Sunday, December 12, 2021

Little Red Corvette (Prince)

Thursday nights were my favorite nights for two reasons: I got to scoop of the week and it was porkchop night. My dad took a lemon pepper covered chop, “How’s the team shaping up, Wendell?”

He passed the plate to my brother who took two, “Mike Shirley has been promoted to back up.” The sophomore showboat had been training for a starting spot since Pop Warner.

My mom snatched a chop, “I hate that kid!”

The ill feelings went years back. In sixth grade during lunch, Mike Shirley challenged Wendell to a fight. It was the first year all the kids from the town’s elementary schools were in the same building. Wendell didn’t know Mike, but didn’t stop Mike from walking up to Wendell in the middle of gym class and challenging him to a fight for no reason whatsoever. Wendell told Mike to name the time and place. Mike said after school in the parking lot. When the hour of the duel arrived, Wendell came to the parking lot but Mike did not. The clock ticked. Still no Mike.

Believing that Mike would eventually materialize, Wendell waited two hours. When it began to rain, Wendell realized Mike wasn’t coming and walked home. Back at the ranch, our mom, fearing Wendell had been kidnapped, called the police. She was on the phone with the cops when Wendell walked through the door. While the fight didn’t happen, Wendell got an ass whooping from our mom because, “That kid could have come with a gun or a knife.” Her true ire was saved for Mike Shirley, “If I ever see that kid I will beat him up myself. I hate that kid!”

Truth is subjective, and Mike told anyone who would listen that he won the fight. Unfortunately for Mike, he was heard by Wendell bragging to class heart throb Annabella Stabler by the lockers. Incredulous, Wendell walked up to Mike, tapped him on the shoulder and decked him. Mike fell to the ground, weeping pitifully. Annabella responded by laughing hysterically which made Mike cry harder. Mr. Snodgrass, an art teacher and Vietnam vet who heard Mike wagging his mouth and had doubts about his story, separated the lads and told them to be on their way. From that day onward, when Mike even sensed Wendell, he hot stepped it.

My dad said, “Well his dad is an overgrown coolness dude who comes to the booster meetings and shows up on his playbaby motorcycle with his new wife. And then his ex wife comes with her new husband and they all sit together. And then he has siblings and half siblings and step siblings and that kid’s life is one giant math equation that never gets solved. No wonder Mike has issues.”

What my dad was referring to was that Mike Shirley’s parents were high school sweethearts. His dad had also been quarterback and his mom had been head cheerleader. Mike’s mom had gotten pregnant with him her senior year, and the two married on prom night after the last dance at the magistrate. They had two more kids before getting divorced. Mike’s mom remarried the head of the bus garage and Mike’s dad remarried a lady who was a receptionist at one of the elementary schools. Both his parents had children with their second marriages, and their new spouses brought children from their previous marriages and lived within a three block radius of each other.

The happily divorced blended family sat together at all the games both varsity and JV, and the parents, stepparents, siblings and whatnot seemed like great friends which was both good for the kids but generally an anomaly considering we knew our share of blended families where things were nothing short of acomonious. It was incredibly confusing to determine who was related and how, especially since the cast rotated weekly. To make matters more complex there were also aunts, uncles and cousins. Wearing shirts that said, “Mike Shirley Fan Club,” they had two rows of reserved seats. Those who regularly attended the games nicknamed the section Shirley Village.

Wendell passed the plate of chops to Skipper, “Mike groupies stay to watch him at practice and he drives them home in Maxine.” Mike, for his sixteenth birthday that summer, got a red corvette after the members of Shirley Village put their money together that he named Maxine.

Skipper, who was ten and just tested genius level, took her chop, “Don’t they have homework?”

I bit my chop, “Girls like that don’t do homework.”

Wendell took a third chop, “Mike and his Pop Warner friends are joined at the hip. If you arent one of them they don’t talk to you. I just avoid them, go to practice and get out of there before their stupidity can infect me.” What Wendell was referring to was the kids who came up playing Pop Warner were notoriously cliquish, and unlike them Wendell was on the honors/AP track.

