Father Knows Best (Part One)
FATHER KNOWS BEST
“COMING UP SHORT”
Allen Parker drove his shoulder hard into the advancing lineman before spinning away toward the sideline, cleats digging into the frozen tundra of Bordermen Field. With a stutter step, he juked the linebacker that had come up to cover him, and with a burst of speed he was racing toward the endzone. Looking over his shoulder, he saw the ball sailing through the crisp autumn air, the sound of approaching footsteps thundering in his ears. Don’t look, he thought, eyes on the ball. The Converse Bordermen were trailing by five with mere seconds on the clock. This was do or die time.
The football arrived, grazing Allen’s fingertips, just as an energized free safety delivered a devastating blow into the young Parker’s right side. The ball tumbled from his grasp, but he managed to bat it once, twice into the air. Safety and tight end crashed onto the hard ground, the ball flipping end over end. With a last ditch effort, Parker reached for it, straining against the pain and then it was in his hands. He’d done it. He caught the damn ball. Somewhere a starter gun signaled the end of the game and an eruption of joy exploded from the bleachers.
Allen rolled over, football held close, and he looked toward the endzone. He was mere inches shy of the promised land. Mighty Casey had struck out. Gathering himself, he walked off the field with his comrades, their despondence and weariness made all the more so by the resonant cheers of the visiting Argylls. While Allen’s teammates fell into the comfort of their girlfriends and parents, young Parker’s eyes focused on the emptying bleachers. There was no father there waiting to say “nice try, son”, no brother to say “you’ll get ‘em next time, kid”. No, his father and brother were elsewhere this Friday night. They were tending to the family business… the business of hunting ghosts.
Allen looked over his shoulder to see Sarah Jones leaning against the chain link fence separating the field from the stands. Buried inside an oversized hooded sweatshirt, she looked cold, her normally pale cheeks were a rosy red to match her hair. Allen crossed over to her and slipped off his stadium jacket and slid it over her shoulders. It nearly swallowed her whole.
“Are you kidding me?” he replied. “You did notice the scoreboard, right? We lost.”
“Winning? Losing? None of that matters. It’s how you play you play the game, Allen Parker. And you left it all on the field tonight.” Sarah leaned across the field and gave him a peck on the cheek. “You should be proud.”
“Well, I’m not feeling it.” Allen kicked at the loose gravel on the track surrounding the football field. “That one hurt, Sarah. I was so close.”
“That’s not it. You’re not bummed because you didn’t score the winning touchdown. You’re bummed because your pops wasn’t here to punch you in the arm and say you did good.” Sarah slugged him, hard. “But I am,” she added with a smile.
Allen smiled back and took her hand, the two of them walking off together. “Thanks, I needed that.”
“My pleasure,” she said with a wink. “Now, why don’t you hit the showers, then we can make a run into town and grab some hot cocoa at Cain’s.”
“Sounds good. Who knows, maybe after we could…”
“Yo, Parker!” Coach Tuttle cut him short, waving from the team office. “Phone!”
“Thanks, Coach.” Allen trotted through the gate and over to the office entrance where Tuttle thrust the receiver into his hands. ”Allen Parker here.”
Someone was on the line, but heavy static kept cutting in and out making it hard to hear.
“… get over… need… nors… Allen… hurt…”
“Dale? Is that you?”
“…nasty… apparition… dad’s in… g trouble… g… here fast…”
“Dale, are you there?”
“… … … …”
“Allen, what is it?” Sarah asked, running up beside him.
“It’s dad and my brother,” Allen replied, a worried look on his face. “They’re in trouble.”
“SIGILS IN THE DARK”
as FATHER KNOWS BEST continues