J.V. Football

"Dude, can you believe we're gonna be freshmen?"

"I know! I can't wait to try out for J.V. football. I've already gotten my physical done, too, so I'm all ready to go out for the team."

Josh Kennedy and Alan Thompson were walking home from the community pool one week after their eighth grade graduation. They had been the best of friends since the third grade, lived four blocks away from each other, and were only separated when their parents wanted them home. Even then, the boys had walkie-talkies in their rooms for home-to-home communication.

"See you later man," Josh called to Alan as they went their separate ways to get home in time for a late lunch. That guy is crazy. I don't know of any other fourteen-year-old who would dare and jump off the high dive in a divers' jump. Alan would often test the limit on just how good he was at sports. He was very athletic for his age; not unlike the kid in A Separate Peace his mom always compared him to. "Mom! I'm home!"

"Hey hon. Your lunch is on the table, and you'd better start the summer reading list the school sent over. Wouldn't want you to forget how to read on your first day of school." Josh's mom was a single parent, having lost her husband just before Josh was born.

"Alright. I'll be sure to eat really slow then." Josh sat down and ate his lunch.

T T T T

That night, Alan called Josh over the walkie-talkie.

–Josh! Are you there? I need to tell you something.–

"Yeah, I'm here. What's up?"

Alan was silent for a moment before responding. –The doctor called about my physical. You know how I've been feeling pretty tired lately? Well, the doctor told my mom why.–

"What's wrong?"

–. . .I have leukemia. It's only a hunch, but if it is there, I'll need chemotherapy or something.–

Josh was afraid for Alan. Didn't people with leukemia usually die? Josh didn't want that for Alan, and he didn't want Alan to think about that either, so he said–

"I'll see you tomorrow then. Your house, ten o'clock. No more of that 'waking up early' for me."

T

Life went on for the two friends, except there was less running around outside and more playing board games and more hospital visits. They still met frequently, despite the fact that Josh had too much homework and Alan had to try and keep up his GPA. J.V. football was almost over, but Alan still hoped to one day make the J.V. football team, even if it meant starting in his junior year. His hopes, as well as Josh's, were all dashed when one night Josh heard the phone ring.

"Hello?" Josh heard his mom answer the phone. "What? Oh my God. When did this happen? Alright. Thank you so much." She hung up the phone, and Josh thought he heard her take a deep breath. "Josh, could you come here for a minute?"

Walking down the stairs, he dreaded the reason for his mother's call. "That was Mr. Thompson. Alan wasn't feeling too well today, a little like when you were there yesterday, so the doctor's took another CAT scan. The damage was irreparable, and by the time they were going to tell the Thompsons, . . . I'm so sorry." Mrs. Kennedy reached for her son, but he took a step backward then ran out the front door. He ran down the street and around the corner to the community pool where he first met Alan. He found the tree they first made the friendship pact and kicked at it as hard as he could.

"Why'd you pick him? You could've picked anyone, but you picked him! Why?" Josh stopped kicking the tree, and instead fell to the ground mourning the loss of his friend. His mom came around fifteen minutes later to find him sitting under the tree as if waiting for her. He stood and walked to the car, ready to go home.

T

"Josh, did you finish your homework yet? If you haven't, you can't watch t.v."

"But mom, it's South Park. We used to watch it together over the walkie-talkies. I promise I'll go up to my room the second it's over."

"Alright. Josh, when was the last time you went over to the Thompsons'? It's already been a month since he left, and I only remember you going over to visit twice. They might like it if you visited again."

"I don't want to go back. Not yet."

"Please don't blame the Thompsons' for what happened, and certainly don't blame yourself for it either. It's no one's fault about Alan."

"There is one person I can blame, God. He's the one who made Alan, isn't He? So it's His fault that Alan died. He's also the one who killed dad mom, don't forget."

"I never forget how your dad died, Josh, and I know that God never killed him. God only helped me get over the loss faster than I could have on my own. Remember that."

T

Josh was in his room one night, not long after his argument with his mom, when he felt a sudden urge. He jumped from his bed and ran to his closet, digging out his old walkie-talkie.

"Alan. Alan, are you there? Come on, I know you can talk to me. Please say something. Please." Josh burst into tears and dropped the last thing that connected him to his friend the day he died. "I'm sorry. I'm sorry I haven't said my prayers, I'm sorry I said you killed dad and Alan, I'm sorry. Just let me say good-bye to Alan, please."

Josh thought he heard the walkie-talkie crackle for a moment, then fade to silence once more.

"Alan? Alan are you there?" Nothing. Josh put the radio on his chest of drawers, put on his pajamas, then went to bed. Josh heard his radio start to crackle again in the middle of the night, so he got up to see what was happening. Josh's radio silenced for a moment, then crackled once more, but this time Alan's voice came out from over the radio waves. –Josh, I heard you call me earlier. What's up man?–

"Alan? Are you trying to ignore me or something? I was calling you for a couple minutes."

–Naw, I was just a little busy with something. How're you doin'?–

"Okay. I kinda miss you though, and so do your folks."

–Yeah, I know. I tried to talk to them once, but they couldn't hear me. Kinda glad you can, though. Anyways, you need to stop feeling sorry for me. I'm not hurting anymore. I'm running like I haven't since before I was sick. If I were like this when freshmen year started, I would have made the varsity football team! I'm not sad anymore, so you shouldn't be either. I'll see you later, Josh.–

The radio signal disappeared, and Josh woke up refreshed and more calm than he had been in a long time.

T

Alan's radio call in Josh's dream took place six months ago in the March of Josh's freshmen year. Now sophomore year has started, and Josh has made many new friends since he made peace with what happened to Alan, though he will never forget the pain he went through those many months. Josh also surprised many with a proposal he made last minute during the summertime; he was trying out for the J.V. football team.