Authors: Sigmund Brouwer
Copyright Â© 2007 Sigmund Brouwer
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording or by any information storage and retrieval system now known or to be invented, without permission
in writing from the publisher.
Library and Archives Canada Cataloguing in Publication
Brouwer, Sigmund, 1959-
Cobra strike / written by Sigmund Brouwer.
First published: Red Deer, Alta. : Coolreading.com, 1998.
I. Title. II. Series.
PS8553.R68467C6 2007 jC813'.54 C2006-907044-X
: After discovering tainted water in the creek near his grandmother's cabin in the Kentucky hills, Roy Linden slowly uncovers a connection between his high school team's new star quarterback, his own football future and the source of the pollution.
First published in the United States, 2007
Library of Congress Control Number:
Orca Book Publishers gratefully acknowledges the support for its publishing programs provided by the following agencies: the Government of Canada through the Book Publishing Industry Development Program and the Canada Council for the Arts, and the Province of British Columbia through the BC Arts Council and the Book Publishing Tax Credit.
Cover design: Doug McCaffry
Cover photography: Getty Images
Author photo: Bill Bilsley
, BC C
, WA USA
Printed and bound in Canada.
Printed on 100% PCW recycled paper.
010Â Â Â 09Â Â Â 08Â Â Â 07Â Â Â â¢Â Â Â 4Â Â Â 3Â Â Â 2Â Â Â 1
More Orca Sports novels by Sigmund Brouwer:
When I left the science lab after school on Friday, I had two problems. The first was what I had discovered in the lab. The second was that spending extra time there had made me fifteen minutes late for football practice.
Because of that, I didn't reach the locker room until most of my teammates on the Johnstown Striking Cobras had already changed and gone into the gym. And because
I was the last one out of the locker room, I was the only one to see Glenn Pitt, our assistant coach, grab the wrong can of Pepsi. He had mistakenly reached for the one filled with dark brown chewing tobacco spit.
But I should probably back up a bit to tell the whole story.
When I walked out of the locker room, the high school gym was filled with guys in sweats sprinting back and forth. Between me and those guys, our two football coaches stood in front of a table covered with papers of team plays. The men stood with their backs toward me. Each coach carried a clipboard. Each had a stopwatch. Each was timing the short sprints of the guys in sweats and making notes on his clipboard.
Normally we practiced outside on the football field. But today rain pounded so hard the gym's skylights rumbled like gravel in a clothes dryer. Not even our coachesâwho thought cold and pain and torture were the keys to turning us into menâhad the heart to make us churn through the cold mud in this rain.
Or maybe they just wanted a closer look at all the playersâthis was the last afternoon of tryouts. Old Coach Donaldson wore glasses so thick they made his eyes look like little brown peas floating somewhere deep in an aquarium. If rain streaked those glasses, he became as blind as he was deaf.
But our assistant coach, Glenn Pitt, had perfect eyesight and hearing. He was young, just out of college. He had won bodybuilding competitions, and with his short dark hair and bullet-shaped skull, he could have been a poster boy for the Marines.
Coach Pitt was the complete opposite of Coach Donaldson, who some people joked had started coaching high school football teams before college teams were even invented. Coach Donaldson was certainly no marine. He looked like a giant pear, with a gray bowling-ball-shaped head plunked on top and stilt-like legs sticking out below.
I watched them for a few seconds, wishing I could somehow sneak past Coach Pitt's eagle eyes. Once he noticed I was late, he would yell at me. He liked to yell, especially
at me, because I had a hard time defending myself.
Worse, I would have to tell him why I was late on the last day of tryouts. I knew he'd yell even louder when he learned I'd put science ahead of football. But that part I could handle. The part I couldn't handle was saying the words “Pitt” and “science,” which would give Coach Pitt even more opportunity to yell at me.
So I waited, hoping some miracle would happen to let me get past him unnoticed.
The squeaks of running shoes on the gym floor mixed with grunts and shouts. If only I were already out there with the other guys...
Clipboard in his left hand, Coach Donaldson used his right hand to bring a Pepsi can to his mouth. He squirted a stream of tobacco juice into the can. He almost always had a golf-ball-sized wad of chewing tobacco bulging in his cheek. Outdoors, he just fired tobacco juice onto the grass, and if a player was unlucky enough to slide into it during a tackle, it stuck and smeared across his jersey
like grasshopper guts. Here, indoors, Coach Donaldson had no choice but to spit into a Pepsi can, which was only slightly less gross; it was hard to aim into the can, and much of the juice dribbled down his chin.
