The dashboard clock read 6:15am as the high energy noise of morning talk radio boomed from the speakers of a gargantuan white pickup truck careening around the speed bumps of the empty parking lot of a suburban high school. It abruptly double parked in a section marked “Student Parking” right next to a dew soaked field with a large sign near the street that featured the school’s mascot, a red-skinned Native American wearing a headdress and smoking a peace pipe, under which it read “Go Indians!” which is incidentally a famous quote by President Andrew Jackson. As he rolled down the front windows, the driver felt the early morning humidity of Louisiana kiss his sunburnt cheeks. The foliage around him echoed with the songs of morning birds as the distracted driver, gulping down the blonde roast coffee from his travel mug, turned up the volume of the radio. His morning workout had not exhausted him. He needed his coffee to endure the tiresome teens he taught. It was a Monday, and he was the first one there. Coach Todd was always the first.
Students chattered in their classroom seats as the bell rang, marking the beginning of first period. Their teacher was not present. With no maestro to conduct them, the students became louder and louder until the door finally swung open, and in walked the coach. He stood in the doorway and glared as the room became silent. The students stared at his imperial posture, his bright white tennis shoes with ankle socks peeking out, his hairless legs, his beer gut lifting up the polyester blue shirt tucked into his khaki shorts, and his blue visor that jutted out over his angry face which became progressively redder towards the nose that resembled a large, swollen strawberry.
“Yeah, Coach Todd!” screamed a jock in a letterman jacket. The coach was not amused.
“Ms. Turner called in sick today,” growled the coach, putting his messenger bag on the teacher’s desk. He pulled out a binder and looked for the lesson he was supposed to try to teach.
“So,” he said, “I’m supposed to go over Lesson 9 with y’all which is about… oh, no.” Coach Todd looked down at an illustration of female anatomy. “I ain’t teaching this shit,” he said. “Look, I know the modern view is that sex can be safe and fun or even hygienic, but lemme tell y’all, people don’t get pregnant from storks. God made sex so ladies could get pregnant. But women don’t want to have enough sex to sustain the population, so that’s why we have marriage. And that’s where sex belongs: in marriage.”
The students pretended not to laugh. “All you boys playing video games and jerking off are wasting precious resources,” he scolded. “That’s why you’re fat and lazy. You’re wearing down your spine doing that. Masterbation is addictive and, if you do it enough, you’ll run out of seed and start shooting out sand. And meanwhile, we’re losing to the Japanese. They wait to have sex. Hell, when Japs finally get to it, the man squirts like a fire hose…I’ve heard.”
The students tried their hardest to suppress their desire to laugh out loud.
“And, you know, since they took God out of the schools and started teaching that we ain’t nothing but monkeys, it’s no surprise that people in the cities started acting like animals,” the coach said. “Abstinence teaches you discipline.”
The coach looked around the room at the diverse array of students. “Anyway, I guess it’s really up to your parents to teach you about sex,” he said. “But if you don’t have discipline, you don’t have boundaries, you don’t have work ethic, you end up being a loser,” he said. “So stay hard.”
When the grueling lesson was over, Coach Todd retreated to the teacher’s lounge to fill his travel mug with more coffee. The other teachers stared at him in their shirts and ties and sweaters and glasses.
“Good morning, Coach Miller,” said an older female teacher.
“Good morning, …” said the coach forgetting her name.
“You get here awfully early, don’t you?” she asked.
The coach sampled a donut. “What can I say?” he said. “I rise with the sun.”
A science teacher snickered at that remark, but the female teacher remained polite.
“So is the team ready for the homecoming game?” she asked.
“Well, West Monroe has a mean team this year. They’re undefeated,” said Coach Todd. “But our guys are tough. As long as they get enough support from the fans, we’ll pull it off for sure.”
“Well I hope so,” said the female teacher. Her name was Ms. Stephens by the way.
When the school day ended, Coach Todd exited the building and walked past the metal detectors and armed sheriff’s deputies outside where he sported his blue sunglasses. The parking lot was lined with parents picking up kids in SUVs, the big kind and the bigger kind. The coach had spent the day trying to improve the minds of youth, and now it was time to destroy some. The football team was already warming up on the field. As he walked towards them, a deputy stopped him.
“Excuse me, sir. Is that your truck?” he asked pointing to the double parked pickup.
“Yeah. I like to park it by the practice field,” the coach replied.
“Sir, you know that’s student parking,” said the cop. “I’m gonna have to ask you to move your vee-hickle.”
The coach was shocked. “Look, there’s parents everywhere. I need to get out to the field,” he implored.
