Texico (Draft): Number 9

When the maniac from Iran lifted hands with the Turks and the Brazilians we all knew the rules of the world had evolved.  This was no longer the America of founding purity, diversity of thought, or even right and wrong. Boundries were only for the moral. So it seemed back then. In the raging teens.

"Honey", L. Dean remembered calling out, "Come on. Chillleees!" he continued with loud whistling and banging.  It was early on a June Saturday morning.

"Daddy?" Ava finally answered, tired from the previous night's soccer game.  It was tournament weekend for the 11/12 year old girls and games were stacked, two to a day.

"Everybody is drinkin' a bunch a'water. Don't want t' get dehydrated." L.Dean roared, always giving advice to his family. Ava Rose, the young and fierce; Shelby Lynn, the powerful and conflicted; and Annabelle, the wise and beautiful preacher woman.  Several friends had been battling dehydration, common in the summer Texas heat, and L. Dean was insistent on his water demands. "I already drank two glasses. One before my morning walk and one after. Drink girls. Drink!" he continued to yell to his sleepy family. Annabelle was many things, but counting on her for morning promptness was perilous. L. Dean woke in the early dark, an hour before the sun, stretching his body for long periods of time.  The scent of mowed grass and sounds of the early darkness creating melodies never heard.  The sun's light woke Annabelle, her huge green eyes heavy until devotions and prayers. However, her preoccupation with her daughters didn't need alert eyes. They thought the same thoughts, overcame the same frustrations, and swayed to the same rhythms, all of L. Dean's girls acted as one maiden of God's creation. Somehow, the inevitable conflict actually balances the fragile relationship between mother and daughters, releasing steam when needed. The daughters (sisters, really) enjoyed a devout, and at times ferocious, sibling alliance. Three was stronger than one. The feminine trinity of the Fitzgerald’s.

"Ava, your jersey is hanging on the hook in your bathroom," Annabelle weakly shouted from her bedroom, "Get some water ready daddy.  Shelby Lynn, no one is listening to your crying and whining." The oldest had indeed pleaded for more quiet and was taking sides against everyone in the family. Tears followed.  Eventually, the inevitability of the established schedule and some prideless coaxing from Ava and L. Dean would clear the air. Annabelle said nothing to the oldest daughter and was utterly unaffected by the latest eruption.  When the entire family finally climbed into the car, Annabelle continued to ensure proper direction, "Sunscreen? Chairs? Towel? Ava, did you eat anything? Shelby Lynn, you?"

"Yes mamma, I had some grapes and half a muffin," Ava answered, then continuing with a growl, "I'm gonna track down number 9 all day. She goes left, I cut her off, she goes right, I get the ball, she elbows, I elbow back. I'm ready to goooowaa." Her teeth clenched and both fists balled tightly.  Her blood boiled and her face turned red. 

"Hope you stretched your shoulders," L. Dean said, "Soccer is a game for all four limbs.  You got to use your entire body, remember we talked about that?  Remember?", he asked while turning around and looking at Ava. "Use your whole body," he continued, "You never know how the refs are gonna call it 'til the game starts.  It not a bad thang to be the first to get a warnin'"  Annabelle, glaring at L. Dean,  quickly laughed and reminded her youngest to have fun and play hard.

"Number 9 is miiiine," yelled Ava Rose. 

"Stay on her honey," her mother said.

Number 9 was a spectacular player. Fast, agile, smart, and unselfish. Despite a supreme effort, Ava was humbled that day. Number 9 was better. It was obvious. L. Dean, Annabelle, and Shelby Lynn took the loss hard. They were praying and willing a win. Not until dusk did they return to normal moods. Ava made a note. Filed it away. Twenty years later as she captained the 2030 Texican Women's World Cup Championship team, she set up the winning goal against the Brazilians. On that famous play, in the final minute, she shook off an elbow to the jaw while driving past two defenders and softly lifted a pass over another defender to a streaking Texican wing player. The wing drove the ball past the leaping goalie and ignited the noise of legitimacy in the admiring crowd. The goal scoring player was number 9, dark haired and tireless Elishia Mendoza, the same player who commanded Ava's esteem so many years earlier. 

"Let's just go home," Annabelle moaned after the game, "Ava, you played your heart out sweetie.  Now, I want an hour of chores when we get home.  Thirty minutes free time, then an hour."  The girls gave her a dirty look. 

"Number 9 was the best player I've ever seen," said Shelby as they drove slowly home.  "For sure she's the best 12 year old I've ever seen."  She looked at Ava with pity, then told her she played really good.  "You got a goal girl!", she said while patting her head.  She loved Ava Rose.     

"Yep," whispered L. Dean, "Number 9." He was taking the long way.

"Can I have a friend over today?" asked Ava.

The wind that day was unsettling and relentless. Through that summer (crude summer to the disgusted cajuns), oil stained the gulf beaches while the political men and women continued to keep the corrupted system alive.  Grease was their main concern, not oil.  L. Dean wondered about the gathering wickedness in the world and the delusional American rebuke. He made a note and filed it away. He vowed candid dissent, demanding competence and late-17 hundred's conviction of ideas.

"No honey, we're going to go home and spend the day together", answered Annabelle.  "Do you know how lucky we are?"  Both girls looked out the window and started humming the same song.