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The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banksby E. Lockhart
Fall, Junior Year
Head football coach “Hollerin Hank” Killdare was having such a massive meltdown that even from where I was standing at the Booster Clubs concession stand, I could see his trademark blue vein popping in his neck and the usual flecks of spittle flying out of his mouth.
Well, maybe I couldnt see the spit, but from the way demoted, one-time quarterback Mike Price—the object of the coachs rant—kept flinching as Mr. Killdare tore into him, their noses inches apart, I was pretty sure Mike was getting a shower during the game.
Apparently, according to the beefy, balding coach, Mike, now a lowly running back, had done something “boneheaded” and “dim-witted” that was going to cost the Honeywell Stingers “the whole bleepin season.”
As the student reporter assigned to cover that particular “bleepin” game—and daughter of Assistant Coach Jack Ostermeyer—I probably shouldve known what had just happened on the field. But the truth was, I didnt really like sports and hadnt been paying attention to the action, preferring to focus mainly on the book Id brought with me—Understanding Kant: Concepts and Intuitions—and my pack of Twizzlers.
However, even I couldnt overlook it when Mr. Killdare abruptly wheeled around and, completely unprovoked, drew back his big foot and booted our schools costumed mascot, Buzz the Bee, right in the stinger, launching him across the sidelines. Which was—anybody would have to admit—pretty funny. Especially when Buzz, stumbling and flailing wildly, careened toward the cheerleaders and smashed directly into my archenemy, Vivienne Fitch, sending her sprawling on her butt, so everybody got a view up her flippy little “cheer”
That really shouldve made me laugh, but I actually kind of winced. If this ends up on YouTube, Viv is going to murder Mr. Killdare AND stomp a poor, innocent bee.
As Viv jumped up and tried to act like she hadnt just been publicly steamrolled by a guy in a bug suit, I tucked my book in my backpack and took out my reporters notebook, thinking I should at least find out what was causing Hollerin Hank to go nuclear—which also happened way too often in the gym classes he taught.
This guy is nuts, I thought, echoing stuff my dad said all the time. A total whack job!
In fact, I was pretty sure my father was thinking something along those lines right then as he approached Mr. Killdare, obviously trying to get him to cool down. My dad was rabid about football, too, but at least he didnt literally foam at the mouth, unlike Hollerin Hank.
“Come on, Hank,” I heard Dad coaxing while I edged past Principal Bertram B. Woolsey, who I thought shouldve done something more than bite his neatly manicured nails. And, pushing farther through the crowd, I heard a lot of parents and other fans muttering about why a foul-mouthed blowhard continued to be allowed to work with kids. Sentiments I knew theyd forget when the Stingers won yet another state championship trophy for our schools already full case. “I think thats enough, now!” Dad added. “Enough!”
But Hollerin Hank wasnt done yet. In fact, he spun around and confronted my father, actually drawing back his fist.
I knew my dad could fight his own battles—his conflicts with Mr. Killdare were pretty much the stuff of legends. And more to the point, I was only five foot two and weighed about one hundred pounds, despite a steady diet of cheeseburgers and Little Debbie products. But without even thinking, I dropped everything and started to run to my fathers aid.
Before I could get there, though, the new quarterback, Chase Albright, stepped in.
Wrapping his hand around Coach Killdares big forearm, he stopped what had seemed like an inevitable punch.
The two guys stood there for a long time, Chases obscenely perfect, thick, dirty-blond hair riffling in the breeze, while everybody else seemed to suck in a collective nervous breath. Even the cheerleaders stopped chattering for once.
I glanced at the sidelines and saw that Viv was clutching her shivering pompoms to her locally legendary cleavage—and glaring at Mr. Killdare like she hoped for a fight. One that would result in the coach getting his butt kicked to the grass. I also caught a glimpse of my French teacher, Mademoiselle Lois Beamish, who was pressing her hands to her also large, but somehow not as attractive, chest, as though she was terrified for Chase, her prize student. And I once again thought, Ugh. She has a crush on him!
