LADS IN AMERICA: “Sweetener”

Read the previous chapters of this novel in the works here

The tall, Liverpool-bred entity that approached the field wore a red polo and bore iced coffees fro Starbucks. At first Cameron wasn’t sure if this really was ave Madison.

“Cheers,” he said, grabbing the coffees off the tray and handing them out to his coworkers.

“Well, well,” Dave greeted in a scruffled voice. “Mr. Carlson’s back and looking miraculously well!”

“Well, well,” Cameron uneasily began, through sips of coffee for security, ” I am incredibly well.”

“I’m not following.”

“A pun, sir.” He took a longer sip. Javier was coming around to grab himself a drink.

“Thanks, Dave. Thank God Cameron’s back, yeah?” Dave kept his glare onto Cameron. “He’s back I reckon,” he was saying to Javier, “but how has he been on the field so far?”

“All’s good,” Javier replied, a sip of his own. “More parents sitting around to watch today, kids are really getting into the games now that they’re all familiar with them.”

“Well of course, they’re just kids. But what’s your take on today Cam?”

The iced coffee was running hot in his mouth. “Felt like I’m back into the groove of everything.”

“You’ve missed out on quite a few days there, mate.” Mate. Dangerous ground.

“No doubt Javé told you sir. Called me and as far as I know he let you know.”

“Any reason why I had to find out about your illness through Javier?”

Like a miracle Lee and Ethan Yates were heading over for their share of the drinks. Curtly they greeted Dave Madison, whose tone seemed to lighten up. “Didn’t want us to overheat did you Dave?” Ethan asked.

“Certainly not,” Dave Madison agreed. ” Heat is liability. It’s  bad enough it threatened to close camps this week.”

“Let’s hope at least parents sunscreened and hydrated their kids loads,” Lee observed. “Well, Cam’s feeling better again, we can handle anything!”

“Doing pretty decent though without his help,” Madison said. “If we needed him so desperately we would have pressed him to get better rather than left him alone.”

“That would be rude, sir.” Rick’s sarcasm hung dead between the gathering. He also had a sip of coffee.

In the way that Cameron was slightly terrified to look at his menacing superior, he also stared him clear in the eye, even with the sun stinging his glare from behind Madison. “Just glad to be back and with the lads here, sir,” he started. “Just so sorry I had to miss out on some great action it sounded like, from what they’ve been telling.”

“Oh yeah?”Madison remarked.

“Sure. Rick said a lad on Monday bicycle-kicked, his first day and in his whole life. Don’t believe him of course for being Rick as a witness nor for a six-year-old, then again that’s something I’ll always be haunted by for having gotten so sick. I think it’s a shame.”

“It sure was Cam,” Rick cut in, in an obviously snide tone his colleague, and surely Madison, caught onto. “Oh the things we’ve seen you couldn’t have fallen ill at a worse time than now mate!”

“No, I couldn’t have.” This was all going nowhere and if Madison wasn’t aggravated by now, God bless. “I may be better off now but one thing’s certain, about not getting back the hours of work the next pay will show.” He laughed uneasily at this– this awkward attempt to rationalize no one would have wanted to miss the payroll for one of the best weeks for hours, that second week of July. Would Madison buy it? Hopefully.

The break was over and the children regrouped around their coaches, all but one. Cameron stayed to the side with Dave Madison.

“That sure is a fine pay you won’t be seeing lad, ” he spoke, eyes fixated on the lines of little heads dressed below in the neon meshes that Javier had brought. “Terribly ill fated, your illness Cameron. Especially as one of the more experienced young men whom many of this summer’s recruits look up to.”

“It happens to the best of us.”

“Suppose it does. Really, a bright lad if I saw one. Never more than a beer with the lads and quick to discipline some nasty brats on the field, and somehow no complaints from their parents. With every family you’ve stayed with since you first came to us last year there hasn’t been one bad remark on your behalf. Well, guess I’m saying is we’re right lucky to have you.”

Cameron said nothing.

“You better be on your way then. Or stay behind, see how well these boys say they’ve managed without you. You’ve heard me, glad to see you’re recovered, lad.”

Cameron nodded with a thanks and started off in an awkward jog to the other coaches. Madison wasn’t finished. “I hope the Redmonds are enjoying their cruise.”

“They said they sure are, sir. Thankfully I caught on sick at the best time to house sit! Ward off any of the younger lads from crashing in with reckless notions to party there.”

Dave was looking down at his phone now, and Cameron wasn’t sure how much longer he would be staying at the field. But he kept his gaze down and his feet moving towards his car in the opposite direction, not before responding to Cameron, “Glad they could check in with you then, before you could figure out to check in with us.”

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