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by Eric Arvin
Category: Erotica/Gay-Lesbian Erotica/Romance
Description: Chip Arnold is a well-liked football coach at a small liberal arts college, but his personal life is in a bit of a rut. He goes out drinking with his colleagues, gets along well with his players, and dates all the prettiest women in town--he has the life most straight men dream of. But lately none of the women he dates seem to be igniting any passion in him. Then he meets the new school chaplain, Foster Lewis. Romantic attraction to another man is new and terrifying, and Chip just can't put his finger on why he's drawn to Foster, but it's stronger than anything he's felt for anyone in his life. Never one to back down from a challenge, Chip decides to go for it. But love is never simple, and sometimes it's a downright mess!
eBook Publisher: Dreamspinner Press/Dreamspinner Press, 2010 2010
eBookwise Release Date: April 2010
40 Reader Ratings:
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [242 KB]
Reading time: 146-205 min.
In the wrong hands, a story about a tough football coach realizing he is gay could be a cliché'-riddled mess. With Arvin's trademark wit and considerable talent as a writer, "Simple Men" comes off more like a gay version of a John Hughes romantic comedy, full of familiar but quirky characters dealing with realistic but unusual situations. The secondary story, of two of Chip's football players also accepting their sexuality, is the icing on this well-written, entertaining treat, and the slightly madcap ending will leave you smiling for days. Arvin scores another touchdown... by Bob Lind @ Echo Magazine
...a little something before everything else...
Chip Arnold, football coach of the Verona College Growlers, sat at a table in the small bar with his assistant coach, Lenny. To say they were good friends was a stretch, but they were friendly enough. You have to be if you're going to work closely with someone for long stretches of time, coming up with precise strategies and plays for the boys to muck up. There has to be some level of camaraderie and trust. There has to be like-mindedness. And, for the most part, Lenny was a good guy to have around, especially when going to bars. He was not a terribly good-looking guy, which made those with him look even better by proximity. It was a terrible truth, but a truth everyone learned in one way or another. Not that Chip Arnold needed Lenny's help in getting a girl. Chip had always known the exact looks and charms to use when chasing a gal. On this night, he was the stud of the bar, flexing every time he took a drink. If he wanted to--and this thought made him flush with pride--he could have the lady of his choosing right now in the restroom.
These had been Chip's nights for a while now. They drank from cheap plastic cups. A pitcher of beer stood like a fountain at the center of their table. The music was The Eagles. The place smelled like cigarettes and burgers. It was routine.
Lenny looked around for someone--anyone--he could make a play for. The more he drank, the more he resembled a suspicious, seedy character like a deviant in an old Hollywood thriller, all shifty eyes and folded hands. "How are things with Lynn?" he asked. He didn't sound too interested in hearing the answer.
"Things are great," Chip said. "Things are fine. She's okay."
"That wasn't too convincing. Feeling a little caged?"
Chip wasn't sure about divulging too much of his life to Lenny, but the guy was shifting in his seat so much, scoping out the ladies, he probably wasn't listening anyway. "Maybe," Chip said under his breath. When he looked up from the table, Lenny was staring at him, ready for a tale.
"I think," Chip said, "I think maybe this relationship thing wasn't a good idea for me and Lynn. It was an experiment, and it failed."
"I thought you said you liked it. You said it makes being here in this little town bearable, having someone to spend your Fridays with."
"I know what I said. Don't quote back to me. It's just...." He gestured around. The town usually wasn't a Mecca for pretty ladies, but school was starting soon, and a few of the more gorgeous co-eds were back.
"You're bored with her, huh?"
"Lynn's a great lady. She's predictable, safe. Exactly the kind of woman I should end up with. I like my routines, and she fits right into them." He slammed his now-empty cup on the table. "But dammit, I'm virile. I've got to explore that virility, you know."
"I know, brother. I know." Lenny's gaze was on a cute little blonde at the Megatouch machine.
"I don't know. I'm making too much of it. Maybe this is what all guys feel like when they start settling down." Chip poured more beer from the pitcher into his cup.
