Britz Barton faded back from the huge mirror on his dresser, poised with his football, squinting his eyes, looking for a wide receiver. He carried through with a long, 35-yard spiral that landed right in his zigzagging receiver’s hands. He heard the uproar as his teammate stiff-armed opponents and dashed across the goal line, putting Central High on the boards first!
The scene was vivid in the quarterback’s mind although the toughest-rival game was really three hours away. All day long, he had lived football as his coach had stressed. He had carried a football in his hands every minute of the day. He held the ball in his left hand while, with his right hand, he ate meals, finished written assignments, and even drove home from school. Some quirk Coach Hudson had, but it usually paid off.
Once as he scrambled with the ball, he glanced at the big, framed picture on the opposite wall. That picture of him with his leg cocked and his arm raised in the middle of a pass had sometimes caused him a little embarrassment when the guys had come into his room.
“My mom did that,” he had explained sheepishly. “Can you believe it? She went down to the paper office and got the original and had it blown up!” He had to admit, however to himself, that he was glad she had done so. He had relived that stance hundreds of times.
One more play. This time a handoff or maybe a quarterback keeper; then he would lie down and rest for an hour just as Coach Hudson had instructed. He scrambled, could not find a receiver but spotted a hole right down the center. He sprinted! He scored! He reveled in victory.
Plopping down on his queen-sized bed, Britz spread his long legs apart, his toes touching opposite corners of the footboard. He raised the football straight up over his head and then let it drop to his chest. Entwining his fingers over the ball, he muttered, “Stay right here if I fall asleep.”
He had barely closed his eyes when a loud crash jarred them wide open. The quarterback picture had fallen from the wall and glass shattered across the hardwood floor.
Britz sat up and stared. He heard his mother call, “Britz, are you all right? What was that noise?”
“Yeah, Mom, I’m fine. I believe your prized picture just got tired of hanging on the wall.” He laughed and lay back down, but his mind was troubled. Was this some kind of omen for him and this game against the powerful Milton Mountaineers?
With determination, he brushed the thought from his mind. Coach Hudson had insisted upon complete relaxation for at least one hour before the game. “I don’t want you reporting to me all tired out,” he had said in his gruff voice. “Now, you guys lie down somewhere and think about pleasant things. I want you to be at your very best when you suit up tonight. I am sending you home early so that you can be in tip-top shape at kickoff time. Don’t you dare let me or the townsfolks down, do ya hear!”
Britz tried to think of pleasant things. He remembered the Christmas before his sixth birthday. He always smiled with this particular remembrance. How often had he heard this story. He had unwrapped a junior-sized football. Excited, he grabbed this, his best gift, and hurled a fast, unexpected pass to his dad who, on reflex, ducked, causing the ball to crash into his mother’s favorite, antique lamp! As Mrs. Barton had swept the pieces into a dustpan, Britz heard his dad whisper, “Honey, don’t be angry. You know we have a super quarterback on our hands.”
“Super Quarterback” had become his nickname, a name that was affectionately used by all of his family. Even some of his early childhood friends followed suit.
Perhaps it was in keeping with this dubbed name that he had followed closely all quarterbacks in college and professional games. He could cite them all, much to his dad’s delight.
Those early football dreams had finally come true. He was a senior in a Triple A high school. The starting quarterback! “What a lucky guy I am,” he suddenly said aloud.
His mind drifted from his beloved sport to another love of his life. From the first grade, Britz had liked to write. He wrote little poems or printed short stories for his parents to read. He enjoyed their chuckles, their warm approval. In school, his writings were often read aloud and tacked on the bulletin board. As he lay there, trying to relax, he recalled the first long poem he had written. He could remember where he sat in Miss Moring’s first grade classroom and could relive the way he self-consciously laid his head on his desk as she read aloud his poem about Iggley Wiggley. Strange but he could still recite the silly thing word for word: