He was the greatest person I'd ever met. Incredibly fit, more than intelligent, quick with a joke, good looking, and he was incredibly benevolent. I guess you could say he was perfect. In high school, all of the girls wanted him, except of course the one he wanted. But he never abused that, he stayed loyal to a girl, who honestly I don't even think he dated.
He had incredible morals too, he never smoked or drank, even at parties when he'd give money for alcohol he wouldn't have any. His only fault was that he really only ever hung out with me, and he kept to himself most of the time.
He played a huge part in my life, if not for him I would not be where I am now.
A prideful southern town who's history was made in the way of ranching, and big time oil.
Palmer High School Football
Just the name brings memory of state champions, national fame,
wolves, and the good old red and gray. However, there hasn't been
a championship team in nearly 40 years, we hadn't even beaten our
rivals in 30.
I first met Atticus in football at junior high. We were on our
way to high school next year, and he was our star player.
In middle school, our coach always made everyone play two positions, with the exception of the quarterbacks.
I played quarterback, and at that time I didn't think I was going to go far, I thought maybe I'd play on junior varsity, MAYBE varsity my senior year and that was it.
Atty, however, played running back.The rest of the time he played Strong Safety on defense.
The day I met Atty we were running a simple screen pass nothing too big. The ball was snapped, and I dropped back. I hardly had time to look up before I was on the ground.
He had laid me out, hard.
"Moore!" Coach's voice boomed across the field, "What was that?! Go watch an NFL game, and watch those QB's. If the line collapses they move! They do something! Don't just allow yourself to get hit son!"
Coach turned to the line and started chewing them up.
Atty helped me up, "Don't worry." He said quietly, "It's only because the line's weak and slow, I got by them pretty easily."
I nodded, "Thanks Atticus."
I finally stood and dusted myself off.
"Alright Special Teams! Time for some punt returns! Everyone else get some water, and come back with some kind of motivation!" Coach's voice boomed once again.
Atty followed me to the water jugs. "So your name's Bruno right?"
He was kind of awkward about it.
I eyed him suspiciously, "Yeah, and you're Atticus?"
He nodded, and we stood in silence for a few moments.
He randomly blurted, "Coach Westmoreland wants me to start on varsity next year."
George Westmoreland was the high school's head football coach, that was a big deal, his wanting Atty to play Varsity. My dad told me freshmen never get on varsity, much less start.
"Woah..." I paused, "Really?"
He kind of frowned and nodded slowly.
"Well, that's not too surprising, you're the best here." I laughed.
"I guess," he started, "But I kind of didn't want to be alone. I was talking to Westmoreland to get another freshman on varsity."
I scoffed, "Good luck with that one buddy."
I took a long sip of my cup of water, the jugs were warmed by the intense Texas heat.
"Well I was trying to get him to put you on Varsity."
I nearly choked on my water, "What!? Didn't you see that last play? I'm an okay junior high player, but I couldn't make it in high school."
He shrugged, "I can just feel it. There's something about you Bruno, you can be great, you just have to try."
I shook my head slowly, "No, you're starting to sound like my dad. Don't start that shit."
"Just trust me." His soft features convinced me almost instantly.
I looked at him, and he looked me directly in the eye. "You meet me at my house during the summer, at least three days a week, and I can get you on varsity."
This was kind of weird. I've never really talked with him until now, and he's asking me to spend my summer with him?
But something about the way he looked and spoke got to me. I couldn't explain it if I tried, I had to agree. I just couldn't deny him.
Before I could respond there came a voice that called out Atty's name.
We both turned and found a tall slender man, who looked to be in his mid thirties. He walked with his fists clenched.
George Westmoreland himself.
He nodded toward me, but shook Atticus' hand, he didn't even reach for mine.
Atticus pointed toward me and finally said, "This is Bruno, our quarterback."
Westmoreland didn't give me a second glance, "I wanted to talk with you about next year, in private." He said.
I kept quiet and left, I didn't want to be around that prick anyway.
I sat on the bench and watched him and Atticus talk. Westmoreland spoke for awhile, until Atty finally said something.
They looked at each other for a moment until Atty spoke again. Coach seemed to be thinking long and hard about something. Finally coach nodded and said something then left immediately.
Atticus started making his way toward me but I got up and met him. "What'd that asshole say?"
"That asshole," he spat sarcastically, "said he'd give you a chance and watch you very close during summer conditioning."
I didn't know what to say, "Dude....What did you tell him?"
He shrugged, but before he could respond coach's voice echoed, "Offense back on the field!!"
I'll never know what Atty told Westmoreland. But whatever they talked about would mark the beginning of my football career.
Summer came and went. Atticus and I worked out almost everyday of the week.
We did weight training, 5K's, he ran passing routes and always tested my abilities.
I had thought it would only be three days a week, but he always told me something different that made me want to push and be better than the day before.
Finally team try-outs were held and to no one's disbelief Atty grabbed his starting position. He beat a senior and two juniors out of the starting position, and no one on the team gave him flak about it.
