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Sample from The Giant and Mr. Flea
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News and Events
By Brian Weilert

Hi, my name is Randall, and I’m an alcoholic….cost me my wife…my job….everything good that I had worked so hard for.  I knew I was in trouble the night of my first DUI.  It was after a New Year’s teacher get-together.  My fellow educators and I had a few beers, well they had a few, I had a few too many and decided to drive home.  Just two blocks down the road, I hit a sobriety check point and was handcuffed for the first time in my life. 


Even drunk, I distinctly remember the shame.  The shame I brought to my family and myself.  I thought about my students and my wrestling team.  About how they would react when they saw I had been arrested in the local paper.  When my wife picked me up at jail to bail me out, I broke down in tears.  It was the first time I had cried since childhood.  I remember her getting up early the next day loaded down with quarters, intent on buying all the newspapers, trying to stop the shame from getting out.  But of course it did, it did get out.  I didn’t lose my job but had to tell my students and my team about what had happened.  I think the principal, who didn’t always agree with my teaching methods reveled a bit in making me humble myself.  All this shame and I learned my lesson….wrong.  It was just the beginning.


I became a real drinker after that.  DUI number two followed just a month later.  I’m not sure what triggered this addiction.  I hadn’t lost a loved one; my job was going great and I really hadn’t been much of a drinker up to this point.  The only thing I could guess is that my addictive personality had satisfied its appetite by working to be the best teacher and coach I could be…and I was good.  Students lined up to take my classes and my wrestling team had won three state titles in the past eight years.  Maybe I just reached a point where the success came too easy.  I no longer had to get up at 5:00am and work late into the night to be good.  I just guess, and it’s only guess, that the appetite, the addictive behavior, found a new companion, alcohol.


This time, I did lose my job, but I wasn’t done.  I still had further to go on this journey.  Number three left me in jail for six months.  Just enough time for my wife to get the divorce papers in order.  Alone, for the next nine years I spiraled down.  Too often I had a gun to my head in a drunken, self-loathing routine that was nearly a nightly ritual. 


Nine years, until a phone call saved my life.  It came at 7:00am.  I was shaking as I rolled to answer.  As I brought the receiver to my ear I was already opening the nightstand drawer that hid a bottle of vodka.  I almost laughed out loud as I realized it was a left over behavior from my married life.  Who the hell was I hiding it from?  It seemed I still was capable of a little shame.  I thought I had excised that emotion from my repertoire. 


“Yeah, who is it?”


“Coach? Coach is that you?”


The voice seemed faintly familiar….older, deeper.


“Coach, it’s me…Austin…Austin Primm.”


Austin Primm graduated the year before my fall.  I had always considered him my greatest coaching success story.  Austin never made it to the state finals but his senior year when he walked away with a 5th place finish and a medal after a double overtime win, I had never been more proud.  His accomplishment might have been overlooked by the casual fan as we had three individual champions that year but it was not overlooked by me.  Austin was not much of an athlete and  I held out little hope when his pudgy 14 year old body stepped foot on the mat that first November.  But my God did he work!  Never had I seen a kid so determined.  I loved everything about the boy.  He epitomized all that was good with kids and high school athletics.  He revitalized me.  Him hugging me as he stepped off that mat his final time, tears flooding his face, screaming, “We did it coach!!! We did it!!” made all the hours, all the years, worth it.


“Coach, you still there?”


“Yeah…hey….yeah…what’s up?”


Clearing my head I let the bottle fall back into the drawer.  Recognizing his voice made me feel younger, sober somehow. 


After and awkward pause, “Coach, I...um...well this may sound weird but hear me out…”

The next few minutes Austin told me how he had found out about what had happened to me but how he was too busy in college to call; how he was sorry; how he just lost touch.  He was actually apologizing to me?  HE was sorry?  I felt shame again.  Austin went on to describe how he had become an English teacher like me and after just four years of teaching had started this year, his first, as a principal…and…he needed a wrestling coach.  And then, he gave me the name of the school, Metro-Tech school for the Blind and Deaf.


“Well, what do you think?”


I wanted to tell him he didn’t want me, that I was no good but his voice made me feel like I still had worth.  I didn’t want to disappoint him.  I said, “Yes.”


No longer violently ill or shaking, I actually managed a respectable appearance as I walked into the school for the first time two weeks later.  I hadn’t had a drink since “the call.”   Austin greeted me with a hug so tight it hurt.  He lied, “Coach, you look great.”


We talked for nearly an hour before he looked up at the clock, smiled and asked, “You ready to meet your team?”


I followed him across the gym to a door in the far corner.  As he opened it up, I stepped inside.  The odors of sweat and mat-cleaner greeted me as a familiar friend.  The floor was covered wall-to-wall with wrestling mats. Standing in the middle of one of the 18 practice circles were two kids.  One, white, a six-and-a- half-foot, 300 hundred-plus, monster staring right at me.  The other, black, shirtless, revealing every rib on his scrawny frame, staring at the wall four feet to my left.


“Boys, I’d like you to meet you new coach.”  Austin’s hands moving, speaking, as he talked.

“Coach, that,” and he pointed to the giant, “is Cameron Butler and the young man to his right is Marcus White.”


Marcus responded with, “But I ain’t white.  Sup dog?” and he held up some bizarre hand signal; still staring four feet to my left.


“Mr. White, what did I tell you about the slang-n-gang bull?  Deal with it; you’re the son of a podiatrist.


“Ah, Mr. Primm, you’re no fun at all.” Marcus sighed as he folded his arms in mock defeat.


Austin continued, “Cameron can’t speak coach but he reads lips pretty good and Marcus shouldn’t speak but can’t seem to stop.


“Come on Mr. Primm, your making me look bad with the new guy,” and Marcus held out his hand.  I walked over and shook it

a then turned to shake Cameron’s hand but he was staring at my mouth.  I didn’t have anything to say.  I reached down and put

my hand in his, an enormous paw, and silently introduced myself with a nod.


“Man, you look old and fat.  You sure you ever wrestled?” 


I looked back at Austin and mouthed, Are you sure he’s blind, and pointed to my eyes.  He just smiled.


“Let’s see what you got mister.” And Marcus began to circle in a crouch that resembled a wrestling stance.  I hadn’t spoken yet

so he danced around where he thought I was.  I had never coached a blind wrestler before but I knew the rules.  You had to

maintain contact while on you feet. 


I offered, “I’m right here Mr. White.”


“Call me Flea, Mr. Flea if you must.” And with that he shot at my leg.  He overestimated the distance and his face went

smashing into my knee.  As quickly as he attacked, he retreated covering his mouth as he went.  Muffled through hands you

could hear him wale, “I’m bleed’n, I’m bleed’n!!”


I heard an odd sound and turned to see Cameron laughing so hard it was as if his head would burst.


“It’s not funny you big…you big…Sasquach!”  Marcus pulled his hands away so Cameron could see his mouth as he spoke

and blood covered his lips and chin.  Cameron kept right on laughing.


“I’ll leave you three alone.”  With those words and a wink, Austin turned and walked to the door.  Before leaving, he dug into his pant’s pocket and pulled out a whistle.  “You might need this Coach.  It’s good to see you back on a mat.”  And he tossed the whistle to me and left.  I stood staring at the door as it closed.  It felt like an eternity.  Suddenly, I felt very alone.  As I turned back to face my team, they were staring at me; Cameron at my mouth and Marcus at my left shoulder.

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