Buckman: Chapter 1
By Erin Lockwood
“What?” I scream.
Her mouth moves, but I can’t hear a thing.
I place my hands over my ears to block out some of the noise. “I can’t hear you,” I shout, ducking when someone’s arm comes flying past my head.
People are out of their minds.
Mayra leans in close to me and yells at the top of her lungs, “We won!” Looking ahead at the football field, she cups her hands around her mouth and shouts, “Woo!”
I can’t help but laugh with all this celebration and happiness going on around me. It’s just a game, but an entire stadium full of people is behaving as if their existence relied on the outcome.
“Buckman! Buckman! Buckman!” the crowd starts chanting together.
For shits and giggles, I join in. “Buckman! Buckman! Buckman!”
“This is it!” Mayra shrieks. “This is our year. We’re finally going to win the championship. I can feel it.” She balls up her fists and jogs in place.
Suddenly, everything around me begins to move. I look down at the wooden benches vibrating below my feet. My body lurches forward when someone knocks me from behind, but they’re flying down the stairs too fast to even turn and see who they hit. I grab on to Mayra, and she steadies me.
The field becomes saturated with green uniforms and yellow numbers of those running and celebrating with each other. The stadium condenses down to the first couple of rows, and spectators start piling up on each other, trying to make it onto the field. The security guards are outnumbered.
“Come on!” She grabs my hand. “Let’s rush the field.”
Before I can answer, I’m practically skipping down the bleachers in the student section. Mayra’s speed fuels my momentum. We scream the entire way down—hers celebratory and mine from fear of falling on my face.
“It’s the last home game. Let’s make the most of it!” she says, jumping to the next bleacher, one after the other.
Once we reach as far down as we can go, Mayra shakes her legs and wiggles her fingers as if she wants to jump over the crowd.
“Wait!” I screech.
She stops and turns to me. “Come on. We just have to go for it!”
“Are you nuts?” I shake my head and grab her arm. “No. Let’s go around.”
She wants to do this so badly that she’ll break her neck, but I point just to the side of the crowd to show her the safer solution. I start to tug her that way, but she grabs my arm and rushes ahead of me, taking the lead.
Faster than the guard can stop us, we jump over the short concrete barrier. People follow behind, and once again, the crowd overwhelms security. Now, they can’t catch us, as we’re just two among hundreds on the field.
I take a few running steps but then stop in my tracks. Bending down, I run my fingers over the synthetic fibers.
“April! Come on!” Mayra grabs my arm and yanks me to my feet.
“Fake grass?” I ask in disgust. “Just for a game?”
She’s a step ahead of me, so she turns to say, “Don’t be such an agricultural snob.”
I roll my eyes but then pick up the pace to keep up. What are we even supposed to do now that we’re here?
“Woo!” Mayra celebrates with her hands in the air.
I look around and notice everyone else is doing the same.
I shake my head at my best friend but then humor her. I raise both arms and jump up. “Yeah! Woo! We won! All right!” I shout like the rest of them.
“Now, you’ve got the idea.” She laughs.
We yell and run across the field. From the top of the stands, it didn’t seem like ten yards would feel so far apart, but now that I’m staring at the white lines, it’s so different up close.
The roar of the crowd hovers in the atmosphere, and bodies move around in every direction like a swarm of bees. Mayra moves to run in another direction. I’m not ready for it, so our hands break apart. As soon as I can whip my head around to search for her, she’s gone, swallowed by a herd of people.
I can’t stop moving. The crowd is too wild and crazy. I’ll get trampled if I stop. But I slow down and keep my head up, searching for my friend.
“Mayra,” I shout, but I can’t even hear my own voice.
My eyes scan around, but all I can see are the same green and yellow colors on everyone. I look down at my sweatshirt. Even I blend in like a conformed soldier.
I run to the side of the field where it might be quieter. I’m almost to the sideline where a space opens up when someone slams into me. My body lurches forward, and my arms go out to protect myself from falling.
Before I hit the grass, my hands shove into the firm padding of a tight ass in a green uniform. His body jolts forward as if he had a twitch, and I fall the rest of the way to the fake grass. The helmet in his hand falls to the ground next to me. He twists his body to look down, and he finds me on all fours below him.
The camera that was once in his face is now pointed down at me. I take a deep breath through my nose and reach over to grab his helmet. Leaning back on my heels, I’m about to stand up, but his hand moves down in front of me.
“You all right?” he asks with a Texas drawl.
