This is about the pitfalls of a superstar athlete who is trying to remain true to himself.
| When the pelting of fists and feet began A.J. curled up into the fetal position and tried to protect as much of his body as possible. He was frightened but not scared. He had never been in a fight before and wasn’t sure what it would feel like to have your butt kicked. After the first blow landed he quickly realized that a butt whopping sucked and he wanted no part of it. A.J. spread his fingers apart and scanned the area for Teddy. He located him down on one knee and hunched over in obvious pain. His anger level began to overflow at the site of his friend being accosted because of him. As a foot was about to come down on his head he grabbed it around the ankle and twisted. The owner of the foot lost his balance and fell to the ground. A.J. began to grin in glee but that disappeared when another foot landed on his left hand causing pain to shoot all the way up his arm. He tried to yell but just laid there with his mouth agape – unable to talk through the pain.
The foot rose again in preparation for another strike and A.J. quickly removed his hand from the target area. The foot landed on the ground and left a small imprint. A.J.’s fear remained and this caused his anger level to boil over even more. Suddenly the weight on his back felt lighter and A.J. realized that some of his assailants were missing.” Had they left or gotten tired of beating on him?” he thought but dismissed this crazy idea when he looked up and saw Teddy tossing goons aside like a sack of old trash. Then he watched as Teddy was jumped from behind and told himself that that was the last straw! A.J. erupted in a caveman like yell as his adrenaline tank exploded. He lifted his body off the ground knocking 2 guys off balance. He became a mad man and began swinging haymaker punches without a conscience thought. He struck one guy in the jaw and another in the side of the head. He ran to Teddy and found his next target – kicking a guy in the ribs. Teddy responded by punching upward and landing a blow to the groin of the boy on his other side.
A.J. spun around at a dizzying pace and came to a sudden stop when he located his next target. He took 3 massive steps and was immediately face to face with his main problem – James Spencer. Spencer tried to plea for mercy but A.J. ignored his girlish squeals. He commenced to using Spencer as a human punching bag. He landed blow after blow to the face and stomach as if he was standing in front of a boxer’s heavy bag. Teddy was mopping up in the back round and after a couple of well landed elbows and knees the goon patrol decided they had had enough fun for one night. They vanished into the darkness as quickly and mysteriously as they had appeared. Teddy ran to A.J. who was still pounding on Spencer. Teddy wrapped his arms around his friend and Spencer fell to the ground. A.J. turned in a fit of rage, cocked his right fist back in such a tightly clinched fist that his knuckles were turning white and paused briefly to lock in on his target.
In that “blink of an eye” moment Teddy brought his friend back from the edge of insanity.
“Relax A.J. we’re okay. You can calm down now they’re all gone.”
A.J. was huffing and puffing and still held his hands in closed fists only now they were down by his side. He pointed to the ground and asked through gritted teeth, “What about this garbage?”
"Leave him be. He won’t be bothering anyone for awhile after that beating. Let’s just get out of here before something else happens".
"Sounds like a good idea to me but are you sure we should leave him alone? What if he tells someone that we jumped him instead of the way it really happened"?
"Don’t worry about a thing. I’m pretty sure that James won’t breathe a word about tonight to anyone".
Teddy bent down next to James who was moaning and groaning and said, “You’re not gonna tell anyone that we jumped you right? Because that would be a clear and obvious lie and I would have to take issue with a bold face liar.” When James only response was a moan and a cough Teddy grabbed a lock of hair and lifted his head. “It’s rude not to answer when someone speaks to you. Please tell me you understand and that this is gonna be the last time we run into one another?
James half opened his eyes and saw the seriousness on Teddy’s face. He shook his head in an up and down motion and then lay back down on the cool ground. Teddy released his hair, stood up and said good. He then turned to A.J.,”Let’s go buddy!”
The boys walked home in silence and A.J. realized that Teddy was a true friend and he would always be there if he needed him. When A.J. got home he walked through the front door and his parents were watching TV in the living room.
“How was bowling night honey?”, his mom called from her seat on the couch.
Good, we won but I’m exhausted. I think I’ll take a shower and hit the rack.
Okay son. We’ll see you in the morning.
When A.J. got upstairs he entered the bathroom and locked the door behind him. He turned on the shower and started inventorying his injuries in the mirror. Nothing visible which was good but he would have a couple of bruises on his ribs in the morning. He could already feel his muscles stiffening and knew that his night would be filled with pain and restless sleep.
