—Southern Scrimmage Book 4—
From trailer park to the Super Dome.
Everybody’s All-American quarterback by day.
Infamous exotic dancer by night.
Levi Brody is one of the undisputed greats of the game. With two Super Bowl rings, one MVP, three Pro-Bowl appearances, three National Championships, three SEC Championships and four State High School championships Levi has indeed left his mark on the sport, but it’s all a load of crap.
This is my origin story and like all good origin stories, this one lies somewhere:
Between the helmet and the tiara.
The story of the rise and fall of the first fictional gay quarterback in the NFL.
I introduced Levi Brody in the second Southern Scrimmage book Sidelined and continued his story through his brother’s eyes in Offside Chance. While this book is officially the fourth book in the Southern Scrimmage Series it does not continue the story. Bootleg Diva is a biographical look at Levi’s life through to the end of Offside Chance.
Friday Night Lights
I’d taken Jude down to the Dairy Queen that afternoon to buy him an ice cream cone with the last of the money I’d hidden away before my unexpected trip to camp. It was just Jude and me that day. I hadn’t seen Sammy since she threw the frying pan at the reverend’s head. That was two days ago. She had a really good arm. Too bad she’d missed.
It was hot that afternoon. The electricity had been turned off again that morning so there was no air conditioning to keep cool. I thought an ice cream was a good idea.
I always hated August. School would start again soon and I’d have to go learn bible verses for history and some other shit that the reverend demanded his boys learn.
His boys. I always snorted when he called us his. He didn’t give a shit about us. He had a real kid now. We were just a couple of extra mouths to feed…when he remembered we existed and actually sent money. Usually, that was when he’d come and kick me and Jude out of the house for a couple of hours. Sammy would be bruised and too quiet when we came home from the park or the movies or sometimes we just sat on the back porch and threw rocks into the dead flower beds while they fought and fucked.
Yeah, I knew what fucking sounded like at twelve-years-old. I’d even made the sounds. I hated that Jude had to hear them. He didn’t know and I was going to make damned sure he wouldn’t know until he was old enough to want to learn for himself.
I never got that option.
Anyway, that afternoon, Jude somehow managed to get most of his ice cream inside his face instead of on his face. I’d forgotten how big he was while I’d been away. I’d forgotten that he wasn’t a baby anymore. He was a kid now. Not a toddler that I had to keep from playing in the street when Sammy was at work. I was proud of him for being so grown up and I told him as much. He just looked at me in that scary way he had about him. Like he was the older brother and I was an idiot.
“What am I? Two?” He was also full of snark and evil. He’d always been like that. Sammy always said he’d take over the world one day. I suspected it wouldn’t be in a good way. The anger that was in his eyes was new. I recoiled from the heat in that quick glance.
I tried not to take it personally and reached out to ruffle his hair much as I had always done when he was acting precious. He moved out of my reach and darted up the stairs to avoid my touch.
The pain that sliced through my chest damn near put me on my knees. Jude was mine. My only family. Well, there was Sammy. I figured Sammy was more of a big sister with a grudge than a mother. I loved her. But sometimes I didn’t. Today was one of those days.
“The door is locked,” Jude shouted at me from the porch. “Did you lock us out again?”
“No. I left the door wide open.” I was scared. I didn’t know why. I had the keys in my pocket even if I hadn’t left the door open. What did I care, there wasn’t anything inside to steal and the power was off anyway, I wanted the breeze to keep the house cool while we walked down for ice cream and back. “Remember. We even put the chair in front so it wouldn’t close on its own.”
I was sweating. Fear. I knew too much about fear and this felt like the last few weeks had felt. Like I was still at camp and the past two days had been some fever dream and my father hadn’t done the things he’d done to me.
I guess my fear was catching. “I know, Levi,” Jude said, his face gone pale enough to make his freckles stand out on the bridge of his nose. “But it’s locked now. Both locks.”
The hair on the back of my neck stood up, well, what was left after the reverend had shaved my head back in June. I didn’t have much hair right then but it was standing up. I wanted to run. I wanted to run fast and never stop. I was good at running.
