Box Drill

       “Stand him up!” Coach Abbot yelled. He was a big man, a former defensive guard in college, with a burr haircut and a huge, fat head sitting square on his shoulders. As part of our initiation into the hardships of manhood, Abbot had the freshmen manning the box—a small square formed with four traffic cones—as the much larger upperclassmen ran at us one at a time from about ten yards away. And that was Abbot’s advice to me—“Stand him up!”—as the big senior fullback came charging in low and smashed into me with his helmet and shoulders. I flew backwards through the air, landing about five feet behind the box, but at least I kept my feet.
       “No, no, no,” Coach Abbot shook his head in disgust. “That’s not it at all. I told you to stand him up. Stand your ground, and when he comes at you, hit him right square in the jaw with your forearm and stand him right up. Then throw him aside.”
       It seemed rather unlikely: the upperclassmen were too big, and they were coming at me too fast. But I was game, so I got back in the box. That was the rule, you see: You had to keep taking these hits until you were able to stay in the box and not fly out. The charge came and I tried to do as Abbot said.
       Same result. But maybe I only flew back four feet this time, so I felt I was improving.
       “Pathetic!” Abbot said. “Come here, boy,” he said, grabbing me by the face mask and pulling me along to the head of the upperclassmen’s line. He was going to do me a favor and demonstrate the proper technique. Accordingly, he took his stance in the box.
       “Now come at me low,” he said from his crouch, “about quarter speed.” I did as I was told, trotting on up to him. He pounced at me and jacked me right in the chin with his forearm, good and hard. It hurt like hell, and stood me up, sure enough. Then, with his free hand, Abbot smacked me on the side of the helmet, sending me sprawling to the ground.
       “There you go,” Abbot said as I staggered to my feet. “Very simple. You got it now?”
       “Yeah, I think I got it,” I said, still a bit dazed, as I took my place in the box.
       The guy who came at me this time was the biggest one yet. It was Kruger, linebacker and captain of the defensive squad. Mean and ugly, he gritted his teeth, stamped his feet, and then roared as he charged—and laid me out flat on my back. I got up slowly and stumbled back to the box, ready to go again. But Abbot had seen enough. “You’re through,” he said, giving me the thumb. “Back of the line.” Then he gave Kruger a smack on the ass: “Good work, son.”
       Next in line was Bobby Mercer, a plump, goofy, freckle-faced kid. He was a far worse player even than me. But Mercer was a kind of a joker, a class clown. That’s how he got by. A huge, lumbering offensive tackle ran at him. Mercer gritted his teeth and acted like he was going to seriously stand the guy up. But then, at the last moment, Mercer stepped aside, tripping and shoving the charging giant as he did so, sending the latter sliding face-first along the grass.
       Everybody laughed. Except Abbot, who was furious. “GODDAMMIT!!” he screamed. “That’s the sorriest-ass shit I ever seen in my life!”
       He made Mercer stay in the box for ten or twelve hits, until he had been knocked almost senseless.

