Stars of the Night

by Keshaune Hatchett

     It was a cold January night in Ohio, as a torrential downpour fell upon the earth; Parker Farley stood on top of a grassy mound with a stoic expression etched on his face. Unfazed by the inclement weather, he stared at the ground, as drops of rain littered his body and fell harmlessly from the tips of his nose and fingers onto the muddy soil. He breathed heavily; tired from his long, arduous journey, but he still had many miles to travel, as he was determined to attend his son’s football game. 

     Butterflies fluttered in his stomach, and a lump developed in his throat. He was nervous, on the brink of being terrified because he had not seen his son let alone watched one of his games in over three years, and consequently; that was the last time he had spoken to his wife as well. 

     As he began to embark on his journey, thoughts of that terrible night permeated his mind. It was a hot, summer evening; Parker had arrived home after a long day performing his duties as a police officer. He had indulged in a few too many drinks, and the smell of alcohol caught his wife Sara’s attention. 

     The three sat down for a family dinner, an event that was a rarity in their household because of their busy schedules. Just as everyone was about to eat, Parker in his inebriated state, grabbed a dinner roll and shoved it in his mouth, an act that drew Sara’s ire. An argument quickly ensued, and after rage fueled screams were exchanged between the two; Parker abruptly stood and with a mighty swipe of his arm, sent the entire table full of food crashing to the floor before stumbling toward the front door.     

     Despite his family’s pleas for him to stay, Parker stormed out of the house. He marched across the front lawn and the moment he reached his car; he looked over his shoulder and locked eyes with his son. He noticed the pain and anguish in his son’s eyes, but his anger usurped his compassion. The last thing he saw were the tears of his family as he entered his car and drove away, never to return. Those moments were the lasting memory that played over and over again in his mind for the last few years. He was chock-full with regret, he wished he would have stayed, and wished he had the courage to return and begged for their forgiveness, but he could not bring himself to face them after his deplorable actions.  He wiped the tears from his eyes, as he continued to make his way. He thought about the precious time he had lost; the anniversaries and his son’s graduation from high school. Ashamed, he hung his head but took solace knowing the first step in making things right was being there for the biggest game of his son’s life. The day time hours had turned to evening, and after thousands of miles traveled; Parker finally arrived at his destination. 

     He closed his eyes and breathed in the California air, and although he was exhausted; that did not stop a smile from materializing once he laid eyes on the stadium.  As he made slow strides toward the gate, he faced a dilemma. He did not have a ticket, but he was not going to allow something so trivial stop him from seeing his family. With a gleam of determination in his eyes, he approached the turnstile and just as he made eye contact with the attendant at the gate; a fracas erupted off to the side between two men that were intoxicated, and the distraction allowed Peter to slip passed undetected.  He ascended the hill that led to the stadium, and as he got closer; he reveled in the delectable aroma of hotdogs and popcorn that filled his nostrils. Excitement was in the air, as he made his way through the crowd. A swell of pride filled his heart as he saw countless people wearing his son’s jersey and speaking highly of his football accomplishments. He finally reached the entrance of the section that he hoped his wife was located. All through his son’s playing days, Parker and his wife sat in the same seat for good luck, and he anticipated that nothing had changed.  It was a chore fighting through the mass of people, but when he finally arrived at the designated seat; he stopped in his tracks the moment he laid eyes on his wife’s beautiful face. He was breathless as he admired her stunning beauty. He ogled her long, dark hair and was mesmerized by her flawless complexion. The visual made his heart flutter like it did the first time he saw her back in his high school days. His legs trembled as he moved toward her, and the moment he sat down beside her; his palms became sweaty and his mouth became dry. 

