"Mom, do you want any breakfast before you leave?" Lonnie Davis knocked on the bathroom door near dawn the next morning. "I've heated up some muffins and the coffee is ready."
Joanna Davis mumbled her assent through a mouth of toothpaste.
At the same time, Lonnie snuck into her office on the upper floor of the house to quickly steal snatches of whatever paperwork she might have had strewn on her desk. He did this every morning, it kept him well abreast of what was happening at Darlington High. She had never caught him doing this nor did she even suspect him of such chicanery. In her eyes, he was her darling little boy and an exemplar of all what a properly raised teenager was all about.
Among the usual clutter of tedious administrative issues was a handwritten note with just the name Philip Lesters on it. Whenever Lonnie saw something like this he knew that that could only mean serious trouble for the unfortunate person whose name was scrawled in his mother's messy hand. What kind of trouble could Porky be in the young Davis wondered. The fat kid never did anything wrong.
"Why are you in here?" His mother's voice shot through the room startling Lonnie.
"I was just looking for Snop." he replied quickly, referring to the family cat.
"Well, she wouldn't be in here. The door was closed."
"I don't know. I looked everywhere else for her."
"If you would have opened up your eyes, son, you would see that Snop is lying in her basket." Mrs. Davis pointed to the immaculately white cat sleeping in her little bed at the end of the hall just below the window.
"Oh, there you are Snoppy. I've got breakfast for you too." Lonnie picked up the yawning feline and patted her fluffy head.
The addictive quality of the cat's yawn produced a large yawn from Mrs. Davis. Lonnie saw this as his opportunity to ask some probing yet covert questions. "You got home pretty late last night, Mom. Did you have a big meeting or something?"
Mrs. Davis replied through a second cavernous yawn, "No, no meeting last night. I was just tending to some pretty urgent business. Anybody call?"
"Isolde but Goody called just after you left," Lonnie said as he followed her down the stairs to the large sprawling kitchen where the gurgling sounds of a coffee machine near the end of its chore greeted them.
"I don't want you calling him that any more," Mrs. Davis said. "Names like that caused all the trouble at school yesterday."
Lonnie opened the microwave and placed a store bought muffin inside. "Did they ever figure out who started those stories?" He felt pretty assured that his mother would never suspect him.
"That is none of your concern, Lonnie. Just suffice it to say that those rumors will not be spreading around the school today. And if you hear anything from anybody just tell them that everything has been looked after." She poured herself a cup of coffee. "Now go and wash up and do me a favour and wear something presentable today. The clothes you have been wearing of late are so pedestrian. You have got to set an example to the others and maybe the students will start to show some pride in what they choose to put on themselves."
His mother would never willingly give him any inside information. He always had to snoop it out for himself. The woman was formal with him almost all of the time. Lonnie had no doubt that his father left for these very reasons. Joanna Davis was always a principal first and conducted her life along those rigid lines. He pulled out the muffin from the microwave and handed it over to his mother.
As he was walking up the stairs the telephone rang. He was about to change his course to answer it when his mother said that she would get it. He could not help but listen in. Sometimes he picked up some pretty interesting tidbits from these morning phone calls. Lonnie could only hear his mother's side of the conversation but he was well practised at piecing together the other half of the dialogue.
"Good morning Faye. Is it? I hadn't looked outside yet. Oh well, I have my umbrella."
The name Faye quickly registered in Lonnie's head. The only Faye that his mother knew was Faye Lesters, Porky's mother.
"I know that I had said that he could have the day off but Mr. Ranbenin was not satisfied with that. He thought that it was rather lenient."
"Well, I have to be fair about this. I'll make sure that Philip does not fall behind in his schoolwork."
Lonnie stopped listening. He had heard enough and he was baffled. Porky Lesters had taken the fall for the stories and he was going to get a suspension. This was too much. Wait until the other kids hear this! But why would Porky get the blame? He wasn't part of it. Lonnie rushed upstairs and washed up quickly. He was eager to tell everybody.
