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Too Close To The Sun; Memory thread - Isaiah, Davis, Brendan, and Matthew
Topic Started: Dec 26 2013, 03:07 AM (910 Views)
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"Two plus two is four, minus one is three quick maths"
[ *  *  *  *  *  * ]
Locker rooms had an emotion all to themselves before a game, one that was a mysterious in origin. It was always unclear whether the players inside the room contributed to the atmosphere, or the environment fed into the nervous energy and tension that permeated the young men inside of it. Different people had different ways of dealing with the pre-game jitters - some listened to music, tuned everything out. Others laughed, joked, prodded and poked at each other, feeding off of the nerves and channeling them into something tangible, positive.

And some, like Matthew Weiss, stood apart, watching his teammates with a quiet contemplation, tugging a white arm band up his forearm absently. On the sweatband was a laminated front that detailed shorthand for every offensive play the Superstars ran - not that he needed it. Ever since he joined the team a year earlier, he had memorized play after play, each step and position and ability. The sweat band was more of a symbol than a necessity, an honor bestowed on only the most crucial of offensive positions.

Today would mark his third start at quarterback.

After six regular season games, only two teams remained undefeated in their division - the Davison Superstars themselves, and the Corben Rogers Raiders. High school football affinicados were calling it the clash of the titans, an early test of who was going to be the dominant force in the division and who was destined to be the runner up. Of the two teams, Davison was favoured in all but three of the articles Matthew had read during the week, citing their unpredictable new quarterback and well oiled defence as surefire reasons why the Raiders were going to be unable to shut down a Superstar team that was red hot.

Matthew believed the hype. They were by far the better team in this game.

One of the assistant coaches - a new one, Matthew could never remember his name - poked his head in. “Five minutes, boys,” he said, slapping the smooth brick wall before ducking back out of the locker room.

The din of the home crowd intensified and diminished as the door to the field swung open and shut, leaving only the sound of pads being slipped on, helmets being slapped, rituals being fulfilled. It was as if those three words had replaced the energy with quiet contemplation, jokes stopping, music being paused, lockers clicking closed.

Matthew bit into his mouthguard, moving the piece of plastic around experimentally in his mouth, appreciating the slight suction as it moulded to his teeth. He grimaced, ground his bottom teeth into the guard, then spat it out, sticking it in the cage of his helmet as he slipped it on.

One by one, the Davison Superstars lined up at the doors, all talk, all music, all energy quieting and focused into a single file concentration of nerves, anticipation, concentration, slight fear. The sound of breathing and the staccato of clicking cleats on linoleum ruled his ears, the playbook - their playbook - drilling into his mind.

I-formation, 32 halfback split. Fake hand off, pitch to outside, curl out. Orange - option right, fake handoff, roll out, keeping halfback as pitch option. Splitbacks, fullback stays to block, plant feet in pocket, throw to right.

Three knocks at the door. As one, the Superstars lifted their helmets, placing them on their heads and clicking them into place. Matthew shook his head - hard, ensuring the strap was firm. No sound from the room now - nothing but breathing, creaking of leather, the absent rasp of someone scratching a forearm.

And then,

“Ladies and gentlemen. Your DAVISON SUUUUUUPERSTAAAAARS!!!

The doors opened. The Superstars broke into a run as a unit, pouring onto the field - some with fists raised, others with wild grins.

Matthew ran with quiet determination, his thoughts on the task at hand. They were winners. They were going to win.

They were unstoppable.

-----

Two hours later, in the same locker room as before, the atmosphere was much different. Nobody joked, or laughed, or played music. Nobody collected themselves or congratulated themselves or made plans for a drink later.

Matthew sat on a wooden bench, his knees spread, still in his football gear and shoulder pads. On his arm, he had taped an ice pack. On his knee sat a hot water bottle. Sweat coated his back, shoulders, legs - mingling with the mud and grime from hitting the ground too many times. Around him his teammates packed up in disgusted, furious silence - blaming themselves, blaming him, blaming the coach, the ref, the scoreboard, the clock.

