Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Bouncebackability (06/05/14)
By Jack Taylor
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The air horn blaring a foot away made Trevor Maxwell instinctively cover his ears. Half-time. A loss seemed inevitable now.
Sitting on the sidelines with a throbbing ankle wasn’t Trevor’s idea of a good day on the rugby pitch. His flanker position had been filled by Jason and it was clear the team was getting badly outplayed. Without his penalty kicking at work the gap in the score was growing.
He knew Mindy was watching from the stands on the far side. Wondering how bad his injury really was. He’d been investigated twice by the league on suspicion of deliberately throwing a match. His own team had done its checking into his life. She’d confirmed her trust in his integrity, but tensions had been increasing with the added pressure.
The Junior All-Blacks had taken a chance on him based on his former glory four years before. Then he was in top condition. The prison term still allowed him to work out and to keep in shape. But nothing could really shake his reputation. He’d been free a year but with his legs feeling like he was stepping in and out of wet cement his former shape stayed elusive.
Yes, the papers had all trumpeted that the all-star flanker had found religion in prison. They pondered the lack of bar room antics that was his trade mark after games. Those same papers headlined his relationship with the Aussie model who had cat-walked her way from Los Angeles to New York to London to Paris. They questioned every turn of his head toward another figure, but still she stayed.
Trevor adjusted the ice pack on his foot and lurched forward on crutches toward the dressing room. He glanced over his shoulder and saw her stepping down like a queen toward the pitch. Her blond tresses glistened in the afternoon sun.
An entourage of paparazzi flowed like a wake behind her. Buzzing their questions like bees around a hive. He waited until she arrived and gave him a brief hug.
“Tell me this is for real,” Mindy whispered.
“Look for yourself.”
“I’m off to Tokyo tomorrow. I need to know you’re going to be okay.”
“The team’s off to Jo-burg next week. I’ll text you.”
With that, the model stepped away and disappeared down a tunnel toward the parking lot.
A few of the journalistic herd transferred their loyalty and began to buzz in his ear. “Not much of a bounce back for you Trevor. Three injuries now. Are you really hurt or are you throwing the matches again?”
“I’m just trying to resurrect my career,” Trevor snapped.
“Feel like you’re Jesus, then? queried the reporter. “Found him in prison and now you’re bringing him onto the field? How’s that impacting Mindy? We know she used to be pretty spicy.”
“She met Jesus before I did,” answered Trevor. “We’re taking it slow until I figure all this out.”
Trevor crutched his way into the locker room and caught the end of the pep talk. Heads were hanging low as the humiliation settled over the room. Character and heart were questioned from the top. The coach’s diatribe stopped mid-sentence as the wounded warrior moved into the center.
The glares were clear.
“Look, you animals,” Trevor snarled. “If you need blood to show I’m really here, then so be it.” Trevor threw the crutches against the wall. “If one man determines whether you win or lose then you’re not much of a team. Next half they’re going to have to carry me off on a stretcher or in a hearse. Show me you care.”
Trevor endured more pain than he imagined possible as he feigned fitness back and forth. He prayed out to almighty God for strength and endurance and limped his way into position time after time. His heart seemed to rally the scrum and pushes were definitely different. Alistair, the scrum-half took the penalties and slowly the Junior All-Blacks began to score.
The crowd caught onto a new chant. “Bounce Back. Bounce Back. All-Blacks. Bounce Back.”
The fire continued to race up and down his leg as Trevor pushed his team for try after try. The momentum had clearly changed by the final few minutes. In the final minute the All-Blacks won a penalty kick just outside the twenty-two.
Alistair pointed at Trevor and at the ball. Trevor stepped off his approach. He knew the price he was going to pay but he stepped into it anyway. The win was worth it.
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