Printed from https://www.writing.com/main/view_item/item_id/1971742-A-Matter-of-Self-Esteem
by brin
Rated: 18+ · Short Story · Fantasy · #1971742
Twilight Zone episode: A daydreaming hero that never was gets a chance to help another.
A Matter of Self Esteem

The flight of four B-17G heavy bombers was on a course of 90 degrees due east, as it crossed the eastern border of France and arrowed into the airspace over Nazi Germany. Flying at twenty six thousand feet where the clear cold air was a minus thirty five degrees, the leather clad crewman huddled at their posts, eyes straining against the glare of the sun and the vastness of the sky as they tried to pick out the tiny speck that could quickly grow into a death dealing enemy fighter.

These four crews had been specially selected for this mission because when it came to bombing they had proven themselves to be the best of the best. On many prior occasions they had demonstrated their ability to consistently drop their bombs into the legendary pickle barrel from five miles up and it was that special skill which would be needed for the job that lay ahead. Agents on the ground had radioed Hitler’s location for the next several days and it was going to be their job to send him straight to hell with a storm of five hundred pound high explosive bombs.

Army Air Corp Captain Thaddeus Wayne had just leaned back in the pilot’s seat and flexed his fingers on the control yoke as he scanned the skies about him when suddenly, without warning, the voice of Lieutenant Webber crackled over the in-plane intercom. The sudden transmission caused him to jump slightly and he smiled to himself at his own uncharacteristic tenseness.

“All right boys,” the co-pilot drawled, “We’re on our way to Hitler’s house, so keep a sharp eye out for those Focke Wulf’s and BF 109’s. We don’t want any Kraut fighters spoiling our little surprise party for old Adolf. All stations report status.”

One by one the other crew members reported that all was well in voices that were deceptively calm as the bombers droned on towards their date with destiny.

The next voice on the air came from Colonel Meachum in the lead plane.

“Red Dog leader to Red Dog flight,” he intoned, “We’re over Germany now and they’re not going to be the least bit happy that we’re here. I want you all to stay in tight formation so that we can keep each other covered.”

The Captain eyed the two B-17’s in front of him, one to the left, the other to the right. He was already pretty close but he knew he could be a bit closer. With a steady hand he eased the throttles open just a crack and pulled back gently on the control yoke.

Before the big plane had even started to respond Colonel Meachum was again on the radio.

“Red Dog leader to Red Dog four. Let’s close it up there a little Wayne.”

Thaddeus smiled to himself under his oxygen mask as he eased up closer to the other planes. The tail gunner in the bomber on the right flashed him a “V” for victory sign from behind his Perspex window.

“Roger, Red Dog leader, sorry about that.”

“Look out!”

The dangerous mission over war torn Germany vaporized before his eyes as he reacted to Agnes’s shrill warning shriek.

“Wha…wha… what’s the matter dear?” he stuttered, baffled by her sudden outburst.

“Your tailgating that big truck, you idiot! Are you trying to get us both killed?”

The huge Bekins moving van was still several car lengths in front of him and while he knew he could get closer if he needed to, he also knew that it would be pointless to argue with her.

“Yes dear. I mean no dear,” he replied meekly as he eased up on the gas and watched as the distance between him and truck ahead increased, totally ruining the formation and any chance he might ever have had of providing covering fire.

“Is it asking too much for you to pay better attention to your driving?” she whined, “And you were talking to yourself again. Who in the Hell is Roger Red Dog? Sounds like some kind of an Indian name and you were apologizing to him for something. Probably for your lousy driving!” she finished with a horse like snort.

Sound and scene fades as camera pans to Rod Serling.

“I’d like to take this opportunity to introduce you to Mister Thaddeus Wayne, a modern day Walter Mitty if you will. A meek little man living a drab life hopelessly shackled to a selfish outspoken demanding wife and a mind numbing job as a book keeper for a large international insurance agency which shall remain unnamed. He’s currently on his way to his mother in-law’s for a Sunday dinner that promises to be anything but enjoyable.