Anyone but themselves. Anything but the truth.

At the end of the day, the scoreboard read 35 for the Away team.

The Home score was frozen at zero.

Slowly, deliberately, Matthew peeled off the starting quarterback sweatband, now slathered in green stains and brown smears and greying from sweat and musk. With a disgruntled noise, he dropped it with a muffled flap beside him on the bench.

“Fuck,” he said aloud.
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((Davis Todd -Memories- Continued From Ultra))

Davis had both hands on the right side of his stomach, trying to hold the pain together. He looked at the granite under his cleats, watching as the waterfall of sweat from his forehead flowed. He removed his headband. Probably get a fucking rash leaving it on. It was stupid anyway. His gloves followed, revealing an awful scent as he removed them, making him gag on the inside. Those were fucking stupid too. Everybody on the team had them though. O-Line gloves, speed grip gloves, whatever.

But not that Nose Tackle up against him, that rail looking, tall ass, muskrat-fuck from Corben. That was the first thing Davis noticed, the guy up against him had no gloves. Literal bare hands the size of a fucking bear's. But that's all Davis thought there was too him. Just big hands on a big guy. Wasn't even big in mass, just really tall, that's all. He never looked at Davis, looking past him, above him, or down at him. Davis thought he had this guy.

He was pancaked. He waffled. He didn't know how many times. Again and again, Davis fought. Again and again, he was knocked and slammed. He could hear his phone ringing from his duffel bag. Probably his mom, wanting him to hurry up. She was mad. She wouldn't say she was, wouldn't look like she was, but she was. Davis had just wasted her Saturday afternoon. He put it on silent for right then. The coaches hadn't yelled at them yet. He laid his head back against his metal locker, staring past the fluorescent lights of the room, wasting time.
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Isaiah was pacing up and down the locker room; he still had all his gear on. The closest comparison would've been to someone who was in shock. He didn't seem to be paying attention to anyone else, lost in his own world. He couldn't believe what had happened, they should have been able to walk out onto the field and destroy the Raiders, just like they'd done with everyone else. That hadn't happened. They'd been shut out.

There had been two interceptions in there as well.

Isaiah just didn't know how to react. The coaches hadn't even been in to speak to them yet.

The cornerback he had been against had been all over him, he couldn't manage to find any separation and the first time he had he'd been destroyed as soon as he'd landed, the second time he'd slipped and the third had been a fumble.

He ripped his helmet off and threw it across the changing room.

"God fucking dammit!"
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Brendan was sitting on a bench, his face buried in his hands. That was bad. Really bad.

That d-tackle was too fast for him. Brendan wasn't used to being so easily outmaneuvered, but he just couldn't keep up with the guy. Matt had to be pissed at him. He was just shit in that game.

Brendan lifted his head when he heard Isiah shout. He would usually have tried to be optimistic, would've said something reassuring, but...

He just felt like shit.
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"Two plus two is four, minus one is three quick maths"
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Matthew jumped slightly when Isaiah flung his helmet, the brain-can spinning on its ridged top as it careened off of a locker and landed near his foot. Idly, he lifted a cleat and spun it slightly, watching it revolve.

When he’d been the quarterback of a winning team, he’d never felt helpless, as if he had the power to rejuvinate his teammates and take away the crushing disappointment they were feeling, if he was only smart enough. But he wasn’t smart enough. He didn’t know what words to say to make the loss less monumental, or take away the sting of defeat. All he knew was that they had had a chance - one chance - to prove that they were the most worthy team of having gone 7 and 0.

He bent forwards to unlace his cleats, easing the pressure on his feet bit by bit until he could comfortably pull them free. Letting out a slight sigh of relief, he put his socked feet on the linoleum, watching his remaining teammates file out, or react visibly.