"Sometimes I think it would be easier to be gay," Lenny said. "But I'd make a horrible gay guy. Look at how I dress; I'd get no tail."
"That's a cliche. I know some gay guys who dress as bad as you."
"Fuck you, Coach." Lenny grinned. "I don't like gay guys who act like me. I like my gay guys flaming."
"You're an idiot. And I can say that because I know you. And trust me; no man would ever be attracted to you."
"I could get a gay." Lenny seemed offended. His plan to have the coach assure him of some romantic prowess had not worked.
"No. You really could not."
"Isn't Lynn's friend--the new chaplain--isn't he a gay?"
"I think so. I haven't met him yet. She asked me to help him move some new pews into the chapel. I guess I'll meet him then." Chip liked to think of himself as a forward-thinking guy. He'd grown up in a small, conservative town, but he liked gay men. He always let them help him out at the clothing stores. He would even let them feel his biceps. Gay guys appreciated how hard it was to stay in shape.
"You? In a chapel? That's a weird little nightmare." Lenny nodded at one of the waitresses behind the bar. She looked more desperate than he was. "You think I could have a chance with her?"
"As good as anyone." Chip took a swig. "I'm going to head home. Be sure to tell me how things turn out."
"But I'm not sure if she--"
"Just do it. That's my motto. Just do it. That way you know right off, and there are no loose ends to tie up. Loose ends cause sleepless nights and ulcers. Those are my parting words of wisdom to you, my friend." Chip rose and tossed a few dollars on the table to cover his beer. "Get the answer you need now, or get an ulcer later."
Lenny was still seated when Chip left. Chip never understood people who let things sit without bothering to find the answer. He had always hated loose threads and cliffhangers of all sorts. That's why he didn't watch a TV series until he could see the whole thing on his time. And film trilogies? Forget about it. Wait until all three films were available on DVD or download. Life was much easier when he was in control of every possible thing he could be in control of. Short questions and simple answers. That's what it was all about.
* * * *
The name was as poetic as the look of the place. Foster Lewis was pleased that he had been offered the position of school chaplain here. It was a small school, one of those private institutions where the student body and the professors were on a first-name basis and even hung out with each other on the weekends. There was Georgian architecture, hedges resembling sculpture (topiary, he supposed they were called), and practically a zoo of friendly little wild creatures. One could walk right past a squirrel and the cute little bugger wouldn't even flinch.
Verona College was an even more peaceful place than the seminary. Of course, that had been in the middle of a city. No hope for peace there. Yet the air of the seminary had been peaceful. That had to do with the nature of the place, though. The peace at Verona... well, it seemed more inclusive. Here it wasn't just peaceful out of expectation. Verona College was peaceful because it was. The students and faculty had found a rhythm with the natural world around them, and it pervaded the place. Not just in the halls of the buildings as with the seminary, but in the walkways and wood paths, on every hill and gully.
Of course, this whole train of thought was due to the intoxicating fresh air and new feel Foster was experiencing. The novelty of the "new" would wear off in time, and Foster knew about novelty. He was a bit of a novelty himself. At least, that's what he had seemed to Barry.
How naughty! I'm dating a minister! Gasp at my daring.
Foster's feelings for Barry went deeper than that, but in the end it didn't matter. Barry moved on. He moved on right next door. A hot new neighbor had moved into the apartment complex, someone even more of a novelty than Foster: a nineteen-year-old Amish boy. Foster had moved out of the building as soon as he'd been able to. How could he have competed with Jacob or Jebediah or whatever the boy's name was? The boy was Amish. He made kick-ass furniture and raised barns. Foster couldn't even pick out a matching living room suite.
He had convinced himself it was for the best. Besides, though Barry had his charms, there had been a bit of a selfish streak to him. Foster couldn't remember ever feeling real pleasure when they were intimate. Sure, there had been orgasms, but they were so quickly done and forgotten that Foster had felt a bit used after. A relationship to him meant emotional and spiritual growth. It was only after he was out of it that he realized Barry had only been interested in a very localized area of growth. Very localized. Foster's notion of settling down in some Happily Ever After had been shattered. He now carried the broken fragments wherever he went.
