It's hard to say when Ailan turned bitter. He strode through the hallway into his new domain, the Evergreen High gymnasium. The school principal worked with maintenance on sound equipment. Ailan cleared his throat. Turning on a heel, the principal nearly tripped off the stage.
"Morning, Mr. Wickward," Ailan chuckled. Mr. Wickward turned a bright red before coming to stand in front of the new school sports director.
"Top of the morning to you, Mr. Grimm!" the pompous man held out a pudgy hand and shook Ailan's. "It's a pleasure to finally have such a renowned coach in our town."
"Of course, I wouldn't be happier anywhere else. As long as those funds come along as we discussed," he replied, quickly withdrawing his hand from the principal's hold. "I shall start the year off with a soccer team. Do we have the proper equipment?"
Without waiting for an answer, Ailan walked into the equipment locker and scanned the messy room. Half-deflated basketballs littered the floor. A stray kickball rolled to a halt in front of his feet. Torn-up softballs and baseballs occupied a nearby waste bin. Thumping came from behind a closed door. He wasn't even going to open that. His nose was wrinkled up in disgust when he confronted the principal.
"A-afraid not," Mr. Wickward squeaked. "But we printed the sign up sheets and pinned them! So you'll have students for your first practice!"
"Excellent. I shall return tomorrow and perhaps we could discuss a bit extra funding so they can have the full experience of good equipment?" Ailan pressed.
"Of course. Should the superintendent ask questions, I'll tell him the importance of this at once!" the principal waddled away. Ailan smirked and began organizing the backroom. Voices came, made comments, and left him to his cleaning. His plan was simple: Take funding from the other extracurricular activities in order to perfect the sports teams. The students will have a better experience if they pull sports away instead of the useless fine arts. At least they would have a chance at getting a scholarship.
When he left the school that afternoon, he checked the sign up sheets. Almost every name line had been used. Ailan couldn't help the smile that crept up his face. Yes, he thought. Perfect. He adjusted his hold on the garbage bag in his hand. All that old junk was going to be discarded in all its unholiness.
"Mr. Grimm!" A young girl's voice called.
Ailan turned to assess the source, "Yes?"
"I heard you're taking funding from the other extracurriculars. Why?" the girl asked.
He smiled in what he hoped was a warm manner, "What's your name?"
Of course. Must be an artsy kid. "Well, Emily, the others already have the proper equipment while the gymnasium is sadly lacking in that area. We have to make this school as amazing as it could be."
"But, don't you think that the other directors will want an opinion to be heard from them?" she scowled. "Mr. Grimm, I don't think this school needs that much funding for just sports equipment."
Ailan was beginning to lose his patience with the child. "Maybe some new jerseys too. Thank you, Emily. I will take that into consideration."
He turned and walked to his car confidently, ignoring her gaping stare. Once in his car, he laughed. She had just unwittingly assisted him in shutting down the Fine Art programs. Ailan was now going to return to his temporary dwelling and design new jerseys.
Sounds came from inside his apartment. Creeping the door open, he peeked around it. In the midst of a large mess stood a feline larger than the ordinary house cat. It was his lynx, Shadow. She looked up at him, tilting her head to the side.
"What did I say about trashing the house?" he asked her. A light chuff was the only response she could give. Ailan rolled his eyes. Typical lynx behavior. Practice was going to start soon so he got suited up and drove back to the school. Marching onto the field, Ailan looked at the pathetic ensemble the school put together. He pulled out the sign up form and read off the names. Everyone lined up accordingly.
"Alright, pansies! Listen up!" he began. "This is no ordinary team practice! Here is where you will sweat off that baby fat and muscle up!" Ailan was glad to see that girls and guys alike decided to sign up.
"Uh, sir? Should you be talking to us like that?" Nathan Alister asked. He was fairly built but still on the scrawny side. It seemed that he would hide inside himself if he could.
"That's a lap, Alister. Take it in stride. Anymore questions?" Ailan asked. There was a collective negative shake of heads. "Good."
He started them off with simple kicking exercises. Well, he considered them simple. All they had to do was kick the ball correctly with the side of their feet. One of the degenerative balls was lost over the school's back fence because Desmond Wilson punted it with the toe of his shoe. It went widely off to the side. He was given a lap for it. Emily Drake, the girl from earlier, volunteered to go get it.
"Can we..." Nathan panted, his hair sticking to his forehead. "Take a break...?"