My dad said, “Son, you should try to make some friends on the team. My mother never let me play football.”

Wendell said, “You told me how many times.” In a snit, Wendell pretended to count on his fingers, “One, two, three, four, five…”

My dad said, “Just saying, Son. If you are going to be on the team make some friends. You are going to be playing with Mike for the next few years.”

Wendell said, “Friends?! It was your idea I play!” What Wendell was referring to was after the soccer coach told him he was “too big,” at the urging of my dad Wendell switched to football.

I said, “Your friends with Bobby Ragny.” Bobby Ragny was a wide receiver with behavioral issues that Wendell had roomed with over the summer at the team’s pre-season camp. Coach Matthias matched the two up because neither boy had any friends on the team.

Wendell said, “Shut up, April.”

Skipper said, “Did you ever speak to him about getting his bladder checked?” At camp, they had bunk beds. Bobby took the top, but that’s the way Wendell discovered Bobby also wet the bed.

Wendell said, “Screw you all, I have friends. Just not Mike Shirley!”

My mom angrily bit her chop, “Good! Because I hate that kid!”

The Friday of the game came arrived, and it was the first cold night of the season. Skipper and I made our way to the visitor’s concession stand to get hot coca. There was not only less of a crowd there, but the home stand was operated by the soccer parents. Despite the fact that football was better for Wendell’s build and temperament, the soccer parents felt Wendell sold out and wouldn’t hesitate to let us know. In reality, it was more salt in the wound because not only were their games underattended, but varsity football was the parent that really paid their bills.

The visitor’s stand was operated by the JV parents, most of who we knew from the Saturday games. Each family took turns, and during the second home game of the season Skipper, my mom and I had taken ours. We got up to the window and a woman with big red hair that we didn’t know took our order. This came as a shock to Skipper and I because usually we knew everyone that worked concession. Big Red called it into the back and a little boy who couldn’t have been more than eight walked forward with our cocas.

The little boy said, “Mom, they’re Wendell’s sisters, right?”

Big Red flashed an embarrassed smile, “Yes DJ, those are Wendell’s sisters.”

DJ poked his head out and yelled, “BAD CALL REF!”

Big Red laughed, “Sorry about that. DJ knows most of Mike’s friends because they have been around since Pop Warner and even held him as a baby. Mike was even saying the other day he wishes he knew Wendell a little better. Oh, by the way, I’m Mrs. Higbee, Mike Shirley’s Mom.” Apparently Mrs. Higbee hadn’t gotten the memo that Mike wasn’t on Wendell’s Christmas card list.

Glancing at her I saw the Mike Shirley Fan Club T-Shirt, go figure. I said, “Nice to meet you, Mrs. Higbee. I’m April and this is Skipper.” DJ poked his head out again and yelled, “GO HAWKS! HOLD THAT LINE!” DJ then handed us our hot cocas and we each gave him a fist bump for a job well done.

Mrs. Higbee said, “He plays every Sunday with the Pop Warner guys now, but this is the highlight of his week.”

DJ turned to us, “They made me quarterback. Just like Mike!”

Seeing the line forming Mrs. Higbee said, “Oh, and tell your dad that we will have the concession money ready after the game. He just needs to come over.”

What Mrs. Higbee was referring to was at the end of the night the people working the concession gave the treasurer, the position my dad held in the boosters, the money from the sales and he logged it. Last week Mr. Pender and his much younger girlfriend had forgotten resulting in some Saturday JV drama. To add insult to injury they also took a bunch of free food for themselves and their friends.

Back in the bleachers we had to pass Shirley Village to get to our seats. A woman with big blonde hair who I guessed was the New Mrs. Shirley held a video camera. The second string was in.

A man who I knew as Mr. Higbey from the bus garage that was chewing tobacco on the low, “Thank you by the way. LuAnn has had to work the last four weekends at the hospital and missed the JV games, she would be heartbroken if she didn’t get to see this.”

The ref blew the whistle and the collective screamed, “GO MIKE!!!!”

