|The Return of Bobby Myers
Author: Dill Wilson PM
Legendry High School Football Coach Bucko Callahan is dead but did the mystery of what happened thirty-two seasons ago die with him?Rated: Fiction T - English - Romance/Family - Words: 8,394 - Published: 09-07-12 - Status: Complete - id: 3056409
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
The Return of Bobby Myers (PG-13)
Bucko Callahan, Riverside Football Legend, Dead at 85.
Riverside- Brian "Bucko" L. Callahan, 85, of Riverside Road died Monday at home. He was born in Riverside on July 15th, the son of Lawrence and Katherine (O'Hara) Callahan.
Bucko was a lifelong resident of Riverside and was a graduate of Riverside High School Class of 1946. He continued his education at Worcester Teacher's College.
Bucko was a U.S. Army veteran. He was a Riverside History teacher and the head football coach for many years. He later was an Insurance Broker with O'Rielly, Cranson, and Cadran.
"Bucko was one of a kind - a strict but fair disciplinarian and one of my favorites at Riverside High," said Brad Romanoff, a former player and current Athletic Director at the school. "I wasn't the most studious student when I was in high school and Bucko once told me, "You know, if you spent as much time cracking the books as you do cracking the wise you would be Class Valedictorian."
"Coach Callahan played a very big part in my life as a student and an athlete at Riverside High," said local businessman Ralph Nelson. "The man taught us many life lessons on the gridiron. He pulled me out of more fist fights than I care to remember and he properly disciplined me. He more than once reminded me that sometimes my conduct was not what he wanted to see from an athlete who played for him. He and I had more than one discussion about numerous life topics and he encouraged me to strive to be the best that I could be. I came to think of him as someone I could trust and he ended up shaping a large part of me during my adolescent years. He was also there for me long after my playing days were over. He truly was a "great" man."
Bucko was predeceased by his wife, Helen Rielly. Among his survivors, Bucko leaves two sons, Michael of Miller City and Shaun of Portland, ME, two daughters, Maureen Clarke of South County and Mary Beckham of Portsmouth, NH, a brother, Alan of Hillsboro, a sister, Ellen Franklin of Greenville, nine grandchildren, Ned and Dennis Clarke, Kathleen Finnigan, Terri Donaldson, Jimmy Beckham, Erin Paulson, Cassie and David Callahan and Kelly Callahan, three great grandchildren, and many nieces and nephews.
Funeral services, all in Riverside, will be held Saturday at 9:15am at the Lavelle Funeral Home, followed by a Liturgy of Christian Burial at 10am at St. Anne's Church with the Rev. Michael J. Allen officiating. Burial will follow in St. Anne's Cemetery.
Calling hours will be Friday from 3-7pm at the funeral home.
Memorial contributions may be made to the Bucko Callahan Memorial Fund Athletic Dept. at Riverside High School, c/o Greenville Savings Bank.
Sympathy message available at .com.
Football Legend's Coaching Exit Still Surrounded by Mystery
By Mickey Demrest
Greenville News and Dispatch Sports Columnist
The death earlier this week of Riverside High School's Legendary Football Coach Bucko Callahan was a great loss to the Riverside community. Bucko served as the team's football coach for twenty-six years, amassing a career record of 162-70-10, including the school's first undefeated record and Division III State Championship in his final season.
Callahan was only 53 years old when he hung up the whistle after finishing that season 11-0 with a championship, claiming he had achieved all he needed to achieve as Head Coach and that he wanted to go out on top. As noble as that sounded, many believed the Coach quit because of a controversial high profile tragedy involving one of his players near the end of that memorable season.
The weekend prior to the Royals were to square off against their traditional rival Miller City Mudhens in the classic Thanksgiving Day show down, a second string Riverside player was involved in a fatal car accident that took the life of the daughter of a prominent and influential local politician. The tragedy left a pall over the Turkey Day game (which Riverside won, 36-6) as well as the championship game the following weekend against Drury High (Also won by the Royals, 28-26).
The football player involved in the fatal crash claimed he had no memory of that night or the circumstances leading up to the accident as a result of the concussion he suffered in the crash. However, several rumors and allegations were circulated although few details were publicly released about the case. The football player accepted a plea bargain before his case went to trial, serving 18 months in prison for involuntary manslaughter. The records of the accident were sealed which only added to the mystery.
Bucko stepped down from his coaching position that spring, shocking many who believed that he would coach forever. There was more surprise when Bucko "retired" as a teacher at the end of that school year. Although Callahan remained active in the community as an important sports booster and advocate, the former coach refused to publicly speak about the incident and a cloud remained over the Riverside High School reputation and image for years.
Now, thirty-two football seasons later, Bucko Callahan is dead and many wonder if the mystery of what happened that fateful weekend died with him. The player involved in the accident left the area following his release from prison. The parents of the dead girl are now deceased themselves and surviving family members have declined to comment for this column while others are unwilling to dishonor the memory of the beloved Bucko Callahan by revisiting the unseemly accident all these years later.
"Nobody ever accused the coach of being involved in any way or of performing any wrongdoing," Scooter Maloney is quick to point out.
