Snow Melts in Spring - By Deborah Vogts Page 0,1
the attendant taping his ankle. He checked the caller ID and couldn’t imagine why his dad would be calling just hours before a playoff game — unless it was an emergency.
He flipped the phone open. “Hey, Dad, what’s up?”
A raspy cough sounded on the other end. “I have some bad news for you, Son.”
Gil stepped into the hallway for better reception. “Is everything okay?”
“It’s Dusty,” his dad said. “He was in an accident early this morning. I hated to call you, but they’re not sure if he’s going to make it. I thought you should know.”
Gil frowned at the mention of his chestnut gelding. “What happened?”
“He was hit by a car. Got through the fence and must have been on the edge of the road. Too foggy. The driver didn’t see him.”
Dusty. Gil swallowed the emotion threatening to clog his throat as the memories whooshed back. He and the horse had been a team. Gil trained Dusty from a colt, learned some great techniques on his back, and won plenty of high school championships with him. The old boy was dying? Though he hadn’t ridden the horse for two years, the news caught him off guard.
“Is he in much pain? If we need to, I’ll hire the best vet in the country. Fly him in.” The familiar catch in his voice reminded him of his boyhood when he’d asked for simple favors, believing his dad could do anything.
“We’ve already got the best, Son. I just thought you should be prepared.”
After he said good-bye, Gil slammed his fist against the wall. A burning sensation shot through his shoulder to his palm. He’d give anything to see Dusty one last time. Unfortunately, two hours from now, he had a date with destiny, an appointment at Lambeau Field. If his team won the Division Championship against the Green Bay Packers, they’d be one game closer to the Super Bowl. If they lost, this would be the last game of Gil’s career. Funny, he was about to retire from a game he loved, and his old friend was retiring from the game of life.
GIL WAITED ON THE SIDELINE WHILE THE DEFENSE PLAYED THE FIELD. In all his years as quarterback, he’d never experienced the chaotic feelings tumbling over him this first half. Two decades ago, he’d left everything for the game of football. Rodeo. His dad. With no regrets. Or maybe he’d never allowed himself that luxury until now.
He stared out at the field and watched as one of their linebackers intercepted Green Bay’s pass.
The lights glared down as Gil blocked the roar of the spectators from his mind. Silence. His offensive line crowded around, waiting for his call.
“Go on two.” His breath turned into a puff of vapor in the brisk night air. Gil walked to the line of scrimmage, adrenaline pumping.
“Down, set, hut, hut . . .”
The ball snapped into his hand. He dropped from the line of scrimmage and looked for his primary receiver. Covered. The defense had his running backs blocked as well.
No clear path — either throw or run.
No time for debate.
He tucked the pigskin into his arm and faked a sweep, rolling over the first lineman coming his way. His legs careened him up and over the defense as they’d done a hundred times before, and he flew down the field like a horse after a steer let out of the chute. A cornerback charged him from the side. Gil slid to the ground.
“First down,” the referee called out.
Gil saw the official’s signal and should have been thrilled. Instead, he stole a glance at the hostile Packer crowd and caught sight of a man who looked like his father. His breath stilled.
Impossible. His dad didn’t attend his games. He didn’t care enough to.
“Do you even see what’s happening out here?” Johnson jammed his fists into Gil’s padded shoulders. “It’s like you’re in another world.”
Gil stared up at the lights.
Concentrate. Keep your mind in the game.
He went to set up another formation and listened for the radio signal in his helmet. Receiving his coach’s instructions, Gil pitched his hands into the huddle, felt the determination of his teammates as the heat rose off their bodies. He refused to let them down. “This time we’ll go for a 40/50 sprint draw. On one.”
He moved into position behind his center.
“Red, blue, 40 – 50, set hut.”
The ball swept up into his hands. Gil sensed a blitz and passed to his wide receiver. Missed. Incomplete.
He tried again. This time when Gil