That was another good thing about Verona College: there were no men. At least, none that he would be interested in. Of course, he hadn't met the entire faculty yet, but as long as Gerard Butler hadn't taken a position at the school, Foster was pretty certain there would be no distractions. Life had been distracting enough up to this point.
The chapel was near the river. From his office window, Foster could watch the barges and small watercraft pass by the college. It was a nice little chapel, loaned out for weddings in the summer and other celebratory events throughout the year. He imagined he would be asked to perform at a few of those. As he approached, he saw the new pews lined up on the grass outside; the old ones had fallen into extreme disrepair. Most of those who came to services stood, he had been told, for fear of getting splinters in their bums. But at least then they wouldn't fall asleep.
Students passed him, many of them with friendly smiles, others with guilty, downcast expressions at the sight of him (he got that a lot when he wore the collar). The female college populace was the most pleasant to him. Foster was a "hottie from God-dy," as one not-very-clever girl had said. Their glances, bordering on ogles, made him somewhat uncomfortable, so he touched his black-rimmed glasses as if they were sliding off his nose, brushed his dark hair from his ears, and walked to the columned porch of the small chapel, trying not to make eye contact with any of them. From there, he looked out over the quadrangle lawn, the heart of the school. Students speckled the grass and sidewalks on their ways to class. It was an overcast day; Foster wanted to get the pews into the chapel before it started to rain. Help had been promised and would hopefully be there soon.
Foster Lewis was an optimistic man. This, he thought, would be a good life decision. Yes. One of the few.
* * * *
Football is an outside sport. Jason Jordan hated it when practice was held in the gym just because it might rain. All the guys did. Nobody minded getting wet; they were ball players after all. Still, there was one good thing about practice inside: Coach Arnold wore his skin-tight shorts. Any other coach would look like a caricature in them, but Coach Arnold... the man could wear the hell out of those shorts! When they trained outside, the coach wore his usual sweats or pant-suit. But on strength training days, it was the shorts. They were mesh, shining from the fluorescent lights and hugging tight around the coach's thick legs like a wrapped ham at Christmas.
Mmm. Ham. Jason suddenly realized he was hungry.
The team sat on the gym floor in designated rows. They had just finished with their calisthenics, the dullest part of strength training, and the coach was going on about something. Jason really wasn't giving it too much thought. He was caught up in Coach Arnold's thighs. He rested back on his hands, his legs spread out, his mouth salivating at naughty fantasies. He was sure he wasn't the only one. The coach had a bulge in his shorts that couldn't be ignored.
Beside him sat his best friend, Brad Park. Brad was a bit of a troublemaker. In fact, they both were, but Brad looked the part more. He had a goofy grin and carried with him an air of mischief. Jason was a more sly sort of troublemaker. It was his looks that let him get away with most things: the sweet eyes, the boyish mop of hair. Brad's eyes were dangerously close to wide-eyed shiftiness, and his hair was shorn. The two had been best friends since starting college, having connected immediately over B-movies and country music. They were not the most popular guys at school, but they were well-liked enough. Coach Arnold seemed to like them anyway, and that's what mattered. You get in good with the coach and you're set. Brad's dad and half-dozen brothers had told him this.
Brad had dated a few different girls, but none seemed willing to take his shtick for long. He wasn't surprised or even particularly hurt when a relationship ended. At the end of a lousy date, he still got to go back to his dorm where his best bud, Jason, was waiting, most likely with a copy of some dark, twisted movie filled with bad special effects and a freshly opened package of Chips Ahoy!
Jason was the type of guy who was invited to all the formals. He cleaned up very well, yet he was never too interested in anything more than that. He had plenty of girl friends, but no girlfriends. He hadn't had one his entire time in school, though Brad knew he had been involved with a girl at least once before college. None of that mattered, though. When Jason and Brad were alone in their room, they had a blast watching the movies and pigging out on junk food. (Enjoy it, they were told. Your metabolism betrays you as you get older. And that's just the first thing.)
