WHEN SHELLEY CAME
A Short Story of a Champion, and her fight for equality
Just a few short years ago, while we were still in our prime, a young girl came into our lives. She was quiet, unassuming, and had an abundance of skills that some of us never acquire. She had achieved her abilities by hard work, but not that alone; she also was fortunate to have supportive parents; and, she cared little or nothing about what the world thought she ought to be. At 14, she was much more self-confident than you would ever expect anyone in their teen years to be. Certainly, she went through the stages of adolescence, which included: wanting friends, desiring more independence, sometimes unsure where she was going in life, but she also had to mature more quickly because she had to be more self-reliant than most of her peers. She had no siblings, so it was up to her to reach out to others, and to accomplish her objectives, both with academics and in her personal life. She knew that she was capable of doing much more than most people would give credit to 14-year olds for.
Michelle Simpson was born into an athletic family. Her father, for many years, was a basketball coach, most recently an assistant at Kansas State University. Her mother had played volleyball in college, and had passed her interests along to their only child. Shelley had a strong background in athletics from an early age.
Shelley, as she preferred to be called, was born a normal, healthy child. She grew up surrounded by a strong interest in sports. However, when she was 5 years old, she had become ill with Scarlet Fever, which had left her without the ability to hear. Being deaf did not stop her from growing into a happy, well-adjusted child. Occasionally using the services of an interpreter in school, when necessary, Shelley participated in all school activities that you would expect of any child. She excelled in sports, due in no mean part to early coaching and training from her parents. Her deafness was considered a plus, as she was not distracted during a game by the yelling and cheering of the crowd. Her attention could be riveted on the game's action instead of worrying about how she performed.
By 14, Shelley had already won numerous prizes and ribbons for athletic achievements. She was an extremely fast sprinter, and no boy or girl in school could outrun her. In the Spring of 1995, she had entered the Under-18 Track and Field Championships for her region. She had no trouble in the 100 meter sprint and 100 meter low hurdles, and had won First Place in both events. Everything she competed in, she set a record for.
The state meet for Kansas was another occasion for her to garner First Place in her events. Shelley was entered in the 100 meter dash, the high jump, and the 100 meter hurdles. A lot of the girls were sponsored by an athletic club in their hometown or by their school. Shelley was a student at a small private school in Manhattan, Kansas, and they could not afford to finance the participant fees. Mr and Mrs Simpson had taken care of the necessary costs. Therefore, Shelley was registered in her events as an independent; there was no press coverage for independents.
In the preliminary heats in the 100 meter dash, Shelley held back, because she had events all day to participate in. She was able to garner second or third places in all runs. The same with the hurdles; she only had to qualify, not win. The high jump was not her best event, but she was able to hang on for a third place going into the finals.
The final of the 100 meter dash was set to take place. For a lot of the girls, this was just a bit too long; they would run out of gas before the finish line. Shelley had more stamina than was thought possible for a young adolescent. The girls lined up in the blocks. They were set, the gun went off, and the girls burst out onto their lanes! Shelley was a little behind the others, as she couldn't hear the pistol and had to wait and see the other sprinters start out. At the thirty-meter mark, Shelley was still accelerating while the other girls were at their maximum speed. Some of them peaked early, and began to tire. Shelley crossed the 50-meter mark, moving into the pack out front. At 80 meters, Shelley was leading, and moving further ahead of second place. Truly, she was the fastest one on the field that day. She hit the finish line without slackening her speed for another 10 meters. Many girls would let up just as they crossed the finish line; Shelley was able to push herself enough, by setting her own finish line behind the event line, to give herself an advantage over those who slowed down too soon. Her time was a record 9.4 seconds. This record still stands today.
The high jump was not a blue ribbon for her this time. She managed a fourth place finish. Good enough for back home, perhaps, but not at the state event.
The hurdles were the last event she was entered in for the day. Yes, she was a bit tired, but was anxious to compete and win. "BANG!" and they were off. Shelley moved quickly out front. Most of the others didn't have their timing set quite right, and had to change their pace each time they came to a hurdle. That was a problem Shelley had overcome some time ago; as she came to each hurdle, she raised her front leg and glided over the barrier. On the other side, her leg was now out in front, biting into the track. She was able to take long strides between the hurdles, and, as a result, no one came near her. Her time: 11.4 seconds.
Being hearing impaired, she could not hear announcements. So when the press tried to find her in the winner's circle after presentations, she had already gone to find her parents and share her trophies with them. Consequently, there are hardly any photos of these events and her winning them.
The National Meet was set for Philadelphia in August. Well, what can we say? She won First Place in her two events with record times. She had shattered the record for either male or female competitors. People were beginning to notice her, and expect that she might very well be the next Babe Didrickson in time for the 2000 Olympics.
At home, Shelley's parents had divorced. It was not an
ugly divorce; they had simply grown apart, and agreed to an amicable separation. Shelley's mom had taken a position with a company in Fort Worth, Texas. Her dad was staying in Kansas to continue his career with the University.
Shelley's mom wanted her in a private school. The Christian Bible Academy in Fort Worth proved to be the most suitable. It was on the way to work, and Shelley could be dropped off and picked up after school with little inconvenience. They had moved into an apartment very close to both the school and the main freeway.
It was now late August and classes were starting. Shelley went with her Mom to enroll in the school. The Administrator, Brother Luke, was not at all enthusiastic about having a deaf girl attending classes there: "Mrs Simpson, we're just not prepared to handle a deaf child; we have no facilities to accommodate her."
"What kind of facilities do you need?! She's only hearing impaired, and I will provide any interpreter needed for her classes."
"Well, it's just that we've never had a situation like this before, and I'm not really sure how to handle it."
"Dr. Luke, you don't have to 'handle' anything. I pay the tuition, she attends classes, just like any other student. She's always gone to regular schools, as she must learn to make her way in a world of hearing people. I will not allow her to be isolated from the mainstream. The best thing for her is not to be kept away from other children, as she will, one day, be out on her own."
"Very well, Mrs Simpson; as long as you can pay the tuition, then I suppose I will allow her to attend school here. But we can make no special accommodations or give her preferential treatment..."
"Did I ask for such, Dr. Luke? I just want her in a private school and a Baptist school, and this one is very convenient for us. I'm sure that you will have no problems of any kind with her."
Now, understand that Shelley was moderately well-known back in Kansas for her athletic accomplishments. However, this was another place; no one on the faculty had ever heard of her, or had any knowledge of all the records she held. Most coaches did not give attention to junior high school events. Records were made and broken in high school.
The first week of classes had already gone by without her setting foot in the gym. Oh, yes, Shelley had P.E. classes, but these were conducted outside, and consisted of walking on the track, or playing with a Frisbee. Girls' athletics were secondary to football.
All the coaches were men; not one coach was female. The volleyball coach for Junior High was Pat Carson. He was given the assignment to keep him on full- time pay; his main job was
Defensive Backfield coach. So, this time of year, he spent most of his time with football practices; girls' volleyball was a distraction.
Shelley was very restless for vigorous physical activity. During P.E. class, to help keep herself toned and primed, she preferred to sprint on the track, rather than walk or play with a Frisbee.
Most of her classmates had not made friends with her; none knew sign language. When she isolated herself during P.E. class by running, they felt even further distance with her. She didn't really let that bother her; she had learned to do what she needed to, and not to center her life on having friends. She wasn't stuck up or stand-offish; she simply had her own agenda.
Volleyball tryouts were to be held Thursday and Friday at 3:30. Shelley showed up, with all the other hopeful girls. Those who had played last year and were still eligible were most likely to make the team. So, that left about 4 slots open, if all the veterans made the team again.
Coach Carson, by this time, knew that he had a deaf student in his P.E. class. She really wasn't any trouble; when they went outside, she went over to the track and ran while others walked. That left him free to concentrate on talking with the other coaches about the upcoming football game. Today, however, he was uncomfortable with her showing up for tryouts. Brother Luke had put out the word for the coaches to keep him informed if she did anything out of the ordinary; she was just to go to class and go home. He didn't see her interpreter, so he took his notebook with him and walked over to where Shelley was standing. He wrote: "You aren't eligible for volleyball."
Shelley's eyes grew wide in surprise and astonishment at this approach. She asked him "Why?"
Again Coach Carson began writing: "Accident insurance won't cover handicapped students." What he was thinking was: "how will she ever be able to work together with a team if she can't hear what is going on? She can't hear the referee's whistle; she can't hear her teammates discuss strategy; and she sure can't hear anything the coach might tell her during a game. I am not going to any trouble for her or anyone else; I've got plenty to do with football. I want to get these tryouts over with as quickly as possible."
Shelley borrowed his notepad and wrote "I have as much right as anybody to try out for the team."
He wrote: "It just wouldn't work out; maybe next year." Then he turned and walked over to the table. He announced to the tryouts to line up and write their name on the tablet.
Then they would be divided up into teams and participate in a practice game to observe their skills.
The girls began lining up, single file, giggling, and looking around for their other friends. Shelley got in line too. She was easy to spot, as she was considerably taller than most of her classmates. Even though only 15 now, she had very muscular legs and moved in a coordinated fashion, like a cheetah ready to spring into the chase, in contrast to most early adolescents, that were learning to walk all over again, as new muscles appeared.
Coach Carson saw her in line and said to himself: "What am I going to do now? How can I easily get rid of her?" He finally decided to just leave her alone for now. He would deal with it later. He knew to check with Brother Luke before taking any action in support of or against a student's participating in team sports' events.
When Shelley went on the court, she took an outside hitter position. Of course, almost immediately, it was apparent that she had excellent volleyball skills. It should have been, as her mother had coached her since she was old enough to pick up a volleyball. She knew how to pick and how to set up. She was easily the most dominating player on the court, and some of the other girls began to notice her and like her. One girl said "Yeah, maybe we should make friends with her; she's pretty good." She was beginning to make herself known.
Despite the athletic ability she displayed, Coach Carson was uncomfortable about the thought of having her on the team. She was the first deaf person he had ever known. He felt they should all go to a special school and be out of his life. He was embarrassed to be around handicapped people.
The next day, Coach Carson went to the Athletic Director, Coach Tate, and presented him with his dilemma. "I really can't have this deaf girl on the volleyball team. We can't communicate back and forth. What does Brother Luke have to say about her?"
Coach Tate asked him "Well, if she's not good enough to make the team, you simply don't select her. Problem solved."
"But she is good, really good. She can slam the ball very hard, and she is unbelievably quick. She is easily the best tryout I've seen. It looks like she's been playing volleyball for some time."
Coach Tate replied with "Go ask Brother Luke. Maybe her birth date makes her ineligible. She looks older than most of the girls in her class anyway."
So, Coach Carson trotted up the hill to the Administration building. He found Brother Luke in his office.
"Brother Luke, we have a problem, and aren't sure what to do about it."
"We?" replied Brother Luke, looking around for another person. "Come in, Coach. Have a seat. What kind of problem is it?"
Coach Carson described the volleyball tryouts from yesterday.
"Oh, no, we can't allow her to play volleyball!" said
Brother Luke, "Accident insurance won't cover any injury she might incur because she didn't hear instructions. Just tell
her that she doesn't qualify. Handicapped students are barred from sports because they have a higher injury risk than other students. If she gives you any static, just send her to me."
That afternoon, in P.E. class, Coach Carson went outside to monitor the class. He had written a note to Shelley that handicapped people were ineligible for sports, as accident insurance didn't cover them.
When he presented the note to Shelley, you could see her face fall. Then she quickly recovered and glared at him. She voiced and signed: "I want to play sports, and I will!" Then she went over to the track and sprinted several times around
the oval, dodging other students who were walking. She had met adversity before and knew how to handle herself. Since she learned to walk, no one had believed in her but her parents, and she had to continually show others that she could compete on a level with her peers, who might or might not be hearing impaired - because that had nothing to do with it! She wanted to yell out to the school: "Quit treating me different! I'm not a freak! I'm just like anyone else."
While she was sprinting around the track, Coach Larry Somervelle, who was outside with his class, noticed her. He thought to himself, "Gee, that girl sure is fast. I wonder who she is? She ought to slow down, though, as she might run into someone." Little did he think that she would run into his life in just a few short weeks.
That evening, when Shelley's mom picked her up after school, Shelley didn't tell her the day's events. Shelley had decided to just drop it. If they didn't want her on the team, she would accept that. She was not going to get her mother to help her solve her problems. She would still excel at whatever else she was interested in.
That same evening, across town, Coach Somervelle was sitting in his living room reading the "High School Sports News" while his wife prepared the dinner table. Coach Somervelle was also an assistant coach at the Baptist Bible School. He had, by this time, heard about the refusal of the staff to allow the little deaf girl to participate in sports. However, that was not his problem, and so it wasn't on his mind at the time. As he scanned the small newspaper, he noticed an article "Sprinter Simpson sets national record", about some high school track event in Pennsylvania. About that same time, as his stomach growled, his wife announced that it was feeding time. So he tossed the newspaper aside, jumped up, and carried his bulky, 6'4", 265 pounds to the table. This was definitely his favorite part of the day. He was so lucky to find a wife that loved to cook, as he loved to eat what she cooked. His two loves were football and dinner.
The days at Christian Bible Academy went by quietly. Shelley went to class, did her homework, ate in the cafeteria,
just like any other girl. She never mentioned to anyone her disappointment at not being on the volleyball team. She
really didn't have any friends, yet, because none of her classmates could communicate with her. This was a barrier she had overcome before at other schools.
One day was a bit rainy, so no P.E. classes were to be held inside. For class, the girls could play a little volleyball, or shoot some hoops, or just walk the perimeter of the gym. Shelley couldn't run on the track that day, so she went onto the gym floor to join her classmates in ...something. She elected to play a little volleyball with some of them. Coach Carson wasn't on the gym floor; he was in the Athletic Office, discussing strategy with the other coaches for the forthcoming game.
One young girl, named Debbie, was volleying the ball with Shelley. She had brought a book with her to school, about sign language. She ran to get it from her locker, and then
returned to the court. She grabbed Shelley by the hand and pulled her over to the side. Debbie very slowly signed "good" "you" "volleyball" . Shelley waited patiently as she looked up each sign. Then Shelley answered with "fun", but
she didn't think that her new friend understood.
Coach Somervelle was standing there, watching. There was something puzzling about the deaf girl; he just couldn't put his finger on it. How had she gotten this far not being able to communicate with others? He kind of felt sorry for her. He asked Debbie what they were talking about.
Debbie answered, "I was telling her that she's a good volleyball player. - Hey, Coach. How come she can't be on the volleyball team; she's pretty good, ya know?"
"Oh, I dunno. Something about insurance. The school can't insure her. I don't really know. Say, ask her how old she is."
Debbie didn't know how to ask. Shelley, at that point, indicated for Coach Somervelle to write his question down and show it to her.
He reached into his breast pocket, pulled out his notepad, and wrote: "How old are you?"
Shelley vocalized "Fifteen. Why?" She could be fairly well understood if you were used to her pronunciation.
Coach Somervelle wrote "You look older."
Shelley didn't say anything. She was trying to figure out exactly what he wanted. She was as puzzled with him as he was with her.
A few days later, Mrs. Simpson came by the school in the afternoon to pick up Shelley. It was pre-arranged between them that she would find Shelley in the gym, especially in bad weather. Mrs. Simpson went into the gym and saw some of the girls playing volleyball. Shelley came up with her book bag and signed "Ready".
The two of them got into the car and headed for the apartment. Mrs. Simpson got to thinking why Shelley was going home now, and not staying around to play volleyball. She could always pick Shelley up later, after practice.
After they got inside their apartment, Mrs. Simpson, who, of course, had picked up enough sign language to communicate with her daughter, asked her "Didn't you want to stay longer, and play some volleyball?"
"Yeah, but I was getting kind of tired and ready to go home."
Now mothers know when their children are being evasive. You don't live with someone and not pick up on their emotional state. "Did something happen at school today?" Mrs. Simpson asked.
"No. Everything's okay."
"What is it? What are you trying to avoid talking about?"
A look of pain broke out on Shelley's face. "They won't let me play volleyball." she reluctantly told her mom.
"What! Why on earth not? Do you have to wait a semester to be eligible for sports?"
"No, Mom. They told me the school insurance won't cover
me. If I get hurt in sports, the school won't pay for it."
"Who told you that? That doesn't sound right; you participate in P.E. class without any restrictions. I'm going to make an appointment with Dr. Luke."
"Mom, please don't make any difficulties. If you force them to let me in, it won't be the same as if I earn my own way."
"No, I want to talk with Dr. Luke, just to get some information. I know how much you like sports. I didn't think that you wouldn't be allowed to compete. If that's the case, then I'll pull you out of that school and find another one."
A couple of days later, Mrs. Simpson met with a reluctant Dr Luke in his office. She displayed a composure of inquiry rather than the anger she was feeling.
"Shelley tells me that insurance won't cover her, so she's not allowed to participate in sports?"
"It's not that, Mrs. Simpson; insurance will cover her if she makes the team, whether it's volleyball, or basketball, or even if it were football. The problem, as the coaches tell me, is that she can't hear instructions. So, she becomes a liability on the court."
Mrs. Simpson almost flew out of her chair at him. She felt like grabbing his neck with both hands and throttling him; she knew a side-step when she saw one. This was not what she had been hearing all along. Then she recovered herself. "You, then, are telling me that she will not be allowed to try out for a team sport because she is deaf?"
"Well, ...ahem...not because she is deaf, per se, but she cannot do what the coaches tell her during a game-"
"Then I will provide her with an interpreter to be there at all times."
"Mrs. Simpson," Dr. Luke responded with an increasingly reddening face, "this is...cumbersome. She can't hear the instructions from the bench; she has to turn her head and look, and this means taking her eyes off the game. This is what the coaches tell me", he said, trying to avoid being the goat.
"Dr Luke, Shelley can do the assignment she receives from the coach. She has done well in the past. She is a skilled competitor and she would be an asset to the team", answered Mrs. Simpson, increasingly frustrated with this resistance to her daughter. "Besides, under the Americans with Disabilities Act, you can't bar her from competitive sports. That would be a legal matter, that neither you nor I wish to explore."
Silence like a tomb overtook the conversation. Dr Luke stared past her as his mind was trying to assimilate this new information. He didn't have a quick rebuttal. He was not
used to people not submitting to his decisions. He didn't want to get into legal situations; it cost money just to consult a lawyer.
Finally, he exhaled. "All right, Mrs. Simpson, if your daughter is talented, then the coaches will notice, and, in
their judgement, will select her for the team. I'll allow her to try out for girls' sports. However, I can't tell the coaches who will or won't be on the team. The coach for that sport will have the final say as to who is to be on the roster." He felt a little elated and surprised at himself that he had out-maneuvered this woman, who had had him in a corner. He had won a small victory. Additionally, he had pushed the responsibility off onto the coaches' backs. Mrs. Simpson could deal with them. He cared little for face-to-face contact with parents; he preferred to stay in his office and write memos, or to call errant teachers into his office for counseling.
Dr Luke waited until Mrs. Simpson had left campus, watching her drive away. Then he picked up the phone and called Coach Tate. "Mrs Simpson, the parent of that deaf girl, was just here. She insists on getting her daughter into sports."
Coach Tate answered, "Yeah, I know who she is, -the deaf girl, I mean. I haven't met her parents." He felt surprised at himself for giving a neutral answer. He, too, wished to stay out of any sticky situations.
Dr. Luke asked him: "When is the closing date for Junior High volleyball?"
"It was last Friday. Are we going to have to accept the deaf girl?"
"No. Tell Carson the team has already been selected; don't let anyone else on the team. She can try again next year. Tell her mother that, if the situation comes up again." Dr Luke hung up and went back to his paperwork.
Coach Tate was still standing there with the phone in his hand. "What am I going to do now? Dr Luke has shifted his
problems onto me. He out-slickered me. Well, I'm sure not going to go find the deaf girl and tell her anything. I'll wait for her to come to me, or, I could shift it onto Coach Carson, since he is the volleyball coach."
It was now September. The Junior High girls' volleyball had their first scrimmage scheduled for Wednesday at 4:00 in the gym.
Shelley knew she was not on the team, as she had seen the team roster posted outside the Athletic Department office. The absence of her name didn't surprise her, but it did disappoint her. She felt that maybe she had unwittingly said or did something to make Coach Carson dislike her. "But that was strange," she conjectured, "as the coaches usually like the better players. Maybe I just wasn't good enough to make the team. I'm going to go to the scrimmage this afternoon and see how our team looks. I'm not going to pout and stay away just because I wasn't selected."
That afternoon, Shelley went over to the gym and sat with some of her classmates. They were beginning to accept her,
with the realization that there wouldn't be much conversation between them and her. She didn't reach out to them, they noticed, probably because she was shy or had low self-esteem. They would try to be nice to her.
The scrimmage was fairly uneventful. Shelley saw that there wasn't an overabundance of talent on the team, but, what the heck, the girls that did get to play were having fun. She wasn't going to criticize the coaching because this was too early in the season; the girls had to get their minds and bodies into volleyball.
