Dad: "Come on, son. Run, goddamnit, run!"
Mom: "I brought them orange slices for halftime. Plus some napkins."
Only later did it pop into my lagging wit how evocative was the title.
But I didn't go in search of the original. Had I done so, wherever I might
have marched would already be charted. And I think it rather rude
("unprofessional", I'd rather say, but I don't get paid) to hijack a title.
So how about "Soccer Dad" to expand the perspective? Not about the jerk
who wants to boss his kid's weekends, but about one I'd like as an
assistant if I knew how to be a coach.
But then I went with "Soccer Boundaries".
As it was Barb's job, the girls called her "Coach". Carl was her
assistant and the girls called him "Carl". Barb knew soccer, knew how to
make the kids work their butts off and love it. Barb knew how to drop a
corner kick five feet from the net. Carl wasn't especially athletic, but
was happy to trot around, the encourager. "Nice pass, Heather. Watch the
On the field, Barb was "Coach" to Carl as well. "You bet, Coach," he'd
confirm as he drilled his group on crossovers. "Not until you see the ball
in the air!" said with certainty. He hoped the girls thought he'd known
that himself. Barb, ponytail pushed out the back of her bill cap, gave him
Basically, Carl loved being out there with the kids, cheering them on,
talking about tournaments as if they were so important. Win or lose, the
girls were learning about working hard, thinking ahead, seeing themselves
as winners. In three or four more years they'd be college-bound, probably
none to compete intercollegiatally, but with what they'd learned at 14 as
tools toward the arts, engineering, medicine, wherever they aimed.
Schedule-wise, Carl made it fit. Two late-afternoon practices a week
plus Saturdays plus Sundays when they did tournaments just meant balancing
His daughter Kathy and Barb's Andrea were best friends, but also
happened to be the team's scoring machine. Kathy could pass and Andrea had
the footwork of a coach's progeny. Long pass, fake, goal! But as much as
coach and assistant wanted the points, they also ensured everybody's
playing time. Sometimes a girl who'd never scored got her skills together
and dribbled one right in.
Barb and Carl plus a clutch of eighth and ninth graders together made
for good soccer.
Carl might have phrased it in light of helping the girls, or maybe even
staying in shape himself, but the fact was that he truly enjoyed working
with ("for," he'd concede with a grin) Barb. They knew each other well.
Did they not know each other so well, he realized, they might come to know
each other too well, the "so" vs. "too" distinction being significant.
The elements were obviously there for boundary crossings. Divorced
female. Divorced male. Excitement of the game. A hug. Needing to talk.
Forget a playing field's sidelines and the game ends up behind the
The elements were there for boundary crossings except for two who didn't
want to ruin their friendship. Barb knew all about crossing lines. Her
divorce, she said, was because, treated casually, such lines fade. "Don't
let that shit happen," as she bluntly put it, "without thinking way ahead."
Probably some folks thought that the two did have a thing going. What's
to stop two adults? They don't go to church or anything. So what? But
folks who presume it tend to be the same ones screwing up their own lives.
Coach and Assistant Coach knew that boundaries have reasons.
But Barb also knew the frivolity of a boundary. A little raunchiness,
never intense, never perpetuated, works well if both sides know the rules.
Familiarity, sure, but in-bounds familiarity.
Carl, in turn, knew that their companionship worked because he was
careful. For tournaments requiring overnight stay, for example, he'd have
his own room and Barb would end up with however many of the team could pack
into hers. Hotels never cared about their extra sleeping bags, as any
number of girls causes less wear and tear than just two from a boys' team.
But parents don't want their girls rooming with a male, even a trustworthy
Once after dinner (Sizzler, the girls had voted), Barb had brought her
paperback to Carl's room to escape the hyper-teenage cluster. When she
dozed off on the other bed, he'd fetched some of the team to wake her, not
wanting to be in the position of being alone with her sleeping. Stupid?
Uptight? Not one bit! That's why it worked.
Carl could have crowded against Barb in the huddle, but he'd scrunch the
other way. They might crawl over each other a bit when cramming gear into
her van, sure, and she'd not act violated. It wasn't that he didn't like
the push of a breast across his arm. But deliberate brushing, he realized,
could become a habit. For a male coach in a girls' league, that sort of
thing is noticed.
