You want to know the best part of writing creative nonfiction? It’s all about what you remember. This is a true story, but some of the details have been fudged. I’m human after all, I can’t remember every detail of everything that happens to me. Hell, I can barely remember my name sometimes, and I always forget how old I am. Hope you like the story.
The pee-wee football team lined up at the forty yard line, preparing for what could be a game changer. “Let’s go Nic!” I shouted from my perch high in the bleachers. He doesn’t know I’m here, but hopefully my surprise visit will be like whipped cream on the top of that victory. Sitting in the very top row of the bleachers (this visit is a surprise after all), the team is far enough away that they look like moving miniatures, almost like watching football on the television.
The boys formed their line and the center snapped the ball, almost recklessly, his whole body moving more swiftly than normal with nerves. The quarterback retreated hastily into the pocket. Fourth down, with time running out, the players ran their routes wildly, all thought of control overpowered by their desire to win. The quarterback handed the ball off and the runner ran his route, at least until he ran into the defensive player.
“That’s gonna be close,” my Aunt Niki said as the ref checked to see if the team had made a first down.
“Too close,” I responded, unconsciously biting my nails. We all waited in rapt attention, until I saw Nic’s coach walk onto the field, having a quiet argument with the referee. Apparently the ball was close enough to a first down that he disagreed with the call. Frustrated, the coach threw his hands up in defeat and walked off the field. The players looked at him expectantly, almost as a child looks to a father, with the anticipation that something might have, must have changed. The kids all shook their heads in defeat.
Sweaty bodies, hair matted into tufts by the helmets that the little boys just pulled off their heads, the coach called his team to the end of the field where they all stood, waiting on their final instructions after they lost the last game of the season. “Take a knee,” the coach said, and a sea of black and gold uniformed boys, frustrated with their loss and furious at their opponent’s victory, knelt in an ameba style circle. When they finished their talk, little boys, heads hanging in disappointment, shuffled their way towards their families.
Nic, head hanging low, tears of frustration trying to escape, walked up to my mom and Aunt Niki; he hadn’t seen me yet. So much for my awesome surprise, I thought to myself. Frustration brimming to the surface, Nic looked up and saw me. “Casey!” he shouted, blue eyes reflective.
“Hey Nic!” I said, scooping him up into a tight hug. “I’ve missed you,” I whispered into his ear. He looked at me, face red from exertion, eyes sad. I grabbed his hand tightly and said, “Let’s go.”
I hadn’t seen Nic in several months. Since I had moved away to college, getting to visit home was becoming more and more difficult. When I was fifteen, Nic was born. We did everything together. He was one of the first passengers that I had when I got my car, and he was the one little boy that I missed the most about my hometown.
As we walked to the car, all sadness was replaced by anger and frustration. With each stomping step he took, he found someone else to blame. He blamed the referees, the other parents, and complained about the other team’s coach. “He was listenin’ to our coach call plays and then changing his defense. That’s cheatin’!” he shouted, his little Southern drawl more exaggerated in his anger.
On the way to the restaurant, Aunt Niki gave Nic the speech. “You can’t win them all, sweetie,” she said.
“I know I can’t win them all,” he complained, “but we should’ve won that one!”
We all unfolded out of Aunt Niki’s red convertible bug when we arrived at the restaurant. Food can take the sting from many pains, and a football loss is one of those pains. As we walked into the restaurant together, I bent down to whisper in his ear “Will it make you feel better to cuss about it?”
He grinned. “Well, yea! But I can’t. Mom’ll get me into trouble,” he said.
“I won’t tell,” I assured him.
“But she’ll hear,” he said.
“Just do it,” I teased him. “Say ‘damn.’”
“I don’ wanna.”
“Yea, you do. I can tell. You can whisper it.”
He used his first finger, gesturing to me to bring my face closer to his. “Damn,” he whispered in a tiny voice, a maniacal grin spreading across his tear-streaked face.
“Told you you would feel better,” I said as we walked, hand-in-hand, into the restaurant.