Editor’s Note: The Milton Courier is publishing the Top 4 essays from the Milton High School AP Language and Composition class. Students in Jeff Churchwell’s class were given an assignment to write about “Friday Night Lights” and write using a theme directly or remotely related to football.

The room was darkly tinted with the lights dimly showcasing the bar. A man with a rugged, handsome face, perhaps in his forties, sat on an unsteady stool away from the plethora of dancing drunks. Although he wasn’t far from the crowded aggregation of people, his presence was as large as the heavy, black overcoat that hung off his broad back. Beside him, a dingy janitorial uniform lay crumpled on the table. Liam Davis tilted his head back with the last drop of beer trailing down his throat. Licking his lips, he tapped the now-empty bottle onto the surface of the wooden bar until his eyes connected with the bartender’s. A slight nod and lift of his drink signaled to the bartender what Liam needed.

The alcohol buzz started faintly and increased by the second.

The crowd roared, pulsing with Liam’s adrenaline. He chucked down the football with a whoop while running to the sidelines. His teammates slapped him on the back and howled with joy.

“Spectacular! Liam Davis has scored the winning touchdown and took his team to the Finals!”

A movement on Liam’s right had him glancing to the side. A man with thin hair as fine and dark as a stroke of the midnight sky had settled himself down next to him.

“Adrian Levings,” the man introduced himself, a hand outstretched. Liam accepted the handshake and introduced himself as well. To most, it certainly would’ve been odd to converse with a stranger, but it was different in a small town.

“Oh! Liam Davis . . . hey, we went to high school together, remember?” Liam didn’t but nodded anyway.

The two made small talk; Adrian was visiting his family with his loving wife and two children.

“So . . . what are you up to?” questioned Liam. He peered up at the lights as he gulped down his beer.

“I’m a lawyer now. Doing alright.”

Liam sat at the back of the classroom and barked out a laugh at an amusing anecdote someone disclosed to him. A light tap on his shoulder drew his attention. Before he turned, he glanced at the scrawny, dark-haired nerd at the front of the room. The boy was giving the math teacher his attention while vigorously writing down the mess of notes being presented. It was hard not to notice since he seemed like the only one listening.

“Hmm?” Liam stared pointedly at the finger attached to a blond cheerleader. The girl gestured to the kid and snickered.

“Look; he’s acting like he’s better than the rest of us . . . people like him just don’t belong here. We should, like, kick him out or something. I don’t think he even comes to the football games! What a loser.”

Across the room, the dark-haired boy’s leg began to bounce uncomfortably.

“And you?” questioned Adrian after Liam gave a grunt of approval.

Liam shrugged. It was a movement that seemed as if the weight of the world had suddenly fell upon his shoulders. “Not doing much now.”

“Still playing football?”

Running with all his might, Liam had almost reached the endline.

BAM! A heavy blow sent him flying to the ground. Sharp pains coursed through his lower-body with his knee collapsing under him. His head spun; lights and noises blended together until he fell into a state of darkness.

“Not since high school.”

Sensing Liam’s brief replies as the end of the conversation, Adrian stood up and lightly clapped Liam on the back. “Well, it’s nice to see you again. I’ll see you around.”

Liam nodded. He finished off his beer. When Adrian left, Liam signaled the bartender again.

“Nah, buddy. You’ve got work in five minutes. Put your suit on.”

Liam hoisted himself off the stool with a resigned grumble, grabbing the crumpled uniform off the table.

“He’s dead weight . . . never going to play football again. Next year, we’ll win finals without him.”

For the second time in his life, as Liam limped off, a strange thought struck him that he’d once dismissed. Where would he be now if he had been anything like that dark-haired, scrawny kid?

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