What happened to you doing anything for me?” Aileen asked.
Colin was silent for a moment then said, “I will do anything for you. I just never thought you would ever ask me to compromise my integrity.”
“Is that what you think I’m doing? Colin, I just want you safe!” Aileen said.
“Sometimes there are things worth taking risks over,” Colin said as he got out of the bed.
“But not a stupid basketball team! I don’t understand it, you quit before,” Aileen said.
“And that’s just it. I quit because of Seth and what he did to me. I let my team down and I let Coach Fletcher down. I won’t do that again. Seth doesn’t control me, not anymore!”
“Colin, I forbid you to play!” Aileen said.
“You forbid me? Is that where we are now? I’m back to being the son and you’re the mother? I thought our relationship had changed,” Colin said.
“It has, but honey, I’m always going to be your mother,” Aileen said.
“I know that, I accept that, I even need that!” Colin said. “But I can’t be just your son, I also need us to be equal partners in this relationship and I thought that’s what we were! But if there are going to be times where you simply forbid me to do something like I’m some sort of subordinate…well then, we are going to have some issues.”
“You’re right Colin, you’re right. I can’t forbid you not to play, all I can do is ask.” Aileen said.
“You have to understand,” Colin said kneeling by the side of the bed in front of Aileen. “You are the one who gives me the strength to stand up to Seth. Knowing I have you in my life is all I need. He bahis firmaları can’t hurt me like he used to because we have our little world, all I have to do is think about that and I have refuge. I need you so I can be the person I am, but the person I now am is someone who won’t be pushed around by Seth. If you ask me to not to play then I won’t. I will do anything for you. But if you ask me not to play then you take away a part of me, a part of the person you love.”
“Then go,” Aileen said coldly.
“No. Just go. I don’t want to make you less than who you are. Go play your game if it’s that important.” Aileen said.
“JUST GO!” Aileen shouted and Colin felt as if it pierced his heart.
Colin got up and left. He had a basketball game to play tonight.
* * *
Colin arrived back to school at six o’clock that evening. The game would start at seven. He went to the locker room to change into his uniform. Tonight, all the Eagles were wearing the green uniforms with white outline; the standard uniform for home games. Saint Mathew’s team was called the Cardinals and they wore white uniforms with red outlines. Saint Mathew’s had only managed to win one game so far this season and Liberty was favored to win by twelve points.
Colin’s stomach felt upset all the way until game time. He and his mother had their first fight since becoming a couple and he felt miserable about it. A part of him wanted to say fuck the game and run home to beg her forgiveness, but another part of him knew he would lose too much of the self-respect he had gained if he quit. Ironically, that was the part of him that drew all its potency from his relationship with his mother. Colin felt lost when he ran onto the court with the rest of the team.
Colin saw his Aunt Sarah in the stands along with his cousin Kyle. Morgan didn’t really like coming to the games and his uncle usually couldn’t make the night games. His mother tried to make it to all his games in the past. It was so disheartening not seeing her up there. He got another urge to just leave the court and game, but he fought it.
The game started a little after seven. Colin took his familiar position as center. After his performance during the scrimmage match earlier in the week Coach Fletcher returned Colin to first string on the roster. As team captain, Seth was on the floor and in his position of point guard.
Right from the start Colin could tell that Seth and the other players on the floor weren’t playing to their fullest capabilities. It was subtle and probably couldn’t be seen unless you were right in the game. Most of the time Seth was playing at full speed, but once in a while when he would be dribbling the ball down the court and one of the Cardinals was after him, Seth would slow down just enough to let the player overtake him and steal the ball. The other players on the floor were doing the same thing. Dropped passes, missed baskets, penalties, they all seemed to happen at random intervals, but if you paid enough attention you could see that the mistakes would happen just when the Eagles seemed to be getting some momentum or the Cardinals were in a position to take full advantage of a mistake.
As the center Colin was usually the last line of defense when the Cardinals were driving to make a basket. Colin blocked many shots, but the Cardinals seemed to have the ball the majority of the time and he couldn’t block every shot. When the Eagles had the ball, the other players made only half-hearted attempts to pass him the ball, but whenever he did manage to get his hands on it he would most likely score a basket. That’s when his teammates “accidentally” started bumping into him or tripping him up. Since it was players on his own team doing this, no fouls could be called. By the end of the first half Colin was drenched in sweat and was mentally and physically exhausted. The score was Eagles 18, Cardinals 30.