Ailan checked his watch; it was already 4:30. Time for Shadow's walk.
"Hit the showers! Those who made the team will be posted outside the gymnasium tomorrow morning!" He shouted. Slowly, they all trickled into the locker room. Nathan and Desmond hung behind. They both wanted to know if the former had made the team. Ailan smirked with a slight nod. When they left, he sat in his car looking over the list. Small, but a good start. At the meeting from two weeks previous, Mr. Wickward talked about taking money from the band and drama departments. Drama was broke entirely and got nixed.
Band was next. Those uniforms were abuse to the human eye. On his drive home, Ailan thought about ways to motivate his players. Bribery? Too cliche, no matter the effectiveness. Let them pick warm ups? Risky, they'd probably try to be lazy about it. Taking a deep breath, he felt his thoughts turn toward his past. A loud honking interrupted his zen.
"NO!" He yelled, swerving to avoid a head-on collision. His car smashed into a pine tree. Shadow, his lynx, sat on the hood of the car licking herself. Ailan had no idea how she could've gotten out of the house by herself.
"Sir! Sir! Are you okay?!" A strange woman asked. He couldn't shake off his stupor. His life had almost ended because he let himself zone out. It was a disaster. The woman opened the door of his car and tugged on his arm, trying to get him free. He ripped his arm away, getting out by himself. Her lips set in a firm line as she scowled. Sighing, Ailan swiped his hair out of his eyes to meet her gaze. Shadow rubbed up against his legs and purred.
"Do you know that feline?" She asked.
He raised an eyebrow, "Perhaps. Do you have a bias against her?" Shadow meowed in agreement to his statement, eyeing the lady with disgust.
"No, I was just wondering if you had a collar and leash for her. Considering her size I wouldn't think you'd want the animal catcher taking her in," she replied.
"Of course, I do," Ailan spat before picking Shadow up and walking away from his car and the strange woman. The large feline laid on his shoulder contently. The walk back to his apartment was long and tiring. As he arrived, his only thought was hitting his bed for a good eight hours of rest. Much to Ailan's dismay, it was already midnight.
"Meow," Shadow whined. Her coat was slick with sweat.
"I know, sweetie," Ailan cooed softly. She shook off and took off to her perch on the other side of the apartment. He wandered to the bathroom and looked himself over in the mirror. Scratches covered his skin. Overnight heal at best. After the quickest shower of his life, he collapsed into bed. Shadow curled up at his side as she laid her head on his lower back. Her purrs lulled him into a deep sleep.
The blaring voice of the basketball announcer jolted him awake at 6:30 a.m. Punching the alarm clock radio, Ailan rolled over for five more minutes of relaxation only to find Shadow partially laying on his face. She meowed and stretched, getting up to go use the litter box. He followed behind her, stopping to sit on the toilet with half open eyes.
Ailan contemplated how his life would change with no car. His Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 had been totaled in the accident. He'd have to figure out how to get to and from work in a way that didn't take long and didn't cost much. Possibly a moped? They were pretty efficient. Finishing his morning routine, Ailan stalked out the front door.
Sighing and scowling in the brisk morning air, he called on his training and got out his old bike. It was going to be a long morning. It was nearly eight when he reached the school building. Students stopped and stared as Ailan lined up his bike next to theirs in the bike rack. Kids moved out of his way as he marched through the halls to his domain.
"Dodgeball!" He yelled, throwing the kids the rubber balls before hiding in the supply closet. Their screams of joy somewhat muted by the heavy oak door. A newsletter from Mr. Wickward sat unopened on his desk. A knock made him open the door. One of the kids held up a parents' note without making eye contact. Ailan took it and ushered the young one back out to sit on the stage. He tossed the note without looking. Sitting down, his eyes laid on the sealed envelope, trying to gather up the gumption to pick it up. It was a while before he did. The first class of the day was almost over. Ailan walked out with it in his hand.
"Mr. Grimm! Can I go get a drink?" A child asked.
"Hurry," he replied, opening the envelope. His face lit up as he read the first line. "Alright, everyone! Put the balls away and line up at the door for your teacher!" Ailan pushed his way through the halls to the principal's office.
Mr. Wickward looked up, startled, "Yes, Mr. Grimm?"
"Is this true?" Ailan asked. "Is the funding completely redirected?"
The principal took his glasses off, wiping his brow, "Afraid so. The other teachers are not too happy about this but they understand a school's reputation lies solely on the quality of the sports department."