Wednesday, May 9, 2012

At Tuesday Practice

          At Tuesday practice, a girl named Brianna, with a baby fat face and braided pigtails hanging down to just below her ears, picked up a smaller girl named Alexis.  Brianna weaved her hands under Alexis’ armpits and then locked her fingers at the chest.  She heaved and spun around twice before setting Alexis down hard in the matted grass in front of the goal.  “Shut up,” she yelled down.  “You shut up.  I’m the goalie!”
            Coach saw this out of the corner of his eye just as earlier he had heard Brianna’s sister Brea tell another girl, “You be quiet or I’m going to tell you to shut up.”  He was busy setting offence and had kept walking downfield towards the goal.
            Alexis got up, brushed the grass from her backside and asked him, “Coach, where am I?”
            “I want you as goalie,” he told her and then motioned with his hand and head for Brianna to step out on defense.
            Kaitlin’s mom, whose daughter was the one Brea almost told to shut up, had enough. She saw the whole thing.  She pivoted out of her lawn chair on the sidelines and walked to the coach.  Uncrossing and re-crossing her arms, she told him what happened and about what her daughter told her at drink break.
            He nodded several times and promised, “Ok, I’ll talk to her mom after practice.”
            Brianna heard everything that was said about her sister.  Brea was ten months older.  All the girls were in second grade at the same school.  Some of them had different teachers.  Of course they were on the same soccer team.
            After practice Brianna was first to her mom.  She ran across the field towards the parking lot, yelling, “Mom, mom, Brea got in trouble.  Mom, Brea got in trouble by Kaitlin’s mom.  Mom, she went out on the field and talked to coach.”
            Brianna’s mom, surrounded by other moms and talking because it was also the night of the book fair and they only had twenty minutes to wait, watched her daughter run closer and then asked, “Uh-oh, what did she do?”  She smiled and swiveled her head around to the other moms. They smiled back.  Some of them started different conversations, just beyond Brianna’s account.
            “She told Kaitlin to shut up and Kaitlin’s mom heard it.”  Brianna reached for her hug, pressing her face against her mom’s bulky sweatshirt.  By the time Brea kicked the ball from the field to her mom and the cluster of other women and children, coach was just a few yards back. Brea’s mom reached down to her older daughter and put her hands on either side of her head.
            “What did you tell Kaitlin?”
            “What?” was all Brea asked.
            Brianna still clutched the side of her mom’s thigh when Brea was pulled in for her own big hug.
            Coach told his own daughter, who was also on the team, to take the water bottles and help pick up the orange cones and to then wait in the truck.  He spoke pleasantly to the women assembled on the blacktop, telling them about one more game this coming Saturday and yes he would be glad the season was done and that the team had done well even though they lost most of their games and that the real thing was to learn and to have fun.
            Kaitlin’s mom and Kaitlin walked along the edge of the parking lot and about midway between their car and Brea’s mom she told her daughter that, “The next time she says that to you you just tell her to deal with it.  We aren’t going to put up with that anymore.  It’s been all season.”
            Kaitlin’s mom used her loud voice.  She said this at the same time coach was talking about how if it rained a little they would still have the last game but if there was a lot of mud or any thunder at all then the game would be cancelled and how they would just play it by ear and he would be sure to call if the game was postponed in any way.
            He continued chatting until sensors on the lights in the parking lot detected the sunset.  The lights buzzed and flickered and clacked on.  At first they hummed like giant cicadas.  Eventually they stopped humming.  His daughter rolled down the truck window and yelled across the parking lot, “Dad, can we go?”
            Kaitlin and her mom were gone.
            Coach left Brea, Brianna, their mom, and all the other moms and all the other children because he wasn’t going to the book fair.  When he was gone they agreed, coach was a very nice man.

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