Then I returned my attention to Chase, who was saying something to Coach Killdare—although so quietly that I couldnt hear a word. But whatever he uttered . . . It made Mr. Killdares face fade from crimson to pink, and his hands fall to his sides.
I stared at Chase—a mysterious, reportedly uber-rich kid whod transferred from some pricey “academy” that nobody seemed quite able to pinpoint—wondering, What are you? A crazy-coach whisperer?
Honestly, it seemed possible, because the next thing I knew, Hollerin Hank pulled free of Chase and addressed Mike in a brusque, but civilized, tone. “Price—youre benched.” Then, as Mike sat down to sulk, Mr. Killdare and my dad exchanged some gruff coaching-type words and the game got underway again, as if nothing had happened.
Retrieving my stuff from the ground—and brushing a footprint off my notebook—I climbed into the bleachers, trying to pay more attention, so Id at least have something for the Honeywell High Gazette. But my mind kept wandering, and as the fourth quarter drew to a close, I found myself doodling a picture of the heavyset, universally despised coach with a knife in his chest and xs for eyes, next to the word “Inevitable?” And just to pass the time, I inked a list of suspects, if the murder ever really did happen.
Dad (Its true!! Wants that head coach glory!)
Mike Price—disgraced football hero, probably losing chance for scholarship
Mikes parents—soon paying $$$ for college for meathead son!
I glanced again at the sidelines, where Viv had resumed hopping around with a scary-false smile on her plastic face, and added her, too.
V.F.—humiliated in bee incident + natural born killer
Then I tapped my pen against my chin, recalling a kid whod recently been taken away in an ambulance during one of Mr. Killdares controversial “two-a-day” football practices, and who still wasnt back in school. Rumor was, Roy Boyles had shriveled in the hot afternoon sun and might be a vegetable—or worse. I set pen to paper, writing “Roys family?” along with
Principal Woolsey—stuck with nutcase on staff (tenure!)
Anyone whos ever met Coach, exc. his mother (maybe)
Okay, maybe it wasnt the most narrow, practical list.
Then I also sketched a tall guy in a football uniform, with a question mark on his jersey, along with the query
SERIOUSLY—WHO IS CHASE?
I was a decent reporter when I put my mind to it, and Id read about fifteen classic Nancy Drew books with my mom, back when I was nine, so I considered myself pretty well equipped to solve mysteries. But as I watched the enigmatic guy who was rumored to be either in the witness protection program, a teen CIA agent, or royalty slumming it to learn the ways of commoners—seriously, folks?—I had a feeling Id never get that question answered.
Bending my head again, I retraced the question mark on Chases jersey, darkening it, because he might not have been—as I guessed—anything more than a phenomenally snobby kid who thought he was way too good for our school, but Chase Albright definitely seemed to know how to keep his secrets.
There were probably a million things we seniors couldve—or shouldve—done on the rainy day in early Septe ber when nobody showed up to teach our first-period gym class. Such as, say, choose somebody to lead calisthenics while we waited for a real teacher. Or organize some kind of game, with a ball.
But as the minutes ticked on with no sign of Coach Hollerin Hank Killdare or a substitute, most of us wandered back to the locker rooms, got our stuff, then sat down on the mats usually used for crunches and proceeded to text, study, or—in my case—read Montaignes Collected Essays.
Only my best friend, Laura Bugbee, seemed unhappy about what most of us accepted as a stroke of good luck. I mean, I was okay with not running laps for one day. But Lauras conscience, at least, couldnt rest.
“Millie . . . Dont you think we ought to tell somebody that Mr. Killdare didnt show up?” she fretted. “Like Principal Woolsey? Maybe Coach had a heart attack in his office!” She looked toward the guys locker room with genuine concern in her brown eyes. “Maybe hes dying in there. He looks like he has high blood pressure!”
Laura was probably right about Coach Killdares constricted veins, especially since his one positive claim to fame—off the football field—was consuming, in one sitting, a sixty-ounce porterhouse at the local Sir Loins Steakhouse—a feat I aspired to myself someday. But my friends imagination was definitely running away with her.