When the team retired to the locker room at halftime everyone could see Coach Fletcher was furious. He didn’t scream, he didn’t shout, he just calmly looked over every single player with that paralyzing stare of his. “Is everyone half asleep out there?” he asked. “You must be with all the mistakes I’ve seen this half. What have I been trying to drill into your skulls? You must have focus! You can’t win a game if you play on autopilot; you have to focus to win!”
“You also have to be trying to win.” Colin muttered as he wiped his sweaty face with a towel.
“What was that?” Coach Fletcher asked.
Colin looked at Seth and the other players that had been intentionally playing bad; he knew they would never admit it. “Nothing Coach,” Colin said. Seth had his poker face on looking coldly dispassionate.
The coach looked at Seth with a strange expression on his face. “Martin, if you’ve got something to say about what’s going on out there now’s the time to say it!” Coach Fletcher said.
Colin was quiet for a moment then thought, Fuck it! The whole reason I’m here kaçak iddaa is to put a stop to Seth so I might as well give it my best shot! “We should be winning this game!” He blurted. “But I think for some of the players on this team it would be more advantageous if we lost.” Colin glanced at Seth.
“It sounds like your making an accusation, do you have anything to back it up?” the coach asked.
“Nothing concrete sir,” Colin said.
The coach looked at the rest of the team, “Can anybody back Mr. Martin up on what he’s saying?” No one said a word. Colin had a feeling they wouldn’t. “Martin, I can’t bench any players without any proof of your accusations and unfounded accusations against your teammates is poor sportsmanship. That’s not how a member of this team behaves!” Coach Fletcher said.
“Yes sir,” Colin said in resignation.
Coach Fletcher put his hand to his face and paced back and force a few times then said, “That being said, it did seem like you were the only one out on the floor trying today. The rest of you looked like you were at a picnic! When we go back on that court I want ALL of you to bring your A game! Is that understood?” There was a chorus of people saying “Yes Coach” or “Yes sir”.
The coach finished his halftime lecture by going over all the things the team had been doing wrong during the first half and what they needed to do if they were going to win.
The team went back on the court for the second half. Just before Colin went to take his position on the floor the coach told him to stay on the bench and put Ricky Woods in to take his place. Colin couldn’t believe it, Seth and his pals were the ones throwing the game and he was the one being benched! Oh well. Why should he care? He was the only one putting forth an effort and what was he getting out of it except abuse? What the fuck was he doing here? Colin sat back on the bench and watched the game get started again.
For the next five minutes the game played out just like it had during the first half, with the Cardinals dominating the Eagles taking a 36 to 20 lead. Colin heard Coach Fletcher grumble under his breath, “I’ve had just about enough of this!” and he called a time out. All the players returned to the sideline and Coach Fletcher immediately benched everyone who had been on the floor.
“You can’t do that!” Seth said his cool veneer finally showing some cracks.
Coach Fletcher looked at Seth and said, “I’m the coach of this team; I can do whatever I please, now take a seat Reilly!” Seth sat down, his eyes shooting daggers at the coach.
To Colin’s surprise, the coach put him in the game as point guard and put in most of the second string players Colin had played with in the scrimmage match on Monday in the other positions. The second stringers all looked like deer caught in the headlights, not knowing what the heck all of them were doing out on the floor together.
“All right,” Colin said as the players gathered around him. “The coach has put it on us to make something happen here. No pressure though,” he said with a smile as a couple of the players’ faces began to look as green as their uniform, Colin wondered how his complexion was fairing. “We can do this! Last Monday we showed them we can play this game and we can do it again! I promise you, if you guys don’t let me down, I’m not going to let you down.” Colin meant that, he figured after all he had gone through to be there tonight, he wasn’t going to play halfhearted. His teammates looked a little better after he made his speech. He ended it by saying, “Go Eagles!” The rest of the team responded with an enthusiastic “Go Eagles!” and they took their positions.
There were murmurs from the crowd as they saw that the Eagles had replaced every player that had been on the floor. While it wasn’t unusual for a coach to pull his starters late in a game when the team was well ahead, to pull all of them while the team was being decimated was unheard of unless they were giving up.
The referee blew his whistle and the game was on again. Just like on Monday, there was a certain simpatico he felt with his team. They formed an effective unit to play the game. On defense they slowed the Cardinals down and they were scoring less, and on offense they were able to take the ball down the court and make some baskets.
