Seasons Part 3 of 6

December 12th, 2013 | By Clint Foster No Comments

Seasons_dec

 

“Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn.”

“Correct.”

Mick breathed a sigh of relief. The tension that gripped his gut every time he thumbed the buzzer eased away as the moderator began reading another question. The Quiz Bowl team had crushed their conference and were now deep in the divisional tournament. His team was losing pretty badly, but Mick was never going to give up.

“The Boxer Rebellion.”

“Correct.”

Two in a row. His lower back was damp from sweat, shirt clinging to the chair whenever he tried to sit forward. A math question. He toyed with his pencil for a moment but, after doodling a bunch of pointless squiggles on the page, he gave up. Mick had never really enjoyed math, and he didn’t even know what type of formula they were talking about. The other team scored a point.

A light ding alerted them that there were only five questions left. Mick’s heart sunk when he saw his team was down by six. They were going to lose, and their tournament run was over.

The van ride home was like any other. Everyone talked and chatted and laughed. Mick loved being part of the Quiz Bowl team because it never felt like losing and winning. They all had fun, sometimes they got trophies for it and sometimes they didn’t. His friend Ricky had told him about the football team’s playoff loss. A heartbreaker. The other team kicked a field goal to win with no time on the clock. He’d said the two-hour bus ride home was sickeningly quiet. The coach had looked so sad, even when he smiled and gave a speech about how great of a season they’d had. 9-3 wasn’t so bad, after all.

They pulled up to the school, everyone high-fived or hugged. They’d all see each other in class tomorrow and they could talk about their harrowing defeat at the hands of geniuses. Or they’d talk about how tough the questions they’d answered had been.

In the weight room, Mick always felt slightly out of place. He was thin and bony. His feet were too big for his body, but every day he would step on the treadmill and jog for a while. It helped him relax after a day of school, or of stressful questions during Quiz Bowl.

As he jogged, he thought back to the weekend before. The 5K charity run he had done left his hips and legs a little sore, but he felt good for having done a little bit to help other people. Ricky had run with him, encouraging Mick and chatting about video games and sports. Mick hadn’t said much because he was fighting a losing battle with his lungs during that race.

Their friend Cassie was going to run with them, but she ended up having a basketball tournament, which she won. She got to the race just in time to see Ricky and Mick cross the finish line in the middle of the pack. Huffing, puffing, and coughing, they’d hugged and headed to The Varsity to celebrate their victories in delicious fashion.

Now and then, Mick tried his hand at lifting weights, but it never felt right. He asked Ricky once about lifting and why he was so good at it.

“It’s not that you’re good at it or not, it’s just something I enjoy doing. You’re way smart, so you do Quiz Bowl. That’s awesome too, dude. You’d beat me at a brain fight any day. Everyone’s got their thing.”

Knowing that Quiz Bowl was over for the year was a bummer. Mick enjoyed going into the computer lab every Tuesday during lunch to hang out and answer questions, even though the book they used was about a decade out of date.

Finishing up his run, Mick wiped some sweat from his face and slurped at the water fountain for a few seconds. His daydreaming stopped abruptly when a broad hand thudded on his back and his friend Ricky bellowed, “Mick! My man, how were the Brain Games?”

Smiling, Mick shrugged. “We got beat in the third round of divisionals.

“Aww man, that sucks. You had fun though, right?”

“Of course we did. I had the most points out of anybody on the team, too.”

Ricky gave him a friendly noogie, then stopped and patted his hair back into place. “I wouldn’t wanna injure your award-winning thought-box.”

Mick shoved him as they exited the gym. “So, when does football stuff start again?”

“Not sure. Coach Doud said we’d have a few weeks to recover and rest up, so I figure he’ll tell us when he’s ready.”

“Recover and rest up? You must all be a bunch of wussies,” he said jokingly. Then, in seriousness, “You starting next year?”

Ricky gave his friend a sidelong glance, “Pff. Duh.”

“Gonna score a touchdown in every game?”

“Dude, I play defense.”

“And?”

Ricky laughed, “Yeah, yeah. At least one each game.”

They almost ran over Cassie as she came jogging through the hallway with the rest of the basketball team hot on her heels. “Sorry, guys, can’t talk.” Her face was flushed and she was dripping sweat all over the tiles.

“What are they doing?”

“Basketball does a lot of running through the school since it’s so cold outside during the winter.”

“It’s not that cold.”

“They’re wussies, too,” Ricky added, winking.

The athletic banquet for summer and fall activities was held a few weeks after the Quiz Bowl divisional tournament. Football, jazz band, volleyball, baseball, softball, and Quiz Bowl members all dressed up and came to the potluck style dinner with their families. Awards were given out to the best underclassman, or most improved, best defender, highest scorer, etc. Some awards were just for fun, like the hairiest chest award, or the bottomless pit award (which Ricky won, due to his habit of devouring multiple courses during the football team meals).

When the certificates and varsity letters had all been properly distributed among the athletes, Coach Doud took the stage in order to close the ceremony. “It’s always a shock to me when a season ends. It feels like only this morning we were out there on the dew-covered grass starting two-a-days. Yet, here we are. I know I’m the football coach, and there are an awful lot of great athletes here that don’t play football. This is not just for my boys. This is a celebration of achievement, whether you play the jazz trombone, quarterback, left field, or,” he paused, scratching his head, “whatever positions Quiz Bowl has.” Everyone laughed. “We’re here today to honor your accomplishments.”

The stadium applauded. Dozens of the parents stood and cheered, siblings whooped and hollered, and the athletes congratulated one another.

“However, let’s not dwell too long on the past. This season is over, and while we all will remember it with love and longing, we must look forward to greater things. To the seniors: you will all be missed, and you are all welcome to come cheer your teammates on next year. To the rest: we’d all better start practicing for next year.”

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