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This book is free from Monday June 3 through Friday June 7.
I became an orphan on my 48th birthday. That’s why I returned to North Carolina after 12 years in China. If I didn’t have to help settle Daddy’s estate, I might never have returned at all.
I snapped the ball to myself and dropped back as all hell broke loose.
So many bodies coming at me. Big bodies. It seemed like the whole team. I couldn’t see shit.
I didn’t look at them. Just like crossing the street in China. I looked down the field. The pine, the blocking sled, my guys, the other guys. I got a glimpse of Rotten Roscoe and I flung the damn ball for all it was worth.
Suddenly I was buried in big stinky foreigners – um, fellow Americans of passion and enthusiasm. First I noticed there was no air in my body, then the dizziness, and then the pain. Then the noise. Then my brain latched onto the fact that I was on the ground. My back hurt like hell. My ribs managed to complain a bit too.
The large hairy-faced young man atop me wasn’t a teammate.
“You again,” I moaned.
He grinned. “Welcome home.”
“Ohh,” I groaned. “I haven’t been tackled in…”
“Years? Didja forget we play tackle?”
“Oh God, I think I did. Oh.”
“Nice to meet you.”
Then I noticed the happy whooping screaming. That was Rotten Roscoe and Gilroy celebrating a touchdown. Mostly Roscoe.
“What’d you do?” I asked Tater. “Send your whole damn team after me?”
“Pretty much. We didn’t think you could throw that fast.”
Rotten Roscoe and Gilroy reached me as I got to my feet, with two defenders following at a walk.
I noticed I was the oldest guy out here. And the smallest. Being old felt normal, but being small didn’t.
“I can’t play anymore,” I warned Rotten Roscoe before he could try some kind of macho chest-bump celebration that would’ve knocked me on my ass. My hand was on my lower back, old injury, although really the pain was very much in my ass. I hobbled my aching ass off toward Daddy’s… toward my barn.
“Hey,” Rotten Roscoe yelled at my ass. “We play again next Saturday.”
I was looking at something or other on the shelves of the local Food Lion, stunned at how few people there are in American supermarkets, even more stunned at American prices, when a lady suddenly yelled, “Ass wipers?!”
I wasn’t the only customer to stare at her.
“Oh.” She laughed nervously. “Oh, um, I didn’t know my son wrote that on the shopping list.”
It’s good to be home.
“I was reading about that hand transplant,” said Rotten Roscoe. “Did you hear about that?”
“Yeah, I did,” said Stephen.
“If that was you, and you had somebody else’s hand, could you jack off with it?”
“Who’s your favorite quarterback?” Roscoe asked.
“Jim Kelly,” I replied. “Smart, accurate, strong arm, mobile, tough as hell, and he always knew where his helmet was.”
“What’s the difference between a mosquito and a slut?” said Marcel. “When you slap the mosquito it stops sucking.”
“Comedy is not pretty,” said Cash.
I could only shake my head. I laughed at shit like that but I didn’t have the balls to say it or even Tweet it.
“I told my landlady I had a leak in the sink and she said go right ahead.”
Note to self. Tweet that one.
“That your car?” he asked, eying the rusty white little 4-door.
“I know, it’s probably older than you, but at least it runs.”
“I think it just walks.”
I looked at the new guy. Were all my teammates burly? It seemed like it to me, but maybe it was just that reverse culture shock thing. This burly man, however, was also quite menacing.
“Betsy,” he said, offering his hand.
“My name. Betsy.”
I shook the hand. Beefy. “Nice to meet you…um… Betsy.”
“Like Betsy Ross. My name’s Ross Crosby. Everybody just calls me Betsy.”
“I useta play fullback at UNC.”
UNC as in University of North Carolina? Damn.
“Got kicked out. Broke a guy’s neck. It was a accident.”
“Oh. I’m glad you’re on my team.”
“So was he.”
“Call me Carlos. Oh, is McDonald’s okay with you?”
“I like their Filet-o-Fish. It doesn’t taste like fish at all.”
I couldn’t see his expression well enough to know whether or not he was joking.
“So I asked her, ‘What time do you get off?’ She said, ‘Seven o’clock.’ So I said, ‘Can I watch?’”
Number one, it is always a fumble. The ground can cause a fumble. If you don’t like it, hang on to the damn ball.
Number two, there is no such thing as forward progress. The ball is down where you land. If you don’t like it, don’t get knocked backward.
Number three, there is no such thing as pass interference. If you don’t like a defender hitting you, hit him back.
Number four, there is no such thing as roughing the passer. He’s a football player, dammit, and he can hit back.
“I told the girl, I don’t want your virginity, I just want the box it came in.”
I sighed. “You – dammit you don’t even have a scratch on you.”
“Some guys don’t fight so well when they’re naked.”
“God said don’t read my blog. Adam said where is it? God said I AM dot com but don’t read it. But Adam and Eve read it, so he kicked them out of Eden where the Wi-Fi was.”
“What’s that got to do with football?” Marcel asked.
“Not a damn thing. Let’s go out there and kick some ass.”
I grabbed my helmet amidst all the macho boo-ya shouting and we stormed the field.
“Kirk,” said Kent as we ran, “did Adam and Eve get to keep the Apple?”
Betsy turned and aimed low, clipping Barney’s knees from behind, at the same moment that I charged at a spot slightly to Barney’s left and threw out my left arm in a stiff clothesline.
At the moment that I stopped the forward progress of Barney’s head and shoulders, Betsy send his legs flying forward. Barney flipped until he was parallel to the ground, then landed hard on his back.
That, in case you wondered, is the Hucklebuck. It’s dangerous, immoral, and quite illegal. Some backyard childhood shit.
I nodded. “Is this your first cast?”
“Yeah. You ever break any bones?”
“None of my own.”
“Do you know what Deng Xiaoping said about this?” I asked.
“No,” said Stephen, “I do not know what Deng Xiaoping said about this.”
“It doesn’t matter whether it is a white man or a black man. If it catches footballs, it is a good man.”
“Deng Xiaoping never said that.”
“Well, he would have if he’d played football.”
“Okay,” I decided, “I can do a speech. Some of y’all have heard me talk about vipassana. You know, mindfulness.”
I had to stop for a few groans.
“Vipassana. Mindfulness. Focusing on nothing but right here, right now, no future, no past, just now, like Cesar Milan’s dogs, living in the now. When we take the field against a bunch of cops and make them our bitches, think vipassana football. Feel every hit. Smell every stink. Focus all your attention on right here, right now. This is football, man. It’s life, it’s football, it’s the most fun you’re ever going to have.”
“What about fucking?” Tater asked.
“It doesn’t last 60 minutes. Football, gentlemen, is what it’s all about. Feel it!”
This book is free from Monday June 3 through Friday June 7.