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The August two-a-day practice sessions were just sixtyseven days away, Coach calculated. He was drying breakfast dishes. He swabbed a coffee cup and made himself listen to his wife, Sherry, who was across the kitchen, sponging the stove's burner coils.
"I know I'm no Renoir, but I have so much damn fun trying, and this little studio, that one room, we can afford," Sherry said. "I could get out of your way by going there, and get you and Daphne out of my way. No offense."
"I'm thinking," Coach said.
Sherry coasted from appliance to appliance. She swiped the face of the oven clock with her sponge. "You're thinking too slow," she said. "Your reporter's coming at nine, and it's way after eight. Should I give them a deposit on the studio, or not? Yes or no?"
Coach was staring at the sink, at a thread of water that came from one of the taps. He thought of a lake place where they used to go, in Pennsylvania. He saw green water being thickly sliced by a power boatthe boat towing Sherry, who was blond and laughing on her skis, her back rounded and strong, her suit shining red.
"Of course, of course. Give them the money," he said.
Their daughter, Daphne, wandered into the kitchen. She was a dark-haired girl, lazy-looking, fifteen; her eyes lost behind her bangs. She drew open the enormous refrigerator door.
"Don't lean on that," her mother said.
"And what are you after?" Coach asked.
"Food, mainly," Daphne said.
Coach's wife went away, to the little sun patio off the kitchen. He pushed the glass door after her, and it smacked shut.
"Eat and run," he said to Daphne. "I've got a reporter coming in short order. Get dressed." He spoke firmly, but in the smaller voice he always used for his child.
"Yes, sir," Daphne said. She opened the freezer compartment and ducked to let its gate pass over her head. "Looks bad. Nothing in here but Eggos," she said.
"Have Eggos. I did. Just hustle up," Coach said.
"Can't I be here for this guy?" Daphne asked. "Who guy? The reporter? Uh-uh. He's just from the college, Daph. Coming to see if the new freshmen coach has two heads or none."
"Hey, lookit," Daphne said. She blew a breath in front of the freezer compartment and it made a short jet of mist.
Coach remembered a fall night, a Friday game night long ago, when he had put Daphne on the playing field. It was during the pre-game ceremonies before his unbeaten squad had taken on Ignatius South High. Parents' Night. He had laced shoulder pads on Daphne, and draped the trainer's gag jerseyNo. 1 ⁄2over her, and placed Tim . . . somebody's enormous helmet over her eight-year old head. She was lost in the getupa small pile of equipment out on the fifty, from which warm wisps of air trailed now and then.
She had applauded when the loudspeaker announced her name, and the P.A. voice, garbled by amplification and echo, rang out, "Daughter of our coach Harry Noonan and his lovely wife: Number One-HalfDaphne Noonan!"
She had stood in the bath of floodlights as the players and their folks walked by when they were introducedthe players grim in their war gear, the parents looking tiny and apologetic in everyday clothes. The co-captain of the team, awesome in his pads and cleats and steaming from warmup running, had playfully palmed Daphne's big helmet and twisted it sideways.
From behind, Coach had heard a great "Haaa!" from the home stands as Daphne turned in circles, trying to right the helmet. Her left eye had twinkled out through one earhole, Coach remembered. "God, that's funny," the crowd said. And "Coach's kid."
On the sun porch now, his wife was doing a set of tennis exercises. Framed by the glass doors, she twisted her torso from one side to the other between Coach and the morning sunlight. Through the weave of her caftan, he could make out the white image left by her swimsuit.
"I knew you wouldn't let me," Daphne said. She had poured a glass of chocolate milk. She pulled open a chilled banana. "I bet Mom gets to be here."
"Daph, this isn't a big deal. We've been through it all before," Coach said.
"Not for a college paper," Daphne said. "Wait a minute, I'll be right back." She left the kitchen.
"I'll hold my breath and count the heartbeats," Coach said.
They were new to the little town, new to Ohio. Coach was assuming charge of the freshman squad; it was a league where freshmen weren't eligible for the varsity. He had taken the job not sure if it was a step up for him or a risky career move. The money was so-so. But he wanted the college setting for his familyespecially for Daphne. She had seemed to begin to lose interest in the small celebrity they achieved in high-school towns. She looked bored at the Noonans' Sunday spaghetti dinners for standout players. She had stopped fetching plates of food for the boys, some of whom were still game-sore. She had even stopped wearing the charm bracelet her parents had put together for hera silver bracelet with a tiny megaphone, the numerals 68 (a league championship year) and, of course, a miniature football.
