For the Win - Raine Thomas
“Don’t I know you, kid?”
Will nearly rolled his eyes over the grizzled Uber driver’s question, but he didn’t want to look like the kid he’d just been called. He was twenty-two, for Christ’s sake. He wasn’t a damn kid. How would the driver feel if Will called him old man?
If he had known he would end up leaving the holiday party he’d just attended alone instead of heading off to one of the female guest’s homes for some late-night fun, he would have hired a professional chartered car for the evening. How was he supposed to anticipate the party’s hostess leading him up to her lavish bedroom and screwing his brains out right then and there while the rest of the guests drank themselves senseless downstairs?
By the time Will was done giving her the ride of her life, it had been too late to contact a charter to get his intoxicated ass home. He’d had to settle for the Uber. Now here he was, sitting in the back of a lumbering Oldsmobile while a driver who looked and sounded eerily like Tommy Lee Jones peppered him with questions. He half-expected to be led to the Men in Black facilities…but maybe that was the whiskey talking.
“I play ball,” he finally replied.
“Hot damn,” the driver declared, jerking the wheel so much in his excitement that Will braced himself. “You’re Will Campbell! I’ve got Will Campbell in my car!”
The driver turned to look at him over his shoulder. “You look a little different without your ball cap on. I’m a huge fan. You’re one of the most promising young pitchers I’ve seen in years. I don’t know how you pulled out that win against New York to end the season. Shame it didn’t get us into the playoffs.”
The car crept toward the double yellow lines on the road. Will tightened his grip on the chicken stick. “Uh, yeah. Listen—”
“I always wondered what you guys did in the off season. Do you live here in Denver then?”
Will’s eyes were glued to the road. He was grateful that it was after two in the morning and there wasn’t any traffic coming from the other direction. The car’s tires thudded as they hit the reflectors lining the center of the road, finally prompting the driver to glance back out the windshield and yank the wheel the other way.
“Yep,” Will choked out.
He didn’t mention that they were on the way to his neighborhood now. The driver seemed like the kind of guy who would drop by unexpectedly if he knew that.
“It’s been a bitterly cold fall,” the driver commented, his eyes now mostly on the road. “But it’s nearly winter now, isn’t it? Just another week or so to go.”
Will was relieved when the driver slid back into his standard “kill the time” banter and stopped bouncing in his seat over the fact that Will played professional baseball. His stomach reeled from the driver’s erratic swerving, and it was being urged along by the overwhelming scent of lemon and cheeseburgers floating through the car’s heating system. Those tequila shots he’d done on top of the whiskey were starting to feel like a terrible idea.
Fortunately, it didn’t take much longer to get to their destination. He had given the driver an address a few blocks from his house. It was a safety measure his father had suggested years ago when Will first started living on his own. There had been several times when the advice had saved his ass, especially once he became more well known.
They pulled up to the curb in front of the dark dwelling belonging to the incorrect address. “Nice neighborhood,” the driver observed as he entered their arrival into his app.
Will finished entering a tip amount in the app on his own phone, knowing he’d likely forget otherwise. “Yeah, it’s quiet,” he said as he reached for his door handle. “Thanks for the ride.”
“Hey, wait. Can I get your autograph?”
Although Will wanted nothing more than to exit the car into the crisp December air, he obliged the driver by signing a couple of greasy napkins that looked as though they were the source of the cheeseburger smell. He signed one for the driver and one, he was told, for the driver’s son, then made his escape.
He focused on his phone and pretended to get absorbed in responding to a text on his way up the driveway. As soon as the car pulled away and turned out of sight, Will put the phone in his