Bless Nicole Cliffe for bringing this to my attention:
The year I was a freshman cheerleader I was reading 1984. I was fourteen years old then and failing algebra and the fact that I was failing it worried me as I would worry now if the Mafia were after me, or if I had shot somebody and the police were coming to get me. But I did not have an awful lot of time to brood about this. It was basketball season then, and there was a game nearly every night. In Mississippi the schools are far apart, and sometimes we would have to drive two hundred miles to get to Panola Academy, Sharkey-Issaquena, funny how those old names come back to me; we'd leave sometimes before school was out, not get home till twelve or one in the morning. I was not an energetic teenager, and this was hard on me.
That's Donna Tartt, in the April 1994 issue of Harpers' Magazine, writing about her time as a cheerleader for her high school basketball team. The whole thing is, predictably, perfect, but there was something about this section that I really can't stop thinking about:
We were all of us, all the time, constantly sick—coughing, blowing our noses, faces flushed with fever: symptoms that were exacerbated by bad food, cramped conditions, exhaustion, and yelling ourselves hoarse every night. Hoarseness was, in fact, a matter of pride: we were accused of shirking if our Voices Weren't Cracked by the end of the evening, the state to which we aspired being a rasping, laryngitic croak. I remember the only time the basketball coach–a gigantic, stone-faced, terrifying man who was also the principal of the school and who, to my way of thinking, held powers virtually of life or death (there were stories of his punching kids out, beating them till they had bruises, stories that perhaps were not apocryphal in a private school like my own, which prided itself on what it called "old-fashioned discipline" and where corporal punishment was a matter of routine); the only time this coach ever spoke to me was to compliment me on my burned-out voice, which he overheard in the hall the morning after a game. "Good job," he said. My companions and I were dumbfounded with terror. After he was gone they stared at me with awestruck apprehension and then, one by one, drifted gently away, not wishing to be seen in the company of anyone who had attracted the attention—even momentarily—of this dangerous lunatic.
Read the whole piece here.