They wrestled some... well, a lot. They were, after all, on the wrestling team when football wasn't in season. But some of the guys in the house--especially those in the floor below them--found their late-night pinnings quite annoying.
Jason's mind shifted to one of those late-night matches as the coach spoke. It was no longer the coach who was making his mouth water as he sat on the gym floor, but Brad. The coach instigated only a momentary salivation; Brad had been filling Jason's thoughts for about a year now. By the feel of Brad's pecker last night as they rubbed against one another in a spontaneous match--frotting, he had heard it was called--Brad felt the same. Nothing was said the next morning, though. Jason was a man of few words anyway; why waste them on embarrassing mutterings?
Jason heard Brad snicker. He leaned over Jason's shoulder and pointed at his happy crotch. "Dude!" he said. "Watch the boner."
Sure enough, Jason's dick stood at alert, stretching his own mesh shorts. He owned the moment, shrugging with a smile. "Jealous?"
"Shit! I got that beat and you know it." He reached to his own shorts as if he were going to pull the thing out. Jason loved that cocky grin. Brad was a bulldog, but he was a bulldog with a tender heart. He didn't show that aspect of himself to too many people, though.
"Guys!" the coach called from the front. "Something wrong? Am I bothering you?" He had one of those voices that could clear a stadium.
"Jason's got a boner, Coach!" Brad blurted out.
Snickers and guffaws from the assembled players.
"Pay attention, guys," Coach Arnold instructed the two troublemakers.
"I am, sir," Jason said with a grin. He nodded at his penis. It was starting to subside.
Coach gave them a "You two will never grow up" look. "All right, everyone. Hit the showers. Remember, practice tomorrow at four on the field... as long as it doesn't rain."
The gym filled with sighs of relief and the squeaking of shoe rubber. Most of the guys were starving.
"You two," he said, pointing at Jason and Brad with the rolled-up coaching magazine he always seemed to have in his hand. The boys wondered if he ever actually read it. "I need to speak with you."
"Listen, Coach," Jason said. "I'm sorry. Sometimes I just get distracted. You know how it is. It has a life of its own. I'll start wearing a strap if you want."
"I don't want to talk about your pecker, Jason. I have a favor to ask."
"Anything, Coach," Brad said. "What can we do you for?"
"The new chaplain needs some help getting some pews moved into the chapel. I was wondering if you wouldn't mind heading over there with a couple of the other guys and putting your backs into it."
"Ah. Is this a favor for the wifey?" Brad winked, nudging at the coach's ribcage.
Coach Arnold swatted him on the arm playfully. "Lynn is not my wife. The chaplain is a friend of hers. She just asked a favor, is all."
"Coach, I'm starving," Jason complained, rubbing his stomach to gain more sympathy. "Can't it wait until after we eat?"
"Get the hell over there and help out."
"I thought this was a favor!" Brad said.
"It was. Now it's an order. Scram, hooligans! I'll be over there as soon as I lock up the office."
The boys left, Brad tackling Jason as they went, laughing and joking all the way. Coach Arnold--Chip to his friends--remembered those days. The days when everything was a joke or could be made into one. Jason and Brad were especially good at making situations into jokes. He liked the two of them. They were always there when he needed help with something. In fact, he always went to them first. They could easily talk, bargain, or fool their teammates into pitching in.
They liked Lynn. Coach thought it was possible they liked Lynn more than he did. She was pretty and kind. Very amiable. A literature professor at the school. "Wifey"? No. He could never see himself with her in the long term. This was just a "thing." This was an experiment, a test. At least it was for him. He suspected she saw it as the same. He was certain he felt the slightest drawback when they kissed, as if she were wincing. But why would she wince? He was a great kisser. And he was hot... wasn't he? He wasn't so sure anymore. He'd been at Verona College for a few years now, and his nights had been for the most part uneventful. He had gone out with other women besides Lynn, but it had never been anything more than sex. Sometimes not even hot sex. Scratch that: most of the time not even hot sex. It was small-town sex, deprived of oxygen. He felt he was in a rut but didn't know why or how to get out of it.
