It was high school so it really doesn’t matter. I was a junior or a senior and it doesn’t really matter which one. Beautiful fall day on the plains that flood out from the foot of the Rockies. That pleasant crisp smell that promises a cold night and a girlfriend tucked tight under your arm. There was a football in the air. I was in the stands cheering on my school, my friends. My girlfriend was waving her pom-poms and her pleated skirt bounced in blue and gold.
But this story isn’t about her, or about my best friend flinging his young body against other young bodies out there in the churned grass of the trenches. Or even about how a few weeks later after the stands cleared and we all rushed the field to celebrate our State Championship, he had taken to a knee and just felt empty. This story is about J who roamed our defensive backfield and exacted brutal retribution on anyone that dared bring the ball onto his part of the field. “This is my house! This is our house!” He yelled those things along with the rest of us.
J was up for All-American. At the very least he was a shoo-in for First Team All-State. He was more Aryan than me and more American than you. About six-foot-two, and physically graceful at 220 lbs., blonde-haired, blue-eyed. His parents bought him a red Corvette. A new one. Strange, considering his father was military like mine; his mother didn’t work like mine; and we all ate at the same cafeteria of the same public school.
J took his blonde-haired blue-eyed girlfriend C home after practice in that red Corvette. Or maybe she had the same name spelled with a K. She cheered on the same varsity squad as my girlfriend. She was thin and pretty with young curves straining fabric, but her brightcold eyes darted about, and I don’t believe they fucked until Prom.
J, with his military buzz cut and sizeable forearms was never in any of my classes, but he played baseball too, and I cheered for the team there as well. To be honest, the sports (other than football, or the ones I played) weren’t all that interesting, but my girlfriend had a convenient superstition that we needed to have sex before each game so that she could cheer well; and hey, what’s an hour or two watching sports?
Football though, football was J’s thing. He was going to go to college on a football scholarship. That’s what the Corvette was for. And somehow that’s what C was for as well. There were scouts in the audience that afternoon. Good programs, too. We destroyed that other team. One of those 40 to something negligible beatdowns. The crowd had long since switched from cheers to demands for dominance and highlight plays.
J had been brilliant. His helmet and shoulders had stopped pounding ball-carriers and receivers somewhere in the second quarter. They had stopped probing that area of the field. But they scored once. Some moment in the fog of garbage time a pass made it over the secondary due to another headhunting blitz and a receiver squeaked into the endzone down the left sideline.
The final whistle blew and the band struck up our school song. We bounced and sang as the teams filed past each other slapping gloves. As I moved down onto the rubber of the track surrounding the field to kiss M and plan the rest of our Saturday, I saw J’s mother. A blonde wrapped in one of those Colorado coats moved onto the field and made that distinctly German version of “come here” with a gloved hand.
J trotted towards his mother, his helmet still on. A hand uncurled upwards and grabbed his facemask. I couldn’t hear what was said, but I know what it was and so do you. Fingers released the helmet like flicking away snot, and those padded shoulders fell. J turned and moved back into the center of the field for the team prayer.
Damon Roberts, USA, 2014

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