Written by Mitch & KitCoon
Tuesday, August 25, 2020
The jetlag was real. Or unreal. Or possibly both real and unreal at the same time, depending on how Adge Martin’s mind perceived it. In any case, his sleep had been terrible, and he didn’t understand what the numbers on his phone clock even meant when he glanced at them each time he woke up in the middle of the night. Twice he didn’t even know where he was. All he did know is that he wasn’t in Tokyo anymore, having just made the flight from there, to New York, and connected to Boston, before a shuttle bus ride to Plymouth, Massachusetts.
From the Olympics, directly to the FBA rookie combine. The transition was brutal, and the big hare felt every bit of its effects. Still, as dawn began to glow through his hotel window, Adge grumbled and groaned, before hauling himself out of his king-sized bed, and stumbled to the bathroom.
A hot shower later, reality began to come into focus, and he called down to the front desk to see if the laundry he’d dropped off the night before was done. Not yet. A check of his schedule on his phone had him starting with a trainer in less than half an hour. With a sigh, he donned his workout gear from Team GB, hoping it wouldn’t send the wrong signal. To advertise that he was an Olympian fas far from the goal, as that would be a show of hubris uncharacteristic of the hare. But, working out required the right gear, and the rest of his generic gymwear was still with the hotel laundry, so Olympic duds it was. Wolfing down a protein bar from his gym bag, then heading down for some eggs and sausage, the hare washed it down with a glass of orange juice before his trainer pinged him.
He’d never met her before, a gray wolf, and Boston native, she had been selected by his agent to help keep him on track, and keep him developing through the entirety of the combine. While other athletes might get one or two workouts in a day, he would get two or three. While they would primarily be limited to the coaching staff on site, she would oversee his own extra drills, and call out any flaws.
And she was a taskmaster!
Adge learned the hard way as the day opened with an hour’s run, followed by high-impact cardio. Any junk food he’d eaten in Tokyo didn’t stand a chance as the hare felt every part of him burning once he was allowed to return to the hotel for a break. Another shower, and his laundry had been returned by the time he finished a short nap. Then it was time to hit the practice court, where he busted his ass to every drill in the book, for as long as he could manage.
At Elion University, his training staff had been keen, but this trainer called out flaws immediately, forcing him to address them before continuing. The stress turned to anger, and while some might have let that become rage to drive themselves, Adge remembered why he was there, and why she was there with him, and bit his anger back. Anger had no place on a court, as it led to mistakes, sloppy play, and poor decisions. No, he had to be a proper Englishman, and bottle it all up, never letting others see it, and focus upon his game. Bottle it up, keep it hidden, and release it only when it couldn’t be borne any longer. It was the English way.
His trainer’s way kept him on the court until early afternoon, where she could see he was beat.
“Good,” she said. “We start again tomorrow morning, same time. Then you’ll do your scheduled events, and after that we’ll train again. And if you’re late, I’ll work you harder, got it?”
Panting, his broad chest heaving for breath, and his practice jersey soaked through with sweat, Adge nodded. “Yes, ma’am.”
“Dismissed. And get some good rest, tonight. You’re gonna need it.”
All Adge could do was nod, too exhausted to argue. Not that he wanted to argue, as she did exactly what she was supposed to - push him to his limits, and refine his edge once he found it. Dropping onto a bench, the hare took a few minutes to catch his breath, before picking up his gym bag and heading back to the hotel.
Within (a not terribly reasonable) walking distance, Adge made his way back on foot, to find the hotel lobby vastly more full than when he left it. A few familiar faces, and others he sure were there for the combine as well. Nodding hello to a few, he saw a big cat, some sort of hybrid, near the desk, a guitar case in one paw. Too tall to be an average musician, the hare stepped up to greet him, as he played a bit of guitar, himself.
Sebastian Ciappara, the big cat introduced himself as. Adge wasn’t familiar with the name, but didn’t let that stop a hearty pawshake from being exchange, and soon talk turned to the guitar. A gorgeous, seafoam green Fender, Sebastian offered to let Adge give it a try, yet the hare politely declined for the moment, not wishing to get sweaty finger smudges all over such a fine instrument. As they were chatting, a face familiar from Tweeter showed up - Zack Cooper, the beaver who had offered to help Adge pick out a new laptop. Whether or not he was actually serious, Adge didn’t know, but it was nice to meet him in person.
