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By A. M. Jenkins

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The most beautiful girl in town, all ears and hell-bent on getting to know you. Heather’s house is small, a painted white brick set far back from the street. The windows are shuttered from the inside. A long driveway edges past the house to an unattached garage at the back of the lot. You park in front and walk beside her up the sidewalk, boots clomping in time with the faint slap of her sandals. On the concrete porch flanked by bushes on either side, you ask her. “Listen, I was wondering. Would you be interested in going out after the game Friday?

Your eyes move, skimming the room, trying to grab hold of anything that will break the suction of the bed. A newspaper clipping tacked to the bulletin board. It’s a black-and-white head shot of a guy in a football jersey, and underneath in bold print: AUSTIN REID: PRIDE OF THE PARKERSVILLE PANTHERS That picture smiled out of the sports section during last year’s state semifinals. Now it smiles out over the bedroom. It’s you. Shoot, that guy in the picture there wouldn’t lie around on a Saturday night.

And right now you don’t feel that you’re anywhere at all. ” Coach adds firmly, like he’s going to make it be a good year by sheer force of will. It’s going to be a good year. Something flickers inside you. The last time you heard those words was on Heather’s front porch. You are going out with Heather tonight. The thought has lain there since Monday afternoon, like a seed. Now it’s Saturday, and while everybody else is getting serious about football, that seed flutters to life. I’ve always liked you, Austin.

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