A Family Plan — Bring It: Chapter 27

Already, Jen and Dawn were standing on a dais, facing one another, holding hands. A tall, slender, elderly man dressed in the shimmering robes of a wizard laid hands on heads as he recited a few words from an ancient tongue, one I did not recognize, though it felt like I should.

“Is everyone here…like us — magical?” Pam looked around.

“I think most are. Dawn’s a wolfcat; Jen’s a witch. A lot of Jen’s family are witches. I think Dawn said she has an aunt who’s a wolfcat. But Dawn’s parents aren’t magical.”

“This is her parent’s backyard?”

“No, this is Jen’s place. She inherited the place.”

There were maybe two dozen guests. Many were college age, so I assumed they were students at the university Jen attended. But there were older couples as well. Jen’s family, I guessed and maybe some were Dawn’s. I recognized Dawn’s parents, though, from her descriptions, and a couple of pictures she’d shown me of her as a child.

Except for the obvious distinction, that it was a non-traditional ceremony in every sense — Jen dressed in black while Dawn was dressed in crimson — it was a beautiful and yet simple affair. And at the end of the exchanging of vows, they were pronounced paired and they kissed.

“I’ll bet Dawn was the one with all the magic in that magic show where you met her.”

I smiled. “Not exactly. That was sort of when my gifts erupted big time.”

Pam leaned against me. “So, both of them taught you tricks.”

“Like how to protect my thoughts from other magical people, how to shift places like we did to come here — things like that.”

Pam nodded. “Are you like her in other ways?”

“What do you mean?”

“Obviously, she’s, what’s the term for it?”

“Bisexual?”

“Yeah. Are you?”

“No.”

“No, you don’t think so or definitely no.”

“No as in one of the things Dawn and I had in common was we both like girls.”

Pam squeezed my hand.

The ceremony concluded. I took Pam’s hand and drew her close, preparing to leave.

“Brent!” Dawn came bounding toward us. “You made it! This doesn’t mean you lost, does it?”

“No, I won the first round. Just on a break. We can’t stay long, though. This is Pam, my girlfriend. Pam, this is Dawn.”

She offered her hand.

“Congratulations,” Pam said. “I’ve never been to a ceremony like this.”

“Jen and I sort of improvised it. Most of the people here are from her coven.” She stepped back, appraising Pam. “You’re a strong witch, too.”

Pam smiled but blushed. “Still learning.”

“Give it time. Brent can show you a few things, but, as I understand it, most of the things with witches just come naturally.”

“My aunt’s a witch,” Pam explained. “And my big sister.”

“Perfect. Then you have some guidance.”

Dawn tilted her head to one side as she looked at me, then leaned toward Pam. “You might want to keep an eye on him. He doesn’t always seek the attention, but he often gets it.”

“Oh, I know. And it’s not subtle,” Pam said.

“What are you talking about? I can be subtle.”

“We’re talking about being in the spotlight. That’s not always a good thing for someone with magic,” Dawn warned. “After this foray with wrestling, you might want to tone things down. Remember, there are bad people you must avoid.”

“The hunters,” I said.

“The people who control the hunters. They want to capture us, or worse,” Pam said.

“Yes, capture us and force us to work for them,” Dawn said. “Witches have covens for protection. When a number of witches combine their power to focus on something together there is synergy in it.”

“What about wolfcats?” I asked.

“Not so much,” Dawn said. “Although wolfcats love being social, they have an independent streak as well, probably from our cat heritage. It’s good for surviving, but it’s also contrary to the nature of a wolf. The human part of us moderates the extremes.”

Having negotiated the gauntlet of well-wishers, friends, and family, Jen also joined us. We hugged and exchanged kisses on the cheek.

“Congratulations,” Pam said to her.

“Jen, this is Pam, my girlfriend. Pam, this is Jen.”

“And a beautiful witch, too. Congratulations, Brent! And you, Pam. You make a wonderful couple. Come join us at the table. We were just going to cut the cake.”