Suffice it to say that somewhere well back on the winding road of life Mister Wayne took a wrong turn. A turn which brought him to the bleak existence he now endures instead of the life of a bold and daring adventurer that might have been. An exciting life which he still craves and dreams about even to this day. For in spite of his current status, underneath it all Thaddeus is still a brave, daring and competent man, even if only in his day dreams.

But fear not good readers, and rest assured that all is not lost, for there are those who have taken careful note of Mister Wayne’s talents. And they are about to offer him an opportunity to use those talents for real in the Twilight Zone.”

Camera pans back to the car and Thaddeus, who is staring glumly ahead over the top of the steering wheel as his wife returns her attention to her cell phone.

“Honestly mother, I don’t know what’s the matter with him. He almost got us both killed, tailgating this huge truck and muttering nonsense to himself….. What…?”

While he couldn’t make out his mother in-law’s words he could faintly hear her staccato voice over the cell phone. How interesting it was, he thought to himself, that she could still be heard even over the sound of the speeding cars and trucks which surrounded them as they zipped down the highway at seventy miles per hour.

He caught a faint malevolent movement out of the corner of his eye and turned to see Agnes glaring at him.

“Get your eyes back on the road!” she barked. “Mother thinks you’re an idiot too and she thinks that you should go get some therapy of some sort. She says it isn’t healthy for someone to day dream as much as you do. She said that you’re a space cadet. And you know what? She’s right, you are a space cadet.”

“Yes dear.”

“Yes dear, what?” she shot back.

“I guess I do daydream too much. But I just don’t seem to be able to help it.”

“Well, you’d better be able to help it! Why right now I have half a mind to get you committed as incompetent and live off of your disability welfare! Mother’s already looked into it for me and she says that if I wanted to I …” her voice cut off abruptly in mid sentence.

The sudden uncharacteristic silence caught him by surprise and when he carefully cast a sideways glance in her direction he was startled to see Agnes’ frozen motionless in mid sentence with one hand poised in midair, index finger pointing at him while the other hand clutched her precious cell phone. Her eyes were wide open and her upper lip was curled back from her teeth in a snarl with a fleck of spittle suspended mid air and motionless about an inch in front of her mouth.

“Agnes!” he shrieked in terror as his foot stabbed at the brake pedal.

Nothing happened.

In the next instant he realized that along with Agnes, the rest of the world around him had also frozen in place. Staring out of the windshield he beheld a scene that seemed to have been caught and immobilized into some sort of a gigantic high resolution photograph. It took several more seconds for him to take it all in.

“Boy, oh boy, oh boy,” he stammered to himself. “Is this the king of all day dreams or what?”

“It’s the or what, Thaddeus,” a pleasant voice quipped from the back seat.

“What!” he shrieked again, as he rapidly bobbled his head from front to rear, trying to keep track of the unmoving traffic and see who was in the rear seat at the same time.

“It’s quite all right to just turn around and look at me you know. Nothing’s going to be moving until we’ve finished with our little visit.”

Gripping the wheel tightly with both hands, he slowly turned his head and took a look at the rear seat.

Seated primly between the rice casserole dish which Agnes was bringing for dinner and a blanket and pillow she would be using for her nap on the way home, sat a dapper looking little man dressed in an impeccable three piece suit.

“No need for alarm my good fellow. I’m perfectly harmless, you know.” the newcomer said, flashing a friendly smile which revealed a perfect set of teeth.

“What, what…..” he stuttered. His head was still swiveling rapidly back and forth as he attempted to pay attention to both the road around him and his unanticipated passenger.

“Careful there old boy, I wouldn’t want you to get a crick in your neck on my account. No need to watch the road for a bit. There’s nothing to be concerned with out there right now.” he spoke with a clipped English accent.

