A FUNNY THING HAPPENED ON THE WAY TO THE MALL

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Chapter 2


"Come on, O, goddammit! Stop playing with it! Ten!" yelled the smartly dressed young man in a large wool sweater, Tommy Hilfiger jeans, and tan Timberlands, standing among half-dressed, well-built, Largo Lion football players, surrounding their teammate and phenom Othello Greene, lying on a workout bench pressing 405 pounds. "Eleven! That's right, let's go!"

"Shut up, midget. Let him get it on his own!" one of the players replied. "Besides, didn't Coach already tell you not to be in our locker room?"

"Damn, you's a hatin'-ass nigga. Tell me. Did your mother start teaching you to hate while you was still sucking on her titty? I mean, where do you get that shit from?" Kojo replied. Othello smiled and continued. "Thirteen! That's right, Bra. Keep it going."

"Nigga, fuck you!" the player shot back, getting in his feelings. "Naw, nigga, fuck you. You better have my money when my brother gets this record," responded Kojo. "Fourteen!"

"Excuse me, Jim. Let me get this door so I can hear you better," said Coach Craig Howard, Largo High School's head football coach. "That's our kid out there now, benching four o' five."

"Did I hear fourteen?" asked Jim Special, Ohio State University's head football coach.

"And counting," he replied, closing the door and leaning back in his chair with the phone against his ear, watching the team out of a window in his office. Coach Howard was an Ohio State alumnus. He played football for the Buckeyes in the early seventies and had a short, unremarkable pro career, before eventually becoming a high school coach. His coaching career was even less remarkable than his pro career, never having a winning season until Othello arrived. But he was an exceptional teacher and role model for young adults, so he was able to maintain his job. Othello's migration from Southeast Washington, D.C., to the suburbs of Upper Marlboro, Maryland, changed his fortune beyond his wildest dreams.

"Craig, I know you're busy, so I'm going to get right to the point," Jim said. "Has he told you his plans yet?"

"Fifteen!" The boys could still be heard in the weight room.

"No. I don't know what this kid wants to do. We won two back- to-back titles in football, basketball, and wrestling since he got here. Now we're on our way to our third state title coming up this Saturday," Coach Howard explained. "I've got every college in the country calling, as well as pro teams. He's given me no indication of his plans."

"Sixteen!"

"Craig, I don't need a recap or a fucking history lesson of this kid's accomplishments. It's all over the news, every damn day. I got highlight films of this kid that will make me sell my own children to get him. Craig, I don't have to sell you on our program. You were here. We prepare young men for the next level, in sports and in life," said Jim. "Bottom line, if he decides to go to school, we want it to be Ohio State. Now tell me what we got to do to get him."

"Seventeen!"

"Jim, I'm trying to explain the situation to you," Craig said, grinning ear to ear and loving the attention that he felt was long overdue. "He's got a 4.2 grade point average. He speaks three languages fluently. If he's not in a library somewhere, he's in the gym performing workouts that would make a Navy Seal throw up. In my seventeen years of coaching, I've seen nothing like it. He doesn't care about the hype."

"Eighteen!"

"You need to make him care, Coach."

"Jim, I'm not new to this. I've had plenty of good kids who were heavily recruited," he said, standing to watch Othello beat his personal best. "But this is an altogether different animal."

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