On the school bus, Lonnie made his way to the back where all of the kids that he considered cool sat. Their smirks, frowns and groans told him that as usual he was not particularly welcomed to sit back here in the golden zone. But he was sure that the news that he was going to convey would make them quickly forget that he was an intruder on their sacred domain.
Seating himself beside Charlene Meyers, the cheerleader, Lonnie turned to Wes Heston who sat behind her. With his back to Charlene, Lonnie said as loudly as he deemed socially acceptable among this upper echelon of the school's informal social system, "Porky Lesters is going to get suspended today."
"No way!" Wes crowed in his adolescent dialect. "Why?"
"I'm not too sure but I think that it has something to do with the stories circulating yesterday about Isolde." Lonnie felt that his offerings were substantial enough to gain him the much sought after admiration of the group. He turned his head to see Charlene's reaction. She showed none. The gum in her mouth seemed to be all that she was interested in.
"What did he have to do with them?" Wes asked.
"I don't know. All that I know is he is the one being blamed for it and my mom is throwing him out of school this morning."
"Well, that's kind of shitty and unfair," Charlene said. "Everybody knows that Phil would never get involved in anything like that."
"I think it's shitty too," Wes agreed with the cheerleader. "Your fascist old lady is crucifying the wrong one. Everybody knows that it was you that started it all yesterday, Lonnie."
Charlene sneered at the principal's son. "You started those stupid stories, Davis? And you're going to let someone innocent go down for your assinine pranks?" She pulled herself in tighter against the window so that none of her body was accidentally touching his.
This was followed by a series of boos and hisses and other sounds of general displeasure with Lonnie from the rest of the upper tier of Darlington High. "Look!" Lonnie cried. "Maybe Porky is getting thrown out for something altogether different! I was just guessing that it had something to do with the Isolde stories."
"Phil has never done anything wrong all of his life," Damon Redbrook, the quarterback for the junior football team proclaimed. "I've known him for years and he has never done me any wrong or anybody else that I know of."
"He might be fat and kind of shy but I like him," Charlene said. "Why the hell is your mother picking on him? I can't stand her! She makes what should be for us a rewarding time in our lives unbearable. If she throws Phil out because of what you did, I will make sure that my parents write the school board about this!" There was fire in her eyes.
Lonnie, intimidated, had to look away but there was nowhere where he could find escape. There was not a friendly eye at the rear of the bus for him. Not even the normally jovial Les was pleased with him. What should have been his coup de grace had diminished itself into a severe ostracization and ego destruction. The principal's son smarted from this ordeal. He sat silently for the rest of the ride to school thinking over what he had done wrong and allowing his self pity to wallow. They felt sorry for the fat boy but they had nothing but negative feelings towards him. It wasn't his fault that his mother was the principal and a first class jerk. They didn't hold Phil's fatness against him, why were they holding his lineage against him?
As they unboarded from the bus in the school parking lot, Damon the quarterback tugged at his shirt. "You had better let your mother know the truth, Davis, or else there will be some real trouble," he said softly and confidentially to Lonnie.
His mother's car was in the parking lot. She was in. In one of the visitor slots was the easily recognizable paint-chipped Jimmy of the Lesters. They were here too. Lonnie felt a sickness in his gut at the thought of what his classmates wanted him to do. His mother would freak and that was putting it mildly. He was in the proverbial spot between a rock and a hard place.
He did not know what to do. Out of the corner of his eye he could see that several of the students from the bus were watching him. If he did not own up to the truth with his mother they would surely will and that would even be worse. It was time to take his lickings.
"Hey Lonnie." The young Davis turned around and saw Isolde approach him.
"Hi Mr. Ranbenin," he said while his guts churned. Here was the man whose unexpected reaction to a couple of innocent tales had stirred up all this trouble.
"How long has your mother been in?" Isolde asked as he walked up alongside the teenager.
"Not long, I think. She was still at home when the schoolbus picked me up."
"That could mean hours. That route they take you kids on every morning is as long as the Alaskan Highway," Isolde joked. "That's the Lesters' vehicle, isn't it? I hope that your mother hasn't carried though with what she threatened last night. You must have heard about it."
"Naa. My Mom doesn't tell me much," Lonnie lied, avoiding any eye contact with the assistant football coach.
