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message 1: by [deleted user] (new)

Here's the beginning of my book, To Give God the Glory...

The NFL.
Something that every young child rooting for his favorite team dreams of: Bombing the ball down the field, scoring the game winning touchdown, intercepting that crucial pass, sacking the quarterback on fourth-and-goal…
It's a dream that comes true to some, others, not. But to these cousins, it is crucial. A dream that has to happen. They will do anything to make that dream come true. Few children before them have gotten to experience this, but as these eight cousins and their team will prove, anything is possible if God is on your side.
What will happen when they take the one small step to their dream, and one giant leap to completing it?

The Question
“Touchdown!” Katie Henderson let out a shriek and jumped to her feet as the crowd roared. “Benjamin scored!”
“Yep!” Isaiah Henderson, her seventeen-year-old cousin, clapped his hands. “Now we’re probably gonna win!”
Katie glanced at her large family, all standing and screaming now. “Yeah, they’re gonna win, alright.” She watched as the star New England Patriots’ quarterback, Benjamin Connor, searched the crowd, spied the family, and waved. She turned to her parents, John and Jessica. “Hey, Mommy, Daddy, when we see Benjamin after the game, can we invite him over for dinner?”
Jessica looked at John, who shrugged. “I don’t see why not, Katie. We haven’t seen him for a long time, anyway.”
Annie, one of Katie’s younger sisters, overheard the conversation and jumped in. “Really?”
“Yep,” John nodded. “You kids can invite him.”
“Woo hoo!” Tommy, Isaiah’s fifteen-year-old younger brother, let out a shriek. “Yay!”
Katie moaned as her siblings and cousins celebrated in front of people she didn’t even know. Can they be any more embarrassing? Oh, ugh!
“Hey, Katie.” Nancy, another sister, tapped her on the shoulder. “Do you think Benjamin’ll say yes?”
“He probably will; he never turns down food,” Katie giggled. “You know that.”
“Yeah, I do,” Nancy smirked. “He’ll come alright.”

Done with his press conference, Benjamin Connor walked through the corridors of Gillette Stadium, dragging his suitcase behind him. Okay…now I jus’ need to find the Henderson’s. He slid his sunglasses and straightened his gray sport coat. Hopefully I’ll be able to get away from most of the media. I really don’t wanna be interviewed more than I already have to. He glanced around the tunnel. He had told the family to meet him at the opening of the stadium. They’re around here somewhere!
“Benjamin! Benjamin!”
“Hey! Over here!”
Benjamin squinted at the group coming toward him. His heart skipped a beat. There they were—his long-time friends whom he really cared for a lot.
“Hi, everyone.” He greeted them all with hugs. “Thanks for comin’.”
“Oh, gosh, Benjamin,” Isaiah waved his hand. “It’s not every day that we get to see you.”
“Yeah, I guess you’re right.” Benjamin chuckled as he scooped up April. “How ya doin, princess?”
Setting her down, Benjamin nodded to the buses. “C’mon, let’s start walkin’. The media’s gonna catch up sooner than later.”

As they walked down the corridor, sixteen-year-old Julie Henderson, Nancy’s twin, kept pace with Benjamin, though she had to trot to match his ‘slow’ pace. “So…Benjamin. I have a question.”
“Yeah?” Benjamin smiled down at her. “You’ve grown a lot.”
“Thanks,” Julie literally glowed. “Well, here’s the question.”
“Fire away.”
“Can you please come over to our house for dinner tonight?” Julie asked, hopeful. “Please?”
“Yeah, Benjamin, please?”
“C’mon, you know you want to.” Isaiah’s brother, Tommy, winked at Benjamin. “We never get to see you.”
Benjamin rolled his eyes. “Kids, really. You don’t need to make it all mushy.” He ruffled Tommy’s brown hair. “I’ll come. There’s no way I could resist.”
“Yay!” Julie said as she fist-pumped her cousin’s fist.
“Yippee!” Tommy jumped up and down.

“Gosh, this smells good!” Benjamin commented as he sat down at the dinner table a while later. “’Bout. . . uh . . . thirty times better than what it smelled like in our room last night!”
Nancy leaned forward. “Oh….Benjamin, whatcha try to do?” She always liked teasing him because it always got him going on a good story.
Benjamin tossed off his sport coat, revealing a very un-dressed-up shirt. He caught the girls’ looks, and, after looking down at his shirt, chuckled. “That’s a whole different story.”
“Tell us the one about the bad smell!” April shouted. “Please?”
Woo hoo. We got ‘im! Nancy smiled over at her sister, Katie. Perfect.
“Well,” Benjamin’s face was a full mask of sheepishness. “Last night a few of us guys thought we could cook a pizza in the microwave…at the same temperature and time that you cook a normal pizza in the oven.”
“Oh, Benjamin!” Katie shrieked. “Don’t you have a brain?!”
He has one, but it disappears when he walks into a kitchen, Nancy thought wryly. His poor wife!
“I don’t know if I do,” Benjamin said as he shrugged. “Anyway, we put the pizza in there, and went swimmin’ for a little while. When we came back up…” he shook his head as he tried to maintain his laughter. “It wasn’t good.”
Jessica and Emily, Isaiah and Tommy’s mom, set the three pans of lasagna on the table.
“Okay!” John clapped his hands. “Let’s pray. And Annie,” he glared at his fourteen-year-old daughter. “Try not to interrupt this time. I really want to eat.”
“Yes, Daddy,” Annie giggled. “I wanna eat too.”
“It’s ‘want to’, not ‘wanna’,” April corrected sternly. “Use your grammar.”
“Yeah, right,” Annie made a face at her younger sister. “Be quiet.”
“Dear Jesus,” John purposefully started the prayer louder than normal to stop his daughters’ argument, “thank You for this wonderful food that the ladies prepared, and thank You for this time with Benjamin. In Your name, Amen.”
“Amen!” Nancy snuck a quick glance at Annie and April, who were still scowling at each other. I wish April would jus’ drop the whole correct English thing. No one uses it anymore, anyways. Annie will over-do it sometimes, though. She glanced at Isaiah, who was fidgeting in his seat. P.S…God, please, let this question work!

As everyone ate, Isaiah Henderson felt more nervous than he was before the Football State Championship. Oh, God, I can’t do this! He knew he had to wait for the perfect moment; make sure the adults hadn’t just stopped talking about some war, politics, or something boring like that. Those subjects always put people into deep depression. He glanced at the oldest of the cousins, Katie. She had volunteered to ask the question, but, like usual, he exercised his dumbness and made sure he got the job of question asking. Great work, Isaiah. Gee. You know how to get yourself into a mess! He gave his floppy hair a good shake. There. Now I punished you. And now you’re gonna have to pay up even more. With asking Benjamin the literally stupidest question on earth!
“Isaiah,” Katie hissed as she glared at him with her brown eyes narrowed. “Now.”
“Why now?” Isaiah tossed his head. “I don’t wanna do it.”
“Do it. Ask him,” she prodded.
Fine. I’ll ask him. Isaiah took a deep breath. “B-B-Benjamin?”
Benjamin looked over at him, and Isaiah’s heart beat faster. “Yeah?”
“C-c-can…” Isaiah stuttered, and paused long enough to recover. “Can we play football for the Patriots?”

message 2: by [deleted user] (new)

That's so cool, Brianna!! Write more!! :D

message 3: by [deleted user] (new)

Here's some more:

All the adults dropped their forks.
Maybe this wasn’t such a good idea.
“Ah, what do you mean?” Benjamin stuttered, his brow furrowing in confusion.
“Well, we want to know if we could play football for the Patriots,” Nancy gave Isaiah a kick, signaling she was going to explain things.
Thanks. I just asked that same thing.
“But you’re just kids,” Benjamin argued. “C’mon.”
“Yeah, and kids can play football,” Julie snapped as she tossed her hair back over her shoulders, “us especially.”
John Henderson, who Isaiah could tell was not greatly surprised by the question, since he knew the kids had wanted to do this for years, sighed and stated, “Kids, we’ll talk about this when you’re in bed.”
“Why not now?” Tommy shrieked as he jumped up, his chair scraping loudly against the tile floor. “Please, Uncle John! We really want to play football and you’ll just say no!”
Probably so. Nicely put, Tommy, but did you really have to explode? Now there’s no way it’s gonna happen! Isaiah moaned inwardly. Please, God, let it happen!
Benjamin raised his eyebrows at John. “Uh, John, let’s talk about this later. It would probably be better that way.”
John groaned. “Yes, good idea, Benjamin. Very good idea, actually. Kids, this will be discussed later when you are in bed, understood?”
Good. At least he didn’t come out and ‘no right away. “Okay.”
“Yes, Daddy.”
“Okay, Uncle John.”