A football came wobbling across the floor toward Coach Donaldson's feet. Jim Schenley, our quarterback, had been warming up at the back of the gym andâno surpriseâhe had fired the ball way over the head of his receiver.
Coach Donaldson set his Pepsi can on the table behind him and grabbed the football. It probably broke his heart that the best quarterback he could find for this team had an arm with the accuracy of a broken watch.
Coach Pitt, who had focused his attention on the sprinters directly in front of him, did not notice Coach Donaldson pick up the ball. Or put down his Pepsi can on the table behind him. Trouble was, Coach Pitt had left his own can of Pepsi sitting on the table.
As Coach Donaldson wandered away with the football to talk to Schenley, Coach
Pitt absently reached behind him for his Pepsi. His eyes and attention stayed on the sprinters, however, and his fingers closed around Coach Donaldson's can instead of his own.
He began to lift the can to his mouth, but stopped halfway. A couple of players were laughing at a joke on the other side of the gym.
“Hey, Martins, Taylor,” Coach Pitt yelled, “this is practice. Not a tea party. Drop and give me twenty-five push-ups!”
Coach Pitt grinned in mean delight and loudly counted off the push-ups as Martins and Taylor began. Everyone stopped and stared, glad that Coach Pitt was picking on someone else.
Me? I stared at the Pepsi can in Coach Pitt's hand.
There was my miracle.
His Pepsi must have been close enough to empty that it was the same weight as Coach Donaldson's can of tobacco spit. All I had to do was keep my mouth shut, and Coach Pitt would take a swig of that horrible brown
juice. He'd be so busy gagging that I'd have the perfect chance to get out there among the players without being noticed.
If that wasn't enough reason to keep my mouth shut, there was also the fact that Coach Pitt laughed at me every time I spoke and called me a “b-b-baby.”
I was really tempted to stay where I was and watch.
But I could picture Gram in her rocking chair on the porch, smiling sadly at me for repaying bad with bad.
So I stepped forward.
I tried to call out. In my mind, I heard my words perfectly: No! Coach Pitt, don't drink from that Pepsi can.
But as always, my throat tightened when I tried to speak. It was worse around Coach Pitt because he made me extra nervous.
So what came out was a low whistling squeal that Coach could not hear above his own loud counting.
I had no choice but to tap him on the shoulder.
He spun around.
“What!” he yelled, angry that someone had interrupted him.
His eyes got big when he saw who'd had the nerve to stop him.
“L-l-linden,” he said, his lips curling in joy at the chance to hassle me.
He turned away from me for a second and shouted to the rest of the team.
“Listen up guys, L-l-linden is about to explain to everyone why he's l-l-late.”
The last squeaks of rubber soles on the gym floor stopped. As did all other noise. Most of the guys hate it when Coach teases me, almost as much as I do. But few would dare to speak now and bring his wrath on themselves. It was just me and the huge echoing space of the gymâwith the entire team listening.
My throat got tighter. I hate attention. The great thing about football is that when you play, you can hide your face inside a helmet. And you don't have to talk.
With all eyes on me, I again heard my words clearly in my head. Coach Pitt, you grabbed the wrong Pepsi can.
“C-c-c-c-c...” I almost stomped my foot in the effort to get it out. “C-c-c-c-c...”
I stopped. With everyone staring, I couldn't force the word out.
“Coach,” he said, grinning with delight. “Spit it out, Mr. B-baby Talk. Coach.”
“Coach Pitt...” he said, nodding. I knew some of the guys on the team were squirming for me. Just like most people did whenever I had to talk to them.
“K-k-keep g-g-oing,” he said. “You c-c-can do it.”
His eyes gleamed. I was his favorite target.
“Y-y-you gr-gr-gr-gr-gr-gr...” I said. Most of the time when I get stuck on a word, I search for a different one that's easier to say. But with his big mean grin on me, I felt frozen like a frog in a flashlight beam.
He laughed again. And waved me quiet.
“We d-d-d-on't have all n-n-night,” Coach Pitt said loudly so everyone could hear. “Hit the floor and g-g-give me a hundred p-p-p-push-ups.”
I pointed at the can of Pepsi in his hand.
“Down, Linden!” he yelled with sudden rage. “Now!”
With a nasty grin of triumph, he tilted his head back and sucked in a big gulp from the Pepsi can. And instead of cool, refreshing Pepsi, he swallowed warm horrible slime.
I saw it first in his eyes. They instantly popped wide-open in disbelief.
He dropped the can and clutched his throat.
“L-like I was tr-rying to say,” I explained. Words came out easier now that I didn't feel the pressure. “You gr-r-rabbed the c-can with t-t-obacco juice.”