“I have to get back.” I indicated my wrestling warmups.

“Oh, I assumed that was over. Dawn said you might not be able to make it.”

“No, just a lunch break. In fact, our anchors are in a closet of cleaning supplies at the arena.”

“Oh my!” Jen said, then laughed. “Yeah, you’d best get back before someone discovers you and calls the emergency squad or something equally inane.”

“I hope you win,” Dawn said. “If he struggles, you give him a little boost, Pam.”

“I’m doing it on my own, the old-fashioned way.”

“How droll,” Jen rolled her eyes, slipping her hand into Dawn’s. “Wolfcats always resist for some reason.”

“I didn’t resist…well, not much, anyway.”

Jen kissed Pam’s cheek. “If you ever need anything, let me know. Us witches need to protect one another, you know.”

“Thanks so much for coming. It means a lot to us,” Dawn said.

“Yes,” Jen agreed. “We are all friends for life, now.”

Pam turned to face me, and I pulled her closer again. We closed our eyes and kissed. The smells of the closet preceded opening our eyes. But when Pam tried the knob on the door, it was locked from the outside.

There was momentary panic in her eyes as she looked at me.

“It must be one of those doors that stays locked.”

“That’s not a problem for you, is it?”

I shook my head and again touched the knob. The door popped open.

“I need to remind you to teach me that.”

“It comes in handy.”

* * *

We figured we had been gone too long for Catherine and the twins to still be at the table in the concession area, so we went directly into the arena.”

“They probably think we’ve been smooching all this time,” Pam said, leaning into me to share another kiss.

“Of course, that wouldn’t have been a bad thing either.”

When we arrived at the point where she had to go one way and I needed to go another, she asked, “Are you going to win?”

“Ain’t nobody better than me.”

“That’s not what I asked.”

“I’ll be fine. Whatever the outcome, I’ll give it my best. And as Dad says, the world can’t beat it.”

By the time I returned to where my team was seated on the arena floor, the consolation matches were about to begin. I made sure Coach Friske saw me before taking my seat.

Pam rejoined the others. While we were away my sisters, Catherine, and Aunt Claire conspired to arrange an unofficial cheering block of sorts in the stands directly in front of the mat, drawing upon the Countryside wrestlers’ family, friends, and whomever else. Claire joined the girls and both my sisters in front of the group to lead cheers.

“Well, will you look at that?” Kevin chuckled as he appraised the handiwork.

“They’re instigators,” I said with a laugh.

“That gives me an idea. Come on.”

“Where are you two going?” Coach Friske called out to our backs.

“We’ll be right back. We’re going to set something up,” Kevin said while walking backward.

“Guys–”

“Don’t worry, Coach. You’re going to love this.”

He appeared skeptical, but as I shrugged and followed behind Kevin, he seemed willing to let it slide. I thought I knew what Kevin was up to, but with him, I could never be sure. But he was the team captain. I followed closely as we approached our cheerleaders.

He called Annie, Kelly, and Beverly who came over to us to hear the inspiration Kevin revealed.

“You all know Brent’s lady is a cheerleader from Tipp City, right?”

“Of course,” Annie said, glancing away.

“Her sister was too, and she’s a football and wrestling cheerleader here,” I added.

“She is?” Kevin looked at me, surprised.

“I thought I told you that?”

“Uh, no.”

“Anyway, there is some experience there. Oh, and one of my sisters was a cheerleader in junior high. So, there’s that.”

“And I saw at least four girls from Block C up there, so, it’s perfect,” Annie said.

“They’ve already got all of our supporters together right here in this section,” Kevin pointed.

“I see that,” Kelly said.

“So, I think if you gals go over, compare notes or whatever to coordinate your efforts just like you do with the cheering block at school…”

“That could be fun,” Beverly said.

“Cheering is cheering,” Kelly added. “Everybody uses a lot of the same routines.”

“I like it,” Annie said. “We might learn some new stuff.”

