Authors: Travis Richardson
Tags: #Young Adult
Table of Contents
Lost in Clover
By Travis Richardson
Copyright 2012 by Travis Richardson
Cover Copyright 2012 by Ginny Glass
and Untreed Reads Publishing
The author is hereby established as the sole holder of the copyright. Either the publisher (Untreed Reads) or author may enforce copyrights to the fullest extent.
This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This ebook may not be resold, reproduced or transmitted by any means in any form or given away to other people without specific permission from the author and/or publisher. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each person you share it with. If you’re reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please return to your ebook retailer and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.
This is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to the living or dead is entirely coincidental.
This book is dedicated to Jason Furnish of Paola, KS. 1974-2012.
Lost in Clover
By Travis Richardson
PART 1: CLOVER
“Rogers. Jeremy. Wake up, son.”
Jeremy had drifted into an ether of pastel colors and cotton candy clouds. It was nice until he heard that voice and felt the pain. His head throbbed. He was on his back, and it was hot, unbearably hot. Opening his eyes he could make out somebody. He squinted. Who was looking at him? Oh right, Coach Sumner.
“Now watch my finger. Follow it,” the coach said, waving the finger back and forth.
“I’m fine, Coach,” Jeremy said, trying to remove his helmet.
“Whoa, hold on there, Rogers. Cooper clocked you solid. You’ve been out for at least 30 seconds. Can you move your arms and legs?”
Jeremy lifted, bent, and rotated all four limbs until Coach Sumner nodded and pulled him up. The team, the Clover Cavaliers, stood in a semi-circle, gazing at him with concern in their eyes. All the Cavaliers except for Crazy Eddie Cooper. The fourteen-year-old freshman already stood over six foot and weighed 220 pounds. Even though he was young, he was destined to be varsity that year. He looked disappointed—as if it were a crying shame that Jeremy was still alive.
It had been a simple drill. Coach Sumner had held out his stopwatch and timed how quickly the defense could break through the offensive line. And vice-versa, how long the offensive line could hold—which was three seconds. Jeremy, a presumed non-starter like most freshmen, had held the football as a faux quarterback. He had been the target for the defense and hadn’t been allowed to move. When a lineman penetrated the line, they were rewarded with an easy sack. The unspoken rule was that the tackle should be hard enough to show the coach you meant it, but not to injure the ball holder. When Crazy Eddie broke through, he had lowered his head and speared Jeremy, helmet to helmet.
Even as an assistant coach escorted Jeremy off the field to take him to the hospital in Emporia, Jeremy sensed Crazy Eddie’s lingering disappointment. Jeremy and most of his classmates had long suspected Crazy Eddie wanted to kill somebody bad. He wore a constant hostile glare backed with cold eyes that were incapable of sympathy. It seemed he was held in check by the teachers and the meanest son-of-a-bitch dad in Southeast Kansas. Crazy Eddie would go on to injure more teammates, including the starting quarterback, and so many opponents that the Grover Wildcats forfeited in fear. But he didn’t kill anybody, at least not that year…it was the next.
A YEAR LATER
Jeremy sat on top of a roof, sweating bullets. How he hated Kansas summers. Ninety-five degrees plus humidity felt more like 115. He had spent the morning stripping off old shingles with a claw-toothed shovel—bending forward, shoving those jagged metal teeth under a nail, but not into the wood—that was a no-no—and then pulling up on the unanchored weathered shingle, he’d chuck it in the vicinity of a trash bin, only to start on the next one. There were hundreds of them.
A tornado had blown through in mid-May. It hadn’t leveled anything other than a barn, but the accompanying high winds and marble-sized hail had damaged many roofs and cars. Insurance claims had been processed and dozens of Clover homes were approved to be reshingled. Jeremy had been content mowing neighborhood lawns, but when L.T. Diamond, a contractor and deacon of the Prairie View Methodist, told Jeremy’s dad the wage he was paying, there was no escaping destiny.
Jeremy was finished with one side of the roof and was halfway done with the other when he saw the actual roofers arriving with new shingles, roofing felt, and nail guns in the back of a truck. To Jeremy it felt like his job, not unlike football practice, was to do the dirty work so the others got the glory. L.T.’s son, Kevin, backed into the driveway in his spanking new smoke-gray Chevy Silverado. The wheels were jacked up high and, though the tinted windows were up, Jeremy heard Toby Keith loud and clear.
Kevin jumped out, his wiry shoulders and arms angling out of his University of Kansas Jayhawks basketball jersey. He was twenty and acted as if he owned Clover, a view that few residents opposed. He sized up Jeremy’s work. Randy, a red-faced, pint-sized buddy with a beer gut, ambled over from the passenger side. He looked at Kevin, then the house, and sneered. “That’s all you’ve done, Rogers? My grandmother could’ve done more.”
“And she’s got an artificial hip,” Kevin added.
“Two of ’em.”
They laughed over a pinch of Skoal. Jeremy stood, an aching tightness radiating through his lower back. “The other side is totally done.”
“Yeah, but you don’t finish the job sitting on your ass. Randy, show him how it’s done.” Randy shot Kevin a wounded look. “Come on now,” Kevin said with a shove. “Show him how you became Diamond Contractors’ top roofer.”
