The Perk

The Perk by Mark Gimenez

Book: The Perk by Mark Gimenez Read Free Book Online
Authors: Mark Gimenez
Tags: thriller
no
huddle, throw fifty times a game. Call it the NASCAR offense 'cause we never
slow down. Averaged four hundred yards passing per game last year. Figuring
on five hundred this year with Slade pulling the trigger." Aubrey abruptly
yelled out to the field: "Catch the damn ball!" Back to Beck:
"If they'll catch the damn ball."
    Beck watched Slade throw a few more passes. "He's
got an arm."
    "He's got a publicist."
    "What?"
    "Quentin hired the boy a publicist. When
he announced he was gonna play college ball at UT, he held a press conference
over in Austin. A hundred media people showed up, a thousand students,
cheerleaders, coaches … ESPN ran it live. You'd think he found the cure
for cancer."
    Aubrey grimaced and glanced at Beck.
    "Sorry."
He spat. "Anyways, I got sports writers come here from all over the
country. My secretary, that's all she does now, schedule Slade's interviews.
He's gonna be on the cover of Sports Illustrated . Other kids, they ask him
for autographs, want photos with him, like he's Tom Cruise or something. It's
crazy."
    Aubrey spat then cupped his mouth and yelled out
toward the field: "Slade!" He got the boy's attention, waved him
over, and said, "They've already got him in a Gatorade commercial."
    The boy jogged across the field and the running
track and in one movement grabbed the bleacher railing and vaulted himself up
and over. He ran up the stands two rows at a stride.
    Beck stood to meet Slade McQuade.
    Beck was six-two, but the boy towered over him.
Slade outweighed him by fifty pounds, but his body mass seemed twice Beck's.
His shoulders were wide and his arms thick with knotty muscles; his veins stood
out like blue ropes running down his arms. His chest was broad and looked like
a rock sculpture, and his torso angled sharply down to a narrow waist. Slade
didn't have a six-pack; he had a twelve-pack. His skin was tanned and
shimmering in oily sweat and seemed to be stretched to the breaking point by
the muscles underneath. His shorts strained against muscular thighs.
    Beck felt small.
    Slade's entire body appeared to be chiseled from
stone, including his angular face. Acne was his only flaw. Looking at Slade
McQuade was like looking at a statue of a Greek god—except a Greek god didn't
wear mirrored sports sunglasses and a black doo-rag or have long black hair
hanging to his shoulders or diamond stud earrings stuck in each ear lobe or barbed-wire
tattoos wrapped around each bulging bicep.
    Beck realized he was staring.
    Aubrey spat and said, "Slade, meet Beck
Hardin." Aubrey pointed to the face of the press box above them where
Beck's number 8 jersey hung encased in plexiglass; the school had retired his
jersey after his senior season. "That's his jersey."
    "They'll have to move it over for mine in a
few months," Slade said. He stuck a hand out. "Beck."
    Not "Mr. Hardin."
    "I'm looking forward to seeing you play,
Slade."
    "You and the whole State of Texas—for the Longhorns next year."
    "Let's win state this year first, Slade,"
Aubrey said.
    "That's a done deal, Coach."
    "Still gotta play the games."
    "Well, good luck this season, Slade,"
Beck said.
    Slade smiled. "Beck, I'd rather be big,
strong, and fast than lucky."
    Aubrey spat. "Get 'em running sprints,
Slade."
    Slade jogged down the bleachers, vaulted the
railing again, and ran out to the field. Beck sat down and leaned back; he and
Aubrey crossed their arms like two old men; they stared at the field.
    "Nice kid."
    Aubrey chuckled. "Yep, he's a real peach.
That's what you gotta put up with these days, Beck, buncha prima-goddamn-donna
boys." He spat. "Slade's already got a slogan."
    "A slogan?"
    Aubrey nodded. "You know, like Nike's
'Just Do It'? His is, 'Number Twelve on the Field and Number One in Your
Heart.' Quentin copyrighted it or registered it or whatever you do with a
slogan so no one can steal it."
    "Trademarked."
    Aubrey spat. "That's an idea, Beck. Maybe
Quentin could use a big-time Chicago lawyer like yourself to

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