Coach Bittle: What might have been
The stadium was slowly emptying. The locker room was empty, the players gone to celebrate their win, Richard Bittle was busy closing and locking doors. When he turned around, he was surprised to see one of his players waiting for him, twisting the hem of his Georgia Football sweater.
- Huh… Coach? can I talk to you?
- Sure, Masterson, what is it?
The kid looked behind him, at the closed locker door. He seemed afraid.
- It’s about your son, Sir. The guys made us swear we wouldn’t tell, but-
Something cold grabbed Richard’s insides. Soon he was running to a deserted corridor, opening a locker door that was never used, and finding his own son lying on the cold ground, covered in bruises.
- Dicky, Dicky answer me-
He took the shivering boy in his arms. Dicky, thank the Lord, opened his good eye.
- I’m here, son, I’m here. What happened to you, who did this-
- They- they said I was a faggot, Coach. I’m sorry, I should have been stronger, I should have-
- Nonsense, it’s not your fault, come here.
And holding his son against him, he barely heard the tiny voice whisper:
- But what if I am? What if I’m gay?
Richard didn’t have the words, so he held his son tighter.
Richard had made his decision before even reaching the house, so when later, that night, after the tears and the reassurances, after Dicky finally fell asleep, his bruises and cuts tended to, he sat down at the kitchen table with Suzanne.
- Richard, I know they’re your team, but-
- I will send my resignation in the morning. Madison High School wants me, I’ll call them as soon as I can.
- Oh. Okay. I was afraid that…
- Suzie, he’s our son.
- Yes. I’m sorry. But what about his figure skating? You know Katya is the best…
- That’s up to him.
If Richard was relieved that Dicky chose to play Hockey instead, he kept it to himself.
The front door slammed, and Dicky let his hockey bag fall to the floor.
-That Tyler is a real-
- Language, interrupted Richard without lifting his eyes from the newspaper.
- Sorry Coach, mumbled Dicky, sitting down in front of him, crossing his arms. It’s just that he’s been acting like a real jerk, showing off and saying stupid stuff…
- Last week you talked about how good he was at hockey for a good ten minutes without breathing. What happened since?
Dicky placed his head on the table and mumbled something.
- Didn’t hear you, son.
- …He got a girlfriend.
- Ah, said Richard, turning a new page. Sorry to hear about that.
Dicky spent the afternoon transforming the kitchen into a war zone.