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Authors: Ann Herrick

The Farewell Season

BOOK: The Farewell Season
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The Farewell Season

 

By Ann Herrick

 

ISBN: 978-1-77145-320-2

 

 

Copyright 2014 by Ann Herrick

 

Cover art by Michelle Lee Copyright 2014

 

All rights reserved. Without limiting the rights under copyright reserved above, no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form, or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise) without the prior written permission of both the copyright owner and the publisher of this book

 

* * *

 

Dedication:

 

In Memory of Daddy, Eddie, and Puff

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter One

 

 

I slid the DVD into the player and wondered if I had the nerve to watch.

My finger rested on the remote. Usually, I would have watched this thing fifty times in the past couple of weeks.

"Crap, just do it." I pressed the play button. Suddenly, there I was, watching myself playing football. It was just last fall, but it seemed like a million years ago. In a way, it kind of was.

I couldn't believe how skinny I looked. Not that being six-two and one-hundred-eighty pounds is usually considered all that puny, but for an inside linebacker who wants to play college football, it is.

I watched our game against the Agates. We beat them ten-zip. Coach Pickett said our defense was the best he'd seen all season. We overplayed the pass a couple times and got burned on the run once for forty yards, but we hung on and held them scoreless.

I watched myself run around the field and wondered if I could ever get so fired up again. Was that really me charging the running back, about to tackle him and make him fumble the ball?

Then it happened. The ball popped out of the back's hands, the crowd roared—and I heard it. My father's voice.

My breath froze in my throat.

I always heard my Dad yell when I made a big play. He'd let out a scream as loud as thunder. But I forgot I'd hear his voice now. I hadn't heard it in four months.

Not since Dad died.

I coughed to get rid of the icy lump in my throat and hit the pause button.

"Oooh!" My sister, Kirstin, bounced into the room and eyed the still picture. She had to know what I was watching, and why, and the significance of it, but all she said was, "Reliving your glory days, Eric?"

"Just shut up!" I lunged for her as she made a run for it. I almost grabbed her long braid of silvery-blond hair, thick as the climbing rope in P.E., but I tripped over the cat. Before I knew it, Kirstin flew out the door.

Pissed as I was, I wasn't about to go chasing her down the street.

I zeroed in on Starburst. Suddenly, she was just one more female in a whole houseful that I had to put up with. "Dumb cat! Get outta here." I swung my foot in her direction. She flew up the stairs.

I let out a long, loud sigh. Why take it out on Starburst? So what if Kirstin was brattier than usual lately? I didn't have to lose the cool I'd so carefully cultivated over the years. I sat down on the couch and picked up the remote. When I looked at the TV screen I saw myself frozen in mid-air, fist raised over my head in celebration.

I hesitated, then restarted the DVD and watched as I flung myself on top of Jamar Pickett, who'd recovered the fumble I caused. Dad's voice still mingled with the noise of the crowd. I tried to swallow the cold lump in my throat.

I started getting some interest—not a lot, but some—from college coaches when I was a sophomore. The whole process has been amazing, talking with coaches, getting my film out there, checking out schools I was interested in. Last year tapes, packets, brochures, and other various flattering materials from recruiters started arriving, some addressed to me, some to Mom and Dad. The occasional phone calls were part of the deal, too.

Though I haven't exactly been highly recruited, I have shown up on some websites and in some rankings. I used to picture it, developing into a great college player and then by some miracle playing in the NFL. Okay, that's every football player's fantasy, but, hey, why not dream big once in a while? I thought Dad would be advising me about where to go for official visits once I started my senior year, but now ….

"I
finally
sold Mrs. Carlson that whale-oil lamp." Mom trudged in from her antique store built onto the side of our house. Mom's always been a bit of a worrier, but ever since Dad died she's been tighter than a guitar string when it comes to profits.

I punched the stop button, ejected the DVD, and carefully placed it in its case. It's supposed to last forever, but what if it gets scratched or broken? Or it could get lost. Maybe I should make a copy of it.

"I wondered if she'd
ever
get around to actually buying that lamp!"