"She wants to throw Lesters out because of what happened yesterday. I think that that is a little extreme. I still can't really believe that Lesters would say anything like that. It's just not in his character." There was a twinkle that could almost be described as knowing in Isolde's eyes. It was almost as if the soccer coach knew that Lonnie was the perpetrator of the stories.
Here was a perfect opportunity for Lonnie to start setting things right but there was not enough gumption within him to set it in motion. "I don't understand," was all that he could say as the two of them entered the school.
"Your mother brought Lesters over last night and had him apologize for making up those stories which really were quite silly and I don't know why I had let it bother me so much. I think your mother wants to make an example of him and give him a suspension. I didn't like the idea but she is the boss and who am I to intervene? But after a night's sleep, I think that we should let bygones be bygones and forget this whole little sordid affair. Hopefully, I can put a stop to this before it gets too far. Your locker is down that aisle isn't it?" The aisle to Lonnie’s locker was just before the principal's office. Isolde stopped. "Anyways, Davis, what I just told you keep under your hat, okay? Young Lesters has suffered enough already over all of this."
Lonnie looked down the aisle from where they came and he could see Damon and Charlene surreptitiously watching him. They would squawk if he didn't talk. "I have to go see my mother," he said to Isolde.
"Can't it wait, Lonnie. The Lesters are in there now and I really should go in there and try to straighten out this mess," Isolde responded. "You'll have plenty of opportunity to talk to your mother later. This is Phil's only chance."
Lonnie nervously agreed to comply. Damon and Charlene had come up several yards closer but to Lonnie's great relief, the two were accosted by a group of raving friends. When you are popular like the two of them, people will always gather around you no matter if you want them to or not.
As he walked towards his own locker, he suddenly felt that there was a wave of reprieve over his crisis. He felt sure that Isolde would stop his mother from suspending Philip and that Damon and Charlene would have assumed that he had gone in to set things straight with his mother. His mother did not need to know that it was her own son that was the source of this mini-scandal that beset Darlington High.
Had he turned around, he would have seen a teary eyed Mrs. Lesters escorting her chubby blankfaced son out of the school and into the old beat up Jimmy. Had he listened carefully he would have heard Isolde ranting at his mother and storming out of her office and out to the parking lot as well. Lonnie didn't know that he was well into the worst social day of his young life at that moment.
"I'm going to take you to my school today, Philip," Mrs. Lesters said as she pulled out of the parking lot. "Your father was saying in bed last night that perhaps we should look into transferring you to Callisville. That way you won't be able to get into trouble like you did here. I think that I am inclined to agree with him. What do you think?"
"I don't know," Phil mumbled. He could see that his mother was very upset with Mrs. Davis. The two women had been friends since they were girls. They had gone to college together at State and had been roommates during their final two years. They were very close, even after Mrs. Davis had accepted the administration position at Darlington. A difference in socio-economic standing had made no impact on their lives. Not even when Mr. Davis had left his wife and child behind did the friendship between the two women weaken. But this little episode concerning Mr. Ranbenin was making a difference, a very severe difference. Phil's agreement to take the blame for something that he did not do was having negative impacts on a level he did not even consider. He never thought that such a longstanding relationship could be entirely jeopardized by this fiasco.
"Do you like it at Darlington?" his mother asked as she signalled left to go down the Interstate to Callisville.
"Yeah, I guess so," he replied with no affect in his voice.
"Look Philip, this is your future we are talking about. I think that you should be showing a little more interest than this blase attitude I am reading out of you!" Mrs. Lesters snapped.
"You never thought of my future when you and Dad made me apologize for something that I didn't even do!" There was plenty of emotion in his voice now.
"You're not giving me that cock and bull story again, are you? We went over and over this last night. I thought that you had owned up to your responsibility."
"Look Mom, I never had anything at all to do with that stuff yesterday. I only agreed to apologize for it so that everybody would be happy. I didn't know that Mrs. Davis was going to throw me out of school for this!" His vision was partially blurred by the tears welling in his eyes.