Barb had even once said, "There's no reason mine need the damn thing,
but a guy's eyes never stop wandering," going back to her van to slip on
her sports bra under her Hawkeye sweatshirt. It had been his eyes, he
knew, though he'd tried to avert them. She'd seemed even a little amused,
as if, "What say I go topless, good buddy, because they're not much and
then we'll work the girls on zone defence?" She had that sort of ease about
her. We're sexual, sure, but not going to let it overwhelm camaraderie.
We're a team that's out to have fun playing soccer.
Carl figured himself to be smart enough to avoid the obvious pitfalls.
The sex he needed he got with his old right hand, he told himself. Not
that often, but enough. Wendy, his ex, implied he was a wimp for not
jumping up to fuck every time she felt a little bored. She knew how to get
better sex elsewhere and to hell with him!
But Barb knew Carl maybe better than Wendy had. "You're not gay. Shit,
you and Wendy made a baby. We could compare notes, maybe," making him
blush. "You're plenty curious about my underwear, right? Ohmigod, did I
forget mine?" feigning horror, laughing and adding, "You get burned; you
back off. Makes sense to me. Hang in there, buddy."
The girls had given Coach the Iowa Hawkeye shirt, despite her protest
that she was an Iowa Stater, a Cyclone. It was because she never missed
seeing anything. Carl agreed.
Carl and Barb shared the tribulations of raising strong-willed girls,
PTA, Bluebirds, science fairs, orchestra concerts with no two violins tuned
quite the same. Soccer was the girls' passion now, but as parents, they'd
probably be comparing notes on dating rules in a year or two.
"You know why things work between us?" Barb asked one day.
"Respect, an exaggerated sense of what's ridiculous, understanding of
goalkeeping, lots of things, right?" Carl actually did think he understood
about what a goalie should do — charge against a one-on-one breakthrough,
"Sure, but why do things stay solid?" she followed.
"Boundaries. We know ours."
Carl thought. "Yeah, I guess we do." He knew good and well to what she
referred. He'd felt her breast when they were loading the van.
"We do," she laughed the laugh he loved. "But shit, you know what?
You're so rulebook that you think mine is up here," drawing a line at her
forehead. "But maybe it's here and you never figured it out," she
flustered, not a Barb sort of thing to do, and moved the line to her neck.
"For some lucky guy, maybe."
"But just so you know, I know that you know that I'm a girl." She
wrinkled her brow. "Too many 'knows', maybe?"
Barb picked up the ball bag, "So here's a question for a math-boy."
"Say this field is 50 by 100 yards. So if the area remains the same and
we move the touch lines to 60, what happens to the distance between the
goal lines?" To Carl, they were the "sidelines" she was widening, but Barb
knew the correct terminology.
"They get closer, but I'd need a calculator."
"Smart boy! And why'd there be more scoring?"
Carl envisioned X's and O's on a clipboard. "Because the defence gets
spread, I'd think."
"Two out of two! So in addition to athletics, in what social activity
is the objective also 'to score'." Barb's grin tipped off Carl that he was
being set up.
He laughed when he caught the gist. "You're terrible, especially for a
"It helps to widen the boundaries," Barb answered herself. "To score
more, I mean. Now why's that terrible, us talking about soccer, Mr.
Carl could never josh around like that with another woman.
It was later in the season. "Carl?"
He knew from Barb's voice that something weighed on her mind. Had he
gazed too closely at one of the girls? He supposed he did some times, but
Barb wouldn't put him down for noticing, would she? She knew that he'd not
Shoot, when he and Barb joked about a player "growing up", it was
usually in the context of physical attributes. "Better get that one a
bigger jersey," for one filling out her figure. Or perhaps, "Better size
than one down," for a yet flat-chested one with top loose enough to see
soccer shoes from her neckline. Barb knew he noticed. She'd even share
tidbits gleaned from Andrea, information to which coaches should be
sensitive. Lana, a halfback, they knew had "gone too far" and was moody
for weeks. "This isn't the time to rag a girl about teamwork. She's
thinking a bit closer to home, for God's sakes. Scared she'll miss her
period." Carl better know what makes a girl tick, or in this case, what
might make Lana's ticking a bit more complex.
Barb continued about her concern. "Kathy's your daughter, not mine, and
you're a good dad to her."
