Authors: Brendan Halpin
ALSO BY BRENDAN HALPIN
How Ya Like Me Now
FARRAR STRAUS GIROUX
Copyright Â© 2010 by Brendan Halpin
All rights reserved
Distributed in Canada by D&M Publishers, Inc.
Printed in June 2010 in the United States of America by RR Donnelley & Sons Company, Harrisonburg, Virginia
Designed by Robbin Gourley
First edition,Â Â Â Â Â 2010
1Â Â Â Â 3Â Â Â Â 5Â Â Â Â 7Â Â Â Â 9Â Â Â Â 10Â Â Â Â 8Â Â Â Â 6Â Â Â Â 4Â Â Â Â 2
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Halpin, Brendan, 1968â
Shutout / Brendan Halpin.â1st ed.
Â Â Â Â p. cm.
Summary: Fourteen-year-old Amanda and her best friend Lena start high school looking forward to playing on the varsity soccer team, but when Lena makes varsity and Amanda only makes junior varsity, their long friendship rapidly changes.
[1. SoccerâFiction. 2. FriendshipâFiction. 3. Interpersonal relationsâFiction. 4. Family lifeâMassachusettsâFiction. 5. High schoolsâFiction. 6. SchoolsâFiction.] I. Title.
To Casey, Rowen, and Kylie
I started playing soccer and being friends with Lena in the third grade; six years later, they both turned on me.
Well, my body turned on me first. I'm not talking about developing embarrassing boobs and monthly bleeding and hair in gross places. That stuff happens to everybody. What happened to me is Sever's disease.
I love saying that because it sounds really dramatic and life-threatening, like I have a disease that's going to cause part of me to get cut off. If you tell a group of people that you have Sever's disease, they will make these sad noises at you and tell you how brave you are and stuff like that, which is pretty funny because they actually have no idea what the hell it is.
What it actually is is heel pain. See why I like saying Sever's disease instead? Heel pain sounds so wimpy, no matter how you dress it up. I can tell you that after I play soccer, it feels like there's somebody constantly shoving an eight-inch
kitchen knife into the back of my heel, and still it doesn't sound as dramatic as Sever's disease.
Sever's disease is a condition where your bones grow really fast, and your muscles and tendons can't keep up. So these short muscles and tendons in your legs get stretched out until they're really tight, and they pull on the back of your heel until it feels like somebody's just whacked you on the bottom of your foot with a hammer.
I know that compared to cystic fibrosis or cancer or any of the other million horrible diseases I could have, Sever's disease is a pretty easy ride. The best part is that it's completely curable. The worst part is that the only cure is reaching your full height. I'm fourteen years old and five feet ten inches tall, which is already totally freakish for a girl, so I'm going to be pretty pissed if I don't stop growing soon.
My mom understands this pretty wellâshe gets how hard it is to fit in, how they don't make clothes for girls my size, especially shoes (you try finding something that isn't hideous in a size
), and she's always really good about listening to all my complaints and sympathizing. I guess she was fat in high school, which you'd never know to look at her now, but anyway, she gets how tough it is to be a teenage girl.
Of course, she's also not my mom. Well, she kind of is. It's complicated. I think of her as my mom, and she's the only mom I can ever remember having, but she didn't give birth to me. My biological mom died when I was two. She was five feet eleven inches tall, which is pretty funny because my dad is only five six. So you can imagine what they looked like together.
She wore flats to their wedding and still totally towered over him.
So the fact that my mom was a freakish giantess (I'm sorry, Mom I Don't Remember, but it's just the truth. And yeah, it takes one to know one) means that Dad sees my own freakish gigantism as some kind of great gift because it makes me Mom'sâmy late mom, I mean the dead oneâwalking tombstone or something. Every once in a while I catch him looking up at me all misty-eyed, and one time I made the mistake of going, “What?” and Dad was like, “It's nothing. It's just that you looked so much like your mom there for a second.” Stupid me for asking. Now I always know what he's thinking when he looks at me that way, and it's annoying.
So Dad gets all mad when I complain about my height, but then Momâthe alive oneâtells him he has no idea how mean girls can be, and Dad says he damn sure does. That's why he stayed in basements playing Dungeons and Dragons with his geeky friends until he was sixteen, which is a pretty funny picture. I mean, I think about my parents in high schoolâDad pale, skinny, and short, sitting in some dork's basement, and Mom all fat and standing on the wall at every dance hoping to get a pity dance out of somebody, and it kind of gives me hope. I mean, they survived high school and seem to be pretty happy grownups, so I guess I probably will too.
It's not always easy to take that point of view, though. In fact, it's almost always impossible to take that point of view. Especially after they made the cut.
Lena slept over. Except for the times when we were on our separate little family vacations, we spent most of the summer together, and we probably slept at each other's houses two or three times a week. Lena likes to come to my house because her parents are nuts, I mean even in comparison to most parents. Also she has a crush on my brother. The one who's fifteen. I mean my stepbrother, except we never use the “step” part unless we're in a really big fight. The kid sees his dad like three weeks a year. We've lived together for forty-nine weeks a year since I was four, so it seems dumb to say he's anything but my brother. I have another brother, Dominic, who's eight, but he's actually my half brother, and Conrad's half brother too. Neither of us ever uses the “half” with Dominic no matter how annoying he is, which is very.
