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December 18, 1995 

Othello completed his run, showered, and waited for Coach to arrive. The house was alive with the smells of lamb chops, greens, and fresh bread. His mother, Janet, was busy in the kitchen, putting the finishing touches on the evening meal. He stood in front of his bedroom mirror, which sat on his dresser, staring at a picture of his father in full military combat gear that was wedged in the top corner. Othello had been four when his father was killed in Beirut. But he still got emotional when reading the dozens of letters his father had written him when he was away.

"O, your coach just pulled up. Get the door, please," his mother yelled.

"Yes, Ma," he yelled, running down the stairs. He knew it was serious when she set out the good china and they were eating in the formal dining room. These things were reserved for funerals, special occasions, and holidays. He met Coach at the door and invited him in. "What up, Coach? Ma said have a seat in the living room and she'll be out in a minute."

"Alright, O. Whatever she's cooking smells delicious. I might have to visit you more often," he replied, with Othello thinking just the opposite. "I see you had a personal best in the gym today."

"Yeah, I did a little sumpin' sumpin'," he said proudly. "But I probably couldn't have got it without Kojo pushing me."

"Kojo?" Coach replied snidely. "What's he gonna do when you go off to college or whatever?"

"Knowing K, he'll probably go with me and terrorize all the women on campus. But to be honest, we haven't talked about it." He was aware of the staff's general dislike for Kojo at the school. Except for the forty-something, but still incredibly beautiful Colombian culinary arts teacher, Rosalina Contreras, with whom he shared a discreet personal relationship. But he was also aware that all of the dislike was from pure jealousy. Kojo made more in a month than most of the staff made in a year. And he enjoyed reminding them of that, whenever the opportunity presented itself.

"Hello, Coach Howard," greeted Janet, walking in wearing an apron embroidered with the words "Kiss the Cook."

"Good evening, Mrs. Greene, I'm glad you could meet with me." He stood and shook her hand.

"First of all, we've known each other for over three years, so please call me Janet," she said. "And for anything regarding my baby, I will make time."

"Okay, Janet. Call me Craig."

"Alright, Craig. Can I get you something to drink? Dinner will be ready shortly."

"Yes," he replied, noticing the picture of Black Jesus and biblical scriptures on the wall, and deciding on water.

"Listen, Craig, I know this is a somewhat professional meeting, but it's after hours. Do you want a beer or a glass of wine?" she asked.

"Actually, a beer would do just fine," Craig said, sounding more relaxed.

"I'll get it, Craig," Othello said sarcastically on his way into the kitchen.

Janet mugged at him as he went by. "Boy, don't make me smack you. You have to excuse him. I swear, sometimes I think he thinks he's my father instead of my child."

"That's to be expected, Janet. I was protective of my mother as well," Craig replied, smiling wanly.

"He's a good boy and always has been. I've been blessed." She glowed as she spoke.

"He gives me no problems. I have no grandchildren running around. No late-night calls from the police. He's graduating, on time, with honors. I've truly been blessed."

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