Carl looked at his friend. Did Barb read his thoughts about even his
own kid? Not thoughts, even, just noticing. "It's nothing," he denied,
"It may be whatever," she countered, "but it's not nothing," busying
herself gathering the practice jerseys, obviously not wanting to enumerate.
Barb waited till the two were walking to the parking lot. "We notice
them all, both of us. You're not some sort of weirdo."
"I hope not," he agreed.
"She's not either."
Carl found this an odd twist. Kathy? But before he could sort it out,
Barb continued, "Sometimes you find out something second-hand."
"Most everything I ever find out, actually," he agreed.
"Well, here's something that I think you better know… Kathy wants to
get on the pill."
"You know what I mean. She doesn't want to get knocked up."
"But she's just… How do you know?" realizing that the "just 14"
wasn't an argument.
"Andrea told me."
"My kid's sexually active, Carl." Barb's voice was flat, almost masked.
"We can't just ignore it, assume it makes them all grown up."
Carl put his hand on Barb's.
She looked down, "All you can warn is don't fuck somebody who doesn't
respect you. Don't catch something. Don't get pregnant. The guys can get
rubbers, but even still I told Andrea to get on the pill. Sooner or later
he forgets or it comes off or some shit. If she's old enough, she better
be old enough to take care of things."
"Jesus," was all Carl could muster.
"Probably half the team gets stuff from that health office. But if we
marched in and raise hell, we'd just deny them getting medical advice."
"With who? Kathy, I mean… I guess I don't have to know, but she's my
"With nobody yet, but she's decided to."
Carl saw some light. "I'll talk her out of it. You can help, I mean."
"Carl, now listen. Every one of them is going to start some time or
another. You don't talk these girls out of something they know is going to
happen. It never works. It's about not rushing. You listen and try to
"Hear what? That she wants to screw?" Carl was frustrated.
"But here's where it's harder to explain," not bothering to affirm his
query. "I suppose you'll figure out why it's me saying this sooner or
later, but that's not the point. She wants to have sex because that's what
girls do. That much makes sense?"
"And she wants to have it with somebody who loves her. Is this weird?"
"OK, then." Barb swallowed and looked fully at Carl. "She said she's
going to sleep with her dad if he'll do it."
Carl sat stunned. With him? Sure they loved each other. Sure he found
her attractive; how could he not? Sure she'd probably idolized him at some
time. But sexually? Him? His daughter? He felt pale. Where had he
"It's not that weird, Carl, for a girl to want that. Shit, it's common
as hell. Maybe usually nothing comes of it; some puke-face boyfriend bangs
her and she halfway forgets. But sometimes, especially for a girl who goes
for what she wants, it happens. She sleeps with dad a few times. That
simple. Just a few times. They keep loving each other."
"But Barb, she's just a kid. You know I'd…"
"I don't know crap sometimes about anybody. And sometimes maybe you
don't know squat about yourself."
"But even still…"
"So here's what I say. Take it for what it's worth."
Carl listened for the escape plan. Barb would know.
"The pill takes three or four weeks to get things stable. She's got
that much time to think." Barb weighed her advice and frowned. "Like it's
this big thoughtful thing! Shit! So you've got a little time, anyway.
Pay attention to her. Getting ready is a tough time for a girl, not like
you zipper brains." She smiled. "Be a real dad, OK?"
"OK." But that wasn't telling him where to go, he realized.
Barb continued, "It's her thing to figure out what she wants; it has to
be. Maybe she says yes and you say no and you deal with that." She smiled.
"You know how to say no. You're no zipper brain. No sirree."
Carl interrupted. "I've got to wait to say that?"
"We don't always know what we'll say."
"It won't happen."
"So don't spook her, then," Barb was emphatic. Letting that much sink
in, she seemed to back up. "She'll want you to be the boss, the dad. Just
don't. You'll hurt her down there because you don't know."
"Just don't. That's what I just said."
"No, stupid! Don't be the boss. Let her move the boundary at her own
pace. She's not used to it, the physical part… Fucking is serious
"You're telling me?"
"You know how much I trust you? Enough to tell you about having sex
with your daughter, forgodsakes!"
Barb was saying that it would happen! Maybe in three or four weeks!
No it won't.
Driving home, Carl was torn between shock and confusion. Kathy? Sex?
