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Short Story:
Tactical Deployment

Initial Engagement

“Hey, blowjob! Pussy little fairy!”

“Yo, guys, look at the fat queer. You just want to suck my dick don't you?”

A weasely, wiry, short little punk shoved Paul. Two bigger guys backed him up. They were all dressed in baggy jeans and wearing red dew caps.

Second week of school. This scavenger pack had cut Paul out of a crowd of students and cornered him in a sheltered corner of the schoolyard. They closed in for the kill. The weasel-boy walked towards him, “We don't like pussy little faggots like you in our bathrooms giving blow jobs to everyone. We're going to show you what we do to fags in this school!”

Paul Foster was not queer. But he knew nothing he could say would help. He was going to get beat up. Again. There is always someone who wanted to pick on him to make them feel good about themselves. He had no protection. An overweight, uncoordinated Junior in a brand new high school. Dead meat. Damn his stupid father for losing another job and forcing the family to move from Marin to the butt hole of Creation, Cambridge, California.

He turned to run, but a gorilla-shaped blond guy who hadn't said a word jumped on him and knocked him over, and then the other two started kicking him. The first kick cut open his forehead. Gravel scratched his cheeks as he tried to protect his head from the waffle stompers. He curled up tight but his ribs and kidneys still got hurt pretty bad.

The kicks suddenly stopped. He heard footsteps running off. He opened one swollen eye to see a shiny brown leather shoe in front of him. Looking up the creased wool pant leg he saw the worried face of an adult looking down at him.

“What's going on here?” Must be a teacher, some old guy Paul didn't recognize. The man reached down and helped Paul get up. “Someone's beaten you. You need to report this. Come with me to Mr. Dempsey's office and then we need to see the school nurse.”

God, this guy was totally dense. Rat on a punk? The road to serious harm. Paul knew better. He needed to deal with this himself. Adults would only royally fuck things up.

Paul put on his sincere tone, “I'll go to the vice principal after my first period, but I'm late for class and I've got to run. Thanks for your help, sir.” He split before the old guy could make things worse.

In the boys room he brushed the dirt and sand off his face and washed off the blood. He wouldn't let himself cry. Now was no time for that crap. He knew this was only the first bloodletting. The next two years of high school were going to be hell unless he found reinforcements. This was a just another military problem.

After school he drove out to the rocky bluffs overlooking the ocean. He climbed to the top of a steep hill, and sat with his back to the setting orange sun. He usually hated physical exercise, but this afternoon he needed to be alone.

He looked out over the battlefield. From where he sat in the spiny grass he could see the high school, and the whole town of Cambridge splashed across the hills in front of him. He traced the string of lights along Auto Row that connected the Mall with the Westin Hotel and Conference Center. From the hotel he looked north, trying to find the crisscross of streets in the bankrupt development where he now lived.

He had checked this town out on the web when he found out they had to move here from their elegant Colonial home in Ross. Cambridge had always sucked. It was a dying farming town, with no hope of a tourist industry because it had cliffs instead of beaches. In the Silicon Boom of the 90's Highway 92 had been widened. Cambridge exploded into a Mecca for dot-comers. They loved to drive two hours in their BMW's so they could say they lived near the ocean. The planning commission was in the pocket of the developers so that “secure gated communities” like Edgewood Estates and Wild Mountain Ridge devoured local hillsides.

When tech stocks dived most of these went belly up, and the homeowners were on their own. Houses that went for $450,000 three years earlier languished on the market at $300,000, as the sewer lines failed and the streets began to crack from disrepair.

Cambridge was a perfect shore for his alcoholic father to wash up on. Dad could buy a 4,000 square foot shell of a house and keep pretending that he was still successful.

Paul was stuck here for two more years. And he wasn't going to live in fear. Somehow he needed to recruit some muscle. He drove home no closer to a solution.

