Sightings by B.J. Hollars Page B

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Authors: B.J. Hollars
father didn’t, though eventually he relented, releasing my uncle from the chokehold without even making him say uncle.
    Mom, Aunt Clown, and I were left to stare out at the destruction: empty seltzer bottles piled high, a unicycle half-crushed beneath a chair. Juggling balls were scattered like landmines, hand buzzers like brass knuckles.
    It looked like some kind of face-painted massacre.
    My father limped into the kitchen, returning with an ice pack.
    â€œHey, put some ice on that eye,” he said, tossing the pack to my uncle. “Nobody’s going to pay to see a black eye on a clown.”
    Uncle Clown caught the ice pack with one hand, nodding as he lifted it to his face.
    â€œHey,” Uncle Clown called to him. “Thanks for not killing me back there.”
    He winked like he was joking, though his eyes appeared to have taken on some seltzer.
    Dad nodded, then sifted through the mess on the floor until stumbling upon Uncle Clown’s endless chain of handkerchiefs. He handed it over.
    â€œThanks, partner,” Uncle Clown said, blowing his nose and releasing a solitary “honka.”
    Nobody said anything then – a silence so deep that even the whoopee cushions had the good sense to deflate inconspicuously.
    As I stood there, watching my aunt press the ice pack to her husband’s eye while Mom moved Dad to the den, I realized – with some comfort – that we were back to what we’d always been.
    Not better, not worse – just a family in desperate need of a punch line.

Line of Scrimmage
    This must have been seventh grade or so.
    My father had just left to fulfill his dream of becoming an impressionist painter somewhere in the Vermont wilderness, and my football coach, Coach Housen, was busy telling us to “Whip their dicks!” and “Smack their asses!” among various other phrases that didn’t make a lot of sense to those of us sitting in the locker room.
    â€œYou know what I’m talking about,” Housen clapped. “I want you to get out there and slap those fannies like you mean it, really dig your shoulder in right around the groin. And here’s the rub, boys: you gotta commit! Either commit or go home and nurse off your mother’s teat. None of this pantywaist bullwonky. I want nothing less than long term commitment. Bend ’em over. Ride ’em cowboy style. Wrap ’em up and sink your teeth directly into their peters,” he barked, snapping his teeth like a vise, crossing his arms.
    â€œAny questions?”
    We had about a million questions.
    Why were we putting our shoulders into their groins?
    Sink our teeth into their . . . peters?
    â€œNo questions? All right, hands in,” Coach called. All thirty of us gathered round, our cleats clicking against the smooth cement. We piled sweaty hand atop sweaty hand.
    â€œOkay. All together, now. Whip their dicks, on three . . .”

    Housen was the harmless type. Bewildered, out of touch, but at the end of each practice he’d have us take a knee while he preached some on-the-spot sermon about what he’d witnessed out on the field that day. Something related to our dedication, our sacrifice, our grit.
    â€œAnd remember,” he concluded each sermon. “We win as a team and we lose as a team, but whatever the score, we’ll always
a team.”
    Turned out what we did best was lose as a team.
    After our stunning defeat against Central Christian (52–0), Housen lined us up on the end zone so that we might learn from our mistakes.
    â€œI don’t care if your parents
waiting in the car,” he paced, his hands buried deep into his windbreaker. “No one’s leaving this goddamn field till we learn how to play defense.” We were mud-soaked and tired and cold. Shivering. Our shoulder pads weighed us down, our helmets cramped our ears.
    â€œYancey,” he hollered to me. “Show us some defensive mobility, would

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