I, on the other hand, made second string varsity. I was so surprised I never really believed it, I felt no different. But this one senior was beyond angry. I thought he was going to kill me in the locker room until Atty intervened, he didn't even talk back to Atty, he just turned and left.
He had this strange aura about him. Charisma, good looks, I don't know what made him so invincible.
The first few games went on without much incident, Atty became a pretty prominent figure in the town with his amazing athleticism.
It was the fourth game of the season, I held onto my back up
position for that long, and impressed Westmoreland along the way.
That game we were playing against our rivals, the Schwartz
During the second quarter, something happened that kick started my football career.
The score was 14 - 3, Schwartz. Our center snapped the ball and our starting QB dropped back to pass, but almost immediately the pocket collapsed around him, and he was sacked.
My heart sank as I watched the pile dissipate and saw as he remained laying on the field, clutching at his knee.
Westmoreland quickly took notice and ran onto the field. The crowd hushed down to minuscule whispers of panic. But after what seemed like hours the trainers helped him to his feet, however he never put weight on his right leg.
Westmoreland appeared by my side and spat, "No questions Moore. Get your ass in there."
My heart sank even farther, "Coach, what!?"
"What the fuck did I just say?" He grabbed at my pads and got in my face, "I don't like it anymore than you do, just get in there." He was no longer yelling, his voice was quiet, but stern.
Hesitant, and incredibly nervous, I adorned my helmet and slowly made my way to the huddle.
The announcer's voice boomed across the stadium "With Senior, #7, Albert Lane out for the game..." He paused, as if awed by what he was reading, "It seems, Freshman," he was still hesitant, "Freshman, #12, Bruno Moore will play in his place."
Way to make me feel better, asshole.
"God damn it," one of the senior tight ends threw his hands up. "Another freshman? What the fuck is Westmoreland thinking!?"
Atty immediately said, "Just cool it Willard, back off."
For whatever reason, those six words shut that guy up. As I said, NO ONE ever messed with Atticus.
They were all looking at me, waiting for the play.
Hesitantly, I gave it to them, and we got to the line.
I got under the center and my head spun a bit, this was a lot different from middle school.
I grabbed the snap and dropped back to pass, I did a pump fake then handed the ball off to Atty.
It was amazing watching him go, weaving in and out of coverage and juking most of the opposition, it took a line backer and a corner back to take him down nearly 25 yards away.
With his gain we were only 15 yards away from the end zone.
There was 22 seconds left in the first half as we got to the huddle. They all looked at me just like before.
"Alright, shit," my mind began to blank, I had almost forgot the play.
But I parroted the play from Westmoreland.
There were about 12 seconds left on the play clock as we got to the line.
"Set!" I exclaimed.
I took a deep breath.
The snap was high, but I had it. I dropped back and looked out for my receivers, they were all covered, even Atty was in double coverage.
Just then, Willard got away from the defense. He was coming across the end zone waving an arm in the air. I planted my feet and threw it directly into his chest.
The stadium erupted into cheers.
He caught it, the asshole actually caught it.
I threw my arms in the air signaling touch down and yelled, "Yeah!"
Willard ran from the end zone and slapped my helmet hard, "That's how it's done! You fish aren't so bad." He chuckled and patted my back.
As we got to the side line coach gave me a silent nod of approval. Atty got to my side and said, "There it is, was that so hard?"
I chuckled, "Fuck you Fischer."
He laughed and patted my back.
As the game continued on to the closing minutes Schwartz managed to get in a field goal.
With three minutes to go, the whole city watched me as we got onto the field.
We marched down the field and found ourselves at 3rd and goal.
We huddled and I looked up at the enormous score board.
It flickered Home 10 Visitor 17.
:57 to play.
I gave the play and we all got to the line.
The ball was snapped and I quickly handed it off to our full back who took it up the middle.
Too bad the defense somehow knew we were going to do that.
Both of their linebackers came through the middle at the same time and slammed our fullback hard.
The prick fumbled the ball.
The ball flew past me, but Atty already had eyes on it. He recovered it as it bounced and took it to the goal line. Unfortunately they stopped him on the 1 yard line.
Fourth and Goal.
We didn't have any time outs left...
Without thinking I began exclaiming.
"HURRY HURRY! BACK TO THE LINE ASSHOLES!"
We all got to the line and I called "TRIPLE 2 Y! HURRY!"
The ball was snapped.
Willard was almost instantly open in the end zone, I threw it to him just like before.
The crowd erupted once again, only louder.
He fucking caught it!
17 - 16!
We haven't come close to beating these assholes in so long.
Willard came from the end zone, the ball still in his hand. "I fucking love you Moore! Keep throwing like that and you'll be a fucking star!"
A star? I like that.
The offense was heading to the side line but coach Westmoreland sent us back. "No no offense! Stay on! Moore! Over here!" He kept shouting my name...
He whispered a play in my ear and said, "The whole crowd's watching you, half of them want to see you fail, the other half has been waiting for this moment since before you were born. Which side are you gonna please?"
I couldn't think. That scared the shit out of me.
"I wouldn't be calling this if I didn't think you could do it! Now get out there!"
This man will either be a genius or a fucking idiot.
