Underthrow, 16

Saturday: Travis runs like he means to catch his own pass.  The football bounces on the ground, ten yards short of where Miles lay crumpled.  Travis decides that he is a failure; no one will return to Elmswood for this, to feel this badly again.

*

The normal Friday night shift consisted of Miles, Vin, and a sophomore named Lonnie DiCarlo. Lonnie called in claiming to have the flu, but rather than call a substitute, Vin and Travis decided that they could manage the few extra responsibilities.

Travis mopped the floors where customers had tracked mud onto the white tile. Subway’s yellow light felt unreal against the blackness outdoors, as though Travis were standing inside a jack o’ lantern at midnight. Vin rested his elbows by the cash register, stared at a blank order pad, and fought the urge to sleep. He worked morning and night shifts on Fridays, which to Travis sounded unbearable.

“If I could, I’d stay here ‘til four in the damn morning,” Vin said. He closed his eyes, as if he could wander halfway into dreams without interrupting the conversation. “Money’s money. The County ain’t a cheap place to live, even if it’s cheap to look at.”  He snorted at his own joke.

“You could move somewhere else.” Travis set the mop in the water bucket and slumped into a red torn-leather booth.  His limbs buckled; Vin’s exhaustion passed to him along the oily air. “They have Subways in cheaper places.”

“I’ve been here too many years. Family’s been here too many years.” Vin shook his head. He looked old with his eyes closed, somewhere past middle-aged, digging into thick and muddy experience. “It’s like living any place. You don’t mean to get stuck, until the place piles on and you can’t get up to leave.”

Travis thought he should say something profound in reply, but he only managed “I’m gonna use the bathroom,” which at least gave Vin a chuckle.

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