Dave Sanders had never talked about regret before. Not to Frank DeAngelis. They talked every day, they had been close for twenty years, but they had never gone there. It came up unexpectedly, on Monday afternoon. Frank strolled out to the baseball diamond to watch his boys take on archrival Chatfield. He had coached the team before he went into administration, alongside his old friend Dave Sanders. And there at the top of the bleachers was Dave watching right now. He had a couple hours to kill until his girls arrived for basketball practice. The season was over, but they were working fundamentals for next year. Dave could have spent the time grading papers, but it was hard to fight the lure of the field. Mr. D said hi to the kids excited to see him there, then sat down next to Dave. They talked for two hours. They talked about everything. Their entire lives. Coaching, of course. The first time they met, when Frank arrived at Columbine in 1979. He was one of the shortest teachers on the faculty and the principal recruited him to coach basketball. "They needed a freshman coach, and I was on a one-year contract," Frank said. "The principal said, 'Frank, if you do me this one favor, I owe you one.' And what am I gonna say? 'I'll do whatever you want, sir.' So I coached basketball." The conversation was lighthearted for a long time, Dave cutting up as usual. Then he turned serious. "Do you miss coaching?" he asked. "Not really." Frank's answer sort of surprised Dave. Coaching was his life, Frank explained, but he had never really left it. He'd just expanded his audience. "You think so?" Dave wondered. Oh, yeah, Frank said. You can't really teach a kid anything: you can only show him the way and motivate him to learn it himself. Same thing applies to shortstops turning the double play and students grasping the separation of powers in the U.S. government. It's all the same job. Now he had to coach teachers, too, to inspire their own kids to learn. "What about you?" Frank asked. "Any regrets?" "Yeah. Too much coaching." They shared a good laugh. Seriously, though, Dave said. His family had come second to coaching. God. His family came second. Frank suppressed another laugh. His own son, Brian, was nineteen. Frank was confident he had been a good dad, but never enough of one. It had rankled his wife since day one, and recently she had laid into him about it: "When are you going to stop raising everybody else's kids and start raising your own?" That stung. It was a little hard to share, but this seemed like the moment, and Dave seemed like the guy. Dave understood. It was bittersweet for both of them. They had reached middle age blissfully. They wouldn't change a moment for their own sake--but had they shortchanged their kids? Frank's son was grown now, and Dave's daughters were, too. Too late. But they were still young women, and Dave had five grandkids and was hoping for more. Dave had not told the other coaches he was cutting back yet. He had not announced his decision to take off the first summer in memory. He confided it all to Frank now. What an amazing guy, Frank thought. He thought about hugging Dave. He did not. The game was still going, but Dave got up. "My girls are waiting for me," he said. "I have open gym." Frank watched him walk slowly away. ____ Coach Sanders had something else on his mind. He had held his first team meeting last Friday, and his new team captain, Liz Carlston, had failed to show. He expected to see her tonight. It was going to be a tense conversation, and it wasn't going to be just her. Sanders sat all the girls down on the court. They talked a lot about dedication. How was it going to look to the freshmen if the team leaders mouthed the words, then failed to show up? He expected a one hundred percent commitment. Every practice, every meeting, or you're out. He told them to scrimmage. He let them keep at it the entire evening. He sat on a folding chair watching, analyzing, preparing. At the end of the night, Liz tried to summon the courage to talk to him. She had just blanked on the meeting; she hadn't meant anything by it. She felt guilt and fear and anger. He wouldn't actually cut her, would he? Why hadn't he given her a chance to explain? She stopped at the baseline to change her shoes. Coach Sanders was right there. She should talk to him. She walked out quietly. She didn't even say good-bye. ____ Linda Lou was asleep when Dave got home that night. He kissed her softly. She woke up and smiled. Dave was holding a wad of cash--a thick stash, seventy singles. He flung them toward her and they fluttered down onto the comforter. She got excited. She loved his little surprises, but she wasn't sure what this was about. He went with it for a minute, got her hopes up, and then said she was silly: it was for her mom. Linda's mom was turning seventy on April 20. She liked to gamble. She would like that. Dave was all laughs that might with Linda. She was shocked when she learned later how tense his evening had been. "That's how the man could change," she said. "Walk through our door and he was done with basketball. Now he was thinking of my mom." He went down to fix himself a Diet Coke and rum. He found a game. Linda fell back asleep with a smile. ____ Morning was less pleasant. The alarm buzzed at 6:30. Linda and Dave were both in a rush. Linda had to pick up balloons for her mom's birthday party, and Dave had to drop Linda's poodle off for a haircut. Dave had no time for breakfast. He snagged an energy bar and a banana for the car. It was trash day-- his job, but he was going to be late. He asked Linda if she would do it. She was too stressed. "I really don't have time today." "I'm really going to be late," he muttered. They rushed out to separate cars and realized they had forgotten to kiss good-bye. They always kissed good-bye. Dave blew her a kiss from the driveway.