We got to the line and before I could call it one of the linebackers from the defense leaned over our center, "I'm coming for you fishy! Be ready mother fucker!"
You fucking prick.
The ball was snapped and that guy was right, they were coming.
The pocket almost immediately collapsed around me. The line backer dove for me like fucking superman, but I ducked way down, and the stupid prick flew over me.
Another guy came from my side, he grabbed me, but I twisted him off.
My adrenaline was pumping, I wasn't thinking.
No one was fucking open, Atty was in double coverage again, and Willard fucking tripped or something and fell.
So I did the only thing I felt necessary.
I rolled out and around the line, toward the end zone.
There was only one guy in my way, but he was smaller than me, I could take him.
We must've been right on the goal line when I threw myself at him.
My eyes were closed shut. I could hear whistles blowing.
Just then I felt a strong pair of arms wrap around me and pick me up. It was Willard.
"You made it fish! You fucking did it!"
I fucking did it? Really?
The announcer's voice boomed even louder than before, "He's in! The freshman quarterback is in for two! 18-17!"
The home side of the stadium jumped and roared like an enormous wave of gray and red, everyone was astounded by the freshman quarter back, and running back.
The kicking squad lined up, and hurled the ball to their goal line, allowing no chance for a touchback. They waited a while before taking the ball carrier down, ensuring they ate up all the time.
We had actually done it.
We all saw the coaches walk out to the 50 where there was this huge wolf head painted in the turf, the entire team knelt in a circle around them.
"What an upset right?" He chuckled, "I knew you boys could do this, you boys shocked not only Schwartz, but for some old timers you pretty much made their year. Heck, there's a whole generation in that audience who've never seen a Palmer victory over Schwartz." He looked over at me, "I believe this team has finally got the spark they needed." He began shouting, "So bring it in! You boys are all stars tonight!"
With that, everyone stood and began jumping and shouting random shit.
I immediately left, stuff like that makes me kind of uncomfortable.
I was slowly walking to the locker room when someone pushed me from behind
"There he is, the star QB!"
I turned to see Atty standing with a huge grin across his face, I wasn't surprised to see two girls with him.
One was this girl he was always into. She was this tall girl who had brown wavy hair, she was kind of pretty, but I don't understand why he liked her so much. Her name was Blair Pearson.
I had had classes with the other girl before. She was wearing an awkward little smile, and she had her arms crossed in front of her almost like she was nervous. I had never met a girl with natural auburn hair like hers. I had liked her before, but I didn't act on it. I never did.
Atty smiled as he noticed me looking at her, "This is Blair's friend-"
"Rebecca, Rebecca Sparks right?" I interrupted
She smiled bigger and pushed her hair out of her face.
"Hi," she squeaked out.
I couldn't help smiling, "Hi."
Atty beamed, "I have my dad's truck, and we're going to go out to eat, do you want to go?"
I nodded immediately, "Yeah sure."
Blair looked at Atty quietly, "Wait by the locker room for us." He smiled at her, and she smiled back.
Wow I guess Atty finally got her.
He motioned for me to follow as he began jogging toward the locker room. I smiled at Rebecca once again and sprinted after him.
"So you and Blair huh?" I asked jokingly.
He didn't answer my question, "Rebecca is Blair's best friend, and she likes you Bruno, she has since last year." He was still wearing that big grin.
That statement hit me like a Mac truck. "Atty I've liked her before too."
He looked at me perplexed, "You didn't do anything about it? Why not?"
I could feel myself blushing, "Don't worry about it."
He laughed, "Wow Moore, you won us that game, but you can't handle a girl?"
I was beginning to focus so much on Rebecca that I had forgotten about what just happened. I smiled, "I did win that game didn't I?"
We got changed and went out. That was one of the greatest nights of my life.
Rebecca was funny, sweet, incredibly beautiful, and she made me feel happy. I even got her number!
Well that's how most of our games went. Except, you know, the one's we lost.
But then we got to the play offs, it was the very first play off game and we were playing some team from down south , the Lincoln War Hawks.
Friday morning I was leaving to school with my dad, the sun was beginning to peak over the clouds. We were driving down the street before the high school when we saw him.
"Hey isn't that Atticus?" My dad asked.
He was wearing a shirt with his jersey number, #18, on it.
I was a little surprised, "Yeah that's him, I wonder why he's doing that."
"Well he's going to tire himself out before school." My dad pulled up beside him and kept up with him, "Hey Atticus, do you need a ride?"
He didn't even look at us, "Hey, the school is a few blocks away, you're gonna be tired." my dad pried.
"Hey dad, you can pull over and drop me off, I'll follow him." I said.
My dad looked at me, "Are you sure?" then immediately, "No you two are going to be hit by a car! I don't know why his parents would allow him-"
"Dad," I interrupted. "Something's obviously wrong, please let me do this."
My dad sighed, "Fine, but if anything happens you call me."
I nodded, "Yes sir."
He pulled over, as I exited I strapped my back pack tighter around my shoulders.
Immediately, I sprinted to get to Atty's side.
"Hey what are you doing man!"
He didn't answer. He began getting quicker and quicker.
