New Middle Grade funny … the year we never won

The Alipios circa 1980

The Craziest Ragin’ Cajun Football Play (working title)

PITCH: Twelve year-old Hatcher Hampton has big dreams about this year’s football season. But when he gets cut to the B-team––the not as athletic football kids––his hopes turn from winning to surviving a season of Ragin’ Cajun craziness.

1: The pre-season

Listen up, friends. Now that you got yourself into a cozy reading spot, here’s the rules of the game. My name is Hatch. I’m twelve years old. I live near a bayou in Louisiana in a family of three and a half … um, yeh, we’ll get back to that half later. Right now, what you’re here for is the tale of how I pulled off the craziest football play ever.

Make sure you got a snack and drink nearby.

Okay, ready?

“Red forty-four! Red forty-four!” shouted our bulky quarterback squatting under center. Lined up in the backfield directly in front of me, he tapped his right hand on the back of his leg. Twice. That meant it was a new signal. Our quarterback was totally changing the play.

SWEET!

Because with this change in the pay, it meant that I was gonna get the football.

But I’m a blocker. I never get the ball.

Down by five points, fifty yards away, and with only six seconds left on the clock for the game, my heart pounded like a jackhammer.

Cliched?

Trust me, you can’t make up stuff like this.

Lined up behind our quarterback, a guy named “The Hawg” with a neck thicker than the trunk of an oak tree, I visualized the play in my head.

“Red forty-four! Red forty-four!”

The nerves turned in my gut. Do I block right? Do I shuck and release left? O-M-G … I’m so blowing it. I nearly flinched and cost us a penalty flag.

But nerve was not in the vocabulary of our leader, the Hawg. Ice ran through his steely veins.

“Set!”

I bit down on my mouthpiece.

“HUT-HUT!”

The Hawg grabbed the football under center. He dropped back deep in the pocket. He stalled to let our receivers get down the field. And I, his lone blocker, I needed to help him find time.

I stepped in front of our quarterback. I readied to block.

“Pass!” An opposing rusher yelled.

As the last play of the game … well, what choice was there?

The defense plowed through the blockers like a bowling ball.

Moaning, football bodies flailed as defenders charged the Hawg. Someone lost a shoe. It flipped with laces in the air.

Quarterback glanced left.

Quarterback pivoted right.

No one was open.

A tank cut through the line. He had thick, black paint under his eyes.

I stepped forward and gave him a raised forearm.

He flicked me away like a toothpick.

That was special … NOT.

The Hawg scrambled to the right. He raced in the opposite direction.

One, two, three opponents were hot on his trail.

I could hardly look. I rose to my feet and watched as players moved away from me. All I could do is watch as the Hawg ran to the far sidelines.

Ten black jerseys on the other team were set to destroy the man with the ball.

I took several steps forward, hoping to get a glimpse. I was all alone.

And just then …

The Hawg turned his body, planted his feet and launched the football––a tight spiral of perfection––across the field at me. He hadn’t crossed the line of scrimmage yet. It was a legal pass play.

The opponents were stunned.

The visiting coach pulled his hair and mouthed, “NOOOO!”

The crowd, everyone was caught off guard.

It was impossible.

A kid who could stop short of his body’s movement and launch a football across his body’s direction was against Newton’s first and second laws of motion.

Totally.

But the Hawg made the impossible possible.

Alone on the left side of the gridiron (that’s football field for you non-sports people), I caught the ball and began racing to the end zone.

Forty. Thirty-five. Thirty. Twenty-five …

I heard an ESPN commentator’s voice cheer in my head, “HE … COULD … GO … ALL … THE … WAY!”

Only one black-jersey player stood in my path.

With eyes squinted, I tucked the ball tight and raised my hand for a stiff arm. As our two bodies neared, I leaped and hurdled the tackle.

Stumbling across a chalked white line, a referee raced over with his arms high.

TOUCHDOWN!

It all happened so fast.

Me, the savior of the game.

Me, standing in the end zone with the game ball in my hand.

Now, what touchdown celebration should I entertain?

The salsa? A back flop in a pool? Maybe I should do something original like paddling a “row, row, row your pirogue?”

My team circled around me.

Even the Hawg, he held up two hands for a high-ten.

“Cómo es eso posible?”

I don’t know why seventh grade Spanish teacher’s words ran through my mind. “How is this possible?” is what the phrase meant.

