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the games people play
american gothic redux chapter 15
by robert a. melos

Emma Danzig stood at the gymnasium door greeting parents and students attending the game. She kept glancing across the floor toward Emily Dickersen and the cheerleaders. As always, she thought the cheers were too provocative and the cheerleaders too scantily clad for high school girls. She already knew Principal McCarrick approved of the cheerleaders and their gyrations by the way he leered at them whenever he was around, so complaining would do no good. Nor would pulling rank on Emily at this point, she thought.

Emma was biding her time, waiting for the right moment to pull the rug out from under either Emily Dickersen or Tony Phillips. She hadn’t yet decided which one she was going to fire, and both had been sucking up to her so nicely. She truly enjoyed having both Emily and Tony toadying to her every whim. She smiled to herself at the recent memory of Tony Phillips running to get her tea with her lunch the other day and Emily practically tackling Tony to beat him to the cafeteria.

Oh I do so enjoy the power, she thought. But like all good things, her lording it over those two would be coming to an end soon enough. She had to make a decision as to which one to let go, and present it to the school board before budget meetings in a month. She looked across the floor toward Tony Phillips. He did cut a dashing figure in his suit and tie, all dressed as a serious coach, but looks faded, and if she did decide to keep him on, she wondered, could she keep him under her thumb as well?

A clearing throat brought her back to the present, and Joy Wong thrusting a ticket at her. “Joy, how nice of you to come out and support your daughter today,” Emma said, adding, “You usually don’t show up for any school functions, just like when you were in school.”

“Oh Miss Danzig, when will you be retiring?”

Emma was caught off guard by the question. “Not for some time yet.”

“Really? I would’ve thought you’d be eligible by now?”

“Enjoy the game, dear. You do know you watch games from on top of the bleachers, not under them like you used to do when you were a student.” Emma jabbed.

“Oh Miss Danzig,” Joy parried, “I never watched the games.” She took her ticket stub and neatly tucked it into her purse.

Emma took a ticket from the next person in line and glared at Joy as she walked away. Still a bitch, she thought.

Joy could feel Emma’s stare as she walked across the gym to the bleachers. Still a bitch, she thought. She caught sight of Toby Wilmont and waved. “Toby, hello darlin’.”

Toby smiled at his old high school friend. “Darlin’ you look fabulous. Being married to money agrees with you. Oh, I’d like you to meet Lola, Chuck Crawford’s partner.”

Joy’s eyes sparkled as she perused Lola, in a slimming royal blue silk dress with Chinese style collar, and matching purse and shoes, and a red straight hair styled wig. “Well it’s about time,” she said. “I’m Jo’s business partner, the Joy half of Jo-Joy Realty.”

“Oh, of course. Chuck did mention his sister was a Realtor.”

“I’ll bet you gave Floyd a heart attack when he met you.”

Lola smiled. “I was so nervous he almost gave me one.”

“Yeah, he has a way about him.”

“You can say that again,” Toby huffed. “Let’s grab some good seats.”

“Yeah, I want to dish with Lola all about Chuck. I had the biggest crush on him when I was a kid. Of course I didn’t know he had a crush on Toby here. Half the girls in our high school class had a crush on your Chuck. Boy were they shocked, and heartbroken when we found out he was gay.” Joy babbled away.

“That didn’t stop you from throwing yourself at the rest of the basketball team,” Toby interjected.

“Claws in, sweetheart, this is girl talk.”

“Drawing distinctions?” Toby asked with a rye smirk. “How is ‘some young guy’?”

“Ha ha, very funny. Billy’s great. He’s in Tokyo. So tell me how you met Chuck?”

Todd looked across the gym to the bleachers and elbowed Scott. “Hey isn’t that your uncle in the bleachers?”

Scott followed his stare. “Yeah, that’s Uncle Toby.”

“Who’s the babe with him?”

Scott looked again. “Dude, that’s your girlfriend’s mom.”

“Not Mrs. Wong. The other babe.” Todd corrected Scott.

Now Scott’s eyes widened. He looked at Todd with a broad grin and called a couple of his teammates over to join them. “Todd you really think that woman with my uncle is a babe?”

Todd nodded. “Man, she’s prime.”

Scott looked back at his teammates with a smirk. “What do you guys think?”