Maloney was an assistant coach under Callahan and he assumed the head coaching position after Bucko stepped down, leading the Royals for the next twelve seasons with mixed results.
"I never asked him about it and I never heard him mention the incident again," Maloney added. "Whatever he knew about the accident as far as I know he took to his grave."
"It's one of those stories that became local lore," Buzz McAdams says.
McAdams played for Callahan, graduating from Riverside High a few years before the tragedy.
"I never for one second believed that Bucko was in any way responsible for what happened," McAdams insists. "But the incident tarnished his reputation and his image because there was always a sense of mystery around the accident and some felt there was a conspiracy to cover up the truth while others believe Callahan was made a scapegoat and took the fall to satisfy pressures from the girl's family."
Rumor and innuendo involved the possibility of rape, team drinking and other scandalous theories but nothing was publicly confirmed, acknowledged, addressed, or investigated. Several attempts and inquiries by this newspaper over the years has resulted in dead end leads and stonewalling by police and other officials.
"The case is sealed,' Riverside Police Chief Robert Garrett responds whenever the subject is broached with him. "I was fourteen years old when the accident took place, living in Rhode Island. I have no horse in this race but I'm not allowed by law to comment on the accident. I will say that I had the pleasure of meeting Bucko Callahan many times since I came to Riverside and he was always a stand up honest guy who did more for this community than any person I know."
Perhaps now is not the time to revisit this unfortunate incident in the history of the Riverside football program. We should remember Bucko Callahan for the legend he was in these parts, a big man in a small community, a mentor, a hero, a friend, a father, a teacher, a coach, and a guy who got things done.
But there will always be unanswered questions about why Bucko Callahan's coaching career at Riverside High School ended so abruptly and - some still argue - unfairly.
It had been a gallant and noble fight for Bucko Callahan but the cancer he had been battling for nearly eighteen months finally took him early on Monday morning. He had developed a fever on Sunday afternoon and the Hospice Care Staff alerted the family that the end looked near. All four of Bucko's kids were able to be present for their Dad's passing. It had been a blessing because ten years earlier their mom had been stricken and died before any of the children had a chance to say goodbye.
It was different with Bucko who knew for months his days were numbered and he managed to make amends, have closure, and be close to his children and grandchildren. There were a few close calls, hospital admission, and even a brief nursing home stay, but Bucko wanted to die comfortably at home.
A hospital bed was moved into the living room and Bucko spent his final days watching Red Sox baseball, the little league World Series, and pre-season NFL Football. A stream of steady visitors came and went and Bucko was in a good mood until the end, joking and goofing around, obviously rallying on Sunday. His daughter Maureen was certain her Dad had a premonition, though, because he asked her to get the phone for her and he made several calls that afternoon before he slipped into unconsciousness around dinner time.
Bucko was in and out of lucidness for the next twenty-four hours, opening his eyes to see his children gathered around his bedside, but he was too weak to speak much. His kids were happy to see that he died peacefully, that the Parish priest came to administer last rites, and Bucko finally closed his eyes for the final time early on Monday evening. Several hours later, his labored breath ended.
Bucko's children sat with him for an hour or so until Jim Lavelle and his assistant arrived from the funeral home to take the body away. The rest of the week was a whirlwind of emotion and activity. Bucko had already taken care of the arrangements and even the funeral reception but there were all the sympathy cards, notes, e-mails, facebook postings, food being brought to the house, family friends and relatives coming and going and non-stop grieving to deal with until the wake finally arrived on Friday.
Bucko's kids prepared the nostalgic photo memory display boards for the service. When the arrived at the funeral home for the three o'clock start time for calling hours, dozens of flower arrangements had already been delivered. Bucko's brother Allen and sister Ellen joined his four children – Maureen, 58, Mike, 56, Mary, 53, and Shaun, 50, in the receiving line to greet the hundreds of mourners who came to pay their respects to the family.
Bucko had been a large and husky man with a beat up football player's face but his brother was thin and movie star handsome even in his seventies, "a Robert Culp type" Bucko used to joke. His sister Ellen was still a beauty too also in her mid seventies, her hair dyed a dark black.
Oldest daughter Maureen had let her hair go gray which she wore long. All of Bucko's children had the famous Callahan features – round faces, dancing eyes, and a John Wayne gait. Michael had been in a wheelchair since a construction accident fifteen years earlier when he fell from a third story rigging and smashed his back in several places. He had lost a lot of weight in the ensuing years and his face was gaunt but he never lost the Callahan spirit or sense of perseverance. Mary still had the body of a ballerina or ice skater (both of which she once was!) and her red hair was still its natural color at 53. Shaun, the youngest of the four, looked the most like his Dad (especially now that his hair had gone gray), robust and burly with the same Bucko smirk.
Shaun had played for his father, of course, becoming the all-star quarterback by his junior year and leading the team to that memorable undefeated season in his senior year with an historic display of talent, skill, and precession.
Sadly, Bucko had outlived many of his contemporaries and plenty of the hundreds of students he had taught and coached over the years had left the area for greener pastures, but there was still a steady stream of kind people who made the effort to pay their respects. Perhaps the classiest act of the day was the arrival of the current Riverside Royal Football Team on a school bus dressed in their football uniform jerseys to pay homage to a great Royal coach of the past. There wasn't a dry eye in the house as the two dozen young men made their way past the casket and down the receiving line.