“Ummm..” he said as he lifted the lid on the casserole dish and took a whiff. “That certainly smells delicious.”

“Who…who are you and how did you… I mean, what’s going on here? What’s happened to Agnes?”

“So many questions, and all at once too!” the small well dressed man answered amiably.

“First of all I can tell that we need to get you calmed down a bit so that we can talk.” he said as he leaned forward and gently placed his hand on Thaddeus’ right shoulder.

“There now, that should do it. Are you feeling a bit better now?” he asked as he lifted his hand.

Although the questions were still racing through his mind a curious feeling of calmness had suddenly swept over Thaddeus like a warm reassuring wave.

“Why, now that you mention it I do feel a bit better.” he said in amazement as he took one last look at the stationary traffic around him before focusing his attention on the visitor.

“Oh yes, you certainly look much better too. I’m quite sure we can talk now.”

“But who are you? What’s going on? What’s happened to Agnes?”

“Still plenty of questions in spite of it all, I see.” he answered as he took a breath to continue.

“Well then, let’s start with Agnes. I can assure you that your wife is just fine and perfectly safe. She, like the rest of everything else that was going on around us, is merely in a harmless state of suspension until the two of us can finish with our little visit.”

“You can do that?” he asked incredulously.

The little man smiled benignly back at him.

“Well, isn’t it obvious? Of course I can.”

“Now then, you asked who I am.” he continued, “I suppose I could be referred to as a facilitator of sorts. You see, I more or less bring people together so that time and events will flow smoothly. So that things will turn out… better…“

Thaddeus stared back at him, unsuccessfully trying to make some sort of sense out of what he had just heard.

“As far as how I got here, that’s a bit more complicated and really not all that relevant.” he continued with a dismissing wave of his hand, “What is important, however, is why I’m here.”

“Why you’re here?”

“Yes, that’s right, my reason for being here with you today. You see Thaddeus, you are a special individual who just happens to possess several very desirable attributes that I would like to put to a very good use, that is if you are agreeable to such a thing.”

“Agreeable? Me?”

“Of course, agreeable. I would certainly never enlist the help of anyone for any of my projects without their full, open eyed and willing cooperation.”

“You said use. Just exactly what kind of use do you have in mind for me?” he asked, a trace of suspicion edging into his voice.

“Oh my good man! You can rest assured that I’d never ask you to do anything that either your mother or your pastor would not approve of.”

After considering this for a moment he asked, “What about Agnes? Would she approve?”

“Really now. I mean, I’m being perfectly honest with you when I say that both your mother and your pastor would approve. But, Agnes? Do you really want to include her in this?”

Thaddeus turned to contemplate his wife’s frozen features. The pointing finger, the clutched cell phone, the curled lip, the glaring expression. The man had told him that her condition was only temporary but sadly, he realized to himself, her current pose was probably more permanent then he would have liked.

“I guess you’re right,: he answered after a moment, “If mom and Pastor Beldman would approve then I suppose it would be alright.”

“Splendid! I was hoping you’d agree.”

“I’m not sure that I do agree. You haven’t told me what it is that you want me to do for you yet.”

“Oh, you wouldn’t be doing it for me per se. You’d be doing it for another fellow who needs your help. You remember I told you that I bring people together so that things will be better for all involved…?”


“The task of which I speak will require a high level of commitment on your part and it will not be without a certain level of danger.”

“But, why did you pick me to help?”

“Oh, Thaddeus, Thaddeus, Thaddeus, my good man. All of your adult life you’ve dreamed of greatness. Of doing good and noble things. Brave things. Meaningful things. But don’t you see? You’ve only dreamed of those things. You’ve never actually been able to do anything great. But still, you do indeed have within you the bravery, the guile and the nobleness to be great. I am offering you the opportunity to actually do something great and noble for real.”

“You said there would be a certain level of danger involved.”

“Well of course there will be. Nothing unreasonable, I can assure you, but where would the requirement for bravery be if there were no danger involved?”

