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Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Trailer Reveal!! Press Play by Eric Devine





Press Play by Eric Devine 
Genre: Young Adult (Contemporary)
Date Published: October 28, 2014
Publisher: Running Press Kids

Greg Dunsmore, a.k.a. Dun the Ton, is focused on one thing: making a documentary that will guarantee his admission into the film school of his choice. Every day, Greg films his intense weight-loss focused workouts as well as the nonstop bullying that comes from his classmates. But when he captures footage of violent, extreme hazing by his high school’s championship-winning lacrosse team in the presence of his principal, Greg’s field of view is in for a readjustment.

Greg knows there is a story to be told, but it is not clear exactly what. And his attempts to find out the truth only create more obstacles, not to mention physical harm upon himself. Yet if Greg wants to make his exposé his ticket out of town rather than a veritable death sentence, he will have to learn to play the game and find a team to help him.

Combine the underbelly of Friday Night Lights with the unflinching honesty of Walter Dean Myers, and you will find yourself with Eric Devine’s novel of debatable truths, consequences, and realities.


Chapter 1

The footage of me squatting is horrific. Not my form so much, but my body. It’s like a baker’s piping bag, overloaded with frosting and about to burst.

Quinn slides weight onto the bar. “We’ll review later. Relax.”

“Yeah. All right.” What else can I say? Quinn’s been right so far, and I don’t want to screw this up.

If I can create a badass film portfolio using this transformation as a crucial element, then by this time next year, I’ll be accepted into a good school, and on my way. Possibly, if all goes well, I’ll be a skinny-jeans wearing beast, too.

But first, the workout.

Quinn slides the last of the weight on and then reaches to me. “Hand it over.”

I give him my phone and he steadies it to record. “You ready?” he asks.

I nod and get myself under the bar. “Set up?”

“Good man. Two steps back. No more. Remember to send your butt back first.”

I take a deep breath, brace my belly, and step back, one-two. This is a burnout set, max reps, and my ass already feels twitchy. I squat.

“Good, Greg. Keep that chest up.”

I stand and feel all right and I’m right back into the next. Sweat’s dripping and I think of it as fractions of pounds I’m shedding. I squat another handful of reps.

“Easy, Greg. That last one looked like dick.”

“Your dick, maybe,” I manage to say around the pressure. The bar feels wobbly, but shit, I just want to finish. I was hoping for at least twenty.

Q grabs himself and laughs.

I try to take a deep breath, but I’m tired and can’t and the laugh trickles out. It feels like I’m pinned to the floor and resisting a tickle torture. “Damn.” I rack the bar, slide out, and lean on it.

Quinn stops recording and slaps my back. “You needed to cut that. Your form was for shit.”

I nod and sweat flies off my nose. “Felt that way.”

“It’s good you’re feeling the difference.” Q starts stripping off the weights.

I join him, but moving makes my legs feel like Jell-O.

“A little hustle, G. I need to get my workout in, and no one’s saving me.”

“That’s because you like to kill yourself.”

He ignores me because I’m right, and we slide the weights onto the tree stand.

“So, two weeks in, ten pounds gone. That has to make you feel good.”

“It does. But the long haul, that’s the hardest. I have no stamina.”

I expect him to crack a joke because I realize I’ve left the door wide open, but he doesn’t laugh, just tilts his head.

“You hear that?”

“What?”

Q raises a finger. “There it is again. Chanting?”

“Or some weird-ass music.”

We look at each other and it feels as if we have the same realization simultaneously. Quinn hands over my phone and we make our way to the practice gym doors.

I grab the handle, but the giant Warrior logo on the door doesn’t split in two.

Quinn tries, too. Same result. “That makes no sense. The bros are practicing now,” he says.

“Unless they locked it.”

Quinn looks past me. The noise from the bros has grown louder. “There’s an access door for the bleacher crank through that closet.”

I ask how he knows this, but Q ignores me, and in a moment, we’re passing through a supply closet and through another door that opens up beneath the bleachers.

It’s dark and dusty and tough to tell which way to go. The lights are dimmed.

“This one must be perfect. In unison, you shits.” Andrew Alva’s voice is instantly recognizable. We move toward it, stepping over the bleachers’ tracks and litter.

We emerge near the middle of the gym, thirty feet from ten guys on their knees in nothing but shorts. Another ten players stand behind them, holding their lacrosse sticks. Alva is in front of them all. He raises his hand. “Remember. Perfect.”

I hit record and zoom and can see the boys on their knees shaking. One has blood dripping down his side. Another looks like he might cry. What is this?