For the rest of the game they were playing catch up, but they were narrowing the gap. Brian Chaplin was showing a strong ability at being able to steal the ball away which kept putting them on the offence. Colin made sure the ball moved down the court and got passed around keeping it out of the hands of any Cardinals and eventually into the hands of the best man to make a basket. By the final ten seconds of the last period, the score was Eagles: 40, Cardinals: 42. The Eagles had the ball and were striving to make one more basket to tie the score. The crowd was on their feet reinvigorated by the Eagles comeback, they were stomping their feet in the bleachers shouting “EAGLES! EAGLES!”
Colin used kaçak bahis his forearm to wipe the sweat from his brow. The Cardinals, at first stunned by the rapid comeback of the Eagles, had finally managed to put up a staunch defense. Colin could see they weren’t going to let them get close to the basket to rob them of the victory that had seemed assured to them just a short while ago.
Colin felt the Cardinal that was guarding him at the moment wasn’t that strong a player, but Colin wasn’t that close to the net either. There were only five seconds left in the game however and it was time for a desperate move. Tedd Silvers was playing center and he had the ball, he glanced over at Colin who nodded his head slightly. Tedd passed the ball to Colin. As soon as he caught the ball he focused his sight on the basket, jumped high and let the ball fly from his finger tips. The Cardinal in front of Colin tried to block the shot but it was too high. The ball soared through the air and hit the backboard. The ball landed on the edge of the basket circling around the hoop for a second that seemed to last an eternity until it finally fell in as the referee blew his whistle signaling the end of the game.
There was pandemonium in the crowd. Everyone was going wild. The place from where Colin had made his shot was far enough away to make the basket count as three points. Colin hadn’t tied the game with his shot, he had won it! The final score ended up being Eagles: 43, Cardinals: 42.
Colin’s teammates were jumping up in the air shouting and slapping him on the back. Colin felt like his legs would give out any second, he was completely exhausted. He made it over to the bench and collapsed. He was handed a paper cup of Gatorade and he downed it in one gulp, then two more after that.
They had pulled off a win, even with Colin’s pep talk to his team of second stringers, he was doubtful they could do it. But the core group of players the coach had gathered together with Colin had been strong and they knit well together. Second stringers or not, Colin realized that this team had some great talent on it and he was proud he had some part in making that talent shine. They deserved it. Colin knew they had burned Seth badly, not only by winning the game, but by taking the game out of his control completely. He wondered if he had to be prepared for retribution of some kind like his mother was afraid of. Whatever happens, Colin was just too tired to think about it and too concerned over what he would face when he came home. Seth could wait.
* * *
The locker room after the game was an experience in dichotomy. The majority of the team were hooting and hollering in the showers, exuberant over their tremendous comeback win. However, a group of about ten players including Seth were acting somber and moody as if they had lost the game, which from their point of view, Colin supposed, they had. Seth had not only had his plans for fixing the game derailed, but also, in light of Colin pointing out that Seth and some of the other players were actually trying to lose the game, Seth lost the respect of most of the team.
Colin was in no mood to celebrate however, he just wanted to get home. He missed Aileen terribly and was heartsick over how he had left things. After quickly showering and dressing he left into the cold night air and even though he was tired he ran through the streets of Philadelphia. He ran home to his love.
* * *
When Colin arrived home the apartment was dark. Apparently Aileen had all ready gone to bed or had never left it. He was burning with desire to be with her, to talk with her, but he didn’t want to bother her if she was all ready asleep or wanted to be alone.
Colin opened the door to his old bedroom and stared at the bed. It looked so lonely and cold but he wasn’t sure if he was welcome in the other bed tonight. Colin was tired and sore and felt beat up physically, mentally, and emotionally. He was ready to put this day behind him and it looked as if he would have to put his old bed back into use to do that.
“Colin?” He heard his mom call from down the hall.
“Yeah mom?” Colin answered.
“Could you come here?” She said. Colin went and stood in the doorway of their room.
“How was the game?” Aileen asked.
“We won,” Colin said. “The coach benched Seth and the other starting players except for me.”
“You told the coach about Seth?”
“Yeah, but I couldn’t offer any proof. Apparently the way they were playing was proof enough for the coach to change the players though.” Colin said
“Colin I am so sorry for what happened this afternoon!” Aileen said. Colin could hear her voice crack and the sobs escape from her. “I was just so upset over what happened with Patrick and so worried about you!” Colin could now see her eyes red and swollen by tears. “I am just so afraid Colin,” she said. “The happiness I’ve found with you is like a dream, I’ve been so afraid something is going to happen to make us lose that and I want to do everything I can to prevent that. But now it looks like I’m damned no matter what I do. Either I let you gamble your well being, maybe even your life by balking Seth, or I gamble our relationship by asking you not to.”
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