Then the whistle sounded again, half time. Mrs. Shirley got up along with a well bundled up girl who had Pop Warner pom poms who was probably a little older than DJ. Upon seeing us, Mrs. Shirley said, “Girls, hi! I’m Kim, Mike Shirley’s stepmom. We will have the concession money at the end of the night.”

Mr. Shirley, who was probably hot in high school said, “No fuss. No muss. We ain’t the Penders.”

I said, “Mrs. Higbey already told us. But WILCO.” Mrs. Shirley looked relieved.

Mr. Higbey handed her a $20, “Tell LuAnn to bring me some popcorn and DJ has earned his milkduds.”

Mr. Shirley handed her a $20, “And some nachos cause it cold and I am starving like Marvin.” Then he turned to us, “As you can see, we pay for our food, too.” The band hit the field and the show began.

Mrs. Shirley said, “Come on, Jenna.” As the music from the half time show filled our ears, the little girl danced across the track waving her pom poms behind her mom as the two made their way to the visitor’s concession stand. Shirley Village was a great many things, but they were doing their part which is more than I could say for a lot of the JV families. Mike apparently also wasn’t still angry about a dumb ass sixth grade hallway fight.

After the game, which we lost, my dad successfully got the collection from Mrs. Shirley. We got in the car to pick Wendell up from the locker room up the hill. As we drove out of the parking lot, there was a red corvette in front of us which I had a funny feeling was Maxine. As my mom pulled out of the parking lot, a busty blonde ran out in front of our mini van. My mom slammed on her brakes and blasted her horn.

The blonde stood outside the corvette with a nervous smile on her face but was not getting in. Then my dad rolled down his passenger window and yelled, “Come on!”

Wendell said, “Dad, Mike has to open the passenger door. He is the only one allowed to touch the handles on Maxine.”

Skipper said, “That makes no sense.”

I said, “His family seemed nice enough and Mike told his mom he wishes he knew you better.”

Wendell said, “I know him well enough to know there’s a village missing it’s idiot.” Maxine’s passenger door finally opened. Mike Shirley stuck his head out the window, flashed his million dollar showboat smile, waved and Maxine drove off into the night.

My mom drove out of the parking lot and said, “I hate that kid.”

Monday came, and Skipper and I were setting the table before our dad came home from work. As I finished putting the plates on, I heard the beeping of a car horn. Looking out our window in our driveway was none other than Maxine. I called, “Skipper! Mom! Get in here. NOW!”

Mike, who was seated next to the busty blonde my mother had nearly run down, saw us at the window. Flashing their million dollar smiles as if Friday night had never happened, both waved as Mike beeped his horn and Maxine drove off into the sunset. Seconds later, Wendell jounced through the front door. My mom said, “Wendell, what was that?”

Wendell said, doing a little dance as he talked, “I got to ride in Maxine.”

My mom said, “WHAT?! You hate that kid.”

Wendell said, “No Mom, YOU hate that kid. He apologized to me today at practice for what happened in sixth grade. He didn’t want to fight me, he just wanted to impress Annabella Stabler who turned out to be kind of a jerk. Then he saw me walking home and offered me a ride. So now we’re friends.”

I said, “Friends with him, okay. But not the bimbo mom nearly killed.”

Wendell said, “For your information, her name’s Erica Kaninski, she’s nice. And she has some hot friends who need tutoring.” Due to his stellar academics, Wendell had recently been selected as a peer tutor.

I said, “The first lesson should be looking both ways before crossing the street.”

Wendell rolled his eyes, “Forgive and forget. Our fight happened four years ago. Friday was an accident. JEEZ!”

As Wendell walked up the stairs Skipper called, “Whoever you are, and wherever you have taken him, please bring Wendell back!”

That night at dinner, Wendell glowed about his new friend Mike. My dad said, “Glad you’re making friends, Son. That’s important. Mike’s mom and stepmom did a bang up job on concession and it’s the best it’s ever run. And they volunteered to do it again. It’s a hard job. God bless ‘em.”

Wendell said, “And his girlfriend’s hot friends need tutoring.”