“I guess that makes sense,” he said slowly, nodding to himself. “So just exactly what is it that you want me to do for you?”

“Not for me,” he again corrected, “For another fellow who needs your help badly. Another who has quite a lot in common with you actually.” he paused for a short instant before continuing, “So now then, are you in? Are you willing to help and actually do something heroic for real?”

“I’ll have to know more then you’ve told me before I can answer that.”

“Oh how I hate the rules,” the dapper little man retorted, “That’s just it old boy. You see, I can’t tell you what it is until you commit to help. That’s the first step you must take where you will need to show some actual courage.”

“That’s a rule? I have to agree to help you before I even know what it is that you want me to do?”

“Sadly, yes. I’m not the one who makes the rules, you know. I only have to abide by them, as do you.” he added.

A tingling twinge of doubt began to seep into him as he considered his answer.

“I don’t know…..” he muttered.

A momentary look of disappointment briefly clouded the facilitor’s face before it was quickly replaced by a more optimistic expression.

“I tell you what, old boy. We still have a bit of time before you have to give me your answer. Why don’t you give it some thought and I’ll get back with you later.”

“Yeah, okay. That seems reasonable enough to me. I would like to think on it for awhile.”

“Very well then, I’ll just be on my way for a bit. Are you ready?”

“Ready? What do you mean ready?”

“Why, ready for me to start everything back up again. You know, the traffic, your driving….Agnes…”

“Oh, I hadn’t thought about that. What do you want me to do?”

“Just turn around and grab on to the steering wheel. We’ll have things back to normal in just a jiffy.”

As Thaddeus turned away from the visitor everything around him seemed to shimmer in clear Jello for an instant before the sounds of the surrounding traffic and Agnes’ sharp tongue came crashing back to assail his senses.

“….I could live just fine off of your disability without having to trip over you all of the time and put up with your crazy driving and even crazier daydreaming!”

He took a deep breath and let it out slowly, “Yes dear.”

A short while later they arrived at Agnes’ mother’s house.

Thaddeus had always dreaded the bi-monthly pilgrimages to his in-laws for Sunday dinner. Not only was he constantly belittled by Lois, his mother in-law, but he also had to put up with Melvin, who was the epitomy of an annoying brother in-law.

Although Melvin was forty two years old, overweight, unkempt, unemployed and still living at home he was none the less the apple of his adoring mother’s eye.

“Well, I see you both finally made it here alive in spite of Tad’s driving.” she greeted them as they came in the front door. He hated to be called Tad, a fact that Lois was well aware of.

“How ‘ya doing, Tad?” his brother in law boomed from his mother‘s elbow, “Still slaving away and working for peanuts down at the old insurance company with your clerk job? Boy, I’ll bet that really breaks the fun barrier for ‘ya, doesn’t it?”

“At least it keeps me busy and pays the bills,” he shot back, drawing a sharp look from both Lois and Agnes in the process.

Encouraged by their obvious disapproval, Melvin continued. “Oh I wouldn’t know about any of that sort of stuff.” he said as he puffed up his chest and hooked his thumbs into the top of his sweat pants, “Right now I’m looking into a position as Executive VP for one of your rival companies. Who knows? Maybe one day they’ll merge with your outfit and I might even end up being your boss! Whaddya think of that old buddy?”

He knew that Melvin hadn’t seriously looked for work for over five years and that any talk of landing an executive job with anyone was nothing more than hot air, an asset with which Melvin was well endowed. He remained silent.

“Well, everything’s ready in the dining room.” Lois cut in, “I’ve baked a turkey with all of the fixings. Just let me pop your casserole into the microwave for a few minutes to heat it up while Tad and Melvin talk.”

Thaddeus settled in for a long afternoon.

The silence of the operating room was broken only by the mesmerizing beep of the heart monitor and the sighing rush of the respirator as it fed oxygen to the sedated patient who lay prone on the operating table. The man’s eyes were taped shut and a plastic tube hung from the corner of his mouth.

