...as Karen G's Blogger Barbecue winds down this weekend, considering the time of year, only fitting that we top off the Blogfest at a high school football game.
...September's autumn breeze, like a newborn's touch, kissed our cheeks as we claimed our row in the stands.
On the football field, a pair of youth teams clad in helmets and their respective school's battle fatigues were preparing for competition.
Familiar faces began filing in around us. Mothers and grandparents, worrisome lines etching each brow, concerned for the safety of their loved ones. Proud fathers, their arms folded over thick chests, confident grins upon their faces, nodding to one another while sharing the same gleam in their eyes as their offspring on the field.
I followed suit. The passing of an athletic torch from a father to a son.
I turned to my wife. "Want any popcorn or a Coke before kickoff?"
She threw me a nod and a wave while chatting with a fellow mother about the latest rumor floating about. A student with a new string of flu, or a teacher suffering through a sobriety test the past weekend. I left them to it, the craving for a pre-game hot dog too urgent to pass up.
Sensing the breeze strengthening with the passing hour, I jogged out to the car and grabbed our jackets, figuring I'd get congratulated for planning ahead.
My return to the stands however was greeted with a chorus of scowls, not only from my wife, but from the entire section of hometown faithful. Then I glanced at the row behind us and determined why.
The couple was obviously rooting for the opposing team. The lady was dressed in a strapless top the color of a fire hydrant. A pair of cutoff Wranglers were riding up to just below her bum, varicose veins like sporadic bolts of lightning traveling the length of each thigh. She'd already slipped out of her sandals, a set of callused feet, gangly toe-nails bearing a layer of chipped polish matching her shirt, were propped on the back of my seat.
I assumed she would lower them with my arrival, but was denied the kindness.
"There he is now! That's my boy, number 33! Teddy Jr. Yes sir-ee!"
I cautioned a glance at the proud father and cringed. The man was shirtless, the tattoo of a soaring Bald Eagle covered the width of his chest, its beady eyes glaring at me through a patch of chest hair.
His head was shaved like Mr. Clean, however a strawberry shaded goatee drooped several inches off the tip of his chin.
A collage of artwork coated both arms. A pair of skeletons wielding rebel flags. A ball and chain, the links starting at his wrist and winding around his triceps only to disappear in a thicket of armpit hair.
I sat down, handed my wife a drink and her jacket.
"Can we move somewhere else?" she asked in a mumble.
I answered with, "I've been thinking of getting a tattoo."
"Why aren't they in the visitor's section?"
"Maybe one of those tribal things around my arm. Palm trees or something tropical."
"Will you get serious? He won't shut up about his kid."
"Yes sir-ee, my boy's gonna do some damage tonight!"
I turned around just in time to watch him lift an empty Mt. Dew bottle to his lips, a mass of used up tobacco plummeting from his mouth trailing a thread of stained saliva.
"So, Teddy?" I asked. "What position does Junior play?"
The man's scowl was accompanied with a jaw full of crooked teeth the color of mustard. "Name's Harold, mister." He shared the gaze with the woman in red. I felt a toe stab me in the small of my back. A stressful moment passed in silence, my wife quietly chuckling by my side. Then he said, "Teddy Jr. plays all over the field. No one can stop him. Fastest boy in the county. You'll see."
At this my smile faded. "All right. He's Superman, we get it. But where's he start at on the field?"
"Receiver. Gonna go pro, yes sir-ee."
"I just felt spit land on my neck," my wife hissed into my ear. "Can we move now?"
"These are our seats, Hon," I said. "And anyway, the kid's a receiver." I nudged her elbow, smiling. "Let's watch the kickoff and see what happens."
Moments later all eyes focused on a football rising into the air. Standing alone at the other end of the field stood Teddy Jr.
He caught the ball and rumbled ten yards before anyone reached him. Spinning away from the first defender, he gained the open field and hit a second gear. From behind me the couple began hooting like a pair of exuberant owls, watching their son cross mid-field.
Teddy Jr. rocketed eighty yards before finally getting pushed out of bounds. "Woo-wee!" his father barked. "I told ya! Fastest boy in the county! Now he's gonna score!"
On their first offensive play, Teddy Jr. lined up at receiver, his chest pounding like a snare drum. The ball was hiked, the passer dropped back, his gaze focused entirely on 33 as the boy faked out his defender and loped into the end zone. The quarterback lofted the ball into the air.
"Here it is!" Teddy's father bellowed, showering my wife and I in spit and tobacco juice.
We watched the football flutter toward Teddy's outstretched arms, when a player in blue streaked into the picture. Moving with the agility reminiscent of the "Falcons" logo on his helmet, the defender snatched the pass out of the air just as Teddy's hands were about to close around the ball. The boy bobbed and weaved by several of Teddy's teammates, then found himself in the open field heading in the other direction.
Within moments Teddy had taken up the chase, leaving the two speedsters in a foot race down the sideline.
They remained less than a foot apart until the fifty yard line, when the Falcon defender began pulling away from Teddy Jr. With the hometown crowd rising to its feet, the Falcon swooped into the endzone for the first score of the game.
I joined in the celebration, accepting a hug from my wife, shoulder slaps from friends nearby. Out of the corner of my eye I watched the air deflate from the bare chest of the man behind me.
"Sheesh, that boy was fast," he mumbled. "Who was that?"
"We call him Rocket," someone in the row next to us announced. "The fastest boy in the county!"
"That your boy?" the man asked him.
"Nope...his," a half dozen index fingers angled in my direction. My wife turned and offered a wave. I couldn't help but grin.
"Boy's fast," the man mumbled. "Real fast."
Before the first quarter had ended, with the good guys already ahead by two scores, I sensed a change in scenery and turned.
Without our noticing, the couple had left.
(...okay, so I dramatized things a bit. But his nickname really is Rocket, and he really did snag himself an interception. He's pretty darn fast, but he still can't beat his pop in a foot race:)
Thanks for reading,