Later, when the kids were finally in bed, the adults discussed the question.
“They’re just kids,” Benjamin argued.
“I don’t know, maybe we could let them…” John said.
“They’ve wanted to do this for years,” Jessica reminded her husband. “Could we let them play?”
Nobody knew what to do. They made phone calls to everybody who they thought would know what to do in their dilemma—including New England Patriots head coach, William Keller.
At about two a.m., after talking and calling, the decision was made; the kids would go play football for the Patriots for one season.

After the adults had roused the children from their beds, Isaac, Tommy and Isaiah’s dad took a deep breath. “Kids, we decided that you will be allowed to play football with Benjamin and the Patriots for one year—”
“What?” Annie flung herself into her parents’ arms. “Daddy, Mommy, we really can play?”
“Really?” The cousins went flying into their parents’ arms.
“Yes,” Emily Henderson said with a smile. “It’s true.”
Katie brushed back tears. “Mommy, Daddy, thank you so much!”
“Yeah, Dad.” Isaiah hugged his father again. “Thank you, thank you, thank you!”
After everyone calmed down, Jessica Henderson, John’s wife spoke. “You may go under one condition: you continue school, and remember, this is just to try out. If it doesn’t work, you are all coming right back home.”
“But if it does work out,” John added, “you will all be able to play for one season.”
“It is dangerous, though. You could get hurt, remember,” Emily, Isaiah and Tommy's mom, warned, still a little worried despite Benjamin's reassurance.
“Oh, we know,” Isaiah answered quickly. “When are we going to go?”
“We’ll leave at ten thirty this morning and meet everyone else at the hotel where the rest of the team is staying,” Benjamin answered, glancing at his watch.
Julie stood. “We’d better get packed. That’s only two hours away.” She didn’t like waiting until the last minute to do anything.
“Yikes!” Nancy hopped up and followed her sisters up the stairs.
Benjamin leaned back in his chair, chuckling. “They seem excited.”
“Ha!” John laughed. “Yeah, I really thought that Kate was going to have a heart attack or something.”

By ten, everyone was ready to go and said their goodbyes.
“Remember, be good and please listen to Benjamin,” Jessica pleaded, still not sure about the idea.
“We promise,” the kids assured hurriedly, not wanting to get their mom and aunt upset just after she sacrificed something great—her children’s safety.
Half an hour later, Benjamin clapped his hands and shouted, “Alright! We better get going. We don’t want to miss the bus!”
The cousins, Katie, Nancy, Julie, Isaiah, Tommy, Annie, Kevin, and April, piled into the suburban Benjamin had rented.
After they were on the road for a bit, Katie asked, “When will we arrive in Boston?” She could hardly wait to play for the Patriots. Sometimes she’d secretly wished she was "programmed" more like a girl. But she liked to hang out and play with the boys instead of girls. For the first time in her life, she didn’t mind being a bit of a tomboy. She’d show the Patriots that girls can be tough too.
“Depending on if we stop and stay the night, we’ll be there by tomorrow morning,” Benjamin replied, glancing at his phone. “I still can’t figure out where the heck I am on these Google Maps. I’m not used to being anywhere that I need a map.”
Katie could feel his frustration.
Nancy, sitting in the passenger seat, reached over and grabbed the phone. “We all somewhat know where we’re goin’, and if we do need directions, I’ll be the co-pilot.”
Benjamin flashed Nancy a thankful smile. “Thanks, Nancy. That way we won’t have a car accident, right?”
“Yeah, that wouldn’t be good!” Annie sang in a high-pitched voice from the back of the Suburban. “I don’t want to die on my way to play for an NFL team.”
Benjamin glanced back at her. “Yeah, Annie. I wouldn’t like that either!”
An hour later, Benjamin turned to Nancy. “Okay. Activate your sensors. The hotel’s around here somewhere.”
Nancy took one look, and raised her eyebrows at Isaiah. “A little bit of help here?”
Isaiah pointed. “Turn left, then you’ll take another left at the next intersection, then the next one, right, and we’ll be there.”
“Holy smokes, Isaiah,” Benjamin muttered, “You’re pretty good.”
“We’ll see,” Katie grumbled. “He’s gotten even Daddy lost before.”

There's a little bit more of the chapter; I'll put it on another post-dont want to get it too long!

message 4: by [deleted user] (new)

Benjamin took the directions, and a few minutes later, they pulled up into a parking lot that didn’t look like it could be a place the New England Patriots would stay.
“Uh, maybe you’re right,” Benjamin sputtered, glancing about at their surroundings. “As much as I forget things, I do not remember staying here!”
Isaiah turned red. “Uh, maybe we were supposed to turn right at that first intersection, or maybe left at that second one...”
“Gosh, thanks, Isaiah!” Nancy snapped. “I knew I should never have asked you!”
“Too bad.” Isaiah shot back. “You asked me, so I told you where I thought we were supposed to go.”
Benjamin held up his hand. “No need to argue, we’ll be jus’ fine, don’t worry. Nancy, give the phone to Katie, and you get out the map. It’s in the console.”
“Alright,” Nancy handed the phone to Katie and got out the map.
“So…” Katie scanned the phone. “The hotel is on the other side of the city. Benjamin, go back to where you asked Isaiah for directions, and then I think I can figure out where we are, okay?”
Benjamin nodded, and soon they were back where they started.
“Alright, now take a right,” Katie instructed. “Then take a left, yeah.”
Several minutes later, Benjamin pulled up into another parking lot, and this time, there were Patriot buses warming up.
“Thanks, Katie.” Benjamin pulled into an open parking space. “And we still aren’t late.”
Katie shot a smug look at Isaiah as she climbed out of the van. “So, Isaiah, I can tell that you had some problems with directions, didn’t you?”
Isaiah yanked Katie’s hair, but Katie just stepped out of the car, completely ignoring him.
Randy Bilsen, one of the Patriots’ numerous wide receivers, came running out howling, “Benjamin! Benjamin! Hurry up! Coach wants to leave now!”
Benjamin gave Randy a confused look. “What? Are you crazy?! It’s only eleven-thirty, and we were going to leave at one.”
“Well,” Randy Bilsen began, “We were going—”
“Good. You’re back, Benjamin. We’ve got to go.” Coach Keller walked out of the hotel, carrying a bag of equipment. Suddenly, he stopped. “Well, well, are these our new players? Look like some good ones.” He turned to the kids. “Hello, I’m the head coach, William Keller. Call me coach, or whatever. I don’t care.”
“He does care,” Randy Bilsen whispered to Katie and her siblings and cousins. “He cares a lot.”
“Why are we leaving early?” Benjamin questioned, looking a little worried. “Is something wrong?”
"Nah, don't worry," Coach Keller reassured. "I just want to be back sooner than planned.”
"Coach, why?" Benjamin asked.
Coach Keller sighed loudly. "Benjamin Connor! Do you always need to know exactly why?"
"Uh, huh. Just tell me and I'll be satisfied." Benjamin grinned as he tried to test his coach's patience. “Please?”
“I want to get back earlier, you . . . you dummy!” Coach Keller bellowed, giving Benjamin a hard whack on the head with his clipboard. "Benjamin, if you ask me that kind of a question again, I'm going to take your head off!"
"Alright, alright," Benjamin held up his hands. "Sorry!"
Isaiah looked at the coach, and shivered a bit. He does look a little strict, he thought. Instead of worrying, he decided he’d make a good impression and declared, “We are quite good, even though we look small.”
Tommy, always wanting to disagree with his brother, argued, “We are not small, big brother. But we are good,” he added, seeing Isaiah’s eyes narrow at the disagreement.
Katie didn’t care who was big and who was small. All she could think about was that they were going to ride on the New England Patriots’ bus. What a dream come true for all of them.