There was no pretending that Barb had inferred otherwise. Barb would have
held back on thoughts not fairly nailed down. She wouldn't have flown off
projecting teenage fantasies. She'd talked with Andrea and Kathy wouldn't
lie to her best friend. Barb had spoken with knowledge that such things
occur. Why shoot the messenger?
Fathers can't think this stuff about their kid, can they? It's not
natural. Well, maybe it's biologically natural, but it's not supposed to
happen. It's not right! Everybody knows that. It's plain wrong to have
sex together. Sex is something…
Nothing would happen because Carl knew it wasn't right.
It's just so complicated. Sex is something…
Sure, Kathy might feel ready to become a woman (a shallow view of it,
anyway, he recognized, but she's just 14), but why wouldn't it happen
wrestling with some 16-year-old boy with a driver's license? He answered
that one before he'd finished the question. The kid believes in herself,
in a future. She'd look at the relationship. She probably already saw
beyond what a 16-year-old could return. Sure, he knew, she'd sooner or
later digress to a back-seat mentality, but maybe she wasn't out to hurry
So what would she see in him? Well, a dad she could trust. She'd
probably picked up that she could flirt with him, could get his attention.
She'd noticed his glance when she'd fly by in a towel. She knew he'd smile
after planting her good morning kiss. Sure, he admitted, she saw someone
who in turn saw her as a young woman.
Was he handsome to her? Surely not, as she saw too much of him. But
then, how would handsome even fit into her equation? He was safe.
At dinner that night, she was exactly the same. No fluttery eyes or
comments about being scared of the dark. Conversation revolved around the
school chorus. She wanted out. Fair enough, he realized; she was making
more of her own decisions.
But looking at Kathy eating peas and chatting about tryouts for Junior
Rally next year, he saw things he'd never noticed before — the vibrancy,
the sweetest smile, the fuller face, the necklace. Shoot, he admitted, he
saw somebody whom in his own school days he'd have wanted to know better.
When she took a second helping of fried onions, he saw the cup of her
bra. He'd seen his daughter's bra probably that morning, but hadn't really
seen it. It was nothing of consequence. Now it was very much pictured, a
very pretty bra.
No, he told himself, it didn't give him an erotic feeling. Her breast
was just pretty, was all. He was her dad, like Barb had said. He looked
again; it looked rounder, fuller than it once did. If he brushed against
her while clearing the table, it would be soft.
It was soft.
And this was just the first evening.
The four weeks rollercoastered, Kathy everyday giving more signals.
He'd tried not to see, but there they were! Not that he'd not noticed
Kathy's emergence before, but her sexuality was now so apparent. Not only
her femininity, he realized, but her playful openness with it for him.
At least he had a friend to help him deal with it. Talk a little and
it's easier to get perspective. If only Barb could tell him how to stop
it, but Barb stood firm, "Let her think for herself. Butt into her world,
tell her what not to think, spook her and you know the rest — some
pimple-face with a blister on his dick! Save your venting for me, buddy.
I've got the time and, what matters, I care."
*** "She's kissing me different at breakfast. I can feel it. You know
it's not going to happen, Barb. You know that!"
"Tongue? Hardly, right?" Barb answering herself as she was prone to do.
"Maybe she's just getting bigger lips or something. Kids get bigger by the
week sometimes. Kiss her back like a dad should. Brush your teeth first,
*** "She leaves her panties on the top of the laundry pile!" He didn't
add about noticing which color she'd chosen when revealing above the back
of her belt. Today they were her pale blue ones. She was reaching for the
grapefruit juice when he saw.
"So just dump the laundry in the machine. If you know how to tell,
though, her panties might tell where she is with her pills."
How would you tell, wondered Carl, but he didn't ask. He couldn't see
*** "She doesn't even tighten up her bra half the time."
Barb gave him her withering look. "So you say, 'Here girlie, let me
fiddle around with your strap?' God no! Just don't get your nose stuck
*** "Maybe I just don't know how to show her I love her. She wouldn't
want the sex to prove it.""
"What I know is that you're the dad that Kathy needs."
*** Once when Kathy pretended to steal his cap after practice, he'd
grabbed her, getting maybe goosed in return. It was surely just an
accident, an elbow maybe. But that kid's so clever. He'd felt her breast
with his forearm, accidentally slid over it and them back down, but he
didn't tell Barb that part.