But I was talking about Conrad, my brother who has, I know from when he recently mooned me, developed butt hair, which is just about the grossest thing I can imagine. I'm
pretty sure I'm into guys, sexual orientationâwise, but the sight of Conrad's hairy butt really made me question for a while whether that was a good idea. I mean, if I remain heterosexual, I will presumably be called on at some point to be naked with a guy, and he might have a hairy butt. I really can't imagine being so into anyone that I could overlook that.
I guess it's possible that Conrad is just a freak of nature and the only guy on earth who has butt hair. Well, he's certainly a freak of nature, but I don't know if that means he's the only guy with butt hair or not. Okay, this is really grossing me out. Let me talk about something else.
Like how Lena was over the night before the cut. We had both been playing our hearts out at soccer practice all week. Some people complained about working that hard in the hot August sun, but we were into that part of summer where the vacations are over and there's really nothing going on except worrying about school starting, so I was happy to have something to do.
And I loved soccer. It was fun, and I was good at it. Well, sort of. I mean, before the whole Sever's disease thing hit, Lena and I were a great offensive team. We'd charge up the field together, her in the center, me on the wing, passing all the way until one of us drew the defenders. Then it was cross to the other one, goal. It never even mattered to either of us which of us actually put the ball in the goalâthey were all
goals. I remember Lena coming over after a game one day and when Dad, who'd been at Conrad's game, asked how we did, we both said, “We scored three goals!” in unison.
It seems kind of corny now, not to mention unbelievable
that we didn't care which of us had two goals and which had one, but that's really how it was.
But then Sever's disease came to visit right about the time they moved us to playing on a bigger field, and suddenly I went from charging up the wing and crossing to my best friend to hobbling toward the goal, watching defenders pick off a pass I couldn't catch up to.
Still, I was lucky, because back then I had Lori as a coach. I was moping after one game because we would have had a chance to tie if I had been able to catch up to Lena's pass, but I couldn't, so we lost. Lori took me aside and said, “I want to ask you something.”
“What do you think about playing goal?”
“Honestly? I kind of think it sucks. If I wanted to stand around waiting for something to happen, I would have signed up for softball.”
“Well, listen,” she said, “you have a gift for this game. And I know right now you can't run the way you'd like to, but I know you've scored enough goals that you can read people, when they're going to pass and when they're going to shoot and even where the ball is going.”
“Um. Thanks. I mean, yeah, I guess I get that stuff.”
“If you want to, I'll be happy to work with you on this. I know you can be as strong a goalkeeper as you were a forward.”
Well, that was a pretty good pep talk, and so I did work with Lori on goalkeeping, and I got Lena to shoot on me all the time. Pretty soon we were the Twin TowersâLena in the
front and me in the back, and our team was unstoppable. Well, we would have been the Twin Towers, but Lena's only five feet four inches tall. So, okay, I was a tower and she was a Ferrari.
I guess this is going to sound conceited, but we were good enough that I didn't think it was crazy to hope we'd make varsity as ninth graders.
All the girls hoping to make the high school teams had been practicing together for the last two weeks, and whenever Lena and I got to play in a scrimmage, we were just as good as we'd always been. And Lena was unstoppable when we ranâI don't know how she goes so fast on her short legs, but she's easily the fastest girl on the team, including some of the senior girls who have these incredible muscly tree trunk thighs.
I, of course, can barely run at all before I start limping. But I did the right thing and talked to one of the coaches, Ms. Beasley, who is the younger and nicer of the two, about Sever's disease and how I'm probably almost done growing, so it shouldn't be a factor for long. I do have a hard time running, I said, but just watch me in the goal.
She made sure I got in the goal during scrimmages, and I saw her talking to scary, crusty Ms. Keezer whenever I made a save. Maybe she was just trying to tell Ms. Keezer about sunblock and moisturizers and how you could be a female sports coach without looking like a dried-up apple doll. But I hope she was talking about my awesome saves.
Anyway, it was the last day before they made the cut, and Lena was sleeping over. She was mad cheesy all night, trying to involve Conrad in conversations and stuff, and he is either
clueless about Lena liking him, which is hard to imagine since she's so obvious about it, or else he doesn't like her, which is also hard to imagine since she's pretty and smart and grew a cup size in like a weekend this summer.
Or maybe he likes her and just doesn't know what to do about it, which is totally fine with me, because the two of them together would make my life awkward, not to mention gross.
Lena and I were in sleeping bags in a tent in the basement (yes, we're corny, and yes, there are perfectly good beds upstairs, but we have more privacy to talk in the basement and besides we like to have these little imaginary campouts like we're six years old). We were talking about the cut.
“I think we're both gonna make it,” Lena said.
“I don't know,” I answered. “Remember that big speech Ms. Beasley gave about how the younger players almost never make varsity and we have to pay dues and blah blah?”