message 5: by [deleted user] (new)

Ooh I totally missed a whole bunch of the writings threads. :) I will read these tomorrow.

message 6: by Grace (new)

Grace  (sweetiepie1000) | 1185 comments Great story! How long did it take you type this?

message 7: by [deleted user] (new)

Thanks:) this is the book/story I'm gonna publish-it took me about 6 months to write the entire book:)

message 8: by Carolyn, The God of Angel Armies (new)

Carolyn (caroheartsbooks) | 9968 comments Mod
oooh. so. i think u should explain the relationship between benjamin and the hendersons better like how they arent strangers. explain why the kids want to play football some more convincing reasons. but NICE START

message 9: by [deleted user] (new)

There's gonna be a prequel for that:)

message 10: by Carolyn, The God of Angel Armies (new)

Carolyn (caroheartsbooks) | 9968 comments Mod
ok got it!!

message 11: by Carolyn, The God of Angel Armies (new)

Carolyn (caroheartsbooks) | 9968 comments Mod
still a bit of a hint wouldnt hurt in case ppl dont read the prequel :)

message 12: by [deleted user] (new)

I think it does say in there: his longtime friends. That should give them an idea...I'm thinking of maybe writing a different prologue with the beginning of the cousins' ideas.

message 13: by Grace (new)

Grace  (sweetiepie1000) | 1185 comments Could you write more?

message 14: by [deleted user] (new)

I'll put some up as soon as I get wifi for my computer!

message 15: by Carolyn, The God of Angel Armies (new)

Carolyn (caroheartsbooks) | 9968 comments Mod
okay sure!

message 16: by [deleted user] (new)

Dumb me. I had Internet yesterday and I totally forgot to do it!!!! Er....

message 17: by Grace (new)

Grace  (sweetiepie1000) | 1185 comments Thats ok. :)

message 18: by Carolyn, The God of Angel Armies (new)

Carolyn (caroheartsbooks) | 9968 comments Mod
haha its fine!

message 19: by Grace (new)

Grace  (sweetiepie1000) | 1185 comments Where is Katie?

message 20: by Rachel (new)

Rachel She's taking a long fast.

message 21: by Grace (new)

Grace  (sweetiepie1000) | 1185 comments Why does it say deleted user

message 22: by Leon (new)

Leon | 2091 comments she's gone

message 23: by Grace (new)

Grace  (sweetiepie1000) | 1185 comments oh my

message 24: by Leon (new)

Leon | 2091 comments like she quit goodreads

message 25: by Rachel (new)

Rachel Grace wrote: "Why does it say deleted user"

she deactivated her account for at least a few months so she would not neglect her family and other things as much...she said she would likely return in September

message 26: by Grace (new)

Grace  (sweetiepie1000) | 1185 comments How can I deactivate my account.

message 27: by Rachel (new)

Rachel I think those options are in edit profile. You can, I believe, deactivate an account if you plan to reactivate it later on and still have all your books saved or delete the account and lose everything as far as I know.

message 28: by Brianna (new)

Brianna (briannagpeterson) | 129 comments This is Brianna again:) I wrote this to correspond with my swimming. I hope you like it!
Psalm 23
The Lord is my coach; I shall not worry about the next set or race. He will deliver me.
He makes me swim in calm water.
He leads me through the races; he restores my exhausted muscles.
He guides me through all the kick-butt practices and helps me bring glory to His name.
Even though I swim through the wave of competition, I will fear no swimmer for He is with me; His rod and His staff bring me through pain and fatigue.
He prepares me a podium in the presence of my rivals.
He anoints my head with might; my determination and power overflows and pours into my teammates.
Surely, strength and precision will lead me through all the practices and meets and I will dwell in the pool of the Lord forever!

message 29: by Brianna (new)

Brianna (briannagpeterson) | 129 comments Describing my meet at the U of MN last winter.
When I jumped into the water for event 53, heat 3, lane 2, I didn't have a champ time. When I hit the wall 1 minute, six seconds and 65-hundreths later, I had one. The 100 Back was added into my “good at” list.
When I jumped into the water the next day for my 200 back in lane 5, heat 2, I had one champ time. Two minutes, 24 seconds, and 43-hundreths later, I had two.
When I dove into the pool for my 400 IM, my last event of the year, I had two champ times. Five minutes, eighteen seconds later, I had three and I finished out the season in glory, not in tears.

Before the 100 back, I knew all I had to do was nail my turns, kick like heck, and turn my arms over. I knew very well that I could easily get the time. All I needed was 1:06.99. I had a perfect start, and this time my nose plug didn’t fall off. My turns felt excellent-I didn’t have any problems with counting this time. The last 25 my legs hurt bad, but I decided to kick anyway. It paid off. When I popped up and looked at the clock, I started to smile. I couldn't help it. 1:06.65. A champ time! The girl in lane one told me good job, and I returned the compliment. As I walked toward my coach, my entire body shook with excitement. It had been one year since I had hit the wall fast enough, and the feeling was so relieving. I finally had a champ time! Paula went ecstatic when she found out….we both did!

The 200 back wasn't much different, but this time, I had no idea that I was going to get the champ time. Normal. Before the race, the girl in lane 4 wished me good luck. I took it out pretty fast-my first 100 split was a 1:08.60. My second 100 was 1:15. For someone that has a habit of literally dying, it was pretty good! The first 50 hurt, but I ignored it. The second one...I started to feel it. For the first time, I actually remember thinking during a race. "Good turns; it's almost over!" I kept up a prayer/conversation in my head during the entire race. I slammed my arm into the wall (like usual). I almost immediately looked at the clock and I let out a small squeal. 2:24.43. I wasn't sure if it was a champ time, but I knew it was close! I hi-fived the girl in lane 4, and climbed out the water, and ran over to Paula and Steve. Paula told me, “Great job! That was an awesome swim!” I ran over to my bag and checked the time standards and I shrieked with excitement when I saw the time. I had gotten it by .3! Paula was super excited and we high-fived.