As Paul walked into the house he could hear the excited hype of the commentators on Monday Night Football. The Rams were playing. His Dad didn't even look up. Mom wasn't home, as usual.

As Paul went past the den he glanced at the screen. It was a scene he had ignored many times, but this time he stopped, and stared at the 63” Plasma screen. Here were twenty-two of the biggest men in the world. Bodyguards! For the first time in his life he walked in and sat down next to his father. Paul watched the screen with ferocious concentration.

Assembling the Troops

Paul avoided the Weasel Boys for two weeks, hiding himself in large groups of people whenever he spotted one of them. Meanwhile, he took every book out of the school library on football, as well as last year's yearbook. He went on Amazon.com to find more detailed texts for professional and high school football coaches. He paid extra for overnight delivery. He spent study halls, detention hall, and every other spare minute reading savagely.

Thursday was the day of the theft. He hung around after school. He watched as a crowd of boys headed for the lockers. A few minutes later they emerged all suited up and heading for the field. Finally a husky man with a clipboard showed up, and began reading names. This was the head coach, Mr. Raskin.

Paul waited until the coach was engrossed in sending players off to run, or smack into each other, or whatever players did in practice. Then he walked into the gym, and down the hall to Raskin's office. Paul stopped in front of the door and looked around. He was alone, and the door was open. Good, so far. He slipped inside and closed the door behind him.

The walls of the office were covered with pennants and team pictures. On the shelves behind Raskin's desk, were rows of video tapes. As Paul approached he saw that each was carefully labeled. They were the football game tapes from the high school team from the past ten years. This was no surprise. He had spotted them on his reconnaissance of the PE department, last week.

Paul was getting very nervous now. He wiped the sweat off his forehead and grabbed the last three tapes on the bottom shelf, without reading the labels. He shoved the bookend over so the tapes stood straight, with no gap. No one should notice.

He stuffed the tapes into his backpack and headed for the door. Just then, outside he heard a couple of boys laughing. He froze, and stood there praying. He couldn't afford to get caught now. He had no cover story. He waited until the halls sounded silent once more, and then carefully cracked open the door. No one was in sight.

He scampered out of the office then talked to himself as he struggled to walk slowly down the hall and not flee down it in panic. “Look like you belong here, Paul. No sweat, no hurry. You're just strolling towards the exit.”

When he closed the gym doors behind him he sighed, and headed for the student parking lot. He waited until getting in the car before opening his stash. Excellent: tapes from all of last years games. He was set for Phase Two.

It was a perfect weekend for Paul's marathon. Mom and Dad were in San Diego for a Raider's game, and he had the place to himself. He sat in front of the big screen with his laptop in front of him. He loaded up Playmaker Pro 4.0 for diagramming the plays. He used the Player Profiles in Assistant Football Coach 98 to track the performance of the team members. He had created a list from last year's Yearbook and he concentrated on last year's Juniors and Sophomores. They were going to be the varsity players this year.

He loaded the first tape, Game three of last year's varsity squad. The entire game was shot from the observation platform. No fancy close-ups or instant replays here; just one long static shot of the field, with little mouse-like players scurrying all over it. He rewound and replayed each play until he could diagram the offensive play, or the defensive set of the Cambridge team. It was exhausting and intensely challenging.

When he heard the car driving up late Sunday evening, he looked around the den at a mound of pizza cartons, and empty liter bottles of Coke. He was red eyed, worn out, and ready.

Monday morning before his first class he walked into Raskin's office. The coach had only partially shaved, and had dark circles under his eyes. He looked as hung over as Paul did. “What?” he growled.

Paul spoke quickly, “Give me ten minutes of your time today and I will guarantee that you will go to the State playoffs.”

The coach was not impressed, “Kid, leave me alone. I don't know what your game is, but I'm a little under the weather right now. Please go away.”

For the first time Paul was got scared that this strategy might not work. It had to! One last try; “You know your strong side off tackle running play? Just before John Baxter pulls out of the offensive line he double sets. The Fremont defense spotted that and got a sack and a fumble in last year's playoff game. Give me ten minutes, that all I ask.”

