Summary: 3 moments in Mike Winchell's life. "You don't have to win it, just don't lose it" - Ray Lewis.
Written for the picfor1000 challenge. My picture is here.
Thanks to the lovely slodwick for running this challenge, and for being just as fabulous and slodwicky as she is. Also, for her being so sweet about me being late *smiles and bats eyelashes prettily*. Thanks to lyra_sena for superspeed beta.
You’ve never been too good at math, so when Ms. Swerngen asks you to help the new kid with his multiplication tables, you figure he must be real bad off. But you do it anyway, during recess like she said; the two of you stay in the classroom.
“I’m Mike,” you tell him, and he shrugs.
“Yeah, I know,” he says. “I’m Don.”
You shrug, like he did, and look down. “Yeah, I know.”
“Okay,” he says, and you say “okay,” too, even though you don’t know why.
Don pushes blond hair off his forehead, and frowns out the window at the other kids playing. He chews on his pencil a second, and then looks back at you. “You ever play football?”
“Yeah, some,” you say. Then because you want to impress him, “I’m quarterback.”
Don nods. “You any good?” he asks.
You think about it for a minute, and when you look up he’s watching you. If you lie, somehow you know he’ll know.
“Yeah,” you tell him.
Don smiles, says, “I think we could get along all right.”
The metal bleachers are hot underneath your thighs, as you sit during a break at football practice. Don sits next to you, rubbing at his forehead with a towel and squinting at the sun.
“Chavez is better’n I thought,” he says.
You shrug. “He’s good at everything, I guess.”
“He can block, that’s for damned sure.” Don shakes his head. “He’s not even as tall as you, and he knocked me down.”
“Wasn’t hard,” a voice says behind you, and when you turn, Chavez is standing there, arms crossed.
Don goes still next to you, and you think maybe he’s going to hit Chavez, except instead he just leans back further on the bleachers and says, “Yeah?”
“Yeah,” Chavez says, not like an insult, just matter of fact. Don grins at him, and you relax.
“Think you can teach me how to do better?” Don asks, and Chavez sits down a couple of rows up from you.
“Depends,” Chavez says, “on whether or not you’ll listen to a thing I say.”
You look over at Chavez, and laugh. He’s stubborn as Don is.
Don smacks you for laughing, and looks over at you. “What, you think you can’t get better?”
“Didn’t say that,” you tell Don, shaking your head and trying not to grin. “Didn’t say that at all.”
“Any of us want to make the team next year, we’re all going to have to be better,” Don says. He looks out at where the freshmen are trying out, where you’ll all be next year, and you follow his gaze. Chavez does, too.
“We’ll have to be perfect,” you say quietly as you watch a pass get run out.
Chavez lets out a long breath, and you look over at him. He says, slowly, “What we need to do is practice. Maybe if we practice together enough, we can be.”
“Perfect?” Don asks, skeptical.
Chavez cocks his head to the side. “Why not?”
“Yeah,” you say, looking back out at the field. “Why not?”
You can’t hear anything except for the buzzing in your head, the way Don keeps letting out little whoops every now and then like he’s lost his mind. In two minutes, you’re going to be running out on that field and Carter’s going to be standing there in their huge red jerseys and in Odessa your mom’ll be sitting alone in the living room (awake, upright, alive, please God) smoking a cigarette and watching the screen and you can’t hear anything except Don now.
Don, who’s behind you, and squeezing your shoulder now, and saying, “We’ll get those motherfuckers, we’ll get ‘em, can’t beat us, we’re the mojo, we’re the fucking mojo, Mike!” He’s not talking, he’s crowing, and when you look at him he’s got this fucking nuts grin on his face like he’s about ready to start taking off some heads.
“You okay, man?” you ask him, and Don throws back his head and howls.
“I’m the fuckin’ Mojo, man!”
Chavo’s in front of you, and now he’s looking at you, and he’s grinning, too. “Bullshit, Billingsley. *We’re* the fucking mojo!”
“Hell yeah we fuckin’ are!” Don yells back, and shakes your shoulder hard. “You hear that?”
You nod, and Chavo smacks the side of your helmet, says, “Hey, wake up, we got a game to play, Winchell!”
“You nervous, Mike?” Don asks, leaning his helmet against yours.
His big hand grips onto your forearm and his breath blows through the grill in front of your mouth. He smiles at you, demon grin fading down a notch, just smiles like Don always smile at you, same as always like you weren’t about to piss yourself and there wasn’t maybe a million people out there watching you, counting on you. You close your eyes, and he slides one of his hands down to take yours.
“Don’t be nervous, you don’t have to be nervous, you’re fucking great, best fucking quarterback ever, best fucking friend I ever knew, you’re Mike fucking Winchell, you got that? Don’t be nervous.”
“No reason to be nervous,” Chavo tells you in your ear, taking hold of your other hand. “You’re Mike Winchell. You’re the mojo,” he says.
You open your eyes, and they’re both watching you, and you blink because for a minute you’re all kids again before your first game, but then they’re back just like they always are; Chavo looking like he knows everything’s going to be okay and Don like he’s about to breathe fire, and you can feel it starting to rise in you, what Coach Gaines was talking about. ‘My heart is full boys, my heart is full’, he said and you get that, you get that, and your face splits itself into that crazy grin and Don and Chavo are suddenly grinning back at you, and you scream, “Bullshit, *we’re* the fucking mojo!” And the three of you walk out, together.