Jude didn’t run much at all, he was all legs and feet and clumsy as a newborn puppy. He’d fall down and skin his knee and we’d be caught. I couldn’t leave him and I couldn’t be afraid. I was all he had. So I didn’t run.
I took the keys out of the pocket of the only pair of pants I had that still fit me. Back in June before I left they’d been too tight, now they were too loose and too short. Strange how that worked. I knew I’d lost weight but I didn’t remember growing taller.
I had two keys on the ring, one for the front door and one for the back door. We were at the back. The back was tricky. The door wouldn’t unlock from the inside and you’d be locked out if it closed behind you. I’d had to crawl through a window more times than I liked to think about.
I looked over at the kitchen window. The one that I usually climbed through was over the sink and sometimes I’d forget to look for dirty dish water and I’d ruin my school shoes. Sammy would cry for an hour after that. And then I’d have new shoes. Well, new to me shoes. She’d tell me she had to work longer hours to get them. But I knew what she really did for them.
The window over the sink was closed too and the chair that I used to get up that high was gone. I gulped back the terror that made me want to run and throw up at the same time. I had to be brave for Jude. Jude didn’t know how afraid I was.
I didn’t want Jude to know.
I fumbled the key trying to put it in the lock but it wouldn’t fit. The locks weren’t the same old rusted color they were supposed to be.
We were locked out and I hadn’t seen Sammy since that night when the reverend had brought me home from camp. I was shaking and I didn’t know what to do.
Sammy had hugged me crying about her baby being home and I wondered where Jude had been while I was gone. She saw what my now too big and too small shirt was supposed to hide. She saw the bruises on my wrists and my face and she lifted up my shirt to stare at the black and purple that I knew she’d see. I flinched when she screamed. Jude came running from his bedroom and I had enough time to grab him before she went out of her fucking mind.
The reverend looked scared when she clawed at his face. I’d never seen him afraid of anything, especially not Sammy. Usually, he’d just slap her if she tried to defy him and that would be the end of that. She was yelling at him calling him a bastard and screaming at him about hurting her baby like he’d hurt her. I was just trying to get Jude and go hide when she threw the frying pan. He called her a crazy bitch and he slammed the door.
Sammy cried harder when he left. Screaming at him not to leave. Screaming that she was sorry. That she hadn’t meant it.
We both knew she meant it. We both knew he was an evil bastard and we would pay.
We were paying now.
Jude and me.
“Let’s go around to the front,” Jude suggested with fake cheer in his voice. He was scared. I could tell. He was still a little kid and he could pretend the world was awesome and everything was perfect just as good as I could but he wasn’t stupid. If anything, Jude was smarter than me. Book wise anyway. There was so much in the world that he didn’t know about.
The reverend was one of those things he didn’t know about…not really. Not the real reverend. Jude still called him daddy. I knew better. I only called that man daddy when he made me. I’d be damned if I’d ever let Jude call him daddy again. I’d be damned if he ever had to call that man daddy out of fear.
“Yeah, okay,” I said even though we weren’t supposed to use the front door. The reverend had made that a rule. We weren’t supposed to be seen out on the front porch unless we were going to church. We had one proper set of clothes each. All nice with brand names in the collars. We had school uniforms. We had hand-me-downs from other kids to wear when we weren’t being shown off at church or at school.
Jude took my hand and we walked around the front and into another world where the flower beds were full of pretty plants and everything was painted and clean. The backyard didn’t even have grass in it anymore. Nobody could see into the backyard. The reverend was all about looking good on the outside. The inside was a different story.
We didn’t have much inside either. The front parlor was full of pretty furniture that we weren’t allowed to use. Anyone looking in through the front window would think we had a nice house. We didn’t. The rest of the house didn’t have much in it at all.
Jude and I shared a room. Our bed was a mattress on the floor. Sammy had a real bed because, well, the reverend sometimes slept there and he liked it to be nice. He also had a small office that none of us were allowed in, not even Sammy. I hated that office. That’s where he liked to do the spankings.
