Acrid taste of beer coursing down his throat.
Okay, boys, let's go out there and do it! Let's go out there and win!!
Woof woof woof woof woof
The stink of cigarettes
(O's like butter, soft, spread across warm bread)
Running down the field
45 40 35
Sailing, swimming, smiling, blue dolphin through white waves of A & M
35 25 20
Like flying, sailing: green field, green sky, green green sea
Go Robbie Go Robbie
Quick glance toward the sidelines
Team all standing screaming
Starched white like his mother's uniform (but no she's still at work)
Leather jacket like Tavon's (but no he's gone, gone out of town, gone home...)
Go Robbie Go Robbie
Step that fucker down, yo! Step that motherfucker down! Fuck them punks up man!
5 3 1
The music, blood rushing in his ears
(like plums, his lips. Like plums. Skin dark as it's skin. Smooth...)
Run, yo, run!
His lips. The burning taste of weed. Yeah, that's it, weed. That's why. That's what made him...
Go slow, man Umm Go slow
If someone asked. If someone saw, or thought they knew. Weed -- yeah. Weed, man. High as shit!
But then the second time. And again. Again...
Touchdown Robert Hart -- A & T
Smooth SmoothSmooth Robbie Hart. I'm Smooth
Cottony taste of beer foam, then its liquid. Sulfur, nicotine against his nose. Thin white fog before his eyes.
Buzz of voices. Growing crowd. Noise: talking, laughing, chairs pulled back. The clink of glasses, music from a jukebox. Couples dancing.
The Elks club (Yeah). His father (Yeah, that's right.)
A fresh beer on the worn wood bar.
Here, here, have another man. Great, damn, great game! I can't fucking believe how fast you run, man! Smooth Robbie! Goddamed sophomore out there lookin like a pro.... Hi there, can I help you?
Noise. Voices. Voice. One voice, somewhere. Someone calling out his name.
Where my son at, huh? You in here, Mikey? Where's my boy?
Eyes close. Smooth. Milk the word 'till it moos just like a cow. Smooth Smooth. Ignore the nickname no one's used in years. No one but him. Mikey. So old, from years ago, for loved candies: 'Mike and Ike.' A name outgrown in high school, playing football, running track. He wouldn't know that, missing all those years. Not much he did know.
Here's my boy. Here's Robbie Jr.
Damp hand on the shoulder. Turn, rise up from the barstool...
This here's Dr. Simmons. He was my English teacher in high school. This is my son -- Robert Hart, Jr.
Glasses and a weathered face. Thinning, shock-white hair. Hand of bone, brown skin and liver spots, but strong. A firm handshake. Another generation. A different world.
It's a pleasure to meet you, young fellow. You certainly do favor your father quite a bit when he was your age. You played a very good game today.
Thank you, sir. Eyes fall toward the floor.
Speak up, boy, speak up! Your mother taught you better than that.
Nostrils flare, inhaling smoke and sweat. The room turns red, hot, prickles against his face.
Thank you, sir, (louder, with aggression.)
That's better. Try to teach him, tell him to respect his elders.
A glance away. Who tried? You? When? How -- by being in the streets? Dropping out like a silent letter at the end of a words, like the 'e' on 'home'? Who? How?
I hope you're not neglecting your class work, young man. Ath-e-letics is fine, but you are supposed to be in school to learn. Football doesn't last forever, an education does. You have to think about your future and life beyond sports.
Yes sir, (Speak up. Again...) Yes sir, I know. I am.
Some dumb jock, he thinks. Thinks just like they all think: won't listen in class, dreams of plays, of games, when he should pay attention. Just some football player. Can barely talk.
Can't help if words don't fit around the dreams. Thoughts muted by the need for language. Could make up words, but who would understand? Tavon. Tavon would (but no, no, he's not here...).
Hey -- what d' ya mean? My son is smart. He's doin' real good in school. . . Real well, I mean -- Real well. Better'n me when I was there.
Eyes fall. The orange Elk's Club carpet worn through at the bar, bare spots showing scuffed concrete. The Professor continues on Yes, but... A conversation no longer needing him.