I managed to get to his side but I knew he wasn't trying, "What's going on man?! What's the problem?"
He got even quicker, I was really pushing it, I was full out sprinting, but I still don't think he was trying.
"Just slow down! You know I can't catch you!"
There we were, zooming down the road. The school had begun to come into view, the sun was slowly rising behind it, turning the sky bright blue.
I kind of lagged until I was just slightly behind him
We began passing the practice field, an enormous patch of soft grass with a faded white gridiron painted on it, Atty cut left towards the field, and I followed.
I was beginning to get tired, but Atty was completely fine.
His shoulder's tightened up, and his knees bent, he was about to burst forward like a bullet.
I didn't want him to get away without an answer.
Without thinking I reached an arm out and grabbed his shoulder, then threw myself at him. I wrapped my arms around his body.
He twisted, trying to shrug me off, but I interlocked my fingers on his chest, I wasn't going anywhere.
So I began to relax and turn into dead weight, and that did it, we crashed down into the ground.
We tumbled for a moment and slid across the soft turf.
I sat up and began to catch my breath.
Atty laid in the grass, he wasn't out of breath.
We sat in silence for a long while.
"You know," he began quietly, "Normally it takes two people to take me down like that."
I laughed through my breaths, "I learned from the best. Now tell me what's wrong."
He sat up but never looked at me, "Blair."
My brow furrowed, "What did she do?"
He shook his head, "She said we were only friends. But then she said that she really liked this other guy. But...." He paused for a while.
"I told her I thought she was my girlfriend, but she said that I had never asked her to be mine."
That made my heart sink, I hadn't asked Rebecca to be my girlfriend.
"But how could she not be?" He continued, "We kissed, we held hands, we went on dates, I walked her to class. I..." He paused again.
His voice began to crack slightly, "I told her I loved her, and that's when she started talking about that other guy."
I let out a loud sigh.
"Atty," I began, "Atticus Fischer."
I shook my head at him quietly, "Atticus Fischer." I repeated.
"Atticus mother fucking Fischer." I said louder.
"Do you know who you are?" I continued, "You're THE Atticus Fischer. The freshman running back who's rushed for more than 2,000 all purpose yards this year alone. Everybody, and I mean EVERYBODY loves you man. What does it matter if one girl doesn't?"
He stood, "You don't understand. She's not just some girl Bruno."
I wiped sweat from my forehead, but before I could get to my feet he was already halfway to the locker room.
Atty was beyond fast.
I never saw him until the game.
I sat with Rebecca at lunch, but I couldn't kick Atty's words out of my mind.
I held her hand, and listened intently while she spoke, but she knew something was off, she always did.
"Something's wrong." She said abruptly.
She eyed me, "What's wrong?"
I quickly put a sentence together, "Rebecca, will you be my girlfriend?"
She looked at me incredibly perplexed, "Bruno, I am your girlfriend." Her smile turned into a half frown, "Aren't I?"
I sighed and put our hands to my forehead, "I'm sorry," I started, "Just something Atty told me today-"
"Augh," she immediately sounded her disgust, "Blair's just..." She paused, "She's just a really complex person, and honestly? I think Atticus scared her off by saying he loved her."
I frowned, "Maybe."
"Wait," I began, ""How did you know he told her that?"
She scoffed, "I've been Blair's best friend since like 2nd grade, you think she wouldn't tell me something like this?"
"I haven't seen her all day though," she looked around the cafeteria, "I don't even think she came to school today."
I rolled my eyes, "Well she really hurt Atty. I haven't seen him since this morning."
She frowned, "I think Blair doesn't deserve Atty, she has no idea what she wants, or how she feels, I don't think she should have gone off with him the way she did if she wouldn't commit."
She quickly smiled and kissed my forehead, "Don't worry, I wouldn't do that to you."
That made my heart jump. No one had ever made me feel like that before.
Later that night, we got onto the field just like any other game. But the town was extremely hyped, I hadn't seen the crowd like that all season, they really believed we'd take them somewhere they'd never been, the state championship.
They got it to about the 30. But our defense stopped them cold on the drive.
We got to the line and Atty flanked me on my right.
"Hey!" I called to him, "You good?"
He didn't even look at me.
Not thinking anything of it, I called for the snap.
Immediately, Atty was open coming across the back field, his defender close behind.
I planted my feet and threw him the ball.
It should've been a simple catch.
Atty reached for it, but couldn't grab it, the ball merely bounced up over his head.
Right into his defender's hands. Atty didn't even attempt to stop him, he just slowed down and took off his helmet.
That prick took it all the way, touch down Lincoln.
I immediately caught up with him on the side line, "You had that! What happened!?"
He sat on the bench and shook his head.
I let it go.
The defense stopped them, giving us another chance.
Atty flanked me again, "Come on man," I called, "Most important game so far, get in it!"
I called for the snap and handed the ball off to him.
The asshole didn't even seem like he was trying.
He JOGGED up the middle of the line and got laid out, AND fumbled the ball.
I jumped for it, but it bounced out from underneath me, one of Lincoln's line backers picked it up and ran it back for the touch down.