We walked up onto the front porch. I couldn’t stop myself from wincing when the board creaked. I felt like I was trespassing on my own front porch. Jude must have felt the same, he squeezed my hand and I opened the screen door and tried the key I’d never used before.
I didn’t need to tell him it didn’t work.
“Where’s Mama?” he asked and I could hear fear in his voice.
“I don’t know,” I told him even though I knew. Well, I didn’t know exactly where she was, but I knew it would be in one of about three places. “Work I guess.”
We stood there still sticky with dripped ice cream while the sun went low in the sky and the cicadas started to sing. It was still hot. I think I was in shock. I knew what shock felt like. I’d been in shock pretty much most of the summer. Shock and fear were two different things. Shock was when you were too afraid to be afraid anymore and went to this place in your head where nothing could hurt you. I couldn’t find that place right then.
“Want to break a window?” Jude asked while I was trying to make my brain work. “We can climb in the back window and—”
“What are you boys doing up there?” Jude jumped sky-high beside me at the sound of the gruff voice. I think I jumped with him. I turned around and pushed Jude behind me in one motion. I was scared, but I was pissed at myself for letting someone sneak up on me like that.
“We live here,” I called out to the man who was walking up from the piece of junk truck he’d parked on the street. I’d seen him before, he’d come around sometimes with vegetables for Sammy. I just didn’t know who he was. Sammy always ran him off, sometimes without taking the food from him. She’d always seemed afraid of him.
The old man didn’t say another word as he walked up onto the porch and took the keys from me. He pounded on the door when the keys didn’t work and pressed his face to the only open window to peer inside. “I’d call him a son of a bitch but I’d be defaming his mother so I won’t do that.”
I had no idea what the man meant. I could only hear my heart beating in my ears. I was going to grab Jude and we were going to go find Sammy. I’d even walk to that place out River Road if I had to.
“Where’s your Maw?” The old man asked and Jude answered that she was at work. The old man snorted. “Sure she is, kid.”
I hung my head. I knew that he knew what kind of work our mother did. But Jude didn’t know and I didn’t really care right now if Jude knew or not. I was hungry and dirty and my body hurt in ways I couldn’t talk about and I wanted it all to stop. I’d do anything the man asked if he’d just make it all stop.
I felt his fingers under my chin, they were rough and I knew they’d hurt when he took what he wanted. I let him lift my face up and I pushed Jude farther behind me because I’d kill anyone who touched Jude.
“You have your grandmother’s eyes,” the old man said and I felt the first trickle of something wet down my cheek. I didn’t know what it was. Maybe rain on…on the front porch, under a clear sky. “Come on let’s get you two some real food and see if we can find Samantha.”
I went with him, with Jude holding my hand. I didn’t know if I could trust him but I didn’t have anyone else to trust and nowhere to go. At least, Jude would have something to eat tonight. The last can of Beanie Weenies was gone the night before last. Maybe I should have bought something besides ice cream with the two dollars I had left. Maybe I should call the number I had blazed into my memory and promise him whatever he wanted if he’d just come unlock the door.
The old man opened the door of his beat-up old truck and I sat in the middle seat, putting Jude safely against the door. “If you touch him I’ll cut your balls off,” I told him. I meant it. I’d keep Jude from knowing about things he shouldn’t know even if I had to kill someone.
The old man looked at me with a pair of clouded over brown eyes that filled with more anger than I’d ever seen come from one person. I scooted closer to Jude and tried to hide him. I met the man’s stare with one of my own. The same one I showed the reverend after the last time he hit me. I still wore that bruise on my face for defying him. But I got to come home.
“Jesus Christ, kid.” Was all the man said and we drove away from the only home I’d ever known. I heard Jude sniffle and I took his hand.
“I need to get my teddy bear,” Jude said sounding like the little kid that he was. The old man swore again and I tried to pretend it was raining in the truck while we drove out-of-town and into the woods.