Authors: Eric Walters
Copyright Â© Eric Walters 2006
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording or by any information storage and retrieval system now known or to be invented, without permission in writing from the publisher.
Library and Archives Canada Cataloguing in Publication
Walters, Eric, 1957-
Laggan Lard Butts / Eric Walters.
ISBN 1-55143-531-4 (bound) ISBN 1-55143-518-7 (pbk.)
I. Title. II. Series.
PS8595.A598L33 2006Â Â Â jC813'.54Â Â Â C2006-900468-4
: Sometimes a joke can go too far.
First published in the United States, 2006
Library of Congress Control Number
Orca Book Publishers gratefully acknowledges the support for its publishing programs provided by the following agencies: the Government of Canada through the Book Publishing Industry Development Program (BPIDP), the Canada Council for the Arts, and the British Columbia Arts Council.
Cover design: Lynn O'Rourke
Cover photography: Dayle Sutherland
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PO Box 5626, Stn. BÂ Â Â PO Box 468
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Printed and bound in Canada
Printed on 50% post-consumer recycled paper,
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09 08 07 06 â¢ 5 4 3 2 1
To all the Lard Butts in the world!
I had just finished a presentation at Laggan public school and was fielding questions from the students. One of them asked me, “What would you write about if you were a teacher here?” I looked over at the mural on the wall of the gymâit said,
The Laggan Lairds
. Right there, in front of an audience of one hundred kids, I outlined the plot that became this novel. Go, Lard Butts!
“Backdoor! Backdoor!” I screamed as I saw the play develop.
My teammate, Cody, turned and stared at me with an openmouthed look of confusion on his face as his man went backdoor and scored an easy lay-up.
I opened my mouth to say something, but I stopped myself. Coach had been pretty clear what he'd do if I said anything rude to anybody during the game. I bit my tongue and went
to take the inbound pass while everybody else ran to the other end of the court.
Taylorâor was it Tanner?âwas ready to toss it in to me. No it
Taylor. I'd known the twins for nine yearsâwe'd met the first day of kindergartenâbut I still had trouble telling them apart at a glance.
“That was pretty impressive, Sam,” Taylor said as he tossed the ball in.
“You thought that play was impressive?” I asked in shock.
“Not the play. You keeping your mouth shut
Cody's play. Don't waste your time with Cody,” he said under his breath as we started up the court. “The only back door Cody knows is the one that leads to his kitchen.”
I fought back a laugh. Cody was a little weight challenged, but then again, the whole team, except for me and the twins, was challenged in more ways than one.
I dribbled across center. The other team had pressed all through the first half and then stopped. That was only good sportsmanship. They were up by so many
points that it would have been rubbing it in to continue to press.
They knew they couldn't lose. We all knew that. I'd long ago given up any thoughts of actually winning. Come to think about it I don't think I had those thoughts even before the game had started. All I wanted was not to lose too badly.
“Three!” I yelled out.
Taylor and Tanner reacted instantly, while Cody and Travis bumped into each other trying to get to the same place. I felt like screaming directions at themâor yelling something elseâbut what was the point? Neither of them was very good, but they were actually the fourth-and fifth-best players on the team. We didn't have a bench. No we
have a bench, but the people sitting
the bench couldn't play basketball to save their lives.
Tanner cut around the screen. I knew it was Tanner because I saw the number on the back of his jersey. I sent the ball in, and he stopped and popped a shot. It dropped for a basket!
The crowd gave a big cheer. I turned and scowled at them. It wasn't our home game. We were so pathetic that the other team's fans were cheering for us. Pity applause. I wanted to say something to them as well. I looked down and saw our coach and my homeroom teacher, Mr. Davidson, and I shut upâagain. I put my head down and ran back to our end.
“Zone two!” I called out, setting our defense.
There was no point in chasing them for the last two minutes of the game. Victory was way out of reach. If we didn't pressure them maybe they wouldn't try to score. We could at least make it harder for them to backdoor Cody again.
Their point guard stayed up high, away from the paint, eating up time. They didn't need to score, and, to be honest, I was happy if nobody scored. I just wanted the game to end so the score wouldn't get any more lopsided.
“Campbell!” Coach Davidson called out. He always called us by our last names during the games. “Pressure the ball!”
Obviously he thought we weren't losing badly enough, because he couldn't possibly think we could win. Nobody could be that stupid.