“Move your vee-hickle!” commanded the officer.
“All right,” said the coach.
He got in his truck and drove it across the muddy field past the practice to park in front of a Papa John’s pizzeria across the street. In front he saw a pretty-looking mother and her young son exiting a Chevy Tahoe which he parked politely next to.
“Hey, Ms. Davis!” he called out to the mom. She looked over and smiled back.
“Hi, Coach Todd,” she replied. “I don’t know if you’ve met Ashton’s brother Sebastian.”
“Hey, buddy!” the coach said cheerfully.
“I don’t like being called that!” scoffed Sebastian.
“Don’t be rude!” she scolded slapping him on the shoulder.
“Sorry, his psychiatrist says he has anger issues,” she explained. “We’re trying to get him to do karate and see if that helps.”
The coach noticed a studio with a sign reading “Kyle’s Karate” above the Papa John’s.
“Yeah, I suppose physical activity is good for keeping a boy out of trouble,” he said. “So, are you guys gonna be at the homecoming game?”
“Yeah, of course,” said Ms. Davis.
“Well, uh, what are you guys doing after?” he asked.
“We’ll probably go out for pizza,” she said, “as usual.”
“Oh, well, is Mr. Davis gonna come to the game cause I know he goes on a lot of business trips?” asked the coach nervously.
“Uh, he might be,” said Ms. Davis uncomfortably.
“Oh, well I uh…”
Just then, a tall man in a white karate gi with a blonde ponytail and earrings walked down the concrete stairs from the studio.
“Hey, Sebastian!” he said. The mother looked pleased to see him.
“Go on up, son,” she said to Sebastian who sulked up the stairs.
“All right, fistbump!” said Kyle holding out his fist to Sebastian. Sebastian punched his fist hard. “Owwww, geez!” cried Kyle before composing himself. “It’s ok. I’m sure you’ll figure it out eventually. Hey, Clara!”
Kyle waved at Ms. Davis, and she waved back blushing.
“Hey, Kyle!” she said giddily.
“Sushi later?” asked Kyle.
“Yeah, totally!” said Ms. Davis.
Kyle walked inside with Sebastian as Coach Todd stood bemused.
“Well it was nice to see you, Coach Todd,” said Ms. Davis. “See you at the game.”
She got in her Tahoe and drove away before he could respond. Clara? he thought. He’d known this woman for three years and had never gotten to first names with her, and now he’d just struck out on only the ninth try.
As the coach walked back to the football practice feeling defeated, he saw a helicopter hovering over the field. The football team looked up with amusement as it rapidly descended. They all moved out of the way, except one.
“Fucking Duncan!” the coach yelled.
Duncan, who had perhaps received one too many concussions, didn’t budge as the helicopter descended. Coach Todd sprinted across the field and tackled the dumpling out of the way just before the helicopter landed. His face fell on top of Duncan’s sweaty rear end which smelled so bad that Vietnamese pho would never taste the same to him. After gagging the coach saw spoiled Samantha Sachs strutting across the field. Samantha was supposed to be the richest kid in school. Then the helicopter door slid open, and a man in a slick suit sat inside.
“What in the hell do you think you’re doing?” shouted the coach.
“Picking up my daughter,” the man said.
Ms. Stephens, the teacher whose name you probably forgot, approached the scene attempting to run.
“What’s going on? Who is this person?” she asked.
“Apparently a parent,” replied the coach.
“This is against school rules!” she exclaimed. “Young lady, there’s no way you’re getting in this helicopter.”
“Yeah, huh!” said Samantha. “My parents, like, fund the football team.”
She defiantly got into the helicopter and flew away. Duncan stood up and scratched his head.
“Where’d the flying car go?” he asked.
After the practice, the coach walked back to his pickup exhausted. He saw Kyle standing out in front puffing on a vaporizer. “How’s it hanging, bro?” Kyle asked like a dog wanting to be friends.
“Oh, hey, Kyle the karate coach,” said Coach Todd.
“It’s actually ‘sensei,’” said Kyle.
“Oh, I’m sorry.”
“It’s cool, man. Hey, how do you know Clara?”
Coach Todd clenched his fists. “I coach her son’s football team.”
“Oh, right on, right on,” Kyle nodded. “ Hey, is that your truck in the parking lot?”
Kyle pointed to Coach Todd’s pickup. “Yeah, it actually is,” the coach said reluctantly.
“It’s all good, bro. I know parking’s crazy around the school. You can park here anytime,” Kyle said with a smile.
“Really?” the coach said surprised. “That’d be great. Thanks a lot.”