By the time calling hours ended at 7 p.m, the Callahan family were physically exhausted and emotionally spent from the four hours of hand shaking, cheek kissing, graciousness, laughing and crying and they were glad that the day was over. The line had trickled down and the parlor was empty except for the family by the time seven o'clock arrived as mourners were respectful of the calling hours etiquette.
Jim Lavelle entered the parlor and the family thought he was going to close the casket for the evening as they prepared to leave but he stepped over to Bucko's daughter Maureen and whispered quietly.
"There's a last minute arrival who just came through the front door," The funeral director explained. "He apologizes for being late but asks if he could have a moment at the casket."
There were some groans from the other family members but Maureen nodded her head okay, not wanting to be the one to deny someone a chance to say goodbye to her father.
A man wearing a gray suit entered the parlor. He was unfamiliar to everybody as he stepped to the front of the casket and blessed himself before bowing his head and clasping his hands on his stomach. His hair was streaked with gray and he wore a goatee that was a sandy blonde matching his shoulder length hair style.
The Callahan siblings glanced at one another, motioning as if to say 'Do you know him?' They shrugged and looked to their Aunt Ellen and Uncle Allen who also had no idea who he was.
"It's Bobby Myers," their white-faced cousin Eileen (Ellen's daughter) whispered, loud enough for the others to hear. She looked as if she had just seen a ghost.
There was an audible gasp as they stared at the intruder with disbelief. Shaun collapsed into the chair behind him. Michael looked enraged and he started to roll his wheelchair toward Myers but his wife Angela stopped him by grabbing the wheelchair handle.
"I don't believe this," Mary moaned as she buried her face in her hands.
Maureen sucked in her breath and stepped toward the visitor. "Bobby?" she asked.
He turned and looked at her, his eyes red and tear stained.
"What are you doing here?" Maureen asked cautiously.
"I had to come," he said quietly.
"But how did you even know?" Maureen wanted to know.
"He called me on Sunday," Bobby answered, gesturing toward the coffin.
"My father called you?" Maureen asked with disbelief.
Bobby nodded affirmatively.
"But how did he even know where you were?" She asked.
"Maureen, your father's been in contact with me all these years," Bobby revealed.
"What?" She asked, glancing at her family members who looked at the two of them with bewildered stares.
"I'm sorry I got here late," Bobby said. "My flight was delayed in Baltimore."
"I can't believe you had the brass balls to come here at all," Michael yelled from his wheelchair.
Bobby nodded with understanding. "I'll leave you to your privacy," he said, glancing at the other family members with sadness, his eyes coming to a stop on Eileen for an extra moment before he slipped out of the parlor, leaving the Callahan family behind in shock.
There were tears when Jim Lavelle closed the casket and the Callahan family slowly escorted themselves from the funeral home. The siblings returned to their childhood home for a nightcap and to process the day, especially the shocking and unexpected return of Bobby Myers. The hospital bed had been removed from the living room where the family gathered.
Shaun sat quietly with his wife Beverly on the couch nursing a drink, saying nothing. His cousin Eileen was much the same, sitting on the window seat looking out the window. Mary was mostly in tears being held by her husband Ron but Michael was ranting and raving from his wheel chair, angry and insulted by what had happened.
"I can't believe that son of a bitch would disgrace us like this," Michael growled.
"Why would Daddy even call him?" Mary asked through her sobs.
"Or keep in contact with him all these years," A calm but perplexed Maureen wondered.
"What about our feelings?" Michael demanded. "Didn't he consider that? What about poor Eileen?" He gestured toward their cousin quietly sitting in the window seat. "What a bastard."
"It really makes it awkward for everybody," Mary complained. "We can't have a rapist and murderer among us during such a sensitive and sad time."
"Thank God nobody else saw him," Michael agreed with disgust. "He better not show his ugly face tomorrow."
"But why would Daddy call him?" Maureen asked with confusion.
"Who cares?" Mary wailed. "Let's just get rid of him before he shames, embarrasses, and humiliates us all over again."
"This is the worst possible thing that could have happened," Michael agreed. "The bastard is pissing on Dad's grave."
"But why would Daddy call him?" Maureen wanted to know, staring at her kid brother Shaun.
"The son of a bitch is lucky I'm in a wheelchair," Michael threatened. "I would have beaten the shit out of the rat bastard rapist killer if I could have gotten up."
"He's not a rapist or a murderer," Shaun said quietly.
All eyes turned to Shaun, Bobby Myer's one time best friend and teammate who hadn't said a word about the guy in thirty-two years.
"Shaun?" Maureen said softly. "Do you have something to tell us?"
"What?" Michael frowned. "What could Shaun possibly have to say after all these years?"
"Plenty," Shaun sighed, taking a long swing from his drink before standing and facing his family.
Cousin Eileen watched with interest from the window seat.
"Shaun, you didn't say anything back then, why are you saying it now?" Mary asked, wiping a tear from her eye.