“They got lucky a lot,” he said, aloud. He set his cleats aside, began tugging his jersey free of his pads, wincing slightly as his ribs sang. The jersey landed with a flap, the grass stains and mud caked on the back of it a quiet testimony to how often he had been knocked down.

“It doesn’t mean shit except that they’re lucky.”
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Here comes the drama mamas. The coaches might have not noticed yet. Still planning on what to say.

Davis began pulling on his fingers, listening to the loud pops, closing his hands halfway to hear a crack. He wasn't liking Matt's decision to call it all luck. Intercepting and returning a touchdown for 67 yards was lucky. Making the half back fumble and return that for a touchdown was lucky. Mollywhopping a team for four straight quarters was not luck.

"Or maybe they were just better then us today."

He began unbuckling his pads, literally getting some weight off his shoulders, and took them and his jersey off in one swoop. Man, the washers weren't gonna be the same after this. He took off his cleats and began picking at the turf and fake grass on his socks.

"Either way doesn't change much."
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Isaiah was beyond pissed, in fact pissed didn't quite do it justice whether it was at himself, his teammates or the opposition he didn't quite know. There was just a burning feeling of rage at everything. Everything that had gone wrong had added up in the worst way and they'd acquired something new to put on their record. A one. The number felt dirty. It felt like it didn't belong but there it was a memory of the shut out they'd carry with them for the rest of the season. Mocking and taunting them.

Matt was saying something about the other team getting lucky, that sounded about right. On any other day the Superstars would have been able to run rings around the Raiders, sure they had an undefeated streak as well but as it stood it was the Superstars then below them the Raiders then everyone else. That was how it was supposed to go anyway, but for any given game a team could slip up or there could be a freak accident, a freak interception or fumble. That had been that game.

Then Davis had to go and open his stupid fucking mouth.

"Fuck. That. Bullshit."

Each word was punctuated by another piece of kit flying in the same direction as his helmet, first his gloves and then his jersey. He ripped his pads off and showed restraint in just walking over and dumping them with the rest of his stuff. Bending down Isaiah tore his cleats off his feet and got to work unravelling the tape that he'd put around both wrists.

"They aren't better than us." He said throwing down the first piece of tape. "There is no fucking way they are better than us. Some fucking people just couldn't get it together and it let us all fucking down."
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Matt started saying that the Raiders had gotten lucky. Brendan nodded at him. Yeah, maybe he was right.

Then Davis and Isaiah had to talk. Isaiah's comment stung pretty bad, but he was right, wasn't he? That d-tackle was pretty good, Brendan just couldn't keep up with him. Maybe Davis was...

No, they had gotten lucky. Brendan wasn't the only one who had messed up. They just had a bad day, that's it.

"Shit just went bad for us. It happens that way, sometimes. Man, we could beat them. We just messed up today."
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"Two plus two is four, minus one is three quick maths"
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Matthew nodded, once at Isaiah’s words, again at Brendan’s response to Davis’ counter-thrust. He was about to add on to the point when the door suddenly slammed open, a slight jingling of keys heard over the low hum of fluorescent lighting and the rustling of the team. As the jingling came closer, the players in the room quieted, stilled.

They could be mistaken for ghosts.

Coach Barlow Boothe had two things that were considered signature, two features that the players memorized, and memorized well. The first was the Dentyne Ice Polar Blast chewing gum that he went through like tic tacs, and the way that he chomped it - like a cow chewing cud, with circular, sawing motions. Anyone who fucked up in a game - flubbed a route, missed a block, god forbid fumbled his football - became intimately familiar with the wafting scent of the gum as the six-five, three hundred pound man leaned in close for a personal talk. Boothe never yelled - he believed quite prominently in making people come to him to hear what he had to say, and he’d be damned if he’d raise his voice for others’ convenience.