"You weren't hard or anything, right?" in Barb's unabashed mode, as if
they'd talked about erections before. Of course not. "But afterwards?"
she'd continued. Well, not especially, at first anyway. "It'd be normal
as hell," she'd concluded, but then added, "Plus getting that way
remembering about it," but not pursuing it.
*** When Carl had jogged around too much on the sidelines (the girls ran
20 times more without such wear), Kathy would rub his neck before dinner.
She knew he liked it enough that sometimes she wouldn't make him even fib
about having muscle cramps. Her fingers could relax tendons several layers
in. Is this OK?
"Your neck?" Barb twisted at it as a trainer might. "I'd think so.
Think she's planning on going lower? Once those fingers get to walking,
you're asking me for the map?"
She laughed, "Tell you what though, if Kathy starts getting fresh, you
just come to me and I'll whack you for a while."
*** A breast sometimes showed when Kathy wore pyjamas. Hers were a
young women's areole, not widened like Wendy's had become by motherhood.
Larger diameter for a baby's target, Carl expected, would be the Darwinian
explanation. He tried to think of the scientific part.
Barb said that Kathy's boobs were totally normal, that this was the age
when the nipples started to pop out more. He'd noticed that too.
*** Showering made Kathy's teasing pretty obvious. She'd leave the door
unlocked, suggesting "Sometimes somebody has to pee." He'd of course never
gone in, but knew that the sliding shower wall wouldn't obscure much.
When he at last succumbed, "Dad, is that you?" she'd asked from behind
the glass. "It's OK. It's foggy," she'd assured.
He'd almost backed out, but instead chimed, "Just need to brush my
teeth." He'd not planned to linger, though he'd thought enough about the
dilemma of Kathy asking him to do her shoulders. She didn't, fortunately.
Though she was standing away from the partition, he could discern the flesh
tones of her figure. It was too foggy to really see, but between her legs
"Shut the door, Dad. It lets in the cold." He'd exited panicked.
When he admitted the encounter to Barb, she was adamant. "Keep your
slimy ass out of that bathroom. She's not safe yet."
*** Sometimes father and daughter would watch TV — "Mash", sometimes a
movie. If the movie had an actor servicing a bare-breasted actress (thus
why the subscription channels made money, Carl guessed), Kathy wouldn't
pretend not to watch while Carl pretended to doze off. It wasn't porn
because maybe the plot was about a writer's life, just a life that included
breathy fornication. He'd listen to the sounds, knowing that she saw the
"Could you see their organs?" Barb asked, as if the actors played for a
church service. No. Being Mr. Censor would just tell Kathy to watch
X-rated ones at her friends', Barb agreed. Let the kid be honest about her
*** "Barb, this is sort of strange, but, you know, it's just Kathy and
me in our house. I could just be in her room or something. Or she could
come into mine. If something like that happened and her pill's not working
"So don't go in there to check on her window, or whatever," Barb thought
obvious. "Don't tell her there's someplace more comfortable when she rubs
your neck. You got a sofa."
*** Watching TV together posed Carl a less-passive challenge. Sometimes
Kathy would drift off, and some of those times she'd be almost against him.
"Like that time at the hotel, Carl," Barb remembered, "when you got the
girls to wake me up. Maybe I ribbed you a little about not ravishing me,
but honestly, you're a real gentleman. So be that way with Kathy, OK?"
He pointed out that there weren't teammates to call upon.
"Carl, did you touch her?" Just where his hand was on her side. "That's
all?" Well, maybe a little more. "Did you reach in, maybe?" No, he was
adamant. He didn't add how his hand had slid up her sleeve from where it
would have been so easy to slip inside to her collarbone. But he'd not.
He wasn't sure how it would have been, had she been in a shirt with
buttons. He'd imagined one or two coming undone.
"Shit fire!" Barb started when she read Carl's mind. "She could have
woken up! Like she's wondering about sex and she wakes up with dad
squeezing her tit! Goddamnit, Carl, you want me to run on you? Then keep
your act together! Don't spook her! You could go to jail and get your
Barb was shaken, he could tell. She'd all but told him she knew he'd
end up doing it, and here she finds out how nearly right she was. She's
surprised? It seemed strange to Carl, but not high on his "to solve" list.
But Barb was there for more than guidance about not being seduced.