I mean to nod, but I don’t think I move at all. I place my hand in his, staring into his eyes. They’re so green; I’d think he made them that way on purpose to match his uniform. His arm barely flexes, and my body lifts up. I get a little bit of air before landing on my feet.
“I’m sorry. Someone pushed me. I didn’t mean to …” My hands wave down toward his ass, and now, I feel stupid for ever opening my mouth. “I’m just … I’m sorry. Here’s your helmet.”
“S’all right,” he says slowly, taking it from my hand and keeping his stare on me.
I shake my head at myself and turn away from him.
“Tallan Buckman,” I hear the woman standing next to the camera say, “are you upset about getting snubbed for the Heisman this year?”
“Wait,” I hear him say. “Wait!” he yells louder.
Within seconds, he’s jogged up to me. The cameraman and woman follow behind.
“What are you doing out here?” he asks me.
Could he possibly be this dense?
“There are probably over two hundred people on the field, and you’re questioning me?” I place my hand on my chest and keep moving down the sideline.
“No.” He skips sideways to keep up. “I mean, what are you doing right now—to make you walk around like a lost puppy?”
I stop and turn to him. When I stop moving, he pauses and moves his hand over his forehead, pushing the sweat about to drip down back through his dirty-blond hair. My body pulses. I get a whiff of the salt oozing out of his pores and find myself curious as to what his body might taste like if I kissed his glistening skin. I shake my head, breaking my trance.
“I’m looking for my friend,” I finally say, half-distracted by his face.
I hate football, I hate athletes—because they’re just people searching for fame—and now, I hate myself for finding this guy so attractive.
“Well, here.” He grabs me, his helmet hanging from his pinkie, bends down, and hoists me over his head, making me straddle his neck.
“Ah!” I scream. “What are you doing? I don’t even know you.”
“What?” he yells up to me in shock, dripping with offense. “I’m Tallan Buckman. Everyone in this town knows me. Hell, almost everyone in this country knows me.”
I adjust myself on his shoulders. “Well, I don’t,” I mumble.
Using this high vantage point, my eyes gaze over the field full of green and yellow clothing, and I look for my friend with brown skin and wavy jet-black hair. It doesn’t take me long to spot her bouncing around, still celebrating.
“Hey!” I yell and point about a hundred feet toward the middle of the field. “There’s Mayra!” I wave both arms at her in a wide, crisscross motion. I feel as steady on his shoulders as I would on solid ground.
“Ahhh,” Mayra screams when she notices who’s holding me. She pushes people out of her way to get closer to us.
I lean my body to the side and stretch my leg toward the ground, letting him know I’m sliding off. His arm reaches over and catches me under my armpit, gently placing me back down on the grass.
“I found her. Thanks,” I say just as Mayra runs up.
He tilts his chin at me, accepting my gratitude.
“Holy shit,” Mayra shouts with her eyes bugged out. “Hi!” She jumps up at Tallan.
But, before I let her try to get a conversation going, I hook my arm around hers and pull her in the opposite direction.
“Hold up.” His deep voice booms without having to shout over the crowd.
I stop and turn around, letting the cameraman switch positions with me to get closer to Tallan.
“Do you wanna—” he starts to say.
But I interrupt him, “I just wanna get off this field. Um, good luck?” I’m not sure if that’s the right thing to say to him.
Just as he’s about to say something and Mayra is about to protest, the woman with the microphone steps in front of him, forcing Tallan’s attention on her. “What are your championship predictions this year?”
All it takes are a few steps in the opposite direction, and we disappear into the crowd.
“Are you nuts?” Mayra smacks her palm on my shoulder.
“Ouch.” I rub where she hit me. “Knock it off. I’ve been pushed around and bruised enough for one day.”
“You were just on Tallan Buckman’s shoulders. He was talking to you, and he wanted to keep talking to you, but you went the other direction. Are you nuts?” she screams at me again.
“Sorry,” I say, dripping with sarcasm. “I just don’t like football players, especially—”
“Hot, talented ones,” Mayra exclaims.
I roll my eyes. “Arrogant, fame-seeking ones. He’s probably already forgotten my name by now.”
“Did you even tell him your name?”
I skip to the side, avoiding someone running down the sideline. “No. But it doesn’t even matter. Can we just go home before we get killed?”
“Fine.” She playfully fumes. “But I am telling you, you are batshit crazy, and one of these days, you’re going to regret walking away from Tallan Buckman.”
“Not likely,” I mumble to myself.