"Uncle Farrell," I told him. "I don't want to play football."
"You're high-risk, Al," Uncle Farrell answered. "You're running around with all the risk-factors for a major psychotic episode. One, you got no dad. Two, you got no mom. Three, you're living with an absentee caretaker me and four you're in a strange town with no friends.
"There was another one, too. Oh, yeah. And five, you're fifteen."
"I want to get my license," I told him.
"Your license for what?"
"For driving. I want my learner's permit."
"I'm telling you that you're about to go off the deep end and you want to talk about getting your learner's permit?"
"That reminded me, the fact that I'm fifteen."
"Dr. Peddicott thought it was a great idea," Uncle Farrell said.
"A learner's permit?"
"No! You're going out for the football team. One, you need some kind of activity. Two, it's a great way to build confidence and make friends. And three, look at you! For the love of the Blessed Virgin, you're some kinda force of nature! Any coach would love to have you on his team."
"I don't like football," I said.
"You don't like football? How can you not like football? What kind of kid are you? What kind of American kid doesn't like football? I suppose next you're going to say you want to take dancing lessons!"
"I don't want to take dancing lessons."
"That's good, Al. That's real good. Because if you said you wanted to take dancing lessons, I don't know what I'd do. Throw myself over a cliff or something."
"I don't like pain."
"Ah, come on. They'll bounce off you like like pygmies! Gnats! Little pygmy gnats!"
"Uncle Farrell, I cry if I get a splinter. I faint at the sight of blood. And I bruise very easily. I'm a very easy bruiser."
But Uncle Farrell wouldn't take no for an answer. He ended up bribing me. He told me he wouldn't take me to get my learner's permit unless I tried out for the football team. And, if I didn't try out for the team, he promised he would put me on so much anti-depressant dope I wouldn't remember to sit when I crapped. Uncle Farrell could be gross like that.
I really wanted my permit I also didn't want to be so doped up I couldn't remember how to crap so I went out for the team.
© Rick Yancey 2005. All rights reserved. Reproduced by permission of the publisher.
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No Man's Land
by Simon Tolkien
Inspired by the experiences of his grandfather, J. R. R. Tolkien, during World War I.
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