When Carl felt totally confused was when Barb did her best coaching. It
was usually pretty simple. "Women get frustrated. Men get frustrated.
Same thing. We deal with it. We got to clear our systems. Shit, if the
two of us decided to be lovers, that's what we'd do. But we got the
boundaries we agreed on. So do you and Kathy. She's not ready yet, the
pill bit. You still deal with it, but maybe more on your own. Shit, it's
how we're wired. You don't tell me crap, OK, but just blink your eye or
something so I'll know."
The two managed a smile. Barb added, "You won't go blind or anything."
"Carl, we got to talk." Coach and Assistant Coach were on the sidelines,
watching the girls jog their final lap. They'd practiced well.
This was playoff time, Carl knew, the real one. Barb wouldn't "got to
talk" about a soccer game. Kathy was ready to go through with it, her
choice only too obvious. But himself? It wasn't about being able or
wanting to. God, did he want to! He'd gone to sleep too many nights
picturing Kathy. She'd pull him to her on the sofa. She'd strip. Naked,
she'd crawl upon his lap, facing, her breasts pressing, virginity yielding,
closing around him. She'd be in charge, like Barb had said. When at last
his seed satisfied her, they'd kiss. Carl would drift off in the fullness
of it. Having done a good job. Her being so happy!
But still he wanted Barb to steady his resolve. To give him the
assurance that he'll do OK, be a loving dad. To tell him again that it's
for Kathy. Barb knows.
"I'm ready," he agreed. "I love the kid, but I needed these weeks to
get here, too. Like you said, I'll let her set our pace. Maybe we just
start out cuddling.""
Barb spoke slowly. "Carl, it's like the grass is listening. Can we go
someplace?" turning to at a bench some yards behind.
"Yeah. Not on the field." The two waved the off team and sat down.
"It's time, right? She told Andrea it's time."
"No, Carl. She's not."
"She stopped the pill and isn't going sleep with you."
"She isn't?" Carl felt the emptiness before he could deny it. She
didn't want to?
Barb took his hand to warm it. "She knows she's too young."
"She's almost 15. Lots of countries, that's when they get married!"
"Well, she's not there, I guess." Barb rubbed the back of his knuckles.
"I guess," a mumble.
"You guess. Carl, damn it, you guess? Look at me! You're goddamn
ready to cry!"
"No, I'm not."
"Well, be a dumbass then and act like a statue. You want Kathy to take
you down on your damn sofa! You think I've been nowhere?"
"I don't know… It's just that she's so ready."
"Like you aren't?" as if to wake him. "Like who's seducing who?"
"Does she love me still?"
"Shit yes. She's just not ready. Maybe she should wait for somebody
her own age," Barb suggested. "Sex not working out; it's regular shit,
"Oh, God, Barb. It has been working out, Kathy and me, you know,
"Oh, hell," he heard her groan. But she didn't let go of his hand.
A minute ago he'd been building a life around Kathy. Maybe it would
look odd, father and daughter living together, but people would get used to
it. They'd have their two rooms. Maybe they could have a baby and say she
adopted it or something. Consummation would lead to everything.
Now nothing. When he'd divorced, he'd at least had a little girl to
plan for. Now what? A teenager who gives him a fly-by kiss and runs off
to rally practice.
"Like it's lonely all of a sudden?" Barb interrupted his thoughts. "
But Carl, it's not over if a friend is still there."
He looked more closely at his companion. She was close. "That's you.
You've been with me," he realized. Somehow, she looked like Kathy, even.
"Kathy's the one who did the work, who you almost made love to. You
need to make love, Carl, a lover, over and over. You do. I'm not Kathy,
but I'm me."
A kiss was how they sealed it.
Barb looked up, then behind, "Look back there, Carl. See that
basketball hoop? He looked. "You know, Carl, my dad was my basketball
coach." She thought a moment. "And Ms. Griffin, we called her Claire, was
his assistant. So it was different than now, but it was the same.
"And I loved my dad. Always have. Maybe it was a dumb decision, but
maybe it wasn't. Anyway, it was my choice. Shit, after that I fucked my
way out of every boundary there ever was, but at least I figured it out.