At 5:00, Mrs. Simpson walked into the gym to pick up Shelley. Shelley saw her mom and grabbed her book bag and walked toward the entrance. One of Shelley's schoolmates, Debbie, touched Shelley's arm to get her attention.
"Hey, Shelley. Why don't you come over Saturday to my house. My Dad's going to fill the swimming pool. We'll have lots of fun."
Shelley called her mom over to interpret.
Shelley's reply was: "That sounds neat. I guess I could? What time?"
"Oh, about two o'clock. It's an above ground pool, but there's plenty of room to swim, as long as my stupid brother and his friends don't try to get in. Then we'll have hamburgers and soft drinks. We'll get stuffed."
"Mmmmmm, okay, around two o'clock." "Mom, will it be okay with you?"
Mrs. Simpson signed "Yes", and then asked Debbie for directions to their house, and her phone number. She, like any parent, was pleased that her child appeared to be making friends with schoolmates.
"See you then" Shelley answered to Debbie as she left with her mom.
Saturday at two o'clock arrived. Shelley and her mom drove up out front. Her mom went with her to the front door to introduce herself. They rang the doorbell. Very shortly, Debbie opened the door.
"Hi", Debbie greeted them, "come on in. I'll introduce you to my mom and dad."
Introductions were completed. Mrs. Simpson said that she had to go, but felt Shelley would be in good hands.
Debbie took Shelley outside to show her the yard. There was an above ground pool off to one corner. A basketball goal was set up near the back door on a slab. Debbie was showing Shelley the yard, trying to communicate with pointing.
Debbie's father came outside and walked over to the pool. He appeared to be examining it in one area particularly closely. "Hey, Debs; I hate to tell you this, but it looks like the swim meet is canceled."
"What do you mean, Dad?"
"The pool has a leak in it. I'll have to drain it, find the leak, and see if I can fix it."
Debbie was shaking her head, and indicated to Shelley that there would be no swimming today. They would have to do something else.
Shelley pointed at the basketball goal and simulated a jump shot. With raised eyebrows, she looked at Debbie.
The new friend understood. "Okay, I'll go get the basketball."
When she returned, the two girls began dribbling and shooting. They were just having fun practicing their techniques. Debbie noticed that Shelley could hit her jump shots most of the time. "Gee, looks like she's good in basketball, too."
While they were playing, two teen-age boys walked up the driveway and into the backyard. "Oh, no" said Debbie, "my brother, David, and his dorky friend..."
"Hey, what's going on, little sister? Did you ruin the swimming pool? Who's your friend?"
Debbie introduced her brother and the neighbor kid, named Les, to Shelley. "My brother goes to our school; he's in the 10th grade. Lester goes to Arlington Heights." Debbie saw a twinkle in David's eye, and knew he was finding her new friend interesting.
David saw that the two girls had been playing with the basketball. "Let's play a little two-on-two," he proposed.
Debbie was resisting his presence: "That's not fair; we're younger than you are."
"Why not me and your new friend against you and Les?"
"Naw, I don't wanna play with you guys."
David grabbed the basketball from Shelley's hands and dribbled in for a layup.
Shelley looked at Debbie, and then looked at David. She then moved to the "half-court" (which was actually the end of the concrete slab) and put her hands out from her chest, indicating "throw me the ball."
David tossed it to her, and Shelley quickly flipped it to Debbie, and ran for the goal. She tossed it back to Shelley, who dribbled once and laid it up. The game was on! Boys against girls!
Next, Les threw it in to David, who was guarded by Shelley. David dribbled once, then Shelley simply tapped the ball away from him. She grabbed it while he was looking for it, and she passed it to Debbie. She turned and dribbled towards the basket. Les closed on her. She passed it back to Shelley. Shelley dribbled around David and laid it up again into the basket.
The game went on for several minutes. The guys could out
-rebound the girls because they were taller, but the girls were quicker. Shelley was sinking jump shots and layups; she was too quick; the guys couldn't stop her. When they double-
teamed her, she simply passed it to Debbie, who might have a clear shot.
The girls won, 24 to 12. The guys were losing interest, fast. They were hoping to impress the young girls, but now felt beaten-up on.
Finally, David said, "It's too hot out here. You two can have your basketball back. Me and Les don't really like basketball anyway. C'mon, Les, let's go inside."
The girls stood there, panting and sweating a little. Debbie got a notebook and wrote: "I'm glad we beat them. Maybe they'll go away."
Shelley grinned, and wrote: "I figured they would, if we won. I kind of played hard on purpose."
The girls spent the rest of the afternoon sitting on the back porch, eating hamburgers, bonding, and learning to communicate.
October finally came around. With cooler weather, that meant basketball tryouts were set to begin. Coach Sommervelle would be the Junior High girls' coach. He looked on the assignment as a chance to be a coach in charge of a team; it
was not a distraction, rather an opportunity. Although he had not played basketball since his own Junior High days, most of these girls were beginners, and needed to be taught the essentials. This was, after all, merely a TAPPS Class 3 school.
Shelley had not been idle during this time. She found a way to practice basketball outside of school. On Wednesday afternoons and Saturdays, her mother would drive her over to
Texas Christian University's gym. There, Shelley would find a pick up game going on. It was no trouble finding some competition. Although she certainly didn't look old enough to be a coed, her talent made her acceptable to the players. She would play with guys or girls, whoever would let her in. This helped hone her talent even more. She was good, but not the best player in the gym. Some of these college students were really good, and had years of experience that she was still gathering.
Shelley also made use of the running track to keep working on her time in the sprints and hurdles. Her mom would usually time her at these activities. One pleasant afternoon in October, Shelley was practicing 50 meter sprints. Her mom was sitting in the bleachers. One of the TCU track coaches was walking by, and noticed the activity taking place. He was wondering why someone was on the track, really going through an intensive workout. As he watched, Shelley lined up in the blocks. When her mom moved her hand to indicate "Start!", Shelley bolted out of the starting block like she was shot out of a cannon. She tore down the track so fast that she left a cloud of dust behind her. At the 50 meter mark, Shelley slowed down and then turned and trotted back to her mom to find her time.
The TCU coach, having taught track for a number of years, saw that this girl was very fast. He had no idea who she was, as he knew all the girls on athletic scholarships. He walked over to Mrs. Simpson. "Excuse me,is this your daughter?"
Mrs. Simpson turned to him. "Oh, I'm sorry. I thought it was okay to use the track."
"Sure, it's okay. That's not a problem." He turned to Shelley: "Are you a student here?"
Mrs. Simpson answered, "Oh, yeah, she's my daughter. Sorry. Uh, she's hearing impaired. Mmm, no, she doesn't go to school here. We're sorry if we're not supposed to use the track if it's reserved for TCU students."
The coach was looking at Shelley and talking to Mrs. Simpson: "No, no; it's okay. How fast does your daughter run the 100 meters?"
"Well, her record time is 9.3. Today, she's averaging 9.8 only if you measure when she actually sprints 100 meters. I'm not taking her time for 50 meters and multiplying by two. That would make her time skewered."
The coach didn't even hear the rest of her sentence.
"Record time of 9.3?! Who? Where? Where do you go to school?" His jaw, by this time, was almost touching the second button on his shirt.
"Oh, she competes in the Under-18 Track and Field Championships every Spring. That time is for this past summer in Philadelphia. By next Spring, she'll be 16, and we're expecting a much faster time. Her name is Shelley, and she's a student at Baptist Bible School here in Fort Worth."
"Are you kidding me? She's only 15! She can't have a time that good. No one does. Ask her to sprint once and I'll time her, if you don't mind."
Mrs. Simpson signed to Shelley, who replied, "Well, all right, if you want. I'm getting kind of tired. My time won't be as fast as if I were fresh."
Mrs. Simpson told the coach, "As she can't hear the report of the starting pistol, she looks for a brief wave of my hand to signal 'start'."
"What does she do at a meet when the starter stands behind her?"
"She has to wait for the other runners to start, then she starts."
"That kind of puts her at a disadvantage, doesn't it? She loses time."
"Yes, she does. That's why her record of 9.3 would actually be faster if the starter used a light instead of a pistol she could see."
The coach said, "Here, let me have the stopwatch, and you start her when you are ready."
Shelley was in the blocks, waiting for the signal to start. Her mother held her hand up, then shook it briefly and said "Go". BAM! Shelley was tearing down the track faster than anyone had ever seen at that track before. She was running so fast that it sounded like a jet fighter as she flew by where her mother and the coach were standing.
The coach couldn't take his eyes off Shelley. All his years of coaching told him that he had never seen anyone this fast in his life. His eyes were trying to communicate to his brain that this was a world-class sprinter. He looked at the stopwatch: 9.8 seconds. At most collegiate meets, that would be a record. Here was a 15 year old schoolgirl that, almost effortlessly, was faster than anyone he had ever coached at the University. He was not believing what he had just witnessed. He was speechless.
Anyway, it was time for Shelley to go home. It was getting towards dark and she had a lot of homework. It didn't enter her head that she had impressed anybody, as she was running a little slower than usual. That was to be expected, though, because this wasn't competition, and she was a bit
As Shelley and her mother were leaving, the coach said, "I want to see her again, when she's a senior in high school. We just may have a place for her here."
Coach Somervelle was ready for the tryouts that afternoon in October. The girls were to meet in the gym at 4:00, and he would get started with them. He wasn't sure what talent he might have on the team; he would wait and see.
Sure enough, Shelley was there, along with most of her classmates. Only 12 girls would be selected by the end of the week; the others would be sad, little faces. That's a time in all our lives when we want to be accepted by our peers, and nothing is more important.
By this time, Coach Somervelle had forgotten about the insurance difficulty and the volleyball team. He didn't have to deal with it anyway. He was just going to pick out 12 girls for a team. He might even carry one or two extras as managers, as some of the original selectees might become academic casualties or move, or something. He split the tryouts up according to the position they wanted to play. If they didn't know, he put them where he felt they might do best.
There were 21 girls trying out from the middle grades. Coach Somervelle had them go through dribbling exercises, going back and forth along the court before passing off. Realistically, he could see four or five that didn't stand a chance of being selected. Next, he had them do jump shots from 15 to 20 feet out. Shelley caught his attention when she hit her first jump shot: "shwoosh", it didn't even touch the rim. Most of the girls didn't make their jump shots; he was just observing their technique. Then, he had them shoot two free throws at a time. The girls did better here. He already saw several girls, mostly from last year's team, that had potential. For the final part of tryouts, he had them do one layup each, by dribbling from half-court.
"Okay, girls. That's all for today. We'll continue tomorrow at 4:00 again." He was getting his notes together when he noticed Coach Tate beckoning him. "Hey, Coach. What's up?"
Coach Tate addressed him: "Larry, what's that deaf girl doing here?"
"Well, it looks to me like she's trying out for basketball."
"That's not good. Brother Luke cornered me last week and
told me to be sure that she doesn't get to play organized sports; to find some reason to bar her."
"What? That doesn't make sense. Heck, she's good in basketball. I'd like to have her on the team. She can contribute."
"Then you deal with Brother Luke. I'm outta this one."
Coach Somervelle stood there in wonder and amazement over what he had just been told. He simply could not believe his ears. What had Shelley done, that Brother Luke was making retributions against her? He could see no reason to keep her off the team. The "insurance" card was no longer valid, he had found out, because, if any student is on a team, they are automatically covered; there is no increase in premiums. He was totally confused about this situation. He looked over at Shelley, who was practicing jump shots, along with some other girls. He went into the Office where Coach Tate was. "Why doesn't Brother Luke want the Simpson girl to play sports? I see no reason to disqualify her?"
"Hey, I told you, what he said. If you have a problem with it, go talk to him. I don't want to get caught in the middle of any disputes."
"Until I find a reason to keep her off the team, she plays. I'm going to give her the same chance everyone else gets. In addition, I'm not going to go looking for a reason to get rid of her or anyone."
Coach Tate pointed his finger at Coach Somervelle and told him: "I didn't hear you say that! I want no part of a difficulty between you, the deaf girl, and Brother Luke. See you at football practice."
Coach Somervelle was wondering to himself: What is the source of all this bitterness? He didn't know of any occasion where the little girl had done anything to deserve this type of treatment. At this point, he decided two things: first, yes, she was good enough to make the team, and he was going to put her on the roster, and, second, having made the first decision, he was going to stand up to Brother Luke or anybody else that was trying to influence the athletic program in an inappropriate manner. He wasn't going up the hill to Brother Luke's office unless called. He had never submitted a team roster to Brother Luke for his approval, and he wasn't going to start now.
After two days of tryouts, Coach Somervelle had decided on the twelve he would have on the roster. Shelley Simpson was listed, along with four other newcomers. The others were veterans from one of the teams from last year. He stepped out of the Athletic Office to post the roster on the board. He was aware of a score of young eyes watching him. Then, he self-consciously stepped back into his office and sat down.
As he exhaled, he heard twenty pair of feet running across the gym, and stopping in front of the board. Excited chatter emanated from that location, as those who made the team verbalized their excitement. The thought of Shelley Simpson picked at his brain. There was something about her; had he seen her before? No, she had moved here from Kansas, and he had been in Fort Worth for several years; he had never been to Kansas.
Coach Somervelle stepped back outside the office. Several girls surrounded him, voicing their cheer at being selected. "Now, girls, you mustn't think it will be easy. Also, you must keep your grades up. I'll work you really hard during practices, to make you do your best. And if that's not good enough, then you might just be asked to resign. But, congratulations, anyway. If you're name is on the roster, I have some forms for you to fill out to get your uniform. Stop by here when it is convenient. We'll continue to practice in sweats, or whatever you want to wear."
Six girls said they wanted to go ahead right then and fill out the forms. Although Shelley couldn't hear the conversation, she followed the girls into the office.
The forms were for height, weight, size, etc. from the unform supply company. Cost was $140 for a complete set of uniforms. One girl said she would have to ask her Dad if he could afford it, as they had spent a lot of money recently on their sick dog.
"Do what you can", Coach Somervelle told her, realizing that she might be the first one to be dropped from the team. It was a shame that money would cause such a thing, but players' families had to pay for uniforms; the school didn't.
Coach Carson was sitting at his desk, watching the girls. Some were on his volleyball team, and would have to go from one practice directly to another, without a rest. Basketball season started on the heels of volleyball season.
When the girls left, Coach Carson said to Coach Somervelle: "You gonna let the deaf girl be on the team?"
"Yeah, she's good enough, probably the best player I've got. We have the makings for building a good team. I'm expecting a lot out of this year's team."
"I wouldn't do it if I were you." Coach Carson warned.
"You're not me. I have NO CAUSE to exclude her from the team. Why is everybody down on her anyway?"
Coach Carson didn't say anything; he just turned back to his paperwork.
That evening, when Shelley's mom arrived to pick her up, Shelley told her the good news. Mrs. Simpson smiled proudly. "That's great", she signed. "I'm glad in more ways than one," thinking of more head-butting with Dr Luke not taking place.
Shelley's mom turned at the voice and found herself looking up at the large, genial face of Larry Somervelle.
"Hi, I'm Larry Somervelle, the Junior High girls' basketball coach," he said, as he extended a huge hand.
She shook hands with him. "It's nice to meet you, Mr Somervelle."
He continued, "You know, Shelley appears to be a pretty good player. Has she played a lot before?"
Mrs. Simpson gave a brief description of Shelley's background. Whereas a lot of adolescent females spent their time on the phone, pointless for her, she spent her time with sports, by herself, or with others, whatever she could fit in.
"I have a question, Mrs. Simpson, and I'm serious. How does she communicate with coaches during a game?"
"Usually she knows what's going on. But if there's any question, we have provided an interpreter. Do you think we need to, for basketball?"
"Yeah, that might not be a bad idea, at least for the time being. If it turns out that one isn't needed later on, then we can cancel it."
"Certainly," Mrs. Simpson agreed, "I think that's a good idea. Thank you, Coach, for your support. Nice meeting you."
"Nice meeting you, Mrs. Simpson. Oh, one more thing, ..."
"What is it?"
Coach Somervelle was a bit unsure what he wanted to say. He really wanted to ask if he knew Shelley from somewhere, but felt that was a trite question. "Uh,...never mind, uh, so you will provide the interpreter for practices? Let's do that, to see how it works out."
Basketball practices had been going on for more than a week. Two girls had dropped out: the one little girl didn't have the money, and another had too many other things going.
Coach Somervelle had little need for the interpreter, as Shelley caught on quickly. In fact, Shelley needed very little coaching; she knew what she was doing on the court. She could anticipate Coach Somervelle's directives, and would immediately go perform it, getting it right the first time.
Some of the other girls were in awe of her. One said, "I heard she's really 18 years old and goes to TCU."
Another said, "It's easy to be good when you can afford a personal coach."
Coach Somervelle heard these remarks and reassured the girls that Shelley was neither 18 nor had a private coach, at least, not to his knowledge. It was just that she had been playing for many years. He also noticed that Shelley was always staying after practice and helping some of the more inexperienced girls on the team. She didn't have to say anything; she just showed them, then had them do it. She was actually an assistant coach, sort of.
The Business Manager for the school was Mrs Luke, Brother Luke's wife. She was going over purchase orders and noticed that Shelley Simpson's name was on the list for basketball uniforms for the school. Brother Luke shared his thoughts with his wife, both at home and at work. She supported his ideas and looked up to him as providing uncommon leadership for the school, that they must resist the sinful ways of a sinful world.
Brother Luke truly felt that he had been given a mission here, not overseas, to provide Christian education for young minds. It was ironic and beneficial that his last name was the same as one of the Gospel writers, and his first name was Rodney, or Rod, which is also mentioned in the Bible. His middle name was Albert, which he never used.
"Rod, look at this", Mrs Luke said, as she walked into her husband's office.
"What is it, Dear?"
"The Purchase Order for Allied Uniforms has Michelle Simpson's name on it."
"What?! For what?! Let me see that."
"It's for the Junior High girls' basketball uniforms. I thought you told me that deaf girl would not be playing sports at this school?"
"She's not supposed to be! If her mother hadn't paid tuition for the complete semester, I would've gotten rid of her by now. I'll never forget how her mother embarrassed me in my office a few weeks ago. I'm glad no one else was around. Her trying to tell me what I could and couldn't do. Hah! I will use every chance I get to remind her or her daughter that I will make all administrative decisions around here."
"It needs a signature before the company will deliver the uniforms to the school. Should I tell them not to make one for the deaf girl?"
"No. It would make the school look vindictive. Call Coach Somervelle to come up here right now. Hold off on any action. Maybe this is just some moron's idea of a practical joke."
In a few minutes, there was a knock at Brother Luke's door, which was open. There stood Larry Somervelle.
Brother Luke looked up, saw him, and said "Just have a seat outside; I'll be with you in a few minutes." Then he thought to himself: "Remember, the more important you are, the more you make your visitors wait."
Coach Somervelle took a seat, thinking, "I really don't
need to be here. I have a class in 15 minutes and need to get the VCR put up in the classroom. Whatever Brother Luke wants, I'm probably not the person he needs to see. I'm just an Assistant Coach. I don't sign papers."
In a few minutes, Brother Luke called him in, but pointedly did not ask him to be seated. Brother Luke leaned back in his high-back chair, held the uniform requisition in his left hand, popped it with his right middle finger, and asked: "Why is the Simpson girl's name on this purchase order?"
Coach Somervelle innocently told him, "That's the P.O. for the basketball uniforms."
"I know what it is. Why is her name on it?"
"Well, she needs a uniform, just like the other girls. We always buy our uniforms from Allied; they give us a good discount."
"You don't seem to understand", Brother Luke answered sourly, "Why is HER name on this? She's not to be allowed on any team at this school. Didn't Coach Tate tell you?"
"Why do you not want her on the team? She's good enough to play, in fact, to start. I don't understand?"
Brother Luke realized this approach was not working. It was like hitting a pillow with your fist, and not doing any damage at all. You could punch and punch, and you would wear yourself out, and never damage the pillow enough to show. So, he changed his approach: "What difficulties have you had, Coach, trying to communicate with a deaf girl? How can she play on a team sport if she can't hear what you're saying?"
Coach Somervelle responded with "I haven't had any difficulties of any kind with her, at all. She understands what's going on. She's really very easy to coach."
Brother Luke's face turned sour again. "If she plays one second of basketball, then you can go coach somewhere else next semester. This will be a blemish that will follow you the rest of your life."
Still, the coach maintained his naivete: "What -what's she done? Is there something I need to know? It's like, everyone tells me to restrict her. If you know something, please tell me, 'cause I just don't see it."
Brother Luke did not like the onus being put back on his shoulders. He just wanted people to do what he told them. "Look, Coach, I don't want her to embarrass the school if she does something stupid during a game. Nor do I want other schools to ridicule us for using a deaf girl; they'll think we are scraping the bottom of the barrel."
