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Gossamer

Peter Overton wanted to score. More than anything. It was his life ambition to score. Unfortunately, he knew it was impossible.

It was actually his secret ambition. Peter had once hinted at his goal over a family dinner of pot roast. His older brothers, living in a world where the word “score” had lewd undertones, snickered at his earnest young voice. “Wouldn’t hold my reath if I were you,” Lenny told him.

Chase slapped him on the back, causing Peter to choke on his milk. “Take it from an expert,” he said. “Lenny knows what he’s talking about.”

“Now Chase,” Mrs. Overton said, not understanding the way her older sons were using the word. “Be nice. I’m sure that Peter could score perfectly well.”

Ben laughed. “Ma, you’ve got to be kidding. Petey? Our Petey?”

“No,” Peter said amid the high-fives, none of which were directed towards him. “You don’t understand. Like a touchdown, or a home run. You see?”

“Touchdown?” Ben chortled, knocking over the bowl of mashed potatoes.

“Home run?” Chase hooted.

“Benjamin and Chase,” Peter’s father warned.

“Petey, my man,” Lenny began, draping a lanky arm around Peter’s slender shoulders, “you’d be lucky to get up to bat, if you know what I’m sayin’...”

He did. “Shut up!” Peter yelled, even though he knew it would be a mistake. Three brothers, multiplied by around 5’11” and 200 pounds each, equaled big trouble for Peter, who was 5’5” at best.

“What did you say?” Ben asked, glaring. The biggest of the older brothers advanced threateningly.

Peter leapt out of his chair and raced up the stairs. Why couldn’t they understand, just try to understand? Peter slammed his bedroom door behind him and kicked a stack of Chase’s CDs out of his way as he stormed through the room.

Thinking about it as he sat on his bed, Peter realized that he had to play something in order to score. He needed to choose a sport. He stared around the room he shared with Chase, looking for inspiration. His eyes locked on a pair of Chase’s d shinguards. Soccer! That was it.

The next morning, Peter went straight to the physical education office. “You want to play what?” the coach asked skeptically, looking at Peter’s skinny arms and legs.

“Soccer,” Peter repeated.

“I don’t know...” the coach trailed off, his voice saturated with doubt.

“Please?” he begged. “You have to let me. Just let me try.”

“Well... all right. Your first practice is tomorrow at three. Don’t be late. Here,” he said as he shoved a jersey at Peter. “You’d better impress me.”

This story would be so much easier to tell if Peter turned out to be a genius at soccer, astounding his brothers, the soccer coach, and the entire school. Perhaps it would have been too easy. It would have been another of those skinny nothing kid urns into fantastic superstar overnight stories that there are so many of. Conveniently for us, Peter was not a natural athlete.

He was a failure.

Peter had enough trouble just figuring out which went on top, the shinguards or the socks. Forget playing soccer. Strategy was out. Clever plays were out. All his concentration went into keeping himself from tripping over his own shoelaces. Needless say, his coach was not impressed. Neither were his teammates. However, Peter was one of the hardest workers that the soccer team had ever seen. They knew that even if Peter missed the ball when he kicked, passed to players on the other team, and ran in the goalposts, he was doing the very best he could. So he stayed.

Maybe no one else was surprised, but Peter was amazed. He’d half-expected to be cut from the team after the first practice, but he’d been there two weeks and counting. It was hard work, but he came home each day feeling that he, Peter Overton, was on step closer to his goal.

Over those first few weeks, Peter found that he was making new friends. He bonded quickly with his new teammates and they walked through the halls together. All of a sudden, Peter was one of the confident athletes walking down the middle of the hall, ot caring how anyone else looked at him.

Peter dragged himself home one Tuesday after a particularly hard practice, hoping to have the house to himself. Unfortunately, Ben wandered into the living room as soon as Peter dropped his aching, sweaty body on to the couch. Peter groaned silently d prepared himself for a cutting remark.

“Hey, Pete,” Ben said.

That was it. Peter couldn’t believe that after all this time, Ben was actually behaving like a human being towards him. Somehow, playing soccer had earned him a little respect among his brothers, though he couldn’t figure out why. It may have been th afternoon that Tom called.

It had been a Sunday afternoon. The Overtons were eating Sunday dinner and passing the dishes silently when the phone rang. “I’ll get it,” Lenny said, leaping up from his chair and into the kitchen before anyone else could offer. He returned moments ter, a confused expression on his face.

“Petey? It’s for you.”

“Who is it?” Peter asked. Not many people called him.

Lenny stared at the receiver in his hand. “Brent. Tom, I think.”

Chase, Ben, and Lenny all stared at him. “Brent?” Chase said. “Tom Brent? Tom Brent is calling Peter?”

Peter shrugged nonchalantly and took the phone from Lenny. He returned to the kitchen with it, but he could still hear snippets of the conversation in the dining room.

“What’s the matter, Benjamin?” Mr. Overton asked.

“Those guys are the best athletes in school, Dad! Why would one of them want to talk to Pete?”

“I think you underestimate you brother, boys. Wait until you see him play. He may surprise you.” Thanks a lot, Dad, Peter thought grouchily. Now they’re going to come watch me make a fool of myself.

Before he knew it, the first game of the season arrived, against the Somerset Hornets. Peter got to the game prepared to sit on the bench for eighty minutes. He wasn’t any good; he knew it, his coach knew it, his teammates knew it, and the other team new it. Nobody was more shocked than Peter to hear his name announced on the list of starting players. Peter raced on to the field and immediately tripped. The fans on the sidelines snickered. He even heard a few wolf whistles from where his brothers w e seated. “Petey, Petey, Petey!” were the chants he could hear, resonating in Lenny’s deep voice. Peter turned red but he picked himself back up. The referee blew his whistle, starting the game. Almost immediately, the ball flew past Peter and down toward his team’s goal. Peter’s teammates lunged at the ball desperately, but the ball slipped past the goalie. One to nothing.

Tom Brent, one of the team’s faster players, scored about four minutes later, tying it up. The first quarter passed without any more scoring, and Peter thought his team was free and clear until ten seconds before half-time, when the enemy team scored gain.

Sweating and nervous, Peter’s team huddled on their bench to listen to their coach. “Okay, Brent,” he said. “You’re going back in. Smith, you too. I want to see some goals out there, boys. A loss is a crummy way to start the season.”

The teams ambled back on to the field. Amazingly enough, Tom scored right away, and another player scored again about a minute later. The nail-biting seemed to be over. But once again, the Hornets came back with another goal right before the whistle r the third quarter. The fourth quarter started. Blessedly, no one scored for nearly the whole quarter. That is, it was a blessing for Peter, who was just terrified of losing. A tie would be sufficient for him

However, his coach did not feel the same way.

Finally there were thirty seconds to go, and Peter’s coach called a time-out. The score was tied at three, and Peter had been sitting the bench for twenty minutes. He was amazed when his coach subbed him back in after the time-out.

The ref blew the whistle. The ball flew to Tom, who was attacked by three defensemen. Looking around, Tom realized that Peter was the only player on his team who was open, so he passed.

Peter was so surprised to receive the ball, he almost tripped again. He pulled himself together quickly; he knew what to do. Unguarded, he kicked the ball as hard as he could at the goal.

It went in.

Fans poured from the sidelines to congratulate him. Peter had won the game. Teammates clapped him on the back.

Now certainly, Peter’s body was standing there in the center of the field. His face was smiling and his head was nodding, his hands were shaking other people’s hands. But in his mind, Peter wasn’t standing on the ground. He was soaring above the fiel above the people, on triumphant glistening wings of gossamer.

-MWE