"Mmm." I knew we were okay financially for a while, because Mr. Lindquist had bought out Dad's half of their insurance agency. I also knew Mom was nervous about the long haul. But, still, it bugged me when she wanted to "talk shop." She never used to discuss business very much with me, but now that she was obsessed with her profits she told me about every sale in never-ending detail.

"A hundred forty bucks. And about time!" Mom shook her short, dark-gold curls in that anxious, worried way she'd developed lately. "She's been in at least three times to look at it."

I stared at the wall, trying to play possum.

Mom plopped down next to me. She took a deep breath, as if she was going to relax a little.

I jumped up and headed for the kitchen.

Mom got up and followed me.

I stuck my head in the refrigerator and focused on the light, hoping she'd go away. She was a real Helicopter Mother, always hovering. There are even home videos of me around one-year old, just after I learned to walk, careening around the back yard. In every shot, there's Mom, right behind me, hands out, waiting to catch me in case I fell, as if I'd suffer great bodily harm landing on the grass.

"What are you looking for?" Mom ran her hand across my hair. "Can I get you something? Fix you a snack?"

I slammed the refrigerator door and squirmed to get away from her. "No. I'm fine. If I want something, I can get it myself."

"You sure? I could …."

"Yes! I'm sure!" I brushed past her. I wanted to evaporate, so she couldn't keep after me.

I yanked open a cabinet door and found myself staring at a bag of corn chips. I snatched that, and shoved a fistful of the chips in my mouth. I couldn't explain it, but I just got totally tense around Mom. Especially when she ruffled my hair.

Mom sat down at the kitchen table. She had that intense, probing look in her eyes, the one where it seemed as if she wanted to read my mind. "So … how's your day been going?"

I felt my skin tighten. "I'm going to my room."

"Can't you sit down with me for five minutes and talk about your day?" Mom called after me.

I ran up the stairs. On the way to my room I caught a glimpse of Mom's room with the door open. Though she didn't talk about Dad, not his death or our memories of him, it was like a shrine in there. Her own private shrine. Dad's picture was everywhere. His watch, comb, and loose change were still laid out on his dresser. They'd been college sweethearts, as Mom put it, and had gotten married the week after they graduated.

I quickly turned away and hurried to my room, where I flopped down on the big old brass bed. A brass bed. Cripes, Mom and her antiques even invaded my room. I pushed aside some dirty underwear, and found my CD player. I wanted an iPod, but with money being so tight …. I blasted the music, loud enough so Mom wouldn't even try to talk to me. All I wanted was to be alone and feel that everything was back to normal.

I stared at the posters I'd tacked up on the walls of the pitched-roof alcove. One was a football poster I'd bought at the university bookstore in Eugene.

The other was a blow-up of one of the cartoons I'd submitted to the school newspaper. It'd sort of slipped past Mr. Remail, the faculty advisor, and caused a mild uproar. Principal Lewis had decided there was "too much display of affection" at school, so she declared a No-Kissing rule.

I'd drawn a cartoon of Mr. Tosh, our Vice-Principal, arresting Ms. Lewis as she more-than-passionately kissed her husband goodbye when he dropped her off in front of the school. Not exactly subversive, but I got a major lecture and a First Warning for it.

Dad laughed when he saw the drawing, and said I could have a good future as a political cartoonist. I thought of my drawing as just a hobby, but it was cool to see Dad beam with pride the way he did. I had to shake off that prickly feeling in the back of my eyes. Thinking about Dad should make me feel good, not bad.

It was probably because being the only guy in the house with two hormonal females totally drove me crazy. Thank God football practice started tomorrow. I'd be with the guys, sharing some laughs, and away from all the estrogen at home. I'd put on the pads, deliver some hits, and then things would be back to normal.

Yeah, it would feel good to bury myself in football.

The phone rang. I didn't bother to answer it. It was probably for Kirstin. Ever since she hit high school last year, she managed to grab the phone no later than the second ring. She was always yakking with her girlfriends or the love-sick goofs who called just to hear the sound of her voice. She's been griping for ages about how she isn't allowed to date until next month, when she turns sixteen. She's lucky I'm not in charge of her love life. I'd ground her until she was at least twenty-six. 