What happened next was remarkable. After several minutes of discussion and organization, they began practicing some cheers, just to get warmed up.

“That’s what we’ve been missing,” Kevin said as he looked up into the stands.

“There’s gotta be a hundred people.”

When the crowd in the stands began doing a cheer that was usually heard only at basketball or football games, Coach Ellis looked over at us signaling thumbs up.

“See, it’s officially approved, now.”

“As if anybody needed that.” Kevin laughed.

Although the consolation matches were interesting, only two of them were relevant to our team. Of course, we wanted Chuck and Gary to win their matches and place third overall in the state tournaments. It would do well for our team’s points, but also, we believed they deserved the highest ranking possible for all their efforts along the way.

Somewhat rehearsed and rearing to go, the improvised cheering block began making their presence known once Chuck stepped out onto the mat. Chuck looked up into the crowd waving his arms, encouraging them to get to their feet.

“This is incredible,” Coach Friske said. “These affairs are usually pretty quiet except for down on the mat.”

Although his match was difficult, Chuck maintained his intensity and focus throughout. He was ahead by four points when time in the match expired, setting off an eruption from the makeshift cheering block.

When he came off the mat, he wore a broad smile. “That was great! It felt like I was back home, you know?”

Up next, Gary was out to prove he was better than the prior match indicated. He took charge immediately and dominated his opponent to win by pin in the second period. Again, the assemblage of supporters encouraged him throughout and then exploded with cheers the instant he won.

While the remainder of the consolation matches proceeded, the two coaches got us together in a team huddle. “Okay, Chuck and Gary did their part for our overall effort, getting us two third places. That means the rest of us will need to step it up. None of the matchups are easy. But I assure you your opponents are thinking the same thing.

“Thanks to Brent’s girlfriend and Kevin’s bright idea, we have some crowd support, now. But that means it will be harder to hear Coach Friske or me when you’re on the mat. You must listen for our voices.

“The way things are shaping up, it looks like we are going to be in competition with one team for the team title, the guys from Cleveland Heights. It could be close now. We have some matches against their guys. Of course. We need to win them. They have four wrestlers in the finals. Each of us had two in the consolation matches. Gary took care of one of them already.

“If anyone of you ever doubted the level of support, just look up in the stands. There are also some people here that are cheering for you that aren’t in the massive block. We all believe in you, and you all believe in each other. That’s how we get it done.”

When the pep talk concluded, Kevin engaged in a discussion with the coach. I decided to rest for a bit and sat. If the team competition was close, it might come down to my match. My opponent was from the school in question. The way things seemed to go in my life with nature throwing up hurdles before me - that figured.

With the consolation matches out of the way, Ralph was up next. He’d been a rock all season, never failing to deliver. His opponent was from Cleveland Heights, and all season long they had been ranked within a couple of places of one another. They were both juniors, both had two prior years of wrestling experience. They were evenly matched, with similar records.

Ralph didn’t appear to be nervous, but I didn’t see how he couldn’t be. The pressure of the team and the eyes of everyone were upon him.

As usual, Ralph started off strong and in control of Trevor Mackey, but halfway through the first period, he made a mistake. It was a minor miscalculation, but at the level of competition, it was critical. Trevor reversed and took over. Ralph resorted to a neck-bridge for the last full minute of the first period, something extremely rare for him.

In the second round, Trevor continued to control Ralph. No matter how he countered or resisted, he could not escape or reverse. Trevor was ahead ten to four and appeared to be cruising for the victory, especially as the round ended with a two-point near fall to extend his lead to eight points.

The cheering block was in full gear, as Ralph received instructions from Coach Ellis. Trevor had the up position, but as I watched, I figured Ralph had a plan. He feinted the sit-out, then turned inside and stood, physically lifting Trevor as he did. Then, dropping his opponent to the mat, Ralph scored a takedown and with both of his opponent’s shoulders exposed for two seconds, he scored a three-point near fall.

Three points separated the wrestlers, but Trevor had the ride time advantage. Ralph needed to take the lead or get the pin. Except, Trevor had not been pinned all season, but then, neither had Ralph.