“Don’t mention it,” said the sensei. “We’re both important pillars of the community. Hey, you wanna like hang out? I got plans later this evening, but you could come chill for a little while, maybe do a bump. You listen to Joe Rogan?”
The coach had never felt this much discomfort since his circumcision.
“Uh, I… I got somewhere to be actually,” said Coach Todd.
Kyle nodded in acceptance. “All right, bro. Do what you gotta do.”
The coach drove off stinging of defeat yet again and sent a text to the only person he felt he could depend on.
Heidi had been his friend since middle school. When she was working as a stripper, she married the club owner, and they had a son and a daughter together. After her husband walked out on them, Heidi left stripping behind and managed to become the manager of a KFC. The sky had grown purple and grey as the coach drove up to Heidi’s apartment next to an abandoned video store. He saw her son, Braxton, standing in the front yard aiming a BB gun at an elm tree. He pulled the trigger, and a little squirrel fell down face flat on the sidewalk.
“Headshot!” shouted Braxton. His face looked more angry than excited.
The coach called out, “Hey, Braxton. Is your mom home yet?”
“Nah, she’s still at work,” said Braxton without making eye contact. Braxton picked up the dead squirrel by its bushy tail. “You can come inside though,” he said walking around the back.
The coach entered the apartment and looked around at the mess inside. He sat down on the worn imitation leather sofa next to a bong that looked like it had never been cleaned. On the TV screen was an ad for an opiate-induced laxative. Then on came a celebrity news and gossip show.
“A pregnant man?” suggested the screen that showed an androgynous person holding a swollen stomach. Zee was, in fact, a transgender man who had merely retained zer uterus before transitioning. The coach heard a hammering noise coming from the backyard and looked out to see Braxton nailing the dead squirrel to a wooden fence next to his other trophies which included other squirrels, chipmunks and birds. The front door creaked open.
The coach got up to see Heidi walk in carrying a laundry bag over her shoulder and plastic grocery bags in her hands followed by her daughter Karlee who brought in more groceries.
“You need help, Heidi?” asked the coach getting off the coach.
“No, we got it,” said Heidi. She turned to her daughter and said, “Karlee, remember Coach Todd? Say ‘Hi, Coach Todd.’
“Hi, Coach Todd,” said Karlee with the exact same tone as her mother.
“You see Braxton anywhere?” asked Heidi. Then she heard the hammering and sighed and went out to get him.
“Braxton, come in and help with the groceries,” she said tiredly. Karlee stood and stared at the coach in her dirty school uniform. Then Heidi returned with Braxton, and all four of them unbagged the groceries. Heidi and Braxton put canned food in the pantry while the coach handed Karlee frozen chicken nuggets, pizzas, Hot Pockets, curly fries and ice cream bars to put in the freezer. Then they unloaded 2 liter bottles of Hawaiian Punch and off brand diet soda.
“Ok,” said Heidi. “I’m gonna fix y’all a snack and then y’all go play outside, okay?”
Heidi put a handful of chicken nuggets on a paper towel inside a dirty microwave. Then thunder cracked outside, and down poured the rain. The coach’s stomach groaned. Normally, Heidi’s kids would play outside while the adults did their business. She looked at Coach Todd with a similar dismay before the microwave beeped five times.
“Ok, I guess it’s TV then,” said Heidi. She served the chicken nuggets to her children on paper plates and placed them on a wooden table. Heidi looked at Karlee’s dirty uniform. “Karlee, honey, take off that uniform so I can wash it,” she said.
Karlee took off her blouse and skirt under which she wore a T-shirt and gym shorts and handed the uniform to her mother.
“Can we watch TV in your room, mom?” asked Braxton
“No,” said Heidi. “Y’all stay put while me and Coach Todd go wash this.”
Braxton and Karlee sat on the sofa while Heidi and the coach went to the laundry room. Heidi put the uniform in the washing machine, dropped in a soap pod and turned it on. The old machine rattled rather loudly. Coach Todd locked the door, and they went right to it. The loud rain and washer compounded by the loud noise of Nickelodeon prevented the desperate cries of grown-ups from reaching the children.
When the day of the homecoming game finally arrived, the football team drove to West Monroe in an old yellow school bus. The opposing stands echoed with rebel yells. Fans waved confederate flags. “Go, Rebels!” they cheered. A student dressed as Batman ran in front of the stands with a long confederate flag cape waving behind him. Then all stood silent for the invocation.