At this point, things began sinking into the coach's head. He realized that Brother Luke was dancing around the issue. It wasn't a matter of school pride; the girl had done something to hurt Brother Luke's pride. He knew that Brother Luke took excessive vengeance when he felt slighted. This was something personal between Brother Luke and, probably, Mrs. Simpson. At this same time, he stood a little straighter, looked Brother Luke in the eye, and said, "Why don't you let me take the hit for that. After all, that's my job. I don't tell you how to run the school, and I'm sure that you don't have time to help me coach."
Brother Luke's face darkened perceptibly. His eyes narrowed. "Get out of my office. Just stay down the hill. I don't want to see you or that deaf girl in here anymore. She can sit on the bench all season. You're a coach, huh? Just stay in your coaches' office and out of this one."
Mrs. Luke was listening from her office. She was thinking that, as cruel as the conversation sounded, it was necessary to maintain a firm, strong hand while piloting the ship. Any weakness could cause the ship to falter and be dashed to pieces on rocks. Most men were not as dedicated as her husband; they were weak and worldly. Brother Luke was a mighty ship in a sea of sin.
When Coach Somervelle left, Mrs Luke went into her husband's office. "Well?" she queried.
"Why is it that people put themselves first? As long as I've been in this profession, I've found very few people willing to do what's best for the school. They always put their own wants first."
"Do you want to go ahead and approve the uniform requisition?"
"I guess I have to, but I sure don't want to."
"Dear, you're really stressing yourself out over this Simpson girl. It's not really that big a thing. Oh, let her play sports. You don't have to go to any games, you know. She's there, and you're here."
"I just don't like the way her mother put me down, right here, in my own office. The nerve of that woman."
The first game of the Christian Bible Academy's Junior Varsity girls' team had finally arrived. It was a home game in the gym. Starters were listed as Charlotte, Cheryl, Heather, Dora, and Crystal. Shelley had specifically asked Coach Somervelle to be on second string, along with her friend Debbie, as she needed to get used to the others as much as they needed to get used to her. He thought this was a strange request, but he complied with it. As for Brother Luke's insistence that Shelley warm the bench all season, the coach had forgotten all about it.
The visitors were Lutheran Preparatory Academy, or, more commonly, Luther Prep. Every year they had a good team. They or Arlington Baptist Academy were always the teams to beat to
win a championship. Tonight, during warm-ups, they displayed a well-coached team. To say a lot in a little, they looked sharp.
At the other end of the court were the Lady Eagles. Young, rusty, and actually missing one girl who was out sick, they appeared like they weren't quite ready for league play.
They were 14 and 15 year olds, with little experience to share among themselves.
The game began as expected, at least by the Luther Prep parents. The Lady Lions got the tipoff, and took it down for an easy inside layup.
The Lady Eagles took it to their end of the court, but lost it on a bad pass.
By the end of the first quarter, the score was 8-0. Cheryl was the only one to shoot the ball for the Lady Eagles, and she was wide of the basket.
Coach Somervelle decided to put Shelley in the game. He pulled Crystal, who was playing post.
Heather tossed the ball in to Charlotte. She took it downcourt and stopped dribbling when the Lions closed on her. She bounce passed it to Dora in the corner. But a Lion was too quick, and intercepted, then threw it upcourt to one of their breaking guards. Shelley, although fast, couldn't undo what was done. The Lion was dribbling for a layup, but before she went up, Shelley came up behind her, and, with a flick of her wrist, took control of the ball, turned around, and took the ball back to the Eagles' end. As the Lions closed on her, she abruptly changed her speed and direction so that, now, there were three Lions behind her. Easy play. She moved toward the post. When the last two Lions moved towards her, she tossed it to Dora, who made an easy inside layup.
As the Eagles moved upcourt to assume defense, Shelley held back without turning away. The Lions brought the ball into play. Shelley made her move; she struck like a cat. As the Lion turned to dribble upcourt, she turned into Shelley, who grabbed the ball away from her, then laid it up over the front of the rim: 8 to 4.
The game seesawed awhile, with neither team able to score. The Lions couldn't get inside as the Eagles proved to have a formidable defense. The Eagles, however, couldn't dribble or pass well, and constantly lost the ball before getting into position to shoot.
Near the close of the half, Shelley moved out further from the post to help the guards. At one point, Charlotte passed to her; Shelley quickly turned, and shot a jumper from outside the 3-point line: "swoosh", it never touched the rim.
The Lions brought the ball down, but lost it to Charlotte who grabbed a bad pass. Charlotte passed to Dora, who threw to Shelley. Shelley tore downcourt with two Lions in front of her. At the free throw line, Shelley stopped, and, without looking, passed to Cheryl, coming up behind her on the right.
Cheryl put the layup in for two points.
The Lady Lions were getting frustrated. Baptist Academy had always been an easy win. Why were they playing so hard? The Lady Eagles had never had a winning season. The Lady Lions were determined to get control back. "Timeout!"
Coach Somervelle was surprised and pleased. The girls had turned the game around and were leading. He told the girls to "watch your passes. You're closing well when they have the ball. If you have a shot, take it."
With 7 seconds left in the half, the Lions were passing back and forth, waiting to take a last-second shot. The whistle blew, and their post was called for a 3-second violation. Heather tossed in to Charlotte. Charlotte to Dora. Dora dribbled twice and passed over to Shelley. Shelley faked left, went right, and took the ball across the mid-court line. She dribbled in small circles as the rest of the team came across. Her teammates were yelling "Shoot! Shoot!" Shelley realized what they were saying, stopped and took a long jump shot. "Swoosh!" Three points.
The buzzer sounded! The Lady Eagles were leading at half-time 14 to 10. Contributing to the low score, the game was marked by a lot of clumsiness and bad passing.
The second half proved little different. Coach Somervelle had dialed up a winning combination and dropped a bombshell on the opponents. The Lady Eagles moved gradually ahead, with the Lady Lions unable to keep up. The final score: Eagles 32, Lions 21.
The girls were overjoyed. They were hugging each other, laughing, and jumping up and down. Not only were they not expected to win, but they were performing as a team, and, quite early in the season. Coach Somervelle brought them back down to earth: "You all did well. You have to play like this every game, though. Luther Prep came here not quite ready to play. We caught them off guard. Don't get to thinking that you are really good; you still have a long way to go. Don't get cocky."
Things were going quite well at school for Shelley. Her grades were excellent; she was leading the basketball team in points; she had some new friends; some of the teachers were now smiling at her and greeting her. She took it all in stride. Her goal during class was to grasp the material. Her goal in competitive sports was to outdo the opponents.
So far, the basketball team was putting together a winning season. They were 5-0 and had made Coach Somervelle proud and popular with the other coaches.
However, there was a stony silence from up the hill. Coach Somervelle didn't go there, and no administrative people came to any of the girls' games.
One afternoon, Kyle Strahan, one of the varsity football players, was getting his gear ready to go to football practice. He saw Coach Somervelle walking towards the practice field. "Hey, Coach, how's it goin'?"
"Hey, Kyle. How are you doing? You're not too sore from last week's game, are you?"
"You know me, Coach; I'm young, strong, and vigorous. I can take it, but I can dish it out, too."
Both laughed together as they walked to the practice area.
"Hey, Coach", Kyle continued, "You know what I found out about that deaf girl on the basketball team?"
"If it's not nice, I don't want to hear it."
"Naw, Coach, it's really neat; something you'd be pleased to know."
"What is it, Kyle?"
"You know that newspaper you bring to class: 'High School Sporting News', or something like that? Well, I was looking at it this morning, and it said that some girl named Michelle Simpson had set the record for the 100 meter dash in her age group. I wonder if that's her?"
A light began to illuminate inside Coach Somervelle's head. "What's that again? When was this?"
"-and it also said that her time was a new high school record, for any classification. Ain't that somethin'?"
Coach Somervelle stopped, looked at Kyle, and said, "Shelley's first name is really Michelle, but that doesn't mean that was her. Where's that issue? I'm going to look at it after football practice."
Later that afternoon, when the football players were in the locker room, Coach Somervelle found Kyle and asked him where he had seen that article about a Michelle Simpson. Kyle took him into the office and showed him the issue. The article, in part, said: "A new school-girl record was set yesterday in the 100 meter dash. Michelle Simpson, a 14 year old from Manhattan, Kansas, beat all competitors with a record time of 9.3 seconds. If certified by AAU, this would be a new national record. Michelle, whose father is a coach at Kansas State University, has been participating in competitive sports since age 6; she currently holds the city record for the 100 meter dash, 100 meter hurdles, and 200 meters..."
Coach Somervelle read it slowly again. "This has to be her," he said to Kyle, "look, how many Michelle Simpson's can be living in Manhattan, Kansas, whose father is a coach at KSU? This issue is dated back in June, about the time she moved here. I'm going to call her home this evening."
That evening, at home, Coach Somervelle called Shelley's home phone.
Mrs. Simpson answered.
"Mrs. Simpson, this is Larry Somervelle, Shelley's basketball coach."
"Oh, hello, Mr. Somervelle. How are you doing?"
"Mrs. Simpson, I heard that Shelly runs track."
"I guess so; she does about every sport that she can participate in. She'd do rodeo, too, if I'd let her."
"Do you have her father's phone number? I want to talk to him."
"Yes, I can get it for you. Is everything all right?"
"Yeah, sure. Just some coach-to-coach talk, about what training she's had, and techniques, that kind of stuff."
The phone rang at Mr Simpson's house. "Hello."
"I'm looking for Mr Simpson, Shelley's father."
"Who is this?"
"My name is Larry Somervelle; I'm a coach at Baptist Bible School in Fort Worth."
"Is everything okay?" a worried Mr Simpson queried.
"Yes, yes, everything's fine. Shelley is doing quite well. I just wanted to ask if it's true that she holds a school-girl record for 100 meters?"
"That's not all she holds. It has been certified as a new national record. She also holds the school-girl record in the 100 meter hurdles; that's for under-18. The 100 meter dash is for all categories. I know how a father likes to brag on his daughter, but, why are you calling? Didn't you know this already?"
"No, actually, I didn't. I knew nothing of her background until just recently. I'm interested in knowing more about what she's proficient in. We participate in most sports here at this school, football, basketball, baseball, et cetera."
"Didn't you ask her? I know she's hearing impaired, but you can always write your questions on a piece of paper."
"In all truth, I just found all this out, this afternoon. I called and talked to her mother for a few minutes, but I really wanted to talk to you."
Mr Simpson and Larry Somervelle chatted for several minutes more. Mr Simpson agreed to send some clippings and other newsworthy items to Coach Somervelle.
When the packet of information about Shelley arrived, Coach Somervelle proudly took it to Coach Tate, to show him what a superb performer they had in their midst.
"Hey, Coach Tate, check this out! You won't believe how good this Simpson girl really is. She holds all kinds of records in a number of sports. Just take a look at what her dad sent me."
Coach Tate half-turned towards him, and, with an acerbic look, said, "I told you I don't want to hear about that girl. Things have quieted down around here. Brother Luke hasn't mentioned her to me in some time. Let sleeping dogs sleep."
Coach Somervelle answered with: "You don't have to tell Brother Luke about this if he wouldn't want to hear it. I just thought you might be interested. She can really strengthen some of our teams. Next Spring, when track season starts, we could clean up and have so many awards we'd have to build another trophy cabinet."
Coach Tate took a deep breath, exhaled loudly, and put his hands on his sides. "You and her both are like a sore leg with an ulcer; if one's not causing me problems, the other one is. I had to make a bargain with Brother Luke about you."
"What are you talking about?" asked Larry.
"After you let that girl be on the basketball team, Brother Luke called down here, and said that she wouldn't be allowed to enroll for the Spring semester, and you were to concentrate on football and turn over the coaching duties for the girls' team to another coach."
Coach Somervelle was stunned. He went from an emotional zenith to a nadir. He looked at Coach Tate, blinking his eyes, trying to comprehend what he was hearing, and taking deep breaths.
Coach Tate continued, "I managed to hold him off for awhile. I told him that no one else wanted to coach the girls' team; you were the only one available. I said I would ask if any parent would take over the coaching duties, without pay, until the end of the season. If I could get someone, then I could follow up with his wishes. But, so far, not one parent has volunteered. I didn't really want to be bothered with all this, and -just between you and me, and I'll deny ever saying this- I didn't spread the word; I just asked a couple of parents that I ran into in the store one day. So, I'm just trying to keep things together until the end of the semester. Now don't cause me any problems. Just keep anything about that Simpson girl out of my sight."
"I didn't realize all this was going on. Brother Luke really has it in for that girl, and it's beginning to get me, the way he interferes in the sports programs."
"Shhhhhh. Watch it with remarks. He has toadies all over the place. We shouldn't be talking. You can't trust anyone around here."
"No, Coach Tate, we should be talking. You and I both need to get a handle on this. There's no reason for all these threats to be coming out."
"Larry, you know how Brother Luke is: this school is his kingdom, and he constantly reminds us as to who's in charge. Nothing less than total obedience is tolerated. I had a kid last year, that Jameson kid, who was pretty good; but Brother Luke called his parents one day, to come take him out of school immediately or he would have the kid arrested for trespassing."
"Yeah, I remember that. The kid called Brother Luke a name or something?"
"Don't tell anyone this, but the kid went to Brother Luke's office one morning, at 8:00, to get a parking permit. He had to wait about 15 minutes, before Brother Luke showed up. So he was late for class."
"What's wrong about that?"
"The kid mentioned it to his teacher, that Brother Luke wasn't there until 8:15, and that was why he was late to class. The teacher later checked with Brother Luke, who called the kid a liar. Brother Luke insists he was at school on time, just not in his office."
"So, who was lying?"
Uneasily, Coach Tate came back with: "Well, it just so happened that, that particular morning, I went out to the parking lot, to my car, a few minutes after the bell rang, to get my notebook. I happened to notice Brother Luke driving fast as he came through the front gate and pulled into his reserved spot. I didn't think anything about it at the time, other than: "What's he in such a big hurry for?" Later, when the Jameson kid told me what happened, at least his side of it, I just let it die. It was too late to do anything. I'm not going to stand up to Brother Luke, and call him a liar. He signs our paychecks, you know."
"But, why does he want Shelley out of here? What, specifically, has she done?"
"I don't know. I've been curious about that myself, but I don't dare ask him. I know that her mom came up here one day, to talk to him about something. It must not have been pleasant, because that same day, he called me, to make sure the girl wasn't playing on a team. I'll have to admit: he is overreacting to this whole thing. Mrs Simpson must have really gotten his dander up."
"So, what this amounts to, is that I'm out of a job in January?"
"That's not my decision. After all, Brother Luke is the Administrator; it's his way or the highway."
"Then, so be it. I'll just drop football-coaching and concentrate on girls' basketball. My pay will be the same."
"No, no; don't do that! We need you for football. Drop basketball; we'll cancel the schedule for lack of a coach, then everyone will be happy."
"You mean, Brother Luke will be happy. But the girls won't be happy."
"Now, see, you're trying to put me in a difficult position again. I don't want to have to make any decisions that bring a confrontation with Brother Luke. My main interest here is football; yours should be, too."
"My main interest is the students," quietly answered Coach Somervelle.
Cheryl's parents had come home from the grocery store one day, with a worried look on their faces. Her mom asked Cheryl if there was anything wrong on the basketball team; didn't the girls like Coach Somervelle?
"Yeah, mom; we like him real well. He's very patient with us, never gets angry, and constantly gives us encouragement."
"Your dad and I ran into Coach Tate in the store today, and he asked us if we knew anyone that would be willing to coach the girls' team. We thought maybe Coach Somervelle had quit."
Cheryl was surprised, and didn't exactly know what to say. She had heard nothing about Coach Somervelle quitting. The girls were having a winning season. She felt chagrined.
Cheryl kept this to herself for a few days. Finally, she could keep it in no longer. The next day, before practice, Cheryl asked one of the other girls if Coach Somervelle was quitting, or had she heard anything?
It didn't take long for word to spread, that Coach Somervelle was unhappy, and was quitting, and all other kinds of wild rumors.
The girls were distracted with this, except for Shelley, of course, who couldn't hear what was going on. Practice wasn't going well that day. Coach Somervelle stopped practice at one point to ask: "All right, girls. Get your mind on basketball. I don't know what's the matter, but you aren't concentrating. Everybody, let's go; around the gym, twice, RUN! Then, let's come back to where we should be with practice."
The girls did as told. One little girl, Debbie, finally burst into tears, and began crying loudly as she ran.
Coach Somervelle saw this, and knew something was really wrong. "Hold it, girls, hold it. Come over here."
The team gathered around him. Several now were beginning to show red eyes and tears. Debbie had lessened her sobbing.
"What's the matter here? What is wrong?"
Heather volunteered, "We heard that you don't like us, You're going to quit coaching us and move away."
"Where did you hear that? It isn't true. I like you all very much and want to continue to be your coach for the rest of the season."
After several minutes of questioning and parleying from both sides, Cheryl came out with what her parents had told her.
Coach Somervelle tried to hide his embarrassment at this, remember what Coach Tate had told him a few days earlier. He wasn't going to lash out at anyone, but would do what was best, even if he might look like an ignoramus. "Ohhhhhh, we were having financial problems. We were looking for ways to save money, maybe save something on coaches' salaries next year. Hey, if anyone wants to work for the school for free, we'll let them. We were just exploring possibilities, not meaning to take any action right now. This was for the future."
The girls seemed satisfied at his answer. They perked up and returned to practice. Coach Somervelle quietly let the matter die.
It was time for another basketball game. This time, the girls were participating in a tournament. Lakeside Christian School was hosting private schools in the area. BBS (Baptist Bible School) had drawn a contest with Arlington Christian Academy in the first round. ACA was not a strong team, and the Lady Eagles felt like they could win easily.
Coach Somervelle selected his starters: Charlotte, Cheryl, Dora, Crystal, and Heather. Actually, these girls were coming on strong now, and he also had lots of strength on the bench. Shelley had been working with Debbie on Saturdays and it was beginning to show.
The first quarter was 11-4, BBS ahead. The coach put in Debbie and Shelley, and gave Cheryl and Charlotte a rest.
The second quarter began with the ACA Pantherettes taking the ball in for a quick inside layup. Shelley was playing outside forward, so the action was away from her.
Heather brought the ball down, passing to Debbie. Debbie took it into Dora's corner and passed it back to Heather. Quickly, to Crystal, then, Crystal to Dora. Dora made a short jump shot.
The Pantherettes had a girl upcourt, wide open. Shelley saw this, and accelerated to cover her. The ball was thrown in to this girl, but Shelley intercepted. She passed it to Heather. Heather to Crystal; turn-around jump shot - bounce, bounce, ...and it goes in.
For the rest of the half, Coach Somervelle substituted freely. All the girls got to play.
The final result was 41-24, BBS wins.
The next game, that evening, was against Luther Prep. The tipoff went to the Lady Lions, who took it in for a quick two points. They stayed ahead in this game, gradually widening the lead.
Coach Somervelle looked at Shelley, who had been on the bench so far. He motioned for her to go in and for Crystal to come out. The great thing about Shelley was that she could play any position.
This time, the Lady Lions moved on Shelley to cover her outside shooting. Shelley just readjusted, and either passed
off or drove for the basket. The Lions just didn't have the quickness to control her actions. Shelley began sinking layups and short jump shots.
During one play, Shelley had the ball outside the 3-point line. Two Lions moved on her. She faked a pass and one Lion jumped in that direction; she faked a jump shot, and the other Lady Lion jumped prematurely. Before either Lion player could get back in position, Shelley shot and made a 3 point jumper.
This was frustrating for them. She shot inside, she shot outside, she faked them out.
The Lion coach called a timeout to change the strategy. Coach Somervelle made more substitutions, such that, when the Lions retook the floor, Shelley was on the bench. This confused the Lady Lions who had changed their strategy to concentrate on Number 23.
Now, Dora started making shots from the corner. She made three jump shots in a row. Heather hit a 3 pointer just before the buzzer sounded for halftime. Score: 18-15, Luther Prep still ahead, but barely.
The third quarter was touch and go. Neither team could get control of the game. As one side scored, the other side could score. By the end of the third quarter, the score was 32-28, Luther Prep leading.
Coach Somervelle noticed that the Luther Prep coach kept his starters in most of the time. It appeared that they didn't have a strong second team. In fact, the Lady Lions only had two players that were making all the points and dribbling. Their other three girls showed their inexperience.
One Lady Lion the Eagles had previously met was out for the season with a sprained ankle. Another had moved away.
By the fourth quarter, the Lady Lions were visibly tiring. They were not used to such intense competition. The Eagles now took control of the game, passing and shooting at will. Cheryl was hitting layups. Charlotte hit a couple of jump shots. Heather hit a 3 pointer. Debbie even made a set shot - her first points ever.
When the game ended, the Lady Eagles had kept the burnishing for their record intact, the score being 45-38.
The championship game was set for 2:00 Saturday afternoon. BBS would be playing the host school, Lakeside Christian.
