Mercury Blues

It’s not uncommon in America for parents to attempt to fulfill their own busted dreams of Superstardom by living variously through their children’s activities. Most of the time it involves sports, but could just as easily be music, art, or even more thrilling activities such as mathematics, literature, or in my case—study hall.

I guess it wasn’t fair of me to put such high expectations on our kids. While they both did very well in others area of their academic life, neither of them excelled in study hall. Despite my constant coaching, they were never able to produce a halfway decent spitball. Even now, years later, I haven’t fully recovered.  The good news is I have four grandkids. Hopefully, at least one of them will become a Study Hall legend in his/her time.

In this week’s story, Mercury is hoping to excel on the football field and earn the adulation of his friends and family—especially his father, Herman.  This is an excerpt from a short story in my upcoming book “The Perils of Heavy Thinking” which will be released sometime next year.

If you’re new to Friday Flash Fiction, the head coach of the Fictioneers is the legendary Marion “Mad Dog” Wisoff-Fields. If you’d like to participate in this exercise in madness, head over to her blog for step-by-step instructions. To view the FFF  Hollywood Squares Authors Block click here.

copyright - Alistair Forbes
copyright – Alistair Forbes

The schedule said we were to play the Giants, but I had no idea they meant that literally. My confidence began to wilt. The adrenaline crawled out of my veins and went scampering down a yellow streak that had once been my spine.

On the first offensive series, I tried my best to “get in the way” of the 340 pound behemoth that loomed across from me. None of my tactics worked. My opponent looked like he had just escaped from a maximum security prison and had the attitude of an angry moose.

He didn’t go around obstacles—he went through them. After the first three plays, I was more trampled than the grapes of wrath


39 thoughts on “Mercury Blues

  1. Man, I would be afraid of something like that. Three hundred pounds of wrecking machine … whoa! I’d look like a tube of toothpaste someone stepped on. Nice job and good luck with the book next year.


  2. I knew you were a study hall kind of guy. I’ll bet you daydream with the best of them while you were supposed to be reading Thoreau. I could too except that’s the problem — I kept daydreaming and didn’t make any of that stuff actually happen.

    Here’s hoping your grandkids come to excel in study hall and make their daydreams happen as well. And make Mercury and Herman proud!


  3. Dear Russell,

    When I played Pop Warner football as a wee child someone took my picture and then invented bobble head dolls. I was 60 lbs of skin, bones, helmet and no interest whatsoever. My favorite position was the bench and being there throughout the game was not the crime others thought it to be. In scrimmages I was invariably paired up against a gentle but giant boy who later went on to play football for the Navy for three years. In retrospect that kind of explains why I saw most of our scrimmages from my back.

    Your story really resonated with me. Shaking my head and looking around for my adenaine.




    1. That reminds me of my son. He weighed 63 pounds and was a practice tackle-dummy. They went to Bentonville one Saturday morning and I swear all those kids must have been held back for at least 3 years. They were huge! No wonder they won the state championship five years later. I bet those high school seniors were all old enough to buy liquor 🙂


  4. Dear Merc,

    During my school days I was voted most likely not to excel in sports…or math…or (would you believe) history. My guidance counselor suggested I become a professional mattress tester since I was so adept at sleeping….even in gym class.

    I felt every cringe and trample on your football field. Sorry I couldn’t find my pom poms.


    Mad Dog


  5. We didn’t have study hall in my school, or come to think of it, maybe I slept through that like most of my other classes — except Art. It’s too tough to catch zzzzz’s with a paint brush in your hand.

    Excellent excerpt from your short story. I particularly liked your take on anatomy:

    “The adrenaline crawled out of my veins and went scampering down a yellow streak that had once been my spine.”


      1. Painting is not my strong suit, but I almost got expelled for an explicit composition I called “Violated Asparagus from Vietnam”. If I recall correctly I was high my entire senior year of high school, but my memory of that period of my life is cloudy. (cough)


  6. “The adrenaline crawled out of my veins and went scampering down a yellow streak that had once been my spine.”Superb line and loved the take-had to laugh at the last line 🙂


  7. HI Russell,
    I look forward to reading your book when it comes out. Congratulations and I know it will be a great read. Your story this week reminded me of a football anecdote that is in my novel, also about a small town football contest, but this one is played during a raging thunderstorm. A football story is so appropriate right now. I think the Razorbacks could relate to your character about now. Ron


  8. I like the moment where he realizes that they are literally giants!
    I tripped up a bit on the last line, though.
    Maybe something like “He felt more like well-pressed wine than the grapes of wrath?”
    Just my 0.5 cents – and do let us know when your book comes out!


  9. He should consider the passive tackle, you lie in their path and hope they trip over you.

    I always found I my best athletic feats occurred screaming out of control, drooling and cursing as I watched the five and six year olds play soccer 🙂


  10. Well, I have always said that football is an unnecessarily violent and dangerous game. Loved the imagery of his adrenalin crawling out and scampering down his yellow streak. Really imaginative wording here.


  11. Back in the day, there was honor among the Benchwarming Bums–they’d suit up, flex their muscles, flaunt their pads and sit through the whole game scowling and looking fierce. They had PURPOSE, and their presence on the team grants them exaggerated bragging rights today. Fun story, Russell.


  12. Your stories are always so much fun. Those giants sound fierce. I’m not standing in the way of any criminal moose. I’m thinking you did a lot of daydreaming in Study Hall. That’s a bonus! Or, maybe you did real dreaming.


  13. That’s not a field that I’d dare walk, let alone scramble to get from some giant chasing me for a silly ball. Delightful tale, and I’m still smiling at the wonderful turns of phrase.


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