My dad said, “That’s an olive branch and a friend for life.”

My mom said, “I still don’t get it.”

My dad said, “It’s the way guys are. We fight and then make up.”

Wendell said, “Maxine is a slick car.”

My mom rolled her eyes, “Is he a good driver?”

Wendell said, “Actually, yeah. He doesn’t want to hurt Maxine.”

My mom said, “Good. I still hate that kid, but I will hate him more if he kills. And if he kills you I will kill him and then I will hurt Maxine.”

Mike Shirley would become one of Wendell’s best friends on the team and Wendell rode many a time in Maxine. Erica’s friends, who were all failing math, were regulars in Wendell’s tutoring room. While the romance only lasted until Christmas, Erica and her hot friends turned their math scores around with Wendell’s help and also spread the word about his skill as a tutor. Wendell’s client list grew, and was one of the most impressive parts of his application to Brown.

Maxine died after six years, but Mike’s love for cars, especially corvettes, is still alive today. Good looking, personable and knowledgeable, Mike would go on to open his own successful car dealership. Shirley Corvettes is run and operated by most of Shirley Village, so while most outsiders don’t understand their business practices it somehow works. DJ, who now is a third string quarterback for the Miami Dolphins, is their celebrity spokesperson. Mike divorced twice before eventually marrying a showroom model and having three kids with her. Next to DJ, the happy family is on all the Shirley Corvette TV commercials. When my mom saw their first ad she said, “Good for Mike! I always liked that kid.”

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Sunday, December 5, 2021

Gangsta's Paradise (Coolio)

The JV game was a bloody grudge match. A win in triple death overtime in the freezing rain redeemed the fallen The Whiskey Rebellion Blackhawks who had lost the night before. The fire, my mom’s chili and Van Damme in Blood Sport with our newly purchased cable were a well earned Saturday evening reward.

Wendell was in his glory because his last minute sac cemented the victory. Coach Stephens, the easy on the eyes head of the JV guys, was so impressed by Wendell he called Coach Matthias and the two agreed, Wendell was worthy of a promotion to varsity punt return. This was the cherry on top of a great week where Wendell, who had been training his body for two years now, broke a squat record in the weight room, one held by powerhouse junior Vince Davis.

Then the doorbell rang. Skipper and I, the only ones even remotely awake, jumped up to get it. Standing at our front door, good looking with the inflated sense of self to match was Mac Buzzinski otherwise known as Buzz. At the beginning of the season, Buzz, like Wendell, had been on JV. When a senior starter broke his leg during practice, Buzz, who was next in line for the wide receiver spot, took his place by default. While he was talented, Buzz’s ego was already bigger than the state of Texas.

What made this visit even more bizarre was Wendell and Buzz hated each other’s guts. Aside from the fact Buzz was a chronic jagoff, about a month ago at a Booster Club Meeting my dad the treasurer, and Buzz’s dad the secretary, got into a shouting match over the budget that would have escalated into a fist fight had their rather embarrassed wives not pulled them apart. Memorable insults include Mr. Buzzinski calling my dad, “An out of touch shit head in a suit,” and then my dad responding by saying, “Oh yeah, well you’re a Goddamn cement head yum yum asshole,” in reference to Buzz Senior’s work as a contractor. Little Cement Head, my dad’s nickname for Buzz, tried to even the score by jumping Wendell in the locker room. Wendell, who wasn’t as fast as Buzz but was much stronger, gave him a bloody nose and knocked him down. While Buzz was the clear cut loser, Coach Matthias acknowledged it was a punk move on Buzz’s part and made both parties run after practice.

Looking out into the driveway I saw Buzz’s car was running, Biggie blasting from the stereo. Knocking on the window like a prisoner was his younger brother, Jeremy, who was autistic and barely verbal. Their parents, after IEPS, court dates and other actions, were victorious in getting Jeremy mainstreamed into public school, and were especially successful in advocating for him to get speech therapy. While the success of the speech therapy for Jeremy was limited, Mrs. Buzzinski, who was a salt of the Earth woman and had gotten to know the system all too well, wanted to help families like theirs. Attending law school part time and graduating last year, she recently opened a legal practice where she advocated for the rights of disabled children. How she lived with Big Cement Head and Little Cement Head was a mystery.