I didn't want to swim the 400 IM. Too much pain and discomfort. I whined and crabbed to Paula the entire day about not wanting to do it, but, of course, she made me swim it. Truthfully, I'm glad I did!
During cool down after the 100 breast, I began to think about the race. Since my backstroke had been really good, I devised my plan: I wouldn't try to sprint the fly. Take it out easy, but still at a good pace. Dead sprint the backstroke. Use up my breaststroke energy for breast, but don’t use any of the stored energy. For free, take advantage of the little more energy left in the tank from fly and the bit from breast. I've had a habit of totally dying on the free, so I decided I'd take my chances with the "swim plan".
I said my prayer: “Jesus, if you want to steal my show, I’ll sit back and watch your roll; if you’ve got something to show, go ahead and take it away!” I got up on the blocks, tightened my goggles, and went off with the other girls. I relaxed on the fly, breathing a bit more than I maybe should, but I made sure I kept my head down on the last 25 as much as possible. I switched to backstroke, and, instead of totally relaxing on the first 50, I moved my arms and, to be honest, I actually swam.(I didn’t know it at the time, but I was going faster each 50 of each stroke.) The breaststroke felt good, especially when I made it through without missing a two-hand-touch-turn. I felt like I was going to die by the end of the breast, but I forced myself to kick on the free. I breathed a lot, but I wasn't going slow down. The last 25, I could tell I was far ahead-I could see one girl, and she was just turning to the free- and I hit the "extra gas button". I slammed my hand on the touchpad, knowing that it didn't feel good to miss champ times by .0 something. Exhausted, I didn't turn around to look at the clock right away, but my curiosity got the best of me and I turned around. My jaw dropped. 5:18. I had gotten the champ time by 2 seconds. I put my hand over my mouth that time and cried out-I was stunned.

This season was filled with ups and downs. There were races that I bawled after, and there were races that I got out of the pool with a huge smile on my face. There were times that I wanted to throw my cap and goggles across the pool deck and scream and curse in frustration and anger, and there were times that I wanted to scream in excitement.
I don't have many pictures of this year, but in my head, I will have four pictures. The 100 back champ time-my smile. The 200 back-my open mouth in a squeal. The 400 IM-my stunned, tired, but happy face. And last, the hug Paula gave me afterwards. That one sums up the season. Amazing. Fun. WONDERFUL.

message 30: by Brianna (new)

Brianna (briannagpeterson) | 129 comments Chapter 2!
After several delays, the New England Patriots finally were on their way back to New England. On one of the three busses, a few of the players introduced themselves to the cousins.
“Howdy, ladies, I am Joe.” Joe Buccerland, a rookie wide receiver, introduced himself while giving a sweeping bow. “Nice to meet you, gals. Boy, you are bea-u-ti-ful!”
Katie gasped as she realized that Joe had just made puppy eyes at her, and she glanced uneasily toward Isaiah, who crossed his arms and smirked.
Brat. He’s probably still mad at me for that “episode” this morning, she thought. Sometimes I wish he would just grow up.
A middle-aged man stepped out of the bathroom and walked over to the group. Katie quickly recognized him as Benjamin’s backup.
“Hello, I’m James Lennet.” James confirmed her suspicions as he shook Katie and the rest of the kids’ hands. “Nice to meet you.”
“You too,” Katie said as she smiled at him. “I’m glad we get to play.”
“I am too.” James noticed Joe watching Katie. Leaning in closer, he whispered to her and her sisters. “And by the way, watch out for him. I would call him an explosive gin.”

A few minutes later, Coach Keller yanked Benjamin into the tiny bathroom with him.
“What the heck are we doing in here?” Benjamin leaned against the door. “It stinks.”
“Well,” Coach Keller crossed his arms. “We are here to discuss our wonderful third-string backup quarterback.” He scoffed. “I repeat. Wonderful.”
“Use your brain! What other quarterback would I be speaking of?”
“Okay,” Benjamin stifled a giggle. “Fire away.”
Yeah, I will be firing away and making you pay for that giggle, Benjamin Connor. Coach Keller took a deep breath. “I nearly killed him last night.”
“I realize that. I thought that—“
“Will you jus’ shut up?” Coach Keller lost it.
“Yes, sir.”
“Benjamin, listen here. Unless you and James can turn Peter around, I am cutting that kid!" Coach Keller shrieked, his voice spiking. He tried his hardest not to curse, or at least explode. So much for the exploding part. “I mean it!”
“We’re trying, honest. He’s really good, but, like Joe, it’s his attitude!” Benjamin exclaimed, standing up straighter. “That nut can’t do anything but tick me off.”
“That’s the problem, Benjamin. That little rascal refuses, and I repeat, refuses to do what anybody says.”
“Well,” Benjamin threw up his hands. “What in the world am I supposed to do about it? Lock him in my bathroom and leave him in there for the rest of his life? Huh?”
“Just shut up about it.”
“No, how ‘bout you shut up about it?” Forgetting that he had opened the door a few seconds earlier, Benjamin leaned back and fell to the floor.
“Hey, Benny,” Coach Keller nudged the downed quarterback with his foot, a mock sympathetic look on his weathered face. “Maybe next time you should think before you lean.”
Benjamin scowled as he sat up. “Stop callin’ me ‘Benny’!”
“Okay, Benny.” Coach Keller turned away.
Coach stepped over Benjamin’s legs and walked down the aisle to his seat, leaving the quarterback to think about what he’d said.

Four hours later, the two buses pulled up at a rest stop in Pittsburg, Pennsylvania.
Everyone clambered out, all eager to get to the bathrooms first. The bus the cousins rode had a bathroom; the other was broken.
“Twenty minutes and then everyone back on the bus, or you’ll be left behind,” the drivers warned, strutting slowly to the bathrooms, their watches beginning the trek down to zero.
“These drivers are strict,” Benjamin told the cousins. “If a player is missing from the busses when time is up, it’s too bad. They will be left behind. All the veterans have been left behind more than once in their years with the team, and that includes me too.”
In twenty minutes, everyone had returned to the bus—everyone, that is, except for the drivers. The passengers stood around outside, stretching their tired limbs.
Timothy Brooks, a running back, sighed. “Well, I guess I’m not the only one who’s always late.”
“How ‘bout we leave without them? That’d be a good trick.” Randy Bilsen offered, his face puckering up in laughter.
Isaiah giggled. “Yeah! That would be kinda funny. I’m sure they’d be happy to hear that their buses were stolen by their occupants.”
Suddenly, the door of the rest stop bathrooms opened and two drivers came strutting out.
“Where in the world is everybody?” one of the drivers asked as they sauntered down the sidewalk. “They were here a minute ago.”
“Well, what time is it? It should be close to twenty minutes.”
“I’ll look.” He glanced at his wristwatch. “Oh! Holy Guacamole! It’s been twenty-five minutes! We’re late!”
Isaiah burst into laughter as the drivers shoved the players into the busses and took off in a huff.
A few hours later, they stopped one more time, and just after the kids had gotten situated after their bathroom break, two men walked onto the bus, laughing and obviously teasing Benjamin, who didn’t look too pleased. Finally, he turned around and bellowed, “Good heavens! Zip it!”
“Ooooo,” The taller man walked over to where the cousins were sitting. With his bright, flashy blond hair, he clearly was someone they all recognized. “Hey, Benny, are these the kids?”
Benjamin glared at his teammate. “Yes, these are the cousins.” He narrowed his ocean-blue eyes. “And stop calling me ‘Benny’. I hate that name,” he said through clenched teeth.
“No problemo.” With a dramatic sweep of his hand, the man did a formal bow. “Hello, peoples. My wonderful, awesome, beautiful, and overall perfect name is—”
“You’re Wayne Woski, right?” Kevin said, standing up. “’cause if you are, I’m your biggest fan.”
Wayne laughed and straigtened his bright purple sport coat. “Yep! Famous tight-end of America.”
“And I…,” the shorter man said as he stepped forward. He had a strong Irish accent and his curly bright red hair was strewn across his forehead, “am Jake Western. I catch all the balls that are un-catchable.”
Benjamin rolled his eyes. “Jake. Stop it. All my balls are catchable.”
“Nope. Not when you’re tired.”
“Stop it!” Coach Keller stepped in between the two. “Jakey, I think Benny Boy’s balls are pretty good, no matter what. Hate to say it, but he probably has more endurance than you do.” Benjamin smirked, but Coach Keller wasn’t done. Turning to the quarterback, he gave him a mean look. “And Benjamin, Jakey does have a point.”
“He’s saved you too many times to count.”
“Oh, that.” Benjamin dropped down in his seat. “I guess you can say that, but I think you’re forgettin’ somethin’.”
“What could I be forgetting?” Coach Keller seemed out of patience.
Benjamin grinned. “I’m the one who throws the balls. Jake can’t catch the balls unless I throw them.”