The crowd was small, mostly students from Lakeside Christian. Even though it was Saturday, the students found this a convenient place to spend some of their free time. Some BBS parents were there, along with some BBS students.
The game went pretty much as expected. The Lady Eagles disposed of the host team, 47-24. All the girls got to play. Even though Shelley didn't start, she led the scoring. She
just didn't miss when she shot. She could have scored a lot more, but she held back, in order to let her teammates have the ball.
Shelley was selected to the All-Tournament Team. Heather
made the second squad. All the girls and the coach left the gym happy. This was the first tournament BBS girls' Junior Varsity had ever won.
When they arrived back at the school, except for a few parents, there was no one there to greet them. Of course, it was Saturday. Congratulations from the school staff would be accepted on Monday.
Coach Somervelle had one of the parents go to a nearby grocery store and buy some ice cream. He and the girls and other parents gathered under the trees and set up some tables.
Everyone had a fun time. This was a day to relish their victory.
On Monday, the storm clouds were gathering, and a torrent was fixing to descend on Larry Somervelle. He arrived at school at 7:40 and went to the Athletic Office. He was the first one there. He was gathering his notes for his first class. He glanced at the clock; it was 7:50. Where was everybody? Usually, all the coaches were here by this time. He glanced at his watch to see if it agreed with the office clock.
Some of the students were gathering in the gym, waiting on the first bell. He saw Kyle. "Hey, Kyle, have you seen any of the other coaches?"
"Yeah, coach. They're all in the conference room with Brother Luke."
It dawned on Coach Somervelle that, any time he needed to know something, he should ask one of the students; they knew everything that was going on around here. You just couldn't keep a secret from them.
Coach Somervelle also began to get an uneasy feeling about this. "What's it about, I wonder?" he said, in a low voice.
"I dunno, Coach, but I'll find out if you want me to."
"No, that's okay. If I need to be there, someone will call me."
About that time, the assistant coaches began coming in through the gym entrance. Not one spoke to Larry; they walked by him quietly, looking down as they did so.
"Mornin', guys. What's up?"
No one replied.
Coach Somervelle followed them into the office, and spoke again, "What is going on? Is there a problem?"
Nobody said anything. They gathered their lesson plans for first period. Finally, one of the middle-aged assistants, Coach Reed spoke. "You did it again. You just can't keep us out of trouble."
"What are you talking about?"
"Discuss it with Coach Tate when he gets back. None of
us knew anything about it, and we don't want to know. Just leave us out of it. Here's Coach Tate now. Ask him about it."
Coach Tate came in with a painful look on his face. He addressed Coach Somervelle, "Have a seat, Coach. We have to talk. You other guys go on to class."
When the other assistants had cleared out, Coach Tate looked at the floor, cleared his throat, then looked at Coach Somervelle with a sad look on his face. "We just came from Brother Luke's office, and I don't have much of my rear end left to sit on."
"What's this all about?" queried Larry.
"Brother Luke has banned all Athletic department festivities, parties, lunches, dinners, what have you, on school property, for the rest of the year. No food or food products can be consumed by faculty or students anywhere on campus except in the cafeteria or the Administration building. He's even having the soft drink machines taken out of the gym."
"What is his problem now?"
"It seems that someone called him about a loud party outside the gym on Saturday afternoon. When he drove over here to investigate, he found food wrappings, chewing gum, ice cream, and other stuff scattered all over the place, drawing a huge number of flies. One of the parents said you had had a party there after you got back from Lakeside Christian. Brother Luke said he was informed by this parent that you were arrogant and bragging about how you had beaten the other teams. You had manifested anything but a Christian-like attitude for being a winner. In addition, you were possibly drunk, because you were slurring your words, and stumbling about. You also encouraged the students to engage in a food fight, and they had run amok, throwing ice cream at each other. Several of the parents had food thrown on them. It was the most disgusting party he had ever seen."
"Who- had ever seen?"
"I don't know who the parent was; Brother Luke didn't say. He called me yesterday afternoon and told me to have all the coaching staff in his office at 7:15 this morning; he pointedly excluded you, because, and these are his words 'I don't consider Larry Somervelle as being on the coaching staff anymore.' In addition, he said the gym door was left unlocked. Anybody could have walked in and stolen us blind. He said he was so disappointed in us, when he meant YOU, that he was going to take severe measures to ensure that nothing like this would ever happen again. Effective immediately, the Junior Varsity girls' basketball team is canceled for the rest of the year. To ensure there is no breakdown in communications, you are to write a statement to the team, that it was your responsibility for what happened, you are sorry, you have lost the confidence of the parents, and you are resigning from Baptist Bible School."
Coach Somervelle answered his supervisor with: "What utter nonsense! There was no food fight. Loud party?! Not here. One other thing; I know the gym door was locked, because, when we were leaving, one of the girls left her gym shoes in her locker. I let her back in to get them. Then when she left, I closed the door, and tried to turn the door handle. It was securely locked."
"Well, I don't know what happened. All I can tell you is what Brother Luke told me to tell you. I have never seen him so angry."
"Or irrational. This whole thing is nonsense, and it stinks. It's all about that little Simpson girl. He's just using me to get at her."
"No, you look. He's taken a personal hand in running our affairs. He's constantly interfering with school policy. This whole thing will prove disastrous if he gets away with it. He may even be guilty of slander, since none of those things about the ice cream party are true."
"There's nothing I can do."
Just as these words reached Larry Somervelle's ears, the office door opened. Coach Tate looked up and Larry turned to see who it was.
There stood Mr Morris, Dora's father. "Coach, I just wanted to stop in and say 'Thanks' again for Saturday. The girls thought that was so considerate of you. And I do, too. I'm going to ask the other parents to chip in for ice cream next time. I'm sure we'll have more occasions to celebrate this season."
The silence was deafening. Finally, Larry spoke: "There won't be any more ice cream parties, I'm afraid, Mr Morris."
"What? The girls really enjoyed that. Everyone had a great time."
Larry continued, "There's no more girls' basketball team. There'll be no more games."
Mr Morris was incredulous. "Say that again. I don't believe what I just heard."
Coach Tate spoke up, "This is a departmental matter, sir. Perhaps we could talk about it another time."
"And I'm a parent, sir, and I'd like to talk about it now. My daughter plays basketball, and you're telling me that the season has been canceled? I think I have a right to know why, if for no other reason, the fact that your paycheck comes from what I pay for tuition. So, would you be so kind as to give me an explanation?"
Larry spoke further: "Someone complained that we had a loud ice cream party Saturday, with food fights, I was drunk, and we supposedly left a mess."
Mr Morris came back with: "What! Coach, I don't think so.
I was there. We weren't loud; we were over there between the buildings. I couldn't even hear you from the parking lot when I got there. There weren't any food fights. For goodness' sake, I stayed and helped you clean up what little mess there was. We couldn't get every drop of melted ice cream, but I saw several of the girls picking up old trash. We left that place cleaner that we found it. Where is this nonsense coming from?"
"I'm sorry; the decision has been made," replied Coach Tate.
"May I ask you, sir, is this your decision?"
"No, sir. Rod Luke, the Administrator, received a complaint and he is acting on it."
"Yes, I know Dr Luke; we've met. Where did he get this information?"
Both coaches lifted their eyebrows and pulled their mouths down.
"I'm going to check into this matter, gentlemen. I'll get to the bottom of this," said Mr Morris and he turned to go.
Brother Luke's receptionist greeted Mr Morris warmly. Brother Luke spoke highly of him or anyone whose income exceeded his own. The receptionist had obviously not gotten the word yet to stay out of harm's way. Mr Morris was wealthy, and wasn't averse to giving a little extra money, for benefits and donations, to BBS.
"Is Dr Luke in?"
"Why, yes, Mr Morris. Just go right in. We always welcome you coming to see us."
Brother Luke heard his receptionist say "-Mr Morris". He tried to duck out of his office and down another hall, but, it was too late. Mr Morris saw him and walked towards him quickly.
"Good morning, Dr Luke. How are you doing today?"
Brother Luke felt very uncomfortable as he answered, "Oh, well, hello Mr Morris. How are you?"
"I was just told that the girls' basketball team has been canceled. I was referred to you about this. What can you tell me?"
"Who told you that? I didn't cancel girls' basketball." "Coach Somervelle and another coach. I just came from the athletic office."
"Well, Mr Morris. I just got here a little bit ago. I heard that Larry Somervelle had resigned. I've been too busy to check on it. But, if it's true: no coach, no basketball."
"Don't worry, Dr Luke; I'm checking on it. I'll give you a complete report when I find out everything."
Brother Luke froze. Was he going to have another insolent parent on his hands? As soon as he could, he was going to have an intercom installed between his office and the receptionist, and, in addition, a side door to his office, permitting an emergency exit, in case of fire, or, just possibly, irate parents.
"Mr Morris, Mr Morris. I don't head up the athletic department. I was told that there was a loud party here Saturday, that Larry Somervelle was drunk, and the kids were running wild. Now you know we can't have that sort of thing. I haven't talked to him yet. I've held off on making a decision. But if it's true, I'll have to ask for his resignation. And, right now, I don't have anybody that can step in and coach the girls' team."
Mr Morris was thinking, "You lying dog. You just contrad-
icted yourself." "Dr Luke", he verbalized, "what 'loud party' are you talking about? I was there Saturday. No one was drunk, and no one, not my daughter, no one was running wild."
Brother Luke swallowed hard. He realized what he had just said. How could he be so slow to realize that Mr Morris' daughter was Dora, who was on the team? He turned red, and stammered, "Ummm, well, I, I really, uhhhh don't uhhhh have all the facts yet. I haven't had a chance to talk to anyone about it."
"Who is this 'parent' that complained about Coach Somervelle?"
"I received an anonymous phone call on that one," answered Brother Luke, knowing that such a phone call never occurred.
"So, what are you going to do about all this, Dr Luke? If anyone makes any assertions about my daughter being wild and at a loud party, I'd like to have a name to go with that accusation."
"Just hold off on everything, Mr. Morris. Let me make a couple of phone calls. Maybe we can solve this without much fanfare. I'll uhhhhhh, I'llllll ...call you at work and let you know what I can find out. Leave your number with my receptionist and I'll get back to you on this."
"I'll be expecting your call this afternoon, then?"
After Mr Morris left, Brother Luke collapsed into his chair, and exhaled heavily. He was saying to himself, "How could things go wrong? It was all planned out. What timing on Mr Morris' part to pop up here when he did. I can't let that happen again."
Brother Luke called Coach Tate: "Coach, did you have a visitor awhile ago?"
"Yessir, one of the parents."
"What did you tell him?"
"Me? I didn't tell him anything. He just wanted to see Coach Somervelle."
"Listen, somebody misinformed him, and apparently someone in your office didn't grasp what I said this morning. I'm going to conduct an investigation of this so-called party that took place Saturday on school grounds. If punishment is warranted, THEN I will ask for Coach Somervelle's resignation. No action is to be taken against anyone at this time."
Coach Tate put the phone down and thought, "Mr Morris must have put a good scare in Brother Luke. I've never seen him backpedal so fast."
Fortunately, no one had yet told the girls that the season was canceled; there was very little damage to undo. Coach Tate went to find Coach Somervelle. It was his pleasure to tell Larry what the latest decision from up the hill was. Larry and Coach Tate shared the joy of his re-instatement.
"This is Tom Morris."
"Mr Morris, this is Rod Luke."
"Good to hear from you so quickly, Dr Luke. What did you find out?"
"As best I can determine, someone from the trailer park that adjoins our property behind the gym heard the kids playing, and maybe they don't like kids or something, well, they called the school to make a complaint. By the time the complaint went through four or five people, it had been blown all out of proportion, and undue accusations were being made. I have found no evidence that any of our people acted improperly. I can assure you that girls' basketball will not be canceled, even if I have to coach them myself."
"I hope not," thought Mr Morris to himself. Then he spoke to Brother Luke, "Good. Well you know the girls have a game Tuesday night at home. It would do them good to see you there, to know that you support girls' athletics." Mr Morris was, admittedly rubbing it in. He had detected every one of Brother Luke's misrepresentations of fact. For instance, how could someone call the school when it was closed between Friday afternoon and Monday morning. There was no one to answer the phone until 7:45 on Monday. Mr Morris had been on the campus at 7:35, looking for Coach Somervelle, when someone had told him they were all at a meeting. He had waited outside until the coaches left the conference room. Not seeing Coach Somervelle, he proceeded down the hill to the Athletic office. He had stopped to chat with a teacher, and that was why he got to the office behind Coach Tate. He knew that Dr Luke was lying, but what was he trying to cover up?
"I'll try, Mr Morris, but I can't promise I'll be there."
"Sure, you'll be there. I told some of the parents that you are to take credit for a winning basketball season, as you interviewed and hired the coaches," said Mr Morris, doing a little lying of his own. "The parents have heard about the good work you're doing. Now here's a chance for them to meet you. It's a good opportunity for everyone, including you, to
show their support of the athletic program," he continued.
Brother Luke was thinking that it might, after all, prove to be a good idea for him to show up at the game. He could come in during the first half, shake a few hands, wave at the girls, then get out of there. Maybe he could even convince Mr Morris to head up an Athletic Assistance committee to help raise money for the athletic program. Not that the program needed money, but it could always be used somewhere.
"Hi. This is Tom Morris, Dora's father. My daughter plays on the team with your daughter."
"Mrs Simpson, I would like to invite you and your husband to have dinner this evening with my wife and I. We would like for you to be our guests at the Wellington Hotel Sky Restaurant. We're all parents of girl-athletes, and we'd like to share our thoughts with one another."
"Well, Mr Morris, I thank you for the invitation, but I could hardly get ready in time..."
"No, no, now, come on. It's on us. We'll come by for you at 7:15. I'm really interested in meeting Shelley's parents; she is such a good athlete, I'd like to know your secret for her success."
"Thank you for the compliment, Mr Morris. I'm estranged from my husband, but, well, I've never even been in the Wellington; I've heard it's a grand place. If we can make it a party of three, unless you want Shelley to come?"
"Dora is going to stay home and study. The young ones might find an evening with adults boring anyway."
Mr and Mrs Morris arrived at 7:15 for Mrs Simpson. In less than an hour, they were all seated at the Sky Restaurant. "Looking down from 35 stories often gives me meaningful thought; that's why I like to come here, Mrs Simpson."
"This is beautiful. We don't have anything this nice where I'm from."
After about 15 minutes of get-acquainted conversation, Mr Morris decided to breach the subject most on his mind. "You know something, Mrs Simpson?"
"I find Dr Luke to be a very interesting person."
"Oh, why is that?"
"Sometimes he says things, then forgets what he said, and uses fiction to fill in the empty spaces."
Mrs Simpson didn't quite know what to think of this
presentation. If Mr Morris had a personal dispute with Rodney Luke, it wasn't her business. "I have no knowledge of such things."
"No, I really wouldn't expect you to. You're still new. I've known the rascal since he came here about 6 years ago. It's just that I take offense at some of the things he says. I wonder if he means harm or is he getting senile?"
Again, Mrs Simpson tried to skirt the conversation, "I only met him briefly a couple of times."
Mr Morris then proceeded to tell her about the ice cream party, the truth, the lies, the accusations. "An accusation against the team is an accusation against my daughter."
"Shelley never said anything to me about it."
"Most of the students, if any, don't know about it. And, it would be a betrayal of discretion to get the girls involved. I just want to know why Dr Luke wants to get rid of girls' basketball. Even though he's always dunning us, money's not the issue. I thought maybe he didn't like Coach Somervelle; I don't know. I'm going to pay a lot closer attention to sports activities at the school to try to get a handle on this. My son, who is on the football team, said the squeak on the campus is that, if a parent ever clashes with Dr Luke, then Dr Luke gets rid of the student as soon as he can. It wouldn't work too well in my case as, besides my son and Dora, I have another daughter in the 5th grade. I'll be around awhile to run into Dr Luke from time to time."
Mrs Simpson stopped in the middle of her shrimp creole with her fork frozen in mid-air. Then she went back to her meal. "I know he doesn't like my daughter, so I guess that means that he doesn't like me either."
"What do you mean, Mrs Simpson."
At this point, Mrs Simpson brought up the conversation she had had some time ago in Dr Luke's office where he kept resisting the idea of having her daughter on any team at the school, and how she had to mildly threaten Dr Luke with a lawsuit. She thought everything was settled, but now, it was beginning to make sense: all the resistance she had encountered from him. But why would he be against Shelley playing sports? "But why would he be against my Shelley playing sports?"
"I don't know. He's a complex man. He works very hard at that school, I know he does, but if you disagree with him, he takes it personally, and tries to get rid of you, if you're on the payroll, that is. No, Mrs Simpson, I haven't the slightest idea why he would have something against your daughter."
The tipoff was set for 4:30. Baptist Bible School versus
Bedford Baptist Academy was a smaller school than BBS. Consequently, they didn't have a large talent pool to draw from. It was also an unguarded secret that any player at a private school with an excess of talent was, by the 10th or 11th grade, siphoned off to a public school, where the competition level was much higher.
The game began with BBS taking control. The girls had an ability to get the ball inside for an easy layup or short jump shot. Dora had a good eye and didn't miss very many shots. Charlotte was a good dribbler and rarely made a bad pass, as she could see what players were doing out of the corner of her eye. Shelley usually came in during the second quarter, and would start getting the ball to an area that the opposition had not covered; she might strike or she might pass the ball off to a teammate that had a clearer shot.
With BBS ahead 16-11, Brother Luke decided to put in an appearance at the gym. He went in, looked around, sauntered in front of Mr Morris, then turned and put out his hand. "I managed to break away from the office for a few minutes. How are you doing?"
"Hi, Dr Luke. Have a seat," said Mr Morris indicating some space on the bleachers next to him.
"No, I really have a lot to do. Just thought I'd peek in and see how the team is doing."
Brother Luke looked around and saw another parent he knew. He wandered over and said "Hi" to Debbie's mom.
"Hi, Brother Luke," she answered, not looking at him but watching her daughter on the court. "Oh, C'MON DEBS, MOVE THAT BALL!"
Brother Luke stood there by himself for a few seconds. Next he walked around the end of the court to the Lady Eagles' bench. All attention from the bench was riveted on the game, as Cheryl stole the ball and was driving downcourt.
"YAY, CHERYL! C'MON, CHERYL! MAKE THAT LAYUP!"
For a brief second, Coach Somervelle saw Brother Luke standing beside him. He looked up, readjusted his eyes, and said to himself, "What does he want?" Just as quickly, he gave his attention back to the game.
Awkwardly, Brother Luke spoke, "How are the girls doing? Good work, girls."
Nobody paid him any mind. That was just not the best time for him to pay a visit. Cheryl had passed the ball off to Heather, who made a short, easy layup.
"WAY TO GO, HEATHER! WAY TO GO, CHERYL!"
Brother Luke stood there for a few more seconds. It would have been nice if the referee had blown the whistle for a timeout. He could have visited the team, but that was hoping for a bit too much. He was really starting to seethe. Not one person on the bench had said a word to him. The crowd was probably watching him. He had to look good. He turned to Coach Somervelle and mumbled "Good luck," as he gave a forced smile and walked away.
"Yeah, thanks, Brother Luke," returned Coach Somervelle.
Brother Luke tried to stroll off in a natural manner, as he made his way to the exit door. Once outside, he relaxed and headed for his office. He was glad that was over with. He felt Coach Somervelle had been disrespectful to him. Coach better watch his step, for he could still get rid of him.
Inside, Heather dribbled and passed off to Shelley. Shelley passed it behind her back to Cheryl, who caught it and dribbled to the basket. The defenders closed the lane off and Cheryl took it to the corner. Then, over to Heather, Heather to Debbie, Debbie to Shelley who was at the post. Shelley looked for someone to pass it to, but no one was breaking for the basket; they were standing there. With her back to the basket, Shelley faked right, and turned left on her left foot. The defender was guarding her closely, expecting a jump shot. Shelley hooked it in: "swoosh", it never touched the rim.
The Bedford girls just couldn't keep up. Coach Somervelle had a good team, much better than he could have ever hoped for. Brother Luke's visit was puzzling; maybe he was feeling guilty about the ice cream party debacle, and he wanted an opportunity to apologize. Then, that was all the thought he gave it for now. Back to the game.
Late in the fourth quarter, Shelley stole the ball from the opposition. She took off downcourt, then looked at Heather, who was coming up on the outside to her right. There was no defender in front of them. Shelley passed to Heather who passed it back in full stride. Shelley then took it up for an easy two points.
The game ended with BBS victorious 50-24. Another win, perhaps too easy. "Don't think that every game will be as easy as this one. Everyone is up for you now. You let your concentration get away and you'll blow it," cautioned Coach Somervelle.
The girls continued with more victories. They had not yet met defeat. Tonight, they had a road game with a tough opponent: Dallas First Baptist Church and School, more popularly called "First-Church". The Lady Bengal Tigers had been beaten only twice, and not by a wide margin. They did have one thing BBS hadn't seen before: a player over six feet tall. Even though only 14, M'Kala Adams was 6'2" and pretty well controlled the center of the court.
