Secretly, Mark had always seen Coach Ryan as his real dad. His biological father was happy with anything he did, no matter how bad, and in a way it was so easy he hated it. Coach, on the other hand, was never satisfied, and for some reason that felt better. He was honest with Mark and it made him push himself. To exceed what he thought were his limits. Coach never let him feel comfortable, saying it would make him lazy. Never letting him settle for anything less than “better than he was yesterday”. It made him feel like he was meant for so much more, like he could do anything if he just climbed a little higher than before. Unlike his dad.
Mark remembered a time when he failed a test on purpose, just to see what would happen. What would his dad would do. He had been expecting his dad to yell, to pace the short length of their kitchen. He thought he’d be scolded, grounded, treated with disappointed silence at the very least. What he hadn’t expected was for his dad to smile. To slide the red-marked papers back across the table with a look of serene, almost infuriating understanding. For him to say, “Just do better on the next one.” He never bothered to show him another.
But Coach pushed him, both on the field and off it. Mark would show up early to practice, stay later, ask for advice and help, in a way that he’d never done with his real dad. Coach always made sure he got what he needed.
It was a major contrast to how he felt before. When Mark first met the man, he blatantly and openly disliked him. Opting to be as difficult and uncooperative as possible. But Coach didn’t lose his patience, instead he worked him twice as hard as everyone else.
Gradually, Mark began to look up to him. He aspired to be as good a man as Coach, and he told him so. Coach only chuckled and ruffled his hair, in a way his own father never did. Telling him, instead, “Be better.”
And now, standing alongside the open casket, he looked down at the blank face. He had none of his former strength. The collar of his blue button up just hiding the slight bruising and raw, bloodless furrow. He was barely recognizable, as though he’d suddenly aged twenty years.
Mark lay a trembling hand on one broad shoulder and he thought he understood, just a little better.
Well that took a dark turn, one that even I didn’t foresee. Despite that, I do hope you enjoy these. I’m planning on doing a lot more of these so please let me know what you think! If you have any suggestions or prompts of what to talk about leave a comment.
Until next time,