I never liked football. Never. Never, never, never, never, never.
This is not hard to understand. My father was from England, where football means soccer and where American football is hardly ever played. And so I grew up in a house where there was no interest in it.
I never saw football on television, either, because we never had a TV set—not my entire life. As I’ve told you, my father had a favorite saying: “Television kills your mind.” And so he never owned one—and I never cared. Not at all.
Because, you see, what Father did own was a huge library, a library jammed with books of all kinds: novels, history, science, you-name-it. Although we had a room called the “library,” our books spilled out of that room and overflowed into every other room in our house. Books were on every table, on every shelf; stacks of them were by our beds.
Many of them, though, were carried away by the tornado that severely damaged our house in the summer after my sixth grade year, but Father quickly began buying books again (the insurance money was very helpful), and before long, our house—our repaired house—was once again overflowing with books.[i]
Father was a reporter for the newspaper in town, so we had newspapers in our house, but because he was never interested in sports—of any kind—that was the one section of the newspaper that neither of us ever read. Ever.
Of course, I knew about football. During recess at school, especially in the fall, lots of kids would play it—mostly boys, but some of the girls, too. I never paid too much attention to it, but I saw the activity every day and just tried to stay out of the way. I can’t say that I thought much about it at all—except to wonder why so many boys would want to play a game that caused so many of them, after recess, to have ripped clothing and bruises—and sometimes even blood.
I have to confess that there was another reason I grew to dislike football. Blue Boyle. As he grew and grew and grew and grew during fifth and sixth grades, he became more and more interested in football. And why not? It gave him a chance to knock down and hurt other kids—things he could not do in any other way and still stay out of trouble.
In fact, Boyle was rewarded for being violent. The other boys were afraid of him, many of the girls started to like him—yes, I mean like him—and coaches from the high school used to show up at recess to watch him.
As you remember, Boyle disappeared in sixth grade—then reappeared most horribly later in two different places: on Middle Island on the Ohio River, on Green Island in Lake Erie.[ii] By that time, he was huge, as oversized and sturdy as a statue—and more a creature than a person. Now that seventh grade had begun, I was grateful he wasn’t around anymore. School can cause plenty of stress on its own; no need to add fear or even terror to the mix.
“Vickie! Vickie! Are you home?” Harriet’s voice was shouting as she banged the door knocker louder and louder.
It was a week before school started. I had not seen my neighbor and friend Harriet Eastbrook for about a month. She and her mother helped us a lot after that tornado on July 4, and, in fact, it even looked as if her mother and my father were going to … you know? But for much of August Harriet and her mother had been gone to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, where her mother played golf every day and where Harriet had other friends whom she saw every summer.[iii]
“Door’s open!” I yelled back. I was in the parlor, reading, as usual.
“I have the best news!” cried Harriet when she entered the room. “The best news ever!”
“School’s been called off this year due to lack of interest?” I suggested.
“Don’t we wish!” she said. “But actually, it’s even better than that!”
“Well, don’t keep me in suspense any longer, Harriet.”
“Got anything to eat?”
“Yes. And you know where, too,” I sighed.
I closed my book and followed her to the kitchen, where she was soon searching the cupboards and refrigerator for food. She quickly found the graham crackers and some milk and sat down at our kitchen table with an entire stack of crackers. In seconds her mouth was entirely full. I continued to marvel at Harriet’s ability to eat anything and everything but not add an ounce of weight.
“So what’s your news?” I asked again. I had begun to believe it wasn’t going to be as exciting as Harriet had thought.
“Bbmdheknethd,” she said.
“Pardon? Why don’t you swallow that glob of graham crackers before you try to talk!”
She picked up her glass of milk and took a long drink. Looked at me closely.
“Blue Boyle is back,” she said.
[i] You can read a full description of this destructive tornado in the first installment of The Papers of Victoria Frankenstein.
[ii] These events Vickie deals with in the first installment of her Papers.
[iii] Harriet Eastbrook was Vickie’s best—and only—friend at this period in her life. As Vickie reveals in I discover Who I Am, Harriet’s father abandoned his family, and Vickie suggests that her father and Vickie’s mother were beginning a romantic relationship. Vickie’s mother, remember, had died shortly after Vickie’s birth.