It was a crisp clear day in early October, and for once the Brooklyn air smelled fresh and clean. The Sweathogs were taking advantage of the fine fall weather by playing some football in the vacant lot across the street from James Buchanan High School along with some of their classmates.
"Alright, so here's the game plan," said Vinnie Barbarino to the huddled players on his team. Momentarily, he looked up to see Washington and Epstein across the field doing the same with their own team. "Now, first I'm gonna' try to throw the ball to you Marcus, but if I can't then I'm.."
"Then you're gonna' throw it me Vinnie?" cut in Horshack. Barbarino ignored him.
"Then I'm gonna' throw it to Jeff, and if he's covered…"
"Then me, Vinnie?"
"If he's covered then I'll shovel pass it over to Dan, okay?" The other boys nodded in agreement with Barbarino's plan and ran to get into their starting positions. Barbarino made to follow them but found Horshack tugging at his sleeve.
"Vinnie, how come you never throw the ball to me?"
"Because Arnold," Vinnie replied looking at Horshack as if the answer were obvious. "If I throw the ball to the other guys, they at least stand a chance of catching it. Now you know what to do?"
Horshack sighed, "Yeah, I know, run to the wide side; same as every other play."
Barbarino slapped Horshack hard on the back almost knocking him over. "Good, now let's go get 'em"
Barbarino's team lined up over the ball opposite Washington, Epstein and three other guys from their class. Washington, the athlete of the group hadn't even broken a sweat after 20 minutes of play and was looking real cool as usual. Epstein was really getting into playing defence. It was only suppose to be two-hand touch, but somehow, Epstein's two-hands always seemed to have more force behind them then anyone else's.
"HIKE!" Vinnie dropped back with the ball and watched as his receivers launched themselves down field. With only five a side, they didn't have enough people to have anyone play linebacker, so instead Vinnie had to the count of 5 steamboats to get rid of the ball before someone could come and sack him. He started to count. One Steamboat. Marcus was covered on the near side. Two Steamboats. Washington was all over Jeff up the middle. Three Steamboats. Dan was double covered nearly right in front of him. Four Steamboats. It was so no use, he'd have to throw it to Horshack who was all by himself out on the wide side. Five Steamboats! The catholic in him made Vinnie unconsciously send up a silent prayer as he hurled the ball to his small friend.
Horshack's heart leapt as he saw the ball spiralling towards him. Not knowing what else to do, he clenched his teeth and stretched out his arms. The next moment was one of utter confusion. One minute the ball was flying towards him, the next it was suddenly in his hands cradled against his stomach.
"I caught it," he said completely stunned. "Vinnie!" He shouted excitedly down field. "Vinnie, I caught the ball!"
"So run you doofus!" was all Babarino could holler in reply.
Arnold nodded and turned to run. Suddenly, Epstein came out of no where blindsiding Arnold. BAM! Both boys hit the ground hard.
Epstein immediately jumped up with a shout of victory. "No one gets away from Juan Luis Pedro Phillipo de Huevos Epstein, no one!" Washington ran over and gave Juan a big high five.
"Man, that hit was out a sight!"
Barbarino jogged up with a big grin. "Hey, nice catch Horshack. There maybe hope for you yet." Vinnie's grin suddenly vanished. "Arnold, are you okay?"
Epstein and Washington turned from their celebration to see Horshack still lying on the ground curled up on his side. "Oh my god, I've killed him!" cried Epstein as the Sweathogs huddled around their friend.
"No man, he's alive," said Barbarino as he gently helped Horshack rollover and sit up. "Are you okay? What's wrong?"
Horshack groaned as leaned into Vinnie. His face was ashen and he was cradling his right arm. "Vinnie, I…I feel kind'a woosy…and I think I hurt my arm." He carefully held it out for them to see.
There was a collective gasp from the group when they saw the protruding lump on his forearm and the way it sickeningly bend back the wrong way. Epstein turned and walked away, unable to even look at it.
"Hey man, you gonna' be alright," said Washington. "I'm gonna' go get Mr Kah-tare. He'll know what to do."
Mr. Kotter arrived on the scene not five minutes later to find Vinnie sitting on the ground with Arnold leaning into his chest. Epstein was kneeling about 10 feet way looking a little nauseous and staring hard at the ground.
Horshack's skin felt cold and clammy as Mr Kotter carefully looked over his arm. "Okay Arnold, I'm going to take you to the school nurse so she can drive you to the hospital. We'll phone your parents and have them meet you there." Arnold's only reply was a slow blink and Kotter wasn't sure if any of what he'd said went in. "Arnold can you walk?" Arnold didn't respond.
"He's not real with it, Mr. Kotter," said Vinnie as way of explanation. Kotter nodded as he gently scooped up Horshack's slight frame into his arms.
The boys watched as their teacher carried their small friend into the school. Nobody spoke as one by one they drifted off home. Juan was the last to leave.