Alva drops his hand and the boys start chanting: Our allegiance is to the Warriors, our bodies weapons, ready for sacrifice. We will dominate at whatever cost to our opponent or to ourselves.

Some of the boys stutter through the ending and Alva flexes his thick biceps and shakes his head. Then he goes still. “Not. Good. Enough.”

I pan back to get the entire room.

Alva raises his hand again and the players raise their sticks. Alva drops his hand and the sticks fly, cracking into the backs of the kids in front of them. Some drop to the floor, others cry out. Some try to fight the pain.

“Get up! Get up, you stupid fucks! You want part of this team? You want to be a man? Get the fuck up!”

Alva’s words frighten me, and I’m thirty feet away. I cannot imagine how those boys must feel. I look at Quinn and he’s ready to run out there. But he can’t. They’ll kill him.

I grab his arm and he whips around. “No, Q!” I check to see if they’ve heard me, but they’re too busy screaming and bleeding. I point at my phone and Q nods. I motion to head back, but Quinn stays rooted in his spot. We have to go. The bros on a regular basis aren’t safe to be around. If we interrupt this moment, I honestly think everyone will find our bodies in the woods. And would look the other way.

Finally, Q turns and we pick our way back. Some kid’s voice asks them to stop, and Alva’s laughter echoes around us. I shut off my phone.

We pack our gear without speaking and head to Quinn’s car. I climb into the passenger seat and Quinn gets behind the wheel. We just stare out the windshield at the Warriors’ stadium, and say nothing. I shiver from the sweat now gone cold, or something else all together.

I find the thumbnail on my phone and press play. Alva’s screaming, the kids are being hit, and everything is so damn dark.

“The hell, man?” Q says and holds a hand to his mouth.

I hit pause and stare at Alva’s contorted face. The kid’s an animal. Always has been. Him being captain was the most logical event that I’ve ever seen happen around here. Which is one of the reasons I want out of this town. But, now, I feel safe with him on my phone, because he’s there, and not real in a way.

“I figured they did this kind of shit, but damn . . .”

“Yeah. We’ve got to let someone know.”

My response wriggles though my mind, and I feel like such an asshole for it. “No.”

“What do you mean, no?”

“Think about it. Who am I going to bring it to? Callaghan?”

“He’s our principal, first, their coach second.”

“You think that’s how it works? Besides, what did we really see?”

“I don’t know, but he has to do something, regardless of whatever that was. Let him make the call.”

I love how naive Quinn is, and I also hate him for it. He’s a good-looking guy, has an easygoing attitude, gets along with everyone, so he has no clue how the world works for the majority of us. The ugly, the nerdy, the obese. Especially the fat. We can’t hide under goth makeup or just be in with the nerd herd. Nope, it’s best we’re by ourselves.

The amount of shit that’s happened to me, that I’ve had to listen to and endure because principals up and down the line haven’t done shit could be its own documentary.

I look at Quinn. “In theory he has to do something. That doesn’t mean he will.”

Quinn squints. “What are you saying?”

“Do you trust Callaghan?”

Q scrunches his face some more. “Not really, but . . .”

“But what?”

“But with that evidence, come on, he has to.”

The gym door opens and the lax bros file out, Alva taking up the rear. It’s March and still cold, snow on the ground, but the boys are all wearing shorts and T-shirts. Through the zoom on my phone, trickles of blood stain their shirts and shine red. Alva barks something and the boys take off running, pounding up the hill, through the snow. He turns back, as if sensing us, but only pauses for a moment and then is on their heels. The last thing I want is for him to be on my ass. Well, any more than usual.

“You see that? They’re still bleeding.”

“I saw.”

“And?”

The shock of that scene from the gym has worn off, and I fully understand who we’re dealing with. That changes things. “Why do you care? The lax bros are assholes.”

Quinn looks at me like I’ve just shit on his mom. “So we just let that go because they’re dicks?”

“That’s not what I’m saying.”

“No. That’s exactly what you’re saying.”

I take a deep breath. “Fine. I am. But it’s not so simple.”

“Bullshit!” Quinn shakes his head. “You don’t want to help them because you’re afraid of the heat.”

“Maybe.” I don’t look at him when I answer. “Or maybe they don’t deserve the help.”

Quinn starts the car. “I’m going to pretend you didn’t say that. We know the truth. You’re scared to put your neck out there.”

He’s right. I am. But I have good reason. “We working out tomorrow?”

“Of course. But don’t change the subject.”