Excuses. Nods. A walk to the bathroom.
My son is smart. (Pissing) Must be the New Man he says he is. Bullshit, same
old crackhead. Wants something. Wants to stay. Now I'm The Man, might make some
money signing with the pros. Still the same old man.
A fresh beer (without asking) on the worn wood bar.
Long coats and bulky cases at the back door: The evening's band. A call Robert Sr. to join in. A lurch toward the bandstand arms spread wide, embracing memories, the air. Hugs, laughs, hands clapped onto backs. An image from before his birth on his mother's nightstand: a fading photograph. Inscription To My Biggest Fan! The tenor with the sweet, sweet tone. Sideman on the classic album everyone still loves.
Just loves the attention, being in the middle. Next to me as my star rises. No need for me, for us before. Always another gig, another tour, another city. Some other woman, or some weed, some rum, some horse, some crack. No need for us. Hometown too small to contain him then. No need. But now...
Hey, hey, how you doin'? You Smooth Robbie, right? From State? Hey! Hey how ya doin'?
Light-brown skin, middle age. Just this side of gone-to-seed.
Some fan playing coach, how much he thinks he knows. The usual (Slide on this like ice. I'm Smooth)
Great game today. Great game. You don't mind it, I'm sitting here do you? Just waiting for a friend of mines to come in and we're gonna listen to the band. Name's Tony, by he way, great to meet you. (Wide grin. Hot, damp, hand.) So, what did you think of their defense today, no sweat, huh?
Sleepwalk through the game. Tony hangs to every word. Slide on this like ice. Tony hangs on every word. Looks into his eyes. No glance for expected friend. Tell me more. Three rings click on sweating gin and tonic.
A leg against his own.
Ignore it, maybe nothing.
Against his own: a stroke. A gentle pressure.
Nothing new. Women, men. Nothing new. All want small town stardom to rub off. Play this game: grin in his face, leave him flat when the move gets made to turn it to something more. For Tavon's return: Hey man, some guy tried to come on to me up in the damn Elks and shit! Huh! Can't leave you alone for a minute, can I? Nothing new.
The dreams, the longings. Alone in his room.
What're you going to do after you graduate? Go into the pros, or you have other dreams?
Pro Ball Running Getting' paid TV sets and magazines covered with his face
A gap-toothed smile Lips like plums Strong arms surrounding every night
Please -- don't call me sir. Tony.
Tony. Yes, I do, I would like to play pro ball, hope to get drafted next year.
That's good that's good.... Guess I could be almost old enough to be your father, though. But I don't even want to go there...Don't be ashamed of your dreams. You have to imagine what you want before you can figure out how to get there. And you really can be anything you want. Don't let anybody tell you can't do something cause you're Black, or 'only a football player', or, or...
Two pairs of eyes: They catch. Both fall to lips. Tony wets his with a flick of tongue.
Two pairs of eyes: They catch. Both look away.
... or whatever. I'm serious. Don't hold yourself back. Never let anybody else hold you back, neither -- understand? I'm sure your parents told you that a long time ago.
My mother did. My mother...
Said: Be good Sit up straight You act just like your father sometimes...
A nice girl Settle down A wife, a house and kids
...did. My father...
Said: Mind your manners, boy Get the belt Goodbye (no never that)
You fuckin? Be careful Don't want no rugrats up in here
...father he . . . He wasn't ...he wasn't around much.
Inhale the dregs of beer.
Okay, m'boy, let's go. We gotta get outta here now or else your mother will really have a fit. (A smile) You know how women are, man -- five minutes late and they're screaming and yelling and shit about, 'Where the hell were you?' and all. They don't mind making you wait, though. Two men laugh.
Yeah, I'm waiting my own self. Maybe Sheila got slowed down by all this rain.
A glance. This your son? Fine looking young man. You must be proud of him.
Proud? Proud don't even come close. Arm around his shoulder. Alcohol unfiltered by exhausted pores. He's gonna be famous -- you just wait and see.
