October 10th

Megan Stewart, Editor-in-Chief

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The party at Jack’s was over. It was a chilly Friday night, October 10th. The houses by Jack’s seemed to tower over the rows and rows of cars lined up. I told my bud Winston, a sophomore but best receiver I’d ever seen, to cool it on the booze.

Boy could barely walk.

Jack and Tom told Winston it was cool to get jacked up on drugs and beer. I did nothing to stop them.

He probably drank a gallon of beer. Puked all night. They played this screwed drinking game where the underclassmen would run up and down the stairs. Drink at the top. Drink at the bottom. Pass out. Wake up. And they’re done.

But Jack had other plans for Winston.

Even when Winston passed out, unable to form words, Jack and a few other upperclassmen slapped him until he woke up.

“Don’t be such a chicken shit, buddy, get up.”

Pass out. Wake up. Repeat.

Jack Greene was the varsity running back, but a disappointment to his father. Jack peaked junior year. Now he was a senior, the season was almost over, and he hadn’t been chosen to be captain. He won the Team Spirit Award in his freshman year, Coach’s Choice in his sophomore year, and MVP in his junior year.

But after Jack’s junior year football awards ceremony, his dad would still say, “What the hell happened this season?”

Jack would clutch his MVP plaque. He would say, “I almost was captain, Dad.”

“No son of mine is second best. Who do you think you are?”

“It’s just an award. Dad, will you just look at me? Of course I’m your son.”

“Bullshit.”

Yeah, Jack partied hard the night of October 10th. That junior year awards ceremony haunted in his mind. Bullshit. His whole life they were family. Father and son. Now just bullshit. He wanted Winston, clearly a leader and future captain, to feel the pressure he felt. Feel the rejection he felt.

“Drink, Winston! C’mon you’re hardly a man if you can’t,” Jack would say.

Jack would take a swig at his bottle. “Get up, Winnie. Climb the stairs again. You’re hardly buzzed!”

Every time Winston ran down the stairs he stumbled onto the ground. Jack would drink some more and say, “Don’t be a wimp, Winnie. Climb the damn stairs.”

I watched Jack torture Winston. After a while I said, “Man, he’s had enough. Winston, go home.”

“Blow off, Ryan. Winnie, I take care of you, bud, don’t I?”

“Winston, go home.”

Winston slurred a goodbye. His pupils rolled around in his swollen red eye sockets, unable to focus.

I didn’t know he drove to Jack’s.

That night was irreversible. Sometimes I stay up thinking about what I should’ve done. Winston should be well and breathing, with a wife named Sherry and three kids, at his son John’s football game. Looking down that same field. His eyes turned bad from age and his stare seasoned with memory.

But Winston’s in the ground. Food for the worms. His body is dug deep in the dirt of Hillcrest Cemetery, soaked with his mother’s tears and the rain. Still as he was the moment the car hit him.

****

Winston, ever since I can remember, always stood up for the younger kids. We sat on the field in September, watching the sun turn the green turf gold. And I would tell him, “Winnie, you’re gonna be captain when I’m gone. Too bad I won’t be here to see it. But I know it, and so does Coach.”

He would look at me straight in the eyes and smile. He was breathing then.

The morning of October 11th, he wasn’t breathing then.

I imagine how thirty years later, Winston and I would be good friends.

We’d talk in the checkout line at the Hillcrest Aldi.

Talk about Sherry and life outside the football field.

I’d listen about how John loves football, but his grades aren’t too good.

He’d be breathing then, between sentences, but more labored this time because he “Gained a bit of weight in the marriage,” he’d chuckle.

We would’ve talked just about every week.

The night of October 10th, Winston didn’t say a word. He drank when Jack said drink. He went home when I said go home. I wish he was a talker then. Wish he would’ve said, “No, Jack, I don’t drink. And I’m more of a man than you.”

Winston had no life after football — no wife, no kids. Still the same thin, wiry sophomore with an unsatisfied craving for the future. He couldn’t look back at the golden turf and remember me and October 10th and the stupidity of the high school football player.

Winston got shitfaced at a party on October 10th. He was pronounced dead at 2:30 am, October 11th.

Thirty minutes after I told Winston to go home, his car was a pile of smoke. I imagine the black tread marks that curved in the intersection, leading to a red pickup truck, doused in fire, crookedly stopped a tree. I imagine the smell of burnt metal, the smell of meat cooking and the rusted-iron smell of blood that made the EMTs sick.

He’d driven on the wrong side of the road, swerving every now and then, with his headlights off, waiting to be roadkill.

Now, thirty years later, I’m telling you the story of how October 10th robbed the future from the pile of rotting flesh and bones in the pits of Hillcrest Cemetery that was once the star receiver.

 

 

Image taken from: http://www.safebee.com/travel/trouble-seeing-road-night-headlights-blame

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