"Because it's time," Shaun replied, handing his glass to his wife Beverly for a refill.
"What happened that night, Shaun?" Maureen asked, taking a seat in Bucko's favorite chair.
"It was the Saturday night of the off-weekend before the Miller City Turkey Day game," Shaun said quietly. "I had gone over to Sanderson's house and got half-lit."
"You were drinking?" Mary asked with surprise.
Shaun threw his sister a look of shame. "I broke every rule in the book," he confirmed. "We heard about the party at Daniels' so we went over there. I was already shit-faced."
"Oh, Shaun," Mary sighed with disappointment. "How could you?"
"You little shit," Michael barked. "You said you were with your chick that night."
"I lied," Shaun confessed openly.
"What happened, Shaun?" Maureen asked calmly although the tension in the room was increasing with every passing moment.
"Bobby saw us leaving," Shaun reported. "He lived next door to Sanderson, you may recall."
"And?" Michael demanded.
"He tried to stop me from going," Shaun revealed. "He knew what would happen if we got caught or Bucko found out."
"But you went anyway," Mary groaned, sensing disaster was about to be explained.
"Bobby followed us in his car," Shaun reported. "He was sober and he was trying to protect me and stop me from blowing it."
"What happened?" Maureen asked.
"We got to Daniels' party. I was really cocked by then. The party was a madhouse. We sneaked in the back so we wouldn't be noticed. I was so drunk I could barely walk. The other guys ditched out and it was just me and Bobby."
"And?" Maureen asked.
"A couple of the football guys came up from the cellar," Shaun sighed. "Told us there was something for us down there."
"Which guys?" Michael demanded.
"I honestly didn't see their faces," Shaun said. "I was turned the other way flirting with some broad. They said it mostly to Bobby. By the time I turned around, all I saw was the back of their football jackets."
"But Bobby saw their faces?" It was Eileen speaking for the first time from the window seat.
"Yeah, he knew who they were," Shaun confirmed. "Never revealed them to anybody though, not even me."
There was a moment of long silence.
"What happened then, Shaun?" Maureen asked.
"We went downstairs," Shaun said with a shrug.
"What did you find?" Maureen asked.
"Paisley, of course," Shaun sighed, taking a long drink from his glass.
"The dead girl," Mary whispered to her husband Ron who hadn't grown up in Riverside.
"She wasn't dead then," Shaun said, overhearing his sister. "But she had already been raped."
"Are you sure?" Michael asked angrily.
"She was naked from the waist down. Her skirt was wrapped around her head. Her panties were torn to bits. Her shirt was ripped. There was blood. She was drunk and incoherent, barely conscious."
"Oh my God!" Mary exclaimed. "Why didn't you say anything?"
"I've been asking myself that question for thirty-two years," Shaun confessed, emptying his glass into his mouth and handing it to Beverly for another refill.
"Maybe you've had enough," his wife suggested.
"It's never enough," he sighed.
"Tell us what happened, Shaun," Maureen directed, still calmly seated in Bucko's chair.
"Bobby told me I had to get out of there," he replied with a shrug. "He knew I wouldn't be playing on Thanksgiving or in the championship game if anybody found out anything."
"You should have called the cops!" Mary protested.
"I had a scholarship to UMASS. I was Bucko Callahan's kid, the star quarterback, the team hero, the town celebrity," Shaun reminded them. "It was Thanksgiving football against the Mudhens. A chance for the first undefeated season ever. A championship game. Bucko had been waiting twenty-six years for the moment."
"So you left," Maureen guessed.
"Stumbled up the stairs and grabbed McCurk who was still standing around the kitchen," Shaun acknowledged. "Told him it was Red Alert and we high-tailed it out of there without looking back."
"So Bobby was covering for you," Eileen realized from the window seat.
"He didn't rape that girl, Eileen," Shaun said with sadness. "I'm sorry I could never tell you."
"You let me think that about him all this time, Shaun," Eileen said with ice in her voice, tears rolling down her cheeks. "How could you live with yourself?"
"It wasn't easy," Shaun admitted.
"So what happened?" Michael asked after another long and uncomfortable silence.
"Bobby told me that he put Paisley's skirt back on her. There was a bulkhead in the cellar and he snuck her out the back way without anybody seeing. He got her into the car and was taking her to the hospital."
"But there was an accident," Mary deduced.
"Paisley woke up," Shaun said. "She went nuts. Totally freaked out. Grabbed the wheel of the car."
"And got herself killed," Michael said, shaking his head. "Stupid rich bitch."
"But why would Bobby cover it up?" Maureen asked.
"He never said," Shaun said with a heavy sigh, collapsing back onto the couch and taking another drink. "To protect me, I guess."
"And the rapists," Mary said with anger.
"They must have been some of the starters," Michael realized. "Maybe we never would have won on Thanksgiving or in the championship game without them."
"There would have been a scandal," Shaun agreed. "Maybe Dad would have forfeited the games even."
"Damn football!" Mary cured with disgust. "Stupid jerk football players. Poor Daddy."
"Do you think he knew?" Maureen wondered.
"I assumed he knew Bobby was covering up something," Shaun said. "I kind of figured he didn't want to know."