14 - 0
Atty sat on the bench again, no one seemed to want to sit by him, or talk to him.
I stood in front of him, "Atty what are you doing?! What's happened to you? Don't let this girl ruin your life!"
Still no response.
The defense's morale was fading, they only held them to a field goal.
The offense went out.
I didn't say a thing to Atty.
The ball was snapped and I handed it off to him, but he was hit for a loss.
We got to the line again, the ball was snapped.
I got the ball and he was the only one open. I hurled it to him, but he never turned his head to look at me, he just continued running.
The ball hurled over his shoulder and into the turf.
He could've had that.
He should've fucking had that.
3rd and 13.
We got to the huddle, I looked at Atty and shouted, "COME ON MAN!!"
I lost my patience, "We can't do this thing without you! What gives you the right to throw away all of our practice over a fucking girl!?"
"What the fuck! That's why he's fucking up?" Willard looked at Atty, "You're gonna ruin our senior season for that?"
"Just forget about it," I said solemnly, "we're running out of time."
I called a play and we quickly got to the line.
The ball was snapped and I got back to pass, but the pocket collapsed again, I was sacked.
I sat with my knees tucked into my chest.
Willard came and helped me up, "That's the first you've been sacked all year fish."
I nodded, from Willard that was a compliment.
The defense played even worse than us, Lincoln scored multiple times on simple plays.
That's how my first play off game went, I got hit, the defense fucked up, it was a disaster.
All because of Blair, selfish bitch.
We ended the half 45 - 0.
The locker room was deathly silent.
"7 and 3," Westmoreland began, "You're going to end a 7 and 3 season like this? I thought you boys were better than this."
He pointed to Atticus who was sitting with his head down, "Two turnovers on you son, both resulted in touch downs for them."
Westmoreland reached down his shirt and retrieved a tiny silver locket, he twirled it in between his fingers as he spoke, "Let me ask you boys for a favor. Close your eyes."
Everyone did as they were told.
"Now think about your family and your loved eyes."
I'm not sure why, but all I could think about was Rebecca.
He paused for a minute, "Now open your god damn eyes y'all."
Just like our eyes, his locket was now open, there was a picture of a woman carrying a young boy.
"This is my wife Sierra, and my boy Jack. My family is more precious to me than anything else in this world. You better believe that I do everything for them. But no matter what happens out there, win or lose, they will love me. So don't be nervous," he paused. "Your loved ones will always love you, no matter what happens."
He paused again and it got just as silent as before.
"Tonight..." He paused once more, "Tonight everyone's already counting us out. Tonight could be the greatest night of y'all's life, the night we came back from a 45 point deficient. But you're gonna let it be the worst night of your football careers, aren't you?"
He shook his head, "If you think you can't win, then you won't. It's that simple boys. If you want to win, then the line must be drawn here. Don't let them get an inch further. Some would like to think that our fight is for a lost cause."
He chuckled, "Well I'll follow you boys anywhere, but I'm going to stand right here and fight for this god damn lost cause!" He shouted.
His face grew red, "BUT THAT DOESN'T EXCUSE YOUR GOD DAMN PERFORMANCE OUT THERE!" He started stomping his feet and banging the dry erase board.
He was throwing a tantrum like a fucking child.
He screamed and shouted, and honestly, I couldn't understand him half the time.
But just as sudden as it began it grew quiet.
He was out of breath and he face was still red.
He used his sleeve to wipe his forehead.
"IS THAT ALL YOU FUCKER'S GOT?! 45 TO 0?! IS THAT YOUR BEST?!" The veins in his throat could easily be seen through his skin.
"No sir." Atty's voice cut through the silence. His head was held high.
"IS ATTICUS GONNA DO IT BY HIMSELF?!"
"No sir." Everyone meekly said.
"ARE YOU SURE?!" He continued screaming.
Everyone stood, "NO SIR!"
"We shall fucking see." He wiped his forehead once again and made his way to the door.
We got back onto the field; Atty was set to return the kick.
The kick was high, and ended up on the 1 yard line.
He rocketed out of the goal line, in between defenders, nobody could catch him. He got into their end zone and slammed the ball into the turf.
45 - 7
That touchdown created a snowball effect that not a soul would've expected.
For the next two drives, offense didn't even get a chance to get on the field.
On the first kickoff, one of our defenders hit the kick returner hard, he fumbled and we recovered for a touchdown.
Next, our defense stopped the kick returner on the 10. Then, they got an interception and ran that for a touchdown.
Three consecutive touch downs in less than five minutes.
To end their amazing performance, the defense sacked the quarterback in their end zone for a safety.
45 - 23
Atty got the penalty kick and took it to the 50.
We got to the huddle and everyone looked at me. I looked over my shoulder and saw the defense, they were all staring directly over to us, petrified.
"Look at those assholes you guys," I started, "They're scared out of their minds, and they don't even know what's coming yet." Everybody laughed.
"Alright," I continued. "We got 9 minutes and some change left, let's see if we can beat the spread before the end of this quarter."
I called the play and we got to the line.