“Dear Lord,” prayed the pastor over the loudspeaker, “we ask that you protect all of our players this evening. And we also ask that you protect all of our young women who are with child: Sarah, Hayley, Jessica, Taylor, Abby, Alexa…”
The pregnant girls cheered as their names were called. As the pastor continued reading from the long list, Coach Todd spotted sensei Kyle in the stands next to his beloved Clara Davis and Sebastian. His strawberry face flared. “…Cameron, Kara and Chrysler,” the pastor continued. “And now please rise for the national anthem performed by the West Monroe Rebel Band who marched in President Donald Trump’s inaugural parade. As the grey-uniformed band played, Coach Todd walked up into the stands to confront Kyle. As he approached, Kyle smiled and waved. “Hey, Coach!”
The coach turned to Clara. “What is he doing here?” he asked angrily.
“Excuse me?” said Clara.
“Who is he to you?”
Clara was bemused. “This is my cousin Kyle.”
The coach was outraged. “Cousin? Damn, woman! I know this is the South, but I didn’t expect this from you.”
Kyle came in to the conversation. “What’s the problem here?” he said cooly.
But Clara grabbed her son’s hand and walked off as the anthem ended. Kyle stood perplexed. “Dude, what the fuck!”
“Ms. Davis is a married woman!” shouted the coach. “Shame on you!”
“You think I’m boning my own cousin?” inquired the sensei. “You’re out of your mind, bro!”
Then the coach looked around at all the people staring at him in the stands and down on the field.
The homecoming dance happened the following Friday. The team had lost the football game. Spoiled Samantha Sachs had been voted homecoming queen, and Brandon Davis, Clara’s son, had been voted king. Coach Todd stood in his suit chaperoning outside the gym. The dance had a strict no alcohol policy, and all the students were forced to undergo a breathalyzer test. The coach reached into his pocket and saw he was receiving a phone call from an unfamiliar number.
“Hello?” asked the coach.
“Coach Todd?” asked Kyle.
The coach sighed. “Hey, Kyle. Look, I’m sorry about what happened at the game last Saturday.”
Kyle was sitting on his futon sucking down Ramen noodles. “Don’t worry about it. I understand you looking out for Clara’s marriage.”
“Is she still upset?”
“Sort of,” said Kyle. “Right now she’s focusing on the party after the dance. Are you chaperoning right now?”
“Oh. Well afterwards you can come chill if you want. I’m watching a Netflix documentary about pita bread. But we could watch Survivor or whatever it is you watch.”
The coach hesitated. “You know what? Why not?”
Kyle lived above the karate studio above the Papa John’s. When the coach arrived, Kyle asked him to take his shoes off. The coach complied, and then Kyle showed him his various Japanese artifacts mounted on the wall. He had a gong and nunchucks and a samurai sword. But Coach Todd took particular interest in a red mask.
“What’s this?” he asked. “I’ve seen it in sushi restaurants.”
The mask looked like an angry demon. It’s dark eyebrows jutted downwards toward its yellow eyes. It’s smile was maniacal. It’s face looked like it had never known peace.
“It’s a samurai mask,” said the sensei. “I got it in Japan. Looks sick doesn’t it.”
“Yeah,” replied the coach. “It looks sick.”
Then Kyle folded his arms and asked, “So, you trying to score with Clara?”
The coach was shocked. “No!” he declared. “What the hell gave you that idea?”
“She says you’re always stalking her. Trying to get too close to her family,” said Kyle.
Coach Todd grew redder. “I’m her son’s football coach. Of course, I try to get to know her family,” he said. “I would never try to get between her and her husband.”
Kyle moved closer to him with his bare feet. “Oh, my cousin spends plenty of time with men who ain’t her husband. And he knows that. You don’t think he’s with other women as well? I’ve seen the guys she’s been with. They’re handsome and fit, not fat and sunburnt like you. Her husband makes six figures. What the hell are you bringing home?”
The coach was inflamed. “Anyone ever tell you you’re a cocky son-of-a-bitch?” he asked. Then he threw a punch at Kyle. He blocked it and punched Coach Todd in the gut. The coach fell to the floor in agony as Kyle put his foot on his neck. “Unnecessary roughness, coach!” But then Coach Todd bit down hard on one of Kyle’s toes.
“Aah!” cried Kyle. The coach got up and readied his fists to fight. It was on now. The coach blocked the swings and jabs Kyle threw at him. “You’re a fraud!” exclaimed Coach Todd. “You teach dance moves to little kids!”
Then Kyle karate chopped Todd in the neck. He fell to the floor, and the impact caused the artifacts to fall off the wall. The gong came down with a clang. The coach looked at it just before Kyle’s hands came down around his throat.
“Who the fuck are you to taunt me, coach? You lost the game. You’re a lonely old man with a college degree in general studies.”
