Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Chapter 19: Hazing

Beads of Sweat is a book about a high school cross country team's quest for a trophy, a big one.  This chapter describes a bluebird initiation.


-Come on, come on!
-Hurry up!  We don’t have much time—
-You got the grass clippings?
-Hartman’ll be here soon.
-Yeah, said Spider.
-You got the water?
-Nice and cold, said Gales.

In a dead sprint, taking three steps at a time, Smitty and Coetaine led Spider and Gales to the top of the bleachers.  When they reached the last step, they peered over the railing to see a group of seven peach fuzz babies looking up at them.  They were just standing there.  They weren’t moving.  Lassoed to the stanchion.  Lassoed to the stanchion by Jenks, Hamz, and just about every other non-bluebird on the team.  Everybody put in a real group effort.

Seven pfb’s.  Like Torres did two years back, three joined the team a day after school started.  These newbies had been running modified workouts that Pereira led them through.  Just easy little base building jogs of three or four miles.  This did not help their cause, for as the varsity sweated through workouts these frosh got to lick up candycanes and lollipops.  The other four freshmen—Pawgoski, Sellberg, Buck, and Lee—had been running with the junior varsity squad.  Still, frosh are frosh and must be treated as such.  Hartman gave the three new guys the weekend off and Coetaine and Smitty came up with the ingenious idea of some ad hoc initiation.  While they were at it, they figured it’d only be appropriate to get the other ones too.  This event, not quite spontaneous as Wallan, Spiderstrom, and Kimihara fell victim to the tar and feathering just a year ago, happened without Hartman’s knowledge as far as they were aware.

-Get off of me!
-Tie it tighter.

And the underclassmen obeyed Jenkins’ command.  With brute force they corralled a rope around the seven.  Hammond incurred a bloody scratch on his forearm and Deo suffered a fat lip.  Who knew from whom these maladies came?  Everyone bet Paws.  Once captured, however, he took his hazing like a man.  Let’s get this over with, he demanded. 

-Are you ready yet?
-Yeah, we’re ready.
-Remember to keep an eye out for Hartman and Pereira.
-I’m the lookout, Gales shouted down at them.

First came the water.  As Jenks and Torres and Hamz worked to lasso the bluebirds, Smitty’s group worked to bring the goods to the top.  They managed twenty-five gallons of tap water and ten bags of freshly cut grass clippings from the infield of the track.

-Not yet.  Not yet, Jenkins cried.  Stand there.
-Stand there.
-Right there.

Hamz and Jenks pointed to the spot.  They wanted them far enough from the stanchion so Coetaine and Smitty could douse them.  The seven took baby steps toward the spot.  At this point Sellberg and Paws wanted it to happen.  Wanted to suffer it, endure it, and become a member of the team.  The three freshest had no such desire.  They, wide-eyed from the hard work and looking for an excuse out, took the punishment and never returned again.  Nobody snitched but those three never came back neither. 

-Come on already.  I bet you assholes can’t even get us.
-Do you hear that little punk, Gales said.
-Yeah, I hear him, Smitty said as he proceeded to unleash the first five gallon drum onto nothing but pavement.
-Smitty!
-Here.  Let me try, let me try, Coetaine said.
-I got this, Smitty said pushing him away from the container and abruptly missed his intended target again.
-Smitty!
-Smitty, Sellberg parodied and the seven laughed.
-Hey assholes we’re right here you know.  What are you blind?
Sellberg and Paws were becoming dunktank clowns.  They were loving it.  They goaded they saboteurs. 
-Come on, Paws said, Buck needs a shower.
-Yeah, I’m kinda thirsty.  Get me good.
And they did.  The third bucket sloshed them dead on.  And so did the fourth and fifth.
-Oh that feels good, Paws had to say it extra loud to drown out the complaining of the three newbies. 
-Good.  Now take that bluebird!

Slowly, like the first snowflakes of winter, the grass clippings fell from the sky.  The upperclassmen proved lucky.  The wind had ceased.  The four up top dumped eight of their ten bags.  All of them greened the pfb’s. 

-Alert!  Alert!  Untie them now!  Hartman’s coming!
-Gales bolted down the bleacher stairs before the other three could register his call.  They followed leaving two brown bags behind.  Jenks, Hamz, and Torres were already untying.  The freshmen were soaked and covered in blades of grass.  Paws had a smile on his face. 

-Go in the locker room and clean yourselves up.  Now!
-What’s the rush, Jenks?
-Get in there!

Hartman slowly walked out to the track before heading into the lockerroom.  He looked up at the bleachers and continued his slow walk.  He entered and the boys stopped and looked at him.
-What in hell…silence…Everyone in front of your lockers.  Now!

They crowded and shoved themselves to their lockers.  Three freshmen, dripping, remained in the center of the room.  He looked at them long and hard and without words proceeded directly to Smitty.  Walked right to him in a straight line then stopped and breathed.  Like a drill sergeant on Paris Island.  He kept breathing into his face.  Smitty, too scared to blink, inhaled peppermint.  He angled directly to Coetaine and did the same thing.  “How’s your knee?”  Sam jumped and before he could collect an answer, he made his way to Jenkins, Torres, Hammond, Spidestrom.  To every upperclassman in the room.  Then he returned to the three frosh  in the center of the lockerroom.  There they stood.  Wet, cloying, treacly.  He told the others, go start your warm-up, and they couldn’t get out of there fast enough.  He told Pereira to get to the bottom of it and followed his varsity out to the track. 

-Damon.  Damon.
They all turned though none of them owned that name. 
-Damon!
He looked at Galiozzi, who felt he should tell him his name was Malcolm. 
-Tell your teammates…
-Coach?
-Be ready to taste pennies.

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