The ball was snapped and I dropped back to pass, immediately Willard was open down field.
I let loose and hurled the ball.
He effortlessly caught it, there was one defensive back in his way, and I was certain he was going to go down.
However, Willard trucked him and continued into the end zone.
Holy shit that was crazy, Willard really hit that guy.
That's how the third quarter went, we didn't cover the spread but towards the middle of the fourth we got them to a 45 - 40 lead.
Atty scored the last touchdown but he stayed in the end zone staring into the stands for awhile. A referee went up to him and told him to get back to the bench, so he did.
As he was walking back I went to him, "Hey what happened?"
His eyes never left the ground, "I saw her with that guy in the stands."
I shook my head, "No man, we were just making a comeback, don't let her ruin this for you."
He finally looked at me, "Ruin this for who exactly? Me or you? It sounds a lot like you just want me to play well so you can get noticed."
My brow furrowed, "Are you serious? Atty, have you noticed that when you don't play well the team doesn't either? It's because when you hurt, we hurt, we can just feel something's wrong with you."
That was only partially true.
On offense, he was the best player, therefore we only score when he plays.
On defense, however, they only play extremely well when the offense plays extremely well.
He stayed quiet.
"There will only be one Atticus Fischer. Who do you want him to be? How do you want him to handle this situation?" I don't really think he was paying much attention.
"Hey," he began, "Why do you think she's here? Because she knows it's tearing me up inside?"
I shrugged, "Maybe you should play well to show her you're not affected. You know? I know it's hurting you, but don't give her that satisfaction." I patted his back, "I can't stand here and tell you I know how you feel, because I don't. But I can tell you that she's not worth it my man."
He just looked to the ground.
Time went by, and the crowd grew more and more restless. We couldn't score, but neither could they. It all came down to our last drive. 20 seconds left to play, the score remained unchanged, we only had one time out left.
We got to the line and the ball was snapped.
I dropped back to pass and saw one of our wide receivers open.
I don't mean to sound cocky, but I threw a perfect pass to him.
The guy caught it at about the 50, he got around a few defenders, but was down at about the 35.
I immediately signaled the ref for time out.
We got to the huddle and I looked around, everyone seemed ready, except for Atty, he was staring off towards the stands looking for Blair.
"Red Open 18 Pitch," I called looking around.
Atty wasn't paying attention, I slapped his helmet, "You got that?"
He simply nodded and went to the line. We broke the huddle and joined him.
This was it.
I caught the snap and immediately everything clicked into place, the line held their blocks, our full back blasted through the middle, fooling the secondary to believe he had the ball.
I pitched the ball to Atty.
He caught the ball with one hand, and held it that way.
"TUCK THE FUCKING BALL!!" I screamed.
A defender rushed him, he juked and missed him, but the guy managed to slap the ball right out of his hand.
It bounced toward me, and I immediately tried to scoop it up.
But it was too late, the line collapsed and one guy ran by, picked it up and took off.
I chased him all the way to the end zone.
Touch down Lincoln.
51 - 40
The away crowd roared, and stormed the field, the security guards couldn't hold them.
I fell to my knees, it felt like our entire season had gone to waste.
I tore my helmet from my head and threw it down.
I felt warm tears rush down my face.
A hand patted my shoulder, I looked up and it was that guy who had scored.
"You're the freshmen QB, right?" He sounded real sophisticated, almost like an adult.
"Good game man," he continued, "Keep your head up brother, you still have your whole career ahead of you."
He took off his helmet to reveal long curly black hair, and caring eyes, he reached down to help me up.
I eyed him for awhile.
He nodded and kept his hand held out.
I was so pissed off. I felt like this asshole was mocking me.
I shook my head, reached out a clenched fist, then gently raised my middle finger
Our eyes never left one another.
His brow furrowed and a confused look was plastered upon his face.
We stood like that for what felt like hours, until he turned and left, shaking his head.
I closed my eyes and rested my forehead on the turf.
I felt a gentle pair of arms wrap around me.
A small soft hand grabbed mine, and interlocked our fingers.
It was Rebecca.
She was carrying my helmet.
I looked up at her and she smiled, "Awwww," she let out a burst of startled affection, "I can't believe you're crying Bruno."
I stood and she held me in her arms. "Did it mean that much to you?" She continued, never letting go.
I couldn't say a word.
In the tumultuous crowd of angry and excited fans, it seemed like they avoided us. No one bumped us or tried talking to me.
"I feel like I disappointed you, and everyone." I squeaked out.
I explained to her about what Westmoreland had told us in the locker room.
How she was all I could think about when he talked about loved
Her eyes grew puffy and her voice stressed, "I'm your loved one?"
I looked her deep in the eyes for a real long while, then finally I leaned down and we kissed.
It was such a surreal moment. It was like time had stopped, I could've sworn that the crowd was gone, and I never wanted her to leave my arms.
She finally pulled away, but she rested her forehead on mine, and said, "I love you too."
Before I could do anything else I felt a hand pat her shoulder, she turned but kept on arm around my back.
That guy was standing with her.
Before she could speak Rebecca immediately blurted, "Where's Atticus?"
