BLIND SIDE • by Peter Wood

Mike wondered if Coach Phillips was just jerking him around. “You want me to pick a team?”

Coach Phillips scratched his sizable gut. “That’s right, Zoner. You and Abrams. First in the alphabet and last.”

Mike fingered the Star Trek t-shirt that hung a foot past his waist. His mom said he’d grow into it. “I guess.” A stoic Spock seemed to scrutinize the fourth period P.E. class.

John Abrams, quarterback of the J.V. football team, flashed the perfect smile that all the girls loved. “Sure, Coach!”

Coach stared at Mike through mirrored sunglasses. “Abrams has first pick.”

Abrams pointed at the crowd. “Jackson.”

A burly black kid in a New England Patriots jersey jogged up to Abrams and gave him a high five.

Mike shielded his eyes from the sun and surveyed the group of freshmen and sophomores. The jocks and jock wannabes looked away. In the back stood teenagers who wanted to be anywhere else but P.E. Mike recognized someone from A.P. English and called out his name.

A short kid looked up from The Scarlet Letter. “Huh?”

“You’re on Mike’s team,” Coach bellowed.

The reader shrugged and joined Mike. He returned to his book.

Abrams picked a letterman in wrestling.

Mike chose a bass clarinet player from Band.

***

Behind a row of portables, the jocks marked the line of scrimmage on the crabgrass-covered field. They faced the bedraggled mess of book lovers, retainer-wearers and students who just didn’t give a damn about sports.

The coach glanced back and forth at the two sides. “No tackle. First and ten for Zoner’s team. Everything stops if you get the flag from the guy with the ball.”

Abrams nodded. “Okey-doke.”

The coach heaved the ball underhand at Mike. It hit him in the stomach and bounced onto a cluster of dandelions.

Abrams’ team laughed.

A teen in too-long-to-be-cool cut-offs gave Mike a thumbs up. “We can take ‘em.”

“Why’d you pick me?” a theater type in a cast shirt from the school’s production of Cabaret asked.

Even though he knew that the teen would never be picked by a jock, Mike humored him. “Would you rather be playing with those assholes?”

“We should run a flee flicker,” a kid with oversized glasses said. He had to keep pushing them back up the bridge of his nose.

“What’s a flee flicker?” Cabaret asked.

Loose Glasses laughed. “No idea.”

Mike took off his own glasses and wiped dripping sweat off with his shirt. “Does anyone care if we win?”

“I just want to make it to fifth period without getting killed,” Loose Glasses said.

“Okay,” Mike said. “So we don’t try to win.”

“Can we get started today?” Coach asked and blew the whistle.

The geeks lined up.

***

Mike stooped down. “Fifteen. Eighteen. Nine. Three point– Never mind. That’s irrational. Hut!” He took the hike from Center and backed up. The geeks stepped aside.

Abrams raced up and tore the flag off Mike’s shorts.

Second and fifteen. Mike called the identical play.

Abrams again ripped the flag away. “You guys going to try?”

“We suck, remember?”

“I dunno. Still haven’t seen you play.”

Third down was the same. The geeks watched as the jocks strolled across the line of scrimmage.

On fourth and thirty five, the defense didn’t even bother to line up. When the ball was hiked, Abrams shuffled over to Mike and reached for the flag.

Mike sidestepped him.

Abrams cocked an eyebrow. “Fascinating. . .” He made a second grab for the flag, but missed again.

Mike had taken off running.

The jocks weren’t even watching.

Twenty seconds later Mike spiked the ball in the end zone.

Abrams gave a little fist pump. “Nice.”

Coach blew the whistle. “Six nothing.”

***

Mike jogged up the field and tossed the ball from hand to hand. When he reached Abrams he rolled the quarterback the ball.

“Nice play,” Abrams said.

Mike squinted at Abrams. He wasn’t sure if the QB was being sarcastic. “Um, thanks.”

Coach scowled at Abrams. “If this group tricked you, maybe I need to hold tryouts again. No way you guys will be ready by the fall.”

“It happens,” Abrams said.

Coach gave a dismissive wave of the hand at the geeks. “What the hell, Abrams? What the damned hell? This crowd isn’t even—”

“Even what, Coach?” Abrams wasn’t smiling.

Coach chewed on a blade of grass that half hung out of his mouth. “Nothing.”

Abrams shrugged. “I thought it was hilarious.”

Coach spat the grass onto an ant mound. “Really?” He blew the whistle again. “Game’s over. Six nothing.”

“We got twenty minutes left, Coach,” Abrams said.

Coach shrugged. “Losing team does laps.”

Mike raised his hand. “What about us?”

“I don’t really care what you do. Go to the library.”

For the first time all semester Mike wouldn’t need to shower in front of everybody.

“Laps, now, girls!” the coach shouted to the jocks.

Everybody took off except for Abrams.

“You gotta admit, it was pretty funny,” the JV quarterback said to the coach.

“Laps for you tomorrow too,” Coach said. He stomped away and watched the losing team.

Abrams pointed to Mike’s shirt. “Spock’s pretty cool, man.”

The last thing in the world Mike expected Abrams to like was a classic science fiction show. “You like Star Trek?”

“I love that show. The original anyway.”