message 31: by Brianna (new)

Brianna (briannagpeterson) | 129 comments For the next few hours, the kids occupied themselves with learning the names of their new teammates, which was quite interesting because they all had a different perspective on Benjamin and Coach Keller.
“I’m starting to get a headache,” Julie whispered to her sister, Katie, as they roared through state after state. “One guy said they were really nice, another one said ‘don’t mess with them’. Ahh!”
Katie laughed. “Yeah, that’s what I heard too. I asked Coach Keller about Benjamin and he said that he’ll be critical with all of us, but probably won’t ever raise his voice with us girls.”
“Hope so,” Julie’s twin, Nancy, stuck her head over the back of the seat. “From what I’ve heard, Benjamin can give people an earful sometimes.”
“Correct,” a voice interrupted their conversation, and the girls looked up to see Joe Buccerland. “That guy can ‘bout kill ya.”
Julie rolled her eyes, and the girls giggled, though it made Joe frustrated.
“Whatcha laughin’ ‘bout?” Joe slammed his hands on his hips. “Ya can tell me. I’m very good at keepin’ secrets.”
Katie smiled and shook her head. “Joe, sometimes girls have secrets. I’m sure you can keep them, but we girls like to keep them to ourselves, okay?”
Yay! Nice job, sis, Julie thought to herself as she watched Joe’s face turned from flirty to ticked-off. He probably always gets his way.
“Sure, whatever you want…” Joe paused. “I’ll do whatever you want, my darlings.”
“Joe!” a voice cut through the air. “Stop goofing off with the girls!”
“Yeah,” Another voice howled, “That’s not how you get a girl, for heaven’s sakes.”
Joe groaned but obeyed Benjamin and Jake Western. Just before he left, he whispered to Julie, Katie, and Nancy, “That Benjamin sure demands a lot out of ya. Ugh.”
This time the three laughed aloud, and they immediately heard Benjamin’s snappy response. “I heard that!”

“Here we are.” Jake Western gave Benjamin a shake as the busses pulled into the parking lot several hours later at one in the morning. “Wake up!”
“What?” Benjamin opened his eyes and squinted at Jake. “Huh?”
Jake glared at Benjamin who closed his eyes again. He always says that I sleep too much. Ha! He reached for his water bottle, filled to the brim with ice water. This’ll teach ‘im a lesson. He poured the water on the quarterback’s face.
“Jaaaaake!” Benjamin whacked the receiver on the head with his fist. “Stop that!”
“Oops! Sorry!” Laughing, Jake dashed down the aisle. If Little Benny catches me, I’m dead meat!

April heard loud shrieks and then several loud, “Serves you right!” coming from one side of the bus. We must be here. I wonder who is yelling so loud? She opened her eyes and squinted in the bright lights. Benjamin, and…oh . . . Jake.
“Hey, April.” Nancy nudged her. She then turned to Isaiah, who was slumped by the window, snoring. “Wake up, sleepy head. We’re here.”
“I don’t wanna go to the fair,” Isaiah whined, his eyes tightly closed. “Don’t make me go!”
April giggled as she realized her cousin was dreaming. “Isaiah, you’re talking about really retarded things, by the way.”
Katie appeared, dark circles under her eyes. “Guys, does my hair look like…”
“No,” Kevin piped up, “it just looks like ya haven’t combed it for a few days.”
“Thanks for the lovely compliment.”
Annie smiled. Kevin usually was quite shy when anybody other than his siblings or cousins was around, but this time he teased Katie around almost strangers. Maybe he won’t be a loner when he grows up.
“Hey, kids, come and get your stuff,” Benjamin called from the stairs. “I kinda want to get home.”
“Okay,” the kids wearily climbed out of the bus and walked over to where the rest of the team were hauling their suitcases to their cars.

“Nice, huh?” Benjamin raised his eyebrows at Nancy as they loaded the suitcases up into his Suburban.
Nancy brushed back some of her curly blonde hair that had fallen into her face. “It’s beautiful,” she murmured, looking up into the bright lights that shone on the player’s parking lot. “At least as much as I can see.” She smiled. It was going to be very fun playing for the Patriots. She had dreamed of this since she was a little girl. Now, her dream was going to come true.
At one thirty in the morning, after talking to Coach Keller for several minutes, the tuckered-out kids clambered into Benjamin’s blue Suburban.
“I get the front seat,” Katie said as she opened the passenger door. “No arguments, Isaiah Henderson.”
For the first time in a while, Isaiah didn’t argue as he slid into one of the back seats.
A few minutes later, the driver’s door opened and Benjamin climbed in. Turning toward the back, he flashed the kids a tired smile. “Everybody here?”
“I think so,” Katie said and then yawned.
“Good, ‘cause we’re goin’ home.” Benjamin pulled out of the parking lot. “And by the way, someone start talking or I’m gonna be falling asleep.”
Fifteen minutes later, they arrived at Benjamin’s home. It was a large place since it had to house a family of ten, and occasionally another ‘homeless’ football player. Wayne Woski had already filled the cousins in with the ‘stats’ of the house. As he put it, “Nine bathrooms, which is wonderful, especially when we’re there, six bedrooms, one big kitchen, who knows why they put that thing in there? And then a great little attic that the girls turned into a beauty salon. Benjamin gets his hair done up there. Overall, it is huge. Oh, and then there’s a humongous rec room that’s missing half the fan and most of the lights too.”
“This place is huge!” Annie exclaimed as she gazed up at the tall roof, realizing that what Wayne said was true. “Benjamin, how in the world do you pay for this?”
“By getting my butt kicked,” Benjamin teased quietly as he unlocked the door.
As he swung the door open, several dogs inside barked like crazy.
“Quiet, quiet. It’s just me, not a robber! Shhh! Muddy, zip it,” Benjamin ordered softly, not wanting to wake up the whole household. His attempts were in vain, though, for a couple minutes later, Benjamin’s wife, Jane, came down the stairs, looking quite sleepy.
“Benjamin! You’re back!” she cried, running into his arms.
“Sorry ‘bout that. Didn’t mean to wake you,” Benjamin said, kissing her. Her mostly red, wavy hair spilled over her shoulders as she stood on her tiptoes, smiling up at Benjamin.
April cocked her head as she watched Jane. She sure is pretty, she thought, her eyes dreamy. Just as she looks like in all the pictures I’ve seen.
Benjamin turned to the cousins. “Honey, these are the cousins: Katie, Julie, Nancy…” he introduced her to each of them.
Jane smiled, her green eyes gleaming. “It’s nice to meet you all. I’m the mother of this family, as you can tell…” She flashed a motherly look. “So make yourself at home.” She looked over at Annie who was leaning against Isaiah. “Let’s get to bed, y’all, so ya don’t have a sleep attack tomorrow.” She motioned to the steps. “Follow me.”
The boys grabbed some of their bags and followed the girls downstairs.
Jane turned around at the bottom of the stairs. “I hope you don’t mind sleeping in the same room tonight. There was no way I could let you use the boys’ room,” she apologized. “It looks like a tornado went through it.”
Isaiah shrugged. “Right now, it would even feel nice to sleep with my little sister.”
Jane smiled at the young man, who looked a lot like Benjamin, except that he had brown hair, though in the damp light, it was red. “You have siblings besides Tommy?”
“Three sisters. All littler. Terrible brats.” Isaiah shrugged. “It’s a helpless situation.”
“Just get used to it, Isaiah, I had eight brothers.” Jane laughed and led the way through a long corridor to a bedroom at the end of the hall. “This is where you can sleep for tonight. Bathroom’s off to the right, and Benjamin and I are at the end of the hall, through the living room and to the right in case you need anything.”
Julie nodded, trying not to crash into anybody. “Yeah, I saw where Benjamin was heading, though I don’t think we’ll need anything besides sleep.”
Jane gave April a kiss on the forehead as the girl, not much older than her eldest son collapsed into bed. “Good night, April. I’ll see you in the morning. Sleep tight.”
“Goodnight, Jane,” April mumbled, her eyes closing.
Jane flipped off the light and crept upstairs as the cousins settled into their beds.
“’Night, everybody,” Julie called softly. “Except you, Isaiah.”
“Hmm…” Isaiah was already conked out.