Coach took a seat at the kitchen table. He ate grapes from a bowl. He spilled bottled wheat germ into his palm. On the table were four chunky ring binders, their black Leatherette covers printed with the college seal, which still looked strange to him. They were his playbooks, and he was having trouble getting the tactics of the new system into his head. "Will you turn off the radio?" he yelled.
The bleat from Daphne's upstairs bedroom ceased. A minute later, she was back down in the kitchen. She had a cardboard folder and some textbooks with her. "Later on, would you look at this stuff and help me?" she asked Coach. "Can you do these?"
He glanced over one of her papers. It was pencilled with algebra equations, smutty with erasures and scribbled-out parts. "I'd have to see the book, but no anyway. Not now, not later. I don't want to and I don't have time."
"That's just great," Daphne said.
"And Mrs. Math Genius told me 'Do it yourself.' Well, I can't."
"Your mother and I got our algebra homework done already, Daph. We turned ours in. That was in 1956. She got an A and I got a C."
"Mom!" Daphne called, pushing aside the glass door.
"Forget it, if it's the homework you want," Sherry said.
"Don't give in to her," Coach said. "I know you. The last time, you did everything but go there and take the tests for her, and she still flunked. This is summer school, and she's on her own."
"But I can't do it," Daphne said. "Besides, I've got my own homework," Coach said, and frowned at his playbooks.
Toby, the boy sent from The Rooter to interview Coach, was unshaven and bleary-eyed. He wore a rumpled cerise polo shirt and faded jeans. He asked his questions wearily, dragging his words. Twice, he yawned during Coach's answers. He took no notes.
"You getting this, now?" Coach said at last.
"Oh, yeah, it's writing itself. I'm a pro," Toby said, and Coach was not certain if the boy was kidding. "So you've been here just a little while then. Lucky you," Toby said. "Less than a month."
"Is that like a question? It seems less than a monthless than a week. Seems like a day and a half," Coach said. For the interview, he had put on white sports slacks and a maroon pullover with a gold collarthe school's colors. He had bought the pullover at Campus World. The clothes had a snug fit that flattered Coach and showed off his straight stomach and heavy shoulders. He and Toby were on either end of the sofa in the living room.
"And you bought this houseright?" Toby said. He stood up. "Well, believe it or not, I've got enough for a couple sticks," he said. "That's two columns, among us press men. If you're going to be home tomorrow, there's a girl who'll come and take your picture. Marcia. She's a drag, I warn you."
"One thing about this town, there aren't any damn sidewalks and the cars don't give you much room if you're jogging," Coach said, getting up, too.
"When I'm hitching, I wear a safety orange poncho and carry a red flag and paint a big 'X' on my back," Toby said. "Of course, I realize I'm just making a better target for the speeders."
"I run down at the track now. It's a great facility, comparable to a Big Ten's. I like the layout," Coach said.
"O.K., but the interview's over," Toby said.
"Well, I came from high schools, remember. In Indiana and Pennsylvaniagood schools with good budgets, but high schools nonetheless."
"Yeah, I got where you're coming from," Toby said.
"Did you need to know what courses I'll be handling? Fall quarter, they've got me lined up for two. 'The Atlantic World' and 'Colloquium on European Industrial Development,' I think it is. Before, I always taught world history. P.O.D. once or twice."
"That 381 you're going to teach is a gut course, in case no one's informed you. It's what we call 'lunch,'" Toby said.
"It's in the nature of a refresher course," Coach said.
Table of Contents1. Coach
2. An Amateur's Guide to the Night
4. In the Woods
5. The Help
6. I Get By
8. Seizing Control
9. Kite and Paint
10. Father, Grandfather
12. Pretty Ice
13. While Home
14. In Jewel
15. Happy Boy, Allen
16. I Am Twenty-One
17. Independence Day
19. For Real
20. May Queen
21. Your Errant Mom
22. The Wellman Twins
25. Doctor's Sons
26. What I Hear
29. Likely Lake