Sweat dripped down my neck as my coach and history teacher talked about the test we had taken days previous. I knew I hadn’t done well. Papa had me out with him and his church buddies until late the night before and studying the bible was definitely more important than learning about the colonial revolution.
Reading the bible was more important than everything to Pastor Paeon.
“We had only one person fail this test so at least our scores are improving,” Coach B yelled in his inside voice. Ha. Little did he know his inside voice was only a tad lighter than his field voice. “And that person will be dealing with the consequences of their actions later.”
I sank in my chair and began to panic again.
It had to be me.
“Now, pass back the papers and make sure to only look at names not numbers,” he snapped before giving the papers to the front six people in charge of our rows and then having them passed back. Every time I saw the stack of papers get passed back, I died internally.
I was going to die. It was inevitable. My heart was thundering in my chest as the papers finally entered my vision, beckoning me to reach out and accept my fate.
I slid the paper out of Andrew’s hand in front of me and quickly slapped my own paper down before shuffling the rest back. I continued to stare at the white paper on my desk and sent a quick prayer up to the very man who had kept me sidetracked the whole time I was supposed to be studying before flipping the paper over only to immediately slam my head to my desk.
This is it. I’m going to kill myself. I am going to stick a gun in my mouth and pulled the trigger and -boom- there’s the end. Not only am I going to kill myself- dad is going to kill me. I am going to be dead twice oh joy.
I groaned louder, not even caring that class was still going on as I saw the red “F” threw the blackness of my own eyelids.
Lord, help me.
“Psst!” Hank hissed from beside me. I looked to the side and met his soft brown eyes. “What did you get?” I slid my paper inside of my binder quickly just in case he had super vision and could see through my paper before giving a forced smile. “That bad?”
“Worse,” I sighed. The bell interrupted me from my embarrassment as everyone began to pack up. Hank smiled kindly at me, rubbing my shoulder as I began to think of ways I could make up for this grade and not get caught up.
“Mr. Paeon, please meet me in front of the room,” Coach B said with his booming voice. I cringed at the very thought of what torture awaited me at the front of this tiny classroom. I looked from my coach to Hank in a pleading manner but he just gave me a quick smile before running like the devil’s hounds were clipping at his very expensive Nike shoes.
I tried not to show my reluctance as I swept my books into my backpack and walked my way to Coach B’s desk. He paid me no mind; watching the door as students said their goodbyes and others just left. This was the last period of the day so it was not unusual for kids to linger.
I was just looking back to Coach when I saw the back of a leather jacket leaving the room. I cocked my head to the side wondering who that jacket belonged to but the owner walked to fast for me to see a face.
“You wanted me coach?” I asked with a smile. Charm could save me…
“You’re failing my class,” he deadpanned and I couldn’t help but to roll my eyes. Tell me something I didn’t already know. This year was stressing me out more than the rest. Dad was nailing the bible to me as though it was my textbooks. Grades were, of course, important but God!- Ha!- God was everything in life. “You will be kicked off the team if you don’t get your grades up, Jessie.”
“I’m trying,” I said in aggravation. I was trying; trying to juggle school work, bible study, and my dad breathing down my neck. Between football and school alone, I barely had time to study. I had only time for the Lord. Dad made sure of that. It all seemed like one grand, master plan to keep me in this small town forever.
Coach clicked his tongue in his mouth as he shuffled around his papers. “You’re lucky it’s the beginning of the year, Jessie, or else you ass would be benched for sure.”
“Get that grade up or get your position taken,” he finalized.
I scoffed. “You can’t do that! I’m quarterback!”
“I can do what I want. Now, leave my class.” He didn’t look back up so I took that as my rude ass cue to leave.
I stormed out of the room with steam practically puffing from my ears. If I lost my position, I lost any chance at a scholarship and for the love of god that cannot happen.
I walked toward my locker and found Hank and his girlfriend standing there with their tongues down each other’s throats. Hank pulled away as I slammed open my locker and looked at me expectantly.
“Two weeks into the year and I am already hating my life!” I complained.
“I could tutor you,” Hank offered with his nose turned up. I laughed as his brown eyes sparkled. Only Hank could make me feel so happy at a stupid time like this. He was always there. Hank and I had been friends since we were in diapers. He tried to take my seat at Head-start and I broke his nose with my Star War’s lunch box. He had tackled me off the seat and when we sat in the front office holding our bloody noses, we decided to make friends and not war.
“I am hopeless and you know it,” I laughed as his girlfriend texted away on her phone. I blank out on anything that held no interest to me. Church was the prime example of that. Even as my dad stayed spewing versus of holiness and redemption I blanked out and imagined what it would be like to bathe in chocolate instead of holy water.
I was the preacher’s boy. My life was expected to be perfect, I was expected to be perfect, and I was expected to never do any wrong. In our small town, gossip spread like wild fire and usually my family’s name was in it.
I went to parties.
My dad never believed such words or he just pretended to not believe them to save face but this grade I had just gotten was in ink. Red Ink. He was going to kill me or maybe not since that was a sin.
I groaned again and looked up only to see Hank and his girlfriend making out again. I walked away with a roll of my eyes before heading to my truck with my temples pounding. I either had to get a tutor or drop football. I refused to drop the one thing that kept me sane but also… a tutor?
My truck’s engine roared as I turned the key in the ignition. I pulled out of the lot quickly.
I couldn’t go home because dad was having a session with the town’s people with drinking problems and he did not want me exposed to such people. I turned right instead of left, heading to the bar on the other side of town.
What dad didn’t know wouldn’t hurt him.