After taking a break for a few weeks, I’m once again participating in Chuck Wendig’s flash fiction challenge. This week’s was fairly straightforward: use a color in the title.
Easy enough. While pondering a title, I glanced past my lavender candle and out to the hurricane-like rain falling outside.
Lavender Hurricane? Sounds promising.
Oh, it’s about a quarterback. Bet ya’ didn’t see that coming.
The center snaps the ball into my hands. I shuffle backwards, scanning the field through my helmet for my receiver. Spotting him in the end zone, I pull my arm back to throw. The crunching of helmets interrupts my release. “Argh!”
The crowd erupts, half booing, half cheering. I lay on the turf, looking at the center standing over me, offering a hand. The stadium’s bright lights give him an angelic aura. I almost laugh, until I remember why I’m on my back. He pulls me to my feet.
“Dammit! I haven’t been sacked yet this season.” I remove my helmet and scuff my foot on the ground, scowling at the scoreboard. I was sacked twelve yards shy of a touchdown, which would have pulled us into the lead. Our kicker runs onto the field for the punt. “We should have gone for a field goal.”
“Then we’d be tied, Chris.”
Upon reaching the sideline, I turn and watch the visiting team receive the kick and run it twenty-four yards down the field.
“Tied is better than losing.” What was Coach thinking? A field goal would have been safer.
I check the clock. Three minutes left in the game. So much for making the playoffs.
Tyler puts a hand on my shoulder, leading me to the bench. Mutterings of “It’s all right, Chris” and “You’ll get it next time” fill my ears.
Next time. Good one. If only I weren’t a senior. Lose this game, and I’m done until college.
I blankly watch the plays. Seven yard rush. Incomplete pass. Then, the unthinkable: our cornerback intercepts the pass, running it towards our side of the field.
I’m on my feet. “Go! Come on, Drew!”
He’s tackled at our forty-two.
“Ugh!” But then it hits me: I have another shot. My high school football career need not end in a sack.
The offensive line takes the field. After a brief huddle, Tyler’s in position in front of me. I take a breath. “Hut hut!”
The ball’s in my hands again, and I’m more wary of the other guys this time. I spot my receiver down the field, right where he should be. I throw.
Time stands still until I see it fall into his hands. He runs but gets tackled at our thirty-one.
That’s a first down, and we have just under two minutes to clench this.
We reassume the position and I have the ball. I hand it off to the running back, and he charges into the mass of testosterone. He doesn’t get far: we earn a two-yard gain.
Second down, twenty-nine yards to a win.
After the next snap, I toss the ball to the receiver, and it’s nearly picked off. It bounces off the opposing linebacker’s hand before my guy jumps and curls it against his torso, turns, and runs.
The crowd is insane. He’s still running.
He’s tackled at the sixteen.
My heart’s beating out of my uniform. We have another first down.
On the next play, the running back goes down at the line of scrimmage. No gain. We get four yards on the next play, two on the third down, and I find myself in a state of almost déjà vu: fourth down and ten to go.
Coach calls timeout. He wants to go for the touchdown. I almost argue with him.
The ball’s in my hands, and I scan the field. There’s the end zone; my receiver is too well covered. But there’s something else.
I only have to think for half a second before my feet are running through the gap in defense and down the field towards victory.
Giant bodies go by in a blur. The end zone’s getting bigger. Then nothing.
Well, not nothing. Lavender. It blows into my vision like a hurricane then out again just as quickly, leaving blackness in its wake.
I blink my eyes open; brightness assaults me.
“What the hell?” I’m lying on something. It’s soft. A bed? I shimmy in an effort to sit up.
“Oh my god!” My mother’s voice comes from somewhere on my right. A moment later, she’s standing over me, crying. She pushes a button.
“Make that stop. Where am I?”
“You’ve been in a coma, sweetie. For two weeks.”
That would explain the headache. Why can’t I turn my head? I reach up and touch a thick brace around my neck.
A nurse enters and turns off the machine responsible for the incessant beeping. She looks into my eyes with a flashlight and takes my blood pressure.
“Do you remember anything?” my mother asks.
What is the last thing I remember? I was playing football. I think I was running. Then, the adrenaline comes rushing back. “Did I make it? Did we win?”
My mother chuckles. “Yeah. You made it.” She wipes her face with the sleeves of her hoodie. “Your helmet came off when the linebacker tackled you. He landed on your head.”
“But we won?” I try to sit up again without success.
“Chris.” She sits on the edge of the bed. “We thought you were paralyzed at first. You’re not, but that was likely your last game. The effects of the head injury will linger for years.” She puts a hand on mine. “I’m so sorry. I know how much you loved to play.”
I squint as another memory reaches me. “Does lavender mean anything?”
She tilts her head. “Lavender? Like the herb?”
“No, the color. I saw lavender. What does it mean?” She’s a decorator. She should know.
Her eyes turn upwards, as if she’s thinking. “Well, some say purple – or lavender, I suppose – has to do with dreams and intuition.”
A sense of peace covers me, and I smile. We won the game. We made the playoffs. And I know in my core I’ll recover.
My reaction seems to confuse her.
“I’ll be fine, Mom. When can I go home?”