In warm ups, each team checked the other one out. The Tigers were told to concentrate on Heather, and always double
For the Eagles, Coach Somervelle was going to put his strengths on the Tigers' weaknesses. He could put Shelley on M'Kala; Shelley was so quick on defense that it would be hard for M'Kala to take charge of the zone. The other positions need not be changed right now; he would go with the usual game plan. If Heather could shoot long, and Dora make her shots inside, they would put another notch in the win column.
The first seconds of the game went for the Tigers. Their guard took the ball upcourt, and passed into the corner. M'Kala slid to the inside, waiting for a pass to make a layup. The ball came to her, she had it, she turned to make her move, and 'Poof', she no longer had the ball. When M'Kala looked at the basket, Shelley simply scooped the ball out of her hands, and just as quickly passed it out to Charlotte. Charlotte took it to the middle and let the others get in position. M'Kala was the last one to cross the mid-court line. Although tall, she was not fast.
Charlotte to Heather; back to Charlotte; in the middle to Shelley. Shelley faked a jump shot. M'Kala took the bait and went up; Shelley went down for a quick dribble, then, now behind M'Kala, up for a close-in layup. Two points!
The Tigers brought the ball into play. Shelley waited in the Eagles' zone, then she sprung like a panther. While the Lady Tiger dribbled it, Shelley ran by in front of her and tapped the ball away, into her own hands. Shelley had an uncanny ability to tap the ball away while opponents were dribbling. She had used this technique before to come up behind to tap it away; this was the first time the Lady Eagles had seen Shelley use it from the front.
When Heather got across the line, Shelley passed off to her. Two Tigers closed on Heather, who was unable to move. In desperation, she attempted a pass. The Tigers blocked it, took it, and moved to their basket.
The ball moved back and forth, as they waited for M'Kala to get open. A quick pass to M'Kala, who waited for her defender to commit herself. M'Kala tried a fake, Shelley didn't buy it. M'Kala turned, facing the basket, holding the ball high overhead. She scowled at Shelley: "Try to get it now, insect." Then M'Kala bent slightly at the knees, getting ready for an easy jump shot. When she bent down, Shelley went up, punching the ball hard with her fist, causing it to fly out of M'Kala's hands, hitting M'Kala on the head. The ball went up about 20 feet, then down into Charlotte's hands. She turned and made for the other end. While M'Kala was trying to figure out where the ball was, the Lady Eagles were all across the half-court boundary.
Charlotte to Heather; Heather to Cheryl; no shot, back to Heather. M'Kala ran by Heather, yelling "Wahhhhhhhhh" trying to rattle her. Heather passed it to Shelley, who turned, and put a short jumper in.
The Tigers brought the ball into play and moved in toward the basket. M'Kala was getting a bit rough, pushing Shelley off with her forearm, and taunting her, "I'm gonna stuff this ball in your ugly face and down your throat. I'm gonna make you look really bad." The ball came to M'Kala; she dribbled for a layup, but Shelley knocked it away. The referee called Shelley for a foul, however.
Throughout the first quarter, the Tigers kept trying to work it in to M'Kala, but could get nowhere. She had yet to score a single goal. This was turning into a real battle under the basket. She found it difficult to get into position for a rebound also; Shelley kept getting in front of her. Although she could outjump Shelley, the ball had to be right to her; she found it difficult to move around; Shelley had her blocked off.
In the second quarter, M'Kala finally got a rebound and put it back up for her first goal. "You better look out now, carrot-head, 'cause I'm just gettin' started."
The Eagles had the ball and were trying to work it into the corner where Dora might have a shot. Heather finally hit from outside, but was only awarded two points.
When the Tigers brought the ball in, Shelley pulled her old trick, and stole the ball, then immediately put in a short layup. "Timeout!" was called by the Lady Tigers.
The Tiger coach turned to his assistant: "Who is this number 23? Where did she come from?"
The assistant blurted out, "She's not listed as a starter. She's 1 and in the 10th grade."
On the other side, Coach Somervelle kept the girls' spirits high. "You're doing great. Control the middle. They're slow to react. When they overcommit, take the shot."
The game continued. Shelley started hitting 3-pointers from outside. She wanted to draw M'Kala out, to open up the middle, but it didn't work. M'Kala stayed in the zone; she didn't believe that Shelley would keep hitting the long shots.
But Shelley did: "swoosh", "swoosh", "swoosh".
On offense, the Tigers kept trying to get it to M'Kala. Shelley, however, had her bottled up. M'Kala couldn't get past Shelley; every time she tried, Shelley knocked the ball away, or, sometimes, just grabbed it away.
At half-time, the score was Home: 12, Visitor: 31. The Lady Tigers were getting beat up on. Several of the "First-Church" parents cornered the referees and screamed at them about the way they were calling the game. If the referees would call the game better, the home team would be ahead.
That made little difference. The second half was pretty much a repeat of the first half. The Eagles were able to move the ball and to hit from just about anywhere. With the closing off of M'Kala, the Lady Tigers were unable to do more
than make an occasional two-pointer.
The game ended with: Home: 24, Visitor: 53. Shelley led all scorers with 34 points. One of the Lady Tigers came over to Shelley and said, "We weren't told about you. We had our game plan, but you sort of shot us down. Where did you learn to play like that?"
Shelley just looked at her and didn't say anything.
The girl continued, "You have a good team...aren't you going to say anything? Are you stuck up?"
Debbie intervened, "She's deaf; she can't hear you."
The girl felt embarrassed. M'Kala, who was taking all this in, broke out into a big grin and said, "You mean to tell me she couldn't hear a thing I was saying? All that time, I was trying to get to her cool, for nuthin'. Well, ain't that something to write home about." M'Kala shook Shelley's hand and told her, "No one all season has cut me off like you did. You're good." However, Shelley didn't understand this either, but took it to be congratulatory.
Mr Morris came up to Coach Somervelle. "Congratulations, Coach, on another good win."
"Should we celebrate with another ice cream party?"
"Uh, no; let's not do that again. We'll think of something else."
"Now, Coach, that business from before,that was all just a big crock."
"What do you mean?"
"I'll tell you sometime, when we can sit down together for a nice little chat."
Everything had been quiet lately, for Coach Somervelle. The girls were still undefeated. The football team had finished 6-4, better than they thought they would. Brother Luke hadn't called or talked to Coach Tate in several weeks. Things were settling into normal. Maybe all this complaining about the Simpson girl was over with. She was a superbly talented young lady, and had proved herself capable, so, hopefully, Brother Luke or anyone else that had questioned her abilities, would now be quiet. But it was not to be so; Brother Luke did not forget a slight, and was not yet finished with Coach Somervelle, or Shelley Simpson.
Tuition for the Spring semester was due by December 10. Mrs. Simpson had not received her notification in the mail. Nonetheless, she found out simply by asking. She called Mrs. Morris, "Hi, this is Beth Simpson. How do you pay tuition for the Spring semester? I was going to send a check, but haven't received a notice yet."
"Hi, Beth. Yes, we always get a notice about this time. Ricky, our son, brought it home last week. The school sends it home with the oldest child; this saves money, instead of mailing it out."
"Well, maybe Shelley has it and forgot to give it to me."
"Usually, you can go ahead and enroll for the Spring semester, then pay in January, if your child was already enrolled for Fall. Most students that finish the Fall semester re-enroll for the Spring."
"Okay, thanks for the info. I'll go ask Shelley. Bye."
"Shelley", she signed, "do you have a tuition notice; did the school give you one?"
Shelley signed back: "No, Mom. What is it exactly? What does it look like?"
Mrs Simpson said she would go by the BBS business office in the morning, and find out where the notice was.
"Who was that, dear?" asked Tom Morris.
"Beth Simpson; she hasn't gotten her 'tuition due' notice yet from the school. Her daughter probably forgot to give it to her."
"Oh,really? That doesn't sound right. I wouldn't be surprised if Dr Luke forgot to give it to Shelley, on purpose."
"Dr Luke's not in charge of the business office; his wife is. Beth should call her."
"No, Dr Luke is in charge - his wife's name on forms is just a formality. Did you know that he had the water fountain on the practice field turned off? Ricky told me that he showed up there with the water company tech, and showed him which one specifically to cut off, just to bother the football coaches."
"That's silly; he did not. I'm sure he had a reason for it."
"He did. I know what the reason is: he was mad at Coach Tate for not getting rid of the Simpson girl back during basketball season. But, you see, the water fountains are the responsibility of old Mr Crenshaw, the groundskeeper. Why didn't Dr Luke fill out a work order, like most people? Mr Crenshaw would be the one to take care of work orders."
"Who puts these foolish ideas in your head? Tom, Dear, you're too quick to draw the conclusion that Dr Luke always has an ulterior motive."
"He usually does."
The next morning, Mrs. Simpson took Shelley to school early. "I want to go ahead and pay the Spring tuition this morning, and get it over with."
Mrs. Simpson went into the Administration building, and made her way to the business office. Mrs Luke wasn't there, but Beth saw her standing in Dr Luke's doorway. She heard Mr Morris' voice: "So, isn't that something, Dr Luke? You should be really proud!"
Mrs. Simpson approached and saw Mr. Morris standing over Dr Luke's shoulder, showing him something in a newspaper.
Tom Morris saw Mrs. Simpson behind Mrs Luke. "Mrs. Simpson! Come here! Just take a look at this! Have you seen this morning's paper?"
Mrs Luke turned and saw her, and moved aside to let her get by.
Brother Luke was looking at the newspaper displayed before him. His face remained expressionless.
Tom Morris spoke again, "Have you seen the sports' page in the morning paper? Come here and see this. It's about your daughter!"
Mrs. Simpson cautiously approached the desk of Dr Luke.
There, opened for all to see, was a column headed: "Speeder Simpson now a student in Fort Worth." It continued for several lines about the "Olympic hopeful", her daughter, and her record-breaking performance last summer in Philadelphia. There was also a grainy photo of Shelley sprinting out of the starting blocks from one of her track meets.
Mrs. Simpson felt proud but a little embarrassed, for she knew that Mr Morris was forcing this on Dr Luke. She wasn't going to stop it, however.
"What do you think of that, Dr Luke? You have got the school's name in the Fort Worth paper. That really gives us some prestige. Just think about it, no other school has an 'Olympic hopeful'", teased Mr Morris.
"Yes, that's really something," grudgingly admitted Dr Luke.
"You must be really proud," complimented Mrs Luke to Beth Simpson.
"I am. Shelley has always been such a good girl, and she works hard at sports. It's nice to see something like this once in awhile. -By the way, while I'm here, I'd like to go ahead and pay tuition for the Spring semester."
Mrs Luke kept the smile on her face, but her eyes became quizzical. She looked at her husband for guidance.
Brother Luke nodded his approval. "Go ahead," he said, somewhat painfully, "It's all right."
After the tuition business was concluded, Mrs. Simpson headed for her car. She met Mr Morris in the hallway.
Tom Morris was grinning all over, "That was fun. Don't get me wrong; I'm glad to see it for Shelley; it's a double fun situation, because he had to let her re-enroll for Spring. He couldn't stop you from paying tuition after this came out in the paper."
"He was going to stop me from paying tuition?"
"That's how he was going to get rid of Shelley. But he couldn't hardly do it after this write-up in the sports section. He would look extremely foolish to the academic community for dropping a star performer."
"How did you find this out, Mr Morris?"
"One of the coaches told me Dr Luke has been waiting for weeks to deny Shelley re-enrollment, and now, he can't."
"Then maybe you can find out why he hates Shelley so much. He could have denied her initial enrollment back in August, and none of this would've ever happened."
"He doesn't hate Shelley. He hates losing face, especially in front of others. He is too proud and sensitive for his own good."
"So you think that when Dr Luke and I talked back in October, and I sort of, forced him to agree to let Shelley play sports, even though he agreed, he has been waiting all this time to get back at me by getting at her?"
"That appears to be a very likely scenario, Mrs Simpson. He will say something to your face, then turn right around, and change it behind your back."
"I just don't believe he's a malicious person. There's a lot more to it than this. I'm going to talk to Shelley and see if she ever was impudent to him or anybody on the staff."
"I'm still conducting a discrete inquiry. One other thing, that ugly business about the ice cream party, he got that idea in his head between that Saturday afternoon and Sunday afternoon, when he called Coach Tate to see him first thing the following Monday morning. So, unless some parent or kid complained and called him, I don't understand how he even found out that we had a small party. We certainly weren't trying to keep it from him."
"Maybe somebody saw the mess Sunday morning after church."
"There wasn't a mess. We cleaned it up before we left there Saturday afternoon. All I can figure is that someone from that mobile home park behind us saw us and called him to complain."
"How would they know to call Dr Luke?"
"That's a good question, Mrs. Simpson."
Mrs Simpson called several of the other parents and invited them to a small party at her apartment on December 16th, a couple of days after the Christmas break began. She wanted to know exactly what to make of Dr Luke's behavior, to see if the others had had similar difficulties.
There were about ten parents that showed up. No one would express any negative sentiments about Dr Luke. Some were uncomfortable talking about it; others stated they felt everything was fine. One parent even ventured the possibility that Beth Simpson might be appearing to be an overwhelming parent, and was pushing Shelley to be successful, that is, reliving her own athletic success in her daughter. Perhaps this irritated Dr Luke and he was just too sweet to offer any constructive criticism. Everyone agreed, though, that Dr Luke didn't like to have confrontations with parents.
Neither Tom Morris nor Larry Somervelle were invited. Beth Simpson felt that Tom must have a personal dispute with Dr Luke, and had used any excuse he could find to harass Dr Luke. Tom made no secret of the fact that he disliked Dr Luke. Beth Simpson was thinking that, perhaps, she should not associate with the Morris' in the future. She was considering the possibility that Shelley might be behaving like a "hot-shot" at school, and was getting snobbish.
It wasn't very long, the very next Sunday, in fact, when word got back to Dr Luke about the Simpson party, and the topic of discussion. Some of the parents went to Baptist Bible Church and knew Dr Luke as a fellow church-member, not just the school administrator. They would never talk about Dr Luke behind his back. Even if Dr Luke were a bit sharp-edged at times, he was a good Christian man that had their child's best interests as his prime concern.
That evening, Dr Luke sat in his recliner in the living room of his house. He was mulling over what he had been told at church that morning. The Simpson girl had been allowed to enroll for the Spring semester; Coach Somervelle was still there; and Mrs. Simpson was apparently good friends with Tom Morris and had planned with him to execute the 'Olympic hopeful' incident in his office a few days ago, putting him over a barrel, where he couldn't deny her daughter re-admission. He was going to sack Coach Somervelle, run off Shelley Simpson, and, maybe, somehow, get Tom Morris off his back. But he knew he would have to go a step at a time. He still had a few days to go until the Spring semester began.
There was a knock at Coach Somervelle's door. He answered it to find Kyle Strahan standing there.
"Hi, Coach; what's goin' on?"
"Well, hello, Kyle. What's going on with you?"
"I was just in the neighborhood, and thought I'd drop in. Anything going on that might be interesting?"
"No, not really, Kyle. Come on in. There's a couple of basketball games the last of December, but that's about it. Have a seat. What have you been up to lately? Don't pig out on junk food during the Holidays."
Kyle turned his head sideways, put his hand over his upper lip, and began, "Know what I found out?"
"Kyle, I don't want to hear any gossip."
"Remember that ice cream party? Did you know that, after you left, Brother Luke showed up? He was walking around the picnic tables like he was looking for something."
"Where did you hear this? You know the old saying: 'Believe half of what you see, and very little of what you hear.' "
"I was helping Mr Crenshaw at school the other day,..."
"Helping him do what? Why were you at school during the Holidays?"
"Me and some of the guys were playing touch football on the field, and he came over and asked a couple of us to help him move the picnic tables into the storage shed."
"What was he moving the tables inside for?"
"Awww, Coach, he said Brother Luke told him to put them up for winter."
"Well, there's nothing strange about that, Kyle."
"Anyway, he mumbles something about Brother Luke noticing if any little thing gets moved. I asked him what he meant? He said Brother Luke called him at home that Saturday you won the tournament at LakeSide Christian, and for him to come over here and see if the gate was locked up, because you would be coming back, and, if the gate was locked, to unlock it, and if it was unlocked, to be sure everyone had left campus before he locked it up again."
"Kyle, I have a gate key. That was certainly nice of him to be considerate like that; maybe he didn't remember that I had a key."
"That's not all, Coach, that's not all. Mr Crenshaw said Brother Luke told him not to be seen by you or the girls, and to call Brother Luke back when it was confirmed that everyone had left."
"Are you trying to play detective or something?"
"Coach, everybody knows Brother Luke has it in for you and the deaf girl."
"Kyle, there's a time when you have to keep things to yourself. Despite anyone's desire to see me unemployed, I'm still here."
"Coach, I just don't want anybody dumping on you."
"I know, Kyle, I know. Just let me work on this. Don't get involved; we can't have students getting involved in an administrative matter."
Kyle knew he would get a more sympathetic ear from Heather. She referred to Brother Luke as "Buzzard Luke" when no staff were around.
"Hi. This is Kyle Strahan."
"Oh, hi, Kyle. What are you up to?"
"I've got some good squeak. I wanted to tell you I found out what Brother Luke is planning."
"That old buzzard. What does he want? More money?"
"No. He wants to get rid of Coach Somervelle and the Simpson girl."
"Everybody knows that, Kyle. Tell me something I don't already know."
"Remember that ice cream party the girls had back in November, after winning that tournament?"
"What about it?"
"He created a stink over nothing."
"Explain it to me, please, Kyle, I just don't have the intellect to grasp what you're talking about."
"After y'all cleaned up and left, he went out there and put some garbage on the ground, some of the stuff you had already picked up!"
"Where'd you hear that?"
"Mr Crenshaw told me. He said Brother Luke showed up after everyone left, and reached into the garbage can, and started putting some of the garbage back on the ground around the picnic tables."
"Are you kidding me? Did Mr Crenshaw see him?"
"Yeah, he called Brother Luke from the office phone, to tell him all of y'all had left. He waited on Brother Luke to show up. In about 10 minutes, Brother Luke drives up, and tells Mr Crenshaw to go on home. Well, Mr Crenshaw left, then turned around, and went back to see if Brother Luke needed any help with anything. That's when he saw Brother Luke reaching in the garbage can and spreading it around the picnic table."
"Kyle, I don't believe you. Either you're crazy, or Mr Crenshaw is. Our dear Brother Luke wouldn't do anything like that."
"I'm only telling you what Mr Crenshaw told me."
"What else did he tell you?"
"He said he was sick and tired of Brother Luke always interfering with his work, rearranging things or getting mad at someone and creating extra work for him. He also told me not to say anything to anybody about the ice cream incident."
The last Thursday of December was the occasion of another Lady Eagles' basketball game. They would be hosting Christian Assembly of Fort Worth. It was a small crowd, as this game would be the only one. Neither the boys' teams nor the Varsity girls had a scheduled game tonight.
The girls were going through warm-ups as Coach Somervelle watched and decided who would start. He was a bit surprised to see old Mr Crenshaw show up and walk towards him.
"Why, good evening, Mr Crenshaw. I'm surprised to see you. You didn't have to be here. We'll clean up after the game. The girls and parents are real good about helping."
"It's not that, Coach. I just wanted to warn you. Brother Luke called me this afternoon, and wanted me to drop in here, and then call him back after the game was over and everyone had left."
"Why is that?"
"So he can come down here and find something to complain about and blame you for."
Coach Somervelle gave a short laugh, disbelieving Mr Crenshaw. Then he blinked his eyes, and he looked at Mr Crenshaw and asked him, "Why would he do that?"
"Because he wants to nail you to the wall."
Coach Somervelle brushed off the remark. It was time for the game; he had to concentrate on that.
The first quarter saw the Eagles start out with a short lead. Heather hit first, on a layup. Cheryl stole the ball and fed to Charlotte, who passed to Heather, who gave it to Shelley, who hit an outside layup. The Lady Eagles were just too quick for the Christian Assembly Cougars to keep up with.
In the second quarter, the Cougars passed in to their post, who took a short turn-around jump shot. It missed, and Crystal grabbed the rebound. She flipped it over to Heather, who quickly bounce passed to Debbie. Debbie took it downcourt and waited for the others to get set up. Shelley was in the corner, dancing and weaving. Debbie was getting overpowered by the Cougars, who knocked it away. Heather dove for the ball and collided with a Lady Cougar. Debbie picked up the ball and passed to Crystal. At that moment, Shelley broke for the basket. Crystal, never looking, bounce passed the ball behind her to Shelley. Shelley grabbed it and laid it in for an easy two points.
It went like that pretty much all night long. When the game was over, the Lady Eagles were the victors: 43 to 34. Coach Somervelle was able to let all the girls get some playing time in.
