The girls stood in the school library near the checkout counter when they saw Andrew Taylor in a corner reading a book.
“I’m going to ask him,” Crystal said.
“He is not going to do it,” Lisa said, shaking her head.
Crystal ignored her best friend and walked across the large library. Their high school made it all the way to the state tournament and they landed in the finals, but now their ace player came down with the flu.
The team was down to two alternates and Crystal had to pick someone by the end of the day. She wanted to choose Andrew if he would participate.
Andrew was one of the smartest boys in school but he was very shy. He joined the team a few months ago and was clearly the best player. Crystal knew that he could be a rising star if he would only participate. As team captain, she rarely got him to say more than a few words and he never participated in any games. Maybe he just needed a little nudge.
Crystal walked up to Andrew and sat down beside him.
“Hi Andrew,” she said.
Andrew looked up at her and smiled. His face turned red but didn’t say a word.
“What are you reading?” She asked.
He held up the book but he didn't say a word.
“Pride and Prejudice. That’s one of my favorite books. How much have you read so far?”
He held out the book again. Crystal looked down at page ten and realized he was having a hard time with the book.
“Oh, not very well, I see,” she joked.
There was no response.
“Well, I'd be happy to help you with your book if you would help us win the finals," she said.
Andrew didn’t say anything.
“Come on. You’ve got to help me out here,” she pleaded.
“You can call me Andy,” he said.
“Ok, Andy. That’s a great start,” she responded with her signature smile.
Saturday evening was the finals. Everyone on the team was early except for Andy. The other teams did not arrive yet, but that didn't stop Crystal from pacing the floor in the back of the auditorium.
“Do you think he’ll show up?” Lisa asked.
“Yes. I just hope he’ll be here before the last team. We cannot forfeit this competition,” she said.
Andy walked through the door and Crystal breathed again. The other teams arrived and took their seats. Everyone was ready. Crystal smiled at Andy. He looked so nervous that she almost felt guilty. Sometimes we just have to swallow the medicine. Even if it tastes terrible, it’s still good for you. Tonight is Andy's medicine. Crystal thought to herself to ease the guilt.
At six o’clock, the auditorium was packed. The announcer walked up to the podium and greeted each team before starting the game.
“Good Evening and welcome to the Challenge Tournament Finals. The theme for today’s competition is: What do you really know about South Carolina? You know the rules, so let’s begin,” The announcer said.
Crystal looked at Andy, but he was expressionless. She didn’t know if that was a good sign or not. The buzzer sounded starting the game. She didn’t have time to worry about Andy anymore.
“Question One: What is South Carolina’s current nickname?”
The bell rang.
“The Palmetto State,” Andy said.
“Question Two: What was South Carolina’s nickname?”
The bell rang.
“The Iodine State,” Andy said.
“Question Three: What is the state flow….?”
The bell rang.
“Yellow Jessamine,” Andy said.
“That comes to three points for Palmetto High.”
Thanks to Andy, the school won the finals. The other two schools barely scored any points. Selected as Most Valuable Player, Andy was asked up to the podium.
“Young man, you did extremely well. How did you train for today’s event?”
“I read books,” Andy said.
After a pregnant pause, the announcer realized that Andy wasn’t going to say anything else.
“Well said, Andy.” The announcer shook Andy's hand and started his wrap-up. “You heard him, ladies and gentlemen. He read books!" The audience clapped in response.
"Congratulations to Palmetto High School for their win and to MVP Andy Taylor for a spectacular job. Goodnight!”
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