The second feature were his keys - an entire set filled with little copper teeth that clanged and jangled together as if they were alive. He worked as a janitor part-time for a concert hall, and never felt the need to exchange his keys or take them off when he was working the field. It got so that the team would know him strictly by the sound of seemingly hundreds of little clapping hands, ringing out in metallic harmony.

Boothe ducked around the corner, his Superstars letterman jacket containing his bulk as he lowered his head to avoid hitting the doorframe. He walked forward in a silent room, his deep blue eyes falling on one player after another, meeting their gazes for a moment before moving to the next.

One by one, he sized his team up, examined the expressions, the defeat, the blame on their expressions, all the while chomping down hard on his Ice Polar Blast.

Finally, he spoke.

“I’m going to say one thing and one thing only, boys. There isn’t a man in this room - not a one - who didn’t fuck up on that field. You know what you did, and you know what you didn’t do, so I’m going to let you boys figure out and beat yourselves up for that display out there.”

He jabbed a finger in the direction of the stadium. “That there? That was our moment. That was our time to prove to the entire division that we’re here, and we’re here to stay. There shouldn’t be a single one of ya who doubts that that was our game to win. They weren’t better, or smarter, or stronger than us. They didn’t just get the bounces and the wind and the timing. They played a good game. We played an awful one.”

He paused for effect, here, chomping on his gum as he looked around the room, noting that eyes were downcast, now - players finding interest in the floor or their feet instead of the man addressing them.

“Remember this feeling. Remember feeling the disappointment in yourselves. Because if you don’t want to feel like this again? If you hate the aftermath? You’ll all pull your socks up.”

He turned to leave, shaking his meaty neck as he did so. “Rest up, boys. You’re running the ten mile on Monday, followed by sprints, followed by tackle drills, suicides, line training. And then, we’ll get to the real work.”

As the sound of keys clashing together and the scent of Ice Polar Blast left the room, someone coughed. Cleats shuffled. Hands raised to necks, to faces, to knees.

Matthew leaned his head against his locker, his eyes closed tight, envisioning the feel of his first pass - the first pass of the game - as it left his hand, knowing that it was too short for his receiver to catch. Hearing the sound of the ball hit tarmac, spiralling upwards wildly.

Opening his eyes, he glanced over to Isaiah, noting the other boy’s posture, sending him a wide-lipped look as if to say, yeah, I know I blew it before turning to Davis and Brendan.

“So, I guess we have some work to do."
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"Man you know we ain't doin' all that bullshit."

Davis was ruffled, being told he was wrong by basically everybody else, even Coach. But fuck it, at least he didn't say the others were right either. Still, Davis did know it was possible for them to win, it's just they didn't, and calling it all a fluke just pissed him off.

He was already back in regular clothes by the time the speech was done. He knew Coach was just saying stuff to get them worked up too. The 10 Mile, suicides, sprints, the fuck? What would happen was is that they would do a regular practice when they get back, and maybe, just maybe some of them would work harder then they usually did, but nothing special, and then they would be told they got off easy because of how hard they worked. Well fuck that. Davis already did work his hardest, the hardest, and fuck those who said otherwise. Hell, being called a tryhard was a compliment. But what the fuck ever, just some more bullshit.

"I just wanna forget about the rest of today..."
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Isaiah glared at the back of Coach as he left the changing room. He'd needed that speech like he'd needed a kick to the head. Everyone knew they should have won the game, everyone thought they would as well. They hadn't though and the reminder that they should have from their own Coach wasn't something that was needed. Didn't make him any less right though. Isaiah had stopped changing for the duration of Coach's speech but he went back to it as soon as Coach had gone.

As he was in the process Matt caught his eye, Isaiah looked over at him and nodded in response. He and Matt were good friends, hell Matt was probably the best friend Isaiah had, so if Matt knew he'd messed up that was good enough for Isaiah and he wasn't going to push the issue. He'd fucked up the catch on some damn good passes himself.

