This short story is about a cultural conflict at a fictional college on Homecoming. Here’s the first episode.
Jonathan Elbert McCutcheon was a direct descendant of the founder of Calliham College, his great-great-great grandfather Estes Calliham, who had also been a lieutenant governor and signed the Articles of Secession that briefly separated the South from the Union. Like Abraham Lincoln, Estes had freed slaves, with the small technicality that the Sixteenth President had done it first. Once the war was over, and Estes was trying to figure out a way to secure his family’s prosperity, he had made quite a show of it, nonetheless, and a century after Estes had founded his own institution of higher learning, that school had become the first private college in the South to admit blacks, though they were known as colored people at the time, then become blacks, and now were African Americans. As Jonny often remarked to his friends, somehow colored people was taboo, but people of color was just fine.
As a general rule, Jonny thought it scandalous the way the world was changing and resolved to succumb to this modernity at the very minimum, if at all. Jonny liked familiar places and experiences, such as the dignified gathering of friends and country-club colleagues on the lovely green lawn outside Doug Tussle Stadium, home of the Fighting Highlanders. Jonny’s pregame soirees were catered. Wine, not beer, was served. The marching band always stopped on the way into the stadium to play stirring numbers for the school’s most loyal and generous fans. Now that it was October and the heat had passed, Jonny wore khakis and a powder-blue, buttoned-down dress shirt, and wife Marissa was just as tasteful, right up to her lovely hat. Jonny didn’t wear a hat, or even a Calliham cap, because he and Marissa agreed it was a shame to interfere with the perfect appropriateness of his gracefully silvering locks.
It hadn’t been the best of seasons for the Fighting Highlanders, but everyone wanted to see a nice, leisurely Homecoming victory, so the visiting team represented a small school in West Virginia that Laidlaw had already conquered, 34-13, on its homecoming, and, as Jonny was fond of saying, “Anything Laidlaw can do, Calliham can do better.”
Jonny’s two sons, seventeen-year-old Tripp and sixteen-year-old Trent, were still dressed as if they had a tennis match planned, and, while Jonny and Marissa were concerned that the morning air might be a bit cool for that, Tripp was joining the Calliham tennis program next year, just as his father had before him. Trent, of course, was the golfer in the family, but he emulated his brother.
All was orderly and pleasant. They had all perused the clever floats on the mall, en route to their prestigious parking spaces, three in a row, with gold-plated name tags, and it left them room for the Lexus and the navy pop-up tent that the caterers were kind enough to deliver and set up. It belonged to Jonny, but they kept up with it because, after all, he paid them a large sum of money.
At about the time the McCutcheons were preparing to be convivial, Charles Dough and Christian Beliveau were competing in their favorite sport, that being stoned intramural soccer. Their team, the Nads, had been rained out several times, and there was simply no way to get the playoff seedings established fairly without having matches made up on Homecoming morning. In preparation for a crucial match, Charles and Christian had passed up drinking, even though it was de rigueur for even a good Methodist on the night before Homecoming. Instead, they had stayed in the dorm to watch rap videos, Simpsons episodes, and a rapidly deteriorating Blu-Ray of Dazed and Confused. Marijuana was involved, just as it played a keen role in the breakfast of champions the two enjoyed before they staggered boldly out in the sunshine to play the SAEs. A bong hit, a cigarette, a cup of coffee apiece, and the lads were good to go.
Charles, who had played for the Highlander soccer team as a freshman but grown tired of play that was so serious it required random drug testing, was an intramural superstar, and, not only did he manage to perform at a high level of proficiency in spite of being seriously buzzed, but he believed weed was the secret of his success.
Christian wasn’t bad. The French surname enhanced his reputation, but he approached his roommate only in creativity and adventurousness of spirit, not ball skills. They worked together well. They thought alike. They smoked the same strains, and the two-to-one victory over the “E’s” was the result of a goal so ridiculous that it should have made SportsCenter. It was a cannon shot. Charles, who had grown tired of trying to collaborate with less skilled teammates, surprisingly launched a shot from three quarters of the field away, one that never got higher than twelve feet off the ground, and left the hapless SAE goaltender backpedaling like a center fielder trying to snag a knuckling liner, and he leaped at the mouth of the goal, but the ball, fired as much as kicked from at least seventy-five yards away, whistled above his outstretched hands but beneath the goal’s crossbar. The net snapped back as if it could only barely prevent the shot from bursting through its strands.
“Dude,” Christian said in the celebratory tumult, “no sober man could possibly have made that shot.”
“True,” Charles said, and then he managed to run out most of the remaining time by weaving in and out of thunderstruck SAE defenders.
“Wanna go to the football game?” Christian asked as they ambled back up the hill toward the dorm.
“Shit, yeah,” Charles replied. “It’s homecoming, ain’t it?”
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