Some people swore the house was haunted. To the ghosts, it seemed unlikely anyone believed. They bumped into the living without the slightest notice. Sometimes they made a sudden movement to remind each other they were still around. Mostly they bounced among the residents coloring happy memories or darkening deep regrets. Never had they sparked passion in the hearts of the living. The ghosts wished people believed.
Tommy woke slowly from an afternoon nap. He rubbed his eyes, stretched up his arms and locked his fingers together crunching his knuckles. A ghost bounced around the cracking fingers before disappearing. Tommy smiled at a sudden thought.
This time he would do it. Weighing only 98 pounds, more or less, his mother had told him he was too small to play football. “You’re better suited to chess,” she would say. But he wanted to grind his toe in the grass and scuff up his shoes until they were green. He yearned to slip the shoulder pads on, bury his head in the helmet, and chew on the mouthpiece. Today he would race down the field and catch the winning pass. This was going to be his year; he would not be too short, too skinny, too uncoordinated. He was playing football, no matter what.
Across the street from the old house two teams slowly gathered themselves on a long field of green. Tommy grabbed his helmet and shoulder pads and rushed across the street. He slowed as he reached the edge of the grass and paused. He thought better of the idea.
Tommy missed his chance to retreat. A large hand grabbed him by the shoulders and pulled out on the field. On the line, a hulk known as Smasher thumped Tommy’s helmet down hard over his head. Tommy bit down deeper into his mouthpiece. Smasher smiled a deep satisfying grin and crouched down opposite the wimpy kid.
Tommy slipped sideways to avoid the mass facing off from him. Smasher followed and crouched back into a stance. Tommy trembled at the thought of grizzled terror bearing down on his small frame. He stepped backward and started to pull up but missed his chance to flee. The quarterback counted down, the ball snapped, and both lines pushed together. Tommy froze.
Smasher lunged forward, grabbed Tommy by the waist, picked him up and twirled him above the crumbling defenders. He pushed Tommy high above the tangled bodies and laughed. Smasher curled him downward and then pushed him back up into the air. A weak scream escaped from Tommy as Smasher reached higher and higher. Tommy hung above the field in slow motion and could see the entire team below him collapsing into a twisted heap. Smasher dropped his prey.
Before he fell onto the mangled mass, Tommy turned his head to look back at the house and saw an entire stand of cheering fans. The crowd vanished in a blink as Tommy landed on the pile below.
“What you don’t seem to remember Mr. Tommy Sheridan,” said the nurse placing ice on the old man’s knee, “is that you are 84-years-old and too fragile to be playing football.” Tommy repositioned the ice bag and smiled up at her.
“And you, Mr. David Lemboski,” pushing away a wandering hand from the bottom of her skirt, “should be ashamed of yourself. Trying to pick up a grown man over your head!” She playfully smacked the back of his head and walked away to the nurse’s station.
The two men turned to the chess board between them. Smasher picked up a rook and put his queen in jeopardy. Tommy considered a sudden revelation. “Mom was right. I should have stuck to chess.”
Two giddy ghosts floated through the pieces on the game board as Tommy and Smasher advanced through the squares. They drifted over to join a group of faded personages gathered across the room. Both ghosts shined brighter than the rest. Tommy looked over at the two happy ghosts and winked. The line of ghosts drew inward forming a common light, floated through the chess pieces, and then shot out the window. Tommy smiled. Without a doubt the house was haunted.
Copyright 2013, Michael S. Sommermeyer. All Rights Reserved.
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