His office was a mess. Coaching didn't give him a lot of time to clean things up. There were books and papers in the chairs, and the desk looked like a cluttered disaster zone. He threw the coaching magazine onto the desk with everything else.
One would think that with the amount of clutter he collected, the sheer mess of his surroundings would mean he lived an eventful, exciting life. One would be wrong. Some days he couldn't differentiate Monday from Friday. Some days everything just sort of blended. He realized his contradiction. He liked order and routine. He was raised to like it. But too much of the same thing, day in and day out, started making him feel old. Only the team made it worth it. With the team, there was focus. He wouldn't notice the hours ticking away from him.
Lynn was fine. But that's all. "Fine" was just another word for "Meh, why not?" There was no passion to their relationship, and they both knew it. What had they done last night? They'd hung out at his off-campus apartment and watched a movie... on opposite ends of the couch. They were like a married couple who had grown bored of each other. Chip had to admit, though, that it wasn't her fault. He bored easily. His whole life he had been bored. It had been a long race to get to the next thing, because the next thing had to be better than this.
"Hey, Coach Hot Ass." The words came from the doorway where Katie Hammond, the women's track coach, leaned in. She wore her usual jogging suit. (One of the reasons she liked Chip so much was because he dressed unassumingly. He looked as frumpy as she did some days.) Her blonde hair was tied back in a ponytail a little too tight, a look that didn't flatter her broad face. Still, she was who she was: a loud, fun-loving former farm gal who really couldn't give two shits about what anyone thought of her. Chip admired that. She was shorter than most of the track team and resembled more of a wrestler than a track-and-field enthusiast. Chip had pointed this out to her once at a bar when they were both very drunk. She'd nearly broken his nose.
"Hey, Katie. What's up, Chicken?"
"Want to get something to eat? I'm buying."
"Sorry to tell you this, but we get our meals for free."
"Well, then, all the better for me, huh? What do ya say?" She gestured impatiently as if to usher him out the door.
"Can't. I promised to help put the new pews in the chapel. But you can give me a ride on that golf cart of yours, if you don't mind." He was locking his office door even as he spoke.
"It would be my pleasure." She took hold of his arm. "Finding God, huh?"
"No, just his pews. Someone left them in front of the chapel."
Katie's golf cart was an indulgence out of her own pocket. The school allowed her to drive on the sidewalks and roads of the campus after she had told them her knees were so banged up due to the years she had led Verona College to victory as a student that she couldn't walk long distances without extreme pain. It wasn't true. She just really wanted a golf cart, and the campus was a place to get some quality use out of it.
Chip held to the roof of the vehicle as they took off down the sidewalk. He had ridden along with her enough to know that to not hang onto something meant a ticket to the infirmary. Katie drove like a person with a golf cart on a small college campus should drive: crazily and dangerously. She thought that if you were smart enough to get into Verona College in the first place, you were smart enough to know to step out of her way when she beeped her horn. She had been chastised by faculty members on many occasions... well, the faculty members she personally targeted, anyway. And boy, did she target! There were a few professors who irritated her so much that when she saw them walking to or from class she went for it, revving the engine until she was right on their heels and they fled cursing. She had even chased a few around the quadrangle to the cheers of the students. Chip would never admit to it aloud, but he had loved witnessing it. Once he had even been a passenger when she had gone after one of her prey. It had been marvelous! The highlight of his week.
"It's the gears," she'd always say. "The damn gears get stuck. It's an old cart. All I could afford. I'll get it fixed some day."
If anyone believed her, they shouldn't have been teaching. But she was a great coach, the winningest in the state. The college couldn't afford to lose her to a competitor. Besides, they were scared of what she would do to them if they ever did fire her.
"Hey," she said to Chip as they raced past wary professors and students. "Have you met this new chaplain?" There was a note of mystery in her voice, as if she knew something he didn't.
"No. He's a friend of Lynn's from high school."
"A romantic friend?" She gave him an oblique look of playful caution.
