Friday, December 12, 2014

Free Fiction: Cheer It To The Heavens

Title: Cheer It To The Heavens
Length: ~725 words
Genre: m/m romance

Notes:  I was thinking about these moments of silence.  They're beautiful because it gives you time to reflect, or pray, mourn, or send love out into the universe, but sometimes I think that the person we've lost was just too vibrant to need a quiet moment.  I feel like perhaps if we shouted loud enough, we might send them one last hurrah across the great divide, and they would know we miss them.  This story is all about that idea.


"Gather round, gather round," commanded Dave, the captain of the Titans and overall head organizer of their community flag football league.  He made compression motions with his arms and the gaggle of players crowded tightly together.

Matt looked around at the assembly, noting good friends and formidable challengers.  He caught Tommy's eye and they smiled at each other. Nothing had happened yet, but it was only a matter of time.  Matt liked the way Tommy played hard and laughed easily.  He ran fast and never let up, but was still the first one to offer a hand to a player on the ground.  He was solid, capable, and had eyes so green that there had to be an emerald somewhere bemoaning its stolen color.

"Just a few words today before we start playing," said Dave, and Matt's attention snapped back.  "I think most of you knew Ardie Herman.  He played here with us for the last five years.  A great team player and a heck of a quarterback.  He battled with cancer for the past two years and yesterday he passed away."  Dave's voice wobbled a little, but he took a deep breath and recovered.  "I talked to his family and they said he was comfortable and surrounded by everyone he loved, and who loved him.  They're working out when the services will be. I know a moment of silence is traditional to mark the passing of a cherished person, but I'd like to change that for today."

Matt swiveled his gaze around again.  The group was silent and still.  Some looked pained.  A few were staring away into the distance, their arms crossed stiffly against their chests. In the sunshine, the loss of a good friend seemed remote and impossible.  The field was picturesquely green and the air warm, even though it was late fall, and Matt felt like Ardie might arrive any moment, a little bit late.  A pang of sadness hit him as it sunk in that he wouldn't get to talk to Ardie again.  Matt scuffed a foot on the grass.    

Dave continued, "But Ardie was never quiet.  He cheered us on when he was on the field and when he couldn't play anymore.  His voice was the loudest every weekend.  I'd like to honor that by sending up a cheer.  It's unusual, but Ardie was unusual and he deserves to hear it. I know he's in heaven and if we make a loud enough noise, then all the angels up there will know who they've got, if they don't know it already."

A murmur of laughter went through the crowd.

"So, I'm going to count down from three, and then let's send up a cheer for Ardie.  He deserves it."  Dave scanned around him and must have liked what he saw because he clapped his hands.  "Three, two, one!"  Dave lifted his face to the sky and a deep yell came out.

The players yelled with him.  A few people shrilled whistles, giving a top note pitch over the rumble and fury of more than thirty people emptying their lungs of grief.

Matt whooped and hollered. He brought his whole body into the effort and tightened his arms as he joined in the crowd.  His hands ached with the force of clenching them into fists.  The cacophony lasted for a long time.  One shout spent, Matt gulped in another breathe and let loose again.  Others next to him did the same.  There were whistles, clapping, stomping of feet, and the lifting of voices to create a tumult of acknowledgement.

Slowly, the cheering died away, and only a few clapping hands were left, and then that finally ceased as well.

"Thank you," Dave said, and now his voice cracked roughly, sounding used and worn out. "I know he heard us. And if he were here now, I know he'd tell me to get on with it." He looked around at the teams.  "Time to play a little football."

A few players gave hoarse cries of excitement and everyone moved to their positions.

Tommy jogged past Matt and on a whim, Matt put out a hand.  Tommy stopped, one eyebrow raised. "Hey, want to come over for pizza tonight?  Watch the game?"

"Sure.  I'd like that."  Tommy grinned and started jogging again.

Matt felt like he could hear Ardie cheering him on.

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