A few minutes later there was a knock at my door. "Eric, it's for you!" Kirstin shouted.

I turned off the music. "What's for me?"

"The
phone
," she said, as if it should've been obvious.

"The phone rang ten minutes ago! I told you not to bug everyone when they call."

"I wasn't
bugging
him. I was
talking
to him!" Kirstin yelled. "I can talk to a guy if I want to!" I heard her stomp down the hall and slam the door to her room.

I picked up the phone and waited to hear Kirstin hang up. I still couldn't believe Mom canceled my cell phone to "save money." I almost growled into the receiver. "Hello."

"Hey, Eric. Great party last night. You should've been there. Great food! I must've gained at least five pounds scarfing down all the
berlinerkranser
cookies Lars Sundstrom stole from his Mom's stockpile for the Scandinavian Fair."

I almost laughed as Rolf paused to breathe. Even if I hadn't recognized his voice, I'd' have known it was Rolf Horst by the way the torrent of words flowed through the phone.

"Too bad you weren't there. I know you said you might not make it, but … I mean, I understand … but, well too bad you weren't there." All summer Rolf had tried to get me to do stuff, but I just couldn't.

"Yeah … well." Partying and being with the guys used to be my favorite thing to do. Not that I really got trashed or anything. Rolf either. He was always too busy fueling his six-foot, six-inch, two-hundred-eighty-pound body to ingest or inhale anything toxic. Ever since that drunk driver wiped out Dad, I'd totally lost interest in partying.

Besides, I hadn't wanted to run into Hedy Theodore. I changed the subject. "Hey, sorry about Kirstin. I've told her a zillion times not to bug my buds. She seems to really be zeroing in on you lately."

"No problem," Rolf said. "Kirstin's okay." He paused for a millisecond. "Need a ride to practice tomorrow?"

"Thanks, but I think I'll walk. I need the exercise." I forced a small laugh. What I really needed was to be alone before I faced all the guys, but I wanted Rolf to think I was just kidding around.

I guess it worked. He laughed his big, strong laugh. "Hey, call me if you change your mind about a ride. And … and take care."

"Yeah … sure." I let out a shaky sigh as I hung up. Rolf was not only the kind of guy to actually say "take care" without sounding like a dweeb, he meant it too.

After a while, I got bored hiding out in my room. Besides, the aroma of butter logs, rosettes, and spritz cookies drifted up from the kitchen. During the Scandinavian Fair, business more than quadrupled at Mom's antique shop, and to keep customers coming back she always baked up a supply of free cookies for the store.

I decided to bug her and Kirstin by grabbing a few. I went downstairs and sauntered into the kitchen. When I was so little that I could barely see over the old drop-leaf table, I still insisted on helping make cookies for the fair. Since high school and summer football practice, however, I'd slacked off on the baking.

Kirstin was up to her elbows in flour and at first so focused on a batch of butter logs that she didn't notice I was in the room. When she did finally look up and see me, her Nordic blue eyes opened wide. "Eric Nielsen, don't you
dare
touch one single cookie!"

"Who me?" I aimed my thumb toward my chest. For a second I stood there smiling innocently. Then I scooped up a half-dozen still-warm butter logs. "I'd never take just one!"

"Hey!" Kirstin snapped a towel at me.

She missed.

As I ran out to the front porch, I heard Mom pull Kirstin back into the kitchen. "Never mind about Eric," she said. "We've got to finish making these cookies."

I settled onto the porch swing with a warm butter log practically melting on my tongue, feeling smug as I listened to Kirstin's usual protests about how I always got away with everything. It was music to my ears. I took greater pleasure than ever tormenting her.

I sat and watched cars go by. I liked living in town. It was closer to the action, or what passed for action around Crystal Lake, Oregon. The town had one lake, two covered bridges, lots of historic houses, vast fields, and plenty of fresh air. Just an ordinary small town. What used to be a main state highway ran through it, and it was still a busy road.

BOOK: The Farewell Season
7.48Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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