She made a face and shrugged, she motioned toward the guy, "Roman and I are going out, do you two want to join?"
Her voice pissed me off. Her presence pissed me off. In that moment, everything about her pissed me off.
I opened my mouth to say something harsh, but Rebecca put a gentle hand on my cheek stopping me.
"Just go Blair," Rebecca said softly, "I'll see you later."
Blair didn't say anything, she turned to leave and that guy, Roman I guess, followed.
"What's her problem? It's not just the fact that she's the reason we lost, it's more that Atty's so broken up over her. She's not worth it." I spat.
Rebecca shook her head, "She's just a very mixed up, complicated individual. She's so unsure of herself, and she never knows what she wants."
I took a deep breath, "I'll go look for Atty, I'll call you."
She smiled and nodded, we kissed again and she left to find her parents.
I pushed my way though the crowd and found the rest of the team kneeling around Westmoreland in a clearing, all had their heads down, most were in tears. I immediately went to join them.
"This isn't how I wanted the season to end," coach started slowly, "I honestly don't know what to say boys."
He paused and we sat in silence for a few moments.
"If I had to choose between sitting in the stands during an NFL game, or this game just now, I'd choose the latter. I've never seen anything like this," he paused, "Ever, really."
He paused again.
"Seniors, I wish you luck in all of your future endeavors. Underclass men..." His tone changed immediately, "If any of you think your performance in the first half was acceptable: You're. Dead. Wrong. Atticus, Bruno, you boys are the youngest, but soon you'll be the oldest. You best believe the next three seasons you experience will be some of the hardest ever."
Afterwards I found Atticus going toward the locker room, he had nothing to say, to anyone. But as the year went on he and Blair continued to be off and on. While mine and Rebecca's relationship grew stronger and stronger.
I remember Westmoreland had called me into his office the next morning. He told me I was to be the starting quarterback from then on, but before I left he threw a newspaper on his desk. On the front page the headline read, "Palmer Suffers Devastating Loss After Amazing Come Back".
There was a huge black and white picture of me kneeling in the end zone, flipping off that guy who was trying to help me up. The caption read, "Freshmen Quarter Back #12 Bruno Moore Furious After His Second Half Come Back Was Thwarted".
Westmoreland shook his head, "Don't let it happen again."
The team and I thought it was hilarious, but my parents, teachers, and everyone who wasn't a student practically, hated me for awhile.
We ended our freshman season 7 - 4. However we improved more and more as time went on, and we never lost to Schwartz again.
Our sophomore season we ended 8 - 5, we won our first play off game but lost the second.
Then our junior season we shocked everyone, by advancing all the way to the quarter finals. Two wins away from the championship. We ended that amazing season 10 - 4.
Each year, Atty and I grew stronger, faster, heavier, and taller. We went from little 5'9 190 pound kids to 6'3 220 pound men in the course of four years. He and I continued to work hard during the summer, and even harder during the off seasons.
I remember the beginning of our Senior season was amazing. We picked up right where we had left off, destroying area teams 56 - 0, 77 - 3. We went undefeated our first five games.
During one of our practices, a man approached Atty and I. The man wore an orange hat with a white silhouette of a bull with long horns on it.
He looked at Atty and said, "Atticus Fishcer?" He held out his hand to shake Atty's.
Then he turned to me and said, "Bruno Moore?" He held out his hand.
I wasn't expecting that.
I shook his, not realizing what this moment meant.
He explained to us that he was a scout from the University of Texas in Austin, Texas.
I had read about that school, it was a prestigious university with a pretty great football program.
"Boys," he began, "I've been authorized by our university to offer you," he pointed to Atty, "a full scholarship to play for our program."
Atty scratched at his chin, "What about my quarter back, Bruno?"
The scout looked at me and nodded.
"Oh come on Atty," I started, "I'm a decent high school player but I couldn't make it in college."
The scout shook his head, "That's not the case at all. We've been watching you buddy. But we're still not entirely sold. However, we'll continue watching you throughout the post season."
Whoa, I wasn't expecting that.
Atty had that big dumb grin on his face.
"That's great, because this guy couldn't make it in college without me, on the field or otherwise."
The scout chuckled and said, "I hope to see you two real soon, but for now it's time for me to leave."
I stayed silent as we shook hands and he went to talk with Westmoreland.
Atty was still grinning, "Man it'd be great to go to college together, especially to play ball!"
I was still in shock, "I never thought I'd even play in college."
He shook his head, "Dude you and I were great freshmen year, now look at us! No one can touch us."
Before I could reply Westmoreland called our names.
We hustled to him, and he stayed quiet for a moment. He was watching the defense run a play.
He stood there with his arms crossed, he was menacing with his huge aviator sunglasses.
The defense ended the play and the defensive coach began chewing them out about something.
Finally, he turned his attention to us.
"Atticus," he started, "You and I both know that you're leaving high school with a full ride just about anywhere you want to go. But Moore," he directed his attention to me, "That scout is an old friend of mine, he doesn't think the university will see your worth until you lead us to a championship."
I didn't know what to say, I think I was just in shock that entire day, "What do you mean?"