“I’m not. Let me get more of that on film. Not because I want to see them suffer, I just know one piece is never enough. But two. Maybe? Then we can take it to Callaghan, or someone else. All right?”

Quinn grunts. “I feel ya. A stronger case makes sense.” He looks back at the field. “Promise you won’t let them all hang just ’cause Alva’s psycho and you hate everything around here.”

“I promise,” I mutter. “Shit, why you gotta always do the right thing?”

“Unlike you, I’m not afraid of the truth.” Quinn starts the car and we roll out of the parking lot. The lax bros are running hill sprints, and their skin is already that cold color pink.

*  *  *

Chapter 2

Mom’s at the stove when I come in, humming to herself, chicken frying in the pan. “Hey, honey, how was your day?” she asks in her singsong, teacher voice. It takes her a while to come down from her “preschool high,” as my dad likes to call it, to her mother/wife self.

“Fine.” I sniff the air. “Chicken and bacon?”

“The bacon’s for the double-stuffed potatoes. Good nose.”

I’ve had a good nose all my life. And a good tongue. And the combo has given me a not-so-good body. Mom still kind of thinks of me as her taste-tester for all the cookies and cakes and casserole dishes. I feel heavier as I picture the meal. All that work today with Q reduced to nothing.

I head up to my room and climb out of my sweaty clothes. Really, my more than regular sweaty clothes. I am one swampy fuck. So much so that I’ll wear an undershirt under my T-shirt just so it acts like a sponge. I usually put deodorant on before I go to bed, regular roll-on shit, and then a full body spray with more roll-on in the morning. After my showers. One in the afternoon and one in the morning.

I toss my clothes in the hamper, turn on the water, and step on the scale. When Q and I started this shit I was 352. The digits pop: 337. That’s a five-pound loss since the workout, which I know is mostly water weight, but still, it’s moving in the right direction.

I reach in to test the water and catch myself in the mirror. I’ve got moobs and folds and shit sagging every which way, so I turn away and stand under the water and don’t give a shit how hot it is. Maybe the scalding will shed a pound or two?

After I dry off and dress, I crack open my MacBook and log onto my iCloud account. I find the day’s films and click on the first one, the hallway at school this morning:

“Hey, check her. Over there.”

“Which one?”

“That slut with the ponytail.”

“Which one?”

“The one in the boots with that long-ass face. Watch this.”

“Hey, sweetie? You want to go horseback riding? Yeah? What size saddle do you wear? No, no. I meant wear. Imma ride you.”

The kid neighs and the girl flashes red. She bolts down the hall, and the kid returns to his friend. They both crack up, can barely breathe they’re laughing so hard. I think they’re football players, but could be just regular douches. I file the clip in the “Everyday BS” folder. I’ve got a few hundred clips like that I keep meaning to do something with, but don’t, because I get hung up on the ones like the next.

“Hey, Dun the Ton, how’s it hanging today?”

“Hey, Todd.”

My voice sounds like a girl’s.

“No, for real, Moby.”

“Funny.”

“You should do porn with Tracey whatever. That real fat chick. I’d pay to watch that shit. Or I’d, like, dare people to eat a bunch and try not to puke when they see your bumping and grinding.”

The asshole clings to me and laughs and pats my shoulder like we’re good friends and then he’s on his way. It’s amazing he’s not one of the bros. Then again, after what I saw today, maybe they handpick who they can abuse?

I file the encounter under: “Me, myself, and I.” This is the kind of evidence I tried to use back in middle school but got nowhere with. There was my first film, the one about the cafeteria food and how it wasn’t healthy. Principal Nelson pointed out how I ate the meals every day, sometimes two helpings. He felt I’d “failed to present all the facts.” Basically he thought I provoked kids into calling me “Dough Boy” and “Fattie Toucan” and the one name that’s stuck, “Dun the Ton.”

Inspiration came in the form of documentaries. I was searching for answers that relieved me of responsibility and found Super Size Me and Food, Inc. The answer was as obvious as the grease stain on my favorite shirt. It wasn’t how much I was eating, but what I was eating that’d turned me into the largest kid in class.

I started by investigating after school, checking the trash for the boxes the food had come in. Most of it was this generic label, and the first ingredient for everything was high fructose corn syrup. I recorded this, as well as the meals that were created from that crap for an entire week. I spliced footage together from the documentaries discussing the problems with processed foods alongside what we were served. And then I made a mistake.