Although it promised to be a grueling and challenging surgical procedure it was nothing that did not lie well within his expert capabilities. There was only one other man in the world who could perform this incredibly delicate operation besides himself and that good doctor now lay on the table before him, clinging to life.

The chest lay bare, illuminated by the blazing surgical lights and surrounded by the bright green linen covers that were so common to operating rooms. The other members of the team were looking at him expectantly over their gauze face masks and as his steady hand made the first incision they gasped collectively.

“Perfect, just perfect!” one of them whispered loudly enough for him to hear.

“But doctor,” another asked, he recognized the voice of nurse Bondurant and glanced up at here large blue eyes which were staring at him intently over her mask. Even covered as she was he could still tell she was a strikingly beautiful woman.

“Yes, nurse Bondurant?”

“This procedure requires the vein of a matching donor for grafting. The last that I heard none had been found. Where did you find a suitable vein on such short notice?”

“I checked all of the donors listed in our data bank. But as you know nurse Bondurant, Doctor Magillacuddy has a very rare type of dna makeup and type ABD negative blood, which is almost impossible to match.”

“Yes?” she asked breathlessly.

“There was only one suitable donor in our entire data base, bur fortunately it was someone who was nearby.”

“So was he willing to help us out? It’s a very dangerous procedure to donate, you know.” she added as the rest of the team nodded their heads and murmured in agreement.

“Oh he was more than willing and I was able to extract and preserve a suitable vein just an hour ago.”

“What a brave man he must be, willing to risk himself like that for another.” she said tears welling up in the corners of her eyes.

“Oh it wasn’t really all that much of a sacrifice,” he answered. “Actually I was able to make the incision quite small and my arm should be completely healed in two or three weeks.”

“Your arm…..?” she gasped, “You mean you’re the donor? You operated on yourself and now you’re placing your vein into Doctor Magillacuddy to save his life?”

He looked around at the circle of wide eyed faces and saw both concern and admiration in their wrinkled foreheads.

“It was the only way,” he intoned.

“So what are you waiting for Tad?”

The shrill voice of his mother in-law pulled him back to the present and he looked up to see the three of them staring at him with expressions of both anger and annoyance. He realized that he was holding the carving knife poised above Lois’s turkey.

“There, you see what I mean mother?” Agnes said with a triumphant huff.

“He just goes off to lala land like that all of the time. You never know when he’s going to do it. At least he wasn’t driving this time!”

“I thought it was hilarious, myself.” Melvin chimed in, “He makes one cut into the turkey and then freezes in place and starts babbling about it being the only way. What do you mean by the only way Tad? Care to enlighten us on that one?”

“Melvin, baby, why don’t you carve the turkey?” Lois cooed, ”It’s obviously beyond Tad’s capabilities.” she added sharply, ”I should have known better in the first place than to ask him to do it.”

“Sure thing, momsy. Be glad to.”

Melvin rose from his chair at the opposite end of the table and waddled over to where Thaddeus was sitting.

“Out of the way, Tad. This is a job for a real man.” he said with a smirk as he snatched the knife from his hand and elbowed his way in between Thaddeus and the table.

Without saying a word Thaddeus slowly rose from his chair and walked across the dining room towards the kitchen and the back door which led outside..

“And just exactly where do you think you’re going?” Agnes asked ominously as he left the room. “I want you to know that you are being really rude to my mother and brother.” she shouted as the door closed quietly behind him.

The outside air was sweet and clear with a silence that was only interrupted by the songs of a few birds and the faint hiss of a jet plane flying at the head of a snow white contrail thousands of feet overhead.

As he started down the path that led to a wading pond which sat on the back of the property his mind began to race at a pace which far exceeded the speed of his feet.

