Matt did decide to try out for the team and early the next morning, he headed off, his Secret Service team in tow. He spent the day working out with the team and proclaimed how sore he was that evening at dinner with his uncle.
Mark grinned. “I told you not to stay on your backside all summer.”
Matt rolled his eyes. He was busy eating – more like gobbling – the feast White House Chef Yasmine Sollet had prepared. There was a whole roasted chicken, potatoes, carrots, broccoli and a salad. Like most boys his age, Matt could, and usually did, consume a goodly amount of food. But the day’s activity had kicked his appetite into overdrive and he had already cleaned his plate twice and was munching through the third quarter of the chicken.
“I’d just be even more sore,” Matt said, around a mouthful of potatoes. “Coach is, like, really tough on us. He was in everybody’s face, yelling and spitting. Man, if it weren’t for the other guys, I’d probably have left.”
“You like them?”
“Yeah. They’re a pretty good group. Especially Paul. He’s really cool. Does this sleight of hand thing.” Matt looked over the table. “You gonna eat the rest of that broccoli?”
Mark pushed the dish toward him. “Help yourself.”
“Thanks.” Matt scooped the florets onto his plate. “Anyway, a lot of the guys, they’re pretty much your garden-variety idiots. But Paul’s smart. So’s Deshawn. Although I don’t know how much longer Deshawn is going to be on the team. Coach got in his face more than anyone and some of it got borderline ugly. Deshawn said he doesn’t have to take that kind of crap, especially since his mother doesn’t want him playing football. But he’s an awesome running back.”
“Really. Do you know what position you’ll be playing?”
“First-string quarterback.” Matt struck a pose. “I’m taking Paul’s place.”
“And he’s okay with that?”
Matt shrugged. “He seems to be. Deshawn told me that Paul got his bell rung pretty badly at the end of last season and he skipped spring training. Then since he came back this summer, he’s been playing super careful. Paul said he was glad he didn’t have to listen to Coach yelling at him.”
“Sounds like your coach is an intense kind of guy. Is he okay with you taking off for the Africa trip?”
“I asked him and he said okay.” Matt looked over the table, hoping to find something else to eat.
Unfortunately, near the end of the following week, when Matt reminded the Coach that he was leaving for Lagos, Nigeria the next day, it became very obvious that Coach Helmsley wasn’t okay with the trip.
“He screamed at me for five solid minutes, Uncle Mark!” Matt paced his uncle’s study. “I swear, I thought my Secret Service guys were going to come after him.”
Mark, who had heard a similar report from the security detail earlier, nodded. “You did ask him about the trip, didn’t you?”
“Only every day. I swear, Uncle Mark. I did. He kept saying okay.”
“Well, according to the school, he can be a little hard of hearing.”
Matt rolled his eyes. “He can hear plenty good when he wants to. Ask Deshawn about that. He heard Deshawn whispering from behind a bank of lockers. That’s when Deshawn walked. I almost walked then, myself.”
“Well, the school says you can still play if you want.”
“Are you kidding?” Matt shrieked. “No way! I am done. That guy’s a psycho. I don’t want to play under that! He’s a total do-”
“Matthew, you know how I feel about that word.”
“Well, he is.” Matt looked over at his uncle with a guilty frown. “You’re not going to say I have to, are you?”
“No.” Mark folded his arms. “I think you should have checked things out a little more thoroughly before you committed to playing. But now you know. Lesson learned. Let’s move on.”
“Thanks, Uncle Mark. I’m sorry it got so screwed up. But I did tell him.”
“I’m sure you did. Now, let’s go get dinner.”