By Joseph Patrick33
With Dennis Lowery
Copyright © 2016. All rights reserved. No part of this may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording or by any information storage and retrieval system, without written permission from the author, except for brief quotations as would be used in a review or for promotional purposes.
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are the products of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead is purely coincidental.
"Long is the way, and hard, that out of Hell leads up to Light."
--John Milton, Paradise Lost
The scrap torn from the newspaper sat on the table next to a three-quarter empty bottle of Crown Royal. The glass beside it had held ice - now melted - the condensation ring seeping onto a scrap of newsprint, making it translucent. A car ad bled through from the other side and the top left corner had a ragged rip where it had been torn from the newspaper:
"...was once one of Metro Detroit's best athletes playing on Utica Eisenhower's first undefeated, regular season, football team in 1988. Services will be held July 1, 1991, at St. Johns Cemetery, Shelby Township."
Young boys dream and old ones ponder. They think about what could be ahead for them and as they get older, it's not uncommon to wonder about what might have been. That is a constant feeling that all football players have and never entirely shake. They recall the victories and defeats, but mostly they think about those games they should have won. It will always be engrained and the memories will carry over to countless discussions over endless beers 'til the end of their days. In the playing years, in those games, so many great traits are developed: leadership, teamwork, and a razor-sharp competitive edge. However, dark habits can begin to take root. It all shapes young men into the old men they become.
It was the 1988 football season; their senior year and a great time to grow up. A time of less restriction for a teenager and long before social media and smartphones tracked your every move. They celebrated their victories and great athletic ability gave them, even more, latitude to explore life's greatest pleasures. Sure, drugs were prominent but alcohol was always king and more easily obtained. Some of them pushed the boundaries of their bodies' capabilities increasing their potential with the aid of chemical enhancement.
Utica Eisenhower High School
Shelby Township, Michigan
Ryan looked at his best friend, Tyler, and thought about how close they were to becoming the greatest team in school history with an undefeated season and a shot at entering the championship playoffs. The team was loaded with talent and many of them had played together for years. This, their senior year, they had dismantled every team in their path. He heard their two closest friends Jacob and Avery entering the weight room after their offense meeting.
"How was the meeting? You guys ready to go?" Ryan caught Jacob's eye.
Jacob looked confident. "Hell yes, we're going to light them up." He was a 6 foot 5 inch, 210lb quarterback with a rocket arm. The backbone of the offense, he had that All-American look with blonde hair thick as hay, square jaw, and bright blue eyes. He came from a solid athletic heritage. His father had also been a quarterback who had played for the University of Florida Gators. Full of promise and potential, sadly injuries had ended his brief career before his 20th birthday. In some ways, it seemed Jacob was to be the extension of his father's aborted career.
Avery, standing next to him, pointed at Tyler, who was getting positioned for reps on the bench press. "Just make sure you lunatics don't give up any big plays."
"Not a chance." Tyler scoffed at him.
Ryan laughed. "You guys just score some points and it's over."
Avery gave a knowing nod to Ryan. Avery was the go-to player when the team's high-flying passing attack needed some solid ground yardage. He was a tough tailback always running with something to prove. He had physically matured before everyone else. Hitting puberty in the 5th grade long before the next guy had any hair between his legs. He had been an unstoppable force in junior high, scoring four to five touchdowns a game. It was Avery left then Avery right... then Avery through the middle. That's all the offense the team needed. He was the Bo Jackson of middle school. As time had passed, some were able to catch up to his athletic ability, but he was still a great player and a true friend.
After five reps of 315 pounds on the bench press, Tyler dropped the last rep with a clank. "Give me a taste and a B12 pick me up and I'm good." Tyler didn't even look around, but Ryan did to make sure none of the coaches were nearby to overhear him.
Ryan slid under the bar. "Spot me," he told Tyler. He got his grip and settled himself on the bench before he started. "I understand there'll be a lot of scouts at the game."
"Yeah. I'm going to give them something to look at." Tyler grinned. At 17, he was already 6 foot 3 and 225 pounds. The only one taller than him on the team was Jacob. Tyler hoped he would stand out and catch the scout's eye at the middle linebacker position but he knew it would be difficult playing next to Ryan, who had a nose for the ball and always seemed to make big plays. Nonetheless, he was still one of the best players in school history. "What do you want on the bar? How much?" Tyler asked
Ryan reset his grip. "275."
"Pussy." Tyler grinned.
Ryan juiced but only moderately. Tyler was a demon and maybe pushed it a bit too far. But it had made him strong and very, very, quick. "How many guys have you knocked out this year, bitch?" He grinned back at his best friend.
"So did you tap Amanda yet or not?"
Ryan answered between presses. "That would be none of your business." He tried to focus on his technique. But Amanda was what most guys had wet dreams about. Every male classmate that knew her must have jerked off to her at least once. Beautiful body. Not too thin... not too thick. A luscious mouth and thick honey blonde hair that shone in the sun. Every time he saw her, he had to catch his breath. "Shit. What's the count?"
Tyler laughed. "One."
"Bullshit." Ryan gasped breathing heavily. "I think it was number five."