Chapter 99

“This is certainly... colorful cuisine they serve,” Mrs. Daniels said, working her way through the plate. “Do you happen to know if anyone horribly offended the cooks in some way?”

“Nope, that’s just dorm food,” Roy said. “We don’t have to eat here, though; we can go anywhere you want.”

“Don’t be silly, this is fine,” Mrs. Daniels said. “Besides, I want to talk to your coach and see how things are going.”

“There’s no need, they’re going great.”

“Then you must be anxious to hear him tell me that himself,” Mrs. Daniels said knowingly. “It looks like the crowd is thinning out. You stay here while I go speak with him.”

“Yes, ma’am,” Roy said. He stayed put as his mother got up and stood in line with the other parents. His stomach twisted a bit. Yeah, he’d been able to keep up with the poundings Chad had been delivering for the past few weeks, but he still hadn’t gotten a hit off yet.  That had to reflect badly on his overall performance. Not to mention that fact that he’d only participated in one challenge battle last semester and had gotten his ass kicked. Sure, his grades had been all A’s; but that had been all Hershel’s doing. Much as he would deny it if anyone asked, Roy wanted to make his mother proud, too. Now he had to trust in a progress report that would be delivered by Coach George of all people: the man who seemed least impressed by Roy’s substantial abilities out of anyone. This was going to be a bad day.

*          *          *

“Mrs. Daniels,” Coach George greeted, shaking her hand carefully. “Pleasure to meet you.”

“You too, Mr. George, but how did you know who I was?”

“Just George is fine, and I make it a point to know the names and faces of all of my students’ parents,” Coach George explained. “In case one of them tries to jump me.”

“That seems a bit paranoid,” Mrs. Daniels said.

“It would be paranoid if I was doing it before any such situation had occurred. After that it’s called learning,” Coach George countered.

“I... see. At any rate, if you know who I am then you know who I’m asking about. How is Roy doing in class?”

“How can I put this?” Coach George said, pressing his thumb to his jaw as he pondered. “Your son is arrogant, pig-headed, vastly overestimates his abilities, and spends too much time chasing tail instead of training. I’ve been expecting him to wash out since the first week, and at the beginning of this semester I even put him up against the strongest kid in the class to see if he would flush down the drain once and for all.”

“I’m not sure how to-” Mrs. Daniels began. Coach George cut her off with a quick raise of his finger.

But, he is also incredibly resilient, unrelentingly determined, and has shown a tremendous amount of humility in accepting lessons from those who have proven themselves his better. When I challenged the combat class to take me on, he was the first one to step up, and that takes some courage. He’s been getting the stuffing knocked out of him five days a week since the spring semester began and every day he shows up asking for more, and he does it because he understands that each day makes him a little bit better.”

“So what are you trying to say here?” Mrs. Daniels asked.

“I’m saying your boy has plenty of flaws, and very well might not make it all the way to being a Hero because of them. He also has steel in his spine, fire in his gut, and balls the size of watermelons. Those might take him to the top. Honestly, it’s just like the rest of this program: it will depend on the work he puts in,” Coach George explained.

“Thank you, George,” Mrs. Daniels said. “That was enlightening.”

“Glad to keep you in the loop,” Coach George said with a smile.

“It was appreciated,” Mrs. Daniels said, turning to leave. “Have a nice day. I hope none of the parents jump you.”

“That will be seen,” Coach George said. “Not everyone got such kind reviews of their kids as you.”

*          *          *

Roy’s nervous waiting came to an end as he saw his mother leave Coach George’s side. He clamored to his feet as she walked back over.

“What’d he say?” Roy asked, poorly hiding the nerves in his voice.

“About what I expected,” Mrs. Daniels replied. “That you’re good, but if you want to be the best you still have a long road ahead of you. Although he said it in an exceptionally vulgar way.”

“Yeah. That’s Coach George,” Roy said.

“He also mentioned you seemed to be dating a lot of nice young girls. Do I get to meet any of them today?”

Roy, yes, Roy Daniels, blushed. “Nah, Mom, it’s nothing like that. I just have a lot of female friends.”

“Mmmhmm. If that’s what you want to go with...” Mrs. Daniels said.

“It really is.”

“...then I suppose we can skip over it for now. Besides, I think we’re done here. Now, how about you show me the town?”

Roy let a big grin break across his face. “It would be my pleasure.”