Young Lions

A short story about parents who take youth sports too seriously

Jim Esch
21 min readSep 5, 2022

It’s football season, and the suburban coaches are back with a vengeance.

Photo by Ben Hershey on Unsplash

From his back deck, Nick Lasada could see his neighbor Frank Koplantsky in the kitchen spying on his party. The drone of the Vortech 8000 central air unit Nick had sold him a month ago undercut the sounds of splashing water, happy conversation, and Angus Young.

It was working extra hard this squalid July afternoon, a real southeast Pennsylvania boiler. As hot as it was, the men beside Nick stayed clean, smelling of fresh body wash and musk, and their polo shirts, caps, and loafers looked brand new. Nick tied an apron and arrayed the steaks and chicken breasts on the grill. He grinned and kicked back a bottle of Hop Devil IPA.

Their houses were as clean as their clothes, spotless structures in East Whiteland developments named Valley Creek, Stepping Stone, and Planefield Farms. Together they golfed, transacted business at the Great Valley Inn, commuted in SUVs and sport sedans to corporate parks along 202. They held titles like sales manager, senior partner, assistant VP of product development, chief financial officer. Sipping the Hop Devil, they oozed contentment and looked at their kids with string-bean legs and pudgy tummies, knees tucking into cannonballs.

Frank Koplantsky was now outside with a garden hose, flecking beads of dancing water in the general direction of the bushes beside his house, his eye trained on the pool party. Nick didn’t want him snooping. He didn’t fit the tableau. He was gripped by an idle thought: He’s too old for this, which linked immediately to another: it would be a nice gesture to invite him over. After all, he was a paying customer. Recent widower, oldest resident on Heatherstone Lane. Retiree. Veteran of ’Nam. Fellow Republican. Soon he’d be downsizing, off to gated-access golf course community. And what after that? The descent to assisted living. The final destination: an urn on his kid’s mantel. Sad. He really should wave him over. Cheer him up. Maybe he’d talk with Nick’s dad, who didn’t exactly fit in, either.

Frank limped closer, the hose trailing like a rodent’s tail. Poolside was rife with women in prim tennis outfits and sun dresses, and their kids were…


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