Bleachers: A Novel
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High school all-American Neely Crenshaw was probably the best quarterback ever to play for the legendary Messina Spartans. Fifteen years have gone by since those glory days, and Neely has come home to Messina to bury Coach Eddie Rake, the man who molded the Spartans into an unbeatable football dynasty.
Now, as Coach Rake’s “boys” sit in the bleachers waiting for the dimming field lights to signal his passing, they replay the old games, relive the old glories, and try to decide once and for all whether they love Eddie Rake—or hate him. For Neely Crenshaw, a man who must finally forgive his coach—and himself—before he can get on with life, the stakes are especially high.
bookshop. She figures she can buy from me because I have secrets of my own. Plus, at a hundred and ten, she probably doesn’t give a damn anymore.” Nat put a massive blueberry muffin on a plate and laid it on the counter. “Dig in,” he said, breaking it in half. Neely picked up a small piece. “You bake this stuff?” Neely asked. “Every morning. I buy it frozen, bake it in the oven. Nobody knows the difference.” “Not bad. You ever see Cameron?” Nat stopped chewing and gave Neely a quizzical
trainers, and half the band. Got fifteen yards for excessive celebrating.” Couch: “Nobody cared. I remember looking at Rake and the coaches, and they didn’t move. Talk about weird.” Neely: “I was lying in the end zone, getting crushed by my teammates, telling myself that we’d just done the impossible.” Randy: “I was twelve years old, and I remember all the Messina fans were just sitting there, stunned, exhausted, a lot of them crying.” Blanchard: “The folks from East Pike were crying too.”
The same system. We dreamed of being Spartans and playing before ten thousand fanatics. By the ninth grade Rake himself was supervising our practices and we knew all forty plays in his book. Knew them in our sleep.” “I still know them,” Neely said. “So do I. Remember the time he made us run slot-waggle-right for two solid hours in practice?” “Yeah, because you kept screwin’ up.” “Then we ran bleachers until we puked.” “That was Rake,” Neely mumbled. “You count the years until you get a
sixties, during The Streak.” “So they never lost a game,” Jaeger said. “That’s right. In fact, the ’68 team was never scored on. Twelve games, twelve shutouts. Those two guys were there.” “Awesome,” Jaeger said, truly in awe. “That was before we were born,” Paul said. A scoreless season took a minute to digest. The optometrist and the lawyer were deep in conversation, no doubt replaying their glorious achievements during The Streak. “The paper did a story on Rake a few years after he was
but Rake intervened and got Rabbit reassigned as an assistant athletic director. Such a title at Messina High School meant he did nothing but take orders from Rake. He drove the team bus, cleaned uniforms, maintained equipment, and, most important, supplied Rake with all the gossip. The field lights were mounted on four poles, two on each side. Rabbit flipped a switch. The lights on the south end of the visitors’ side came on, ten rows of ten lights each. Long shadows fell across the field.