+     +     +

       Since the upperclassmen were allowed to shower first, me and the other freshmen had to wait around in the locker room while they took their time about it. So we wouldn’t be bored, Coach Abbot decided to give us a little pep talk. He was quite disappointed by our recent performance:
       “What a bunch of pansies! This has got to be the worst freshman class I have ever seen in all my years of coaching!” Then he went on about how we were supposed to be real tough and kick everybody else’s asses, employing the time-tested virtues of teamwork, sacrifice and self-discipline. It was a pretty good talk, I have to admit—pretty rousing and inspirational—as far as that sort of thing goes.
       But not everyone seemed convinced. Over in the corner, out of Abbot’s line of sight, Mercer was snickering and cutting up, poking and annoying the boy next to him on the bench who was trying to listen to the speech.
       “You have to be mentally tough to succeed at this game,” Abbot went on. “This game is won or lost in your mind, and in the mind of your opponent. You’ve got to suck it up, and learn to play with the pain.”
       Then he turned, and caught a glimpse of Mercer’s antics. Enraged, he rushed upon Mercer, seizing the boy by the throat and lifting him off the bench, smashing him against the metal lockers and flinging him to the floor. The big man stood over Mercer where he lay crumpled between the bench and the lockers. “You listen when I’m talking to you, boy!” Abbot bellowed. “You think this is a joke?”
       “No sir!” a frightened Mercer stammered.
       “Anybody else see anything funny?” Abbot demanded, scanning the room, his fists clenched.
       No one did. Or if they did, they sure as hell weren’t going to say so. Satisfied that he was still in control, Abbot ended his presentation with a question and answer session:
       “Are you men?” he inquired.
       “Yes, coach!” we all assured him.
       “I can’t hear you!”
       “YES, COACH!!”
       Though I tried to fake it, yelling along with the others, by this point I was less than enthusiastic.
       Finally, we were allowed to shower. I had just barely gotten soaped up, when Coach Abbot came strolling into the shower room, fully clothed. Out of all the boys in the room, he singled me out for ridicule.
       “Hey, get a load of Snow White!” he taunted, pointing at me. He called me this because I have blond hair and very pale skin.
       “Get out and get some sun on your body, boy,” he continued. “You look like a goddamn corpse or something.”
       “I’ve tried that,” I explained. “All I do is burn.”
       “Is that so?” he said, clearly not believing me. “Hmmph.”
       At that moment, foolishly enough, Mercer entered the shower room. As I said, Mercer was rather plump. But naked, you could see that he hadn’t lost his baby fat. His body was soft and round, unmuscular, and he had pouches of fat that resembled a woman’s breasts. He had no body hair, and apparently hadn’t matured sexually. His dick and balls were tiny, like a baby’s.
       I breathed a sigh of relief as Abbot turned his attention to Mercer, eyeing his body up and down in wonderment. Finally, he exclaimed, “Goddamn, boy! You’re almost a woman!”
       Mercer didn’t say anything, just grinned a stupid grin, though he seemed to squirm a bit under such scrutiny. “Jesus H. Christ!” Abbot shook his head, “I can’t believe the size of that peter.”
       Then Abbot had a brilliant idea. “You wait right here,” he told Mercer as he left the shower room. He was back in a flash, leading another naked freshman by the arm. It was Andy Baldwin. Whether Abbot had found him naked, or had forced him to undress, I have no idea. But the point was obvious. Though of average physique, Baldwin had a real whopper between his legs, the biggest I had ever seen. Abbot positioned Baldwin next to Mercer, then stepped back to admire his handiwork. “Look at the contrast,” he said.
       So, what to do next? Abbot popped his head out of the shower room and, spying Kruger the linebacker, yelled, “Kruger! Get the team in here!” And by that he meant the upperclassmen. He was oblivious to the several freshmen already present.
       Kruger ushered the upperclassmen in for a look. Luckily, most of them had already left the locker room, but the attraction still drew a good crowd. “Compare and contrast, gentlemen,” Abbot said with what sounded like pride, as the upperclassmen filed by in various states of undress. Some of them, of course, thought the whole business was idiotic, and left immediately. But others showed an undue interest in Mercer’s dick:
       “It’s like a little button on there. What’s your girlfriend say about that?” one of them remarked.
       “Hell, you think he’s got a girlfriend?” another said.
       “How you fuck with that, boy?”
       “How you even jack off?”
       Their remarks concerning Baldwin’s endowment were a bit more complimentary:
       “Goddamn! Ten inches soft!”
       “Ten inches, hell! It’s a goddamn foot!”
       “Man, I’d sure be popular with the ladies if I had that equipment,” Kruger the linebacker said.
       “You wouldn’t be popular with the ladies if you had two of ’em!” one of his buddies taunted.
       “You’d have to go around with it hanging out of your pants!” another jeered.
       “You’d have to wear it on your face to attract ’em!”
       And on and on. I couldn’t believe this shit. I was just minding my own business, trying to finish up my shower. But it was rough: The place was damn crowded now, and everybody was laughing and joking around, upperclassmen and freshmen alike, and Coach Abbot more than anyone. Even Mercer and Baldwin were laughing, though it was clear their laughter was forced. I was embarrassed for them.
       On the other hand, there was a part of me that found the matter humorous too, in a sick sort of way. I’ve always been a smartass, and before I could stop myself, the words were already out of my mouth: “Hey Coach!” I yelled, “Why don’t you just go ahead and suck them off? You know you want to!”
       I couldn’t believe I’d said it, and I cringed even as I did so, expecting an immediate beating. “You shut the fuck up!” Abbot said, advancing towards me. But then he checked himself, rethought his position: Maybe my remark caused him to realize that he’d stepped over a line somewhere.
       Anyway, that put an end to that. Abbot sent the upperclassmen out of the shower room. Most of the freshmen left as well. Mercer left without having a shower.
       Then Abbot turned to me. I suppose he felt he had to make some sort of attempt to justify his actions. After all, I could have run and told the principal. “I hope you know you just interrupted a very serious scientific study,” he offered lamely.
       “Oh really?” I said. “And I thought it was something else entirely.”
       “Goddamn you, Snow White!” Abbot yelled in my face. “I told you to shut the fuck up! And if you don’t like it you can just get the hell off my team!”
       Well, I wasn’t going to bend down for the soap, that’s for sure. I waited until I was sure Coach Abbot was out of the locker room, then I rushed to my locker, got my clothes on, and got the hell out of there.
       I badly needed a cigarette after that, and as soon as I got to the parking lot I lit up. Since it was long after school was over, the lot was nearly deserted. But Bobby Mercer was still out there, sitting on the hood of his car and looking off into the distance. I had to go out of my way to get to him, and he didn’t acknowledge my presence even when I was right up on him. I looked at him and shook my head in bewilderment, and said, “I sure am glad to be out of there. How ’bout you?”
       I don’t know what I expected from him. A joke, I guess. Instead, he finally looked at me and said, “You really shouldn’t smoke, you know. It affects your wind.”
       I took Coach Abbot’s advice and quit the team soon after that. I was never going to be any good at football anyway. Andy Baldwin quit even sooner than I did, apparently able to think of better uses for his dick. Porno movies come to mind. As for Mercer, he must have found something redeeming in the experience, as he hung around for the full four years.

Ed Hamilton

Ed Hamilton is the author of Legends of the Chelsea Hotel: Living with the Artists and Outlaws of New York’s Rebel Mecca (DaCapo, 2007). His fiction has appeared in various journals, including Limestone, The Journal of Kentucky Studies, River Walk Journal, Exquisite Corpse, and Modern Drunkard. His non-fiction has appeared in The Villager, Chelsea Now, the Huffington Post, and, more recently, in the Czech Republic’s Host, Germany’s Zwiebelfisch, and the anthology Experienced: Rock Music Tales of Fact and Fiction (Vagabondage Press, LLC 2011). Follow his blog here.

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