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(Roman)

 

*THEN*

 

I had the guy by the neck and eyed the window. I always wanted to throw someone through a window. Instead, I just punched him, knocking him down and out.

The bar was a disaster.

Someone had already yelled to call the police.

The last thing I needed was more legal trouble.

Shit, if I was going to end up in jail again, I should have thrown the asshole through the window.

 

 

*NOW*

 

“Hey, Knight! Can I get an autograph?”

I liked coming to the dive bar scene because it reminded me where I came from. I didn’t buy into the whole rags to riches kind of thing. My plan had always been pretty simple. That was to figure out how to make a shit ton of money as fast as possible so I didn’t have to worry about a thing.

The first time I touched a football, it was by accident. I was trying to track down a homemade arrow my brothers and I made. Caine had tried to shoot a squirrel but the arrow barely got into the air before coming down in some brush. Slade laughed his ass off as he drank a can of piss warm beer we stole from our old man. We always drank beer like that. One can between the three of us. It never got us drunk and it never tasted good, but when we were that young, that was our rebellion to the world.

I found the football and picked it up. I forgot about the arrow and told Caine to go for a pass. It’s hard to explain what happened that day. I held the football and it felt right. My fingers touching the laces. My thumb gripping the leathery skin tight. I dropped back, my weight on my right leg. I threw my arm forward and the fucking football took off. A perfect spiral in the air. Up, up, up it went. Then it slowly curved and came down.

It missed Caine by a mile because of how much force I had behind it.

Funny thing?

We lost the football as fast as we found it.

We still forgot about the arrow.

We finished our can of warm beer and snuck to the top of a ledge. In the creek below was where some older kids would dam it up and make it into a pool. College girls would come there and they’d drink and fool around.

Naked women and football.

It consumed me… and made me insanely rich.

 

 

I grabbed a napkin, flipped it over, and signed the napkin.

“Here you go, bro,” I said and handed it back to the guy.

“Holy shit,” the guy said. “Roman fucking Knight. You’re fucking here, man.”

“I’m always here,” I said.

“I know. I’m sorry. I’m not from around here. I’m visiting my cousin. Damn, man, that throw you had in the last game of the season. Fuck. You need better receivers.”

“Thanks for the advice,” I said.

“You have a wicked arm, Roman. The best I’ve ever seen. What do you curl?”

“Two women and a beer,” I said.

The guy laughed. He clutched his signed napkin. He gritted his teeth and nodded. “Fuck yeah, man. Thank you for signing this. Can I buy you a drink?”

“Sure thing, buddy.”

The guy ran away to pay six bucks to give me a beer. We weren’t going to sit together and talk about football. Fuck no. I had a security team hanging around the bar in case I needed it. All I had to do was snap my fingers and they’d be right there to fuck shit up.

Then again, I liked to do that on my own which was why they were hanging at a table at the front of the dive bar.

I was in the corner, by myself. My own table. My own thoughts.

I was on beer seven of at least ten. My eyes scanned the place, looking for the lucky winner of a one night stand with me. There were tabloid writers and paparazzi all over the outside, waiting for their chance to strike at me.

Take a picture of me with the lucky woman, asking me who she was. Or maybe some asshole would be ballsy enough to ask about my legal problems. I had a few things hanging in the background. A weapons charge. An assault charge. A few threats that I made which were blown way out of proportion. But I wasn’t worried. I employed a fucking legal team who made it their lives to keep my ass out of jail and in good standing with the league. They were totally PG, trying to turn their warrior athletes into heroes.

I wasn’t a fucking hero.

I was a survivor. I found a way to throw a football and did it well enough that I rode through high school, college, and into the pros like it was a nice big wave out of a sunny and warm island.

The season was finally over, a grueling one at that. I set the record for most passing yards in one year. That was matched with touchdown passes, touchdown runs, and completions of fifty yards or more. And that was with my main receiver with a torn ACL. The crazy motherfucker tried to change a play on me and when I put the ball where it belonged, he wasn’t there. He tried to twist and make a move and blew himself out. We got into the playoffs but I took a dirty hit from some lunk and thanks to concussion protocol I had to miss the second and third quarters. By the time I got the ball back into my hands, it was too late. I took the game by the balls but didn’t have enough time to undo what was done by our backup quarterback.

I stared into my beer and thought about the last play.

Quick snap, face the handoff, roll back into the pocket. My receiver, Shawn, cutting down the side of the field. He stops, turns, then makes a cut. He burns the defender. My O-line struggling to keep the defense back. From my blindside I could feel something coming at me. It’s a bull of a man, rage in his eyes, victory pouring from him. I try to tuck the ball but his paw like hand smacks it out of my hand. My eyes never leave the ball though. I’d rather break my neck from getting tackled by a four hundred pound lineman than lose sight of the ball.

I’m faster than the guy chasing after me, now the ball. I run backwards, scoop the ball, and keep going. I know it looks insane on the footage. My darting back for a ten yard loss. The clock is already at zero, so fuck it. I stop, turn, know I have a second to make this happen. I plant my foot, grit my teeth, and throw the ball.

I take the hit and slam to the field with a thud that pops every bone in my spine. I lose my breath and can’t see for a few seconds. I hurry to stand and fall to my knees in pain. I grab for someone and get back to my feet.

Shawn is there and the ball drops to him… except it gets to the one yard line.

The fucking one yard line.

Shawn makes a beautiful catch and spins, diving forward.

Two defenders are there, grabbing him by the waist and throwing him back.

 
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