Story:Callum in the Rye (Part 1)

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Callum in the Rye (Part 1)
Written by Rourkie

October 28, 2020 – Sydney, Australia – Texas Lone Stars at Albany Alphas

"Personal Foul… Callum Williamson."

The announcement echoed across the stadium, drawing boos from the crowd as Callum drew his sixth personal foul for the evening.

"What??" The wallaby, and the rest of his team, looked flabbergasted. "He pushed me! What the hell, ref, you've been riding my ass all night!" The marsupial felt his blood boiling, struggling to keep his cool. Several of the calls had been questionable at best, but the referee had always called them in

"Get out of here before I make it a technical," the dingo in the striped black and white shirt hissed back at the wallaby, just loud enough for the wallaby to hear, before turning his back to address the stadium staff. Cries of displeasure came from the crowd as Callum stormed off, their local rising star no longer allowed to play in the rest of the exhibition game in his hometown.

"This is not how today was supposed to go."

Earlier, his best friend had been carted off the floor after injuring himself. Callum had been looking forward to at least getting to play with Berty, even if they were on opposite teams, but he had even been denied that before the half was even over.

"Arrrghh… I HATE THIS CITY!"

No one was in the tunnel to hear him yell, and the din of the game restarting covered up any of the sound that might have echoed back toward the stadium as the slammed the door to the locker room open. The wallaby punched a nearby locker in frustration, denting it slightly.

"What the hell, I wasn't even playing that aggressively…" He said to himself as he sighed and leaned his head against the locker door, taking a moment to collect his thoughts as he fought the tears that started to spring from his eyes.

---

December 2, 2006 – Melbourne, Australia

The young wallaby lay prone on the cafeteria floor. A tray of food was splattered across the linoleum and the wallaby's school uniform. A badger, two years older, towered over the wallaby, leading the chorus of laughter that echoed through the halls of the cafeteria. The wallaby slowly stood up, then without warning, bull-rushed the badger into a nearby table.

The two started throwing punches, and the wallaby, although shorter, was stockier, and had no issues keeping the badger down until the faculty separated the pair.

"Who started this?" the lunch monitor demanded, as several people pointed at the wallaby.

"What?? He pushed me!" the wallaby opined upon being forcibly removed from the cafeteria to be brought to the Headmaster's Office. "You would have seen that if you had been doing your job!"

"That's quite enough out of you, Williamson. One more incident and you shall be expelled from Smithfield Primary. It's obvious that you… just don't fit the mold."

"I didn't ever want to fit the mold of this crummy school, all of you are… are… ROBOTS IN THE CORPORATE COG!"

"Williamson, I said that is quite enough! You are far too young to even know what that means. I warned you, no more fights… why must everything you do be so difficult?"

"I told you, it's not my fault!" The wallaby pleaded, struggling, before biting down on the administrator's wrist to escape.

"That's it, the last straw! I don't care how much money your father paid to convince us to enroll you, you are expelled from Smithfield, and I will see to it personally that no other boarding school In Australia will ever accept you as a student."

---

August 14, 2014 – Schenectady, NY – Baltimore Highland Preparatory at Oscar Pendleton Academy

"Personal Foul… Williamson."

The announcement echoed across the gymnasium, drawing boos from the crowd. It was the semi-finals, and Oscar Pendleton Academy had been slated to sweep the championship bracket for the summer league once again.

"What??" The wallaby looked flabbergasted. "He pushed me!"

"Callie, let it go." An ocelot glanced over as her teammate threatened to storm the referee. "It's not that big a deal."

"It's a huge deal, Leo! I'm not going to be blamed for something I didn't do!"

"It was a bad call, they happen sometimes. Don't let it get the best of you. Come on, let's go."

"Well, I'm going to shove it so far up that ref's ass that…"

"HEY! Williamson. Bench. NOW." The wallaby turned to see Pendleton's coach looking extremely upset and finally, begrudgingly, sat down on the bench, spending the rest of the game on the sideline.

