“Our grandson is a wonderful boy,” said Mrs. Sherman. This, I suspect, is a common belief among grandparents, but in this case, it could well be true.
“He’s a straight A student,” added his grandfather, “and the best football player in the province. He graduates this school year and a dozen universities have asked him to come to their school. Four U.S. universities have offered him athletic scholarships.”
Everyone in the Blandsville area and beyond knew Tancred “Tank” Sherman. He played on the offensive line, but with his size, strength, speed, and agility, people said he could have been the whole line all by himself. His name was inspired by a history teacher who had taught his father enthusiastically about the hero of the First Crusade.
“Tank” recalled to me, by contrast, my own brief, inglorious football career. Beginning our last year of high school, a friend reminded me that I would need something to put by my photo in the yearbook, something, that is, besides my seventh place finish one year in the school’s tiddlywinks tournament. He suggested that I try out for the football team because it had a lot of players and therefore I had the best chance, mathematically, of making it. “Besides,” he added, “you’re a natural for the offensive team because many people find you offensive.”
I think the coach put me on the team because I was small,and even bedecked in pads, I didn’t take up much room on the bench. The first time I got on the field, on the offensive line, an opposing player flattened me and threw our ball-carrier for a three-yard loss. On the next play he did a reprise. I was switched to the defensive line for the next game.
Determined to atone, I dug in and as the ball was snapped I slipped through the line, head down, grabbed a pair of legs that tried vainly to elude me, and felled the owner of the legs. He went down surprisingly easily. The whistle blew. Oh, oh – I had tackled on of the officials. This infraction is probably not mentioned in the rule book, but the referee decided it warranted a twenty-five-yard penalty, putting our opponents in a position to score. They did. We lost the game and I spent the rest of the season on the bench. Fortunately the yearbook does not have room for details of one’s activities.
I ended my reverie and asked the Shermans why, with the perfect grandson, they needed my services. Mrs. Sherman told me: “Our son, Tancred’s father, has been sent abroad by his employer for a year, and his wife wanted to go with him, so we agreed to let Tancred live with us so that he could finish his last year of high school. The other day, while cleaning his room ꟷ I wasn’t snooping, mind you ꟷ I noticed his bankbook. He has been making weekly deposits, but he has no time for a part-time job, so where’s the money coming from? It would be totally out of character, but what if he’s pushing drugs?”