Texas - October 1980

Jake, McReynolds, Finnegan, Roper, and Plummer were all circled around drinking beers just a mere few days before Halloween. It was a crisp cool autumn night, and music blasted from inside as the boys were hosting yet another party after a truly great practice after class this evening. People were spread out all over the back yard, and hanging on the back steps dancing and drinking. Just then a kid with long sideburns came strolling over, a fresh cup filled thanks to the two kegs they had scored which were set up right near the fire pit the guys had constructed just a few weeks ago once the nights started cooling off. Jake saw him first, and knew he was coming over. He thought he may have recognized him from a few parties all over campus, but this was the first one he had actually seen this guy at their place. Tonight Beverly had practice for the upcoming winter musical, and wasn't able to make it. Jake counted himself lucky since parties at the two baseball houses usually got a little out of control. Watching, he saw the guy stroll on over, smirking as he sized up McReynolds who was standing directly across from him.

"Well, well, well if it ain't the captain. How are you McReynolds?"

Jake saw instantly that McReynolds didn't look happy. Over the last few months Jake now thought of his teammates/roommates as his second family. This was nothing he would ever admit aloud, but he now thought of this campus as his real home. High school seemed a million years ago, and when his parents did call to check in on him, he would fully admit that he loved it here, and was having a really great time. In fact, he was all ready dreading the nearly three week Christmas break that was coming up this December. Sure he missed his parents, but Finnegan had mentioned maybe heading to Vegas for a week following the holidays, and that seemed a whole lot more tempting than being stuck and bored at home. Still, he knew he couldn't break his mother's heart. Spring break on the other hand was a whole different story. In the beginning with McReynolds, Jake thought he was this macho, hyped up, short tempered guy. Still, over the weeks he saw that despite McReynold's freak-outs, constant need to be the best, and overall manner, was actually a really great guy. Jake remembered the first day he arrived at the house McReynolds announced that he didn't like pitchers, and that the two of them would never be friends. Still, even after the ping-pong episode, Jake had a new found respect for the guy after Jay aka Raw-Dog had his freak-out during their first practice.

Even though McReynolds and Jay shouted back and forth, McReynolds had enough sense to just walk away treating Jay like a spoiled kid who simply wasn't getting his way. After in the dug-out, he happened to notice Jay now embarrassed, approach McReynolds to apologize. McReynolds said it softly, but simply nodded and told Jay they were cool and simply got over it. That afternoon by the river, McReynolds and Jay were laughing and getting along as if nothing happened. It took awhile to understand McReynolds, but he was one Hell of a captain, and even even better baseball player. He even had him laugh a few times, and they tipped back more than enough drinks. In fact, after one of his dates with Beverly, the next morning when Jake came in through the kitchen, McReynolds was drinking a beer, leaning against the counter and smirked as Jake walked in, asking how "Miss. Theater" was? They chatted for awhile, and when McReynolds went into the fridge to grab a second beer for himself, he handed Jake a beer, and that's when Jake knew they were "cool". Sure they would always be competing against each other, but he knew McReynolds wasn't the jerk he originally thought he was. McReynolds just blankly stared, still holding his beer.

"Fine, how about you Anderson?"

Anderson shrugged.

"Can't, complain. So, are the Cherokees gonna kick some ass this year?"

McReynolds continued to stare.

"I'm sure they will."

Jake noticed the other guys start to look uncomfortable. Plummer meanwhile continued drinking his beer without a care in the world. Anderson then smirked as a group of very attractive girls walked by. Watching them, Anderson turned before making a face.

"Ladies this year are looking fine. Saw you with that hot little number last weekend McReynolds. Guess you've forgotten all about that Audrey chick huh?"

Jake wasn't sure what exactly happened next, but there was a change in the air. He wasn't sure, but he saw McReynolds' face crumple into that same fit of range it turned into whenever he lost at something, or somebody threw a bad pitch, and couldn't make it to base on time during practice. Jake watched as McReynolds threw down his beer, hearing the bottle shatter as he ran towards Anderson in just a few mere seconds. His face twisted up as he wound up his closed fist, raising it in the air, ready to absolutely kill this guy. Roper, and Finnegan saw it coming maybe a few mere seconds before Jake did and both sprang into action, dropping their own drinks and jumping up to grab McReynolds. Plummer meanwhile sat back stunned as McReynolds punched Anderson right in the face. Jake watched as this Anderson kid's nose exploded with blood as he was knocked down onto the grass. Someone in the back screamed as everyone turned and people started hurrying over.