“Yes professor,” the beautiful young intern cooed, “We’ve had several confirmed sightings of giant pteradactyls in this area. We were hoping that a renowned scientist such as yourself might be able to help us make another sighting so that we could classify it and maybe even get a picture or two.”

“Classify it and get a picture or two?” he answered with a raised eyebrow. “Why, my dear young lady, I fully intend to capture the beast alive and return it to the University for study.”

“You could do that?” she asked, her eyes wide in amazement.

“Why such a thing is mere child’s play for someone with my extensive background in capturing rare and dangerous animals…”

“Ahem. Excuse me my good man, but could we talk?” the facilitator sat on a stump next to the trail, radiating a bright smile and still decked out in his natty three piece suit.

“Oh my, it’s you again. How did you know where to find me?” Thaddeus stammered as the unexpected encounter vaporized his latest adventure.

“I’m very good at what I do, if I may say so myself." he replied with a smile, "And keeping track of people that I need to talk to is just one of my many talents.”

“When we last met earlier today,” he continued, “I asked you if you would be willing to help a chap who desperately needs your assistance.”

“And you can’t tell me what it is I’ll have to do until I commit to do it. Not even a hint.” Thaddeus remembered out loud.

“Well, it’s not exactly all that hard nosed, you know. If you would be so kind as to recall, I did tell you a few things on our last little visit.”

“Refresh my memory, please.”

“What you will be doing will be for real,” the dapper man recited patiently, “It will be a noble, brave and meaningful thing to help another and it will indeed have a certain level of danger. It is a task that both your mother and your pastor would approve of wholeheartedly were they to know of it.”

“But Agnes wouldn’t approve?”

“Good heavens, man! What exactly do you ever do that Agnes DOES approve of?” he blurted with just a bit more than a trace of exasperation in his voice, “And now I must confess that we are indeed almost out of time.” he added as he glanced at his watch, “I really must have your answer old boy. So tell me then, are you in? “

Thaddeus glanced back up the trail over his shoulder at his mother in-laws house and then gazed longingly upward at the receding jet plane and its’ white wispy contrail before returning his attention to the mysterious facilitator who stood expectantly before him.

“I’m in.” he finally answered.

“Splendid! Splendid! I knew you’d come through! I truly did!” he bubbled, gleefully clapping his hands together.

“So now then, can you please fill me in on a few details of just exactly what it is that I’ll be doing?”

“Oh, yes, yes. Of course.” he responded, gleefully rubbing his hands together before continuing.

“As it turns out, there is a certain young man, whom we will call Trevor, who is currently a senior at a small Midwestern high school. Now Trevor shares many of the same traits that you do, Thaddeus. He is a smart, capable and brave young man, but while he does indeed have all of these wonderful attributes he is still, none the less, filled with feelings of self doubt. Feelings that are holding him back. Feelings that stand between him and the greatness that awaits him further on down the road of life.”

“And where exactly do I figure into this?” he asked.

“I’m coming to that.” he continued.

“At the insistence of his parents Trevor has joined the High School football team. Now he was never in any doubt whatsoever about being a star player or anything like that, for he knew better. You see, his strengths lie elsewhere. He was just hoping to be a part of the team and perhaps be able to help out a bit here and there. And that‘s where he, or should I say we, have a bit of a problem.”

“Which is…?”

“Trevor was assigned to the position of a second string guard and has only been out on the field two times for the entire season. As it turns out, both times that he was allowed to play he failed to break up a pass that resulted in the other team scoring a touchdown. As a result of all of that he is miserable on the team and dreads ever having to go out onto the field again.”

As he listened to the story a faint feeling of uneasiness began to stir in the depths of Thaddeus’ stomach. Memories of his own experiences with high school sports came creeping back and he suddenly realized that he did indeed have quite a bit in common with Trevor.

The dapper man noticed the change in his demeanor.

“Is all of this sounding a bit familiar to you Thaddeus?”

Casting his eyes to the ground he nodded.

