By Ruth Nolan
It was your favorite story, the one you most loved
to tell me, from the days when you were the star
of your high school football team, MVP, you’d say:
It’s important to go limp after throwing a pass
because you know you’re going to get hit
and that way you’re less likely to get hurt
It was the story you loved to share, long before
I’d left the game. We’d drink beer after beer after
a day on the fire crew, over and over you’d tell
the winning story that became the best advice
I’ve ever heard, although I turned it around
to work for me, it became the rules for how to
receive the pass when you threw the ball, hard.
It became more and more important, each time
that you slugged me and cracked open my lip,
when you snuck up behind me and put me in a
chokehold, just to see how I would react, when
you threw me against a wall, our baby in my arms.
I got so good at going limp that for all these years,
I just knew I would deliver that ball all the way to
touchdown, never getting hurt, never going down.
Ruth Nolan, a former wildland firefighter in the Western U.S., is a writer and professor based in Palm Springs, CA. She’s the author of the poetry book Ruby Mountain (Finishing Line Press 2016). Her short story, “Palimpsest,” published in LA Fiction: Southland Writing by Southland Writers (Red Hen Press 2016), received an Honorable Mention in Sequestrum Magazine’s 2016 Editor’s Reprint contest and was also nominated for a 2016 PEN Robert J. Dau Short Story Prize for Emerging Writers. Ruth’s writing has also been published in James Franco Review; Angels Flight LA/Literary West; Rattling Wall; KCET/Artbound Los Angeles; Lumen; Desert Oracle; Women’s Studies Quarterly; News from Native California; Sierra Club Desert Report, Lumen; The Desert Sun/USA Today and Inlandia Literary Journeys. Ruth holds her M.F.A. in Creative Writing and Writing for the Performing Arts from the University of California, Riverside. She may be reached at email@example.com and via Twitter @ruthnolan.
Photo credit: Foxcroft Academy via a Creative Commons license.