Nancy giggled as she listened to Isaiah snoring. Usually she couldn’t stand being in the same room as him when he was sleeping . . . and snoring, but tonight . . . It actually sounds kinda nice right now. Kind of . . . um . . . peaceful. She closed her eyes and felt herself drifting off. The last thing she did was whisper in her head, God, thank you for this chance to fulfill my dream. She smiled as she thought about Benjamin, the man that didn’t laugh at their crazy idea. And God, thank you for Benjamin. That was her last thought, because a few seconds later, she was asleep.
In three short minutes, everyone was asleep. As Benjamin and Jane talked quietly upstairs, the cousins, Katie, Isaiah, Nancy, Julie, Tommy, Annie, Kevin, and April, spent their first night in Boston.

message 32: by Brianna (new)

Brianna (briannagpeterson) | 129 comments Chapter 3
The next morning, Annie felt a gentle nudge. Opening her eyes, she looked up into the face of a young boy.
“Who are you?” She asked quietly, squinting at him and the other boy standing behind him. The light that had been flipped on was bright. I think they’re Benjamin’s kids…they at least look like the kids we saw in pictures.
“We’re two of Benjamin Connor’s sons. I’m Joshua and this is Christopher,” the older boy responded, nodding at the younger boy. “I’m almost thirteen and he’s nine.”
“Nine and a half,” Christopher corrected. He stepped forward. “Daddy says you’re all supposed to get up.” He grinned at the rest of the cousins as they pushed themselves up, rubbing eyes and yawning. “Nice to meet you all.”
Annie scanned the boys over. Both had Benjamin’s light brown skin. Joshua stood at least five foot eight, and his blond hair and his cheery, light blue eyes gave him the mini-Benjamin look. Christopher was shorter, and his brown hair and green eyes matched Jane more.
They are kinda cute, she thought to herself as she tossed back the covers.
Isaiah flopped back down on his stomach and pulled the blankets over his head. “I’ll be up in an hour.”
Julie smacked him on the ribs. “Get up, you lazy bum!”
“But I’m tired!”
“Oh, you are so annoying,” Julie grumbled. She grabbed his feet and yanked him out of the bed. “There you go. Now get your butt into the bathroom and take a shower. You stink.”
“Thanks,” Isaiah snapped sarcastically.
They never get along, Annie moaned as she fiddled with her shoulder length, mostly blonde hair. It was greasy, like usual. Sometime when I have a bit of money I’m gonna shave it all off and get a wig. No more greasy hair. She laughed evilly to herself as she pulled it up into a ponytail. I love that idea.

After the cousins were dressed, they headed upstairs where the Connor’s were preparing for the day.
“Good morning, kids. Did you sleep well?” Jane called out brightly as she stirred a big pot of oatmeal, her reddish-brownish hair pulled into a loose ponytail. She wore what looked like Benjamin’s sweat pants and sweatshirt, the Patriots’ logo on both. “I know you didn’t get very much sleep.”
“I slept well,” April announced, yawning.
“You all can go to bed early tonight if you want.” Jane nudged a full-grown black Lab away from the garbage can. “No, Luigi.”
“Could we help you with anything?” Katie questioned, glancing around the kitchen. The kitchen was huge, with three ovens, three sinks, and an enormous amount of counter space. This is even bigger than ours!
“Thank you, but I don’t think so. It’s about time to eat.” Jane turned around. “Joshua, please call everyone to the table,” she instructed the boy. “Hurry now.”
“Okay!” Joshua saluted his mother, and stomped away howling, “Time to eat, time to eat! Time to eat! Get down here!”
“Joshua!” Benjamin appeared at the door, wearing a dirty sweatshirt and an old pair of sweatpants, hair in an erratic mess, and looking very sleepy. “No need to wake up the entire world!”
“But, Daddy, I didn’t!” Joshua defended. “I wasn’t that loud!”
“Well, you woke me up, so that counts.”
Suddenly, a loud commotion sounded from up above, and they heard shouts and feet running down the stairs. Then it stopped. Six children stood directly in front of the cousins, with the two boys standing off to the side.
“Kids, I would like you to meet the cousins.” Benjamin introduced them all to his children. “They’ll be staying with us for a little while.”
A little girl stepped out of the group. She had blue eyes and long, thick, blonde curls. She smiled sweetly. “I’m Britta. These are my oldest brothers, Joshua and Christopher. These are the triplets, David, James, and Anna. They are four. This is Laila; she’s five, and Joy's two. Just so you know, Josh and Christer are big brats.”
“Nice to meet you,” Katie, her energy known, smiled at the young children.
“Yep,” Isaiah nodded politely at the kids. “Very nice to meet you.” He leaned forward and whispered to the boys, “Be careful. The girls can get dreadful if you annoy them enough. It’s fun; just watch out for the fists.” The boys giggled, including Benjamin; Jane and the girls rolled their eyes in disgust.
Everyone crowded around the table as Jane carried the huge pot of oatmeal over to the table. David and James shrieked at the same time, “Thank you, Jesus, for this awesome food! Amen!”
“Alright, alright, He hears you,” Benjamin said, clapping his hands over his ears.
The Connor kids all clambered to their favorite spots and Benjamin soon looked annoyed.
“Kids, will you jus’ sit down in a stinkin’ spot for Heaven’s sakes?” he demanded, yawning. “C’mon.”
Joshua dropped down into his chair. “Alright, Daddy.”
“Thank you. That’s much better.”
After serving the oatmeal, Jane glanced across the table at her husband who had his head ducked, clearly hiding his phone...and something on his face. She saw what it was, and suppressed a laugh.
“Honey, what did you do to your face?”
“My face?” Benjamin looked sheepish. “The razor slipped.”
“Oh,” Jane giggled. “Oh.”
“What?” Benjamin glared at her. “It ain’t bad, its jus’ a little cut.”
Jane burst out laughing. “Well, compared to your hair, I guess it doesn’t look so bad.”
Benjamin touched his hair, and then turned red. “I know . . . it looks a little bit . . . uh, messed up.”
“Messed up? It looks a disaster,” Jane gasped between laughs. “Dearie, I’m just going to say this: I think you need to stick with a buzz cut.”
“Oh, zip it.”
“This is really good, Jane,” Nancy said as she cut up a banana to put in her bowl. “We haven’t had oatmeal forever.”
“We have it almost every day,” Benjamin muttered, still texting someone, but also stirring his oatmeal half-heartedly.
Jane groaned as she set down her spoon. “For heaven’s sakes, Benjamin Connor. Stop being such a grump.”
“I’m not being a grump!”
“Would you like to petition that, Daddy?” Britta’s statement caused all the Connor’s—besides Benjamin—to burst into laughter.
“Okay, okay, okay!” Benjamin threw up his hands. “Sorry. I didn’t sleep well last night.” He shot a glare at Jane. “You, ma’am, were talking in your sleep.”
“I was not.”
“Would you like to argue that?” Benjamin’s face broke into a wide teasing smile. “I suspect no.”
“Oh, Benjamin!” Jane hurled a potholder at her husband, who ducked under the tablecloth. “You are such a brat!”
Benjamin tentatively raised his head, a taunting smile on his tanned face. “And I’m proud to be one.”
After breakfast, at about eight thirty, Benjamin walked into the living room where the kids were sprawled out, watching an old New England Patriot Super Bowl.
“Time to head to training camp, Guys, we’ll leave in five minutes,” he called, clapping his hands to get attention. “Get ready to go!”
“Honestly, Daddy,” Joshua pushed himself up. “You’ve been with Coach Keller way, way, too long.”
“Why?” Benjamin tossed his eldest son a questioning look. “Silly, silly, silly. You’re bein’ pathetic.”
“It’s true.”
Julie watched the obviously common happy banter. They’re a very happy family, that’s for sure. She smiled to herself as she stood and walked to the downstairs bedroom to get her purse and shoes. This is gonna be the adventure of my life!