“Yeah. The spinoffs are okay, but they’re not the same.” Mike watched the rest of his team strut off towards the library.

“Data’s no Spock.”

“He’s better than Wesley Crusher.”

“The guy who played Crusher had a talk show a couple of years ago. It wasn’t bad,” Abrams said. “It—”

Coach turned around and blew his whistle. “Any day now, Abrams!”

Abrams ran off to catch the jocks that were already halfway across the field. He stopped a few seconds later and ran in place.

“Live long, and prosper!” he shouted to Mike.

Mike smiled. “Live long and prosper!”


Peter Wood is an attorney is Raleigh, North Carolina where he lives with his patient wife and surly cat. He has had stories published in Stupefying Stories, Every Day Fiction and Asimov’s. He writes southern fried science fiction. This story combines two of his favorite things — Star Trek TOS and football — and is based on his mixed experiences in PE class at Horace Mann Junior High in Brandon, Florida many years ago.


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 average 3.3 stars • 29 reader(s) rated this

Every Day Fiction

  • Paul A. Freeman

    Mirror sunglasses and a paunch – Coach was one of several overdone stereotypes in this piece. The story was all a bit too obvious, I felt.

    • Pete Wood

      Thanks for taking the time to read and comment. Stereotype? Probably. But, the coach in the story was present at my junior high and High School.

  • I am bemused by American football but I liked the story and particularly the details like the t-shirt he was “going to grow into”. I liked the ending.

    • Pete Wood

      Thanks for reading!

  • Louella Lester

    The story is well written, but it was obvious where it was heading. The characters are all of the stereotypes we normally see in a geek vs jocks piece. Even the main jock learning to respect the main geek is an obvious ending.

    • Pete Wood

      Thank you for taking the time to read and comment.

  • Rose Gardener

    The ball play and number codes was gobbledegook to me. Perhaps non-Trekie fans will feel the same about the final part. Given how little of it I understood, I thought the author did well to keep me reading and provide a satisfying end. Good to know not all good-looking athletes are self-centred jerks.

    • Pete Wood

      Thank you for reading and commenting.

  • Jeffrey Yorio

    Yes, there are stereotypes and every story pretty much has them. It’s what they say an do, I enjoyed the story.

    • Pete Wood

      Thank you for your kind words.

    • Trollopian

      Same here. I’m neither a Trekker nor a flag-football fan, but it was the accretion of “geektails” (the bass clarinet, the Scarlet Letter, Cabaret) that made this fun for me. Satisfying to see the retainer-wearers run away with this one.

      And, what’s a flee-flicker?

      • Trollopian

        And, this author has a flair for description, as witness his “surly cat.”

        • Pete Wood

          Yes, that cat is surly. Amazing that he puts up with me and my wife. 🙂

  • InNoUncertainTerms

    Well written, good-natured. But (for me at least) the characters fell flat. Also, you created a whole supporting cast of characters that had absolutely no role. Perhaps give your supporting characters a bit more action during the game? Not necessarily positive action — they could trip over their own feet, drop glasses, actually catch a ball and forget to run. Mike and Abrams (ironic use of name? If so, love it!) seemed to be the only ones on the field.

    • Pete Wood

      Thanks! Good points. I struggled with what to do with the supporting cast. A short story will only tolerate so many characters before it becomes difficult to follow, but sometimes it needs extra characters– like when those characters are playing football. It is a fine balancing act that I have not quite mastered.

  • I feel this is more suited to the young reader market. Writing was sound, creative in parts. Didn’t have the angst of “The Wonder years” or the pain of “Stand by Me.” Just a sweet story that will surely elicit lots of “Awws” from some readers. But it’s a story that’s been told before.

    • Pete Wood

      Thank you so much for taking the time to read and comment on my story.

    • S Conroy

      I didn’t say “Aww”. I said “Ah”. 😉

  • Tom Hawkins

    I like the way you use conversation to move the story instead of narration and description.

    • Pete Wood

      Thank you!

  • Chris Antenen

    Really enjoyed this, especially since I had a son who ran the flea flicker when he was six. However, there was something about tying shoe laces just barely on the field. Can’t remember the play exactly

    I also have a grandson who told Grandpa early on that if there was a ball involved he wasn’t interested. His things are music and drama.

    I had trouble with the names toward the end of the story. It’s amazing how choosing a name that stands out makes it easier to follow dialogue. If this were my story, I’d go back and change those. Not as flashy as ‘Quarterback Abrams’ but some kind of identification. However, I liked the ending. Kids are kids, usually smarter than we are at getting along. Smart coach.

    I usually judge primarily on story, and I liked this. A little corny, but lots of heart. Gave it a 5.

    • Pete Wood

      Wow. Great comment. Thank you so much.
      Good point about the character names. I try to make names memorable, but do not always succeed. I had to toss in an homage to the director of the recent Star Trek reboots, though.

  • Jareb M. Collins

    So, I have to disagree with all the comments about it being predictable, but not in the straightforward sense. The fact that it ended the way it did was NOT what I was expecting…the tension was between the jock and his coach, NOT the jock and geek. To be honest, I would have been disappointed to see this end any other way.

    Well done!

  • S Conroy

    Ah, that was a cute read. Restores some faith in the species.