Coach Matthias, despite his gruff nature, taught adaptive gym and was actually good at it. Seeing Jeremy’s hyper focus and attention to detail-side effects of being on the spectrum-as assets, he promoted the young man to equipment manager. Loud noises and too bright lights sometimes made Jeremy meltdown on the side of the field, but the pads and cones had never been so organized. Coach Matthias rewarded him with a Jersey that said Baby Buzz that Jeremy wore with pride. For all his faults, Buzz took Jeremy just about everywhere he went, going out of his way to make him one of the guys.

I opened the door. Buzz said, “Wassup?! Wendell in da crib?”

Skipper and I exchanged a glance as we both visibly tried to translate. Buzz lived on the other side of town, and usually the varsity starters watched game tapes on Saturdays at the high school which we lived three blocks away from. That would explain why he was in the area, but Saturday practice would have wrapped hours ago. Skipper pointed to his rolled up pant leg, “You run the risk of hypothermia.”

Ten years old, Skipper had recently tested as gifted and with good reason. I not only noticed that but the pink bandana which was beyond explanation just like everything else. Buzz said, “Lil Shawty, it’s for my dead homies.”

I said, “No man rocking a pink babushka should use homies in a sentence, ever.”

Buzz said, “Strawberry Lane Crew in da house! Did I stutter?! I ain’t playin yo. Get Wendell.”

I could tell Skipper was as dizzy as I was from this brief encounter with Buzz. We called for Wendell, who was at the door within seconds. Skipper said, “I know you punched him but he is clearly still experiencing head trauma.”

Wendell said, “No, that’s the way he always talks.”

Skipper and I ran back to the TV room, but my mom, now awake, ran upstairs to investigate. Within a minute, Wendell yelled, “Stay away from my house and my sisters you fucking idiot!” Then he slammed the door.

Walking down the stairs, my mom, who was barely five feet tall, said to Wendell, “You stay away from him. He’s a bad kid. It took me nine months to form you. Then twenty four hours of labor. The fetus was in distress so it was an emergency C-section with two weeks recovery. It has taken me nearly 16 years to get you to this point. I will not let a moron with too much leisure time screw up your life in 16 seconds!”

My dad, now completely awake and pissed off said, “What the hell was that?”’

Wendell said, “Nothing, can we just watch the movie?”

My mom said, “Tell him, or I will.”

Wendell said, “Buzz got into it at Eat ‘n’ Park with some of the players from Joyce Kilmer last night after the game. They challenged him to a rumble and he wants me to act as an enforcer because he’s impressed with my strength. And he’s calling his gang The Strawberry Lane Crew because that’s where he lives. They couldn’t even throw down with the Sesame Street Gang.”

I said, “They wear pink bandanas.”

My dad said, “ No doubt Little Cement Head’s mouth got him into this.” Kilmer, one town over, was poorer and more rural than we were and their kids were always getting into fights.

My mom said, “I don’t like him. If he comes here again, I am calling the police.”

My dad said, “His mother’s gonna put a stop to all of this, you just watch.” Then he turned up the volume just in time for the Kum Met Te.

The following Friday, Skipper and I were selected to give the team food after the game, a plumb gig for younger siblings. That night was especially sweet because The Whiskey Rebellion Blackhawks had defeated Clairsville, our most bitter rival in an away game, for the first time in over a decade. Wendell had also made his varsity debut on punt return and impressed Coach Matthias.

Vince Davis, the team’s only black player, a bigger quiet kid, approached. Just as he was getting his food we heard, “YO! YO! Wassup my brotha!”

Vince groaned, “Buzz, you are worse than a concussion and I am not your brother.”

Buzz said, “I am just speaking the language of your people, Homie.”

Vince shook his head, “That is really racist and ignorant, even for you.”

