Excerpts for Athletic Shorts : Six Short Stories

Athletic Shorts

By Chris Crutcher

Laurel-Leaf Books

Copyright © 1992 Chris Crutcher
All right reserved.

ISBN: 9780440213901

A Brief Moment
in the Life of
Angus Bethune

Sometimes, when I stand back and take a good look, I think my parents are ambassadors from hell. Two of them, at least, the biological ones, the big ones.

Four parents are what I have altogether, not unlike a whole lot of other kids. But quite unlike a whole lot of other kids, there ain't a hetero among 'em. My dad's divorced and remarried, and my mom's divorced and remarried, so my mathematical account of my family suggests simply another confused teenager from a broken home. But my dads aren't married to my moms. They're married to each other. Same with my moms.

However, that's not the principal reason I sometimes see my so-called real parents as emissaries from way down under. As a matter of fact, that frightening little off-season trade took place prior to-though not much prior to-my birth, so until I began collecting expert feedback from friends at school, somewhere along about fourth grade, I perceived my situation as relatively normal.

No, what really hacks me off is that they didn't conceive me in some high tech fashion that would have allowed them to dip into an alternative gene pool for my physical goodies. See, when people the size of my parents decide to reproduce, they usually dig a pit and crawl down in there together for several days. Really, I'm surprised someone in this family doesn't have a trunk. Or a blowhole. I swear my gestation period was three years and seven months.

You don't survive a genetic history like that unscathed. While farsighted parents of other infants my age were preenrolling their kids four years ahead into elite preschools, my dad was hounding the World Wrestling Federation to hold a spot for me sometime in the early 1990s. I mean, my mom had to go to the husky section of Safeway to buy me Pampers.

I'm a big kid.

And they namedme Angus. God, a name like Angus Be-

thune would tumble Robert Redford from a nine and a half toa four, and I ain't no Robert Redford.

"Angus is a cow," I complained to my stepmother, Bella, the day in first grade I came home from school early for punching the bearer of that sad information in the stomach.

"Your mother must have had a good reason for naming you that," she said.

"For naming me after a cow?"

"You can't go around punching everyone who says that to you," she warned.

"Yes, I can," I said.

"Angus is a cow," I said to my mother when she got home from her job at Westhead Trucking firm. "You guys named me after a cow."

"Your father's uncle was named Angus," she said, stripping off her outer shirt with a loud sigh, then plopping into her easy chair with a beer, wearing nothing but her bra, a bra, I might add, that could well have floated an ejected fighter pilot to safety.

"So my father's uncle was named after a cow, too," I said. "What did he think of that?"

"Actually," Mom said, "I think he was kind of proud. Angus was quite a farmer, you know."

"Jesus help me," I said, and went to my room.

As Angus, the fat kid with perverted parents, I've had my share of adjustment problems, though it isn't as bad as it sounds. My parents' gene pool wasn't a total sump. Dad's family has all kinds of high-school shot put record holders and hammer throwers and even a gridiron hero or two, and my mom's sister almost made it to the Olympic trials in speed skating, so I was handed a fair-size cache of athletic ability. I am incredibly quick for a fat kid, and I have world-class reflexes. It is nearly impossible for the defensive lineman across from me to shake me, such are my anticipatory skills, and when I'm on defense, I need only to lock in on a running back's hips to zero in on the tackle. I cannot be shaken free. Plus you don't have to dig too deep in our ancestral remains to find an IQ safely into three digits, so grades come pretty easy to me. But I'd sure be willing to go into the winter trade meetings and swap reflexes, biceps, and brain cells, lock, stock, and barrel, for a little physical beauty.

Which brings me to tonight. I don't want you to think I spend all my life bitching about being shortchanged in the Tom Cruise department or about having parents a shade to the left of middle on your normal bell-shaped sexual curve; but tonight is a big night, and I don't want the blubbery bogeymen or the phantoms of sexual perversity, who usually pop up to point me out for public mockery, mucking it up for me. I want normal. I want socially acceptable. See, I was elected Senior Winter Ball King, which means for about one minute I'll be featured gliding across the floor beneath the crimson and gold crepe paper streamers at Lake Michigan High School with Melissa Lefevre, the girl of my dreams-and only my dreams-who was elected Senior Winter Ball Queen. For that minute we'll be out there alone.

Alone with Melissa Lefevre.

Now I don't want to go into the tomfoolery that must have gone on behind the scenes to get me elected to such a highly regarded post because to tell you the truth, I can't even imagine. I mean, it's a joke, I know that. I just don't know whose. It's a hell of a good one, though, because someone had to coax a plurality of more than five hundred seniors to forgo casting their ballots for any of a number of bona fide Adonises to write in the name of a cow...


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