The Love Beads
by Jerry Guarino
Joey jogged in from warm-ups
to meet with the coach, his Beatles haircut
bobbing in the breeze. His high school girlfriend
Linda smiled as he came to the sideline. Parents
and students started chanting for their
undefeated varsity soccer team.
Hey said Linda, proudly standing
there, still in her blue plaid Catholic school
uniform, knee socks and blue and white shoes.
Hi sweetheart said Joey; he touched
the tiny red and white beaded necklace she had
given him, matching his school colors and soccer
uniform. Nearby, Joey caught a glimpse of his
father, who often made time to come to his games.
In 1969, it was common to see boys wearing beads.
But his father was from another generation and
thought the necklace was feminine, or queer as
they called it in the 50s. Take those off,
he said to Joey.
Joey was puzzled and a little embarrassed. He
quietly came back. What for? Coach has no
problem with this.
But his old-school father wasnt arguing.
Take them off. Joey knew any more
talk would draw attention from the others, so he
pulled them off and threw them to his father.
Seething, he returned to the field to start the
Linda saw this and frowned. Joey had promised to
wear it during the game, displaying his
affections in public. He looked back at her with
an apologetic wave of the hand. After the
game he said.
OK Linda said, still puzzled but
His father left after the game, giving Joey time
to explain to Linda. Im sorry. My dad
doesnt understand. Where can I get another
Linda, relieved now, gave him a hug. For my
star winger. Ill make you one tonight.
Joey kissed her; seeing this, his Latino
teammates gave out some mock hoots in Spanish.
Ill pick you up at 7:00, Joey
said, and then jogged back to the locker room,
punching his friend in the arm. Who else is
going to get you the ball Jorge? They
laughed as they left the field, still hearing the
cheers from the crowd.
At dinner, his father ignored the earlier
incident. Not wanting to get into this in front
of his mother, Joey avoided the subject too, but
his glare made it clear to his father what his
feelings were. Did you win today Joey?
said his mom.
Yeah, 3 nothing; I had two assists. Dad was
His mom smiled. My star player, following
in his Dads footsteps? But his father
was an all-state football player and now grossly
Joey forced a smile. Something like that, I
guess. Im going to the movies with Linda
as he brought his empty plate to the kitchen and
Linda bounced into Joeys car, a 1969 Dodge
Dart, not the Charger he wanted, but at least it
was new. Joey stroked her long, dark hair, took
her hand and kissed her. Im so sorry
Linda gently pulled his face back to her, clearly
indicating she had forgiven him. Look what
I have. She pulled out another red and
white beaded necklace and fit the elastic around
his neck. Hows that feel? They
went to the drive-in and continued their
On the drive home, Joey asked Linda. Are
you coming to our game with Nutley?
Linda looked disappointed. Sorry dear, I
have a community service requirement for
graduation. Did you make up with your dad?
Joey shook his head. Not yet. He put
his arm around Lindas waist. Besides,
I have the perfect girl.
Linda leaned into Joey and pouted. Oh, now
youre making me sad that Ill miss
But Joeys father was there. Joey saw that
his father was having difficulty standing. At
half time, he went over to his father. You
all right dad? Beads of sweat appeared on
his forehead, even in the cool November afternoon.
Maybe you should go sit in the car or have
His father shook his head. Im fine. I
just want to ask you one thing son. Are you queer?
Joey couldnt believe what he was hearing.
Why would you say that? You know I have a
His father hesitated. The beads, not what a
guy should wear. Joey gave him a disgusted
look and headed back to the field.
But this affected his play in the second half.
His concentration was broken and he misplayed
several passes. Jorge hollered at him. Torpe.
Watch what youre doing.
Joey tried to run through his angst, giving Jorge
a stopped hand signal. Im ok, just
run your pattern. On the next attack, Joey
floated a ball over a defender, right in front of
Jorge, who made one of his moves and punched it
into the net.
Goal, came the chant from the crowd.
Then there was a scream. Everyone turned to the
sideline. Joeys father was lying on the
ground, clutching his chest.
Fortunately there was an ambulance on site. Joeys
father looked up at the EMT, gasping for air and
holding his arm. Dont worry sir, youre
going to be all right. Were just going to
stabilize you and bring you to the hospital for
follow-up. The EMT was wearing a blue
jumpsuit, white high converse and a utility belt
with stethoscope, scissors and other first aid
equipment. Joeys father pointed at the EMT
and tried to speak, but he couldnt make out
the words. The EMT interrupted. Relax sir.
Dont try to speak; are you pointing to my
necklace. My fiancÚ gave it to me to remind me
of her when Im at work. Sort of like an
engagement ring for guys.