This burst on his behalf accompanied by the emotional stress on his face was a watershed point for Phil's mother. The obese teenager could see by her expression that he was starting to finally get through. "Are you telling me the truth? Don't lie!"
"Mom, even if I wanted to spread stories like that do you think anybody would listen to me? Nobody talks to me at school and nobody would give me the time of day! Besides why would I want to say anything like that? I know Mrs. Davis and Mr. Ranbenin are important to both you and Dad. I would never do such a thing."
"You aren't lying, are you?"
"No. I'm telling you the truth. I have always been telling you the truth. Watch out for that truck!"
In her absorption in what her son was saying, Mrs. Lesters was not paying attention to the road. She had just about rear-ended a slow moving vehicle that had pulled on the highway at the last intersection. She hit the brake and was still not going to be able to stop in time. She steered the Jimmy onto the gravel shoulder, her front bumper narrowly missing the tailgate of the old Dodge.
Her attention was still on her son's connundrum for she made no mention of the near accident. "You are telling the truth!" she said as their car pulled to a halt on the shoulder.
"Every word of it."
"And that hag, pardon my English, has expelled you!" She flicked on the left direction lights and pulled a U-turn. "We are going back to have a word with Joanna. This is not right! Can you dial up your Dad on the cell phone?"
Phil punched in the number and as soon as it started to ring he passed the phone onto his mother. It took a few moments before his mother had his father on the line. The boy could only hear his mother's half of the conversation and from the words she chose and the anxiety on her face, he surmised that she was not winning the battle to convince her husband.
"Well, I believe him! He's been a good boy and I don't think he would lie. I'm going to stand by him!" Her thumb clicked the off button and she handed Phil the cell phone to put away. "He'll come around," she said. "Your father can be stubborn but he's a decent man and he will see the light."
When the Lesters' vehicle pulled into the Darlington school parking lot, there was a small throng of people gathered around Isolde's sports car. "I wonder what is going on here?" Mrs. Lesters commented as she stopped her car. "There's Joanna! And there's Mr. Ranbenin!"
Phil did not want to leave the Jimmy. He instinctively knew that this commotion had something to do with him. His mother forced him out though and the two of them walked to the gathering.
There was a group of about ten people, mostly students, standing in a circle around Isolde who was seated in his car with his engine running. Standing at the door was Mrs. Davis. Phil could never recall her looking so disheveled and upset. Suddenly, her eye caught sight of him. "There's the little bastard right there!" she spewed.
"Don't call my boy a bastard!" Mrs. Lesters immediately came to her son's defense. "He's innocent of everything here and he has been made a victim of your ineptitude to conduct a school properly." She had worked her way through the onlookers and was now face to face with her lifelong friend.
"It's because of your boy Faye Louise that all of this bullshit happened!" Phil had only occasionally heard the principal get foul mouthed and that was at his house during some of the card parties his parents had on Saturday nights. At those times, the language was colorful but it wasn't emotionally charged and venomous as it was right now.
"That's bullshit!" Charlene Meyers rang out. She and Damon Redbrook were among the students assembled around the car. "Everybody knows that it was your son that started ..."
"Now, look here young lady, you ought to be in class and if you don't get yourself in there right now I will make sure that you never get there again!" Mrs. Davis seethed ferociously with an extended finger as belittling as the one that belongs to the Grim Reaper. "You leave my son out of it. Porky Lesters has already admitted to everything."
"Don't call my son Porky!" Mrs. Lesters shoved Mrs. Davis in the shoulder. "Phil only admitted to it just so things could be set right again. He never started those stories."
"Is that true Phil?" Isolde asked from his car, his hand still nestled on the gearshift waiting for his opportunity to slam it in reverse and get himself out of this stupid confrontation. "You never started those stories."
Before Phil could open his mouth, Charlene Meyers once again became vocal. "Of course, he didn't! It was that nob Lonnie Davis that started all of this but the little chicken shit can't stand up to his Ayatollah Mother!"
Phil looked around to see if Lonnie was amongst the crowd. His face was not to be seen.
"You have no proof that he did that! My boy doesn't resort to hillbilly mentality like the rest of the peasants around here! I have trained him to be above that kind of thing!" It was this aristocratic attitude that made Mrs. Davis such a despised woman at Darlington High.