With a curt nod he continued, “Perhaps back in your younger days there was someone who had a chance to help you, just as I am now offering you a chance to help Trevor. Perhaps that someone didn’t come through for you and you never got over it and as a result of that you never achieved the greatness which would have been in store for you.” he paused for a moment to let his words sink in, “Do you see how important it is now that you help this young man, Thaddeus?”

He nodded slowly, as he kept his eyes on the ground.

“And now for the danger. You will be out on a football field cavorting around with a bunch of eager high school boys. You’re not a young man anymore, Thaddeus. You will take away with you any injuries that you may receive. And such injuries are a distinct possibility. You need to understand that.”

“And if I back out now? What then?” he asked.

“Then, without your help, Trevor will end up much as you have.” he answered slowly and paused before continuing, “Are you still willing to do this Thaddeus?”

He took a deep breath, “Yes, I am.” he answered, his jaw set with determination.

“Wonderful. I knew you wouldn’t let him down.”

“Now then, here’s the situation.” he continued, “It’s almost the end of the fourth quarter and the other team has the ball and leads ten to seven. Billie Rodriquez, the first string guard, has just taken a tumble and turned his ankle badly. The coach had to take him out of the game and, against his better judgment, has sent Trevor in. As you may well be aware, Trevor is terrified.” he was talking rapidly, a sense of urgency in his voice.

“And?” Thaddeus asked expectantly.

“And I think you need to check your shoelace.”

Reflexively he bent to tie his shoe.

Bright lights, cheering crowds and the smell of new mown lawn assaulted his senses as he knelt on the scrimmage line. Feelings of fear and inadequacy suddenly washed over his psyche in a nauseating almost overpowering wave.

“I know they’re going to pass to number 56 because they know I’m covering him and they know that I’m no damn good.” the thought was firmly imbedded in his mind as he struggled to intervene.

The young body within which his consciousness currently dwelt felt young and strong and capable, physical feelings that he had not known for years. Feelings that made his own confidence swell.

“Screw number 56” he thought, overpowering the negative feelings which had been racing through Trevors’ psyche “He isn’t any better then you are. Stay with him and make sure he doesn’t get his hands on the ball.”

“But, last time…” the negative thought was suddenly confused, weaker.

“The Hell with last time. This is this time. It’s simple really, just don’t let the guy get the ball. That’s all they want you to do and you will by damn do it!”

“I don’t know”

He smothered the last vestiges of the now feeble negative thoughts.

“You DO know! You can and you will! You got that, buddy?”

The ball snapped and the entire line swung into sudden dizzying motion around him.

Number 56 smirked out at him from behind his face guard as he shouldered past on his way down field. It was obvious that he felt he had nothing to fear from Trevor.

Doubling back and putting on a brief burst of speed he easily kept up with the other player, glancing back over his shoulder several times as the two of them moved down field.

There was a sudden roar from the crowd and as he again glanced over his shoulder he saw that the ball had been thrown and he also saw that the intended receiver was going to be number 56 – His man, his responsibility. The ball closed rapidly on the running pair in a perfect spiral and at the last instant before 56 would have received it he leaped into the air for the deflection.

The ball hit the tips of his fingers with a stinging impact and bounced upwards. His immediate reaction was one of relief, he had successfully deflected the pass. But his racing mind refused to leave it at that as other options began to rapidly pour in.

The ball had tumbled drunkenly upward after his deflection and was now at the top of its’ arc. His momentum was carrying him forward and he realized that there was a chance, just a small chance, that he would be able to catch it before it hit the grass.

“There’s no way that I can….” the whimpering thought crept into his consciousness.

“The Hell you can’t!” he countered, “Get the damn ball! You can do it!”

A straight legged lunge to his right and a twist of his shoulders brought his right hand under the ball. As it hit his fingers the second time it again bobbled upwards but his forward momentum kept him under it and when it came down for the third and final time he was able to get both hands on it and tuck it against his chest as he turned to run.