"How can you say that?" Mary asked angrily. "Daddy wasn't like that."
"I mean he didn't want to know about me," Shaun said. "He knew Bobby was my best friend. Can you imagine how I felt wondering if my father thought I was a rapist all these years?"
"Oh, Shaun, of course he didn't," Maureen assured him.
"Why did he quit then?" Shaun asked, his eyes filling with tears.
"Because he knew the team had betrayed him," Maureen said.
"What do you mean?" Mary asked, wiping her eyes some more.
"Come on, think about it," Maureen said. "He had to know Bobby took one for the team. That he was covering up for the other guys. Dad probably found out from the cops that there was more than one guy's sperm in her body."
"He never said a word to the team," Shaun volunteered.
"What was he supposed to say?" Maureen wondered.
"He probably did it for me," Shaun sighed. "So I could go out in glory and keep my scholarship and live happily ever after."
"Did you?" Maureen asked cynically.
"Hardly," Shaun said. "It's been thirty-two years of remorse, guilt, regret and second guessing."
"What the hell was a tight-assed girl like Paisley doing at Daniel's party in the first place?" Michael asked.
"She was my friend," Eileen spoke up, almost as if she was in a trance, the revelations to much to take. "Maybe Bobby was protecting her too. And me."
"From what?" Michael frowned.
"The gossip. The innuendo. The rumors. The reputation," Maureen guessed.
"That's probably why the family covered it up," Mary theorized. "It's one thing getting killed in a car accident with some jerk boy. But getting gang raped at a drunken unauthorized illegal underage party by a bunch of football players before she died? How would that look for Senator Billingsly's next reelection campaign?"
"So they let Bobby Myers go down?" Michael asked with disbelief.
"And they took Daddy down with him," Maureen agreed. "Don't forget how powerful that family was back then."
Michael glanced at his kid brother. "Myers never said anything else to you about any of this?"
"He told me what I just told you and then never talked to me again," Shaun said.
"He blamed you?" Mary said.
"No, I just think for him taking one for the team meant that he was removing himself completely from all of us," Shaun said. "He was taking one for us too. To spare Dad the further disgrace. To keep me out of trouble. To let Paisley rest in peace without further humiliation."
"Do you think it was worth it?" Michael asked with annoyance. "Here I've spent thirty-two years wanting to kill that guy and he was innocent of all accusations?"
"And he knew who did it too," Maureen said with admiration. "That's really something."
"Who asked him?" Eileen said suddenly, her voice full of anger.
"What do you mean, Eye?" Mary asked her cousin.
"What business was it of his to get involved in any of it?" She yelled. "He should have just stayed home and let Shaun fend for himself." She looked at her cousin with hateful resentment. "He was always covering your ass, damn it."
"He was," Shaun admitted freely.
"So what if you got busted and couldn't play?" Eileen wanted to know. "So what if you lost your precious scholarship. Hell, you only played two years at UMASS anyway."
"I know," Shaun sighed.
"Maybe if Bobby had stayed out of it they would have caught those bastards who raped Paisley. She might have identified the culprits if Bobby hadn't tried to sneak her out of there and gotten her killed. And Bobby wouldn't have ruined his life over something as stupid and useless as team honor. Trust me, Bobby Myer is no hero in any of this. He's an asshole for protecting rapist football players and Bucko's star quarterback. None of you creeps deserved his sacrifice. Who gives a shit about beating the Mudhens or winning a championship when a girl is dead and your boyfriend goes to jail?"
Eileen burst into tears and Mary moved across the room to console her.
"You're right," Shaun told his cousin. "I'm sorry I never said anything."
"Yeah, well you should be," Eileen wailed through her sobs. "You all should be."
"Okay, we're all tired," Maureen said gently.
"And drunk," Shaun spoke up.
"Let's just let this go for now and get some sleep," Maureen suggested. "We have another long day ahead of us tomorrow too."
There was some hugging and consoling and crying and a few more admonitions before various family members headed for their old bedrooms or out the door to their homes or the motel, everybody overwhelmed by grief mixed with confusion surrounding the entire Bobby Myers incident.
Morning came quickly and early for the Callahan family. It was an early call to get ready for the funeral Mass, some meeting for an early morning breakfast at the Riverside Café, others gathering at the Callahan family home to car pool to the funeral home.
There was an extra burden on the family now as they tried to sort out the return of Bobby Myers, the rape and death of Paisley Billingsley, and the tarnished legacy of their father's football legacy given these new revelations. Who were the rapists? What did Bobby Meyers really know?
But none of that really mattered at the moment. The priority for the day was to honor Bucko Callahan and bring him to his final resting place. The family arrived at the funeral home and were joined by about a hundred other people for the small service before the casket was brought to St. Anne's Church for the funeral Mass.
The family watched as the solemn pallbearers dressed in dark suits brought the casket out of the funeral home and placed it in the hearse. Three of Bucko's grandchildren had the honor, along with Roy Masterson, a long time family friend, LeLand Rogostawski who Bucko mentored at the insurance company, and Jake Hampton, one of Bucko's favorite players from his coaching days.