After the game was over, and Pendleton barely eeked a win, the wallaby was asked to wait in the coach's office until everyone else had left.

"Williamson, I'll cut to the chase. I don't care what happens on the court, but from here on out, it is sacred ground, and the referees are its priests. No cussing, no arguing, no nothing. Do you understand me?"

"But I—"

"No. I let you onto this team because you begged me to give you a chance. And while you're definitely good, you still have a hell of a lot to learn about teamwork, and what it means to wear that Pendleton jersey, in the summer league or in the regulation season, you represent your team and your school."

"Yes, Coach."

"And the last time we spoke about this you promised me you would handle yourself with decorum, and grace. And that you understood that if you did not, there would be consequences to your behavior."

"What was I supposed to do, the ref wasn't paying atten—"

"Williamson! It doesn't matter what the referee was doing or what they saw. I care about winning, yes, but I care more about how this team upholds that tradition of excellence and represents this school as its shining beacon, garnering respect and instilling confidence in everyone else around them. You still need to learn that, don't you?"

The wallaby mumbled an affirmation.

"What was that, Williamson?"

"I said yes, coach."

"As such… you will not be playing in next week's game."

"But it's the championships, you can't jus—"

"Williamson, this is not negotiable. I need you to watch how your teammates play under pressure, and how they handle themselves, even if things don't necessarily go their way. If you're going to be starting for me in the fall, I need you to learn from them."

"If I'm going to— wait, you want me to be a starter? As a junior? I'm not even on the team yet."

"Yes, but you need to get your temper under control. I applaud your passion, but you need to temper it. Show me that you want this. You will start, so long as you behave. Slip up, and you're on the bench and will have to re-earn your spot. Slip up again, and you're off the team, completely. Do I make myself clear?"

The wallaby stared, slack-jawed at the offer.

"I asked you, do I make myself clear?"

"Y-yes, Coach. Crystal clear."

The older woman smiled.

"Good. Keep up that attitude, and before your know it, every team in the FBA will be wanting to sign you,—"

---

"—Williamson." The wallaby trembled as a familiar voice broke the silence of what should have been an empty locker room. The man's voice was soft in volume, but it commanded presence, as if always on the edge of restraint, and it filled the room, no matter how loud or quiet its owner spoke. It sent shivers down the marsupial's spine. "You never could ever control your temper, could you? It's a shame everyone had to see that."

"You… why are you here? You can't be here."

"Now, now, dear child. I pulled a lot of strings to arrange for this private time with you. Do you really think you could come this close to home and not visit your father?"

Callum turned very slowly to face the other person in the room. A wallaby in a designer business suit stood at the other end of the locker room, where he had been watching the game on the locker room monitor. Although he was thicker in the waist and taller in height than Callum, the family resemblance was unmistakable. Salt-and-pepper hair and crow's feet around the eyes completed the look, as years of difficult decisions stained a permanent weariness on his face, only counteracted by his still very sharp, very shrewd eyes.

"What do you mean arranged—?" The older man swished his tail in annoyance at the glare the younger marsupial gave him before understanding dawned on Callum's face. "The referee—you paid him off, didn't you? That's why he was so hard on me."

"I'm afraid I don't know what you're talking about," the older marsupial lied, indignantly. "I just wanted to catch up with my child."

"I'm not your child, not anymore."

"Well, I can certainly see that. No child of mine would sport blue hair… or whatever else is happening to you here. But… that can all be changed back I'm sure. Come back home, and forget this silly dream. You had your fun in college, and you even got to play in the Olympics, didn't you? Though, clearly that was a sham, considering they even let you on the team. No wonder they did so poorly."

"I have become a professional basketball player—"

"—and now it's time to come back. Your mother misses you. I do too. We need to have our daughter back, Calliope. Come home."


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Callum Williamson

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