While the girls were cleaning up the gym, Mr Crenshaw reappeared and walked over to Coach Somervelle. "Let me know when you're ready to go, Coach, and I will call Brother Luke, so he can come over and do his inspection, or whatever he wants to do."
"You know, Mr Crenshaw, I'm about half-inclined to wait here, and hide, just to see what he's up to."
"Now, don't worry. I'll wait on him. If he wants to say anything tomorrow about things being out of order, I'll be a witness in your favor. You go on home; don't waste your time watching him."
In 30 minutes, Brother Luke drove up in his red sports car. He was irritated to see Mr Crenshaw by the gym door, standing in the light, waiting for him. "You can go home, now, Crenshaw; I just want to check on a couple of things, then I'll be leaving too."
"If it's okay with you, Brother Luke, I'll just go with you. If anything needs to be straightened or cleaned, or whatever, I'll just go ahead and do it now, and I won't have to do it tomorrow."
"No, no; it's fine. I just need to find something I may have left here. You go on; everything'll be okay. There's nothing for you to do, I'm sure."
"I would just feel more comfortable, Brother Luke, if I, at least, stay here until you finish whatever you need to do. I would rest easier if I lock up behind you."
Brother Luke glared at old Mr Crenshaw. He was really irritated with this disobedience. Then, he realized that the game was up. Old Man Crenshaw knew! That old Mr Crenshaw had
figured him out!
"Oh, all right," Brother Luke acquiesced, "let's make sure all the lockers are locked."
Old Mr Crenshaw locked up after Brother Luke that night.
The next day, no phone calls were made from Brother Luke's house. In fact, Brother Luke was quite restless all day. He was nervous and paced back and forth, then sitting down, then getting up.
Mrs Luke finally spoke, "What's the matter, Dear? What's bothering you?"
"I've got some decisions to make; I'm just considering all the possibilities."
The Spring semester started like any other school. Students visited with their friends they hadn't seen in weeks, or even in hours. They all talked about and compared notes over what they had done during the Holidays. Some had new clothes to wear, whatever the weather. None were quite ready to hit the books again.
The girls' basketball team was unbeaten. Coach Somervelle felt that Shelley was a unifying influence on the girls. She didn't really "take charge", she just showed by doing what needed to be done. Although she was the leading scorer on the team, she didn't shoot excessively; it's that when she shot, she rarely missed. She was so quick, on offense or defense, that it was another big plus for her. She could anticipate what the opponents were going to do.
One evening, after practice, Mrs Simpson asked Coach Somervelle if she could speak with him for a few minutes.
"What can I do for you, Mrs Simpson?" asked the Coach.
"Do you or anybody have any problems with Shelley? Is she a ball-hog? Do the other girls seem to like her?"
This led to a long, involved discussion in which they brought forth and shared some of their experiences where Shelley was the common denominator. Coach Somervelle assured Mrs Simpson that Shelley was not a problem, not for him or anyone.
Mrs. Simpson, in turn, brought out the fact that Brother Luke had been making things anything but easy for her, and, most of the time, without her being aware of it until much later.
"Mrs Simpson, I can't discuss another staff member with a parent. You understand; it's a matter of principle. I can only tell you what he told me, not what someone says he said about me or about Shelley."
"Do you think, if I went to Dr Luke, he would tell me what he doesn't like about me?"
"He wouldn't, Mrs Simpson. Heck, he might not even recognize it in himself. I think you need to just continue being Shelley's mom and take care of each problem as it comes up. I'll keep you posted on anything I find that concerns you or Shelley."
"But he is so sneaky, it seems."
"Mrs Simpson, I tell you what, I'll go and talk to him, if you'd like. He may not open up to me, but maybe he might see that some of the things he does don't sit well with parents, or with students either."
"Thank you, Coach. That would be asking a lot of you. I would appreciate it. Maybe I should go with you?"
"Well, alright, yes, that's a good idea. Let's do it."
"Let's not be confrontational. Let's use honey rather than vinegar," cautioned Mrs Simpson.
So Mrs Simpson, Shelley, and Coach Somervelle walked up the hill to the lion's den. They found Brother Luke standing by the receptionist's desk discussing some trivial matter with her.
When Brother Luke saw them, he turned his back to them.
"Brother Luke, Mrs Simpson and I would like to meet with you for a few minutes."
For some reason, Brother Luke grasped at the idea that Mrs Simpson was there to withdraw Shelley! Neither she, nor the coach, nor Shelley appeared to be in a pleasant mood.
Expectantly, he answered them, "Come in to my office. I'll get another chair."
When everyone was seated, Brother Luke began, "Now, what's on your mind, Mrs Simpson. Is Shelley not happy here?"
Mrs Simpson did the interpreting, in order that Shelley could participate in the discussion. "Thank you, Dr Luke. Shelley is very happy here: her grades are good; she has made a lot of friends; and she gets to participate in sports."
Brother Luke's face fell.
She continued, "I'm really happy that she is here and things have worked out so well. Since all of us here are involved in Shelley's education, I wanted to discuss with you and Coach Somervelle exactly how she is doing and how the school reacts about her being hearing impaired. She gets upset when people try to hold her back."
Coach Somervelle chipped in, "She took to basketball like nothing you've ever seen. She's the best player on the team. She needs very little coaching. Her dad does a pretty good job with her when she's in Kansas."
Brother Luke was puzzled, trying to figure out where they were coming from.
Unknowingly, Shelley signed in defense of Coach Somervelle: "Some of the coaches don't like being tied down with girls' sports. Coach Somervelle always makes us feel like our team is important to him; he encourages us. He's the main reason we have done so well. He KNOWS how to coach."
"So what is the purpose of this visit?" asked Brother Luke.
Mrs Simpson spoke in turn, "We just want to be sure the channels of communication are open between the school staff and myself, Shelley included, of course. If there is ever a problem or difficulty, it should be addressed when it arises, and not left to simmer. This could lead to misunderstandings and conflicts."
Brother Luke came back with, "What are you referring to?"
Mrs Simpson continued, "Rumor has it that Shelley wasn't going to be allowed back in for this semester."
"Where did you hear that?" queried Brother Luke.
Shelley began looking at her mother, as this was the first she had heard of it.
Mrs Simpson told Brother Luke: "I heard it from some of the parents."
Brother Luke retorted: "That doesn't mean much, coming from parents. All kinds of wild rumors come across my desk. You ought to sit in my place for a day and you would realize all the unnecessary distractions that occur to interfere with administrating this school in one 24 hour period. What's your interest in this matter, Coach?"
The coach uneasily replied, "I've heard rumors, too, about Shelley, about her not being allowed to play sports."
Brother Luke visibly reddened. His eyes narrowed, and he gave a cold stare to Larry Somervelle. "I've heard rumors about you, and I've had to step in and get things straightened out. Besides, you should always go to Coach Tate first; there's no need for you to come here. I have the utmost confidence in Coach Tate's ability to handle matters of that sort. That goes with his position; he's not just a coach."
Shelley, following her mom's signing, began to feel awkward, like a fifth wheel. She, naturally, had no knowledge of anyone not wanting her around.
Brother Luke stood up. "Besides that, Shelley's still in school, isn't she? If there's nothing further, then I hope I have been of some help. Mrs Simpson, please feel free to contact me anytime you hear something out of the ordinary about this school, and we'll work on it together, and get to the bottom of it."
Beth Simpson thanked him, and the three visitors left.
Outside, Coach Somervelle waited for Shelley to go to her car. Then, he addressed Mrs Simpson, "I don't think that worked out very well. "
Mrs Simpson's reply: "I have an uneasy feeling about that man. He gave a standard bureaucratic reply to us."
"I think that we, all three of us (indicating Shelley) better be very guarded with him. He, no doubt, will take reprisals against us."
Mrs Simpson lowered her eyes and left. She had finally come to the realization that Brother Luke may not have a student's best interests as his prime consideration. She understood, now, that what Brother Luke had against Shelley was herself "forcing" him to accept Shelley into the sports programs. Beyond that, she still didn't grasp why he resisted Shelley.
From inside the building, Brother Luke watched them. He decided that Coach Somervelle would have to be the first to go. Not only would that serve as an example, but it was much more easily to be done than getting rid of Shelley; she was in too strong of a position where Brother Luke could sack her.
Shelley was disturbed by what had taken place that afternoon. At lunch time the following day, she got with some of her friends, Debbie and Heather, and wrote notes back and forth, to find out what she could.
Heather answered, "Why doesn't he want you to play sports? Because he sees you as 'different', as 'handicapped', and he doesn't know how to deal with handicapped people. Anything out of the mainstream of what he's used to, he rejects. He only knows his immediate surroundings; it's like he's led a sheltered life."
"But I don't feel 'handicapped' and I don't want special treatment, either good or bad. I'm just like anyone else, except I can't hear, but that hasn't stopped me from doing anything in school (except studying Spanish, maybe). How come you know these things about him?"
Heather wrote to her, "I've been going here since 1st grade. I figured him out some time ago. He hates change. In addition, if it's a situation he can't control, he wants no part of that situation around him. He just doesn't understand deafness. He's afraid of you; he's afraid that he'll do something to embarrass himself in front of you. He doesn't know how to treat you, so he just wants you out of his life. I can see how he is, so easy."
"He doesn't have to treat me any different than he treats anyone else."
"You know that, I know that, all the girls on the team know that, even Coach Somervelle knows that - but Buzzard Luke doesn't know that."
Shelley wrote: "Buzzard Luke?"
Heather's answer: "That's what I call him, on account of his long, crooked neck. Also, he's always waiting to pounce on someone when they let their guard down."
Shelley replied, "You make it sound like he's a bad person."
"He's a petty dictator and the school is his kingdom. You don't want to cross him or he'll get even with you."
"That's not a very nice thing to think of him."
Heather wrote back: "Who does the person in charge listen to, for advice? No one. He's not going to accept correction from anybody. He's used to having his way."
After this exchange of ideas, the girls went back to class. Shelley wasn't noticeably upset; she simply began to consider Brother Luke as another in the long line of ignorant people she had met that were uncomfortable with a deaf person.
The basketball season continued successfully for the girls. Late in January, they had an away game with Lakeside Christian.
While the team was at the home gym, getting their equipment ready to load on the van, Coach Tate called Coach Somervelle aside. "Brother Luke's at it again, Larry. You don't have a van to transport the team in."
"Brother Luke called me awhile ago, and said for me to take the van to the shop to be checked for an oil leak. I told him you needed it this afternoon. He said for me to get the van in the shop NOW and you would have to figure out, on your own, how to get the team over to Lakeside Christian."
"What about the two other vans?" queried Coach Somervelle.
"The varsity boys have one out and the varsity girls have the other one out," answered Coach Tate, "and your van wouldn't be ready in time. I just got back from taking it to the garage a few minutes ago. They said they would try to have it ready by five."
"By five! The game's at 4:30." Coach Somervelle, for the first time, felt exasperated. "Can't we load the girls up in cars and drive over there?"
"Sorry, Larry, but that's a violation of school policy, unless each girl rides with her parent, and has a note from the parent, stating they are transporting their child. It looks like Brother Luke may have you cornered this time."
"There's the Church bus?"
"Too late; I already checked. Reverend Holliday said he can't let us use it or he would have to let everyone use it."
Coach Somervelle was at a loss. There was just no way to resolve the problem. Only two parents were there, and he wouldn't split up the team anyway, and leave some of the girls behind. Finally, he ran up the hill, and into Brother Luke's office. "What did you have the van put in the garage for? We have a game this afternoon?"
Brother Luke stood up and addressed him, "It's for your safety. I was walking by the van this afternoon and spotted what appeared to be an oil leak. So I called Coach Tate and told him to put the van in the garage, and get it fixed. Hopefully, it would be ready in time. You ought not to be so excited, bursting in here like that, and sounding so accusatory. You're supposed to go through channels before you come here, I've told you that."
"I already talked with Coach Tate. How are we going to get to the game?"
"That's not my problem. You'll just have to forfeit if you can't get there on time. Don't try anything without checking with me first. I won't have you jeopardize the athletic program, going off half-cocked."
Coach Somervelle disgustedly left the office and went back down the hill. He called the garage, and was informed the van would be looked at in a few minutes, but the mechanic had to finish the job he was currently on.
Four o'clock. Coach Somervelle called the garage again. The manager said it would probably be tomorrow before he could get the van back.
"Tomorrow! I need it today. We have a game in 30 minutes."
"Well, someone from your school just called, and said they would pick it up tomorrow."
"What are you talking about?"
The manager told him, "Your head honcho there called us a few minutes ago and said if any repairs were needed, he would bring a check over tomorrow when he would pick the van up. I said 'I thought you wanted the van back today?' and he said 'We'll pay for it when we pick it up and I can't cut a check until tomorrow'."
"Who did you talk to?" asked Larry, already knowing the answer.
"Your doctor, I don't remember his name. He said tomorrow would be fine."
"Yeah, that could have been it. He said not to hurry, that alternative transportation was being arranged for the coaches. That's you, I guess?"
"Okay, thanks." Coach Somervelle hung up and went to find Coach Tate. "What's this about alternative transportation?"
Coach Tate responded, "I have no idea. This is probably just another example of Brother Luke stabbing someone in the back, and then trying to cover his tracks."
From the Athletic Office, one of the assistants stuck his head out the door and yelled, "Coach Tate; phone call."
Coach Tate went to answer it. Coach Somervelle was with the girls, having them put their gear in the corner while he checked on things.
In a few minutes, Coach Tate returned. "That was Brother Luke. He said he called the city bus company and is having them send a mini-bus over here to pick the girls up. It's going to cost plenty, but if we just use it to get there and come back on our own, it will save a little money."
Coach Somervelle surmised, "It'll never get us there on time. If it has to come from the bus yard over to here, get us, then out to Lakeside, we won't be able to make it. I'm going to call their coach and see if they will wait on us. Otherwise, yes, I'll have to forfeit."
In a few minutes, Coach Somervelle reported back to Coach Tate: "Coach Leonard said she would give us until 5:00 P.M. But they can't keep the gym open much past that. If the mini-bus doesn't get here soon, we won't make it. I can't load the girls up, then drive over there, and be turned away for being a little late. I don't know what to do."
Coach Tate told him, "If there's an oil leak, it was nice of Brother Luke to try to help out. But it was also inappropriate. He should have come to me and told me about it. Then I could have decided on whether or not the van could be driven.
If there isn't an oil leak, then I'm going to have a long talk with him, and tell him to keep his nose out of our business."
"But, would he spend the money on unneeded repairs and a city vehicle rental if he knew there was no oil leak? I don't understand his thinking."
"Yes, Larry, he would. He wants to embarass you and get rid of you, at any cost. He just has to be careful not to implicate himself as being the bad guy. He wants to make it look like you screwed up. What I'm going to do, though, is talk to the mechanic about this 'oil leak'."
Coach Somervelle went back to the gym floor to tell the girls that they didn't yet have transportation to the game. They might not make it there, and would have to forfeit. Of course, this upset them, and they came up with several alternative plans. Only one made sense: hold the game there, at Baptist Bible School's gym.
Coach Somervelle asked Coach Tate if it could be done.
Coach Tate replied, "Brother Luke sure has us between a rock and a hard place. I'd give my approval in a second, if the city mini-bus wasn't coming. But you know Brother Luke will raise the roof if the school pays for it, then we have the game here. Let me call him and see what he says - no, let me call the bus company first, and see if the mini-bus has left yet. Maybe we can cancel it and save the school that money. You get on the other line and call Coach Leonard to see if it's okay with her to have the game here."
When Coach Tate called the bus company, the dispatcher answered, "You want to cancel the contract van? You just requested it."
"What do you mean?"
"Someone from the school just called here a few minutes ago to see how much it would cost. I told her, and she said she would call back and let us know."
"Never mind. Forget about this call."
Coach Tate realized Brother Luke had won this one. He was using his wife to run interference. Since she was the business manager, she would be the one, theoretically, to approve emergency transactions. Brother Luke was intentionally dragging his feet getting transportation, in order that the girls would never make it to the game, but he would look like he was concerned, and Larry Somervelle would look like a goat.
On the other line, Coach Leonard, from Lakeside Christian, was trying to be helpful, "We couldn't send our van over there, Larry; I'm sorry. I was talking to the head coach, though, and, if it's okay with you, we could reschedule the game. I don't want you to try to rush over here and find that everyone has left. Let's just reschedule it for your first available Saturday. We usually play our make-up games on Saturdays."
After checking with Coach Tate, and being informed of the latest developments, Coach Somervelle agreed to the proposal.
Coach Tate then told him, "Now, I'm going to call Brother Luke and tell him we rescheduled. He can give me hell, but I'm about ready to go at it with him."
So Coach Tate called Brother Luke, who was surprisingly amicable. This only meant he was getting his way. He had tried to help out, and the coaching staff was canceling his efforts. The coaches would look bad, and Brother Luke would look good. As a plus, Mrs Luke hadn't ordered the mini-bus yet, so it was canceled, and that money went unspent.
Coach Somervelle went back to the girls and told them that today would be a practice, and the game would be in two weeks, on a Saturday. The girls were a little disappointed, but not excessively so. They had a good practice that afternoon.
Across town, at the Lakeside Christian gym, Coach Leonard announced to the crowd that the game was postponed due to the opponent's inability to arrive on time. Rather than waiting any longer, the game would be played on the 24th, at 2:00. She was sorry if anyone had driven a great distance and was bothered that there would be no game.
Tom Morris was taking all this in. He had left straight from work to the school. He turned to Heather's mom and said, "This smells. There's something going on here. I'm going back over to BBS' gym and see what I can find out."
"Hey, Kyle, c'mere."
"Hey, Mr Morris, what's goin' on?"
"Yeah, you tell me. How come the girls couldn't make it over to Lakeside Christian."
"The van had an oil leak, and they didn't have any other way to get there."
"That doesn't sound right. Well, you keep your ears open and I'll get back to you. I'm going inside to talk to Dora."
Mr Morris quizzed his daughter, Coach Somervelle, Coach Tate, and, later, Kyle Strahan again. He was getting part of the jigsaw puzzle put together.
The next day, Coach Tate went to pick up the van. He asked the mechanic what he had found wrong with it.
The mechanic said, "I couldn't find any oil leak, at least a significant one. A little oil underneath the pan doesn't mean there's a leak. I dropped the pan; the gasket looked intact. I changed it out anyway. It looks pretty good to me."
When Coach Tate arrived back at school, he parked the van and took the bill to the business office. In contrast to yesterday, Mrs Luke had decided to cut a check for repairs after the van was returned.
Coach Tate gave the bill to Mrs Luke and saw Brother Luke come out of his office to the business office.
"How much is it?" asked Brother Luke of his wife.
"Forty-five dollars. Shall I go ahead and write a check?"
"Yeah, just drop it in the mail. Everything go okay, Coach Tate? It's not still leaking, is it?"
Coach Tate answered him, "It wasn't leaking in the first place. The van is in pretty good shape, says the mechanic."
Throwing a hard look at Brother Luke, he walked out of the office and back down the hill.
In his office that afternoon, Brother Luke was mildly pleased with the way things had turned out about the van.
On the other hand, he began noticing Coach Tate's behavior as not being quite in line, as it used to be. He would deal with Coach Tate, in time. Right now, he was wondering how Coach Somervelle would screw up next.
At school, Heather, Dora, and Shelley were eating lunch together. Heather and Dora were explaining everything to Shelley that they had begun to find out.
Shelley asked them, "How come Kyle knows so much?"
Heather wrote down: "He's always around here; he practically lives here. He talks to anybody about anything. He also works in the office and hears a lot of whispering back and forth. Most of the office staff talk too much and he picks up on it. Don't forget, he's also in the Athletic Office a lot, and hears what the coaches have to say. Remember the ice cream party? Brother Luke fired Coach Somervelle, then changed his mind and claimed he never said it after Mr Morris confronted him about it."
Shelley asked her friends, "Why does Brother Luke do things like that?"
Again Heather took up the slack, "He acts without thinking. Since he doesn't have to account to anybody for his actions, he tends to step on people all the time. He is afraid of parents, though."
"Why?" asked Shelley.
"Because they pay tuition. This whole school is paid for by parents. If someone takes their kid out of school, he loses all that money, until he can get another student enrolled in place of the first one. As long as I've been here, he's always been jumping into situations too quick."
Dora then spoke up, "My Dad doesn't like him, says he is two-faced. He says the education here is better than a public school, and that's why he keeps me and my brother and sister here, but he wishes Dr Luke would find another home. He also likes Kyle, because Kyle keeps him informed of what's going on around here."
Heather interrupted, "Shhh; here comes Charlotte. Her mother is good friends with Mrs Luke. Don't say anything 'cause Charlotte will tell her mom who will tell Mrs Luke, who will tell Buzzard Luke,...Hi, Charlotte."
Shelley missed this part, as it was spoken and not written.
Charlotte sat down with a sad look on her face.