Ralph scored a two-point near fall to narrow Trevor’s lead to one and had eroded Trevor’s lead in ride time as well, but there was insufficient time to turn its favor. All Ralph could do he did, working for another score, another near fall, or a pin.

Trevor’s strategy was to escape, rocking one way, and then abruptly in the other. Time was running out. Ralph had to gamble. There was nothing else he could do in his effort to salvage the match and his dream season. Trevor read the attempt and reversed for two points. Ralph reversed him to return the margin to the same, solitary point. Ralph scored another near fall to take a one-point lead, but Trevor still had a ride time advantage.

Ten seconds were left, Ralph pressed, attempting a pin, but Trevor resisted, successfully reversing Ralph to take the slightest of victories.

I could tell Ralph was angry. Not at his opponent or at the world, but at himself. A stupid mistake had cost him control early in the match.

No one said a word to him, but he turned and grabbed Tommy’s shoulders. “You gotta win this. I let everyone down. You have to get our momentum back.”

Tommy nodded as he continued to wait for his turn.

When Ralph took a seat, no one sat close. I stood up and walked over to him. “You want to talk?”

“Not especially, big guy.”

“Well, I think I should.”

He looked up. “No sympathy.”

“You’ll not get it from me. You screwed up — plain and simple. It was yours to lose and damned if you didn’t do that. But it wasn’t like you gave up. I didn’t think you had any chance to get out of the hole you dug yourself, but you made a comeback. To take a lead late - that was amazing.”

“I was there, Brent. Tell me something I don’t already know.”

“You remember when we had a chance to win every match and Kevin screwed it up.”

“Yeah.”

“What did you say to him?”

Ralph nodded.

“There’s next year, Ralph. You got that chance. I don’t.”

“I’m not wrestling ninety-eight pounds again.”

“It doesn’t matter, you’ll get your championship next year because you have to do it. Everybody looks up to you. When Kevin graduates this year, who do you think the captain will be? Somebody has to be the heart of the team. And being runner-up at State ain’t bad.”

Ralph looked away.

“Just saying.”

“Thanks, man.”

“I have no idea what you will say to me if I lose, so I guess I’d better not do that.”

Ralph smiled.

Following the next weight classes, other teams scored victories. We were behind in the team competition. Although Tommy was not wrestling anyone from Cleveland Heights, we needed a win. It was a lot of pressure on him, but he’d been there in every match, it seemed. Somehow Tommy found a way to win.

“‘Tommy Terrific’,” Kevin called out, knowing that moniker annoyed him. “We need a pin. I don’t think my nerves can handle another of your cliffhanger matches.”

Tommy nodded.

“Tommy,” I called for his attention. “You don’t need to grow up to be me. You’re already better, anyway.”

He grinned and nodded.

Coach Ellis grabbed both sides of his headgear, forcing his eyes to focus on him, and gave Tommy detailed instructions. He was wrestling Staley Finke, a senior and last year’s runner-up in the 125-pound class. He’d moved up a weight class to avoid wrestling the guy who’d beat him in the finals the previous season, but that wrestler moved up as well. Tommy took care of him already.

Ever since Tommy started to win, it was like something different, a part of him that wasn’t activated before, was turned on. He refused to quit and as a result, he was still wrestling. He had become steady and reliable, but he was not a great wrestler…yet.

As much as he teased me about wanting to grow up to be like me, he idolized Ralph. Seeing Ralph lose and having Ralph tell him what he had shifted the dynamic of their friendship. No longer was he in Ralph’s shadow.

The cheerleaders and the unified block of support in the crowd were chanting “California oranges, Texas cactus, Tommy wrestles Staley, just for a practice”.

While I observed, he closed his eyes as he stood across the center circle from Staley. He drew a breath the instant before the whistle blew. In a flash he scored the takedown and applied a cradle to perfection, ending the match in seven seconds.