Randy scaled up the ladder and onto the roof with unexpected speed and nimbleness. He grabbed the shovel from Jeremy, almost knocking him off.
“Watch and learn, son.”
Randy shoved the clawed shovel under a nail and removed the shingle in a second. He attacked the rest of the row.
“Go Randy, go!” Kevin shouted from below.
Randy sweated furiously as he ripped shingles off with a fluid precision that nobody would have expected from the short, round man. He finished the row with a yelp, and Kevin howled below. Randy handed the shovel to Jeremy.
“That’s the way you do it, son.”
“Let’s see if you can match that, Rogers,” Kevin shouted.
Jeremy’s back and shoulders burned while Randy and Kevin shouted at him. He tried to keep Randy’s match, but it wasn’t possible. He tore into the wood more than once.
“Dang Rogers, don’t poke a hole in their ceiling. That’s a different job,” Randy said.
Jeremy was dizzy by the time he unhinged the final shingle. He wanted to quit right there, but Randy and Kevin clapped and invited him down for some Gatorade in the shade. Jeremy sat under a tree catching his breath and wiping condensation from the bottle across his face.
“What do you think his chances of being a full time contractor are?” Kevin asked Randy.
Randy looked at Jeremy for a moment as if he were a complex mathematical equation. “I’ve seen worse.”
“I’d say he did alright. Alright for sure. Look Jeremy, we’re going to a barbeque tonight. You want to come along?”
Jeremy noticed the glance that Randy shot over to Kevin.
“Sure, why not,” Jeremy said, trying to play it cool.
“Alright then, let’s get these shingles up on the roof so we can have a good time tonight with a clear conscience.”
3. THE BARBEQUE
The barbeque was in a trailer park, and not the good one either. The Hancock Arms had a reputation for dropouts, ex-cons, the unemployed, and other people who can’t seem to scrape bad luck off their shoe. Jeremy had called his parents to let them know he’d be with Kevin that night, location unspecified. They approved. Kevin was a good Methodist kid Jeremy could look up to.
“Drink up,” Kevin said, handing Jeremy a beer.
“Don’t worry about it. This place is like Vegas; nobody says nothing to nobody about what happens here. That includes you. Anything you see tonight, you didn’t see, understood?”
Jeremy nodded and took a sip. He felt dangerous, holding a beer out in the open. It wasn’t like sneaking a bottle down to Matt Hendershot’s basement; this was wide-open public display of drinking. Energy surged through his body with each sour taste. They walked behind a couple of beaten trailers to a barbeque pit full of orange embers with a runty pig hanging on a spit. Jeremy knew most of the guys who were gathered around the pit. They were a who’s who of recent Clover High grads who didn’t leave town or get married. Jeremy thought they looked older than they should have. Potbellies stretching through faded, stained T-shirts and bloated unshaven faces with dark circled eyes seemed to be the uniform.
“Hi,” Jeremy said to the group.
“Rogers, how the hell are ya?” said Trevor McDaniels, the previous year’s starting quarterback until Crazy Eddie broke his arm. It took Jeremy half a second to recognize him, he had deteriorated that quickly. They shook hands, and Trevor put his arm around Jeremy. “This guy also got injured by Crazy Eddie. He was the first one that bastard clocked seriously. What happened again?”
“Concussion. Just a line drill, but he speared me—helmet to helmet.”
A guy with a trucker hat asked, “Do you still play?”
Jeremy shook his head. “Doctor didn’t think I’d be safe.”
In truth the doctor didn’t want anybody to participate in full contact football, but it was his mother who forbade him to play after that hit. Regardless, Jeremy hated Crazy Eddie for destroying his dream of high school football glory.
“Yeah, the guy is a freaking maniac. Somebody needs to stop him,” Trevor said. “I should be in college taking snaps, dammit. Northeastern State and some Arkansas schools were interested in me. But not with a broken arm. I’m damaged goods.”
“Come on now, Trevor,” Kevin said with a smile. “You really think you would’ve got into college with your grades?”
A chuckle floated in the air. Trevor moved from foot to foot, his eyes burning. He threw his beer bottle over a mound in the distance.
“I could’ve. Besides, they help athletes in college on tests and stuff… And that asshole took that away from me. And he’s only fifteen. I mean, who does he think he is?”
“We need to teach him something,” said a bearded slacker that Jeremy had never met.
“Did you hear what he did to a fella up in Harrisburg?” Randy asked, pausing to spit out tobacco juice. “Seems this guy was dating one of Eddie’s sisters. Ashley I think, don’t know. They’re all skanks. Anyhow, something goes wrong and the sister comes crying to her little brother. So Crazy Eddie takes a bat up to his house and beats the guy within an inch of his life. He’s in a body cast and everything, but won’t press charges because he doesn’t want to admit a fifteen-year-old whipped his ass.”
The guys laughed.
“He isn’t a normal fifteen-year-old. He’s a mongoloid,” Kevin said.
“Somebody needs to put him in his place before he does any more damage,” Trevor slurred. “He’s only going to get bigger and meaner, you know. It’s like a public safety issue.”
“Let’s kill Cooper!” Randy shouted.
“Kill Cooper! Kill Cooper!” Trevor chanted until everybody at the barbeque joined the anthem.