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Turn Over

By´╝ÜViolet Paige

Turn Over


Violet Paige


1





Luke





Sometimes people are wrong. They’re wrong about what the score will be at the end of the game. They’re wrong about what route to run. They’re wrong about who they can trust. And fuck it, they’re wrong about people. Wrong about love. I used to be one of those people. Cynical. Egotistical. Selfish. But all it takes is one second. One split second of your life when you think you’ll lose everything. And suddenly it comes into focus. Faster than I take a snap. Faster than I read the defense. I can see all of it. I can see it being ripped away. In a split second all of it can be ruined. There could be a life where she doesn’t exist. Where the mistakes push her away.

They are wrong about me. And the thing about me is I love to prove people wrong.



It was hot as shit on the practice field. The September sun beat down on everyone. It didn’t discriminate between million dollar players or the trainers who took home fifty thousand a year. It was brutal and unrelenting, reminding all of us what it meant to play football in Texas.

Ownership promised we would have an indoor facility soon with air conditioning, but that didn’t do a damn bit of good when my linemen were cramping up on the field and I could barely see from the sting of sweat rolling in my eyes.

I gripped the ball between my fingers, digging into the leather with my nails while the sideline crew ran out to squirt water in the players’ mouths. I didn’t see what good an ounce of water was going to do in this heat, but I waited anyway.

Our rookie tight end, James, walked up to me. “What did you think of that last play?”

“I think it sucked.” I held my helmet under my arm and squirted water on the back of my neck.

I could see him huffing as hard as the rest of the team and he was twenty-two—the youngest guy out here.

“I’ve been asking for pointers since July,” he started.

I didn’t want to hear his excuses or anyone else’s. If you played for the American Football Association, you better have the balls to back it up. James was a top draft pick. He was new to the league, the process, and me.

“You want advice? Get out there and catch the fucking ball when I throw it.” I slammed my helmet over my head, clamping it against my forehead. “Is there anything else you need to know?”

He shook his head, running to the line of scrimmage. I didn’t take on projects, and I sure as hell didn’t take rookies under my wing. They had to learn just like the rest of us had.

This game wasn’t built on kindness. It wasn’t built on friendship. It was built on that scoreboard. When the clocked ran down to zero the only thing that mattered was what number was next to the Warriors’ name. Make catches. Block punts. Tackle the runner. That was their job. If they needed me to tell them how to do that, they didn’t belong on my team.

The Austin Warriors were one of the league’s original teams. You either hated or loved us. There wasn’t a lot of gray area with AFA fans. There were families in the stadium on Sundays who had handed their seats down for three generations.

We were a legendary team. A team with deep roots. A team with history.

Warrior football was everything to this town. And that made me the fucking general. The commander of this army.

I yelled, scattering the conditioning team. “If you want to get the hell out of this heat, let’s finish this practice.”

I could see I wasn’t the only one. The linemen weren’t tolerating the heat. Droplets of sweat beaded on their noses as they took their positions for the snap. We had two more plays to run. Only two. If I could make it through, I could soak in an ice tub for an hour and put this hellish practice behind me.

I could forget the imprint the sun had burned on my forearms. Forget I practiced for the third day in a row hung over. There was too much bourbon last night. I could still taste it in my mouth. The way my tongue was thick. But that was part of the Luke Canton package. I did whatever the hell I wanted at night, but I performed on the field the next day.

I called out the next play, took the snap, and threw the ball long into the end zone. I nodded at James. He caught it square in the chest. It was a perfect spiral.

No one wanted to be out here. It wasn’t glorious or glamorous. It fucking sucked running drills in a hundred-degree heat.

Twenty minutes later I was in the practice facility locker room climbing into a tub of ice. The trainer added another bucket of cubes as I slid my feet to the bottom of the floor.

“How’s that, Luke?” he asked.

“Just keep dumping it in until I say quit.”

The ice was melting against the blistering patches of skin I immersed under the surface. It was both painful and a relief. It was the shock I needed to erase the last fragments of my headache.

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