Interviewing should be left to the professionals. Somehow the head lunch lady agreed to meet with me—I think she thought I was creating an homage to her cooking. After we sat down, I just ripped into the details I’d found and explained what the documentaries had taught me. She started to answer, all flustered and confused, and then she realized I was recording.

I’d placed my phone off to the side, like no big deal, but she shut right up and told me to leave. Next day I’m sitting with Principal Nelson and he demands to see what I did. I said no, not because I was trying to be a piece of shit, the film just wasn’t ready.

He shut his door and sat across from me and said the kind of line I’ve come to expect whenever dealing with administrators. “If you ever let this film see the light of day, I will make sure you regret ever coming up with the idea.”

Fuck that. What was he going to do? Suspend me? That would have been a welcome vacation from all the shitheads at school. I went ahead with the film, tied it up with some vomit gifs, and created my YouTube account.

A week later, after thousands of views and a lot of questions about the school in the comments, I sat across from Nelson, with my parents this time, and that’s when he suspended me for violating the school’s code of conduct regarding electronic devices. My parents didn’t even argue.

While I was out, he let it be known that the film was a giant lie, that I’d made up the facts because I was sick of being overweight. He asked kids to be nicer to me. When I returned, of course they did just the opposite, and that’s when Nelson told me I’d brought this on myself.

He was partially right, but back then I couldn’t pinpoint which part and what that meant. The picture is much clearer now.

My workout’s next and the thumbnail for the incident is after. I have a folder labeled “Workouts” and put today’s in with the rest. Even though I’m filming them for the documentary, Q said it’s good I have them, so I can see the change and check my form. I don’t think I could be tortured into watching these, though. Me on a screen just isn’t pretty.

I create another folder, “Lax Bros,” and move the file from the practice gym into it. I don’t want to watch it again. Once is enough. But will there really be more tomorrow?

I’d put my money on it. If there’s anything I’m sure of, it’s that weight is hard to lose, and kids are ruthless. Especially the bros, with their tournament less than two months away. The one that turns the town into a weeklong pep rally, everyone into even more fanatical douches, and the bros into demigods. All because of the money.

Teams travel with their families from all over the state to play. They rent all the hotel rooms, eat all the restaurant food, and buy tickets, for the day or for the weekend. And then there’s the merch. Shirts and bumper stickers and lanyards, even phone cases, all with the list of teams, the year, and team logos. It’s all gone by the end, and we have cash coming out of our ears. At least Coach Mallory, the assistant coach, who also runs the booster club, spreads the wealth. The “Mallory Media Center,” aka the tech wing, is a testament to that. Or possibly that’s because of his son, Max, the war hero. Either way, after what I’ve seen, I don’t know if it’s worth the cost.

I check Facebook and Twitter. Not much is happening, but I tweet about my results for my workout today. That’s something else Q told me to do. That way it’s not just the two of us who know. Others can chime in. But since I don’t follow kids from school, just famous filmmakers and reviewers, no one responds.

“Greg! Dinner!”

Mom’s voice cuts through me. I used to love that call, but now I feel as nervous as I do walking into the locker room. Food was always my friend, until it became my enemy.

I head downstairs and Dad’s home, filling drinks. “Hey, buddy. Water? Milk? What’s the diet these days?”

It’s an innocent question, but I feel like telling him to fuck off. “Water. Thanks.”

“You got it.” He fills my glass from the pitcher and sits. I follow his lead.

“So how was school?”

There’s not even a moment’s hesitation where I think that I could possibly talk to him about what I witnessed today. “Fine. Same old. You know?”

“Do I?” Dad rubs his eyes. “I’m telling you, there’s not much difference between school and work. Sit down for eight hours and hope you don’t pass out from boredom.”

Which is exactly why I want to go to film school, leave this town, and never look back.

Mom walks in with the platters of food. I eye them. Dad eyes them and asks, “How was your workout today? Quinn still cracking the whip?”

I wince at his choice of words. “Yeah. I’ll be sore tomorrow, that’s for sure.”

“Well, take a day off if you need to. How many potatoes?” Mom holds out the platter and her eyes glitter. If I were casting her in a movie, she’d always be wearing an apron.

“One’s fine,” I say, and sip my water.

“One? You’re a growing boy. At least two.” She plunks one down and spears another with her fork.

“He said one.” Dad’s voice is steady, but the tone is challenging.

“Frank, I heard him, but really? He’s working out like a madman; he’ll get sick.”

“He won’t, and you know why he’s busting his ass in the gym. It’s not so he can eat more of your potatoes.”

Mom’s face flushes red, and I see the tears beginning to well. This is how it goes.

