The Abduction(3)By: Mark Gimenez
“God bless him,” she said.
Her father was a total geek. He was wearing black penny loafers with white socks, wrinkled khakis, a long-sleeve blue denim shirt with the tail hanging out, a yellow Mickey Mouse tie (the one she had given him last Father’s Day), and narrow black-framed glasses; his curly black hair looked like he had styled it by sticking his finger in an electrical socket. (Mom always said he looked like Buddy Holly with a blow dryer, but Gracie didn’t know who that was.) All that was missing from this picture was a white pocket protector stuffed with mechanical pencils. John R. Brice was a doofus to the max, but Gracie loved him dearly, as a mother might love a child with special needs. He was now filming the parking lot.
“God bless him,” she said again.
“Gracie, gosh darnit, we need a goal to tie! Quit foolin’ around and score!”
Jeez, Coach, don’t have a cow. Gracie turned away from her dad and focused on the game. Across the field, Brenda was losing the ball to number twenty-four, the Raiders’ star player (she was eleven) and a real snot. Brenda was chubby and not much of an athlete. She hadn’t scored a goal in the three seasons they had played together. Gracie grimaced as the snot charged Brenda and knocked her to the ground then stole the ball. Bad enough, but then the snot stood over Brenda like the football guys do after a big hit and snarled down at her: “Give it up, Fatty!”
Gracie felt the heat wash over her, the same as right before she had beaten up Ronnie down the street for tripping Sam, a five-year-old alien who had taken up residence in their home. (They swear he’s her brother.) Afterward—after running down the street to a safe distance, of course—Ronnie had yelled “lesbo” at her, which had seemed a particularly mean remark given that she was in love with Orlando Bloom like every other girl in fourth grade. She figured Ronnie had called her that because she was a tomboy and kept her blonde hair cut boy short, or because she had bigger leg muscles than him, or because she could bloody his big fat nose—or maybe because she wanted a tattoo for her eleventh birthday. Mom, however, said that her superior athletic ability threatened Ronnie’s masculinity, always a fragile component of the male psyche. Um, whatever. The next time Gracie saw the little dweeb, she threatened his life and gave him a black eye.
“Gracie, she’s on a breakaway! Stop her!”
The snot was now driving the stolen ball down the field toward the Tornadoes’ goal, obviously suffering from some kind of—what had Mom called it?—oh, yeah, diminished capacity, thinking she could actually outrun Gracie Ann Brice to the goal. As if. Gracie turned on the speed.
“Watch out for number nine!” someone yelled from the Raiders’ bench. Gracie wore number nine because Mia Hamm wore number nine. The select team coaches currently competing for her talents said that with proper coaching (by them), she could be as good as Mia one day. Mom said they were just blowing smoke up her skirt, saying anything to get her to play for their teams. Still, the thought of being another Mia Hamm and leading the USA team to World Cup victory, that was like, way too cool to imagine.
“Gracie, block the shot!”
But maybe she’d better lead her team to victory in the girls’ ten-to-eleven-year-old age bracket first.
Up ahead, the snot was slowing down and maneuvering for the best angle on goal; Gracie was sprinting up from behind and thinking, You know, for an eleven-year-old, she’s got a really big butt. But she also had a really good shot opportunity at low post. The snot planted her left foot, kept her head down, and drove her right foot into the—
Nothing but air, girlfriend! Gracie thought as she slid feet first under the snot, executing the most totally awesome sliding tackle in the history of girls’ youth soccer, clearing the ball from goal, and leaving the snot’s foot kicking at nothing but air.
The crowd cheered!
But not the snot. “She fouled me!” she screamed, pitching a red-faced hissy fit right in the middle of soccer field no. 2. “She fouled me!”
But the referee shook his head and said, “All ball.”
Gracie jumped to her feet and chased down the loose ball. She had the entire field and eight defenders between her and the Raiders’ goal and not much time to get there. She decided on a sideline route—duh—but she first had to eliminate some of the defenders. So she dribbled the ball straight up the middle of the field, suckering the defenders in from their sideline positions—come to mama, girls—until five of the Raiders had congregated at the center line close enough to hold hands like the kindergartners on a class outing. Then Gracie exploded—drive hard right at them, stop on a dime, spin left, and go, girl!—and left them in her dust as she hit the sideline and turned on the speed, an all-out race down the chalk line, past the Tornadoes’ stands, parents on their feet and shouting—