Buzz said, “Hear me out. The Strawberry Lane Crew could use your services as an enforcer and I could act as an agent for your talents. You see, we thought of Wendell Brucker for the role but as we know he is a WWIIIIIMMMPP!!! You are much stronger than he is.”

Vince said, “He broke one of my records and I still have three. What’s your point? Besides, I was there. Your big mouth got you into this, and now you are gonna have to dig yourself out.”

Buzz looked like he had been hit in the head with a hard object, “Man, don’t be a fool. Unlike Brucker you can roll legit my brotha!” Vince laughed, “Your dumb ass pink do rag wearing crew is about as legit as MC Hammer after bankruptcy. Ken Doll, I hear Barbie wants to throw down. Oh, and Brucker’s sisters are here. Keep talking…”

Vince took his food and made his exit. Buzz turned to Skipper and I, “Shawties, I was just playin….just so you know.” My dad, who coordinated the food distribution, gave Buzz a look of death which made him run to the bus. So much for being a real OG.

Buzz was determined though. The following week, he recruited three other players for the Strawberry Lane Crew. They were Franco Diamond, a third string lineman who dreamed of being a cage fighter; Jim Hanks, a big lug who often was a bench warmer due to academic ineligibility; and Al Pender, a JV wide receiver known for his profanity ridden outbursts usually cost the team yards. Buzz’s recruits, meeting in his parents garage, received initiation, aka being punched in the face by Jeremy who was surprisingly strong. Buzz assured, “Yo, the speech therapy failed so he won’t talk about official gang bizzznizzzz.”

The Strawberry Lane Crew dawned their pink bandanas, causing anyone who saw them to roll their eyes. My mother and Skipper were horrified at

Jeremy’s role, but my father, Wendell and I found a strange comfort that Buzz was including his learning disabled brother in his illegal aspirations making him an equal opportunity employer. However, laughter ceased when a date was set for the rumble, Friday night after both Whiskey Rebellion and Joyce Kilmer had their perspective games. Al Pender, the most unbalanced of the group, blabbed that he had access to guns and was bringing a few to the fight. My mom, now extremely distressed told Wendell he was to stay away from Buzz, and if The Strawberry Lane Crew tried to approach him in any way to let her know so she could call the police.

The Friday of the rumble steadily approached. Wednesday morning, two days before the main event, I found myself running late to third period as my social studies homework had fallen to the bottom of my book bag. Sprinting to the door, I saw Coach Douglass, Matthias’s second in command and my reading teacher poking his head out of his classroom door, “Brucker, you got a minute?”

The bell rang, “Coach Douglass, I am already late. Can I talk to you before lunch? It’s in three periods.” Mr. Regent, my social studies teacher, was a stickler and hated tardiness. A lecture would be coming if I didn’t step it up.

Coach Douglass said, “Don’t worry, I’ll talk to Old Regent and I’ll write you a hall pass.”

Entering Coach Douglass’s class, I wondered what was wrong? Was my Charlie Skadaddle diorama not up to snuff? That had been last weekend’s project and Coach was very particular when it came to our dioramas. I said, “Coach, I tried my best. I write, I don’t draw.”

A mountain of a man, Coach Douglass said, “Brucker, your diorama was fine. Did Mac Buzzinski visit your brother two weeks ago and ask him to be in his street gang? I need you to be honest.”

My heart began to pound. I didn’t want to answer because I feared any answer might get poor Wendell, who was working hard, in trouble. Coach Douglass said, “Mrs. Davis came in here this morning pitching a fit because she heard Al Pender running his mouth and asked Vince who told her everything, including the fact that Wendell had been approached, too.” Mrs. Davis was the middle school nurse. A no bullshit woman, I would have loved to have been a fly on the wall for that one.

I said, “Yeah, it was last Saturday after the JV won against Jumonville where Wendell had the sac. Wendell told Buzz to buzz off and that he didn’t want to be involved. Is Wendell in trouble?”