“Excuse me for wanting to be a good mother.” She sets the platter down and retreats to the kitchen.

Dad sighs. “Sorry, bud. She doesn’t get it.”

“I know. Thanks.”

He stands and goes to her and starts his soothing talk. I stare at the potato on my plate. I could easily eat three of these. With butter. And sour cream. And bacon. And cheese. My stomach growls so hard I put my hands to it. The squish of my flab reminds me why one is enough.

I tried my first diet when I was ten. My doctor couldn’t believe my BMI: 43. Now it’s 50. Back then I just stared at the multicolored chart with Mom and was as clueless as she. Dad read the plan my pediatrician provided and set forth with it. I did well, eating shit like carrot sticks and mayo-less turkey sandwiches on multigrain bread for lunch and tiny servings of vegetables and meat for dinner. But I was always hungry. And Mom would make me rewards every Friday, chocolate chip cookies or muffins or whatever I wanted. We’d eat them together before Dad got home from work. When the diet stalled, Dad was confused. When I started gaining weight, Dad gave up on that one, but asked for another.

And so it’s been on again, off again like that for the past six years. Mom ends up in tears when I won’t eat, and Dad has to remind her that it’s not about her, and I feel so damn gross and guilty. Why can’t I just eat like normal people? You know, regular sizes, not second and third helpings? It’s not because I hate myself, as one of the therapists I’ve seen suggested. I’m just hungry. Or food just tastes so good. Or something like that.

Mom returns with a tissue to her eye. “I’m sorry, sweetie. You know how it is for me. Eat whatever you like. Okay?”

I nod and shoot Dad a look. “All right. Thanks.”

I eat my dinner of chicken—skinless—and potato—just one, bacon picked out—and try not to stare at the platters. When I’m finished, I want more, but just drink water. It helps, but nothing can take the place of food, not even my films.

I head back to my room, do some math, and spend the rest of my night online reading movie critique blogs and watching previews of indie films and some YouTube suggestions.

I feel like texting Q because the Internet just isn’t taking my mind off this afternoon. But we don’t really have that kind of relationship. I don’t see much of him during the day because he’s off all over the place. Even though he’s in ridiculous shape, he’s not a jock, doesn’t play any sports. And he’s not a nerd or artsy or any of that shit. He sure as hell isn’t a stoner or goth or gay. He’s really a drifter, just bouncing around groups. But for some reason he always connects with me. It’s weird, I guess, but we’ve been friends forever. From before I was fat, even. And that, right there, is enough for me.

I’m sore all over and know I should stretch. But first, because I have to, because I won’t be able to sleep if I don’t, I pull up the scene from today. I watch it again. In slow-mo. I zoom in on the boys, trying to recognize any of them. I don’t, only Alva and his little peon, Gilbey.

I lose count of how many times I watch it. Each time is as bad. In fact, I feel worse. I get Quinn’s point. I bet these kids just want to play lacrosse, have fun, fit in, not get abused. But what do I know? It’s not like I ever played a sport. Maybe this is just part of the deal?

Then I remember the other scene. I didn’t file that. I pull it up, and the zoom on their backs is the most revealing. The blood. I let the film roll and the car is moving and the boys are sprinting. Alva is at the bottom of the hill, watching the boys run up, and that’s when he looks over. But it’s not toward the parking lot. No, he’s looking back at the gym.

I rewind and slow it down and zoom in even more. In the doorway, standing just outside watching the lax bros, is Callaghan, our principal, their coach. Alva looks at him and Callaghan nods. Then Alva takes off up the hill.

I rewind and play again and zoom even closer. Callaghan’s face is more clear, the lines deeper, more accurate. He is smiling a weird, twisted smile. Or maybe I feel that way because I never see him show his teeth.

But there’s more. There was something else in the doorway. I pan down. It’s white and red, and it takes me a moment to realize what I’m staring at. It’s a bloody towel.

I click the scene back a notch and now the image takes on a meaningful picture. Callaghan is holding a bloody towel and smiling and nodding his approval to Alva.

He knows.



author
Eric Devine is the author of multiple works of Young Adult fiction, most recently Dare Me, withPress Play being published 10/28. He is also a veteran high school English teacher who spends as much time teaching as he does completing field research for his novels. His work has been listed byYALSA and Booklist for reluctant readers and for Best in Sports. He is married to his high school sweetheart, and his wife and he have two wonderful daughters and two not-so-wonderful Labradors.

To learn more about Eric Devine and her books, visit her website.You can also find her on Goodreads, Facebook, and Twitter.

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