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We didn't spend a summer, but Chas got me out on Palisado Green one October evening, practicing his play until dusk turned to dark and my hands were too numb to catch the ball. We used the play that Sunday, and the memory is as vivid as that of the unforgettable day my son pitched a no-hitter.
For this play we lined up differently. Chas played center. Sap Greenwood was at tailback and I lined up at right end. Chas lobbed the ball to Sap, and I took off downfield, running with everything I had, and counting.
One thousand and one, one thousand and two, and I was past the Anderson boys and Joey Moran. One thousand and three, and I was at the upper end of the monument, with Bobby Jones running alongside me. One thousand and four, and I was at the far end of the monument and cutting toward it as Jones turned back to guard against a run. He knew that in another stride or two I'd be behind the monument and safely out of the play. I was all alone, running with glorious speed, piercingly aware of the crisp air scented with burning leaves, the green grass and hazy blue sky.
One thousand and five.
Meanwhile, upheld Sap Greenwood had tossed the ball back to Chas, who took a few quick steps to his right while counting. He put his stubby fingers on the laces of the ball, and when his count reached one thousand and four, reared back and flung the ball with all his might right over the center of the monument.
I saw none of this, but I knew it was happening. When the count reached five I stretched out my arms and looked back over my left shoulder toward the top of the monument. Sure enough, outlined against the sky and spiraling down toward me came the football.
The catch was automatic, and I trotted through the trees for a touchdown while the defenders screamed "Foul!" and wondered just how such a miracle could happen.
The over-the-monument pass worked a few more times in the next couple of weeks, but that was all. The consensus was that the Smiley Brothers Aerial Circus was unfair, and Chas and I never were allowed to play on the same team.
The Sunday Afternoon Football Club lasted another season, then time did what the monument could not. Chas went off to college, Tony got married, and the Gunn brothers moved to Chicago or Kansas City or some such place. Emmy Welch became interested in, for heaven's sake, girls! Bobby Jones decided to take music seriously, Normy Anderson went to work in a gas station, and I—well, I played touch football off and on for the next few years before moving up to tackle, but the glory days of boyhood were over. There were no more passes over the monument.