     A myriad of thoughts ran through his mind; there was so much he needed to say. He wanted to express his undying love, he wanted to get down on his knees and beg for her forgiveness, but most importantly; he wanted to take her in his arms and give her a passionate kiss then beg to allow him to return home and make their family whole once again. He noticed that Sara still wore her wedding ring, which gave him a glimmer of hope, but just as he mustered the courage to break the awkward silence; he heard the roar of the crowd. He turned and saw his son emerge from the locker-room. Tears mustered in his eyes and a chill ran down his spine as he watched his son march onto the field full of confidence. He leaned back in his chair, heartbroken. He failed as a husband, and knowing that his son had to achieve success without him, confirmed that he failed as a father as well.  As the championship game commenced, Parker was on edge, and throughout the game; he was on an emotional rollercoaster. Every time his son would take a hard hit and was slow to get to his feet; Parker felt the need to rush down onto the field and provide comfort like he did during Parker Jr’s childhood years. The game was nip and tuck, and intensity was high. A hush had fell over the stadium because with five seconds remaining; the game was tied. Parker gazed down at his son and smiled, because everyone around his son was frantic but Parker Jr. remained poised. He joined everyone in the stadium as they rose to their feet at the sight of Parker Jr leading his team onto the field for the game’s final play. His heart pounded as the ball was snapped; he gritted his teeth and clenched his fist as his son avoided being hit by three different players as he rolled to his right. He jumped up and down rooting for his son, but his heart leapt into his throat as Parker Jr. took a massive blow as he unleashed a rainbow pass toward the endzone. 

      Time seemed to stand still while the ball sailed through the night air. Parker gazed at his son hoping all was well then turned his attention back to the ball, just in time to see it land perfectly in the hands of the receiver for the winning touchdown as time expired. Parker was overjoyed as he yelled at the top of his lungs and relieved when he saw his son jump to his feet. He was exhausted as he took his seat. The grueling travels accompanied by the gambit of emotions he exuded had taken its toll. He made it to his feet once more, and even though he wanted to stay; he knew it was time for him to depart. He gazed over at his wife who vigorously clapped as tears escaped her eyes. He wanted to make a final plea, but decided it was best not to take away from the moment, so; he cautiously leaned over and whispered, “I love you" softly in her ear then made his way through the mass of humanity toward the exit.  Moments later, all eyes in the stadium were focused on Parker Jr. who stood on a podium in the middle of the field surrounded by his teammates and reporters. The newly minted MVP of the college championship game stood battered and bruised, as sweat ran down his forehead and face, while blood dripped from his bottom lip and the tips of his index fingers. A short, tubby, balding reporter made his way toward the young quarterback and hoisted a microphone in his face. “Congratulations, Parker, what’s going through your mind right now?” Parker Jr. took a deep breath then wiped the sweat from his forehead with his forearm. He paused for a few seconds as the blood from his bottom lip fell harmlessly to the ground. He looked to the sky as the crowd fell silent waiting for his response; he found the brightest star in the cool night air as tears saturated his eyes. 

     He could not contain his emotions any longer as the tears escaped his eyes and ran down his cheeks. He took one last deep breath then turned his attention back to the reporter, “My father died three years ago.” He tightened his grip on the trophy, “But I know he was with me today.” He looked back at the bright star and held the trophy above his head then belted out passionately, “We did it, Dad! We did it!” 

     Meanwhile thousands of miles away, Parker had returned to the grassy mound from which he came. He stared down at the ground which contained his headstone. A smile graced his lips because the memories of that horrid night three years ago were replaced by great memories of his son playing the game of his life. He felt in his heart that all was forgiven, and now he could finally rest in peace. 

Author Keshaune Hatchett was born in Canton, Ohio in 1975. He graduated from Canton McKinley high school in 1993. He served his country in the United States Navy and was honorably discharged in 1997. He attained his Bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice from Beckfield College in June of 2014. He had short stories titled, Angel Among Us published in the June 2013 issue of Cigale Magazine, Sometimes We Forget published in the May 2014 issue of Foliate Oak Magazine, Long Dirt Road published in December 2015 issue of Foliate Oak Magazine, Apartment Thirty Six published in Route 7 Review Literary Magazine issue #4 2016, and The House on Cherry Lane Published in October 2017 issue of Edify Publications.

Football field at night