"We better do that shit." Isaiah said in response to whoever had stated they wouldn't. Isaiah would be pissed if they didn't. It was that attitude that led to people slacking off and not trying and then everything would go to shit because no one would be putting the work or time in. "People need to fucking learn what effort is." He muttered as he pulled a top and shorts on.

He dropped down onto the bench next to Matt as he laced up his Nike's. Looking up as Davis spoke about forgetting the day Isaiah nodded.

"Wish we could man, but then we'd learn fuck all from it."

Normally Davis was a good guy and someone Isaiah respected for his work ethic but everything he was saying just pissed Isaiah off as it stood.

He glanced over at Matt, "Want to head out to grab some food in a few? Grab like Davis, some other guys and get the fuck out of here?"
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Brendan kept changing throughout the Coach's speech. He agreed with most of what he said, but, well... he felt even more like shit when the speech was finished.

Brendan usually wasn't the type of person to work all that hard, but he felt like he had to be different that game. He didn't want to let down the team again.

"Yeah, a lot of work."

He sighed and put his hands back to his face. "Fuckin' Raiders..."
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Matt had to agree with Brendan’s summary of the situation, nodding quietly. At Isaiah’s suggestion, he offered up a tired smile, running a hand through his dirty-blonde hair, darkened to a brown due to sweat and grime. His normally carefully jelled strands lay limp and flat against his scalp, and responded to his absent gesture by sitting rigidly on his head.

“Yeah, dude,” he said to Isaiah, rolling his neck absently, “Let me shower this shit off of me, and we can head out. You’re coming, right?”

He directed the question towards Brendan, standing to head towards the showers limply. As he moved - stiff and sore - he called over his shoulder to the small grouping of three guys.

“If we eat at my place, we can drink. My parents are cool with that sort of thing, and I think we have some whiskey or some shit.”
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Davis texted his dad, who'd tell his mom, that he'd be going over to Matt's for an after-game get together. Yeah, he could do with gettin' some relaxation goin'. It'd be kind've weird with Matt's parents around, but fuck it. Hell, maybe they'll just leave them be and do their own thing.

"'Kay." He responded, sending the text back.

He was still kind've mad though. Isaiah, out of anybody, had said they needed to learn something. After fuckin' yellin' about how the raiders just got lucky, how the raiders weren't better or stronger, that it was a fuckin' fluke. The fuck are you suppose to learn from a fucking fluke? That shit happens? He already fuckin' knew that.

He hung his game headband up in his locker, shut the door, and put on his common wear headband. He'd see. They wouldn't realize it or know it, but taking a few drinks would make them forgot about the day, and they'd be all the better for it. He hoped, anyway.
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"Of course I'm coming. It was my fucking idea." Isaiah said with a grin as Matt lifted himself off the bench and headed out to the showers. It was at that point Isaiah realised he hadn't actually put any of his gear away and that it was just sitting in the corner where he had thrown all of it. With a sigh he stood up and grabbing his kit bag made his way over to it. He didn't even thing through where he was dumping any of it. He just stuffed it all in. It would be washed when he got home anyway.

This reminded him he’d have to tell his dad that he was planning on going back to Matt’s. His dad would be chill with it; he knew what it was like to lose a game badly. Hell his dad had seen every single one of his games so he knew how things were. Isaiah took his phone out of one of the pockets on his bag. Sending his dad a text telling him he was planning on going back to Matt's.

He skipped out the part where they were planning on drinking. His dad would probably have been cool with it...his mom however a different story was. If she found out he'd end up dead and in a street somewhere. So not worth the hassle.

The only problem Isaiah saw with the drinking plan was that last time he had gotten drunk with Matt he had definitely tried to b-boy to show off to someone...he could not remember who but he remembered trying the backflip. He also remembered the head ache and sore neck the next morning.

On the other hand whiskey.

All he had to do now was try not to get too worked up about the fact that the raiders had beaten them, because anger and alcohol never mixed.
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