That why you here?
Here she is. Nice meeting you. Hand shakes for them both. (Lingering with Robbie.)
care of yourself. Don't forget what I said. See you around.
Slap and squeak of wipers across glass. Wind rattling against car doors. rocking from side to side. Wind and speed and rain. Black night and blacker trees. The rain
see you 'round
Rain, fine as mist. Then strong, in torrents, like a shower.
Shower: hot daggers, warm fingers on his body. Voices, barks, and back slaps bouncing off white tile.
Black, brown bodies frothed with white. Wiped clean. Black and brown against white tile, in mist and fog, in rain. Quick glances. Looks away
Hey yo Ricky, man -- why come you always standin next to Robbie in the shower yo? He your boyfriend or some shit? Laughter in the rain
Aww fuck you Anton, fuck you.
Laughter in the rain.
Quick glances. Looks away.
Fine looking young man, my ass. That guy's a punk, son, a goddamned faggot. Stay away from them, you here?
Don't forget what I said --
How you know what he was?
Oh, I know, I can tell. Something about them, that voice 'See you 'round' Shit! Way they look at you, always grinning like they know some joke and shit. Acting like fucking bitches. I can tell, man, I can tell."
The dreams. Silence of his room alone. Visions in his head. Fingers search the body's Braille. The word to send him flowing. Games played in the dark
Wouldn't know that (not much he did know) missing all those years.
A passing car. Light like water thrown onto his face.
Sometimes, though, you can't tell. I picked up one of 'em once, thought it was a woman, 'till we got back to the damn hotel room. Fucking faggot. liked to break that bitch's skull in but she -- shit it -- IT got away before I could really mess 'im up. You just gotta be careful. That gay shit ain't right, Ain't natural.
Missing all those years
The wrestling, pretend fights. Razors across his skin when wrapped around another's body, another around him. Games played after school.
Not much. Wouldn't know.
(A glance.) Thought for a while maybe your roommate might be like them, too, but Tavon turned out to be okay. You just gotta be careful, though. There's faggots everywhere these days.
Lips like plums two burning tongues their fingers, everywhere
Gonna be famous. Just you wait and see
A punk son. Faggot.
plums sweet bluntness in the mouth body a warm black blanket pressing down
Stay away, you here?
the weight his lips the searching fingers moving down
slow down I I'll go easy damn, man, damn shit, no stop this ain't gone work no, okay, wait no no? no I know, it's okay just relax okay? okay, just relax relax? ease back relax? ease back relax relax that's it relax that's it relax that's it that's it that's it
Careful. Just ain't right
everywhere sharp pain fading warmth the pleasure, everywhere riding into him.
right. Ain't natural.
hunger hairy scratch of calves body a warm blanket pressing down
you take it easy too now, yo (both laugh)don't get all wild up in there now just cause it's your first time ain't my first time, man, I done been with girls and shit bull shit! besides I ain't no girl yeah, I know... come on, don't get all serious on me now Just take it easy like this? go slow like this? go slow like this some more more? more like this some more
One of them, too
sun rising into chest from where they joined the pleasure, everywhere riding into him.
turned out okay
The wipers beating. Rain. Loud pounding of his heart.
Next week, y'all shouldn't use so many shotgun plays. They'll run right thought that shit in a heartbeat.
When'd you become a coach?
Who died and made you expert on football? You don't know shit about the game. You oughta just shut the hell up.
One of them too
Now, wait a minute. Wait just a damn minute. You don't talk to me like that. I'm still your father: You still gotta show me some respect.
I ain't gots to show you shit. you left us, man. Where the hell were you?
Blurring the dark trees faster.
We been through all this. I was out doing what I had to do. You don't fucking question me.
Shit, you were out sucking on that damn pipe, that's what you were doing.
Rain sharply angled on the windows
Why you bring this up again, huh? I didn't want you to follow me, to do what I was doing so I left. I wasn't any good to you fucked up, so I rolled. I would've come back when I'd straightened myself out. I did come back. I told you and your mother all this before.
