The Highest Football

 /   /  By Emma Birches
Stone Soup Magazine
January/February 2012

Jaylen Wang

It’s funny, sometimes some things that are supposed to make perfect sense are actually totally the opposite from the truth. Like the fact that opposites attract.

Mike and I met in the good old days. Second grade. The good old days. It was actually the day I came to my first elementary school, Floral Street School. He is this hulking guy at first glance with all this… sort of classic New York look. His look makes you think big bully, football player, and you know… the things you think when the guy is big. Actually, he is a football player. But his eyes and laugh speak the best thing you could hope for when you go to a new school. A friend.

Friends are like sisters or brothers. You fight once in a while… or you might fight all the time. People used to see us next to each other with him a head taller than me, and they thought that it was such a weird thing. He always called me Jay for short, but after second and third grade he started calling me by my real name, Jaylen, and I appreciated that. It proved that he actually would take the time to pronounce my name. But some other kids in my class called me after a comedian, Jay Leno, which is a coincidence. I guess I didn’t mind.

We always split in recess. So he could play football with the other, I guess you could say, “big” and “popular” kids. While I went with the other kids in my class. But there was one time, I remember, that changed that.

The Highest Football playing football

“We get Jaylen!” he exclaimed to the rest of the guys

I was treading on the blacktop, bored, watching the sun start to peep out of its unreachable fort, wishing I could do something. As the wind slapped my face and pinched my ears, and I rubbed my hands together in a useless attempt at warmth, I glanced at the football field with a fleeting look. Walking over there I could see that they were picking team members. So I sat at the edge of the football field and watched. I saw Michael make a touchdown and I looked to him and smiled and he smiled back. He could have just celebrated or he could have done the thing that saved me from a hundred boring recesses.

“Hey Jaylen,” he greeted, and I nodded. “Come on.” He outstretched his calloused hand to my soft piano-playing hand and he hauled me up like a pencil that he had just dropped.

“We get Jaylen!” he exclaimed to the rest of the guys and they nodded awkwardly and my face reddened. I am going to die of embarrassment, I thought, looking up into the sky, hoping some spirit would save me from getting trampled and becoming a part of the ground.

Mike hollered, “Hike!”

While I fled outward, dodging the oncoming army of football players, I made eye connection with Mike and, without warning, he fired. Of course it was coming at me. I ran toward the flying pigskin, scrambling toward the right position. The ball looked like a bird that has just had its wings clipped. Suddenly a bumpy ball was in my arms and I carried it as I saw the professionals do. And I bulleted as fast as I could. I saw one of the kids bolting behind me and he planted his two hands on me. But a little too hard, which was expected because I was like a half of their weight.

Plummeting face first, I outstretched my arms in a desperate attempt to weaken the oncoming agony. Instantly I could make out the oohs and ouchies from the crowd of kids enclosed around me. I sprawled on the ground as my leg erupted in flames. I could feel the tears burning through my eyes like the lava oozes out of a volcano. I rolled over on the ground and looked up at somebody branching out their hand to me. I clasped onto it as he boosted me onto my own two feet, toweling off the tears that were spurting from my eyes with my sleeve. I looked at the people hovering around me and no longer was there an awkward “he does not belong here” look. But replaced was a considerate look.

“Jaylen! You OK?” Mike asked in worry.

“Ye-eah I’m a-a-all right,” I stuttered, dusting the the sand off of my skin.

“Do you want to sit out?” he questioned.

I widened my eyes in a look that said “are you kidding me!” As I brushed past him out to the field, playing the game of football, I could feel his smile burning my shirt, and I could feel mine forming from my mouth.

Every day there forth I never did sit on the curb watching everybody have fun again. Instead, I was the one who was enjoying myself. That goes to show you that if you have a friend you will never stay on the ground defeated. Friendship is a game of football, you get knocked down lots of times but there is always somebody to pick you up… up to keep playing.

But now I’m in a new school, one where I know I will have just as many memories. But to tell the truth, Mike will always be the highest football that will soar, everlasting in my mind.

The Highest Football Jaylen Wang

Jaylen Wang, 10
Wayland, Massachusetts

The Highest Football Christine Stevens

Christine Stevens, 12
Newark, California

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