When he stood, he extended his hand to Finke, pulling him back to his feet. The referee raised Tommy’s hand as the victor by a pin, in a record time for the weight class at the state finals. Perhaps when Ralph lost his match it started. During that one last match, Tommy evolved. The evidence was clear. As a result of the State Champion title, Tommy became great.

The victory put us ahead for the moment until Cleveland Heights took the championship at 145-pounds. By virtue of Gary’s third place in the consolation round, our teams could not end in a tie. When they took the match at 155-pounds as well, it forced the decision for the team title upon the outcome of the unlimited class match-up. Three of their four wrestlers had already won. Neither Timmy nor Kevin was wrestling anyone from Cleveland Heights. If they won their matches, it would give us three finals victories as well, but we would be in the lead because of Gary’s win. The only way we could lose the team title was if Pattison defeated me.

I considered the mathematics as I watched the guy who defeated Gary in the semifinals win at 167-pounds, an indication of how good Gary was. His third-place finish bettered his mentor’s effort by one. Had it not been an exceptional year for the team, Gary might be considered the greatest wrestler in Countryside history. For him, that moniker would need to wait for next season.

Timmy finished receiving his instructions from Coach Ellis and stepped out onto the mat. He was a slight favorite in the match-up based on whom he had defeated in his climb to the state finals. His opponent was Antonio Velasquez who had a slightly better season record.

When the whistle sounded, Timmy executed a move I’d only seen him attempt in practice. It was high risk, but apparently, Coach Ellis made the call. He lifted his opponent by his tights and dropped him onto the mat, covering him for the pin in ten seconds, which tied a state finals record for the 175-pound class. There was stunned silence everywhere else but for the cheering block as over a hundred Countryside supporters went wild.

Off the mat, everyone gathered around to congratulate him and remained to huddle around Kevin. No one needed to explain to him. His match was for the slight lead Gary’s third-place finish granted us.

Roger Perry was the hometown Columbus boy, roughly Kevin’s height and generally the same build. Although Kevin appeared more muscular, it was a slight advantage at best. The two wrestlers had virtually identical records and each advanced from the field of regional competition defeating seeded wrestlers along the way. The match could go either way.

Perry came off the whistle driving toward Kevin, who countered a takedown attempt with a cross-face that he used to muscle his opponent back until he fell. Kevin attempted to cover, but Roger rolled over just beyond grasp, scooting out of bounds. Then back on their feet at the center of the mat, he approached Kevin, grabbing hold of his arms and flipping backward, rolling over, trying to get on top, but Kevin continued the roll and avoided a takedown. In an effort to score another way, Roger grabbed legs and effectively prevented movement for a few seconds. He was setting up a maneuver that would result in a pin, but Kevin saw it coming and responded exactly as he needed to, preventing a clear advantage as both wrestlers rolled free from one another’s grip.

With a minute expired, Kevin scored a takedown and converted it, exposing both shoulders for a two count and earning a five-point lead.

Roger attempted an escape. Kevin prevented him from moving, taking the moment’s advantage away, then flipped him onto his back again and covered for another two points. Persisting to threaten a pin, he gained a three-point near fall and extended his lead to ten as the first period ended.

After both wrestlers had words with their coaches, each returned with a different approach. It was becoming a strategic battle in one sense, but Roger had to score. He took a surprise risk though Kevin recovered quickly. Kevin locked his arms around Roger, and then twisting back he planted two shoulders firmly against the mat for a three-count.

Hopping up and down in celebration, Kevin turned toward the cheering block and took a bow. His antics amused me but did not break my concentration. The biggest match of my brief wrestling career was at hand, and win or lose, I’d already decided it would be my last competitive wrestling match.

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Professional Author & Publicist @Pandamoonpub #FriedWindows #BecomingThuperman #TheWolfcatChronicles

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ElgonWilliams Author

ElgonWilliams Author

Professional Author & Publicist @Pandamoonpub #FriedWindows #BecomingThuperman #TheWolfcatChronicles

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