As the offer seemed to stand, Adge let he and Sebastian finish checking in while he dashed upstairs for his third shower of the day, returning in a simple tee shirt and shorts. Zack was there waiting for him, and as they were ready to go, two wolves and a deer arrived, howling in unison. Adge said nothing, merely cocking an eyebrow in slight annoyance, and the pair were off to the parking lot.
“Ah really ‘preciate it, mate,” the hare said as he and Zack headed away from the chaos of the hotel lobby. “Moy flatmates are ‘e computer experts, Ah jes’ knows ‘ow t’ use ‘em. But, moy phone didn’ quoite cut it in Tokyo, so Ah reckon’ Ah better get summart fer ‘e comboine. An’... Blimey, is ‘at ‘ee car?” Zack blushed as they walked up to the Agouti ‘surprise’ his father had set up, nervously rubbing the back of his head again, “Well, my rental, anyway. My dad...is being supportive. And a bit over the top, as he is. I wasn’t really wanting to make a grand entrance and play into all the Ivy League boy stereotypes.” He shook his head, “Ah well. It’s an awesome car, no reason not to enjoy it!”
He popped the lock and climbed in, gesturing to the passenger side. A couple button presses and the car was booting not unlike the computers the two draftees were discussing, “So...what kind of computer are you looking for? OMEN pretty much makes anything you could need, unless you want something really specialized.”
Monetarily, Age started to walk to the wrong side of the car, being used to having the passenger seat on the right. It would take him some time to remember that Americans drove on both the wrong side of the road, and the wrong side of the car. Climbing into the correct seat after altering his course, he buckled in, then looked around the gorgeous, and likely very expensive, automobile.
“Moight be a bit of ‘e let-down, but Ah mostly jes’ need a laptop what’ll do ‘e basics. Maybe play a game or two. Need it fer readin’ ‘e technical reports we gets, ‘n video conference, ‘n watchin’ back footage ‘n ‘e loike.” He fished his oPhone 6 out of his pocket. “This little feller just ain’t cuttin’ it, fer all ‘at, moind.”
Zack managed to hide his wince at the sight of the phone...mostly. A six...that’s...about five generations old. Oof. “Yeah...I’d imagine it’s struggling. Most phones are made to encourage upgrades every two years. And by ‘encourage’ I mean they turn basically unusable. That one’s lasted you a while, looks like. And don’t stress - I’m not taking you out to try and convince you to buy a gee whiz machine unless that’s what you want. Not working on commission here or anything.”
A few quick taps and they’re driving to what Yawp rates as the best tech store in Plymouth. “Good news is pretty much anything off the shelf’ll do what you need. Just need to make sure it has a webcam for the conferencing, but they basically all do any more. They’ll have phone upgrades too, if you want to have a look. Not judging, but yours looks on its last legs. I’d hate to see it die on you during the combine.”
Adge tried not to take it personally when the subject of his phone was brought up. Yes, it was old, it was slow, the battery life was less than half of what it used to be, it didn’t hold enough, and the reason for his tacky Union Jack rubber case was to hide the shattered back panel. But phones cost money. A lot of money, and until two days ago, it was money he didn’t have. Now, it was money he was borrowing, which made things worse, in a way, but he was loathe to admit that.
“Ah… Ah s’pose Ah could look at upgrades. Jes’ tryin not t’ spend more ‘n Ah ‘ave to, since Ah ain’t got no paycheck comin’ in, no more,” he replied. There, it was tactful enough, without giving away his situation. “But it’d ‘ave t’ work wit’ moy SIM Ah got fer ‘e month, as Ah don’t need no contract or ‘e loike, as it tent no guarantee Ah’ll make it in ‘e draft.”
At least a laptop he could use for work. Actual work. The sort of work that his flatmate, Lee, could get him at the bank he worked at. Boring work in line with his accounting degree.
Zack nodded, having caught more of what was going on than Adge would be comfortable with, but tactful enough not to say more. “That’s fair. But hey...as folks keep reminding me, you wouldn’t be here if you weren’t one of the best out there, heck, you were just playing in the Olympics! You’ll be on a team soon enough...with the paycheck to back it up. I mean, you already have an agent - you really think they’d pick you up if they didn’t think you had a decent shot?”
“And if the phone upgrade worries you right now then don’t stress - I just don’t want you cut off from home if something goes haywire. Worst case though, I think I packed a spare”, he blushed and tried to shrug off his own embarrassment, “always the scout, I guess.”
The beaver looked out the window, seeing a sign for their destination and glad for the distraction from him having stuck his paw in my mouth. “Looks like we’re here. Let’s see what they have?”