"What's the matter, Charlotte? You don't look very happy," said Dora.
Charlotte answered, "I'm not. My mom said Mrs Luke told her Brother Luke made Coach Somervelle pay the repair bill for the van. She said Coach stormed into the office and was yelling at her about it, said he wasn't going to pay for it. Then Brother Luke told him, 'Yes', he was going to pay, since the van was issued to him when it broke down, and, then Coach Somervelle could clean out his desk and get off the property, and don't come back!"
The girls were stunned. Heather recovered first, while Dora informed Shelley. She said, "The van didn't break down, Charlotte. It was driven to the garage by Coach Tate."
Charlotte replied, "I'm just telling you what I heard."
Heather's response: "We hear a lot of that around here. Let's go find Coach Somervelle and see what he has to say about it. If it's true, my next stop will be in Buzz- Brother Luke's office."
The four girls went to the Athletic Office. There, they saw Coach Tate and asked him about what they had heard.
He sort of laughed, and said, "Not quite, ladies. The repair bill will come out of the Athletic Department budget. I assure you, however, that no one is losing his job over this."
Next, the girls found Kyle Strahan and asked him what he knew. He laughed, and told them "Brother Luke wanted to stick it to the Athletic Department, about the repair bill. Coach Tate went to him and they got rather loud, but not argumentative. Brother Luke wanted to know why Coach Somervelle wasn't taking care of the vehicle, and Coach Tate told him there was nothing wrong with the van in the first place, and to stop picking on Coach Somervelle. They didn't really argue, just, I would call it, a free exchange of opinion."
That evening, Dora told her father about the day's events. The next morning, Mr Morris went to Dr Luke's office and handed him a check for $45, made out to "Coach Harold Tate, Athletic Department, Baptist Bible School". "Anytime" he said to Dr Luke, "you need money for something that involves one of my children, just call me, and if I think your request is reasonable, I'll help you out." He then turned and walked out.
Brother Luke sat there, not saying a word, wondering how to take this. He decided Larry Somervelle was to blame; he was probably good friends with Tom Morris. They probably bowled and golfed together, and plotted how to harass him. If the check had only been made out to the school, Brother Luke could have used it towards a new desk.
The basketball season was coming to a close. The girls only had the district tournament left. They were expected to win easily and advance in the playoffs.
All the games were played at Arlington Baptist Academy gym. Their opponents for their first game were Arlington Baptist, not a highly rated team. The girls took them out, 45 to 25. Shelley had played inside and put most of her shots in from close range. She found it easy to dribble close for a shot. Dora was hitting from the other side, jumpers and layups. Between them, they accounted for 38 points.
The next game was against Bethlehem Baptist Academy. Same result. All the girls got to play. Shelley led the scorers with 26 points, most of them three-pointers.
The championship would be versus Luther Prep, their old nemesis, on Thursday afternoon. Luther Prep had not beaten them yet. If they won, they would play Saturday in Dallas at the TAPPS regionals.
Coach Tate went to see Brother Luke everyday, to ask him if his eminence needed anything, and to keep him informed of the girls' progress in the tournament. If there was a problem, he told Brother Luke, to let him know, so he could handle it within the Athletic department purview, and not have to bother Brother Luke about it.
Needless to say, Brother Luke felt the restrictions on his thoughts, movements, and planning. He had to figure some way to squash Coach Somervelle for good. Anything that went wrong in his life, Coach Somervelle was to blame. If the coach hadn't let that Simpson girl be on the basketball team, she would have left their school and gone somewhere else. The coach was having a bad influence on Coach Tate, too, who was becoming impudent. As for Tom Morris, Brother Luke knew he couldn't get rid of him, and he liked his money; he would just have to tolerate his and his childrens' presence.
Luther Prep came out strong in the championship game. They looked quite a bit different than the last time these two teams met. Obviously, their coach had been working with them on a different strategy. The Lady Lions assigned one of their players to glue herself to Shelley during the game. In addition, another girl would close on Shelley whenever the Lady Eagles had the ball.
It didn't change the ending of the game, unfortunately for the Lions. Dora and Heather made most of the points in this game. Shelley hit a few turn-around jump shots, and the other girls all got to play and some of them scored. The score ended with a BBS' win: 45-38.
The regional tournament had BBS playing against Greenville Baptist Center in their first game, scheduled for 8:00 in the morning. The gym at Bryan Adams High School was the site for all games. This was necessitated by the unavailability of any multi-court gym in the area owned or managed by church officials. Arrangements had been made to allow private school students to use public school facilities. Classes would be in session at Bryan Adams during the two days of the tournament.
At tipoff, the gym had quite a few spectators, mostly BA students who had their first class in the gym. They were laughing at and ridiculing the private schools level of competition, calling them "third-stringers" or "losers in a loser conference".
The Greenville Lions took the tipoff in for a quick two-point layup. Bringing it downcourt, Charlotte lost control of it, and the Lions pounced on it, and took it in for another layup. The Lions put on a full-court press, and the Eagles couldn't bring the ball across mid-court in time. The Lions worked the ball in to their post, who made an easy jump shot. Most coaches whose team hadn't scored yet would have called a timeout. Not Larry Somervelle; he knew his team would take control in a few minutes and work at it to grab another win.
The Eagles finally had the ball at their end of the court. Heather passed to Cheryl who took a jump shot. It missed and the Lions grabbed the rebound. They took it to the other goal, and one of their guards made another layup on a quick burst up the middle. By the end of the first period, the Lions had jumped to an amazing lead of 16-2, mostly on quick inside layups. The Lady Eagles' defense was not in gear. The full-
court press was having an effect.
Coach Somervelle put Shelley in, to team with Heather, while he brought out Charlotte. Shelley broke into the clear and Charlotte passed it in to her. She took it downcourt and the girls got set up. Shelley to post, post back to Shelley. Shelley dribbled towards the basket; the defense shut her off, she passed to Dora. Dora was too deep and didn't risk a shot; she gave it to Charlotte. Charlotte over to Shelley, who turned and shot: "swoosh", three points!
The Lions brought the ball in, and Shelley stole it and took it to the corner, waiting for her teammates to return. Shelley fed it to Dora on an inside feed, who made a layup right under the basket.
When the Lions got the ball back, they kept it away from Shelley. They were trying to work it in for a short shot under the basket. They passed it into the corner but it was too high and slow; Shelley ran that way, jumped up, and batted it to Cheryl. Cheryl threw it to Charlotte, who took it and turned for home. She saw Shelley moving ahead of her, so she passed it over. Shelley drove for the basket with a Lion virtually wrapped around her. Approaching the basket, Shelley jumped with the ball while still moving forward, turning 180 degrees in mid-air, and did a backwards layup on the other side of the net from the Lady Lion. The crowd gasped! This was more talent than they had seen ever play for or at their high school. Only college and pro athletes could do backward layups; yet they had just seen a junior varsity girl do it perfectly.
At this point, the Lions lost the edge. They maintained their lead, barely, at half-time, 24-20.
The third quarter saw the Lions tiring, and the Eagles moved ahead. Shelley hit several three-pointers and a few other, closer, jump shots. The Lions were beaten and they knew it. They were just too tired to maintain the full-court press.
In the fourth quarter, Coach Somervelle was able to empty the bench, letting all the girls play. Crystal had not returned to play basketball after Christmas break, so he gave one of the managers a jersey.
Shelley had made 26 points, and shot 100% from the field. She had a very hot hand, and it helped fire her teammates up, to go on to victory, 54-37.
Their next game would be at 7:00 that evening, versus Texarkana Sacred Heart, one of the few Catholic schools in TAPPS. Sacred Heart was too small to compete adequately in the Catholic league, so chose to join TAPPS, where enrollment was more their size.
The game started out with both teams trading shots and a tight defense. Sacred Heart's JoAnn Teel was a deadly shooter from inside 15 feet, a good dribbler, and aggressive on defense. The Fighting Irish didn't, however, have the depth they needed to stay in the game. Once JoAnn fouled out late in the third quarter, the Lady Eagles were able to move solidly ahead. Shelley and Heather moved the ball well and were able to make inside passes with ease.
By the fourth quarter, only the second string for BBS was in the game, and they were able to hold on to the high score. Baptist Bible School moved on to the next round.
The only hurdle left before taking the Regional Championship trophy home was a quick, high-scoring team from Waco, the Baptist High School Cobras.
For the first time that season, the girls had to struggle. Shelley played the whole game and put in 25 points. Charlotte fouled out in the third, and Cheryl in the fourth. Dora made a few points from the corner. The girls, unfortunately, kept making bad passes; they couldn't feed the middle.
The Cobras didn't ever wait for the Eagles to get set up; they were very quick to pass the ball. When the Eagles converged on the ball, it was passed away from them, where, often, a Cobra took it in for an easy layup or short jumper.
It had been action from the opening seconds. Lots of passing, lots of shooting. The Lady Eagles were good, but not good enough. The Cobras were the winners in this contest 56-51, mainly on account of their ability to score from close in.
The girls were saddened by their loss, taking them out of contention for another trophy. Coach Somervelle consoled them with his words, "There's nothing to be crying about. I can understand your disappointment, but hold your heads high. You have come farther than any of the girls' teams have ever come in the playoffs - even the Varsity girls have never made it this far. You are the best ever to wear the BBS uniform. Wear it proudly."
The team arrived back at the home campus in the early evening hours of a Saturday. Most playoff games were scheduled for Fridays and Saturdays, so the players wouldn't have to miss much class time. The parents were there to greet them. After the girls changed and gear was stowed, everyone went to the Black Watch restaurant for a celebration, paid for by parents. Everyone, that is, except Brother Luke or anyone from the administrative staff.
After Sunday services at Christian Bible Church, Rodney Luke and Reverend Holliday met in the Church office.
"So, Rod, what is it about Coach Somervelle?"
"He's been fraternizing with parents and has caused some of them to be belligerent and to come up here and aggravate me. A bunch of them went to a restaurant last night together and, one of the parents told me, ran up a huge bill for food."
"We're not going to pay for it!"
"No, Ray, I don't expect you to. At least none of that cost the school a penny. It's just that we've got to find a way to sack Somervelle. I don't think he sets a good example: taking the team out to eat and persuading the parents to pay."
"If this Coach Somervelle is as big a jerk as you say he is, then we, that is, the school, has to get rid of him. How did it get out of hand, like this?"
"He allies himself with the parents and gets them to turn against me. He's got Tom Morris coming up here, watching every move I make."
"Tom Morris. His daughter plays on the basketball team."
"He's not a Church member, then?"
"No, but at least he's a Baptist. He's a wealthy businessman; otherwise, Somervelle wouldn't give him the time of day.
"Who can we count on to side with us?"
"I was hoping you would get some people here at the Church that also have kids in school here. As far as that basketball team goes, I can only rely on about half the parents. It's the same way with faculty, about fifty-fifty."
"Rod, I don't think it's a good idea to try to make something of his taking the team out to eat. That just isn't strong enough to warrant action. What else could we possibly come up with? Can we rely on the Head Coach to help us?"
"No, he's gone over to the enemy."
"Well, if you feel he's a bad influence on the school, let's get rid of him without precipitating a lawsuit. I'll talk to some of the parents and see if I can find something they don't like about him. When we're ready to make our move, I'll back you 100%."
On Monday, Coach Tate congratulated Larry Somervelle on his success, even though they lost their final game. Coach Reed also congratulated him, while the other assistants reluctantly and nervously shook his hand; he understood. A couple of teachers complimented the girls that happened to be in their classes, but, for the most part: silence.
"Coach Tate, I've decided not to renew your contract for the coming school year. There's been too much controversy surrounding you and Larry Somervelle, and Reverend Holliday and I both feel that it would be in the best interests of everyone concerned if the two of you clean out your desks at the end of this semester and seek employment elsewhere. The School Board feels that a change would be in order, and new employees always bring a breath of fresh air."
"The School Board, huh? Who exactly makes up the School Board, Brother Luke?" asked Coach Tate.
"Myself, Reverend Holliday, Mrs Luke, Mr Thompson, and Mr Silva, and our decision is final."
"Well, if you say so, then ..." answered a non-plussed Coach Tate.
Later, Coach Tate informed Coach Somervelle of the latest actions from up the hill. They both agreed they really didn't want to come back and fight with Brother Luke for another year.
It was discomfiting to be informed in March, with two more months of school. Usually, decisions like this were reached after school had let out for the summer, to spare the non-renewals any embarrassment in front of their students or co-workers.
Kyle Strahan had kept up with all the subterfuge and planning going on up the hill. Only other students, and only some of those, wanted to hear what he had to say. He had approached coaches Tate and Somervelle to tell them what he had found out, but they manifested little interest. So, he always knew he would get an audience from Tom Morris.
"Hi, Mr Morris? This is Kyle."
"Hey, Kyle. What news do you have for me today?"
"Did you know that neither Coach Tate or Coach Somervelle will be hired back for the Fall?"
"Yeah, I knew about that. I suppose that's Dr Luke's choice. He doesn't have to renew anyone's contract. I don't like to see it, though."
"That's not all. He's also not rehiring Mr Crenshaw."
"That's too bad, Kyle, but we can't tell Dr Luke who he can and can't fire."
"Yeah, but Mr Crenshaw is ready to talk."
"What do you mean?"
"When he found out that Brother Luke is replacing him, he said he was going to go to the School Board and tell about the ice cream party and all the other shenanigans Brother Luke has been involved in."
"Kyle, I think that might be something significant. That could possibly lead to the end of Dr Luke's reign of terror. Find out when the School Board is going to meet, and make sure Mr Crenshaw is going to be there. In fact, I ought to meet with him, and get him prepared."
Old Mr Crenshaw finished his lunch in his workroom, and decided to walk up the hill, to see Reverend Holliday. The Church secretary greeted him. "How may we help you, Mr Crenshaw?"
"I'd like to find out when the School Board is meeting."
"Let's see; let me check my calendar...The next scheduled meeting is April 8th. What is this about?"
"I want to bring something up before the Board."
"And what is that?"
"It's a procedural matter."
"Why don't you talk with Reverend Holliday and see if it needs to be brought up in April? Have you talked with Brother Luke?"
"No, or, actually, yes, I talked with him already."
The secretary went to the back to tell Reverend Holliday that old Mr Crenshaw wanted to see him about something. He told his secretary to have Mr Crenshaw wait in her office, while he called Brother Luke on the phone.
"Rod, Mr Crenshaw's in my office, wants to present something to the School Board. He wouldn't tell my secretary what it's about."
"I'll be right there."
Brother Luke walked to Reverend Holliday's office, passing in front of old Mr Crenshaw without speaking. "Ray, I think I know what this is about. I am not renewing him for the Fall; I don't trust him."
"Then do what you have to do. Let's see what he wants to say. I'll bring him in."
Reverend Holliday took old Mr Crenshaw into his office. Brother Luke was seated, and Reverend Holliday sat down. "What's on your mind, Mr Crenshaw?"
"I, I want to see the School Board."
"About what?" asked Reverend Holliday in an irritated manner.
"I'm not sure about something I was told, and I want to see if it's correct."
The Reverend continued, "If it's a procedural matter about the school, that is Brother Luke's concern. You should discuss it with him."
"I want to present this matter to the School Board," nervously replied Mr Crenshaw.
Brother Luke now spoke: "What IS this matter? You have to let us know, and if we consider it valid, then it will be put on the agenda for the next meeting."
Mr Crenshaw swallowed hard; "I want to tell them what you did at the ice cream party."
Both the seated men gave Mr Crenshaw a quizzical look. "What 'ice cream party' are you talking about?" returned Brother Luke.
"The one back in October, when Coach Somervelle won that tournament, and came back here on a Saturday afternoon, and the kids and parents had ice cream-"
Brother Luke's eyes opened wide, and he sucked in a huge gasp of air before he rebutted, "That matter has been settled already! I'll not have you spreading more lies!" "I investigated that incident, Reverend, and found no basis for these unwarranted accusations." Turning back to Mr Crenshaw, he continued, "You are just trying to strike back at me for asking you to retire. I won't allow you or anyone to change my mind when I have already decided the matter. How dare you come here to try and get around me! This is a very ugly attempt at blackmail, and I won't tolerate your presence on this property one minute longer. You're fired, Crenshaw! I want you off this campus by the time school is out."
Mr Crenshaw was taken aback. He had heard about Brother Luke getting worked up sometimes but had never witnessed it before. He turned to Reverend Holliday; "You should know what happened. Are you going to let him talk to me like that?"
Reverend Holliday quietly answered, "This is a school matter and that makes it Dr Luke's business. Whatever he decides, I agree with. You really shouldn't come in here and try to embarass him over something that has already been taken care of."
Mr Crenshaw made one more appeal: "But you don't know the truth..."
Reverend Holliday stood up. "Please leave this office at once, Mr Crenshaw. If you have something ugly to say about someone, you won't do it in front of me. I will not permit such behavior one second further!" He opened his door to show Mr Crenshaw out, and said to his secretary, "Donna, show Mr Crenshaw to the door, and point out to him where the school office is."
Mr Crenshaw hung his head, and walked out past the secretary's desk, and on out the door. He continued slowly downhill to the maintenance office.
Reverend Holliday closed his door and turned his attention to Brother Luke. "I'm sorry about this, Rod. I didn't know he was going to go off like that."
"That's okay, Ray. He has harbored a grudge against me for some time now. He wants to take his time about getting work orders finished, and he doesn't understand that, sometimes, their priority has to change."
"Well, you did the right thing. I'll make sure he doesn't get to ever talk to the Board."
"I'll talk to my wife about his behavior. If there's any question, the three of us make a quorum," stated Brother Luke.
Mr Crenshaw didn't see any of his young friends. He walked by the gym, then stopped and looked back up the hill. He didn't know if Brother Luke were watching him or not. He went on around to the back of the gym and in the rear door. Some students were at P.E. class in the gym. He didn't see Kyle Strahan anywhere. He did, however, see Coach Tate at his desk. "I just got fired."
"What?" retorted Coach Tate.
Mr Crenshaw sat down and told Coach Tate everything he knew about Brother Luke planning to sabotage Coach Somervelle. Coach Tate no longer found this type of information incredulous.
The Coach told Mr Crenshaw that he, too, was aware of problems between Brother Luke and the coaching staff. "I'm sorry that you were the first one axed, Mr. Crenshaw. I always thought it would be Larry. Well, he was fired once, but reinstated. Maybe we can swing something like that again."
"No, thank you, Coach. I've had enough of fighting with him. I'm just going to go fishing and not worry about getting stabbed in the back." Mr Crenshaw got up and walked away, never to return.
Coach Tate told Larry Somervelle the latest developments. While they were talking, the phone rang. It was Brother Luke.
"Coach, I want you to tell Coach Somervelle I found out who spread those lies about that ice cream party back in October."
Coach Tate didn't answer, just held the phone with a disgusted look, knowing what Brother Luke was going to say next.
"Coach, are you there?"
"Yeah, Brother Luke, go ahead, no, wait, let me guess: -Mr Crenshaw did it?" answered the Coach in a sarcastic manner.
Brother Luke was at a loss for words. Then he spoke, "Yes, that's right; it was him. All this time, right in our own backyard. I had to fire him. We can't have people with a vicious tongue like that working here."
Coach Tate hung up on him before he could get the last word out.
Brother Luke sat there for a few seconds, talking into a dead line. Then he realized what had happened, meaning that Mr Crenshaw must have already told the coaching staff that he had been fired. Brother Luke didn't like someone knowing something before he had let them find it out. He liked being the harbinger of news, good or bad. He hung up his phone, and drummed his fingers for a few seconds. He had eliminated one of his enemies; two more would soon be gone. Then that would only leave the Simpson girl, and he had already devised an effective way to get rid of her.
In a couple of days, the word had spread all over campus about the firing of Mr Crenshaw. Some people believed that he had said mean things about Larry Somervelle; others knew that it wasn't so.
Everyone knew that coaches Tate and Somervelle weren't being renewed, but only a few knew why. One of those was Kyle Strahan. He kept Mr Morris up to date on everything.
Shelley didn't know what was going on until some of her friends wrote her notes, explaining the latest. She went home and told her mother about these incidents. Mrs. Simpson took it all in quietly.
The track season had begun and Shelley was once again participating in sports. She passed up softball, because that was one sport she had little interest in. For her team, she ran the 100 meters, the high hurdles, and anchor on the 400 meter relay. Everytime her team competed, she took First Place in her events. Her coach for these events was Harold Tate. Now, he had a chance to see her in action. He frequently told the other coaches, "I don't need to coach her; I just let her go, and she goes out and wins her event."
In the School newsletter for April, there was a notice that any out-of-state student would be assessed a fee of $300 for "processing" transcripts. To be sure that all students to whom this applied got the word, the following students were notified to come to Brother Luke's office and pick up the new form:
Johnson, Melvin R
Simpson, Michelle A.
