Matt got out of the hospital at the end of September. The University of Connecticut suggested he start school after the holidays. The coach said he could red shirt and officially begin his athletic career the following season. His scholarship wasn’t assured. He would have to make the team and get good grades, but it was not off the table. This was a tremendous relief to Matt, as he slowly recovered from his injuries.
He was able to get back on his feet by November. He thought about going to see a Revere High football game, but there were too many bad memories. The ghosts of Chad and Mr. Martinelli haunted the team, and they couldn’t seem to catch a break. Even under the rosiest conditions, this team was simply not as talented as the one Matt had captained. They went 6-4. Not bad but not good enough to make the playoffs. Coach Murray must have had many conniption fits over the course of the season, Matt thought.
His former boss at Foot Locker took pity on him and let him come back for a few hours when he could move around. A lot of people came to see him. Not people he knew so well, but people who heard Matt Bisbee had taken on Carmine Cantu. They rarely bought sneakers.
There was nothing he could do about the people who came into Foot Locker to ask him what happened. But when he was out of work, he avoided anyone from Revere High.
Over the holidays, Kitty was the only one he saw. She had done well at Indiana University and made the soccer team. She wasn’t a starter but got into games and it looked like she’d take over the sweeper role the following season. She didn’t tell him she had fooled around with a few guys but said they could get right back into it if he wanted to. All he had to do was say the word.
She came to Matt’s house, as he was no longer embarrassed about where he lived. They kissed and cuddled, an activity his parents could overlook, watching movies over the holidays, but they didn’t sleep together. Matt felt it was unfair to her. He was tainted and wanted her to move on, though he couldn’t bring himself to say that to her.
They parted without agreeing or disagreeing on anything concerning their relationship. She went back to Indiana and Matt began to pack for Connecticut.
January was cold, very cold. Revere froze. Even the ocean showed ice at the edges. Cars and other vehicles would not start. Pipes burst. The heat in Matt’s building failed one night, and they had to break out the space heaters. Mr. Bisbee let the landlord know they would be sending him the electric bills.
Matt was set to leave for Connecticut in the middle of January. The night before his departure, his dad came into his room. Boxes and bags were packed and Matt was ready to go. His room hadn’t seemed this bare and organized in years. Part of Matt didn’t ever want to come back and leaving his room in an orderly state was the least he could do for his mother. He’d ripped up and thrown away all pictures of the Revere High team.
“You set?” his dad asked.
“Yeah. I think so,” Matt replied.
Mr. Bisbee closed the door, and a serious look came across his face. Matt thought a Joe College kind of talk was coming. “Something’s missing,” his dad said.
“Missing?” Matt thought his packing was pretty thorough.
“Not here,” his father went on. “In the basement.”
“What?” Matt was beginning to understand but wanted to play dumb.
“Matt…” Mr. Bisbee could see Matt was lying, or attempting to lie. “There’s also this,” Mr. Bisbee held up the letter Matt had written. Matt had forgotten completely about it and his face went red. He did not know what to say. “No one else has seen it. Don’t worry,” his father said.
Mr. Bisbee held the paper in his hands. It was crinkled and worn. He’d read the letter many times. “Dad…I…” Matt couldn’t go on. He had been caught, unmasked, found out. He thought he’d take these secrets to the grave.
“Right after you were born…,” his dad began. “…things were rough. I know we’ve never had a lot, but it was worse. Money was really tight. I thought we were going to end up on the street.” The memories hit Mr. Bisbee powerfully. “I was doing a job for a business in a building next to a bank. I was pretty sure the business was going to stiff me, and I noticed there was a way into the bank through the basement. You could get in there at night and no one would know at all. I didn’t know how to rob a bank, but I knew someone who did. Carmine Cantu.”
Matt’s face drained of embarrassed color as he listened to his father talk. He couldn’t believe what he was hearing.
“I went to see him. I knew who he was and what he did. He liked the scheme and agreed to help. Your mother found out somehow, and she told me we couldn’t stay married to me if I went through with it. We needed the money, but I needed you guys more. I told Carmine I would have to back out. He wasn’t happy about it, and for a while I had to look over my shoulder. That’s why I got those guns, the ones that are now missing.”
There was so much to say, but Matt couldn’t find any words. Mr. Bisbee produced a match and struck it. He put the match to the letter and it burned rapidly. He flicked away the charred remains
“Have the police asked you anything?” Matt asked his dad.
“The heat of the fire must have melted off the serial numbers. If the cops do ever find out, I’m gonna tell them they were stolen from me years ago. I didn’t report it because I never renewed my license and didn’t want to get in trouble.” Mr. Bisbee had it all worked out.
“Wouldn’t you get into trouble then?” Matt asked.
“Maybe,” his dad replied. “Failure to register a hand gun will only be a slap, though.”
“They probably won’t believe that guns stolen from you years ago ended up in a shooting that your son was involved with,” Matt said.
“But there’s nothing to prove you brought them there. You were just going to help out Chad, right? Maybe he stole them. He’s been over here.” Mr. Bisbee had every angle covered.
Matt always thought he was going to be the one to save the family when he went off to college and got a good job after that. But now, his father had saved him. He had new found respect for the man. “Dad…” Matt wanted to say thanks but he didn’t know where to start.
“You don’t have to, Matty. I know,” Mr. Bisbee said. “You were willing to go further. I wasn’t. That’s the difference between us.”
“No, dad. You’re the better man,” Matt told his father. Matt and his father clinched each other in a bear hug but stepped back before it became awkward. “We’ll leave at nine in the morning?” he asked.
Matt nodded and his father left the room. Matt closed the door behind him and leaned against it. He went to his bed and lay down. It was only 10pm, but he couldn’t think of anything else to do so why not escape reality by tumbling into sleep? His dreams, in comparison to everything that had happened, might make more sense.
In the morning, promptly at nine, Matt and his parents went out to his father’s van. If none of the things that happened to Matt the prior year had occurred, he might have been mortified to roll into University of Connecticut in a plumber’s van.
Not now. He was as proud of that shit box as anything in his life.
He hugged his mother goodbye. She shed a few tears; her only boy going off to college. She had long known he was a man, but this was the first time her child would be away from her for more than a few days.
Matt and his father got in the van. It strained in the cold to come to life, but she turned over eventually. Some snow had fallen during the night. It was enough for the plows to come out, but it wouldn’t be holding up the Bisbees.
The van weaved its way out of the neighborhood, dodging snow plows and people clearing sidewalks. A few of the neighborhood residents pointed at the van with respect. Matt Bisbee, the kid who took out Carmine Cantu, was passing by.
The heat dribbled out of the car’s vents and ice stuck to all the windows. Matt struggled to see through the windshield and the people and city he was leaving behind. He was nervous about college and the future, but he knew he was leaving behind a better Revere.
As the neighborhood faded from view and the tires of the van gripped larger roads more confidently, Matt tried to focus his thoughts not on what he had done but what he would do. There would be new battles to fight. They’d be nowhere near what he’d gone through with Billy Cantu or his father Carmine –and his friend Chad—but they would be challenges nonetheless.
Matt rolled his shoulder. The bullet wound had healed fully but the scar itched him on occasion, a constant reminder.
The van passed a sign that read now leaving Revere. Revere, named after Paul Revere. Matt thought back to Mr. Martinelli’s lesson on the Founding Father. Most people only knew about Paul Revere’s ride and what he did during the American Revolution, but there was an enormous second act in his life.
Matt had done what he had to do, and now it was time for his second act. He stood up for his friends, his family, his neighborhood. His city, Revere.
It was time for rest and reward. It was time to start getting in shape for the coming season of football.