Author's Notes: In which I desperately try to get something done by the end of the year. I could have sworn I took this idea from somebody on the Paperpusher Message Board, but no matter what I search I can't seem to find anything just like this, so maybe it was a vague inspiration I'm remembering.
When Evan Landon was a baby, his father Andrew's fondest wish was for him to be a football player. That would be the perfect complement for his daughter Jodie, who was already on the fast-track to becoming the first African-American/female president. And after all, Andrew could have played professionally himself, had his entrepreneurial ambitions not gotten in the way. (And no, Michele, that was not just a burgeoning midlife crisis talking.) Now it was up to Evan to fulfill that dream for himself.
Too bad that was a dream that Evan would never seriously consider.
"Go Ravens! YAAAY!"
The five-year-old cheered, sitting so far on the edge of his seat that he threatened to fall out of his chair. Jamal Lewis scored a touchdown on the Landon's TV screen, which was so massive that they might as well have been sitting at the fifty-yard line. He pointed excitedly. "Did you see that?! Did you?!"
"Yeah," said Jodie for the tenth time that night. "It looks like they're gonna win."
"YAAAY!" Evan cheered again.
Jodie turned and looked at her father, her plastered smile faltering slightly. He straightened in his seat and forced a happy face. Jodie had taken a semester off to come home and help them before she transferred from Turner to Crestmore. The last few months had been so hard on the family that Andrew had hardly objected.
Evan booed loudly as the Cleveland Browns scored, and Andrew went back to morosely watching him sit there.
Evan sat at the head of the table at his ninth birthday party, opening a present from Jonny Phillips. "A poster of Air McNair! Cool!" he said, placing it with his other presents-a Baltimore Ravens T-shirt, two Baltimore Ravens water bottles, a decorative Baltimore Ravens football and an unauthorized biography of Joe Flacco.
"This is getting a little ridiculous," Michele muttered out of the corner of her mouth. And then, more loudly, "Okay, Evan, this last present is from...Parker and Wick."
Evan opened it. It was a video game about football. Obviously.
"Oh, cool! Let's play this!"
Evan and his friends made tracks out of the room, even as Michele called that they should slow down before they ran each other over. Andrew watched them with detached glance.
"Oh! Those boys sure love their game, don't they?" Michele said, crossing her arms over her chest.
"Well, at least he's playing the game for once."
"Nothing," Andrew said quickly, putting a cover on the half-eaten cake.
"Can you believe the ref? That call was pathetic. PATHETIC."
"Well—" said Mack, but his teenage brother-in-law cut him off.
"And it ruined the whole game! They were doing fine before that, but one bad call, and suddenly everything starts to go downhill. He jinxed them!"
Mack was trying to hold his half of the conversation as he wrestled his toddler away from one of the Landons' very expensive lamps. "I don't think—"
"It's like I was telling my friend Parker—"
"Uncle Evan! Let me sit!"
Mack sighed with relief as Evan was distracted from his rant—Rachel's daughter had climbed over his armrest and into his lap.
In the next room, Jodie rolled her eyes and smiled while changing her younger child's diaper. "Evan sure can go on and on, can't he?"
"Hmm," said Andrew, half-listening as his eyes scanned the business section of the paper. "Though he's not usually this talkative. Poor Mack, huh?"
"I'm glad they get along so well," Jodie said, picking up her daughter. "He probably likes having someone else around who's into football."
Andrew frowned, peeking over the paper. "Well, I'm here 24/7, Jodie."
"Yeah, but you're not as crazy about it as you used to be. I don't hear you talk about it much, anyway." She smiled. "Remember when Evan was first born?" she teased. "You would sit at the breakfast table and read him the sports section every morning. No wonder he's such a fanatic."
Before Andrew could respond, Michele called Jodie from the other room. Meanwhile, Andrew could hear his older grandkids chanting "RIDE! RIDE!" as Evan tried to calm them down.
He looked back down at his paper. He didn't even have the sports section. He had given it to Evan unread, like always.
Andrew came home from work one day to find Evan sitting at the kitchen table, talking excitedly with his mother.
"Dad! Guess what? Remember how you guys wanted me to do more extracurricular activities? Well, I found something perfect!"
"Student Council?" Andrew said hopefully. "Gonna race your sister to see who can be the first Landon to represent our state in the Senate?"
"What? No. Sports writer for the Lawndale Lowdown! I already submitted a sample and the editor wants me to start right away! The Lions gave a game in Oakwood tomorrow. One of you guys can drive me, right?"
"I have a meeting," Michele said. She turned to her husband. "Andrew?"
Sure enough, the next day he was in the front seat of the van, with Evan bouncing in his chair behind him, checking the camera that he would use for his interviews. He didn't seem to notice that he was father was more pensive than usual.
"Ha-ha, this is great! Extra credit for watching football! What could be a better racket than that?"
Andrew opened his mouth, closed it, then decided to speak. "Getting extra credit for playing football."
Another moment passed. "You know...you probably could play yourself, Evan."
Evan looked up and stared at him. "Huh?"
"Well, I mean—you know. It's possible," his father said lamely.
"Not at Lawndale High. Or in Lawndale at all, as far as I know."
"Well...yeah. But we could take you out of town to play. Or maybe...um…"
He saw the odd look on his son's face, then shook his head, pulling the van into the closest spot to Oakwood High School. "Never mind. Forget I said anything."
Evan continued to look quizzical as Andrew helped him out of the van. The football stadium was already lit up in the dim light, with crowds of people streaming in from their cars. Evan bounced with nervous energy as his father walked with his head down, staring at his shoes.
"Oh, hey! There's Coach Thompson! Dad, can I go on ahead and ask him a few questions before the game?"
"Sure. Do you need me to—?"
"No, I'm fine. YO, COACH! I NEED TO TALK TO YOU FOR A SEC!"
Andrew watched as Evan waved his camera in the air, catching Coach Thompson's attention, then grabbed his handrails and sped off as fast as his wheelchair could carry him.