The lemon yellow Hummer skidded to a stop in front of Dewayne Jobe’s house, the hip-hop music vibrating the vehicle’s insides with percussive explosions. Jesse Webb, owner and operator of the pulsating vehicle, blew his horn to the rhythm of the beat.
The front door of the house swung open. Cherie Jobe stepped out onto the porch and planted her free hand on her hips.
"Jesse Webb, I’m gonna call the police if you don’t turn off that yellow tank and stop raising the dead."
Jesse’s grin transformed into a look of mock hurt. "Miss Cherie, we’re just celebrating." Conceding to her trumped-up scold, he reached over to lower the volume.
"You got that thing so loud I couldn’t hear Gabriel’s trumpet." No longer able to hold a scornful expression, her face gave way to a bright smile. "Get in this house, both of you. My boy’s not ready."
Riding shotgun with Jesse was Sylvester "Sly" Adams, quarterback
for the Springdale Tigers and record holder for throwing
the most touchdowns in the high school’s history --- due in large measure to his best friend Dewayne, Springdale’s star wide receiver.
"Still trying to make himself look pretty for the cheerleaders." Sly opened his door and bounced off the front seat. Jesse came around the front of his Hummer. "He could spend all day in front of his mirror and still not look as pretty as Sly."
"My man," Sly said, and the two boys pounded fists. Cherie smiled at the antics of her son’s friends and ushered them into the house.
Springdale had only one recreational offering for its citizens… high school football. As soon as young boys showed the least bit of interest in the sport and displayed a reasonable measure of aptitude and competence, they were absorbed into the peewee league for early training and experience. Jesse, Sly, and Dewayne were born in the same year, signed up for the peewee league in the same year, and grew into the rhythm and flow of the game together, perfecting their skills and at times showing true genius. Tomorrow the three friends would play their final game of high school football for the Mississippi state championship.
Sly sauntered toward Dewayne’s bedroom, with Jesse at his heels.
"Jesse, could you come here a minute?"
At Cherie’s request, Jesse started turning back toward the living room, but not before throwing a playful punch at Sly’s shoulder. He flashed a boyish smile of surprise when Sly wheeled to smack him back. The boys traded a few good-natured slaps before Sly dodged the last backhand and disappeared into Dewayne’s room.
"My boys. What am I gonna do without all your craziness!" Cherie said.
Jesse gave Cherie a quick peck on the cheek and then settled his thick frame into a well-worn Webb factory recliner. In spite of his fireplug physique, Jesse was swift on his feet. With his agility, he had racked up an impressive number of tackles as a linebacker for the Tigers.
It would have been easy for him to stay with his kind and class growing up in Springdale, Mississippi, but the team sport of football worked a strange magic on Jesse’s impressionable psyche, and he had instead chosen two African Americans to be his best friends. It went as far back as those first years in the peewee league when kids recognized different skin shades only as colors from the same palette and not with any overtones of bigotry. The mutual respect the three boys had for each other’s talents closed the deal on a permanent friendship, and their trust for each other on and off the field made them inseparable. Cherie perched on the sofa near the young man she considered an adopted son. "I’m in a quandary, Jesse." She smoothed the wrinkles out of her dress with agitated fingers.
"About what, Miss Cherie?"
They ignored the playful jive coming from Dewayne’s bedroom. "My boy and his future," she said. "God has given him a gift, and I don’t know what’s the best way for him to use it. You’re going to college, I know, and I want that for Dewayne, but I don’t know the best choice for him."
"I envy him." Jesse’s head drooped. "I don’t have choices, Miss Cherie."
Heir to Webb Furniture, a fourth-generation business, Jesse had every intention of accepting the CEO mantle as soon as he fulfilled another Webb tradition of attending Ole Miss and playing football, if not exceptionally, at least honorably.
"Ole Miss, Webb Furniture, and the rest of my days in Springdale are laid out for me. I couldn’t change that destiny if they offered me the moon."