I moved out toward the ball carrier. He turned his back and used his body to shield the ball. He kept on dribbling. I wasn't getting any closer. Let him dribble out the clock.
He looked over his shoulder at me. “What's a laird?”
His question, in the middle of the game, caught me by surprise. “Um...it's the name of our school team.”
“I know that, it's on the uniforms. I just wanted to know what a laird was. What does it mean?”
“It's Scottish. It's some sort of weapon, I think, something they used when there were knights and armor.”
He passed the ball off. “Lairds,” he chuckled. “Your team should be the
Laggan lard butts
He suddenly broke for the net, cutting by me before I could react. He got the ball
back and drove for the open net and an easy bucket. I pushed him from behind with both hands, sending him sailing through the air. He landed face-first on the ground andâ
The ref blew his whistle to signal the foul. At the same time Coach Davidson yelled for a time-out.
I walked over to the bench. I knew what was going to happen.
“I know, I know, I'm on the bench.”
That was the end of the game for me, but it really didn't matter. With or without me we'd already lost. Probably better this way, I thought. Now all I had to do was keep my mouth shut for the next two minutes. Say nothing to my coach, or my teammates, the other team, the ref or the fans. Just shut up and be a good loser. Since practice makes perfect you'd think that I'd know how to be a good loser by now. I should be a
loser by now.
Our school teams always lost. It didn't matter what sportâbasketball, soccer, baseball, volleyball or hockeyâwe sucked at
them all. I'd been on all our school teams every year since grade six, and we'd never had a winning team. Forget winning team, we'd hardly ever had a win.
One of our rare wins had been the first basketball game of the season. We'd won by ten points. We'd played well. We were good. At least that's what I had thought. What I didn't know then was that the first team we'd played was just more terrible than we were. They lost every game all season, including the two against us. Those were our only wins.
Winning that first game made the season even worse. It had given me hope. It wasn't good to have hope when your team played hopelessly.
The buzzer sounded, mercifully ending the game. I stood up but didn't look at the score clock. I joined my team and shuffled toward center court to congratulate the winners.
“Not bad,” Tanner said as he came up beside me.
“We were terrible.”
“Not the game. You. You almost made it through an entire game without losing it.”
“My proudest moment.”
“Just be polite in the line,” Taylor said as he joined us. “Don't let them get you going.”
“I'll be polite.”
“Good, âcause we need you to play the last game of the year.”
Earlier in the year, during the lineup at the end of a game, I'd been in an argument that almost led to a fight with a player from the other team. I was told that if that happened again I'd be suspended from the team for the rest of the year.
I walked through the line, slapping hands and mumbling “good game” as the other team did the same. I kept my head down. I didn't want to look at anybody. I knew everybody on that teamâmost by name. You play against people for three years and you get to know them. Three years of playing. Three years of losing.
We walked back toward the bench.
“What did that guy say to you?” Tanner asked.
“Somebody said something to me?” I
asked as I skidded to a stop. “Somebody in line said something to me?”
“Not in line, during the game...at the end.”
“Oh, him. He said that our team should be called the Lard Butts.”
Tanner started laughing.
“You think that's funny?” I demanded.
“Of course I do. Think about how we play. Maybe we should be the Lard Butts. Forget it, let's get changed and get out of this place.”
There was no argument from me. I wanted out as soon as possible. Maybe I wasn't a good loser, but I wanted to be a loser who didn't hang around.
We piled into Mr. Davidson's van. Probably the best thing about having him as coach was that he was the only teacher with a van big enough to carry a whole basketball team. It was a fifteen-seater. He used it to drive people to and from church on Sundays. He was a big-time church-going sort of guyânot that there was anything wrong with that.
He was also a pretty good teacher and a nice guy, but he knew next to nothing about
basketball. That was okay, though, because he knew he didn't know much and he didn't try to tell us what to do. He just let us call our own plays and play the game.
“Everybody buckle up!” he sang out.
Seatbelts clicked through the vehicle.
“Now that we're all safe we can go.”
He put the van into gear and we started away. I looked back at the school. This was the last time I would ever have to come here to lose, I thought. The last time I'd ever have to drag myself out of Maple Ridge school after losing another game to the Maple Ridge Mustangs. I
They were everything we weren't. We were little and they were big. They were city and we were country. They were winners and we were...well, we all knew what the score was.