How is any of this possible especially for me, the scrawniest kid of kids?

Until––

Oh, yeh. I remembered this wasn’t me at all. I was on the sidelines in the bleachers with a handful of other high school parents and families. Someone cheered loud and spilled their drink on my head.

Down on the field, this was Hunter, my older brother’s life.

This was his football win.

Hunter Hampton Bio: A sixteen-year old track star who will surely land a million-dollar shoe contract and buy our Ma a house one day. If I could walk in someone else’s shoes, I’d take his size elevens any day.

His choice of touchdown dance?

Nah.

He simply gave the ball to the referee and ran to shake the other teams’ hands. It was a classy move. That’s why he’ll always be Mr. Ice Age in my world.

Not that I have a bunch of worlds going on. My life is pretty standard. I’m your average kid living in your average three-and-a-half persons household.

I’m the number three in case you were wondering.

Hatch, remember?

Now, let’s get back to reality.

(Leave a comment if you’d like to read more)

New Middle Grade Story (Hexagon 1NE Chapter 3)

Plot: Flying hover cycles. Fiery mecha bots. BFs. After earth ends and re-population begins, two cKlone tweens get trapped outside of their safety pod hexagon by a fertility doctor who is out to snatch their souls.

Photo Credit Source: Bettye-Winters

CHAPTER 03––HOVER

Flash stood streetside, holding his thumb up in the air. His recycled, cybershirt fit skin tight.

“What are you doing?” Arik asked of Flash’s odd choice of sign language.

“I read it in the archives once. When people were in need of transportation, they threw a thumb high in the air like this and said the word, ‘Taxi!’”

Arik looked at Flash, his head titled at a fifteen-degree angle. “Wait … you read?”

“Har-har.” Flash smirked.

Arik had a better idea than using hand signals. He retrieved his smartpod communicator from his back pocket, a worn PrestoX unit with a smiling emoji sticker. The sticker held the worn device together like tape.

Arik tapped the screen and a hologram hovercraft appeared. It suspended in air just above the PrestoX. Curious, Arik swiped his fingers left to right as the hovercraft changed into a five-wheeled clunker. Definitely not his style. He toggled graphic arrows that rotated from four-wheel vehicles to a three-wheel craft. He stopped on a sleek hover cycle.

“Watcha think?” Arik asked of Flash.

Flash agreed. “ABSOLUTELY!”

Arik double-tapped the hologram and in less than six seconds, two glossy hover cycles appeared. Dust wafted from the street as they lowered to ground level. Lights from the engine powered the two vehicles on.

A hologram safety operator appeared on a transparent screen. Her hair was tucked under a helmet that displayed an official hexagonal badge.

“Good afternoon, rider. Please scan your identification,” said the hologram operator.

A red light beamed from her eye.

Arik waved his wristband in front of the red light. The operator’s eye changed from red to green.

“Access granted. Arik, your excellent, gold safety record has earned you an extra reward. Would you like the upgrade applied?”

Arik looked to Flash’s eager eyes. Even though Arik wished he could use the reward for his sisters in some way, he nodded in agreement. “Yes. Let’s do it.”

Hover cycle one’s solar engine powered on. Ready, Arik climbed aboard as the dashboard reflected in his eyes. Each feature and benefit appeared as if being typed.

Hover Cycle Features:

  • Aerodynamic … smooth velocity
  • Heated seat and foot rails … comfort
  • Gyrosphere … safety shield 100% crash protection
  • Automatic … input coordinates and relax
  • DJ-Max … unlimited soothing surround music

Flash stared in awe as a tune began to play. A simulated water-thin shield enclosed Arik. It surrounded him completely on the hover cycle.

The music was air tight, too.

“Rider …” The safety operator turned to the other cKlone. “Please scan your identification.”

Biting his lip in hesitation, Flash waved his band.

The red scanner swiveled in a circular wheel pattern. Waiting. Waiting. More waiting.

Arik revved his hover cycle.

Flash shrugged, wondering about the hold up.

“Access granted.”

Flash breathed relief.

“Nelson, your safety record has earned you the following features …”

Hover cycle two’s engine lit up. Only this version transformed from a sleek, white cylindrical cycle into a dented, cycle clunker. Bulky and clearly in need of washing. The digital dashboard displayed …

Hover Cycle Features:

  • Manual drive only
  • Safety warning … do not fly with your mouth open

“Please cycle safely,” the hologram officer said.

