October 26, 2009

My Uncle The Spy (Part III)

"That last catch was swell Neil!"

A young guy in a letter jacket opened the door of the old bar in the industrial section of Trussville, Alabama. "Yea, but it was your great block on that running back that cleared the path!", Neil Self said as they all paused in the open doorway. Neil had always been stocky, tough looking, and also fast, a combination that was usually deadly to the opposing team in the game of high school football. Tonight he wore his letter jacket just like all the other guys. "Ladies first!" Neil jokingly said as he shoved his friend inside the dimly lit room. It was a little after 11:00pm and the few remaining patrons sitting at the bar were unshaven dirty steel workers in for a late night drink before going home.

Neil recognized an old farmer sitting alone, a friend of his father. He lived up the (Old) Springville road and had a small cattle farm. Neil had bailed hay for a dollar a day at his farm when he was younger. It was one of his first jobs and he hated it. The farmer had always been kind to him though, and given him a ride home in his old Model T truck at the end of the workday.

Neil and his four buddies approached the bar top and found a seat. "Jimmie, we are celebrating tonight!" The old bar tender got a worried look in his eye but sat down 4 short whiskey glasses. "Hewitt High is going to state!" Neil proclaimed to the rest of the bar as he held up his glass of Jack Daniels. The four chimed in with hoots, hollers and dog barks. A few even growled and snapped their teeth at one of the other patrons sitting at the end of the bar as if they had turned into Huskies (the school mascot) themselves and had found a nice piece of meat to fight over.

They all downed their drinks and slammed them down on the bartop and pointed to their glasses indicating that the bar tender should "keep em comin'!".

A lone figure in suit jacket and undone tie sat in the shadows in a back booth. His eyes posted on the party at the bar as he sipped his beer in silence. He slowly pulled out a coaches play book with a large white Husky bust on the front and wrote four names on the back page.


Neil sat at his desk reading Beowulf in English class. The teacher lectured on about how fantasy stories in medieval literature had helped bring a sort of escape to the common folk when told by the bards and storytellers. "They also served as a warning, or lesson learned for young people that were told by their parents when the children acted up." The teacher looked at Neil with her annoyed glare. Neil laughed to himself and let a slight smile out as he buried his head behind the text book once more.

All of a sudden the classroom door opened and a messenger handed the teacher a note. "Neil Self, you need to report to Coach Smith in the office." A few smirks and whispers were quickly "shushed" by the teacher as Neil closed his English book and gave a smart-alic wave to everyone as he headed out the door.

Approaching the office, through the glass, he saw his head coach and the principal standing in front of his three buddies that were seated on the bench just inside. Neil took breath and opened the door. "Have a seat Neil". The principal motioned to the bench. "So the word has gotten to me that you guys got drunk and started a fight AGAIN last night at Jimmie's bar. I'm not gonna fault Jimmie. He knows you are all underage but the man has to make some money. The blame lies on you Neil. What is this? The fourth time you guys have started trouble? The first was puking on poor old Ms. Abernathy's front porch, then you hit the stone wall at Mr. Chandler's, not to mention the wreakless driving around Trussville scaring people half to death." The coach paused, "The principle and I have determined that this is the last straw for all of you. We've tried suspension and detention, and its just not getting though your hard heads!" the coach rapped hard on Neil's forehead. Then the principle spoke up, "There has been too much pressure from the school board and the PTA, underage drinking is not the type of example that we want to convey at Hewitt Trussville High. You guys are off the team for the rest of the year. And that means no scholarship referrals either."

Neil's mouth dropped. His first thought was what would "Daddy" say when he found out? His plan was to go to Florida State on a football scholarship and continue his education. He thought he had that taken care of. The Self family didn't have any money to pay for college. He was angry not only at the coach, but at himself. He had to find other options...

As he trudged back to his classroom he noticed a brochure hanging on the "Career Board". The bright brochure heralded the glories of the "weekend warrior" in the Alabama National Guard. He could earn scholarship money and even go to school part time while serving his time! He pulled the push pin out of the cork board and stuffed the brochure in his pocket.

Disclaimer: This and the following blog posts are works of fiction written by myself (Josh Self) that are based on real facts both positive and sometimes not so positive from my uncle's real life and choices that he made. The events and characters in this story could have happened but more than likely happened differently than portrayed here. I would like to thank the family and relatives of Neil Self in advance for allowing this artistic liberty in the spirit of a tribute to his life and an attempt to keep his memory alive through story.

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