An autumn sunset has created a smudge of color across the distant skyline. Like an oil painting, variations of pink and orange blended together from the hand of an artist touched by an angel.
From both sides of the ball field, young men raise their arms into the breeze, four fingers outspread...fourth quarter underway.
As they've done throughout most of the season, the game has long been decided, both teams having already pulled their starters, allowing their second string players a chance to scuff up their cleats.
I watch my son standing along the sidelines with his teammates, helmets clutched at their sides, smiles spreading like an air-born virus. Thus far the season has been a success. Fourteen year old athletes riding a four game winning streak, dreaming of varsity ball under the lights, less than a year away.
My son turns toward the stands, spots me in the crowd, offers a grin before returning his gaze to the action. I answer with a chuckle. Sky's the limit for that kid.
Down by thirty, the opposing team is threatening to score. They line up at our ten yard line, their backup quarterback barking out the play.
The football's hiked, the passer shuffles his feet, winds up and tosses the ball into the endzone...to an awaiting receiver, hands outstretched.
A blur of blue and gold and our backup defender sweeps into the action, snags the football, and bolts in the opposite direction.
My son's backup, the boy doesn't get much time on the field in most games. An interception is a rare treat. Standing along the sideline, my son and his teammates leap for joy.
Then as the boy rumbles into the open field, I spot something else. The boy's father, unable to stand pat, stumbles to the asphalt track outlining the football field, and begins sprinting along the sidelines to the same pace as his son...as the boy hits the fifty yard line, his legs churning like the pistons of a car.
The boy's head turns, spots his father, in blue jeans and t-shirt, a ball cap turned backwards, matching his stride as he heads for the score.
The boy aims his sites on the distant goal line. Quickens his pace. The crowd rises as one, father and son on a footrace to glory.
...and I think, "This is a story."
I see the track and think, "Not a football game, but a track meet. A runner, for some reason disqualified, but running for no other reason than pride alone. Racing along beside the track, versus opposing runners, competing...but not."
The young defensive back rumbles over the twenty, no one within ten yards of tripping him up. His father keeping pace, nearly plows over a young lady balancing a plastic tray overfilled with nachos, oblivious to the drama.
And I think, "Not a boy. A girl. Really fast. But for some reason unable to participate."
Behind the endzone, an ambulance is parked, its occupants jumping up and down, their hands clapping in anticipation.
And I think, "Perhaps an injury. Or maybe a religious dispute. A family's beliefs thwarting the athletic prowess their daughter was born with."
The boy falls into the endzone. His father leaps into the air. The crowd roars their approval.
And I think..."Need a name for that girl."
Hours later. The kids are tucked in. The excitement of victory settling down for another day.
I hear my wife giggling from the office. "Hey, come in here," she calls. "Check this out."
I enter the office, follow her gaze to the computer screen, my brow rising. "What's this?"
"One of those funny emails," she says. "This one determines what my porn name would be...you know, if I'd be in that line of work."
I shake my head, "In that line of work? Really?"
Then I see the name. "Derby Wayne."
And I think, "Derby...like a race track. Or somebody's nickname. For somebody who's really fast....like a girl. Derby Wayne."
"That's perfect," I say.
"It is?" my wife asks. "Like...your wanting me to change careers, or what?"
"Absolutely perfect," I say, ignoring her.
"Perhaps I should look for an agent," she continues.
But I've already left the room, yanking a sheet of paper out of the printer, my other hand snatching a pencil from under my wife's elbow, next to the keyboard. My brain spinning somersaults. An outline literally writing itself.
And while "South of Charm" heads toward the galley...a new story begins.
That's how it works for me...
Thanks for reading,