Despite the fact Wendell had told Buzz no, I didn’t know what version of events Coach Douglass got, “To answer your question, no. Wendell is in no trouble at all. Look, I don’t know all of the details, but Jeremy went with the guys to Eat ‘n’ Park after the game and something triggered a meltdown. Apparently Buzz had words the week before this went down with the kids from Kilmer and they said something about Jeremy that night. That’s how this all started. You know how Buzz is when it comes to Jeremy.”

Buzz was unlikeable most of the time, but the fact he was willing to become a gangster to preserve his brother’s honor said a lot. So I had to give credit where credit was due, “Well they should have left his brother alone. That wasn’t right, Coach.”

Coach Douglass said, “I agree, but a street fight isnt the answer. Now I appreciate you being honest. Here’s your hall pass. Not a word about this to anyone, okay RL Stine.” RL Stine was Coach Douglass’s nickname for me because I was always writing something. I took my hall pass and off I went.

That night, my dad had a function for a Democratic candidate he was endorsing at Sal’s CafĂ©, the upscale Italian eatery in town. We were meeting Wendell after practice, who would be showered and dressed, and then planned on heading over and meeting my dad there.

Pulling up in the mini van in front of the high school, we waited for Wendell. On the practice field across from us was Buzz running along with Al Pender, Franco Diamond and Jim Hanks. Coach Matthias supervised from the hill while Coach Douglass assisted down below on the green. My mom rolled the window down so we could listen. Coach Matthias yelled in this thick West Virginia accent, “Well if it isnt the Pink Ladies of Whiskey Rebellion High!”

Franco Diamond threw up. Jim Hanks screamed, “Coach, let him stop! He’s sick and stressed!”

Coach Matthias said, “Not as sick and stressed as he’s gonna be in prison when Big Bubba is coming for him!”

Al Pender screamed, “Fuck you! Fucking Buzzcock! You said your retarded brother coudnt talk!”

Buzz went to punch Pender. Coach Douglass pulled them apart. Coach Matthias said, “Y’all better believe he talked well enough to tell me about your stupid street gang! Pender, that is thirty more laps for you for speaking disrespectfully about a member of my staff who contributes more than any of you maggots! And Buzz, thirty more for exploiting your brother!”

The now defunct Strawberry Lane carried out there sentence when suddenly, Mrs. Buzzinski materialized. Dressed in the power suit and heals that had lawyer written all over it, Mrs. Buzzinski said, “Malcolm Alexander Buzzinski, you and I are going to have a little talk.”

In the truest OG move over, Mrs. Buzzinski marched on the field, grabbed her son by the ear, and he let out a high pitched scream that broke the barrier of sound. She said, “I had a very important deposition today, and I was interrupted when Mrs. Davis paid me a very angry phone call.”

Buzz pleaded, “Coach, I have thirty more laps, right?”

Coach Matthias let out an evil laugh, “Boy, there are some things worse than prison or hell. That is why I am releasing you to the custody of your mama!” Sadly, the show was interrupted when Wendell emerged from the locker room in his suit ready for dinner.

On our way to Sal’s, Wendell said that Coach Matthias noticed bruises on Jeremy’s hands during gym class. Concerned, Coach asked what happened. Apparently the speech therapy worked better than anyone thought, because Jeremy revealed the existence of the Strawberry Lane Crew, the date and time of the rumble, Al Pender’s plan to bring a gun and how he was afraid his big brother would get hurt.

Coach Matthias, incredulous, called his colleague at Joyce Kilmer who was not only outraged about the planned gang fight after his game, but that his starters had bullied a learning disabled student. They too were being punished in kind at that moment. Needless to say the rumble was cancelled. Of course my dad loved the fact that he had called it all along.

Aside from living with the fact his mother busted up his street gang, Mrs. Buzziski said no more gangsters paradise and decided mama would knock him out. In an effort to put her son back on track, she signed him up for a Scared Straight Program and Campus Crusade for Christ. Inspired by the minister he worked with and the inmates he encountered, Buzz went on to become a football star at a Division II school and then entered the seminary. Getting a dual degree in social work, he ministers to at risk youth and he is assisted by none other than his brother, Jeremy. The good news is, Buzz got out of the life. The great news is, he gave me an epic story.

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