Why We Won: My Short Story Of the Week

WHYWEWONCOVER

I wore an inappropriate shade of pink, especially for the starting quarterback of a state championship game. Looking back, I guess it was a minor miracle that, at seventeen, I managed the laundry at all.

Truth be told, I really didn’t care that night about my pink pants, and neither did anyone else on the team. We kept our minds focused on one thing—one thing only.

My mom had been sick for years … a lot of years. She did what she could for as long as she could, but her body eventually quit on her. When that happened, I took over. I cooked, cleaned the house, handled the odd jobs, and, obviously, did the laundry. The guys usually came over to help out. They knew my mom well by our senior year. Although she barely had any strength to speak, she used it to encourage them, to prop them up, to love them.

My dirtbag dad wasn’t in the picture, but if you want to know how I felt about him, I imagined the back of his bald head every time I passed the football.

My station in life alarmed the other guys’ parents. My intensity and its influence upon their sons scared them. But my squad … they knew what I was about. It didn’t bother them if I didn’t smile much or crack jokes. They understood that I played every game believing that if we won, my mom might win as well. They knew I believed it, and so they believed it, too. She wanted us to win; we wanted her to live. It proved a simple equation.

We started winning state championships in junior high, the same season my mom first got sick. She could still walk at that point. She marched right into practice, asked the coaches to leave, explained her diagnoses, and then demanded that we win as many games as we could before she died.

We didn’t lose after that. Not a single game.

As a testament to my brothers’ solidarity, the newspapers, the coaches, the teachers, the other parents, our opposition … they never got wind of it. If a guy left the team for whatever reason, he kept his mouth shut. They honored the pact made with my mother.

No one talked about why we won.

We just won.

And my mom lived.

But that night during our senior year, when I wore pink pants at the championship game, we didn’t just win, we destroyed our competition. We broke their bones, we broke their will, and we broke their spirit to ever play the game again. We were later described as a pack of demons, monsters intent on crippling someone. They thought we played for Death himself, but it was actually the opposite.

My teammates knew I stayed up at night worrying about the ramifications of our final game. Naturally, our streak had to end. We talked about trying to make the same college team, but even the most optimistic of us grasped the impossibility of such a thing. During a private club meeting, we decided that if we played hard enough at the championship game, if we beat the other team badly enough, if we made God take notice of our victory, it might earn my mom a couple of extra years.

It didn’t.

Thirty years have passed since she succumbed to cancer. Not a day goes by that I don’t think of her. After high school, I tried walking onto my college’s team, but I didn’t really want to play at winning anymore. At least, not in regards to football. I wanted to win for real. Not at a game, but at life. My dad showed me how to quit. My mom taught me how to fight until the last breath.

Her life insurance paid for my schooling and then allowed me to open a business. I returned to my hometown, married a teacher new to the area, and started a family. Though I resembled my dad, that’s all I had in common with the bastard. I liked being a family man.

Most of the guys came back for our thirtieth reunion. After the official ceremony at the high school, I invited them to my restaurant. They all made good in their own way. Every single one of them could count themselves a success.

We got to talking and each revealed the secret of their achievements. They said it was my mom and me. Watching me fight for my mom, watching my mom fight for life, it gave them perspective. Whenever they faced an obstacle, they tackled it with my mom’s tenacity.

I couldn’t believe it. These men, my brothers, cared about my mother—about me—so deeply, that even after thirty years, long after leaving the turf behind, they still fought and won on our behalf.

After the reunion, I decided to volunteer with the local football team. They’ve lost for far too long. I’m going to tell them about my mom. I’m going to ask them what’s going on in their lives that they need to beat.

I’m going to help them find a reason to win.

 


Copyright © 2013/2019 by Scott William Foley

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

All rights reserved. No part of this story may be used or reproduced by any means, graphic, electronic, or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, taping or by any information storage retrieval system without the written permission of the author except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical reviews or articles.

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Wake Up and Dream Again

Most of you know that I’m an educator by day.  It’s provided a wonderful life for my family and me thus far.  You also know, however, that I’ve been chasing a dream for damn near twenty years now.

At the start of every semester, when I get a new batch of seniors, I give them what’s meant to be an inspirational talk regarding their future.  I remind them that, if they have a dream, there is no better time to pursue it than the immediate future.  Most of them have no dependents, few responsibilities, and nothing holding them back.  I talk to them about the fact that when they are old, like me [wink, wink], and have children, a house, cars, bills, and that sort of thing, well, that’s not exactly the time to take a big risk.  You can’t gamble everything when you’ve got people depending on you to maintain a certain lifestyle.  I think it works fairly well with my students and it appears to get them fired up and excited about their futures.