A roar went up from the crowd and he saw the opposing players moving in to take him down as he began his desperate up field race.

Adrenalin pumped through his system as one by one he either made it past them or they were blocked by his fellow team mates.

As he passed his own twenty yard line he dared to look up at the goal posts and saw that they were rapidly drawing nearer.

“I might make it!” flashed through his mind as he heard the pounding feet of another player closing behind him.

“I’m going to make it!” he thought jubilantly and in the same instant a crushing force struck him from behind.

A flash of pain shot through his left shoulder as he cart wheeled forward, his legs wind milling towards the goal line.

He was going to go down, of that he was certain, but if he could only…

His balance completely gone, he tumbled to the turf at the same instant that he saw the goal line slip beneath him.

“I did it! I can’t believe that I actually did it” the ecstatic thought raced through Trevor’s mind.

“Of course you did it. Never ever forget how you feel right here and right now.” Thaddeus added to his jubilant revelation as the scene faded from his consciousness.

“What a catch! What a run! Perfectly spectacular old boy!”

With a disoriented blink he suddenly found himself again standing in the middle of the trail behind his mother in-laws’ house as the approving words of the facilitator washed over him.

Not knowing what else to say he blurted, “Wow, that was quite a daydream!”

“Daydream? What do you mean, Daydream? That was no daydream!” the other gushed, “You were there my good man! You were actually there! You did it! Do you hear me? You really, really did it!”

“But what… I mean… How do you know I did it?”

“Why, I was sitting right there on the fifty yard line rooting for the two of you, my good chap. I saw it all! What you did for that young man was perfectly wonderful!”

“Is he going to be okay now? I mean, will he…?”

“Your timing was impeccable! You intervened at precisely the right moment and in precisely the right way. Your influence has now placed Trevor on a path that will lead him to greatness. You see Thaddeus, it only took a little nudge in the right direction at the right moment and you were there to see that it happened. Without your help he would have gone on from that game forever doubting himself and his abilities.”

A curious feeling of gratitude swept over Thaddeus and he closed his eyes to savor the moment. When he opened his eyes a few seconds later he stood alone on the trail.

The late night drive home from Sunday dinner was proving to be uneventful. As he steered his way down the mostly empty highway Agnes snored softly beneath her blanket on the seat next to him, her slack jawed face dimly lit by the car‘s instrument panel.

The flat sea that lay in front of the great ship was a black vast expanse of nothingness as his eyes strained to see ahead in the inky darkness. Perched as he was in the top of the crow’s nest ten stories above the main deck he would be the first to spot any danger that might present itself ahead of the giant ocean liner. He smiled to himself as he realized the importance of his assignment. It was an awesome responsibility that he welcomed. Suddenly a huge grey shape loomed ahead, the dim light of a thousand stars sparkling in faint reflections off of its’ massive flank.

His eyes grew wide as he instantly realized exactly what it was he was seeing. In one smooth sure motion he grabbed the microphone which would take his message of warning to the wheelhouse far below.

“Iceberg, dead ahead!” he yelled into the mouthpiece.

His work done here, he began the long descent down the ladder to the main deck and the passengers below who would soon be needing his help. There was no way that he was going to let his injured shoulder deter him from the rescue work which lay ahead…

Voice over from Rod Serling:

We now bid farewell to Mr. Thaddeus Wayne, a man who will continue to use his imagination to create exciting worlds where he is free to do wonderful, noble and courageous things. But from this point he on will be able to valiantly go forth with a new level of vigor and a confidence in himself that had been somewhat lacking up until now. For you see, today Mister Thaddeus Wayne took a test, a test which measured his true mettle. And we are delighted to report that he has passed that test with flying colors. For you see, today Mister Thaddeus Wayne has learned beyond any reasonable doubt that he is indeed made of the right stuff. A lesson well learned in the Twilight Zone.

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