Friday, September 22
Paul plays his first soccer game for his new school. It is an away game at Palmetto Middle School. It turns out to be a brutal game, more like a war than a soccer game. Palmetto employs dirty tactics, and their fans cheer them on. The referee soon loses control of the game. Tangerine is the better team, though, at half-time the score is still 0-0. In the second half, Paul is brought on as an outfield player, not as goalie. Palmetto score from a penalty kick that Shandra Thomas cannot quite reach. Paul gets a chance to score, but makes a mess of his shot. Victor insults him. Then a Palmetto player smears mud into Paul’s eyes. Paul loses his temper and starts punching the other player. He is ejected from the field and watches the rest of the game from the sidelines. Victor scores, making it 1-1, and then scores the winning goal. On the bus back, Victor apologizes to Paul and makes it clear he regards Paul as part of the team.
The soccer game is far more violent than the reader might expect in a game between two middle school teams. But it makes for an exciting scene, and is part of Paul’s journeyto becoming part of the team and getting used to his new environment, which is very different from what he has been used to, as one small detail shows. The school bus that takes the players to their game is old, noisy, and has no air conditioning. It is clear that Tangerine Middle, which serves lower-income, minority students, does not receive much in public funding. Paul has already noticed how all the textbooks are old.
Friday, September 22, later
Joey tells Paul that he is switching to Tangerine Middle. This is in spite of the fact that he lives in the Lake Windsor district. Joey’s father is a lawyer, and he arranges the move with the Lake Windsor school; the school agrees to whatever he says because they do not want to be sued over Mike Costello’s death.
The significance of this development will become apparent later. Since Joey lives in the Lake Windsor district, he should not really be allowed to play for the Tangerine Middle soccer team.
Saturday, September 23
It is the first day of the football season for the Lake Windsor High Seagulls. They are playing Cypress Bay High Cardinals. The first three quarters are dull and there is no score. Then Cypress takes a 7-0 lead in the final period. A thunderstorm begins and Lake Windsor’s fortunes improve as they score a touchdown. The score is 7-6, and Erik steps up for the kick that will win his side another point that will level the scores. Antoine Thomas is the placeholder. Paul and his dad had been expecting Arthur, Erik’s friend, to be the placeholder. As Erik steps up to take the kick, Antoine whips the ball away and runs with it. He crosses the goal line for a two-point conversion and the Seagulls lead 8-7. Erik had not been expecting this, and he kicks the air and falls back in the mud. Lake Windsor wins the game. That night, Erik’s embarrassing tumble is shown on TV in the sports bloopers section, and the TV presenters have a good laugh about it. Dad claims it was a deliberate ploy, but Paul knows it was not. He fears that Erik will want to get his revenge somehow, and that someone will have to suffer.
The story switches back from Tangerine Middle and soccer to Lake Windsor and football. This is probably the first time in his life that Erik has been humiliated in this way, and Paul, who knows his brother better than others do, is right in being concerned about how Erik will get his revenge.
Tuesday, September 26
It is the second soccer game of the season. Tangerine Middle (the War Eagles)are home to Kinnow Middle School. When the game begins, Paul is on the sidelines with Joey. At half-time the score is 3-3. Before the second half begins, Victor is sent to the Emergency Room because of a cut on his head, and Paul is told that he will be playing. In the second half, Maya and Tino score, and then Paul scores a goal too, making the score 6-3. Joey comes on in place of Hernando, and the game ends with a 7-3 win for Tangerine. Victor has returned from the ER with stitches in his head, and he and Paul high-five over the goal Paul scored.
This is another exciting action scene. Paul is not yet able to secure a place in his preferred position of goalie, but at least he gets to play. Just as he had done at Lake Windsor, where he won over Gino, the star player, because of his determination, Paul here wins over Victor, the star player on the War Eagles team. The pattern is the same: Paul, the disadvantaged outsider, succeeds through his determination to overcome setbacks and pursue his goals. Others recognize these qualities in him and start to accept him.
Tuesday, September 26, later
Paul gets a phone call from Cara Clifton, Joey’s girlfriend. She says that Kerri wanted her to say hi to him, and she asks him if he likes her. Paul freezes, unable to say a word. He asks Joey about it, and he says that Kerri was probably listening on the extension. Girls often do that, he says, so they can find out what a particular guy thinks of them. Paul is happy to know that Kerri must like him and see him as a normal person, not a freak.
This amusing little romantic theme—Paul’s first tentative encounters with a girl he likes—hovers in the background without ever being fully developed. At the moment soccer is more important to him than girls, although he definitely likes Kerri and the attention she is paying to him.