As they drove to the stadium and practice fields, Benjamin explained a few things to the ‘newbies’. “We are practicing without pads today, so you all can practice. However, since you don’t have pads yet, you’ll have limited practice time until you do. I’m sure they’ll measure you today or tomorrow for sizes and stuff like that.”
“Got it!” Nancy exclaimed, nearly jumping in her seat with anticipation. “Could you help us with learning the playbook, though?”
“Sure thing,” Benjamin replied, waving to someone roaring past them.
“Who’s that?” Annie glanced at the person and knew that she hadn’t met him on any of the buses. “Is that the center . . . um . . .?”
“Daniel Anderson,” Benjamin pulled into a gas station, right behind Daniel. “And yeah, he’s our center.”
Daniel hopped out and waved at them.
“Hey, Benjamin,” The center loped over to the quarterback. “How ya doin’?”
Benjamin fiddled with his shorts’ pocket, apparently trying to find his wallet. “Good. How ‘bout you?”
“Great!” Daniel leaned against the navy green, fifteen-passenger van. “Did you hear what Peter did?”
Benjamin shook his head. “No, and I don’t really want to find out.”
“He gained twenty pounds in one week, and I think Coach is gonna get close to killin’ ‘im.”
Benjamin rolled his eyes. “I agree with him. For land’s sakes, how on earth could he gain twenty pounds in one week? That’s pathetic.”
The kids heard the conversation from inside the van and they discovered a lot about this ‘duncy, idiotic, stupid, annoying quarterback’.
After a few minutes of talking, April watched as Benjamin gave Daniel a hard shove, causing him to stumble backward into his own car. They all heard the rest of it.
“Hey!” Daniel slammed his hands on his hips. “What was that for?”
“You know what it was for,” Benjamin hollered, climbing back into the van. “Ha, ha, Danny! See ya in a few minutes!”
“What was that for, Benjamin?” Katie questioned as Benjamin pulled out of the gas station. “You kind of . . . well . . . pushed him.”`
Benjamin chuckled. “I guess its jus’ that Danny and I’ve been together for eighteen years, and…well . . . we can do that to each other.”
“Does he do that to you, then?”
“Sure thing. I probably’ll get it sometime today, and he has a lot of other options.”
“What do you mean by a lot more options?” Isaiah was caught into the conversation.
“He could do whatever he wants, really,” Benjamin shook his head. “He’s done everything from locking me in the bathroom for three hours to jumpin’ on me and smashin’ my head on the concrete.”
“Yeah,” Benjamin admitted. “It hurt. I got him back, though.”
“What’d you do?” Kevin asked. “Please tell us.”
“I locked him in the bathroom, turned all the lights off and left him in there for an entire day, and then he got in trouble with Coach Keller who made him pay a hundred dollar fine for missing both training camp practices.”
“Oh, gosh.”
“Yeah, really, especially when Coach found out I locked him in there. He ‘bout killed me.”
“Yikes!” Nancy grimaced as she imagined Coach Keller’s reaction. Poor Benjamin.

message 33: by Brianna (new)

Brianna (briannagpeterson) | 129 comments At the stadium, Benjamin led them to the locker room. “This is just the practice/training camp locker-room, so that’s why we have so many lockers.” He pointed toward one row of them. “Go ahead and pick which locker you want that doesn’t have a name plate on it. Just on that side, though.”
I wonder why not the other side? Julie thought, her curiosity beginning to get the best of him.
Somehow, Benjamin read his brain.
“The other side is for the veterans; anybody who has been here for three or more years.”
“That makes sense.”
Julie glanced around the room. There were showers and bathrooms off to one side and long, steel benches around the whole room. The square room was covered almost all the way around with lockers. This locker room is so much more fashionable than the ones we have in Cincinnati for softball.

They changed clothes, the girls in the bathrooms and the boys in the locker room, and then headed out to the field as the team gathered.
A few minutes later, Coach Keller strutted over to where the team had assembled. He whistled loudly to get everyone’s attention, and then spoke. “Alright! We are going to work on plays today. I want everyone to be good—and I mean it.” He flashed a fatherly smile at the youngest players. “And team, I would like you to meet the Hendersons. They will be playing for us for the year. I want you all to be nice and help them all you can.”
Most of the team clapped and moved in to introduce themselves, though a few men held back, scowling and grumbling.

As they worked through each play in the playbook, one guy always explained it to the kids.
“You run eight yards, turn and cut across to that mark there,” Jake Western pointed to a hash mark. “Now do it...Awesomemo!”
“And then you’ll take an in-cut at that cone, turn around, and catch the ball.” A coach nodded as he watched Annie run to the ten-yard-line, spin around, and catch the football. “Yep!”
“Holy smokes! These kids are good!” Coach Keller nudged Coach Edward Jackson while pointing to Annie and April, who were catching balls thrown by Benjamin and James Lennet.
“Yeah, definitely,” Edward wrote something on his clipboard. “No doubt they’ll make the team. Lot better than Joe and Peter, agree?”
“Agreed.” Coach Keller blew his whistle and glared at Benjamin, who was now fooling around with Jake Western. “Benjamin! Come over here!”
“Wh-aaat?” Benjamin trotted over, still giggling. “Sorry, I GTG.” He took off, laughing as if he didn’t have a care in the world.
“Jus’ let ‘im have fun, Coach,” Edward glanced at Coach Keller, who rolled his eyes.
“Yeah, I know, but he is such a dunce sometimes.” Coach Keller sighed. “I guess I should be used to it by now.”
“Sorry to say it, but you should be.”
After running plays for more than an hour, the team split up into groups for individual work.
On one part of the field, James Lennet, the second string back up, and Benjamin were schooling Peter—trying to, at least.
“Okay,” James handed Peter the ball, “throw the ball and we’ll tell you how you need to improve.”
“I don’t need improvement. My throws are per—fect,” Peter shot back, stomping his foot. "And go away. I'll have my buddy Joe teach 'em to me."
Benjamin rolled his eyes at James, who sighed loudly in frustration.
“Listen, everyone needs improvement. I’ve played eighteen years and I could still use work,” Benjamin hissed through his teeth. Connor, don’t you dare open your mouth. You’re gonna get yourself in trouble.
“You especially,” James muttered, glaring at Peter. "Oh, and by the way, your buddy Joe doesn't know anything either."
“My buddy Joe knows everything.”
“No, he does not.”
“Yes, he does!”
“No, he doesn’t!”
Just then, Coach Keller walked over.
“Having fun, boys?” He asked with a mocking grin.
“Yeah. We have really been enjoying ourselves,” Benjamin grumbled. Really enjoying ourselves. He jogged toward the other side of the field. The kids are taking running and catching lessons from Jake and Randy . . . that isn’t gonna good. Jake can’t throw and either can Randy.

