Monday, August 15, 2011

Chapter 38: Team Dinner

Beads of Sweat is a novel about a cross country team.  Today's chapter recounts a festive team dinner held on the eve of a big meet.

Despite the blazing hot run and ruckus of yesterday afternoon, Hamz still showed up at Galiozzi’s house at dawn.  He didn’t beep.  He let the car idle in front of the house.  As he reached for the phone to text Gales, the junior came running out the door with a bagel in his mouth, another in his hand, and a backpack slung over his shoulders.
     -Want one, he showed his bageled hand.
     -I didn’t think you’d show up this morning.
     -I only showed up because I know how much you hate the Dank.  Especially on a Friday morning.
     -No shit.
     He punched at a few of Hammond’s presets and threw a chunk of his bagel out the window at an equally spastic squirrel.
     -You’re a piece of work.  Know that?  Give me half.
     He handed him the bagel.
     -You’re a real bastard yourself.
     He held out his fist.  It hung there for a long second before Hammond recognized it.  When he saw it, he bumped his knuckles on it.  All was right in their world again.

     Thirteen hours after thirty minutes of core work in the Dank Tank, the Devonshires, Hideo Kimihara’s sponsor family, hosted both teams—boys and girls—to a pasta dinner.  However, the weather being so warm it morphed into more of a pasta barbeque.  A pastaque as Deo called it.
     The Devonshires, a bit clueless about all things endurance but not so clueless not to know that pasta was a prerace staple, did their dinner to the nines.  They started with appetizers: bowls of almonds, tortilla chips with homemade guacamole, popcorn, a platter of fresh cut vegetables.  Strewn across the living room, dining room, kitchen, and deck, small groups of skinny runners hovered over the goodies.  Buck and Lee along with Ola and Monique nearly stuffed themselves before they sat down for their meals.  When they did finally sit down, they commenced with a garden salad with roughly six different dressings from which to choose, each bottle brand new.  Mrs. Devonshire, playing the dual role of hostess/waitress, circled the tables, both indoor and out, asking each guest it they would like fresh ground pepper over their greens.  Half of them had no idea what she was talking about.  Mr. D would’ve been helping out too, but he manned the outdoor kitchen, splitting his time between rotisserie chicken and hamburgers. 
     Novices to teenagers, the Devonshires vastly underestimated how fast and how much high school athletes could eat.  Spider and Smitty had long since polished off their salads and half loaf of Italian bread before poor Theresa finally got pepper on her salad. 
     -Slow down you animals, Casey admonished, this isn’t Cinders.
     They looked at her and slowed their jaws in an exaggerated manner.  
     The Devonshires were at least sage enough to set the drinks up at the tables in a serve yourself buffet.  The kids helped themselves and waited politely for the main course.  Give them credit, they knew their manners when the circumstance called for it.  Casey, known for her massive guttural utterances, didn’t belch once the entire meal.  A record for her.  She still, however, busted chops whenever the D’s were out of earshot. 
     Right as Mr. and Mrs. D were to finally place the platters of assorted meats and pastas on the table, Wallan, sitting alongside Lindsey and Sellberg, stood up.  Perhaps one course too late, but he still gently tapped his glass with his fork. 
     -Hey guys: can I have your attention for a minute? 
He waited for a hush to fall.  Even Mr. Devonshire halted the flipping of beef.  Wallan made eye contact with him and his wife.
-Thanks.  Thank you for having us this evening and cooking this meal for us.  And Lord thank you for providing us with this bountiful table.  Amen.
-And may we run fast tomorrow.
-Amen, louder.
-And thank you again Kimiharas.
-Amen, louder then sprinkled guffaws.
-Their last name isn’t Kimihara, you idiot!
-Well, you know what I mean.
-Idiots, Casey said.
The Devonshires really did make a big deal of the evening.  They sent Deo to school with invitations for everyone on both teams.  The gesture gave the event an air of magnanimity.  As such everyone responded either via call or text to Deo’s cell, the RSVP number.  Even the guys who told him in person still sent a text.  Each subsequent night since the release of the invites, Mrs. Devonshire would ask Hideo for an update.  He complied and was observant enough to notice for his visits at Cinders to know that Maggie and Katherine were vegans.  This information, of course, sent the carnivorous Devonshire couple into a bit of a frenzy that started with an internet search for vegan recipes and culminated with tofu, cannellini beans, veggie burgers, and rice pasta—all prepared in separate pots and pans—appearing on the table.
-Now where are Maggie and Katherine?
Fortunately, they both sat out on the deck at the circular table that abutted the rectangular one, the two joined together in the shape of a gigantic lollipop.  Mrs. D approached them and asked what they’d like: veggie burgers or pasta primavera with rice noodles and tofu or both?  The girls were touched.
-How did you know?
She proudly pointed at Deo and bent town between them to whisper “Cinders.”  They smiled.  When Katherine finally caught Deo’s eye ten minutes later, she gave him a smile and wink that left the sophomore with a tingle in his groin.
Dinner ended almost as soon as it had started.  Pounds upon pounds of pasta, meatballs, chicken, hot dogs, hamburgers, and tofu vanished in the span of thirty minutes.  All that was left was a mountain of dirty dishes.
-Do you guys want to watch a movie downstairs?
-I brought Hoosiers, Jenkins said.
-We should help with the dishes first, Lindsey said.
-Now don’t you even think about that, Mrs. Devonshire interjected.
-We have smores for dessert, Mr. D said, I could get the firepit going and we could toast some marshmallows.
-Let’s do that.
And they were off.  Off to the backyard looking for twigs and sticks.  They ran all over the yard.  Some broke into fencing matches with their branches.  Laertes and Hamlet would be proud.  Others searched endlessly for the perfect bough.  Coetaine challenged Torres to a smores eating contest.  Franklin accepted and won nine to eight.  Coetaine vouchsafed victory by placing and waving a white napkin on his marshmallow branch.  Amazingly, the Devonshires didn’t run out of chocolate, graham crackers or marshmallows.  Maybe because Hammond and Paws only had one each.  Or maybe because Jenkins didn’t have any.  He still thought he might run tomorrow.
-Hey Deo.  Get your guitar.
Deo scurried up the stairs to his room and brought down his acoustic. 
-What can you play?
-Only a few.  I’ve only been at it a little while.
-Play a song we all know.
Deo complied and after a minute or two the whole team joined the refrain of “American Pie.”  That’s how they spent the rest of the night: circled around a fire singing songs they all knew.

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