Westmoreland picked up on the confusion in my voice, "I mean, we rely too heavily on Atticus here, we need to show you off. You're a great quarterback, son, we just need to pass more."
My heart jumped a bit, I never thought I was any good, and Westmoreland isn't one to hand out compliments.
"How do you wanna do that?" I asked.
He explained to us about how we were going to work on passing more, and he gave me a whole new set of exercises for my arms to help me throw farther and faster.
As the weeks passed we continued to ravage our regular schedule match ups.
I racked up more rushing, passing yards, and touchdowns. I began getting letters from various football programs. First there were schools I had never heard of, then as we got to the 10th and final regular season game I began getting letters from schools I'd see on TV all the time.
It was amazing, I didn't think I was going to get any attention at all.
That game was no different, we ended the blow out 56 - 7.
The town was in a frenzy, never in the history of Palmer, never did a single one of their championship teams go undefeated in the regular season.
10 - 0
We continued through the first weeks of post season without fault.
Finally we had another chance.
We played a team from up north, and we were playing on their field.
We didn't play bad, they were just as good. It scared the crap out of everyone.
Not only that, but their crowd was rowdy, mean, and insanely intimidating.
Despite everything we prevailed 21 - 17
That was our hardest game all season, however next week would be even worse.
I'll never forget school that week. We were hailed as heroes, everybody loved us.
Even though we barely escaped the last game, the entire town was still behind us.
Luckily, we got to choose where we would play, and the ever prideful Coach Westmoreland chose good old Palmer High Stadium.
State Semi-finals right here in Palmer.
He could've chose neutral turf, and we probably would've ended up at the Alamodome.
But nope, Palmer mother fucking Texas.
I remember school before the game, Rebecca and I found ourselves having lunch with Atty and Blair.
I didn't much like Blair, but Atty's my brother, so I wasn't going to show it.
"Are you guys ready for the game? The whole town is flipping out." Rebecca said casually.
I shrugged, "You're talking to the team's leading scorers right here, what do you think?" I said jokingly.
The girls laughed and Atty smirked, "Let's just hope the star QB doesn't get sacked and fumble AGAIN!" He put emphasis on again, he couldn't wipe that dumb grin off his face.
They all laughed, "You cheeky bastard," I said through a smile.
"Oh and don't go flipping someone off again!" Blair exclaimed laughing.
I put my head down jokingly, Rebecca brushed my hair. "You guys are making me depressed, I can't play now."
Atty laughed, "You couldn't play before either."
I lifted my head, "Bitch! I'm gonna purposely hand off the ball wrong so it looks like you fumbled!"
The girls laughed, "You guys are so stupid," Rebecca said through laughter.
That was probably the last moment we all hung out together.
The bell rang marking the end of lunch.
We all stood up from our table.
Blair smiled at Rebecca and waved, Atticus threw me a peace sign, threw their trash, then made their way to class with entangled hands.
She told me the same thing she always told me before a game.
"Don't you dare get hurt, love."
I promised her I wouldn't and kissed her.
With that I walked her to class, and that was the last I saw her
until the game.
That night would prove to be one of my worst.
They won the toss.
I remember getting on the field and feeling shaky. I had felt nervous before, but this was something different, my hands were sweating.
Rebecca and her parents always sat in the same spot. I found them easily in the crowd. Her father gave me a small salute, her mother smiled, and Rebecca blew me a kiss, but they only made me feel worse.
Our defense held them to a punt, our returner called a fair catch at the 35.
We got to the huddle and stood in silence.
"You alright?" Atty asked.
I started breathing hard, "Far from it." I admitted.
"You got this, remember Rebecca's watching, are you gonna make her proud?" He asked.
He pressed my helmet against his, and hugged me with one arm.
"Hell yeah." I said.
That boosted my confidence a bit.
I called for a screen pass, then we got to the line.
The ball was snapped, I dropped back, and just as planned the line collapsed.
Atty was open, I hurled the ball.
One defender jumped high and tried swatting the ball, but it whizzed right between his hands.
Atty caught it and ran, he started slow at first, he allowed the line men to make their blocks then, with a small cloud of turf behind him, he was gone.
There was no one even near him when he reached the end zone.
I threw my arms up signaling a touchdown, and met Atty with a chest bump.
"Scoring on the first play, dang son!" I patted his helmet.
I could only smile, I looked toward Rebecca and she was standing shouting my name.
I have no idea what I was nervous about.
The most important game of the year at the time, and we ended the half 21 - 7.
After half time we received the ball.
I don't even know what play I called then.
I got the snap and scanned the field.
Everything went dark.
For one second I wasn't in Palmer High Stadium, we weren't playing football, for one second I didn't even know what football was.
I remember rolling over and I could feel an involuntary tear roll down the right side of my face.
Atty was kneeling over me, "Bruno!" He kept shouting.
Everything sounded wavy and kind of slow.
Westmoreland appeared behind Atty, but then he looked around and went somewhere else.
I shifted my head over and saw Westmoreland and a few trainers standing around our center, who was also on the ground.
By the time I felt right again Atty was still shouting at