The funeral procession proceeded to the church and when the family was ushered inside by the funeral home staff to take their seats in the front rows of the pews, most of them noticed Bobby Myers sitting alone in the back pew of the church. It was Maureen who left her seat and walked to the back of the church, motioning to Bobby with her crooked finger.
"Come with me," she ordered.
The church was too crowded for Bobby to put up much of a protest and in order to avoid a scene he sheepishly walked with Maureen back up the center aisle. Maureen pointed to an empty spot in the second pew and Bobby took a seat next to Mary's husband, Ron. The others glanced at him but didn't say anything, Cousin Eileen keeping her head straight ahead without ever looking at him.
The ceremony was lovely. Some of Bucko's favorite hymns were played. The celebrant, Father Allen, was a kicker and punter on the team some forty years earlier under Coach Callahan so he knew the deceased up close and personal. Bucko's granddaughter Cassie delivered the first reading, Bucko's sister Ellen the second. Father Mike read the gospel and then delivered a powerful Homily, capturing the essence of Bucko as a father, a brother, an uncle, a grandfather, a teacher, and a football coach.
"Life can be difficult but in the midst of all the tough times Coach Callahan taught us that the secret is to run the race like a winner," Father Allen concluded. "Although Catholicism doesn't make life perfect, when we truly commit ourselves to the truth that's in the Bible and make Christ our personal friend, we find that the imperfect is bearable and life with Christ is worth it! Coach Callahan was one of those giants who helped us make it across the finish line. The true winners never race alone. They have trainers, friends, family, and fans to cheer them on and encourage them to never give up. And we had Coach Bucko Callahan who saw the best in us and brought out the best in us. He was giving, he was passionate, he was compassionate, and most of all he was forgiving. Just ask me. I once had a net punting yard average of 11.7 yards in a game against Greenville. I punted four times that day and I was certain Coach Callahan would never let me back on the field, but the next week against Mt. Griffin I was right back out there. That's the lesson Coach Callahan bestowed upon me – 'always keep kicking.'"
At the end of the funeral Mass, the casket was taken from the church and loaded into the hearse again for the ride to the cemetery. A stiff-faced Bobby Meyers had processed out with the family and other mourners but he fell out of line and headed for his rental car at the far end of the parking lot.
"You are going to the cemetery, right?" Maureen said, grabbing him by the arm.
"Maybe I shouldn't," Bobby replied.
"Maybe you'd better," Maureen replied, making it sound like a threat.
He nodded his head and disappeared among the cars.
The funeral home processed along the route to the cemetery. Reaching the entrance, most of the Riverside High School Football team was lined up along the entryway in full uniform and the high school band was playing Amazing Grace as the hearse went by, bringing tears to many who passed by.
The pallbearers brought Bucko Callahan to his final resting place, Father Allen said the committal prayers and just like that, the ceremony was over. The mourners slowly began to disperse. Bobby Myers had been standing off to the side alone and when Maureen saw him start to move away she grabbed him by the arm.
"You stay here," she ordered.
She waited until all the family members had left the burial site. It was just her and Bobby Myers standing by the grave stone as the others headed for their cars.
"Why did my father stay in contact with you, Bobby?" Maureen asked under the warm September sun.
"I guess he wanted to make sure I turned out okay," Bobby replied with a shrug, looking past Maureen at the many gravestones in the large cemetery.
"Did he visit you at the prison in Concord?"
"At least once a month," Bobby confirmed.
"Did he ever ask you what happened? Who you were protecting?"
"No," Bobby replied. "But when I got out he gave me the name of an old Army buddy down in Georgia. Said I should start fresh, somewhere else, away from Riverside."
"Did that work out okay?" Maureen asked.
"Yeah," Bobby said. "I worked for Bucko's friend while I went to college and got a degree in social work. Now I work with at-risk kids in a residential setting."
"Rapists?" Maureen wondered.
"Last night, Shaun finally told us what happened," Maureen let him know. "Why didn't you ever tell anybody?"
"Once I told the first lie, it was too late to go back," Bobby said.
"You could have come clean after the championship game," Maureen reasoned.
"It would have tinted everything Bucko and the team accomplished," Bobby replied. "Paisley's parents didn't need to know the whole ugly truth."
"What truth was that?"
"That their perfect kid was a drunk and a sleaze that put herself in situations that invited trouble," Bobby sighed. "Eileen and I used to fight all the time over her being friends with Paisley because I knew it was only a matter of time before Paisley crashed and burned."
"But you gave up everything for her," Maureen commented. "Your freedom. A chance to play in those games. Eileen. Your reputation. Your home."
"My father left when I was seven years old," Bobby replied. "I probably would have crashed and burned too if your father hadn't been a part of my life. My mother was a drunk. I was a C student. The only reason I was on the team was because your father put me on it. I wasn't a good player. Shaun had it all going for him. I wasn't going to let him lose everything because he made one bad choice that night."
"That wasn't his only bad choice during those years," Maureen said. "You enabled him."
"It doesn't matter now, Maureen," Bobby replied. "It's over. Paisley's dead. Her parents are dead. Bucko's dead. Let it go."
"And what about the rapists?" Maureen asked
"I didn't see them rape her," Bobby sighed.