"You are so full of yourself that you don't think your shit stinks!" Charlene was animate with rage. She had crossed the line and made herself a candidate for disciplinary action. Even Mrs. Lesters could not tolerate the disrespect the cheerleader was showing.
"Compose yourself, young lady." Mrs. Lesters said. "This is not your battle and you should not make yourself one of its victims."
Mrs. Davis was not as lenient. "Miss Meyers as of this moment you are no longer a student at this high school. I will ask you to get your butt off our school property!"
A silent watcher of this melee was Wes Heston. It was to Wes that Lonnie Davis had first told the story of what his mother had said about Isolde. And it was Wes that had set the rumor mill in motion by passing on the information to some of the others. He knew that he was as guilty as the principal's son and that he could face possible expulsion from school if the truth were to be known but he knew that he could not let others suffer because of his mistake. Suddenly he heard his own voice speak above the others. "It is true what Charlene says, Mrs. Davis. Your son, Lonnie, told me the stories the other day and I was stupid enough to start spreading them around. Sorry Isolde, I didn't mean to hurt you. It was just dumb on my part. And Philip, I honestly didn't think that you would have gotten accused of any of this. I am really, really sorry. What made you take the blame for this and apologize for it? You didn't have to do that, man!"
"You are lying Mr. Heston!" Mrs. Davis cried out. "My boy wouldn't do that! He has nothing but respect for adults! But thank you for letting me know where the true source of these stories is! Consider your academic career over as well!"
"Joanna, listen to yourself!" Mrs. Lesters crowed. "You can't be throwing out half the student body over this. It is very plain to me that it is your son that is at the heart of all of this. These kids are all good. They aren't liars. You should ..."
Before she could say another word, Mrs. Davis cut her off. "I am sorry Faye Louise for wrongfully accusing your son. It is obvious that he is innocent of this affair. I will make sure that he is properly exonnerated from all record of this in my report to the school board. But now that we know that it is Mr. Heston that is to blame, I am sure Mr. Ranbenin will reconsider his resignation."
"My ass is quit from this stalag, Joanna!" Isolde bellowed. "The sooner I am out of here the better. I thought that I had left tyrants behind when I came to this country but I found one who is every bit their equal way out here in the middle of nowhere."
"How dare you equate me with those Slavic thugs! If it wasn't for me you would be nowhere. I found you as a has-been and allowed you to accumulate some wealth through that farcical relief fund of yours that everybody knows goes directly into your pocket." The high school principal was having no holds barred and she was fighting dirty.
Even Phil Lesters could see that the woman had lost it and that the writing was on the wall with regards to her future at Darlington High.
Isolde's face reddened at the allegations. He had been aware that there may have been rumors about the Darlington Disaster Relief Fund being nothing but a fraud but nobody had ever openly confronted him with it. "You are a lousy human being Joanna and a lousy lover too!" He laughed out loud as he said to the others, "There's a rumor for you to spread around the school and the county. Isolde has been doing Mrs. Davis for years and that is why her husband left her!" His engine revved up and he backed up through the crowd and sped away in a fury.
Once he was gone, there were a few moments of silence before Phil's mother said, "Joanna, I think that you should take a leave of absence and get yourself some rest. I think the stress of running a school has gotten to you."
Mrs. Davis did not appear to hear what Mrs. Lesters said. "Miss Meyers, Mr. Heston and Mr. Redbrook, I want the three of you in my office pronto!" The fierce emotionality that she had shown moments before was replaced by a stern and fearsome coldness. She ran her hands through her hair hoping to make it tidy and presentable.
"Now wait a minute, Joanna. You can't be blaming these kids for this. They only behaved like any decent human beings would." Mrs. Lesters grabbed Mrs. Davis by the arm stopping her in her tracks. "Seriously consider my advice and take a leave of absence. As a friend, listen to me. You need a change Joanna, you have got to open your eyes and see the world as it is. Your son Lonnie is basically a good boy but he is prone to behave erratically at times. All boys do. You shouldn't blame his coming off of the pedestal on these other kids."
