John Dawson drove his old Chevy pick up into the school parking lot at a much too high rate of speed. He arrived in a boiling cloud of dust kicked up from the unpaved student parking area. He fishtailed slightly when he turned toward a parking spot near the gym door players used. He was cursing under his breath because he was late again. This time he was afraid the coach would make good on his threat to bench him for being late. John just couldn't seem to make it to practice or the games on time consistently. He was the starting quarterback or he wouldn't have any confidence he could talk his way out of it once again. If he didn't really hustle the team would be on the field before he got there and it would be too late for sure.
John's heart sank when he saw Coach Samuels standing in the door to the locker room when he jerked the gym door open to come inside. He appeared out of the still billowing dust cloud like a wandering desert nomad. With his teammates surrounding him Coach Rawlins said, "John, you had your last warning. Get dressed and onto the field right now. I'm starting Howard. I told you last time if you were late again you would lose your place on the team. I need someone I can depend on son and I am beginning to think that person isn't you. Now hustle."
John felt his stomach clench and his heart sank when the coach said that. He just stood and stared as the coach led the team past him, out the door toward the football field. John heard the crowd roar when they sighted the team.
John was past 16, almost 17 in fact and a junior in high school. He felt privileged to be the starting quarterback but unlike most of his peers sports wasn't the most important thing in his life. Sure he enjoyed the game and basketball as well but he would really rather be fishing or reading. He didn't even know why he had taken up the game for sure. Oh, sure his father had played in college and he wanted John to follow in his footsteps but so what?
Thinking of his father was probably not a wise thing for him to do. Now he wondered how he was doing and if he was OK. Like most of the men in his family, especially on his mother's side, his father was in the military. He was currently stationed in Iraq. He had been in one of the first local reserve units to be called and was now on his second tour over there. His mother Jessica was still working in and managing their real estate office and the title insurance office while he was gone. She worked long hours and John spent a lot of time with his grandparents John and Melody Stevens on the family farm.
That was why John was late once again. He and his grandfather had been fishing out of season and enjoying the Indian summer day. Like most of their trips to the stream or woods they had not taken a watch and time had gotten away from them. John sighed and pushed the door to the locker room open. He was almost completely dressed out when he thought he heard a female scream then some crying. He listened and didn't hear it again. He finally decided he had been mistaken.
John was walking dejectedly toward the field when he saw a girl about his age being pushed toward the open door of Charles Stillwell's van. Like usual Charlie had his two asshole friends with him. The girl was making enough noise that some of the people still outside the stadium were watching. John saw Charles reach out and grab her breast. From where he stood he could see her push his hand aside. He also heard her shout, "NO! Stop it please. Let me go!"
John began walking faster toward the three boys and the girl while he tried to decide what to do. He remembered seeing her a couple of days ago. She had just transferred into the school and was in a couple of his classes. When he was about ten feet from the group he heard Charles say, "Oh, shut up. We all know where you live and what goes on there. Now come on. We just want a little of what you're selling. Hell, if you're good enough we might even pay for it." He laughed loudly and his friends joined in.
The girl-her name was Carrie he now remembered-twisted her arm and managed to break free of Charles. As she darted between the two other boys one of them grabbed her and tore her blouse. John saw the swell of her breast and the stark white of her bra when she ran past him. The three boys were laughing and started after her.
John stepped in their path and said, "OK, that's enough guys. Leave her alone." He could smell the beer on their breath already and hoped his intervention would be enough. Even with the personal combat tactics his father and uncles had taught him it would be tough to take all three down.
Charles stopped and looked at John in shock. He was a senior and thought of himself as cock of the walk. At least to himself and his friends he was the Big Man on Campus. He reached toward John and tried to push him out of the way as he said, "Out of our way asshole. We're going to try that little slut on tonight and we don't need you fucking with us. Go on and play your damn game."
John felt the other two boys move up behind him and start to push on him also. Without thinking he swung his right hand up and toward Charles head. He watched Charles eyes open wider in shock as he stared at the football helmet heading right for his left cheekbone. All he managed to do when he raised his left arm to block John was slow down the hit. The helmet hit with a crack and Charles dropped like a pole axed steer. A sledgehammer wouldn't have dropped him any faster. He didn't move after he hit the ground.
Jeremy and Josh didn't say anything. They took one shocked look at Charles then swung their fists at John. They both connected and John staggered. He dropped the helmet and backed up. The two boys began advancing on him while he watched them warily. He could hear adult voices raised in alarm in the background. He couldn't hear what they were saying. From the corner of his eye he saw some men running toward the scuffle.
Jeremy was a little in the lead and he made a lunge at John. John slipped inside the poorly thrown punch and hit Jeremy three times almost faster than you could see. Jeremy grunted and sank toward the ground. Out of the corner of his eye John saw movement and he dropped. The large stick Josh had picked up to use on him just grazed his head as it passed by.
John lunged toward Josh and hit him in the stomach while he was unbalanced. His breath left him with a whoosh and his face turned white. He was gasping like a banked fish. John stepped in toward him and brought his knee up under his chin. This straightened Josh up. John knocked him back by a hard driven left to the jaw.
John was stepping toward Josh for another blow when he felt hands grab his arms and hold him. He saw that Josh was being similarly held while the coach knelt beside Charlie. After he had checked him out he knelt similarly beside the woozy Jeremy. After he had checked both the down boys he stood and looked at John. He glared at him and while the ambulance attendants worked on the two down boys he asked, "What's this all about? Late again, fighting on school property. Don't you ever want to play football again John?"
John stood looking at the coach then remembered the girl. He saw her standing to the side crying and trying to hold her blouse closed. He pointed to her and said, "It's about her. They..."
The coach looked at John in disbelief and snorted then broke into his sentence. He said, "You mean you were fighting over a girl? Damn it John I expected more of you than that. You're off the team."
John pulled himself from the grasp of the two men holding him and walked toward the girl. On the way he bent and picked up the sweater she had dropped. He saw the fear in her eyes while she watched him approach. He said, "Are you OK? Can I help you?" She was trembling slightly and she tensed up a lot when he gently placed her sweater around her shoulders.
Finally the girl whose name he now remembered was Carrie whispered, "I'm ok. I just need to get home. I want to go home please." She was crying and started to walk off while covering her exposed chest with the sweater. John reached out and took her arm. She jumped when he did that and let out a little yelp.
"Carrie wait a minute. Please come and tell the Coach what happened. After that I'll take you home since they kicked me off the team." Carrie pulled against John's grasp then he felt her relax. She walked with him toward the group of adults surrounding the now revived assailants.
When they walked up Charles glared at them and continued with his story. " ... so you see sir, I was talking to John's girl there and we were getting friendly when he came up. He was just a yelling at me about leaving her alone and he'd take care of me for trying to steal his girl. Before I knew it he had hit me with his helmet."
Jason then began talking, "Yeah, it's like Charles said. Then we tried to keep John from hurting Charlie any more and he began hitting us." Jeremy was looking at Carrie and John with a sadistic smile while his two friends spun out their damage control."
John had opened his mouth to deny the allegations when he felt Carrie pull from his grasp. She walked up to the coach and said, "NO. That's not how it was. They were trying to get me into their van. They ... they wanted me to do..." she was crying and she showed the coach her torn blouse as she continued, "I was trying to get away and when this boy came up he asked what was going on."
The coach looked at John and asked, "You mean they were bothering you and John here came up and tried to stop it?"
.... There is more of this story ...