And because I love the game so much, here’s an excerpt from This Wasted Land, my work-in-progress modern-fantasy/horror novel, about football. Alyx, the 17-year old girl who narrates the book, asks her uncle about his former pro career.
“Uncle Tony, did you ever play for the Ravens?”
He sat back down. Puzzled look. “The Ravens? Like the Baltimore Ravens?”
“No, they came after my time. I played in the Eighties; the Ravens started in Ninety-Six. Though the funny thing is—well, it’s not THAT funny—is that the Ravens used to be the Browns.”
“Yeah. Until that bastard Modell moved them to Baltimore.”
“Art Modell, the owner of the team.”
“Oh. Were you guys any good?”
“No, we were terrible, though we had some great players. Brian Sipe, Lyle Alzado, Ozzie Newsome. After he retired, Ozzie became the General Manager for the Ravens.”
“How about you? You must have been pretty good.”
“I was okay. I mean, sure, I was better than most of the other guys at Michigan—I was a fifth-round pick—but not compared to the guys in the NFL. I was a backup right guard, spent most of my time on the bench, unless someone got hurt. I started…I don’t know…maybe a dozen games. I lasted four seasons, then I got cut.” He chuckled. “And right after that, the Browns went to the playoffs five straight times. Go figure. Couldn’t win the big one, though.”
“That’s…that’s kinda sad. I mean, it’s a shame that all that time you played, it was for a bad team.”
“Ah, I’m okay with it now. I got to make a living playing a great game, I never got hurt too bad, I saved my money, and I was able to go into business for myself. Lots of other guys I played with weren’t so lucky.”
I nodded. “Dad used to talk about you all the time. Said you were rich and famous.”
“I was neither, but it worked out for me. And your father was just a little kid—the baby of the family—when I was playing. Your grandma doted on him. Spoiled him. That’s why Don turned out the way he did.”
I smiled. “I don’t even remember her. I think we went to visit them once, at Christmas.”
“I was there. You were four. All of us used to get together every year for the holidays, because that was the rule at our house: no matter where you lived, no matter how old you were, everyone came home for Thanksgiving and Christmas. That’s what your grandpa insisted on. He said that’s what being a family’s about.”
“But not my dad?”
“Not, not Don. Most of the time, it was because he was deployed. Other times, he just couldn’t be bothered. And your grandpa and grandma let him get away with that.” He shook his head. “By then, those weren’t the parents that raised me: those were old people trying to get into Heaven.”
“It’s true.” He sighed. “I shouldn’t be talking about your dad like that.”
“It’s okay. I don’t like him much, either.”
“Well, nothing we can do about it. He is who he is.” My uncle stood up. “Don’t let me keep you from your homework.”
“I’m done, anyway.”
“Okay.” He cocked his head. “When did you start liking football?”
“I don’t, but this guy Sam asked me to go to the Homecoming game. And the dance.”
He nodded. “I see.”
“So, I was wondering, if you have some time before your trip, if you could tell me about football. You know, like explain it.”
“Wouldn’t you rather just look it up online?”
“No, it sounds more interesting when you talk about it.”
“Well, I have time now,” he said, and sat down again. “This boy who asked you out—is he a Ravens fan?”
“Ugh. Do me a favor: after the dance, dump him.” I smiled. He did, too.
Kenton Kilgore is forging a new direction in young adult science-fiction and fantasy. His latest work-in-progress is This Wasted Land, a modern-fantasy/horror novel, to be published in early 2017.
Kenton is the author of Dragontamer’s Daughters, based on Navajo culture and belief. He also wrote Lost Dogs, the story of a German Shepherd and a Beagle-mix who survive the end of the human world, only to find that their struggles have just begun. With Patrick Eibel, he created Our Wild Place, a children’s book about the joy to be found in exploring Nature.
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