Trying Out for Quarterback
by Steve Klepetar

It’s seventh grade and I’m going out for football.
I like the red jersey with white numbers
and I love the big white helmet that flops around
on my head, the ferocious cage through which I glare.
“So,” my father says, what position you trying for?”
“Quarterback,” I say, with that lazy air of confidence
and just the slightest hint of Texas drawl I imagine
appropriate for the role. He frowns a little, says
“Really? Well, great, but don’t be disappointed
if they pick a different kid, you know every boy
wants to be quarterback, so maybe they’ll put you
somewhere else?” I’ve got number twelve, a QB’s
number, and I’m too skinny for the offensive line,
too tall for running back. Forget defense.
I hate to tackle, already figured out how to circle
the play and arrive just after the ball carrier tumbles
to earth in a tangle of writhing arms and legs.

Two weeks later he asks me about football again.
“So, Mr. Quarterback, how’s it going with the team.”
“Good,” I say.
I don’t tell him how I like the way the girls watch us
practice, how we run past them to the locker room,
helmets dangling from our hands, forcing ourselves
not to smile. I’m working on my jock jog, that little
roll of the hips, my shoulders bulging in their pads,
bent slightly forward, a destroyer on choppy seas.

“So what position they got you playing?”
“Quarterback,” I tell him evenly.
“So you made it? That’s great! They like
your passing then?”
“Uh, not really, we don’t pass that much.”
“So your running?” he asks, a little surprised.
“Um, no, I’m not all that great at running.”
“So what then, how you fake and handle the ball?”
“I guess I’m the only one who can remember the plays.”

There’s a long pause.
“Ah, strategy, the brains of the organization.
And how many plays do you have to keep straight
in that head of yours?”
“Three,” I say,
and shuffle off to the kitchen in search of food.

SOURCE: “Trying Out for Quarterback” first appeared in the author’s collection Speaking to the Field Mice (Sweatshoppe Publications, 2013).

AUTHOR’S PHOTO CAPTION: My son Adam (now 38) in a ferocious seventh-grade football pose.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR:  The story in this poem is true, pretty much word for word, but the speaker is my son, Adam, and I am the clueless dad. The hat is, of course, the football helmet. I love the double punch line, and all the more because it really happened.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Steve Klepetar’s work has appeared worldwide, in such journals as Boston Literary Magazine, Chiron, Deep Water, Expound, Phenomenal Literature, Red River Review, Voices Israel, Ygdrasil, and many others. Several of his poems have been nominated for Best of the Net and the Pushcart Prize (including one in 2016). Recent collections include My Son Writes a Report on the Warsaw Ghetto and The Li Bo Poems, both from Flutter Press. His full-length collection Family Reunion is forthcoming from Big Table Publishing.