After lunch, they all sat around for a while, letting their food digest, and planned the football game. Kyle had already marked off the goal lines at each end of the field. Before they began, he reminded everyone of the rules,
“This is tag football, no tackling allowed. Tagging means tapping someone on the back with both hands. The quarterback stands at one goal line and passes the ball to someone on his team. The other team tries to block the pass or intercept it. If the ball is caught, the player can say ‘down.’ Then no one can tag him. The person catching the ball can run with it. If he is tagged, the ball is down at the spot where he was tagged. If a team makes a touchdown or if there are four downs with no touchdown, the other team takes over at the other end of the field.”
“Do you really think it’s fair to make your mother and Amber play against the two of us?” John asked Kyle.
“What do you mean, make us?” Mary scolded. “What makes you think we won’t beat you?”
“Is this girls against guys?” Mrs. Jenkins asked. “I can throw a pretty mean football.”
“What about running?” Amber asked, concerned.
“You said the quarterback stands at the goal line,” Mrs. Jenkins reminded her. “Let me be the quarterback. You’ll see.”
The girls took the ball first, with Mrs. Jenkins on the goal line. Amber ran out for a pass, and Mrs. Jenkins threw a bomb right to her. Amber caught it and said, “Down.” There was a short delay in the game as Mrs. Jenkins walked to a new position downfield. Amber threw the ball to her mother, who managed to run a few feet before Kyle tagged her. From there, she threw a short pass to Amber, which didn’t advance the ball very far. Everyone seemed to have forgotten about Mrs. Jenkins who was now in the end zone. Amber faked a pass to her mother, but instead threw it to Mrs. Jenkins who made a beautiful catch for a touchdown.
Both John and Kyle were wearing shocked looks on their faces as they realized what had happened. Just then, Kyle noticed Logan Green walking by.
“Hey, Logan, want to play tag football? We need some help. The women are beating us.”
Logan looked at the three victors cheering and high-fiving each other in the end zone. “Sure,” he said. “Where do you want me to play?”
Logan was a student in Amber’s class, but she hadn’t really talked to him very much. He was usually quiet in class and mostly talked to his friends Chris and Spike during lunch or recess. Amber knew that Logan was very organized and always prepared for class. The teacher called on him a lot, and he usually had the right answer.
Now that the guys had the ball, they showed no mercy. Kyle threw the ball to John, who threw it sideways to Logan, who ran it in for a touchdown. The girls just stood there, unable to do anything about it. Then Mary was the quarterback. She told Amber to run out for a pass. Amber was running backward, not really seeing where she was going. Her mother saw it first and tried to yell, but it was too late. When Amber hit the mud, she couldn’t stay on her feet. Slipping and sliding, she let out a yell. That brought Domino to his feet, and within seconds, he was loose from where Kyle had him tied up. As Amber landed seat-first in the mud, Domino pounced on her with his muddy paws.
At first the others stared in shock, but when they were sure Amber was okay, they started laughing. Amber got up and headed for the restroom without even looking their way. That was the end of the football game. At least it ended in a tie.
“You’re a pretty good football player, Mrs. Jenkins,” John was saying as Amber returned from the restroom.
“Call me Betty,” she said. “I raised three boys, so I played a lot of football in my day.”
“Where are your boys now?” Mary asked.
“Calvin lives in Oakland, California. He’s a stockbroker and has two boys of his own. Sam is in the air force, stationed at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base near Tucson. Robert is a chef in a fancy restaurant in San Francisco. He has three children, two girls and a boy.”
“You must really miss them,” Mary commented.
“They visit when they can. At least they aren’t that far away. My husband, Paul, and I moved here when he retired. After Paul passed away, I thought of moving closer to one of my sons, but I like living in Bluesky.”
John offered Betty a ride home, but she said it was just a short walk to her house. Amber, now passably clean, asked if she could walk with Betty.
“Come straight home after that,” Mary told her. “I don’t want you out after dark.”
“I will,” Amber assured her.
“I can’t believe you made that catch!” Amber exclaimed as the two walked along.
“I wasn’t sure I could stay on my feet,” Betty said. “It was sort of a one-handed catch.”
“Well, at least we scored,” Amber said enthusiastically. “If I hadn’t fallen in the mud, we might have won.”
“I’m pretty sure the guys weren’t going to let that happen. Anyway, we made a decent showing.”
“That was so embarrassing in front of Logan.”
“I think he likes you,” Betty said.
“Logan? Why would you say that?” Amber asked.
“He was looking at you a lot. But the main reason is that when you fell in the mud, he was the only one who didn’t laugh.”
“He was probably too disgusted to laugh. He probably never had something like that happen to him in his life!”
“I think you might be surprised,” Betty went on. “Everybody has things like that happen from time to time.”
“Not as often as I do,” Amber sighed. “You must have been good at sports when you were younger.”
“I played softball in high school,” Betty told her. “Now my sport is shuffleboard.”
“Really?” Amber looked surprised. “I’ve never heard of shuffleboard. Where do you play it?”
“Come around to the Bluesky Senior Center at ten o’clock next Saturday,” Betty invited. “You can cheer me on in the shuffleboard tournament.”
“I’ll ask my mom,” Amber assured her. “If she says it’s okay, I’ll be there.”
The Handy Helpers book series is available at Amazon