"That doesn't mean they didn't," Maureen argued. "There would have been an investigation. Interviews. Interrogations."
"Too late now," Bobby said.
"What were you going to do when you got her to the hospital?"
"Leave her there anonymously," he said quietly. "Then it would have been up to her."
"But she woke up."
He nodded. "I didn't know that was going to happen."
"Don't you owe it to her to reveal the names now?"
"What would that accomplish, Maureen? It's been thirty-two years."
"I wonder how many other women they raped."
Bobby cringed at that remark.
"Well, it's up to you, Bobby," Maureen said.
"It always was," he remarked.
"I was there when my father called you last Sunday," she revealed.
"I didn't know who it was but after he hung up I was coming into the room and he said to me 'Be good to him'. I didn't know what he was talking about until now."
"I guess he didn't want all of us taking it to our graves like he did," Bobby sighed.
"Come on, let's get to the reception," Maureen said, glancing around and realizing they were alone now with every car gone except for hers and his rental. The burial crew patiently waited by their truck a fair distance away.
"I don't think that's a good idea," Bobby replied. "I don't want to ruin it for everybody."
"Too late," she said with a smirk on her face. "Besides, I have the feeling Bucko wanted you to be there. Why else would he have called you?"
Bobby followed Maureen's car to the Elk's Club where a catered meal was being served, as arranged by Bucko. Appetizers, a buffet roast beef dinner with all the fixings, an open bar, and a huge dessert table. A memorial table for Bucko had been set up with a high ball left for him!
Bobby felt awkward and out of place the moment he walked through the door but Maureen took him by the arm.
"You're with me," she said.
Bobby sat at the table with her, her son and daughter, Uncle Allen and Aunt Barbara, and a couple of family friends. Maureen gave Bobby a quick update (although he already knew much of it from his phone conversations with Bucko). Maureen was a divorced nurse. Mike was disabled following his accident but volunteered in the community. Mary had carried on in Bucko's tradition by becoming a teacher and coaching Girl's Field Hockey. Shaun ran a bed and breakfast with his wife. Eileen was also divorced and operated her own child care business.
Bobby didn't offer much in the form of conversation and most of those in attendance let him be. Shaun did stop him by the bar and gave him a wordless hug before moving on. So much time and distance had passed and the unspoken tragedy of that night left everybody with little to say. That night and the decisions made had ruined plenty of lives and reputations and ended a few careers. Now, thirty-two years later, a great pall hung over the family as they came to terms with the truth. Shaun had made a bad choice, Bobby chose to cover it up, a girl was dead, and all of it caused the end of Bucko's stellar coaching and teaching career.
A few people who recognized, figured out, or heard who Bobby was said hello to him and offered a few words but mostly Bobby was on his own when Maureen wasn't around to keep him company or engaged in one-sided conversation.
All through the meal, Bobby couldn't help but glance at his old girlfriend Eileen, the only girl he had ever loved. He thought he caught her looking at him a few times but he couldn't be sure.
At one point, Bobby was seated alone at the corner table when Eileen approached, taking a seat next to him. She was wearing a tight black dress and she looked as beautiful as the day he last saw her all those years ago.
"I hated you for a long time," she confessed.
"And even after hearing the truth last night I'm still mad at you," she said.
"I don't blame you," he replied.
For many years, Eileen was Shaun's cousin, hanging around a lot, friends with Mary and Bobby got to know her that way. They were friends until Freshman year when they ended up going to the Freshman Welcome together and after that they were considered a couple.
It was rather chaste for the first few years – hand holding, and quick pecks on the cheek, and innocent kisses goodnight, but nothing major until their junior year when they gave their virginities to each other at the swimming hole not far from their neighborhood.
The gang used to go there in the summer and one hot afternoon during a walk Eileen suggested a swim even though they hadn't brought their bathing suits.
Bobby hid his surprise when he saw her pubic hair for the first time as she slipped off her white shorts and panties. He got hard immediately and he was full of hormones, eager to feel the slippery wetness of her after years of fantasy masturbation. They swam naked together and he ended up putting himself inside of her although he came too fast but she didn't seem to hold it against him.
By senior year, their relationship was intense but also struggling. Eileen was a popular and successful honor roll student. Her parents were friends with the Billingsley's and she was close with Paisley even though Bobby thought she was bad news.
Bobby was grateful to be on the football team and although he was a second string part time player, he was best friends with the star quarterback who also happened to be the coach's son and that gave him an identity and place on the team, even if most saw him as Shaun's flackie.
And then that terrible night happened and his life as he knew it was over. He was in the hospital for a week and then in legal trouble. His mother pulled him out of school to avoid conflicts during the legal process and Eileen refused to talk to him as the rumors circulated about rape and drinking and all the rest of it. Eileen's best friend was dead and she couldn't bring herself to forgive Bobby for that or to trust him to tell her the truth.
Now she sat next to him staring at him.
"You should have called the Police the minute you found her," Eileen said.
"Why didn't you?"
He shrugged. "I made the wrong choice."
"To protect those asshole football jocks."
"And Shaun," Bobby reasoned. "If your uncle found out he had been at the party he would have kicked him off the team."