Shelley took the form home with her and showed it to her mother, in addition to the newsletter and the notification paper. Mrs Simpson immediately noticed there were only two students on the list. Was this another attempt from Brother Luke to harass her? The reason for the fee was stated to be that out-of-state students hadn't taken the same courses as Texas students; any shortcomings or differences had to be evaluated before the student would qualify for a high-school diploma. It was signed by Dr. Rod Luke, Administrator. Mrs Simpson thought this was very odd; she hadn't heard of any such thing before. Usually, it was up to the parents to make sure their child had taken the requisite courses before beginning the senior year, not for the school to examine past work. The fee would be paid by May 15th before the student would be allowed to proceed to the next grade.
Mrs Simpson decided it was time to call Mr Morris again. "Hi, this is Beth Simpson. Sorry to bother you, but I need to know what's going on at the school."
"I'll try to explain it if I can," he answered her.
For the next hour, they traded information and preclusions back and forth. Tom Morris told her everything he knew. The final result was an enlightment for both of them. Beth realized now that this latest action was a direct attack on her daughter. Two minor things came to light: one was that Melvin Johnson's father was in the Air Force (which meant he would be exempt from the fee), and the other was that Mr Crenshaw accused Dr Luke of telling lies about the ice cream party.
Beth Simpson was exasperated. There was no end to what that man would do to get his way. Very well, then, she decided, she wasn't going to back off over this, one inch. She would go to Dr Luke's office in the morning, discuss this matter with him, then pay the fee.
Tom Morris wanted to widen the conflict. "Let's explore the possibility of taking legal action in this matter."
"Oh, no, Tom. That's pretty harsh. Maybe the School Board could help."
He laughed. "Hah, hah, hah. All they do is rubber-stamp any decision of Dr Luke's. He controls the Board."
"They would probably listen to any reasonable presentation made by a parent, wouldn't they?"
"Beth, who do you think makes up the Board?"
"I don't know."
Tom Morris told her who the members were.
Her response: "That's preposterous! I never heard of such a thing! You can't have the Administrator and Business Manager sitting on the Board."
"Oh yes they can, and they do. That ensures that Dr Luke has iron control of everything on campus. He controls the Church, too, by the way; Reverend Holliday defers to him on all matters, and considers the Church as supporting the school, rather than the other way around."
Beth Simpson was stunned, and realized that she could easily get in over her head in a conflict with Dr Luke. He didn't really want the money; he wanted Shelley out of there. Maybe she should just acquiesce and put Shelley in another school. There were other private schools in the area.
"Beth, I'm not trying to urge you to clash with him. But, if you leave, he wins. Shoot, I'll pay the $300 for you; that's not a problem. Please don't leave. Don't let him have his way. He's like a spoiled little kid. He needs to be taught a lesson. Don't give it up."
Beth Simpson decided to keep Shelley there, at least until the close of the Spring semester. On April 9th, Shelley turned 16.
The Fort Worth Open Track and Field Meet was usually made up entirely of the best public school students from the area. It was most out of the ordinary for a private school student to be a competitor. Whenever that had happened in the past, the student was usually eliminated early.
It had been a struggle for Shelley to get here. Brother Luke refused to approve the entrance fees, claiming that public schools had their leagues, and private schools had their leagues, and the two shouldn't mix. He would not allow Shelley to wear a "Christian Bible Academy" jersey; she would have to wear a generic one. The Meet officials at first would not allow Shelley to compete without a school sponsoring her, but relented when it was pointed out that this was an "open" meet, and anyone could enter, as long as they were a student, 18 or under, in a Tarrant County school.
Shelley only entered the 100 meter dash. Although the Meet was two days, Friday and Saturday, Shelley chose to participate on Friday. For her, this was a one-day event, and she couldn't be in both the dash and the high hurdles, as they were scheduled too close to each other.
In the first heat, she took second place, noticing that most of these girls weren't the fastest she might expect to run against.
The next heat had her in lane 7, the outside lane. The expected winner-to-be was Goldie Miller, from Wyatt High School running in lane 3; her schoolmate, Eva Johnson, would be running in lane 5. The two friends noticed the independent girl, quite young, but looking ready.
Goldie spoke first, "Look at the kid in lane 7. Hey, girl, this is for the big kids; you need to go home to your mommy."
Eva chirped in, "Hah, hah. Yeah, where's your Barbie doll? You shouldn't've come here. How'd you get in, anyway?"
Goldie kept it up, walking towards Shelley and raising her voice, "Hey, little girl, we'll even give you a head start. Go on and start walking. Well, go on. We'll leave you in our dust. Go back where you came from."
Shelley didn't know what they were saying, or care. She ignored them, and practiced relaxation breathing.
The girls got in the blocks. "BAM!" the pistol went off. They all flew out and sprinted for the finish line. Shelley noticed that these girls were the fastest group she had run against in almost a year. Oh, well, she decided to go ahead and let herself go.
At the 50 meter mark, Shelley was just behind Eva and Goldie. They were fast, but she was faster. Shelley moved in front of them by the 80 meter mark, and kept moving away. She hit the finish line the clear winner; Eva and Goldie were more than 5 feet behind her.
After the run, the girls congratulated each other. Shelley shook hands with all the other runners. Eva asked her, "Where are you from?" No answer. "What's the matter? Too tired to talk?"
Shelley responded by voicing, as best she could, "I deaf, can't hear you."
Goldie, used to winning rather than congratulating a winner, threw a barb, "They'll let anybody in here," then turned and trotted away.
For the championship which was run a little later, the winners were, in order, Shelley Simpson, Goldie Miller, and Eva Johnson. The time 9.3 seconds, a new Meet record.
Mrs Morris had accompanied Shelley to the Meet, along with an interpreter. No coaches were permitted to be at the event, as BBS did not officially participate. Shelley was marked as "Absent without school permission" from her classes. It would be Monday before Shelley could show the school her First Place trophy.
Brother Luke ran into some unexpected trouble at church on Sunday. Several of the parents of school athletes mentioned Shelley's performance the other day. He claimed no knowledge of it; all he knew was that she hadn't shown up for school that day.
"Now, Brother Luke," said one parent, "that girl is good at everything she tries. She sets a city record and you don't even know she's there. Come on, Brother; show the girl some support."
Brother Luke tried to laugh about his ignorance of the Meet, and, at the same time, agree to support her. "Well, she can't tell me what she needs, you know, and I've been busy, and things just kind of slipped by me. I depend on the coaches to keep me informed of sports activities..."
Some of the parents continued to believe him, and some other of the parents continued not to believe him.
That afternoon, Brother Luke sat in his study, trying to find a way out of this quandary. If he ignored the Simpson girl, it would look bad. If he congratulated her, he would be stepping in his own mess that he had made on Friday, by not allowing her to wear the school jersey. He would have to get Coach Tate to come to his rescue. How, though? He decided to have Coach Tate congratulate her at lunchtime. He could be at a meeting somewhere. If anyone asked about her being refused school approval, he would say 'Officially, it was necessary, before private school students could participate in public school events, to get approval of the School Board, and I hadn't been given adequate notice to obtain approval for her before the deadline' and hope no one would notice any discrepancies.
He ran into another problem with Coach Tate.
"No, Brother Luke, I won't do that. You prohibited any of the coaches from taking part in the Meet, so I won't take part in any ceremony in order to cover for you. Unofficially, I'll congratulate her; I would anyway. You're going to have to undo your own doings on this one, old buddy." Then he hung up.
Brother Luke called the other coaches, but the ones he was able to reach refused to have anything to do with this. He was beginning to get worried. He considered the strong possibility of simply not having any kind of photo session for Shelley.
When Monday came, as scheduled, Shelley went to class as she had always done. She really wasn't expecting any kind of ceremony or posing for pictures. She had done what she had set out to do last Friday. Besides, by this time, she had been informed that Brother Luke would not do anything to recognize her achievements, and she didn't really care.
Several of Shelley's friends gave her a note to be in the cafeteria at lunchtime, as there was going to be reporters from the school newspaper. She agreed, but wished her schoolmates had been at the stadium on Friday. Almost three days had elapsed since then.
Brother Luke finally decided what he would do. He would shake her hand. If there was any question about why she couldn't represent the school, he would tell her that the athletic staff hadn't informed him in time for all the paperwork to clear. It wasn't his fault.
At lunchtime, a number of the students gathered around Shelley, including the school newspaper staff. Brother Luke chose this time to put in his appearance. He walked into the cafeteria, walked over to Shelley, shook her hand, and smiled at the cameras. It only took about two minutes, then he managed to make his escape. Everything went off without any difficulties. No one made an issue of him being there or asked him any embarrassing questions.
A few days later at school, something very strange happened to Dr Luke. He was walking outside, getting a little exercise. Several students were walking by, on their way to the next class; they were 10th grade girls. One of the girls spoke to him, "Hi, Dr Luke" and waved. It was Shelley! He was somewhat taken aback. She had spoken fairly clearly, and he was able to understand her. He returned the greeting and smiled. He certainly didn't expect this. She wasn't supposed to act like that. Did her friendliness mean she was up to something, or was she not aware of all the things that had gone on since she arrived? He finally decided that, because she couldn't hear, she was very unaware of all the quagmires that had erupted on campus since last September. Still, he was perplexed, and, for the first time in several years, felt that, perhaps, he had come on a little too strong.
The District track meet was to be May 4-5, at Richland Christian High School. It was the only TAPPS school in Tarrant County. Several reporters from school newspapers were in attendance, hoping to see a record broken.
Shelley was entered in the 100 meter dash and the low hurdles. Most of her would-be competitors knew who she was and had resigned her to winning the 100 meters. She didn't disappoint them; her time was 9.5 seconds.
In the hurdles, no one came close. She easily won in this event, too, and set a new Under-18 Record of 11.8 seconds.
It was during the heats for the 100 meters that Dr Luke put in an appearance, along with Mrs Luke. He came over to the coaching staff and the girls that were there and told them, "I hope you all do well today. Do your best. We'll be cheering for you." This was the first time anyone could remember Dr Luke being at an athletic event other than football and the basketball appearance.
When the medals were handed out, the Baptist Bible School had done fairly well, with four First Places (Shelley Simpson took two, Dora Morris got First in the long jump, and the relay team took the other First), four Second Places, and two Third Places. This was good enough to get a Second Place overall, and to advance to the Regionals for the First and Second Place winners.
Dr Luke came down from the bleachers and shook the hands of all the girls, not just the winners, and said he was pleased with how the representatives from BBS had done that day. The girls appreciated his remarks. He assured the girls that were going on to Regionals that the school would be behind them all the way, and not to worry about missing some classes.
Mrs. Luke, acting on her own, spontaneously gave Shelley a hug, and told her, "We're proud of you for doing so good." She complimented the other girls, too, "All of you are making this day turn out so nice for the school."
Coach Tate thought that both of them must have suffered a stroke sometime that morning before they arrived at the Meet.
Dr Luke was surprised at his wife for her demonstration for affection. Later he asked her about it, "Why did you hug that Simpson girl?"
She answered, "I kind of felt sorry for her. No one but you, at school last week, took it upon themselves to congratulate the girl for winning First Place in that track meet in Fort Worth, with the public school students. Oh, sure, her friends showed up at the cafeteria, but so little has been done for her by people that don't know her; she's persisted in her efforts since she got here. Her grades are very good, and she is an outstanding athlete, but no one pays any notice."
Dr Luke reminded her, "Don't forget, some time ago, the Fort Worth newspaper ran a column on her. That should have been enough."
"Yes, but that was some time ago. The semester is coming to an end, and I suppose that I just wanted to show her that I am glad for her, that she's doing so much, in spite of her handicap."
"Handicap?" thought Dr Luke, then catching himself, he said aloud, "Yeah, I guess she does have a handicap, but that seems too harsh of a word. If someone hadn't told you she was deaf, you'd never know it by looking at her." He continued, "You know something else, she can speak pretty clearly; have you ever heard her speak?"
"Not really. That's the first time I've ever said anything to her or been so close to her since she got here."
Falling back into his rut, Dr Luke retorted, "But I still don't like her mother."
Unexpectedly, Mrs Luke disagreed with her husband on this. "She's just being defensive; she wants her child to be accepted. I'd be the same way if I had a child, deaf or not. Now, Rod, Dear, if you'd never met Mrs Simpson, you would have let that girl play volleyball; you just didn't like being forced to let her play."
Dr Luke was only mildly bothered by her remarks; after all, this was his wife speaking. He came back with, "Well, that woman is kind of pushy."
"If she wasn't, where would the little girl be? Living in some state institution, terrified of society, unable to take care of herself? I can see that she pushes her daughter to succeed, and that's what's best for the girl. I really don't believe she means any harm towards anyone."
Once more, Dr Luke wanted to disagree, but the words came out quite mildly: "Maybe not, but, she just wanted to make my decisions for me, and I resent that."
The couple stopped for dinner at a restaurant in Fort Worth on the way home. While sitting there talking, Dr Luke began to feel a bit of remorse for his harshness with the coaching staff. Maybe he had been too hard on them. He could have waited another month to release coaches Tate and Somervelle. He had been too quick to find fault. Starting next Monday, he would initiate a new resolve, to just leave things alone, unless he needed to interfere because he was the only one that could see what needed to be rectified.
That night, Dr Luke suffered a severe case of heartburn, only he thought it was a myocardial infarction. He woke his wife, and told her that he was really suffering from some sort of chest pain. She went into the bathroom to try to find some painkiller.
He lay there, thinking that the Lord was punishing him for some sins he had committed somewhere. Suddenly, he gasped out, "Oh, I'm sorry, I'm sorry that I made up that stuff about Mr Crenshaw. I won't do it anymore. Please, Lord, take this pain away." The pain did not go away; it remained severe.
Mrs Luke asked him what he had said, but he didn't hear her. He continued, "It's hurting me so bad. Oh, you're going to have to call an ambulance or something. I've never hurt like this before."
The ambulance arrived and Dr Luke was transported to Northside General Hospital. While in the ambulance, he began to cry: "Ohhh, my Lord. Please; I'm so sorry. I never meant to hurt anyone. Please, Mr Crenshaw, forgive me. Lord, I'm sorry for my sins. It hurts so badly. I was wrong; I was wrong; please don't let me die! I want time to make up to the people what I've done wrong. I admit I made mistakes, just, please, give me another chance."
In the Emergency Room, the Physician, Dr. d'Antonio told Dr Luke that the lab results were back, and it was not indicative of a heart attack. Dr Luke was given a strong antacid and felt almost immediate relief. After half an hour, he was ready to go home.
Dr d'Antonio told him, "It appears that this was a severe case of acid reflux. Take this medicine, and you'll be fine."
Dr Luke told him, "Thank you, Doctor. I feel so much better already; I thought I was dying, that it was going to do me in. I've never had a spell like that before."
Dr Luke stayed at home the next day, recovering from loss of sleep, as much as getting over the pain from last night. He felt a sense of relief that, since it wasn't a heart attack, then he wasn't bound to keep any of the promises he had made in the throes of despair. He did agree with himself, however, to try to make things better around the school. He might have to continue to step on some toes, from time to time, that went with the territory, but he wouldn't give himself over so easily to believing that fictionalized circumstances might be true. He wouldn't be so quick to act on feelings. Well, at least, it was a start.
One must understand a little of the background of Dr and Mrs Luke, to put things in their perspective. They had no children of their own; they were unable to biologically bring children into the world. Whether it was him or her was irrelevant; they did not have their own children. That, perhaps, is a compelling reason why Dr Luke made being around young people a part of his career. For 8 hours a day, he could have a "family", of children from 5 to 18 years of age. He often wanted to be affectionate towards some of the children he knew, but a fear of parental disapproval kept both him and his wife from giving any displays of loving concern to the children. Occasionally, a student might be very outgoing and friendly to the staff members; Dr Luke always felt, though, that this was just a manifestation of that student's personality and was not directed at himself as a sign of someone "liking" him. Both he and Mrs Luke had resigned themselves to face the fact that they would never have children of their own, that they could only cherish the children of their close relatives, and that there would always be a barrier between themselves and the students at school. The students must have felt this, too, because, they might be respectful towards the staff, but never showed a preference for giving attention to the Lukes more than to any other adult at the school. That is, until Shelley came...
Shelley had not heard a lot of the remarks that floated around the school. That was her blessing. She could not favor gossip or pre-judge anyone. Most of the time, she would be nice to anyone, even if she was unable to decipher their body language. She had been a little distant with Dr Luke during the school year because she had picked up some of the things said about him. However, when she had one-on-one contact with him, he seemed to be a pleasant, but shy fellow, that was a little uncomfortable with being onstage. Whenever she saw him, she never failed to speak. Once, when she received her award in the mail for a First Place in a Meet, she took it by Dr Luke's office to show it to him. He seemed pleased at her visit, and told the receptionist that, whenever Shelley came to see him, to allow her in right away.
After Shelley came back from the State Meet with First Place in both the 100 Meter Dash and the 100 Meter Hurdles, she knew to prepare herself for the photographers, whether from newspapers or magazines. Unless she had an interpreter, she did not give a speech or press conference for she could not communicate adequately. There was a lot of Press attention at the Meet, but the hometown newspapers would wait and get with her after her arrival back in Fort Worth.
The school paid all her travel expenses, which is about all you could expect, as this was all they had done in the past for others. Her mother, Coach Tate, and Mrs Morris accompanied her to the Meet. Her father managed to be there when she won First in the low hurdles. It was one of Shelley's happiest days in her life; her parents were together, the school approved her participation, and she came away a winner. So, it was with a heart still full of joy as she returned to classes on May 10th.
She went through the morning classes pretty much like normal. Her friends congratulated her, some of the teachers congratulated her, and the coaches all came by her Third Period classroom to extend their heartiest. But no one from up the hill had yet had any contact with her.
When lunch time came, Shelley went with her friends to the cafeteria. By this time, the thrill was wearing off, and things were getting back to normal. As the girls walked up the sidewalk, they saw several adults with cameras, waiting on them. "Oh, well, I suppose it's Press time", thought Shelley. The photographers gave way for Shelley and her friends as they made their entrance into the cafeteria. Then, the girls saw, in the room, green and white crepe paper decorating the overhead. A sign was written in large print: "OUR CHAMPION"; another said: "SHELLEY IS TOPS!" Shelley began to feel a bit embarrassed as the photo shoot began. Then she saw her mom standing with Dr and Mrs Luke, all three beaming at her. They walked over to her and each hugged her. Mrs Simpson signed to her, "Dr and Mrs Luke asked me to be here to participate in an official 'Welcome and Well Done' for you."
Mrs Luke thought to herself, "I do believe that Dr Luke has a fondness for that girl. I know she's very sweet and doesn't have a mean bone in her body, and she's very likable."
Tears began flowing from Dr Luke's eyes, as he was overcome by emotion, by the fact that this little girl was kind to him in spite of the difficulties he had initiated throughout the year. He hugged Shelley again, and asked Mrs Simpson to sign to her, "I'm so happy for you. You've done so well, overcome so many hurdles, no pun intended, and treated your associates with kindness and respect; we're just overjoyed to have a student like you at this school." He began weeping openly, not so much for joy, but guilt overcame him, as he realized that he had not really treated those around him with near the kindness he had received. He hugged Shelley again, she hugged him back, and then he hugged Mrs Simpson. He was unable to say anything for several minutes. People were being nice to him: a person, not to: Dr Luke, Administrator. What a pleasure it was! From now on, he was going to treat people with dignity, whoever they were, whatever their economic status in the community. It was a new day dawning for everyone and he wished to spread the happiness.
It would be pleasant to add that everything turned out fine, that everyone lived happily ever after, but that was not to be so. The semester ended on a pleasant note at the school; everything appeared to be normal. Shelley went to Kansas for the summer, to be with her dad, and practice her favorite sports. Mr Crenshaw had moved away. Coach Tate took a position at another Christian school. Larry Somervelle was asked to return, and he chose to do so. Tom Morris, after finding out about Dr Luke's emotional display, supposed that he had suffered brain damage some time in the recent past, and that, at any rate, he would ease off being so critical. Mrs Simpson re-enrolled Shelley at Baptist Bible School for the Fall, as Shelley seemed happy to be there and had done quite well. Yes, she had really done quite well.
CAST OF CHARACTERS
The part of Rod Luke was played by: Robert Cupps
Mrs Luke Sandra Moore
Mrs Simpson Carol Jones
Mr Simpson Michael Beam
Debbie Rachel Witty
Charlotte Sasha Montgomery
Heather Judy Jones
Cheryl Lacey Foster
Kyle Strahan Chuck Crockett
Dora Morris Meghann Wagonner
Tom Morris Rick Lee
Coach Somervelle Larry Ravelo
Coach Tate Vernon Kelley
Coach Carson Gerald Marbach
Old Man Crenshaw Rick Sherman
JoAnn Teel Brandy Kersh
M'Kala Adams Elishia Spriggins
Goldie Miller Rose Patterson
Dr. D'Antonio Thomas Barghese
Rev. Ray Holliday James Etheridge
and Michelle Simpson was characterized by Desirae Lee