“Har, har,” Flash replied. “You’re soooo funny.”

“Thank you,” the officer continued. “Would you like to hear a joke?”

Before Flash could answer––

“How do you identify a bad cyclist?”

Again, before Flash could answer––

“Look in the mirror.”

“Ugggg,” Flash moaned. But he couldn’t help but glance at himself in the mirror anyway. “End signal, please!”

“Certainly, HAVE A SUPER DAY,” said the hologram officer with a smile and disappeared, ending the transmission.

Upon boarding his clunker, a simulated helmet appeared on Flash’s head. He powered on the engine light.

POP.

The cycle quickly flickered off.

A wave of burning metal filled his nose. Flash tried again.

Pop-pop, pop-pop.

The cycle lifted off the ground, sideways.

“Whoa-whoa!”

Slowly, Flash leaned on the handles. He shifted his weight to counter-balance the cycle until it leveled.

A voice came over the speaker. “I dropped a pin where we’re going,” said Arik from inside his cycle. “We can take it at your speed.”

“Oh, everyone’s a comedian today.” Flash pointed Arik two fingers, the two index fingers on his six-fingered right hand. He leaned forward on his ride. “Do try to keep up.”

Rev. Rev. Vrooom.

And away Flash jetted on the hover cycle. A fiery backfire emitted from its rear power source.


 >>Leave a Comment to read the next chapter 04

New Middle Grade Story (Hexagon 1NE Chapter 2)

Plot: Flying hover cycles. Fiery mecha bots. BFs. After earth ends and re-population begins, two cKlone tweens get trapped outside of their safety pod hexagon by a fertility doctor who is out to snatch their souls.

Photo Credit Source: Bettye-Winters

CHAPTER 02––PROOF

“Proof?” Arik took a breath and held it. He checked his heart rate on his sleek wristband. The beat lowered as he inhaled. “That’s all we need, right? … Proof that the destination’s empty?”

“What are you so nervy about?” Flash fancied all assignments. Not every kid showed of gifted promise. Many were called to tend the farm fields. Some were called to service the androids that ran the machines. Others were lucky to be tested at all. But the worst thing that could happen to anyone in Hexagon––being banished.

“C’mon, we pass this … then we can practically pick our future. Trainees no more. A botanist. A techie. A surveyor. Or maybe even a cushion job … for you. Ha-ha. Just remember, whatever happens …” Flash pointed to a red arrow on his recycled cyber shirt and mouthed the printed words: “I’m B +.’”

Being an only cKlone child, Flash was left on his own often to abide by the rules.

Or NOT. 

Flash circled Arik on his hoverboard, stalking him.

“Me, nervous?” Arik checked his heart meter again. “No … I’m not nervous … not at all … nope.” Arik inhaled deep.

Now Flash Nelson, his hair was no longer than a #1 setting on a pair of dog clippers. He trimmed it himself, even though his two moms were happy to oblige. His moms spent their days working on a farm. One was a researcher, the other a techie. Repairing androids was preferred work. And the kid bowl cut was also the preferred mom specialty at home. So naturally, Flash took matters into his own six-fingered hands.

“Proof? Got it.” Flash jumped in the air––a complete back flip––and landed square on his board. Perfect. “A deal’s a deal-yo.”

Throughout their sector of Hexagon 1NE, Flash also had a reputation for his inquisitive, daring nature. One drab moonlit night, he leaped off his roof attempting to fly. Thankfully, it was only a single-storied home. And because it wasn’t a waste disposal night, the collapsible cans were directly under the porch to cushion his fall.
Lucky was right.

In the end, Flash claimed to officials that he was only sleep walking––some called it “sleep flying”––but wearing a superhero shirt and a red cape, too?

C’mon.

A blinding advertisement flashed on the side of a curvy building:

Hexagon 1NE … the pod to survive the dust-over.

The ad message rotated:

Hexagon 1NE … your pod to survive the next.

A few androids scaled the outside of skytowers. Horizontally and vertically. They worked to keep them shiny. Some were half bodied androids with tractor wheels. Others were full android robots with two legs.

The difference between an android and people? The hair. Androids weren’t designed to grow any, not even eyebrows. Most were bald. While others like household androids, their heads and faces were painted to resemble real hair and make them look friendlier. Some even wore press-on wigs.