Mrs. Davis shook Mrs. Lesters' arm loose. "Why don't you for once in your life shut up? Don't talk to me about motherhood. At least my boy has some social skills not like your dimwitted doughboy of a son. I think that it is you that has failed at mothering, Faye Louise. Your boy will never amount to anything, mine will go on and become a valuable asset to this community and nation. Now, just mind your own business and get out of here before I call the police! Okay Miss Meyers, Mr. Heston and Mr. Redbrook, into my office now!"
His mother was shocked at the icy cruelty of what had been a very good lifelong friend. Phil could see the disbelief and incredulity in her eyes. He was feeling some pain himself at what Mrs. Davis had said but he had heard this kind of stuff for a long time and had grown somewhat immune to it. "Mom, do I go to class or not? Am I reinstated?" To Phil, life just goes on.
Mrs. Lesters seemed somewhat preoccupied and dazed. It took her a moment to realize what her son had asked. "I guess you do. Education comes first, son." She suddenly grabbed him and hugged him. Her hands could barely go around the wide girth of his shoulders. She kissed him on the forehead. "Never mind what the witch had said, you are a good boy and I am very, very proud of you and what you have done through all of this. I know your father would be proud too. And I think that today you have witnessed that you do have friends here at the school. Those teenagers rose to your defense against an injustice performed against you. You are liked Philip and you are respected and because of that I know that your father and I have done a good job in raising you. Now, get to class!" She kissed him on the forehead again and walked away.
As Phil entered the school building, his ears rang from a series of terrified screams. Ahead of him just outside of the principal's office was a group of students, there faces all paled from what they were looking at. Curiosity got the better of him and he approached the crowd to have a see. A coldness crept over him as he looked into the classroom where the people were gathered. Hanging by a rope from a heating duct was Lonnie Davis.
Four years had passed since the son of the school's chief administrator had committed suicide. Many things had changed and many things had stayed the same. Mrs. Davis never returned to Darlington High after that fateful day. Nobody really knew where she went all that they knew was that she had gone away. Some believed that she had committed herself to the state sanitarium but there never was any confirmation to this story. Faye Louise Lesters never even tried to contact her former friend. Mental stress could not be used entirely as an excuse for the cruel things that Joanna had said.
Damon Redbrook was the quarterback for the senior team and they were having the season of seasons. It was too bad that Charlene Meyers no longer lived in the area, her family had moved away to the West Coast, she would have cheered the loudest for the team. They had only lost one game the whole year and that was to Callisville who were having an equally brilliant year under headcoach Randy Lesters. The stage was set for the big championship game. The game was still being held at the Darlington Civic Fields even though the stadium had suffered significant damage from the heavy floods in the spring. The stands were able to be salvaged thanks to the copious reserves in the Darlington Disaster Relief Fund. This fund was still managed by Isolde Ranbenin. Although he never went back to coach at Darlington, Isolde had stayed in the community and his sporting goods store was touted to be among the best in the entire state. He still held all his charities for the relief fund, the most popular of which was his kicking contest. This year it was to be staged at halftime during the football game.
There were many entries for the contest. With Darlington High doing so well, there was a revitalized interest in football in the community. Among the usual list of entries was one curious one. Philip Lesters. The boy, if you can call him a boy, was an ungainly behemoth monster who was in his final year of school. Although no one knew his exact weight, most were willing to pin it at over four hundred pounds. Outside of his growing weight, Phil had not changed much over the years. He was still quiet and rather shy and not quick-witted or intellectual. Yet, he was very popular at the school and in the town at large for his strength of character.
At the half of the game, the score was tied ten ten. Normally a person in Phil's position would be torn between who to cheer for. Does he go for his alma mater or does he root for his father? None of these emotions had entered his thoughts. He was too puzzled about who had signed him up for the kicking contest. He hadn't done it himself, nor would he have ever even considered it. Some one was pulling a prank on him but that did not mean that he had to pull himself out of the contest. His name was on the list, he was obligated to carry out what was required of him.
