Without Mom is a coming-of-age story about David Sinclair, a fifteen-year-old boy who is pulled apart in all directions. If he gets the placekicking spot on the Heather Heights football team, he's sure he'll become the star he has always longed to be. If not he'll keep feeling like a nobody who gets no respect from his alcoholic father and too many of the guys and girls at school. But will the gridiron help him choose the right road to a happy life, even beyond football?
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At school, I felt glad to see my best friend, Rick, but was uneasy about telling him the good news. He couldn’t find out about the dirty work that Glenn, the team captain, did to get Eric Mann, the placekicker, sidelined so I'd have a chance. He'd blab it all over and that would be the end of everything.
“Hey, Guy,” Ricky said at my hall locker.
I looked up from my combination lock and saw his long face, with hair shooting out of his head in all directions. “I’m going to see the coach again.”
Ricky's face lit up like a lighthouse. “That’s great! Is he going
to let you try out?”
“I’m supposed to be at the field house at 3:30.”
“Fantastic,” the big guy said and slapped me on the shoulder. “Kick the ball a mile for me.”
“Yeah,” I said while digging in my locker, “I guess so.”
“What’s the problem?”
“None of the guys want me on the team. They’re just like Coach Souder. They’re happy with Eric.”
“Not no more,” Ricky said as we headed for the stairs.
“You done saw him blow it last Friday with all them missed field goals.”
“But this afternoon at the field house all the guys are going to make fun of me again.”
“You can take it,” Ricky said.
“But it’s more than that. They don’t like me. They want to rip me to pieces.”
Halfway to class, Ricky put a hand on my arm. We stopped short among the herd of students tearing down the hall. “Look, Glenn ain’t a friend of mine, but he’s behind you. Ain’t that right?”
“Then you ain’t got nothing to worry about. He practically runs the team—after the coach. With him backing you up, they ain’t gonna lay a hand on you.”
“Yeah, I guess you’re right,” I said as we headed for class again.
“You walk down to that field house looking confident. Don’t let them know you’re afraid.”
We stopped ten feet from Mr. Johnson’s room. I admitted something most teenagers keep to themselves. “But I am
Ricky looked down from his six feet five inches and tapped me on the arm. “That don’t matter. What does matter is making them think you ain’t afraid.”
I looked up at the big guy from my five and a half feet.
“That’s easy for you to say. You’re even bigger that those goons. You’re loaded with muscles. And you’re the toughest man in the school.”
Ricky glanced down the hall at a girl yelling into her cell phone. “Look, it ain’t just size that counts. It’s your
attitude. Have you ever seen me looking scared?”
He leaned in closer. “I wouldn’t tell nobody this but you. I'm scared lot’s of times.”
“I don’t believe it,” I said.
“It’s true! Remember when I knocked Bill’s block off?”
“What? You weren’t scared. That’s all you talked about all day long. You couldn’t wait to bash that guy’s face in for tripping me in the hall when I was on crutches. I was afraid you might even belt him in front of the office if you got the chance.”
Ricky smiled. “Exactly.”
I thought for a moment. “You beat back your fear by charging right ahead!”
“Yep You got it.”
I looked at my friend, almost embarrassed by my realization. “So, you want me to walk into that field house and act like I belong there.”
“Yeah, because you do belong there.”