The boys all looked across the gym and agreed with Todd’s assessment of Lola. Scott let out a small whoop. “I got you guys. You all said it. That’s my step mom.”

“Huh?” Todd asked, shock on his face. “You mean?”

Scott nodded his head while smirking. “Uh huh.”

“What?” One of his teammate’s asked.

Another teammate leaned over and whispered something in his ear. “Damn! Really?” the boy exclaimed. “He’s hotter looking than most of the girls I date.”

“Don’t get any ideas,” Scott said. “He’s spoken for, and my dad was a football player.”

“It’s cool. I just can’t get over the fact that’s a guy,” one of the boys said.

“He is,” said Scott. “So lay off.”

“Sure dude. Whatever.”

Todd glanced back toward Lola once again before turning back to his teammates. “Hey, let’s win this game for Scott’s grandmother. You all know she’s sick. So let’s dedicate this game to her and win it.”

“Thanks man,” said Scott as they headed back into the locker room to make their big entrance.

Tony Phillips watched his team exchanging their usual camaraderie with pride. Tom Richmond may have been the one to teach the team for several years, but he, Tony Phillips, was the one who got them to carry on the teaching of Tom Richmond, and he was going to be the one Emma Danzig would have to choose to remain a teacher at Taft. He didn’t like the idea of forcing Emily Dickersen out of a job, but in a world where it was eat or be eaten, he was choosing to be a carnivore.

Glancing back at the crowd he saw a familiar face. Suddenly he felt there were more important things than being a teacher. His entire life was sudden at risk. He knew the person he saw was friendly. Too friendly, perhaps, but then sometimes there are reasons to need friendship, and the money that comes with it.

What, he wondered, was he doing here? What was he doing with Amber’s mother? Who was that other woman with him? Did he seek him out? Would he want him to do more videos? Worse yet, he wondered, would he need the money the man offered if Emma Danzig didn’t choose him over Emily Dickersen?

He looked at the people in the gymnasium, and wondered how they would judge him if they knew the things he’d done or the thoughts in his mind, the fact he, deep in his heart, felt no shame or remorse for the things he had done? He wondered what his team would think of him? He knew most of them wouldn’t care, or would probably have done the same or would do the same within the next few years if presented with the opportunity.

Why do I care what others think of me, he thought, am I that shallow? He shook his head and turned to follow his team into the locker room and prepare for a grand entrance to a cheering crowd for a home game. Did he really fear the repercussions of his actions, or did he secretly hope for exposure to free himself of his own hypocrisy?

American Gothic Redux
Selfish Prayers
Stairway to Heaven
Out of Sorrow Comes Joy
Sunday Dinner
Chuck and Lola
Grandfatherly Advice
Met a Pieman
Dead of Night
The Lady and the Transvestite
Morning Rituals
Family Reunion
Hell Is For Children


Robert is the author of the novels Cool Mint Blue, Melba Ridge, and the recently released The Adventures of Homosexual Man and Lesbian Lad; and the creator of the on-line comix Impure Thoughts found at his web site Inside R.A. Melos, as well as having been an on-line staff writer for QBliss where he had a monthly humor column, Maybe A Yip, Maybe A Yap. In his non-writing time, when he's not studying the metaphysical or creating a tarot deck, he sells real estate in Middlesex County New Jersey, hangs out with his dog Zeus, and spends time at the Pride Center of New Jersey in Highland Park, NJ, where he is on the Board of Trustees.

more about robert a. melos


ode to a waitress
by robert a. melos
topic: writing
published: 4.18.04

american gothic redux: out of sorrow comes joy
by robert a. melos
topic: writing
published: 6.22.03


juli mccarthy
8.5.05 @ 12:12p

I haven't commented on too many of these stories, Robert, but I do have to say I enjoy each and every one of them. I love the way you "chain" from character to character, each chapter tying up one loose end from the last and leaving an open link to the next.

robert melos
8.6.05 @ 3:26a

Thank you. Obviously this is a loose connection, that will eventually be worked into a novel. I feel this is sort of a way of offering public viewing of work in progress. This series is something I've actually tailored specifically to Intrepid Media. For instance, oone of the first "chapters" was critiqued and a bit of advice was that that particular "Chapter" was on the long side for this forum, so I've tailored these down more to individual moments instead of drawing them out too much.

My novel, Melba ridge is somewhat similar to this series, in the plot twists and character development.

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