Gimme a B
For big ugly suit
The suit has a certain smell. You wonder when it was last drycleaned. How does one launder fake red and white fur? It swallows you, pooling in wrinkles at your ankles and wrists. One size fits all, including Marlin who is six three. He has a fever tonight.
It’s raining, and the temperature is in the high thirties. You’ll be wet and jumping in mud. But this is your chance to be the mascot for the Brennan Bulldogs, and you have to take it.
You put on your oldest shoes, the ones you never wear to school. They’ll be ruined.
You need some lip gloss, says Mom. Something with color.
It’s not like being a cheerleader, you tell Mom.
Hell no it isn’t, says Mom. You look like a fat red dog. That suit adds thirty, maybe forty pounds. Isn’t this supposed to be something a guy wears?
No. Girls wear it. Leigha wears it during basketball season.
Mom makes that face she makes about Leigha.
You should get some big clear trashbags. Or a clear poncho, Mom says. Maybe they have something. What do they put over the band? They can’t get those expensive instruments wet, can they?
You grab your keys and head for your car, hoping you don’t get pulled over on the way to school dressed like a dog.
Gimme a U
For uncomfortable
One bus is pep squad, one bus is band. The football team is already gone.
Where do we put the dog? asks one of the people with a clipboard.
With the band, someone says. Short dog tonight. What happened to the footlong?
He’s sick, you mumble.
They shake their heads. Sorry to hear that.
You can’t tell whether they are sorry he’s sick or sorry you’re there.
The band bus is crowded and people stare at you. You don’t know many people in band. Band people stick together, have their own tables. Look different in those suits, like some kind of army. Hard to recognize the familiar faces.
You can sit here, says Kendra from Biology II. She plays clarinet, you remember.
You look like elmo, says Kendra.
I think she smells like elmo, says the guy behind you, laughing. Smells like wet dog in here.
You know your face is burning.
Just kidding, he says. What’s wrong with Marlin?
Sick you say.
Silence. Someone starts singing a song you don’t know.

Gimme an L
For lots of lousy rain
It’s pouring when you get off the bus, and thin plastic poncho the band lady gives you doesn’t help when the wind blows on your legs, and your feet splash in the huge puddles everywhere.
It sucks. The stadium on the other side of town is old and the bleachers are half empty on the home side, and almost totally empty on your side. Only a few football players parents are in the stands, you think. You see poor Mr. Edwards, your history teacher, wearing a yellow plastic raincoat. He’s got a plaid thermos. Probably coffee. It’s a night for coffee.
You’d kill for coffee. Everyone else sits down, the pepsquad, the band—assembling on the bleachers. But you follow the cheerleaders down onto the muddy field, hearing it squish.
This is your moment. Damn it. You jump.

Gimme another L
For Hell on earth.
Your ankles are in the mud. Your feet are covered. Encased. You are a muddy dog.

Gimme a D
For Damn . At least they could score.

You have been yelling yourself hoarse, and some of the band is actually laughing with you and not at you. There is nothing to do but laugh when you are a big wet muddy red dog. When you jump, you splash water everywhere, and you shake it off your fur, sending drops everywhere. The cheerleaders look at you in horror.
Somehow their shoes are not covered in mud. Somehow their lipgloss gleams under the lights, sparkling like glitter.

Gimme an O
For zero

If the game ends without the team scoring, you think you may cry. There is something about screaming like a mad thing in the rain, being covered in mud, making an ass of yourself that makes you want this bad. Want the damn ball to cross the line. Anything. Just not a zero. Some sign that all this stupid screaming in the freezing rain means something, not nothing.
Oh, for a hot bath.
Oh for a cup of coffee.
You can see people drinking things that steam from white Styrofoam cups.
Dogs don’t drink coffee, you tell yourself. You are the dog.

Gimme a G
For goal

Thank God for field goals! Thank Grant Dixson, for getting a touchdown. You could kiss him, big slobbery dog kisses all over his dripping face. The team is wet and muddy too, of course. They look like they’ve been mud wrestling instead of playing football.

But it’s all good.

One point, one goal, is good enough to win.

You hug a soggy cheerleader. Renee something her name is. You hug all the cheerleaders, jumping up and down and laughing.
When you head for the bus there are wet angry kids from the other school, yelling and cursing.
Go home bitches they say. They laugh at you.

Ugly bitch they say.

You don’t say anything. But you think, This bitch could bite your ass tonight. This bitch has barked all night, howled at the moon you can’t see with the clouds, the moon that has to be there shining, somewhere.
They can’t take it away from you, any of them, what you feel. That warmth inside, warmer than three cups of coffee. No one can take that away, not even your mother when she makes a face at that muddy red fur suit and says take that thing off before you come inside.

The warmth stays with you for a long time.