The first entry in the place kicking contest was the field goal kicker of the Callisville team. He had carried Callisville through an undefeated season and had earlier kicked a thirty yard field goal at the end of the half to pull his team into a tie. Wes Heston held the football into place. He had been a volunteer for this event throughout his high school career. The only year that he missed was when the contest wasn't held, the year Lonnie Davis had commited suicide. The Callisville kicker popped the ball from below his finger and the football sailed in a perfect spiral a distance of fifty-six yards. Very impressive. Last year, Isolde had won the contest with a fifty-three yard boot. He had never lost and was not intending to lose this year either. He had his work cut out for him.
The next two entries were from the political side of the community. The reeve and sheriff always entered and always showed that they were good sports even though they sure as heck could not kick a football. Next was the place kicker for Darlington. Many thought that if there was room for improvement on the Darlington squad, it was in the kicking game. More were inclined to agree with them after the Darlington kicker shanked his kick for a dismal twenty-nine yards.
The Callisville kicker's fifty-six yards was holding up as the standard to beat through all of the eighteen contestants that had thus far had given it a try. There was only two left. Porky and Isolde. Although he didn't particularly care for the nickname, it had stuck with Phil and he knew that there wasn't any true malice towards him in those that used it. When his name was announced over the P.A., the stadium started chanting out "Porky, Porky" in unison. They were behind him but this did little to alleviate his nervousness. He had never done anything like this before. He ran out onto the field and was greeted by a handshake from Wes Heston. "They love you," Wes said, indicating the cheering crowd.
"They won't after they see me fall on my ass," Phil replied.
"Well good luck, Phil." Wes tapped the contestant in the spot where football players traditionally tap each other. "By the way if you are wondering how you got into this, you have me to thank. I signed you up."
Phil smirked. Knowing who the culprit was didn't change anything, he found. If he would have looked closer he would have seen that the football that he was to kick was not a regulation one. It was regulation size but it was made of a soft plastic.
"All I ask is you don't take my finger off," Wes called out to the kicker. He knew that he was stealing Lonnie Davis's prank but a good prank like this was just begging to be done. He had a friend down the field ready to grab the ball before it would draw suspicion.
Phil took a breath and started his jog toward the football thinking that all eyes were on his stomach and chest as they bounced up and down. His foot connected with the football. The forward momentum of his kick landed him on his back just like he predicted. But even from the ground he could hear the amazement from the audience. When he lifted his head to look downfield he was surprised to see that the spotter was way down at the other end of the playing field.
A moment later the P.A. announcer's hysterical voice rang out "Eighty seven yards! Eighty seven yards! Can you believe it!"
Isolde could not believe it. Never in all of his days had he seen a field goal kick travel such a distance. All that excessive weight must surely pay dividends in the kicking game. He knew that there was no way that he could beat that mark no matter how much time he had to prepare for it. And he had a lot of time to do so. The standing ovation for Porky Lesters lasted easily ten whole minutes.
Finally, the crowd had silenced itself enough for him to go through the motions of his kick. He came out and congratulated Phil on his kick and then he came out to shake Wes Heston's hand. "That wasn't a legit ball was it?" he said to the spotter.
Even if Wes wanted to continue the charade, he knew that his face would betray him. "It was a plastic ball, Isolde. I thought it would be a good joke. Do you want Phil to kick over?"
"Are you out of your mind? Look at him, he's filled with confidence. This is his moment. Do you think that I would want to take that away from him? Never in your life. You just make sure that you and whoever else you have in on this don't say a word about it to anybody. He stuck his head out once to protect me, I will do the same for him."
Isolde Ranbenin's kick went fifty eight yards. It was his longest one in over ten years and he felt good about it but not as good as seeing someone finally beating him. There were some scouts from State College here to watch the game and he knew that they would start to seriously court Phil Lesters to sign up with the college team. Hopefully, the kid accepts and gets a scholarship. He would do well. Isolde knew what kind of football Phil had kicked, he sold them in his store, and if Phil could make that baby go eighty-seven yards, he could easily make a real one go fifty sixty.
No one quite remembers who won that match between Darlington and Callisville that day. All that stood out in there minds was that Porky Lesters had kicked the impossible and had won.