"So what?" Eileen asked. "He would have kicked you off it too."
"It wasn't about me, Eileen," Bobby said.
"Of course it was," She countered. "You made it about you the moment you decided to become a martyr for the football team so they could win their precious Mudhen game and championship."
"I guess," he agreed.
"Was it worth it?" She asked bitterly.
"Of course not," he answered. "I wrecked my life and plenty of others too."
"Maureen tells me you're a social worker?"
"And you're a day care provider."
Bobby shook his head no. "Never found the right one," he sighed.
"Yes you did," she replied knowingly.
He glanced at her and acknowledged her comment with a sigh.
"I didn't either," she told him. "I was married for fifteen years but it wasn't right."
"I'm sorry for wrecking everything," he clarified.
"You should be," she said quietly.
"Who were the guys you saw coming up the stairs that night?"
He stared at her for a long moment.
"She was my friend, Bobby," Eileen said.
"Rickman the running back, Clausen the wide receiver, and Henderson the linebacker," he revealed for the first time in thirty-two years.
She sat back in her chair with her jaw dropped open. "I can't believe you actually told me."
"I should have told thirty-two years ago."
Eileen left the table and Bobby watched as she chatted with Maureen and then Shaun who looked shocked when he learned the names. Bobby suddenly felt claustrophobic and, knowing his work here was done, he headed for the door and managed to escape before anybody noticed him leaving.
He had gotten in the rental car and was about to drive away when the passenger door opened and Eileen slipped into the front seat.
"Go ahead," she ordered.
"Don't you want to stay with your family?"
"No," she answered.
He put the car in drive and headed away.
They ended up at the Quality Inn in Greenville. They were barely through the door when she was kissing him while she cried, tugged his tie free before his lips descended on hers. They were both grieving thirty-two years of sorrow, guilt, shame, angst, loss, and resentment and now they were also dealing with the loss of Bucko and Paisley all over again.
She let him slip her dress off her shoulders and it fell to the floor. She was buried in the long missing sensations of his lips on her skin and she let him remove her bra. She kicked off her shoes as he picked her up and placed her on bed. She managed to partially undo his shirt as his lips wandered to her rosy nipples. She moaned at the sensation and the realization that she was back with the only man she ever truly loved. His lips descended to the band of her panties and she giggled as he pulled them down her hips with his teeth.
Her hands slid down to undo his pants and they were off his legs as was his boxers. Their eyes locked and then they made love together for the first time in thirty-two years.
When they were done several hours later, Eileen slept like a baby, curled up and warmly fulfilled, naked next to him. The next morning they shared a warm shower, delighted to touch each other's bare skin.
Later, wrapped in towels, Bobby held her sitting on the bed while she cried. For him. For her. For Them. For Bucko. For Paisley.
Clearing Bucko and Myers
By Mickey Demrest
Greenville News and Dispatch Sports Columnist
The death earlier this year of Riverside High School's Legendary Football Coach Bucko Callahan was a great loss to the Riverside community. Bucko served as the team's football coach for twenty-six years, amassing a career record of 162-70-10, including the school's first undefeated record and Division III State Championship in his final season.
Callahan was only fifty-three when he hung up the whistle after finishing that season 11-0 with a championship, resigning from both coaching and teaching as the result of a controversial high profile tragedy involving one of his players near the end of that memorable season.
The weekend prior to the Royals were to square off against their traditional rival Miller City Mudhens in the classic Thanksgiving Day show down, a second string Riverside player named Bobby Myers was involved in a fatal car accident that took the life of Paisley Billingsley, the daughter of prominent State Senator Bill Billingsley.
At the time, Myers claimed he had no memory of the circumstances leading up to the accident as a result of the concussion he suffered in the crash. However, thirty-two years later, Myers revealed that he was covering up a scandal that involved several of his teammates.
"Coach Callahan had no knowledge of any of this before, during or after the fact," Myers says. "I lied to protect players and Paisley's honor and I was wrong to do so."
Myers accepted a plea bargain and served 18 months in prison for involuntary manslaughter. Callahan later stepped down from his coaching and teaching positions under pressure from the powerful Billingsley family and although he remained active in the community as an important sports booster and advocate, a cloud remained over his reputation and image for years.
Now, thirty-two football seasons later, Bucko Callahan is dead and Myers has gone public with his story. According to Myers, he and Callahan's son Shaun, then the team's star quarterback, attended a party against team rules. There, they encountered three teammates that had allegedly raped Billingsley. Myers claims he was bringing the girl to the hospital when the accident occurred. Billingsley was killed in the crash. Myers decided to protect the other players so they could play in the annual Mudhen Thanksgiving Day game and the championship game the following week, both of which the Royals won.
The revelations should clear up the mystery of the unfortunate accident and we enable us to remember Bucko Callahan for the legend he was in these parts, a big man in a small community, a mentor, a hero, a friend, a father, a teacher, a coach, and a guy who got things done.
Meanwhile, a new investigation has been opened and Police are apparently questioning the three players Myers has accused of sexual misconduct.
Myers recently moved back to Riverside and is employed as a social worker counselor with the Riverside Mental Health Agency.