BOYS IN AMERICA: “The Old Mates”

Rick was called by the other coaches a pedo. Everyone’s guilty of pop star infatuations, but Lorde was still sixteen. It was a term of endearment and a fanciful tease of a guy like Rick to openly fall for someone so young and brooding in style as her. They wouldn’t question Rihanna or Katy Perry– maybe think he was gay if it were Gaga– but “pedo” for the summer would suffice. He helplessly owned up to it too. Naturally it was “Royals” blaring from the car he came up in with his recent partner Ethan Yates. As the red Chevy crunched to a still on the parking lot gravel, Cameron thought to himself how at least his little disappearance fortunately got him away from Rick for a while.

It wasn’t too bad of a day out on the Danville field this Friday afternoon. A warm breeze skimmed the deep green field, just out from when he had last seen it. Young oaks were planted around its outskirts and along little hedges of dying confederate jasmine gapped between the sprawling field and the parking lot. In their last breath they gave out a scent so strong that it could be smelled by the young men just on the other side. Danville was straight up country and something out of the prairie west. To Cameron it felt like one of those towns he’d driven through last summer when he and some of the other coaches went up to Lake Tahoe.

He would be on the field today with Rick, Ethan, Lee, and Sean. Since Sean and Lee had been working together the past two weeks, Cameron panicked at seeing Lee, not knowing whether Sean told him anything.

“How’s it going, matey boy?” Lee greeted. His white summer kit was wrinkled and had a small tear on the left seam line that slightly grew when Lee gave out his hand to shake. “All well?”

Cameron nodded and warmly replied, “Felt like shit. But I’m good now. Hope you didn’t let things go riot ’round here whilst I was out.” Good Lee, Cameron wished he’d told him about leaving rather than Rick. He and Ethan’s car were still blasting music causing the other boys to speak a bit louder.

“That’s the fun part,” Lee continued. “We wouldn’t have wanted you to miss out on any of it! Just the heat. The heat’s horrendous right about now.”
Sean came over to join them, bearing with him mesh orange bags filled with soccer balls and plastic neon blue discs to be used as markers throughout the field. “This is nothing until September! You guys know that,” he said. He started to open the mesh for the markers and repeatedly flung them at Lee. “Yo! Let’s go put these out.”

“Don’t nee to kill me with them!” Lee shouted back, though not annoyed. “Cameron just got back, we might as well just go out for proper breakfast now than start off with more sessions. Ugh, spoke too soon– see some kids now.

“What’s the game for today?” Cameron asked, kicking about a ball he stole out of Sean’s bag.

“Good question,” Sean replied. Game plan was usually planned at the second it was asked about. “Well I wanted to get around to some passing games. Swamp Monster?”

Lee shrugged. “Eh, that’s good. And we can throw in some Sleepy Pirate for time, then scrimmage games.”

“Who’s going to be the sleepy Pirate this time?” With his luck Cameron dreaded the answer.

“Not me!” Rick and Ethan now were with them after having quickly assembled their side of the field. “The grass gets kicked up in your face. Hate that!”

“What can we say Ricky boy,” Ethan began, “the summer lads get first in everything, even games.”

“Kids love you anyway!” Cameron added with a slight laugh.

“Well I don’t love them,” Rick replied rather stiffly. “I can’t even handle my own twelve-year-old sister.”

“If you wanted to honestly see the world Ricky boy, you shouldn’t have taken a job working with kids.” Sean made a point. “Could have just backpacked it or something, your own fault.”

“Well, backpacking doesn’t pay me now, does it?”

“Touche Rick.” Lee said this in a lighthearted tone to which only Cameron could really pick up a sense of worry beneath. Though Cameron was on his second year out in America with EYSI, Lee had been there longer. The first summer that Cameron came out was Lee’s fifth. He never really knew why Lee had stayed doing soccer for so long.

Rick didn’t know how long any of his colleagues had actually been working there and he didn’t give a shit. Before he arrived, there had been Alexes and Robs and Allistairs and Toms– all under twenty-one and on a holiday like temp summer with EYSI for a quick chance to get out of the UK and see America. You never got attached to those guys. And so the rest of the boys humored them in the short summer working together.

Kids were piling onto the field until they were all lined up on the green appropriately with their teams from the day before. Just camps, on these hot but dry weekdays. Drills, scrimmages, and more drills– practices that made the likes of Cameron numb to a sport he was passionate about. Not that hatred would ever happen, likely. But those beginnings moments of dread when seeing a swarm of children brought back an urge to disappear again. But at least he wasn’t the pirate when it came to. Rick could talk and talk, but the summer lads virtually had no say. All was laughs and dirt in the Pirate’s face much to his dismay.

And then Dave Madison arrived.

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