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Pack Creek Ranch, San Juan County, Utah, U.S.A.

The first week of August, 2017
Full moon this week – Venus is the morning star.

August. The month in which student athletes begin to report for practice for fall sports. Driving around Moab in the afternoon I see the playing fields full of young people getting in shape and getting their minds into their sports – soccer for some, football for others.In the street that runs alongside the junior high school I saw a pair of training shoes hanging by their laces from an overhead power line.

And that reminded me of a story I experienced and told this same week 12 years ago – in August 2005. The story really happened – I only added my imagination to the obvious follow-up. The essence of the truth in the story remains the same. I was once a “Billy” and capable of doing those things that seemed like a fine funny idea at the time. Maybe you, too?

Yes. If you were a kid or had kids, you were in on a deal like this . . .

 

CURSED

A pair of black soccer shoes dangled from a power line way up in the air.
Out in the middle of Bigelow Street near my house.
I know how they got there because I was a witness.

It rained this morning. I was out walking in the late afternoon.
Ahead of me by a block were four junior-high-school-level kids.
Three sizes of boys and a gangly girl already taller than her mates.
They were jocked-up in team uniforms, headed home after practice.
Three had their soccer shoes over their shoulders, tied together by the laces.
One kid swung his shoes around and around and threw them up in the air.
When they came down, he threw them up again. And again. Higher.
Until they hit the power line and wrapped themselves around the line.

“OH-MY-GOD!” said one kid, clearly awed by the accomplishment.
“I can’t believe you did that, Billy,” said another.
The group stood and stared at the soccer shoes swaying gently above them.
Then awe shifted to fear.
“Mother is going to kill you when she finds out,” said the girl.
“His dad is going to beat the holy crap out of him,” said another.

Everything must have looked so fine to Billy this afternoon.
Fall. A new season. Hope for a championship and a trophy.
New uniforms, new shoes, good practice, and school is still a week away.
Now this.
Beating by father, death by mother, or just sent to his room forever.
And no new shoes.
He can hear it now, “We are not going to buy you more shoes.”
“Let that be a lesson to you. Don’t do stupid things.”
And no shoes means not playing on the team.
And not playing on the team means humiliation.
He will have to endure “Ya-ya-ya-ya – Billy hung his shoes on a power line.”
Nothing like beginning a new school year and a new season as a loser.
Cursed.

Billy is desperate. “Don’t tell. Promise.”
“But that won’t get your shoes back. And you’ll have to lie.”
“We could get a long stick with a sharp knife on it and cut them down.”
“All we need is a big long ladder.”
“It’s a power line – we could get killed.”
And so on, and so on and so on after that.

And then the big brilliant idea strikes – an epiphany: Call 911.
Those fire guys have big ladders and they get cats down all the time and they wouldn’t want kids to mess with power lines and so maybe if they call 911 and tell their story the fire guys would come and meanwhile they could hide in the bushes and the fire guys would get the shoes down and just leave them on the sidewalk or something and nobody would ever know.
Yes! That’s it.
The girl got out her cell phone.

Sounded like a plan to me.
But I didn’t want to be included in it.
I turned around and walked home.
I don’t know exactly what happened.
Though I did hear a siren a little while ago.
Probably wasn’t the fire guys, though.
More likely an ambulance going to carry Billy’s remains away after his mother killed him and his father beat the holy crap out of him and he died from humiliation and a sense of shame because he is such an idiot and a loser.
Billy is cursed.

You know that his sister didn’t call 911.
Of course not.
She called her mom, who is, you will recall, Billy’s mom as well.
And there went Billy’s season.

So young to have to bear a sports curse.
He’ll never live it down.
Years and years and years from now, at every family gathering.
“Remember the time Billy hung his soccer shoes on the power line?”
“And tried to get me to call 911.”
“Well, it might’ve worked.”
“Oh sure, Billy. You’re still an idiot.”
The curse lives on.

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