“Okay,” Jake howled over at Nancy, who stood near the sideline. “You run to Randy, then turn around, and I’ll throw the ball to you.”
“Are you sure I shouldn’t throw? I can throw a lot better and farther than you can,” Randy pleaded, his black face twisted in a doubtful frown.
“No,” Jake argued, slapping his hand on the ball. “I am quite good at throwing. Besides, I’ve been with the Patriots longer than you have. I get first pick.” He chucked the ball to Nancy, who had to bend down to scoop up the ball that crash-landed at her feet.
“Jakey, your throws look like dying ducks,” Benjamin teased, coming up behind him. “Don’t flick your hand like that.”
“Phew. Now I don’t have to be quarterback,” Jake said, handing the ball to Benjamin.
“Thank you.” Benjamin flashed a you-are-so-dumb look at Jake and began hurling bombs down the field to the receivers.
“Teased for that matter, jerk,” Randy Bilsen muttered, crossing his arms “You cheat on everything, Jake.”
“Then why, oh, why am I so- good?” Jake crossed his eyes. “You can argue with that, can you Randy?”
Joe walked over. “Can I catch, too?” he whined.
Benjamin sighed. Coach Keller had told him yesterday that he was going to cut Joe. It had become his job to tell the receivers and quarterbacks when they were cut. I should tell Joe, but I don’t really want to. He glanced at the twenty-one-year-old receiver. I’m not exactly good at comforting people. No doubt he’ll start bawling.

“Okay, Isaiah, so when Benjamin says ‘hut’, you run down the field,” Wayne Woski instructed Isaiah a few minutes later, “do an in-cut, turn around—”
“Uh, Wayne,” Isaiah shifted nervously. “Um, I can’t understand a word you’re sayin’.”
“Oh, right, you’re a rook.” Wayne slapped his head. “Duh! Okay,” he walked to the middle of the field. “I’ll walk ya through it, and you tell me it is getterable, oki doki?”
Isaiah nodded. “Yeah, okay, let it roll.”
Wayne pointed to Benjamin, who was dancing on the other side of the field with Jake Western again. “So, when that weirdo says “hut”, you run right next to the side line until you hit the thirty. Then, you make an in-cut and you end up here. Then, you turn around and catch the ball. Getterable?”
“Yeah, I think so,” Isaiah shrugged. “What’s this play called again?”
“Fifty-Fifty. Ugh.” Wayne reached down and picked up the playbook that lay on the ground. “Jake’s.”
“Why “ugh”?” Isaiah questioned, leaning forward. “And why’s Jake’s playbook on the ground?”
“Well, ‘cause Coach Keller loves Fifty-Fifty, and everyone else hates it. It’s the worst play in the world. Oh, and the reason why that thing-a-ma-jig is on the ground, is because Jake is very overly careless with his stuff.” Wayne tossed the book to the ground and nudged it with his foot. “Big time.”
Isaiah laughed. “I like you, Wayne. Do you like the play?”
“No way!”

On the other side of the field, Joe and Peter were talking.
“Yeah, those veterans are such idiots,” Joe said, his pale nose turned up in utter disgust. “They don’t know anything. We know the big stuff, right?”
Peter nodded as he did a fist bump with his “buddy”. “Right. They just bang us up ‘cause they want to be like us.”
“And when Benjamin and all those jerks leave, you’ll be the best quarterback and I,” Joe pointed to himself proudly, not having an inkling that Benjamin was listening, “will be the most excellent receiver in the world.”

Benjamin, having received the information he wanted, whipped around to see James Lennet standing there.
“James, those guys are such idiots,” he hissed. “I can’t believe that. If we turned them in, they’d get in so much trouble.”
James shook his head. “Yeah, they have so much potential in them, but they don’t work hard, refuse to listen, sloppy with everything, talk back, have terrible tempers, which make yours look like dust; and if you told them to change, they probably karate chop you under the belt.”
Benjamin rolled his eyes. “Yeah, I know. Heard that scream in the locker room yesterday? Peter actually did kick someone under the belt.”
“Who?” James leaned forward. “This sounds interesting.”
“What he do?”
“Told him that if he didn’t cut his hair, he’d tell Coach Keller to trade him to the Jets.”
“Ooo! That is bad!”
“A martyr,” Benjamin muttered teasingly. “I’m gonna go and take some snaps with Daniel, even though it looks like Coach Keller is preparing for suicide sprints.”
“Alright, team, time for suicide sprints.” Coach Keller blew his whistle. “Let’s go!” Groans were heard everywhere.
“Coach?” Jake Western hunched over. “Can I pwease skip sprints today? I fell down the stairs yesterday and my back really hurts. Pwease let me skip.”
“Pwease?” Jake begged the Coach in his usual baby-talk manner, curling his lip in a pitiful pout. “Let me skip, Coach. My back hurts dreadfully.”
Coach Keller glanced up from his sheet, an irritated scowl on his face. “No! Jake Western, for whining you can do five extra sprints.”
Benjamin approached the head coach somewhat timidly, hoping to catch him at his peak. “Uh, Coach, what heat am I goin’ in?”
“Yes!” Benjamin shrieked, pumping his fist. “Yippee!”
Coach Keller raised his eyebrows. “Heat two, then.”
“No!” Benjamin howled. “Let me go in heat one.”
“Why?” Coach Keller demanded. “What’s different in two? And why, oh, why do you want to go in one?”
“’Cause . . . uh, ‘cause…”
“’Cause then I can beat everyone,” Benjamin admitted, letting his hands fall at his sides. “I always come in last.”
“Then you can go in heat four.”
“What?” Benjamin threw up his hands. “Coach!”
“What? Don’t you want to go in heat four?” Coach Keller smirked. “You are going in heat four and that is final.”
Jake snickered. Benjamin glared.
“Benjamin’s mad, Benjamin’s mad!” Jake sang. “And I hope he gets a contraband…ahhh!” Benjamin dumped the entire bucket of ice on Jake’s head.

At noon, Coach Keller let everyone out of practice.
After most of the guys had left and while the girls were changing, Coach Keller approached Benjamin, who was looking at the playbook.
“Benjamin, I’m going to cut Peter. His complaining, talking-back issues, and temper are just driving me nutso.”
Benjamin looked shocked. “You’re really going to cut Peter? Please don’t. He’s good. I have a temper too, remember."
Coach Keller sighed. “Benjamin, I don’t want to either, but he’s a quarterback, and you can’t have those kinds of issues when you’re the leader of your team. And Benjamin, you only have the temper, which, remember, you can somewhat control. He has all the other…" He paused a moment. "Junk."
“Will you please just give me one season to work with him? I’m going to retire soon, so James will become quarterback, and I want him to have on good backup to have on hand.” Benjamin said. “Whenever Peter’s on his good side, he isn’t bad, and then I can see somethin’ in him that might be a light. I believe that James and I could turn him around and make him a great quarterback, if you just give us some time. I can’t train him in a blink-of-an-eye.”
The head coach looked at his six foot five, broad-shouldered quarterback. He had trained and coached him for eighteen years, and the quarterback never went back on his word. Ever. It was true too when Benjamin retired, he wanted James to have a good backup. I guess I’ll let Benny get his way this time. He’ll get all smirky about it, but, whatever. That guy can do things I never thought possible.
“Okay, I’ll give you one season with him. If I am going keep him, he might as well be trained by the best,” he decided, eyes twinkling.
Benjamin smiled, even though Coach Keller could tell it was a half a smirk too. “Thank you very much. Oh, and by the way, can we keep Joe too?”
Coach rolled his eyes. Here we go again.

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