The next morning A.J. didn’t get up until 11:00 and when he tried to get out of bed he was unable to move. Every fiber of his being felt the pain that was inflicted the night before. With every breath inhaled he could feel where the bruises had taken root on his ribs. Through gritted teeth he took several deep breaths and then rolled off the bed. His walk to the bathroom was slow and tedious. A thought ran through his head, “This must be what it feels like for an elderly person with arthritis to try and get around. Man this sucks!” he managed to reach the bathroom and after a 25 minute scalding hot shower his muscles began to relax. With a minimum amount of labor A.J. was able to get dressed and head downstairs. He slowly made his way to the kitchen where his mom was sitting at the table drinking a cup of coffee.
You must have really been tired last night. You never sleep this late.
Yeah, it was a very tiring night.
Do you want some breakfast or maybe a little lunch?
No thank you. I am gonna go see Teddy and we’ll probably get a bite to eat later but I’ll be home for supper.
Should I set a plate for Teddy?
That would be great. And with that A.J. headed out the back door.
Wait, shouted his mom. At least take a piece of fruit and she tossed an apple that sailed to A.J.’s left. As he reached to make the catch he felt a twinge in his right ribs. He winched and tried to hide the grimace on his face but his mom detected the pain.
Son, are you okay?
Yes ma’am. I just pulled a muscle trying to roll the bowling ball too hard. It’s nothing serious – just a little stiff. I gotta meet Teddy. Love you mom. And with that he walked out the kitchen door before she had a chance to ask anymore questions.
A.J. walked around to the front of the house and could not believe his eyes. Laying in the front yard was his bike that was taken last night. He didn’t know how or why it was returned but he was truly thankful now that he did not have to tell his parents what happened. He climbed on his bike and rode towards town. His and Teddy’s regular meeting place was a 7-11 gas station off of Main Street. From about 2 blocks away he could see his buddy waiting and sure enough he had his bike back as well.
Let me guess – in the front yard?
Yep. And that’s not all. I got here about 20 minutes ago and I overheard the attendant talking on the phone.
Why did you get here so early?
I wanted to slip out before my mom woke up so I didn’t have to tell her what happened. But that isn’t important right now so quit interrupting!
A.J. had never seen Teddy so antsy and excited about a gas station worker’s conversation so he figured it was important – and he was right. Sorry bud. What was he talking about?
When I arrived there was a police officer standing at the counter with the attendant. They were drinking coffee and the officer was obviously telling a story. As I walked up to the door the officer came out, got in his car and peeled out of the parking lot with his lights and siren ablaze. I entered the store and the attendant was on the phone. Then I heard him say,”Sargent Wallace please.” There was a brief pause and then,” Wally you salty dog what’s going on? I just heard about the Spencer kid – is it true? Did he really get busted for D.U.I.?”
Teddy looked over at A.J. and he was standing with his mouth wide open. Yeah that was my reaction too.
What was said next?
Don’t know. He had to ring up a couple of customers and by the time he was done he had hung up the phone. I needed more information so I grabbed a Gatorade and went on a fact finding mission. When I got to the counter I acted real innocent and said,” Excuse me sir but did I hear to mention James Spencer? Is he okay? He is a friend of mine.”
"Yeah kid he’s fine. He just made a mistake and got in a little trouble. That’s all you need to know though so if you aren’t buying anything else get going".
"Thank you, sir. Have a good day". And with that I walked out and waited for you.
"That’s an incredible story! You’re not just yanking my chain are you? You know given what happened last night"?
"Of course not! I know I like to joke but come on dude you’re my best friend! I wouldn’t kid with you about something like this. By the way how are you feeling"?
"I’m stiff but I am starting to feel better. How bout you"?
My pain seems to be dissipating more and more as the day continues. And they both started laughing and smiling as they mounted their bikes and rode away.
The boys rode into A.J.’s yard just as his dad was pulling into the garage.
"Hey boys. What’s for dinner"?
"Don’t know dad. How was work"?
"Not bad. Let’s go inside and see what your mom has whipped up. Hey Teddy how’s your parents"?
"Their fine sir. My mother says to tell you and Mrs. Smith hello".
"Are you staying for dinner"?
"I would like that if it is alright with you? My mom has been on a sushi kick the past 2 weeks and if I have to eat another raw fish I’m gonna be sick".
"Of course you can stay. You know you’re like a member of the family and we wouldn’t have it any other way".