The coach's eyes started to clear. He looked a little intrigued. “What's your name, kid?”

“Paul Foster, sir.”

“Come back at noon, Paul. Ten minutes, and that's it.”

“OK! Yes, sir.” Paul exited smiling.

When he walked back into the office at lunchtime Raskin looked very peeved. The first thing he said was, “Give me back my game tapes.” Paul reached into his backpack and handed them over. Raskin looked at his watch and said, “You've got ten minutes, Mr. Foster, to convince me not to send to the vice-principals office for theft.”

Paul reached back into his pack and pulled out a three ring binder. “Here is last year's playbook as best as I could figure it out. In the back is a Player Profile on each Junior and Sophomore player who played last year, with his strengths and weaknesses. Read it and tell me if I am I right.”

Mr. Raskin looked through the sheets. Nothing showed on his face. When he was through he looked up, “So?”

Paul then handed over four additional sheets of paper. “Here are four plays you can use in your next game with Pacifica. Unless they have changed a lot from last year they have a weak defensive secondary on the left side. These plays take advantage of Well's arm and Frankin at strong side end.”

Raskin looked carefully at each sheet. There was a long silence. Then he looked at Paul, very closely. “Franklin's playing tail back this year, but we've got a sophomore with great hands. These might work. What do you want?”

“I want to be your scout. I want to go to the games of the team you will be playing next, and find out how to beat them. I want to be your secret weapon.”


Raskin was hooked. Instead of answering that stupid question Paul asked, “Are you interested?” “You're on. Come to practice this afternoon and I will introduce you to the team. For your own safety you might not want to share that information about their weaknesses with them.” For the first time Raskin smiled.

“Sir, that information is for your eyes only. Thank you.”

Paul walked out grinning. He was almost through.


The introduction Mr. Raskin gave him to the team couldn't have gone better. Raskin gave him credit for his new play, the sprint-draw pass. The guys like the idea of him spying on the competition. Best of all the quarterback, Jimmy Washington blurted out, “Hey, we have our own triple X agent now.” “Triple X” immediately became his nickname.

What Paul wanted was permanent deterrence. Vengeance would have been more fun, but in the long run it was unreliable. The pack would just get vicious and anonymous if they were seriously humiliated. That was why he had left adult punishment out of the picture. Any punishment would not work. He needed to strike the right balance between fear and respect.

The rest was just a matter of timing. He knew where the Weasels hung out. It was where he got beat up; a corner of the school well screened from teacher's reconnaissance. Luckily it was also on the path from the gym to the practice field. He waited after school, until bunch of his troops came out of the locker room behind him, suited up and headed for practice. Then he ‘wandered' into the target zone.

Blondie, the gorilla who had tackled him last time, spotted him first,” Look it's the fag. What's a matter butt sniff? Didn't we tell you to get the fuck off our schoolyard?”

Then the weasely one chimed in, “Guess it's time for lesson number two, isn't it boys?” They started prowling towards him. He waited silently as they closed around him. “You won't be coming back from this one fag!” the weasel hissed.

“What the fuck are you assholes doing?” It was Jimmy Washington, the leader of his Praetorian guard. Nine big guys in full football regalia shifted their trajectory towards Paul. Jimmy, walking ahead of the others continued, ”Leave Triple X alone, He's our man. You little punks want your asses kicked?”

Paul saw the delicious sight of deep fear in the wide eyes of the gang. They were seriously outgunned. Now was the moment he had worked three weeks for. He said, “It's cool, Jimmy. These guys weren't bothering me. Let's go on down to practice.” As he diverted his squad away from his tormentors he turned and said, “See you guys around” to the relieved and confused faces of the leather-clad slimes. They said nothing. Now, they would look elsewhere for prey. Target Weasel was neutralized, at least for football season.

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