All androids were programmed to smile.

All androids were programmed to serve.

Flash powered his hoverboard forward.

Roads were perfectly paved and curbs were cobble stoned and leveled according to the latest regulations for the disabled. One could charge a hover cycle at the drive-thru window of a five-star restaurant. Even crosswalks were equipped with artificial intelligence to aid the impaired. Sensors could scan a walker’s vital signs and adjust crossing times for the pokey.

Or in Arik’s case, the nervous, increased-heart-racing kind.

As they approached the intersection, a streetlight flashed a red hand. A voice-activated computer spoke, “YOU MAY CROSS SAFELY IN TWENTY SECONDS.” It counted backwards, “19 … 18 …”

Flash pulled something out of his front pocket, which unfolded on touch. He placed a clear, thin mask over his eyes.

“Wait, you’re gonna VR now?”

“Sure, why not,” Flash replied. “Virtual Reality is more real. Real skies. Real outdoors. How cool it must’ve been … I’m riding an old western horse right now. I’m in the wild.” He stroked his hands in the air as if petting something.

“Shhh, that’s crazy talk.”

A service android at a nearby retail kiosk stocked shelves. Its upper body resembled a human cKlone, but down below, it zipped about like a toy crane on wheels.

“The real outdoors … that’ll be me someday. Not stuck here in a bubble.” Flash dipped his VR mask.

Two adults walked past them, their faces glued to holo-devices. A pop-up cushion automatically re-directed one of the adults before crashing into the kiosk.

“See, Arik.” Flash made his point. “We’re all becoming walking machines. Don’t you ever wonder about it?”

“Outdoor fairytales? … That’s kid stuff. ” Arik thought the idea was ridiculous. Inside of Hexagon 1NE it was safe. Safe from dust-overs. Safe from the blinding sun. It was all they’ve ever known.

“5 … 4 … 3 …” the streetlight voice finished counting down and flashed green. “Beep! You may safely cross.”

Flash folded his VR mask and shoved it in a zip pocket. As he powered his hoverboard into the cross walk, an alarming tone sounded.

“STOP! Violation ALERT!” The voice spoke firmly, “Please dismount your device and proceed safely to your destination. Smile for the camera. Thank you.”

KER-SNAP!

A flashing light flickered from above. A camera snapped a violation picture of Flash using the board in a crosswalk zone.

“Ugggg,” Flash moaned. This wasn’t the first time he had violated traffic procedures. “Bum, that’ll cost a sugar serving or two, all right.”

Sugar. The body needs it to survive. During digestion, all food carbohydrates break down into simple sugars to form energy. But after decades of dependency on artificial fructose, the body’s metabolism had shut down. Natural sugar––much like natural anything––became harder to farm, harder to grow after the world’s dust-over.

And humans (yes, even the genetically engineered cKlone kind) need natural sugar to survive.

It’s what the NOW coveted.

Arik and Flash’s first real assignment––an intel exercise for sugar. In other words, they were spying. And being discreet was everything.

Flash stepped off his board and summoned it to his hands. It responded in a SNAP. He pressed a button and the hoverboard folded itself several times until it fit in the palm of his hand. Then, he shoved it into the same zip pocket.

Arik smirked at Flash’s cool gadgets.

“Even with us going out on watches, we’re the ones being watched,” Flash moaned. “Let’s go. We’re on camera. Say CHEESE.” He adjusted his pants, properly, and tucked in his cyber shirt. “Good thing them cameras can’t hear us either.”

The streetlights turned green, perfectly in sync. Their greenness faded into a haze of gray down the skyscraper avenue. A hallmark of similarity.

The only oddity in Hexagon 1NE was a stone house at the tip-top sector of the metro. It stood out amongst glassy towers and cylindrical buildings like a frozen snowdroid in the desert. The house––built of flint and cobble and slate––was the most crooked of houses. In some places, the roof slanted a perfect 90°, or for you non-mathematical people, that’s perpendicular to the ground.

No one ever dared journey to the northern point of the Hexagon 1NE.

No one wanted to know what lurked behind the dense, black ivy and wrought iron gates that surrounded the non-symmetrical house.

No one, that was, except for Arik and Flash.

>>Stay Tuned for the next chapter 03