But, I wasn’t totally being honest with them.

You see, it’s never too late to achieve a dream.  Not really.

Sure, you have to be a little smarter about it the older you are, but there’s no reason not to go for it.  You may have to be more conservative, a bit more grounded, but that’s no reason not to try.  You should never give up.

I firmly believe each and every one of us is put on this planet to achieve something unique.  Most of us, if I may be so bold, settle on sleepwalking through adulthood, though.  We use our children as crutches–we’re too busy building their futures to think about our own.  Here’s the thing: yes, you absolutely have a responsibility to provide the best life and the brightest future possible for your children, but you’re doing them a disservice if you give up on your own aspirations in the process.  Children listen to our words, but they learn through our actions.  If you want them to dream big, then you’ve got to dream big yourself.  If you want them to fight to achieve their goals, then you must do the same.

A lot of us are also just too tired at the end of the work day to do anything extra.  Look, we have to work, I get it.  I have to work, too.  But I’m wiling to bet most of us derive at the very least some joy from our careers.  Some of us adore our jobs even.  If your job is your dream, then that’s wonderful.  I say try to push even harder.  What else can you do within that job that gives you even more satisfaction?  Not commendations, but actual satisfaction?  Try to take it to the next level.

I’m telling you, we are not meant to sleep through life.  We are meant to hope, to aspire, to dream from the day we’re born to the day we die.  We have such beautiful, creative, complicated minds.  Our brains want to be exercised.  Our spirits want to be put to the test.  Our bodies want to live.  Watching TV after the kids are in bed night after night after night after night–we can be more than that.

Did you ever want to try dancing?  Singing?  Writing?  Hunting?  Stand-up comedy?  Pottery making?  Interior design?  Gourmet cooking?

Try it.  Whatever it is, take a risk.  See what you’re made of.  Don’t be afraid to fail.

Did you love doing something in your youth that got away from you because of adulthood?

You can go home again.  Go back.  Do it again.

But temper your expectations.  Don’t expect to get famous.  Don’t plan on setting the world on fire.  Don’t even expect anyone to actually care.  Just do it for the joy.

The joy.

We don’t do enough for the sake of joy, do we?

Go get that gourmet cookbook from the library.  Sign up for that dance class.  Hit an open mic night at the local club.  Join a rec league and play in your age bracket.  Publish your writing on a blog that you maintain.  In this day and age, anything is possible.  It just takes time, effort, and desire.

Wake up and start dreaming again.

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(Did you enjoy this article?  Check out Scott William Foley’s short stories HERE!)

Stuck Inside On This Snowy Day? Let Me Help With That!

Stuck inside on this snowy day?  Let me help with that!  I would love it if you downloaded my e-book series entitled Dr. Nekros.  Each installment is only ninety-nine cents.  That’s almost five hundred pages of writing for less than three dollars!  It’s available on both the Nook and the Kindle–remember, these are free apps on your phone.  Trust me, at first you’ll love to hate the good doctor, but in the end, you’ll hate to love him.

Find all three books at this link: https://scottwilliamfoley.com/

Don’t have time for an entire book?  No worries–I understand.  I also have many, many short stories available for your Nook and Kindle as well.  Though I write in a variety of genres, they all focus on that which we all have in common–our humanity.  Some will make you laugh, some will make you cry, some will make you think, and others will make you hide under the covers.  I promise you, though, each will entertain.  They are also only ninety-nine cents each.

Click the following link to find them all: https://scottwilliamfoley.com/e-book-store/

As always, thank you for your readership.

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Win a Free Book!

Enter to win a free copy of my short story collection, The Imagination’s Provocation: Volume II!  This collection has stories such as fantasy, realism, horror, science fiction, humor, inspirational, and historical fiction.  It literally has something for everyone!

All you have to do is email me at scottwilliamfoley@gmail.com with “I Want To Win!” in the subject line.  I’ll then drop your name into a hat, and on Halloween night I’ll randomly select FIVE winners!  I’ll personally email the winners to congratulate them and get their home address for free shipping.  First names of the winners will be posted on my website, so you can check back there next Saturday for the results.

As always, there are a few rules:

  • You must live within the United States to win (due to the free shipping).
  • If you win, you agree to write an objective review (at least ten words) of The Imagination’s Provocation: Volume II at Amazon.com and Barnesandnoble.com within six months. You also allow me the right to quote your review at my own website. What happens if you win and don’t write a review? I’ll chase you down with a wet noodle, that’s what happens!
  • If you participate in the contest, you will receive my monthly e-newsletter and sporadic updates which you are free to read or delete at your discretion.

I hope to hear from you soon, and good luck!

Regards,
Scott William Foley