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  • Writer's pictureHenry Cavanaugh

The Failure

Updated: Dec 15, 2018

This story is part of a collaboration with AmaliaNetwork. The corresponding point-of-view can be found on their blog so be sure to check it out!

Fred Montana was not a failure. To even stop and consider such would be ridiculous and quite frankly, insulting. Nothing had been handed to Fred, he had worked for every single victory and was proud of that fact too. “Real men are forged in fire,” he’d grumble in response to any student that complained he was being too tough on them. As far as Fred was concerned, the future generations were far too soft and hadn’t experienced any of the trials or tribulations that he had. Only a few garnered his respect and those were the young men that worked hard to make it onto his championship-winning football team.

Unfortunately the young men who were actually worthy of his respect were few and far between, faint beacons of light amidst crowds of underwhelming runts and rejects. Whether he liked it or not, Fred worked at a school that was largely populated by failures and it was tough on a man like him to be surrounded by such stench on a regular basis. If he hadn’t been so passionate about continuing his team’s record-breaking winning streak he likely would have found somewhere else to work. Hell, maybe he’d even proven himself enough to finally hit the big leagues and start coaching a professional team.

While there had been a number of complaints about how he treated certain students, Fred knew that his position at the school wasn’t ever really at risk. The upper management loved the praise that they got from having such a prominent sports team representing them and everybody knew that their success was down to him. As such, Fred lived comfortably knowing that every scathing comment and abrupt dismissal of students whose faces and names were of little importance to him would remain unpunished.

Things all began to change for Fred as the days ticked through May and June began. The end of the school year was approaching and with another football season under his belt, the coach was left in something of a sour mood. He still ran regular drills with his team and made sure they were adhering to their strict diet but the lack of competition kept him aggravated at the best of times. Those students unlucky enough to cross him bore the brunt of his wrath and Dexter Klein was unfortunate enough to be among those.

Truthfully the boy’s name never would have stuck out in Fred’s mind for any amount of time had he not caused so many issues with one of the stellar athletes on his team. The little nerd was making a big deal out of a small situation, blindly throwing around terms such as ‘bullying’ and ‘abuse’ that jeopardized the future of Fred’s team and its reputation. He wasn’t willing to let the little shit manipulate him or any of his boys and he made as such known, growling a threat with disdain flowing through his voice. He simply couldn’t stand being surrounded by such palpable weakness.

Confident that the Klein mess was behind him, Fred was content to forget the boy’s face and name. Unfortunately that wasn’t to be as he suddenly seemed to spot the redheaded boy all around the school. Every time their eyes met Fred felt a flicker of frustration rush through him. He wasn’t sure why but the boy brought about such such feelings of disdain within him that rose without falter every time their paths crossed.

Things only grew worse from there as Fred found himself feeling physically weaker with each passing day. He wasn’t running a fever at all, nor did he feel any sort of sickness bug in his stomach, but he was getting exhausted far quicker and wasn’t quite hitting his usual weights at the gym. A voice in the back of his mind hissed abuse at him, describing him as a failure and it only made his blood boil. Despite the added fuel of frustration, Fred still couldn’t quite hit his usual stride and he was more than willing to blame it on the stress caused by Dexter Klein and his crybaby ways.

As the day moved on, things only seemed to get worse for Fred. His balance was completely off, causing him to trip over his own feet several times. It was an act far too clumsy and unlike him and the result was his mood darkening even further. He walked around the campus with a dark expression on his face and was glad to see that the students still feared him enough to stay out of his way.

Of course, not all of them were so wise and Justin, one of the tight ends on the team, saw fit to approach him just before he could enter his office. “Hey coach, are you okay? You’re looking a little… not yourself,” the boy questioned politely. 

“Not myself?” Fred asked sharply, “What does that mean?” The severity of his response caught the young man off guard and had Fred been a better mood he might have felt sorry for him. Justin was a good kid, if a little too curious and eager at times. “Well? Spit it out!”

“Y’know, just ill and stuff!” the student stammered in response, paling considerably. Nobody liked to be on Fred’s side, not even the boys in his team. Hell, he was harsher on them than he was on any of his other students and for good reason too. He expected commitment, maturity and results from them at any moment of the day, both in the classroom and on the football field.

“I’m fine,” Fred hissed, storming into his office and slamming the door behind him. Truthfully he didn’t feel totally fine but he wasn’t the type to ever let himself get consumed by illness or feel sorry for himself. He would power through as he always did and he certainly didn’t need anybody’s sympathy just because he wasn’t at his usual strength levels. If anything it only made him more irritable which was never a good thing for anyone.