Coach Todd struggled. “At least I have a degree!”
He headbutted Kyle hard. Then he grabbed the Ramen noodle bowl on the wooden coffee table next to him and slammed it on Kyle’s ponytail. Kyle stumbled backwards towards the sword on the floor. He picked it up, and a sinister grin appeared on his tanned face. “Put me in, coach,” said Kyle brandishing the sword like a baseball bat. “I’m ready to play!”
Coach Todd barely dodged the first swing. He picked up the coffee table and held it like a shield. They danced around the room as Kyle took swung and thrust at the coach until finally Kyle got the sword stuck in the the table. As he struggled to get it loose, Coach Todd picked up the gong. Just as Kyle was looking up, the coach swung the gong down on his head again and again. Then all was silent. A trail of blood rushed from Kyle’s head. The coach saw his own red face in the wall mirror. He then looked at Kyle’s lifeless body. The coach realized he had just killed a man. He unstuck the sword from the coffee table and noticed for the first time a paper bag taped underneath. When the coach opened the bag, cocaine came pouring out. Then he saw a note attached to the bag that read: 1814 Templeton Drive.
Crickets chirped all around a gated community illuminated by the full moon. The streets inside were lined with luxury sedans and SUVs. A gargantuan white pickup truck pulled up to the gate. The security woman asked the driver who he was. “Kyle,” said the coach.
Inside a large mansion, smartly dressed adults sat in the living room drinking from plastic cups. “Crissa looks so beautiful tonight,” said one. “Mark really got lucky with her.”
“Yeah,” said another. “I really hope my son ends up with your daughter tonight.” Adolescent laughter could be heard from outside.
“I wonder what’s going on by the pool,” asked a mom who got up to look out the window.
“Let them have their privacy, Karen,” said another mom.
Then in stumbled two drunk teens with towels wrapped around their dripping bathing suits. Parents watched them walk upstairs. A dad turned to his wife.
“Told you it would finally happen tonight,” he said. “Fork it over.” The mom reached into her purse and gave him a hundred dollar bill. “Right, when’s the cocaine guy getting here?” he asked.
“I don’t know,” said a mom. “Ask Clara when she gets back.”
Then Clara Davis came out of the bathroom and walked towards the group.
“Hey, Clara,” asked the same dad. “Where’s Karate Man with the snow?”
“I called him earlier. He didn’t pick up,” said Clara. “He’s probably on his way.”
Clara’s phone rang, and she looked to see who it was.
“Oh, God. It’s my husband,” she said.
“What’s he doing still up in Chicago?” asked a mom. “He didn’t bother flying in for his own son’s homecoming game or dance?”
“Typical yankee,” said a dad.
Clara went outside to take the call. She walked past teens making out and doing shots by the pool. When she came to the back of the pool house, she saw Samantha Sachs giving her son a blowjob.
“Brandon, y’all do that somewhere else,” she said. “I need to talk to your dad.”
“But, mom…” he begged.
Brandon and Samantha walked inside the house and went upstairs. The parents heard a knock at the front door.
“Finally!” exclaimed a dad who went and opened the door. “Whoa, scary mask.”
Coach Todd stood still with the red samurai mask glaring at him. He quickly drew his sword and slashed at the dad’s the throat. He fell back inside the house and collapsed on the floor with blood gurgling from his mouth. The parents screamed as the coach slashed at them, slaying them one by one. A mom tried to dial 911 on her phone before the coach chopped off her hand and beheaded her. His blue coach’s uniform was soaked with red. Two teens came down the stairs and stood in shock as the coach slit their throats with one swing.
The loud music outside kept the other teens from hearing their parents slaughtered. So when the coach came out to the pool, he cut them down easily. Then he saw Clara screaming as she tried to climb over the wooden fence. The coach took a deep breath and focused his tension. He threw the sword threw her body, pinning her to the fence. The screaming soon stopped.
The coach looked all around at the carnage he had made. He looked at his reflection in the crimson pool. And for a brief moment he felt a stimulating euphora resound throughout his body. Until he heard a click. The coach turned around to see Brandon aiming a pistol at him. For his star quarterback, he removed his mask and looked him dead in the eyes.
Bang, bang, bang, bang, bang, bang, bang, bang!
Coach Todd’s body splashed into the pool, and after a brief moment of floating he sank to the bottom. Brandon dropped the gun from his quivering hands and fell to his knees in front of the pool. Then from the depths of the pool appeared the mask. It floated towards him, staring him in the face, projecting its unquenchable fury into his soul.
© 2018 Martin Breen