Scouts. That element jogged Adge’s memory about Zack, and suddenly being prepared enough to have a backup phone made sense. As they entered the store, Adge was reminded that when America did something, they did it in a huge way. Easily four times the size of what he’d find in England, the electronics store seemed to sprawl on forever, with every display trying to out-do the next one in terms of modern style, slick, minimal graphics, and LED lighting. It was the kind of place that would surely get Adge in trouble, if he did ever get that first FBA paycheck.
“Blimey,” the word fell from his lips in a mumble as he looked around, spotting the computers section at last. “Guess we’s o’er there.”
There were dozens to choose from. All different form factors, tablets, ultralights, gaming laptops, convertibles, detachables; Adge’s ears began to tilt sideways as he was already lost. Should he go with an OMEN, as he understood the OS? Or should he be trendy, and get one of the Pear ProBooks? He just didn’t know!
Zack glanced at the hare, nodding to his exclamation. “It’s...a bit gaudy, isn’t it?”
The beaver glanced along the racks, trying to balance the hare’s previously mentioned needs while also pointedly not picking the least expensive machine on the shelves. He had a sense Adge might take it wrong, even if the machine would meet his needs. “Let’s see...you know OMEN already, right? Probably better to stick with those for now.” Another couple of minutes humming and Zack pointed to two machines, fairly near each other. “This seems like what you were talking about; pretty standard specs, but there’s enough memory to save hours of game and training footage and to run video conferencing, along with email and all the basic office stuff. This one,” he tapped the other, “pretty similar, but the screen detaches and works as a tablet, too. I like those for the portability - easier to watch on the couch or on a flight. They’re a bit pricier though.”
Adge followed along as best he could, understanding most of what he was being told. Some parts he knew, others he had just been told were good, and some elements he’d probably never understand, but he liked the look of both machines - especially the detachable one. It was more expensive, yes, but… it was also so much cooler.
Trying out the keyboards on both, looking at the viewing angles, and comparing specs, he’d be getting a little less power for his money on the tablet, but at the same time it made him feel like he was in Star Trek, with a datapad, and deep down there was some element of nerd within the hare which that fantasy tickled in just the right way.
“Ah reckon that if’n Ah’m gonna get drafted, Ah’ll be on a plane a lot, ‘n ‘e tablet sure would be noice,” he said, trying to convince himself out loud. Inside he knew he’d already decided, but there was always that mental game of having to justify spending more money. “Would yew go fer ‘at one, if it were up to ‘ee?”
“Of the two? Yeah. The tablet is nice for being portable, for sure. I’ve used something similar on flights and out on camping trips, even. But I’m old fashioned enough to want a keyboard I can type on for schoolwork. Well...before I graduated, anyway. You know what I mean.”, Zack shuffled again, feeling like he was tripping all over himself. He wondered to himself if the nerves were getting to him more then he’d realized.
“That’s specced out enough to hold you for a couple years though, if you’re worried. OMEN does make decent machines for being a giant mega corporation.”, he grinning a little ruefully. “I suspect you don’t want to hear me ramble about that though.”
If it suited his needs, came recommended, still cost less than some of the others on the lineup, and also tickled that inner nerd of his, Adge felt it was the right decision. “Alroight, let’s go fer ‘at one, ‘en,” he said with a nod.
And that was it. No sense thinking about it more, just make the decision, stick with it, and move ahead. The past couldn’t be changed, after all. “Thankee koindly fer ‘e help, too,” the hare added. “Ah’d ‘ve been roight lost wi’out ya! Guessin’ ‘ee foind yerself in ‘at situation a lot, though, Scout ‘n all.”
Zack blushed. “I spose it’s something like that. With the older boys it’s less about keeping them from getting lost and more teaching them how to handle it when they do. With the occasional nudge in the right direction.”
The beaver smiled, somewhere between wistful and wry, thinking back on good memories and how that old chestnut was a decent commentary on where he’d found himself. “I’m really just trying to help; we’ve all got enough coming our way in the next week or so. No reason to sweat the small stuff; if it means helping you find a laptop, then I’m glad to. I’ll peek around while you check out and meet you at the car?”
“Sounds loike a plan,” Adge nodded. “An, if’n yew ain’t eaten yet, Ah’ll treat ‘ee t’ dinner, if’n yew want.”
It was a fair trade, at least in his mind. Knowledge for food? It worked often enough in university, so the hare reckoned it’d work here. Taking the tag for the convertible laptop up to the front desk, Adge paid for it, his brown eyes going a bit wide as he saw the final total, but put his card down anyway. A few minutes later, he was on his way back out to the car.