“Think about it, Laura,” I said, shutting my book reluctantly, because Id been very intrigued by Montaignes arguments against formal education. “If Mr. Killdare was dead or dying in his office, dont you think the guys wouldve noticed when they changed? I mean, I doubt the boys locker room is a model of order or hygiene, but I dont think somebody could die in there without attracting some attention.”
Laura seemed somewhat reassured, but she still scrunched up her eyebrows, scanning the gym through her wire rims. “Maybe. But we could ask one of the guys to check. Just to be safe.” She frowned. “I wish Ryan was in this class. Hed do it.” She was referring to our friend Ryan Ronin, who was a nice guy. However, Ryan was also a football player and complained endlessly about how Hollerin Hank treated him. “I dont know if even Ry would get off his butt to save Mr. Killdare,” I noted. “Id say its fifty-fifty.”
Would anybody bother to save Coach Killdare if he ever really was in trouble?
All at once—although I was still pretty sure our teacher was probably stuck in the long morning drive-through line at Dunkin Donuts or something like that—I recalled a list Id made the previous year, when Id been bored at a football game. A roll call of people who might actually want to kill the coach, and not just by failing to resuscitate him. If I remembered correctly, Id been able to think of at least six—or possibly sixty—individuals, including my own dad, whod probably like to stick a knife into Hollerin Hanks overtaxed heart.
Then that weird thought was interrupted by the sound of a ball being dribbled, and I realized somebody had finally started using the equipment.
Laughing, I nudged Laura. “Hey, Chase is up and full of energy. Why dont you ask him to check the locker room?”
I believed Laura was genuinely concerned about Mr. Killdare—but obviously not enough to approach a guy shed worshiped from afar, ever since his transfer to Honeywell. “No, thats okay!” she sort of cried, her face getting red.
“Oh, come on,” I teased, grabbing her arm, like I was going to drag her over to where Chase Albright was alone, shooting hoops. He was a one-man team, sinking a shot, retrieving it, and going in for a lay-up—all with the lazy, I-dont-give-a-damn-whos-watching, but-dont-ask-to-join-me vibe that he always managed to give off. Chase was, I thought, the embodiment of aloof. Which apparently didnt bother Laura or a lot of other girls, who seemed perversely drawn to his inaccessibility—and, I supposed, the way he looked in his T-shirt and shorts. Even I—who had nada for Chase—couldnt deny that he filled out a gym uniform pretty well. And his face, with those blue eyes that gave away nothing . . . There wasnt much to criticize there, either.
My grip on Laura loosening, I studied Chase as he did another layup, his hair managing to gleam under the fluorescent lights, just as it had on a sunny day when Id doodled his picture with a question mark on his chest.
And I still dont know much about Chase—except that he likes to watch moody foreign films that no other kids go to. But I cant seem to ask him whats up with that when I sell him his single ticket from my claustrophobic booth at the Lassiter Bijou . . .
“You think hes amazing, too.” Lauras accusation brought me back to reality, and I realized I was still holding her arm. She pulled away, giving me a smug look. “You practically went catatonic, watching him!”
“I did not,” I protested, my cheeks getting warm. A propensity to blush for virtually no reason was the curse of being a redhead. “I find him interesting,” I explained. “How can a guy who should be the most popular person in school—a guy everybody wants to be around—seem to have zero friends, let alone a girlfriend?”
At least, Chase had never brought a date, or anybody else, to the theater where I worked, as required by my father, who insisted that earning minimum wage “built character.”
“I heard theres a picture of a girl in his locker,” Laura informed me, both of us again observing Chase, whod switched to taking shots from the free-throw line. “A very pretty girl.”
“Really?” I turned to Laura, intrigued. “Who is she?”
Laura shrugged. “Nobody knows. Probably a girlfriend at his old school.”
Interesting. And where, exactly, is that school . . . ?
I was just about to voice that question when somebody
behind me butted into the conversation, saying in a super-snarky, high-pitched voice, “Dream on, ladies! Especially you, Millicent. Because Chase Albright is exactly one million miles out of your league.”
Knowing that things were about to get very, very bad—probably for me—I slowly, reluctantly, turned to see who had joined us.
Oh, crud . . . Here we go!
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