"I don't know. I don't think so. I mean, he's a chaplain, right? Aren't they all married to the church or something?"
"Oh hell, who knows these days." And then, "Oh!"
"What? What's wrong?"
"There's that bitch, Professor Bible-thumper! My brake just went out...."
* * * *
Foster swept the chapel steps as he waited for the promised help to arrive. He had finished sweeping the inside of the chapel, sending the dirt and debris scurrying out the door, though the floor was so stained and old that one could hardly tell the difference. Who knew how long it had been there? He was sweeping away ancient dust. It almost seemed wrong to brush it out into the clear air of the campus.
A few students and faculty had stopped in to say hello and introduce themselves. He had met these with varying degrees of pleasantry or awkwardness. Some people didn't know how to carry themselves in front of others. Some people were just uncomfortable in their own skin and had to push themselves to make an effort socially. Foster was of the latter, but he did his best.
As Foster swept the last bit of old dust from the steps, the president of Verona College, Wendell Hall, announced his arrival with a hearty "Hello there!" Wendell had a waddle, not a stride. He was a portly man with many quirks. Foster found the most interesting and humorous of these to be the way the man stuttered the word "well" whenever he was nervous or caught off guard. "Well, well, well, well, well, I don't know if that's a good idea," or "Well, well, well, well, well, are we sure we want to invite that particular group to perform at Homecoming?"
"Good day, sir," Foster answered, resting the broom against a column. "Looks like rain, huh?"
The older man looked to the sky as if he had just noticed this fact. "Well, yes. You may be right. How are you settling in?" He stood in front of the chaplain, balancing on his heels with his hands deep in his pockets. He breathed like a clogged pipe.
"Fine. Just waiting on a few helpers to move the pews inside."
Wendell seemed surprised at the sight of the pews, as if they had appeared suddenly, out of nowhere. "Yes, yes. Would probably be for the best to get those in." With a smile, he leaned in and said, "You don't want those damn trustees on your back about not taking care of the things that they allocated the money to get you."
"I just said 'damn' to a man of God. What a damned ass I am!"
Foster couldn't help but laugh at the sweet man. "It's all right. There's not a thing wrong with a few well-placed curse words."
This made Wendell smile. "Damn right! Good man."
"I wanted to thank you again for offering me the position. I don't know where I would have gone if this hadn't come through."
"Well, you came highly recommended. Professor Hewes speaks very highly of you." His eyes drifted to the ground, his brow pressed in thought. "Are you two, uh... I mean.... Well, well, well--"
"No, sir. No, we're not."
Wendell grunted and nodded. That was the end of that line of questioning.
A voice, not so loud as to lose its elegance, caught both of their attentions. "Foster!" it cried. Professor Lynn Hewes cut across the grass of the quadrangle toward them. She was lucky it hadn't rained yet, or her heels might have been swallowed up by the earth.
"That used to be illegal," Wendell said as an aside to the chaplain.
"Cutting across the grass. It wasn't allowed when the college opened. It was a rule implemented by those damn trustees."
Lynn was a lovely woman, girlish and grinning. Her eyes were bright and big and reminded Foster of the actresses he had seen in old silent movies. Hers were very expressive eyes. He'd seen them cry buckets before. Her red hair was feathered in a retro chic style. She carried a small briefcase in one hand and her purse over the opposite shoulder. Her heels did sink into the grass as she hurried along. "Foster! Aren't you excited? Your very first sermon at Verona College this Sunday." It was a rhetorical question. She looked at the president. "Hello, Wendell."
"Professor Hewes," he grunted in recognition.
"Wendell was keeping me company until help arrived," Foster said.
"They should be here soon," Lynn said. "I asked Coach Arnold for some help. He's bringing along a few of his players."
"Well, then, you should have these pews moved in very quickly indeed," the president said. "I should get back to my office. I'm sure they've brought me things to do." With that, he excused himself courteously and waddled away, hands still deep in his pockets so that he looked like a very large duckling.
Foster and Lynn sat on the steps of the chapel. "Is this the same coach you're seeing?" Foster asked.