“Heh. I suppose I should eat. It’s been a long day. You don’t have to treat though, seriously. It was a nice way to get my mind off everything else.”
Zack was out to the car soon after the hare and settled into the driver’s seat. The beaver casually pulled out his phone - actively trying not to flash it, but Adge probably noticed it was rather modern, if not bleeding edge. “So what do you like for dinner? Any favorites? Or what crazy american cuisine do you want to try?”
Between the car, the ease of tech knowledge, and the phone, Adge had already guessed that Zack was well-to-do, or at least his family was. But he said nothing about it, as everyone had their own lot in life, and there was no shame in success.
“Well, this be only moy second toime in ‘e States, ‘n Ah already done troied proper Mexican food when Ah were in Los Angeles, so, reckon Ah moight ask ‘ee t’ rec’mend somethin’ you loike what’s proper local. Or at least proper American. Ah c’n eat most anythin’, so ‘at won’t be no problem.” After his tour-de-force in Japanese food in Toyko, the hare is keen to try something very different, and wholly American.
Zack chuckled, “And I’m a recently very overworked undergrad who will eat whatever gets put in front of him. I lean vegetarian, but the seafood around here is supposed to be top notch. Or I’m sure we could find a diner or a pub if you want something simpler. Most places have veggie burgers any more.”
The beaver tapped away at an app, looking for good local options. “I appreciate there being hotel food, but a guide to local stuff would have been nice.”
“They’s s’posed t’ ‘ave some big sort o’ spread fer us, t’morrer, so Ah reckon diner or pub would be foine,” Adge shrugged. He at least knew that what Brits considered a pub, and what Americans considered one, were two very different things, indeed.
Zack chuckled, “Diners are certainly American. That’s not a quality statement, but they’re everywhere. Finding a good one is a whole adventure unto itself. I’m up for the adventure”
After a short search on their phones, a local diner was selected, and Adge followed Zack inside, having to fold his ears down to duck through the low door. The smell was… well, it was America, all rolled into one, and Adge couldn’t help but smile. If things went well, and he wound up getting drafted, he might become famous and it would be hard to eat at places like this, so he was determined to enjoy it while he could!
A waitress led them to their table, Adge slotting himself into one side of the booth, while Zack took the other, and the hare just started off with some ice water, needing time to look over the menu to determine what drink he would pair with his meal.
“So, yew from ‘round ‘ese parts?” the hare asked, realizing he didn’t actually know much about the beaver who had been so helpful to him, thus far.
Zack glanced at the menu, but seemed to have a sense of what he wanted. “Not really - I’m from Colorado originally, a touristy town in the heart of ski country. I went to school...university, I guess you’d say, at Templeton, down in New York. It’s about 4 hours drive from here. Worlds away though.”
Zack left unsaid that Templeton was an Ivy League school, which the hare might or might not know. Clearly the beaver didn’t feel there was reason to brag or draw attention to the fact. “And all I know about you off hand is you’re from England. Either the Olympic reports or the accent gives you away, I’m afraid.”
“Can’t roightly hoide it, can Ah?” Adge chuckled. “Aye, Ah’m from England. Shep’n Mallet (Shepton Mallet), down Zummurzet (Sommerset) way. Not ‘zactly ‘e big city loike London, but ‘ome’s ‘ome.” He then cleared his throat and straightened his posture, before adopting his impression of the London accent. “Though I can pass for London, for a short time, if I try.”
A sip of his water, and a smile helped that accent to vanish. “Ah’ve ‘eard Colorado is roight ‘ansum landscape. Ah’d loike t’ see it, someday. Been all over England, ‘n parts o’ Europe, but ‘ardly seen anythin’ ‘ere. Bettin ‘ee seen a lot, though, bein’ wit ‘e Scouts, ‘n all ‘at.”
Zack blushed at the reference to his nickname...or at least his hobby, “Yeah, I guess the scout thing’s hardly a secret. It’s handy to switch up how you present yourself...especially when you end up in different company”, and he trails off before jumping back on the other topic, “I love the Rockies, for sure. Spent the last few days before the Combine out there to try to relax. Hiking and such to stay limber, but if I’m not ready for this now, figured one more day in the gym wasn’t going to make the difference. And I got around to a few camps with the boys. School took priority, but I got down to New Mexico a couple times. Canada for High Adventure, once. That was a treat. Heh...and when two teenagers snookered me into declaring for the draft. But they deserved it after that, the rascals.”