Fred’s mood made no considerable improvement the next morning, particularly as he woke up feeling physically drained. He chose to forego his usual morning run and his mood only soured as he noticed that his chest didn’t quite fill out his shirt as much as he’d expected it to. Had he simply imagined that his pecs had pushed the shirt to its limits only days beforehand? Now they were barely outlined by the fabric, leaving the coach both confused and frustrated. Whatever flu or bug he’d picked up was clearly having a quick physical effect on him.

While being irritated by the sight of Dexter Klein was hardly a new thing considering the hassle the student had caused him, Fred’s mood plummeted even further when he saw the grin on the young man’s face that morning. He really didn’t want to know what had pleased the young menace so much so instead he scurried off to his office with his head down. He wasn’t afraid to barge through the crowd of students who today apparently struggled to remember they were supposed to scared enough of him to get the hell out of his way.

By the next day it was undeniable that something was very wrong, as reluctant as Fred was to admit it. His reflection that morning was a sight for sore eyes and a lifetime away from the tall, muscular, proud man he had been just earlier that week. His shoulders were slumped, upper arms considerably smaller in diameter and his chest had leaned out. Perhaps most confusingly of all though, was the sudden absence of his chest hair. He had rocked a thick mane of hair since being a teenager but awoke to find an entirely hairless chest. It was enough to panic the fully-grown man enough into calling sick from work. He had no idea what was going on but he couldn’t deal with adding the stress of work on top of it, especially not if he’d have to endure another day of Dexter grinning like a fool.

The days that followed only made the situation that much worse. With every passing hour something else about Fred’s body seemed ‘off’ and each change made him increasingly anxious. What was the end result to be? His beard had vanished overnight, leaving his face fresh and much younger in appearance. Much of the muscle mass he had attained through hard work at the gym for over a decade was gone, leaving him uncomfortably slender. Even in his own teenage years he hadn’t been quite so lean. 

As difficult as it was to admit, the man Fred saw in his reflection was nothing short of an embarrassment. Diminutive in figure and visibly uncertain, the man was a guaranteed target for bullies and anybody with a mean streak. He appeared to be younger than his years and even his facial features had lost their traditional masculine strength, leaving him with an almost effeminate look. There was no doubt in Fred’s mind that he now had more in common with the science geeks at his school than the young athletes on his team. That was a humiliating thought if there ever was one.

The peak of Fred’s misery came towards the end of Sunday night. A knock on the door had startled Fred and he reuctantly rose from the sofa to glance out of his window at who could be knocking on his door at such a late hour. What he saw was a shock, to say the least. A hulking man stood on his doorstep, tall and muscular, and entirely unfamiliar. Fred’s curiosity was on high alert - who was this man and what did he want from him?

Despite feeling anxious, Fred elected to open the door and face the man rather than hiding away like a coward. Upon realizing that he barely reached the other man’s collarbone, another wave of emasculation flushed through the coach. He wasn’t used to encountering men taller than himself but his inexplicable changes over the past week had made such things unfortunately possible and likely.

The man’s pale blue shirt was stretched out across a broad chest and the undone buttons at the top allowed Fred to admire the hair on his chest. He couldn’t help but pine for his own body hair, long since gone. Allowing his gaze to travel further up, the coach was stunned to be met by a smug grin on the man’s face. It was an expression that sent a shiver down his spine, especially as he realized there was something ever so slightly familiar about it…

“Hello Freddie,” the man growled, his voice deep and rough. Fred was at a total loss for words as his mind started putting the pieces together, finally recalling the moment he had caught that awful Dexter Klein grinning at him earlier in the week. Could it be? Was the man in front of him… “Dex. Or, to you, sir.” As much as it pained him to realize, Fred suddenly knew where every bit of his masculinity and muscularity had gone - to the one student who had made his life a living hell for the past few weeks simply by causing issues for his team.

Any outsider without knowledge of their situation would comfortable label Dex the adult coach and Freddie the geeky student, a revelation that made the former coach’s stomach turn. As his replacement barreled past him, knocking the now-younger man down to the ground, Freddie was faced with an undeniable and uncomfortable truth - no longer was he was the school’s alpha male. That role had been stolen from him by Dex and even Freddie knew better than to think that there was any chance of it being undone.

All that was left to do was find out what Dex expected of him under these new circumstances. While he wouldn’t be happy about it, Freddie was smart enough to know that he would have to abide by the other man’s rules or face an even worse punishment than what he had endured. What would Dex take from him next? His heterosexuality? His friends? His career?

Perhaps the most terrifying realization came soon after and forced Freddie to start accepting his new role in life - truthfully, he found the thought of Dex taking even more from him actually rather exciting

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