Paper Football This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

June 8, 2010
Custom User Avatar
More by this author
The thing of it is, it didn't happen like in the movies. It wasn't a dark and stormy night; it didn't happen in the middle of a deserted woods where no one could hear you scream. It was a balmy Carolina day, and we were in Tim's backyard. Tim's mom had just brought us a pitcher of lemonade and some sliced apples. She always was one for eating healthy. A regular kid would have asked for chips or corn dogs, but Tim's mom always brought sliced apples. The air was spiced with a mixture of pollen and the fertilizer Tim's dad had just laid in the garden by the compost pile. Just a balmy Carolina day in a balmy Carolina summer.

But any trace of the temperate weather is lost in this stuffy air. It's cold in here. I think somebody left the A/C on too high. And the inside of a church can be pretty vast; body heat dissipates quickly. I learned that in physics. I sat next to Tim.

It seems like the entire planet is silent at this moment. Nowhere in the world are there kids playing backyard football, or middle-aged husbands sitting on the couch drinking beer. Nope, everyone on Earth is here in this aisle with me, watching as I walk between the pews with the tiny slip of paper clutched in my white-knuckled hand. I never realized how difficult it is to sum up life in a few words. And everyone's eyes are on me right now – especially Tim's mom's.

I used to have a crush on her, and she knew it, I think. She always thought I was such a nice kid – and I really was. In my youth I was shy around her; I think that's what tipped her off about my secret crush. Of course, that was back when we were kids, when we were innocent. Back in those balmy Carolina summers, filled with balmy Carolina days. I don't think I can have another one. Not anymore.

I can see his dad, too. He's really into gardening, but don't make anything of it or you'll be in for a fight – he's one tough SOB when it suits him. He was a linebacker in high school, and ate like one long after college. His robust corpulence looks out of place next to his frail, bird-like wife. But the look on his face is unmistakable, and his arms are crossed. He used to like me too. He was the one who taught me how to throw a pass, after my dad left when I was three. Pretty much took me in. I was as much his son as Tim. But that was back in those balmy Carolina summers.

I approach the altar. The smooth, curved wood of the casket is beautiful. I've always thought of it as an art, casket-making. Course it would take guts to do – spend all your time and effort crafting beautiful boxes, only to have someone bury them under hundreds of pounds of dirt and worms. I wouldn't be able to do it. Takes guts.

I put the tiny paper on Tim's folded hands. The cliché says the dead always look like they're sleeping, and I'd be hard pressed to find a better truth. Guess it's a cliché for a reason.

I swallow hard as I turn. The entire congregation is on its feet, watching me silently. Judging me. They don't know anything. We just wanted to have a good time. It was a balmy Carolina summer.

It's difficult to sum up life in a few words, but I managed it in seven. And on that small scrap of college-rule torn from my binder, folded into our eternal pastime of paper football, were those words.

“I really didn't know it was loaded.”

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.

Join the Discussion

This article has 10 comments. Post your own now!

In_Love_with_Writing said...
Jan. 20, 2013 at 3:36 pm
Nice. Very very powerful and deep. This was a very well-written piece that I'm sure you're proud of. Good job :) Can you comment and rate some of my work? You honestly don't realize how much it would mean to me.
M.A.Author said...
Feb. 1, 2012 at 8:30 pm
I liked this one. Sad, but very well written. I liked the repetition of certain phrases, I think it worked well here. And I liked how you built everything up before finally revealing exactly what was going on, and what had happened.
Sapling said...
Feb. 1, 2012 at 5:26 am
This is such a powerful piece! You did an amazing job.
Sapling replied...
Feb. 1, 2012 at 5:27 am
whoops, though it only posted once.
Sapling said...
Feb. 1, 2012 at 5:25 am
This story was so tragic and powerful, really great job!
SplashOfImaginatiion said...
Mar. 15, 2011 at 9:06 pm
This was a great story! :) I liked the ending the most. It was just... kind of surprising, I guess? AMAZING ENDING<3
Mara03851 said...
Mar. 9, 2011 at 10:27 am

It's so sad that these kind of things actually happen nowadays. I think you wrote this perfectly, which is probably why it was published. I was so suprised (I know it was obvious, but I hadn't guessed it yet) when the note said, "I really didn't know it was loaded." it was like a millisecond of blankness and then my brain took off.

Great story!

Auburn-M. said...
Mar. 8, 2011 at 7:53 am
Wow, I was so in-tune and interested the entire. It's so fluid and crazy easy to read. It's so sad but still very great. Thank you.
Auburn-M. replied...
Mar. 8, 2011 at 7:55 am
sorry, I forgot to put "time," "the entire time..." Fail.
lovelycheese said...
Mar. 5, 2011 at 8:32 pm
Wow... This is really deep and intriguing. The last sentence sums the whole thing so tragically and so beautifully. I love this, keep writing.
Site Feedback