The beaver shook his head, smiling wryly, but it turned wistful. “Anyway, if you get drafted, you’ll have a chance to see some of it. There’s a lot of beauty out there.”
“Ah’m ‘opin’ so,” Adge nodded. “Ah wanted t’ join ‘e scouts when Ah were young, but Ah didn’t ‘ave ‘e toime fer it. Workin’ on ‘e farm, yew don’ get t’ get out much, ‘n all. But we’d ‘ave a group o’ scouts come down er’ry summer fer trips ‘n such. Mostly city boys who tent ne’er seen ‘e farm b’fore, ‘n Ah ‘ad t’ help learn ‘em how t’ do ‘e chores ‘n how a farm works. Some was good, some was proper useless! But it were good fun. All ended when Ah were seventeen, ‘n we done lost ‘e farm. Ah got shipped off t’ Elion, Ah did, ‘n been there since.”
Zack nodded along as the hare told his story, wincing as the hare came to the part about losing the farm. “Yeah, we did something similar at Philmont. Can’t disagree that a lot of the boys couldn’t keep up. Full disclosure, I was probably one of the useless ones,” he shook his head shyly, “us nerdy types, you know.”
“Losing the farm must have been pretty hard on you, though. Sounds awful.”, the beaver finished more softly, with a note of very real compassion in his voice.
Adge tried not to show it, but he could still feel the loss. “Aye. It were losin’ money fer years, ‘n wit’ breakdowns, ‘n two bad ‘arvests, we owed too much to ‘e creditors, an’ moy parents sold it fer what ‘ey could, paid off most of ‘e debt, ‘n ‘at were ‘at,” he replied. “But, maybe it were fer ‘e best, somehow. After all, if’n weren’t fer ‘at, Ah wouldn’ be ‘ere now. So, Ah’m workin’ t’ earn ‘nuff t’ boy ‘e farm back, someday. Ain’t sure if’n ‘at’s gonna ‘appen, but it’s a goal, roight?”
The waitress arrived to take their orders, Adge picked a bacon cheeseburger, with steak fries, and a Coke to go with it, while Zack ordered a veggie cheese burger and birch beer. As she departed, the hare found his smile again. “Ain’t so bad. Moy family’s got an ‘house, ‘n moy dad is in proper work again, ‘n two of moy siblings is off t’ school, too, so we’s gettin’ boy.”
“A good goal, I’d say. I’m already kind of the poster child for an overly wholesome approach to basketball, but getting your childhood home back is going to drive you harder and further than just ‘being a star’”, he added, with air quotes. “Hopefully one of the GM’s’ll recognize that. And I’m glad it wasn’t as bad as it might have been”.
Zack sighed and leaned back in the booth. “A lot of dreams for us all these next few days. Dream and nerves...”
“Dreams, nerves, ‘n determination,” Adge nodded. “‘N loikley a lot of ego. Roight lot o’ ego. But Ah reckon’ ‘at’s par fer ‘e course wit’ ‘e FBA. Done seen plenty of it at ‘e ‘Lympics, ‘n on Tweeter, too. Hopin’ moy ‘ead don’t ever b’come ‘at large! Ah’m jes’ glad t’ be ‘ere, honest.”
Zack nodded as the food was brought out, “Me too. Never thought I’d be here, and I’m not convinced I’ll be leaving here with anything more than memories, but...ah...those are worth it just for themselves, right? I’m always telling the boys that. There’s always adventure, and you’ll almost never regret taking the chance on it. So here’s to us dreamers”, he said, holding up the chunky plastic cup full of aromatic sugar water.
“I mean it though. I really hope they see your promise. You’re a good egg, Adge.”
Adge lifted his own cup, tinking it against Zack’s in a toast. “To us dreamers,” he nodded, then found himself smiling, trying to stifle a blush which would pinken the insides of his large ears. “And, thankee koindly. Yer a proper mate, yerself. ‘N Ah’m sure ‘ee’ll do better than ‘ee think. Jes’ block out ‘e other stuff, ‘n focus on ‘e task at paw. Don’ worry ‘bout nuttin’ else.”
The conversation gradually turned to guesses at how the combine would go, to tactics, then stories about games they had each played in the past, and finally funny anecdotes about crazy things they had each gotten up to, each one-upping the other until they weren’t sure they were even telling the truth, themselves! Dinner was fine, not exceptional, but it fit the mood well, and before long they were back at the hotel, parting ways, and bidding the other a good night. Adge off to go set up his new computer, and Zack for a shower and bed - the early morning and long flight finally catching up with him.