"YOU FUCKING COCKSUCKER!"

McReynolds screamed, raising his fist again, bringing it down again, and again, before both Roper and Finnegan got their arms around McReynold's waist and shoulders, yanking him off Anderson as he screamed, his face bright red, his eyes bulging from their sockets as the guys yanked him backwards. Jake saw that McReynolds was the worst he had ever seen him and quickly hurried over, helping with pulling him back. Two guys knelt by Anderson who held his all ready swollen and bleeding nose.

"You crazy mother fucker!" Anderson shouted as the guys yanked McReynolds who struggled the whole time. Quickly Roper grabbed McReynolds before he looked at Jake.

"Can I borrow your keys man? I wanna take him to cool down."

It took Jake a second, before he nodded and dug into his pocket for his keys, tossing them to Roper who took them and quickly led McReynolds away who's chest was heaving. Finnegan sighed, watching them with his hands on his hips before Roper walked McReynolds around the house and out of sight. Stunned, Jake looked at Finnegan.

"What the hell was that all about?"

Finnegan sighed before he motioned him to follow him towards the side yard where some of the guys had parked their cars. There was a pretty good crowd around Anderson who was still sitting on the grass. Jake followed Finnegan, before they went to Dale's car, both sitting on the bumper, before Finnegan shook his head, popping a smoke into his mouth.

"I'm only telling you this Jake since I need you to understand that what just happened just now wasn't a typical McReynolds freak-out. That kid Anderson, he plays football and is a total asshole...what he just said was a low blow. The lowest. I'm surprised honestly Glen didn't kill him. Anderson knew exactly what he was saying and honestly asked for it."

"Who's Audrey? Ex-girlfriend?"

Finnegan sighed staring ahead before finally he turned to Jake and shook his head.

"No...she was McReynold's girlfriend, almost fiancé'. She died last spring."

Jake's eyes widened in disbelief.

"Shut the fuck up."

Finnegan shook his head.

"Yeah, Audrey was a freshmen, beautiful. She caught McReynolds' eye and honestly in all the years I've known him he's never once had a steady 'girlfriend'. He fell and fell hard. He honestly acted like a completely different person when she was around. She was the only person who could calm him down. He treated her like a princess, but she was super cool, the kind of chick that could chill with you and have a beer. She was going to study business or some shit, and she was super nice. Her mother owned a beauty shop so she knew how to cut hair and used to come down once a month and line us all up and cut all of our hair..."

Finnegan smiled remembering this before sighing and going on.

"As far as I knew McReynolds was fateful to her and really did love her. He told all of us he was planning on proposing on the 4th of July. He had it all planned out. Audrey was like our little sister and used to come and watch us practice and came to every single game. Then...last May there was a car accident. It was bad, worst I ever saw. McReynolds saw it happen, right on Forest Street. We were by that gray house, you know the one with the big balcony?"

Jake nodded as Finnegan continued.

"We were celebrating a big win, and Audrey had class, she was going to meet us there and...a fucking car came speeding down the road and hit her just as she was crossing. McReynolds and all of us saw it from the balcony. The driver wasn't at fault, his breaks had gone out, but...she fucking died in Glen's arms in the street. It was awful. Glen won't ever go down the street again, even if there's any big parties on that block."

"Jesus..."

"Yeah. I think McReynolds went into shock. Coach benched him for nearly a month and then he came back on his own and refused to talk about it. Like, he nearly killed a few guys this summer that would even mention her name. Since then he just fucks around. I think it's way of dealing with it. He's gotten better, but I still think it really messed him up. So if you want to stay on McReynolds' good side...don't even mention her, got it?"

Jake nodded.

"Yeah sure."

Sighing, Finnegan tilted his head up staring up at the stars.

"Man, sure did feel good watching that asshole get his face smashed in huh?"

Chuckling, Jake nodded.

"Absolutely."

To be continued...