"Dating, yes. Though I can't say for how much longer." She clutched the briefcase on her lap like a desk.
"Would you like to talk about it?"
She tilted her head and bit her lip, as if giving the question deep thought. "He's a nice enough man. Very sweet. But there's just something missing."
"Is the sex not hot? Is he not the whore you thought he was?"
Lynn laughed in faux shock and swatted Foster on the forearm. "The sex is great... well, good. Fine. The sex is fine. It might be great if I were another woman. I just don't think we're that into one another. He does have legs like steel clamps, though."
"Well, that's something! Very hot."
"Yeah. But it's not enough. Besides, look at my face."
Foster could see nothing wrong with her face, except a slight blush around the mouth. Hardly noticeable. "It's as lovely as ever."
"It's a horrible rash. Every time we make out, I break out. He's bristly and I'm sensitive. There's symbolism there."
"I moisturize ten times a day. I'm practically a Dove bar." She sighed. "What about you? No new man?"
"No. Not for a while now. Not even a date. I almost joined a monastery."
"Well, maybe we can find you one around here." The ring of doubt could not be concealed.
"I'm not looking." Foster wondered if it wasn't a good idea to be celibate for the rest of his life. Relationships were such trouble. If he joined a monastery somewhere, he could give all his love to making honey or baking bread. He'd be the most passionate bread baker in the world.
"So, where are those ball players anyway?" he said.
* * * *
Leave it to Brad to recommend they start singing hymns on the way to the chapel. Jason thought the idea was hysterical and convinced the other three ball players to sing along. Even Trevor Moore. (Well, not so much convince as threaten.) And sing they did. As robustly as they could. Not a giggler in the lot, they passed by snickering students singing "Hallelujah" in the key of Off. They clapped their hands and shouted the words at every passer-by. This was what Jason adored about Brad: his ability to take any moment and wring every last drop of fun from it.
"Well done, brothers," Brad said, at last tired of shouting. "I think we've changed a few lives here today. Praise Jesus!"
"Praise Jesus!" Jason echoed.
Trevor Moore, not wanting to stop the praising, started in a rendition of "Chapel of Love," which was summarily squelched by Brad with a look. "Dude, you're a douche bag," Brad said.
"What? Not ready to tell the rest of campus about your impending nuptials to Jason?" Trevor was fine in small doses (which was how many thought of Brad as well), but Brad saw him as nothing more than a tagalong most of the time. Tagalongs were okay as long as they knew their place: tagging along. Anything more than that was the height of douche-baggery, to Brad's way of thinking.
Brad swung and hit Trevor on the shoulder. It was play, but play tinged with warning.
"That fucking hurt!" Trevor yelled. The other guys laughed.
"Ah, sorry, man," Brad said sarcastically. "Just a love tap, babes."
"Is that what you get every night, Jason?" Trevor was rubbing his shoulder. "Love taps. I bet he gives it to you hard, huh?"
The statement was meant to be a joke, and everyone smiled and laughed. But Jason gave it some thought. In truth, Brad had never really hurt him. Every other guy on campus had received at least one substantial bruising from him, but not Jason. It was a fleeting thought, probably something insignificant. Still, when he looked at Brad after Trevor had spoken, there was a twinkle of embarrassment in his eyes like he had just been discovered.
To save his reputation, Brad took off after Trevor, and the latter, being a smaller guy, dodged him with quicker movements.
"Stop, man! Stop! I'm sorry. Jeez!"
That sufficed for the time being, although Brad added another "Douche bag" just to reiterate and establish once and for all that Trevor was indeed a douche bag.
The familiar (and to some, terrifying) sound of Coach Katie's golf cart focused everyone's attention elsewhere. The nasal horn of the cart of menace announced her presence as she sped through the small group of boys, who scattered like hysterical birds.
"Move it or lose it, boys," she said as she plowed through with Coach Arnold in the passenger seat.
"Get the lead out, fellas!" Coach Arnold said.
"Nice!" Jason called after them. "Where's our ride?"