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The Punt by Mike Bozart (Agent 33) | JAN 2017













The Punt

by Mike Bozart

© 2017 Mike Bozart


A cool, gray, late November Saturday, replete with low clouds that looked exquisitely bored, found my 13-year-old Amerasian son (the new Agent 66 – formerly 666) and I playing some American football in our east Charlotte (NC, USA) back yard. We were passing the brown, bi-pointed, oval, white-striped pigskin back and forth. I then told him: “Get ready, son. Here comes a booming punt. See if you can field it.”

“I’m going to catch it and return it for a touchdown on your ass, dad!” he exclaimed. Such adolescent boldness.

“Be sensible, son. Call for a fair catch. You don’t want to get crumpled by the old man.” I chuckled.

“Crumpled? Ha! You won’t even be able to touch me, dad! I’m going to juke you. I’ve got the moves.” He sure is feeling his oats today.

“Ok, here it comes.”

My son nodded. He had such a determined look on his face.

I then dropped the football from both hands and my right, brown, steel-toe safety shoe struck it fairly hard. It went about forty-five feet (13.7 meters) up in the air.

“The 52-year-old geezer hit that one pretty good,” I proudly announced as the football was in mid-flight.

However, the punt was partially shanked, and started heading for the garden area to my son’s right. Oh, crap! That’s going offline. I hope that it doesn’t slice through the bird netting. Monique [my wife, Agent 32] won’t like seeing a big rip in it.

“You shanked it, dad!” I sure did.

The ball soared over the now-dead stalks in the vegetable garden and into some Japanese mimosa trees that lined the back patio. Some autumn-defiant leaves were knocked off by the ball and fluttered downward. But, I never heard or saw the football hit the ground. Hmmm … that’s odd. Wonder where it went. Maybe it deflected into the neighbor’s yard.

My son and I then walked over to the patch of slender, smooth-trunk mimosa trees, which were about sixteen to twenty feet (4.9 to 6.1 meters) tall. We didn’t see the football anywhere on the ground. But when I looked up, there it was: Our laced ellipsoid was stuck in the crotch of some upper limbs, some eighteen feet (5.5 meters) above the ground.

“Well, there it is, son,” I said as I pointed to the limb-pinched football. “What are the odds of that happening?”

“About the same as winning the Powerball lottery, I would bet, dad.” One in 292 million? That may be about right.

“Oh, you would have to bring up that sore subject.” [reference the short story Powerballed]

“Sorry, dad.”

“It’s ok, son. That’s life. Par for the curse.” [sic] The curse?

“Well, how are we going to get it down, dad? That tree is way too skinny for me to climb. I’m sure that it would break before I got to the football.”

“It would, son. And, the trunk is too thin to support the weight of our extension ladder. I’m going to give it a good shaking. Maybe it will drop out like the golden egg.” The golden egg? I bet he uses that in a future short story.

I then walked over and located the slim trunk of the Albizia tree that supported the vise-grip limbs. I grabbed it with both hands and began to shake the tree vigorously, slamming it into the surrounding trees. The result: More leaves fell to the ground, but the caramel-colored egg-ball didn’t budge a millimeter (1/25 of an inch).

“Hey dad, we could throw another ball at it. Maybe that would knock it loose.” Good idea.

“Yeah, I guess it’s worth a try, son. Where is that other football – the slow leaker?” [After fifteen minutes, this found-in-a-creek American football would lose half its air pressure.]

My son quickly located it next to the natural gas meter. We went inside the house and pumped it up to maximum air pressure. Wish there were some way to seal this football’s bladder. If only I could get some Slime® (a puncture sealant) into it to seal that pinhole.

Once back on the patio, my son took the first throw. It was blocked by another mimosa limb. Then I took a shot at it. Blocked as well. This is going to take a luck shot to free that football. It won’t take 292 million throws, but it may take 292. Or, a few more.

We alternated throws for sixteen minutes with no luck. When I missed badly with the now-low-on-air football, which sailed halfway across the neighbor’s back yard, my son had had enough. This is futile.

“Dad, my arm’s tired. Can we try this again later?” My arm is shot, too.

“Sure, it’s not going anywhere. It’s not going to rain tonight. And, I think that the owls will leave it alone for the night.” Why would an owl want that football? My dad says the weirdest things.

Six weeks later, in mid-January, my son and I went outside in the late afternoon to check on the perched football, which had been rained on numerous times, and had even been sleeted upon and snowed on a week prior.

All the leaves had now fallen off the Japanese mimosa trees. The football was starkly obvious at first glance, appearing like an abandoned bird’s nest in the darkening sky. And, it was still firmly ensconced in the crotch of the V-shaped vertical conjunction of the topmost limbs. Still can’t believe that it landed perfectly in the crotch of that tree. All of the angles had to be just right for that to happen: the downward trajectory of the football, the attitude of the football as it struck the crotch, the alignment of the limbs. An inauspicious flight from Wankersburg to Crotchdale. Must remember that line. I had an internal chuckle.

“Dad, what are you thinking about?” Maybe he’s thinking of a new way to get our football out of that tree.

“Oh, nothing of importance, son. Just amazed at how astoundingly unlucky my punt was. I couldn’t do that again in 292 years.” Gosh, dad’s obsessed with 292.

“You’re not going to live to be 292, dad. I don’t think any human has ever lived past 125.”

“You’re right on both counts, son.”

My son and I then took turns again throwing the slow-leaking football at the stuck-in-the-tree football. In the bottom of the fifth inning, I actually struck the lodged pigskin. But, it didn’t fall from the tree. In fact, it barely budged. Sheez-us H. Christ! [sic] That ball is wedged in there good. / That football is going to disintegrate up in that tree. I wonder how long it will take.

I then spied an old croquet ball on the patio next to a basket of small garden tools. I walked over and picked up the one-pound (0.45 kg) dark blue orb. How in the world did we end up with just a single croquet ball? Did the game get that out of hand? / Wonder if dad remembers where I found that ball.

“What do ya think, son? This has the mass – and will have the momentum – to dislodge that football if it strikes it.”

“But dad, if you miss, it could also go sailing into the neighbor’s car.” That’s true.

“I’ll throw it almost straight up, son – at, say, a 75-degree angle – from back over here, [near the property line] so that it lands safely in our back yard.” Famous last words.

I then went into a windup like a baseball pitcher. I hurled the 3.625-inch-diameter (92 mm) croquet ball from my right hand with as much velocity as I could muster. It whizzed past the tree-clasped football (just an inch – 2.54 cm – too high) … and then crashed loudly onto the sheet-metal roof of our rear shed. Damn! Just what I didn’t want to happen. Un-focking-believable! [sic] This is going from bad to worse in curvilinear fashion. / Oh, dear! Wonder how bad the damage is.

“Dad, I bet the odds of that occurring were much greater than the odds of your punt resulting in a tree-stuck football.” I’m sure.

I sighed. “Yep, you would be right, son. So very right.”

We walked over to the rear shed that was just up from a runnel. The croquet ball had struck about four inches (10.16 cm) from a corner. I observed a substantial dent in the aluminum roof panel, but, thankfully, no hole. Darn it! Wouldn’t you know it? It was just the width of the ball from missing the shed entirely and quietly landing in this soft earth. Bad luck loves to camp on my shoulders. This shed kit cost $292. That number is shadowing me. Is it an augury to play those digits on a lottery ticket? No, that’s just madness.

As of January 27, 2017, the football was still stuck in the fateful crotch of that Japanese mimosa – like an ensnared partridge in a silk tree.

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