"And hell yes, Dad and Claire got to be lovers. It must have been at a
barbecue or something where I saw them wander toward the garage and I knew
sure as shit. There they were, holding hands, just like us. I skedaddled,
already knew the rest. Claire's my step-mom now," brightening at the
"Any way, like I said," Barb returned to the more personal, "I fucked
things up for myself, hadn't figured out about limits. We always have
them." She raised his hand and got him to see her eyes. "But a few yards
Carl reflected. "How would I know?"
"I'm not your coach, just maybe a partner."
Carl nodded, paused and squeezed her hand. "Why me?"
"Because we've been teammates for a hell of a long time, good
teammates." He'd always loved they way she laughed, didn't expect more of
him than he could do, but asked maybe more than he sometimes evidenced.
"But," almost forgetting about Kathy, "you've never seen me play."
"So we just do a try-out," resting her hand behind his elbow and looking
around. "Maybe not here, though."
Without allowing himself a chance to doubt his instincts, "One-on-one?"
Barb reached behind him, as if for some unseen object, and Carl stilled
as her breast drug across his arm. "Shit! We had that damn boundary
somewhere, but it just got away. I guess it will turn up, you think?"
she'd explained, not needing an answer.
Barb told the team that this would be her last year. They'd been an
inspiration, given her confidence in herself. Some of them would keep
playing, she hoped, but what she really knew was that they'd all do
positive things. Some might move up and some would find new options to
check out. "Heck, girls. I went to basketball after mean coaches yelling
for years to keep my hands off the ball." They'd laughed. Carl was always
amazed how she'd say "heck" to them when she meant "shit".
She'd admitted to Carl afterwards, "Coaching's no snap. How a season
turns out is sometimes more about what you tell them than it is about
moving the ball. You tell them what they need to hear to be winners. But
sometimes you don't tell them all the same stuff."
Why Kathy had backed so suddenly away from sex with him, Carl never
figured out. Teenagers can just change directions so fast. It was almost
as if she'd never been on the pill. He took Barb's advice, of course —
Don't ask, not with your kid, anyway. It made things easier, just acting
like nothing ever occurred, he'd admit to Barb's smile.
If Barb hadn't been there to hold him together when Kathy backed away,
what would he have done? If he'd learned that he was ready to make love,
that was something important to know, she coached.
Andrea and Kathy had the offensive skills to stay with soccer next year,
but they'd made their minds to move on. Volleyball, maybe. Drama where
they could sing? After the team's final huddle, the two walked home.
Walking meant, let's talk.
"It was weird, Andrea, that month, my dad and all," reflected Kathy.
"Well, Mom said that it's pretty regular for a dad to see his kid a
little differently when she's changing."
"Like stumble around, looking like he wants to have sex with her?"
wondered the other.
"It's a middle-age crisis thing, she said. They don't do much, unless
"Well she's right on that, just bumped my tits a few times and tried to
see me naked. Masturbated like hell sometimes. Like he doesn't even think
who does the laundry?"
"Mom says it's not their fault," ruled Andrea. "Like she said, if you
let 'em solve it themselves, it's done. The best ones just take longer.
Make a big deal and shit hits the fan. I'm glad you listened to her about
not spooking him, even if she's just my mom."
"So I'm about ready to tell the counsellor he's a pervert, and all of a
sudden, I'm just his little girl again. Back to those forehead kisses! I
didn't mind him noticing a little, you know? Well, like your mom told me,
keep my mouth shut."
"Don't be a dumb-ass about the why. We saw them making out by the
soccer field. Good thing only Mom looked up."
"They weren't making out, just kissing," corrected Kathy.
"See Mom do his arm? When she says that then was their first kiss, I
believe it, actually. Now they're fucking like your hamsters. Like we
can't hear? Think we'll be step sisters or whatever?"
"Probably," agreed Kathy. "I'm pretty good on knowing where my dad's
"Hey, you know that Gary is going to take his driver's test next month?"
"Shit, if I could just get curfew upped to 12:30, he'd take me out,"
"And pop your little cherry, right?"
"Gotta pretty soon, right? Maybe I should get on the pill or
"Probably. Lana says they're OK. So maybe we could double, you in the
front, me in the back!"
"No way! I don't want you watching."
"OK. So here's how to get better curfews. I tell Dad that yours is
changing to 12:30 and you tell your mom the same about me. Then they'll
both think it's OK. Those two are so big on limits! Like the world has
"The old different-stories-to-different-people trick? Mom probably
knows it," guessed Andrea.