Fuck you with that crap. Just go on back to wherever the fuck it was you crawled out from.
Boy, I oughta kick your fucking ass.
Headlights aiming straight for them.
I won't die. No life flashing before my eyes. I won't die.
Slide sideways across the road as if on ice. Slam on the breaks.
No life before my eyes.
Hard pull away from approaching median. Hit it anyway.
Slide and skid across the road. Sudden stop on gravel.
We won't die.
Car horn yelling, fading, flying past.
Damn. Damn. (said together)
Yeah -- you?
Okay. Think we popped that tire, though. Let's go look.
Two pairs of shoulders hunched to ward off steady rain. Left front tire flat. Deep sigh, wet belch from Robert Sr. The jack, spare, and tire iron from the trunk.
Silence. Steady rain.
Good thing nobody was behind us back there or else we'd be dead for sure. Struggling with the tire. Fuckin' idiot -- all the way over on our side of the road
A flashlight in his hand. His father kneeling down. Will I look like this when I get old?
lips go slow sharp pain burning tongues like this go-slow
She -- shit, it -- It. like to break that bitch's skull in
I oughta kick your fucking ass
Car: a splash of rain and wind.
It would be easy. Just one step. Easy -- he would not be missed. No blame: an accident. Dark night, slick road and speed. Fixing tires in the rain. Hard to see. I tried to swerve to avoid him officer...Father feeling guilt for the rest of his life. Mother kicking him out again.
His mother, mouth filled with tumbling screams. Tavon, lips pressed flat, his eyes in tears.
She needs him. Tavon...
Robert Sr.? Never any guilt.
Okay, hand me that iron. I'll tighten up these nuts and we can get the hell out of here.
Metal cold and heavy in his hand.
It would be easy. He would not be missed. Easy -- an accident. Dark night, slick road and speed. Fixing tires in the rain. Hard to see. I tried to swerve to avoid him officer.... Body too messed up to notice extra bruises.
No one would come looking. Disappeared again...
Just one motion lift and swing smooth
What the hell you standin' there for?
Swing hard and follow through.
Come on, I'm getting cold.
Give me the thing, Mikey, damn it...
Nice and easy
...and let's get out of here
nice and easy and smooth
(Everywhere. I can tell...)
Nice and easy and smooth
Darkness. Mother settling in for the night.
A phone call to Ohio.
So, what's up? So how's your mother?
Moms is gonna be fine. They want to keep her in the hospital a few more days, check her heart and all, but she'll be okay. My sister asked me a buncha questions, sniffing around, acting like she knows something, though. Which she don't. We're going to church tomorrow. Hope she doesn't try to have the preacher cast demons out of me or something.... I don't know -- typical trip back home. How'd it go with you? How was the game?
All right. We won and all.
What's the matter? You having problems with the old man? Maybe you should have stayed in the room this weekend?
I'll tell you 'bout it later. When you coming back?
Bus leaves Sunday night; I'll be back Monday afternoon. Don't let him get you down, man.
I can handle him.
Lay back on the bed. Tavon, breathing steady. Shifting shadows from streetlights thrown onto pale tan walls.
A gap-toothed smile
I miss you.
I miss you too.
I ...um, well . . ..
Go slow, a'right?
Yeah. I know. Me too.
Arms around him, pulling
Right, right, yeah. Me too.
(No words for the dreams)
Have a safe trip.
Thanks, man. Be strong, yo. I'll see ya.
Yeah. See ya, man. Be strong.
Peace out, yo
Tightly hug the pillow. Snoring though the wall. Robert Sr. fast asleep.
Lean back onto the bed. Eyes close.
Green fields and white yard lines
I miss you
The sea the sky
Yeah, I miss you too
Swimming, flying, sailing
Go Robbie, Go Robbie, Go Robbie!!
I um well...you know
dark skin, body slick, his lips...
voice soft, a whisper
soft, doves cooing in his ear
O's like butter, soft, spread across warm bread
Smooth babyReal, real smooth.
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