She blinks. "Are you kidding?"
Her legs follow him toward the award stand as if caught by an undertow. What, her mind asks, have you got yourself into? "The 2008 state champion, with a total of 42 points, now approaching the award stand," proclaims the announcer. "The Lady Hornets of Rochelle High School consists of a total of one individual." There's no crowd roar. There's no crowd left. The presenter hands her the team trophy. She thrusts it twice into Coach Dennis's hands. He thrusts it back twice.
Her family's hugging her, clapping, whooping. "Unbelievable, baby!" gasps her dad, who's afraid he's going to cry. The media surround her. Coach Dennis is calling every Rochellian who departed 40 minutes ago, and they're all saying, "What?"
She turns to her coach. "I'd like to crawl under a rock and hide," she says.
I cry when my goal always outweighs my greatest ability
A YEAR PASSES. A teenage girl climbs into her coach's white Chevy Malibu. The heat. The cicadas. The cattle. The buzzards.
The one that fell on her as they were driving home from last year's state meet: Oh, my God. Next year. Again. She'd have to repeat what she'd just done. Everyone would expect it. Her coach looked over, saw her sag and tried to talk away the anvil, but it enlarged with each jangle of her cellphone, each unknown number's flash.
They ride that black ribbon back to Austin in silence. It's June 2009. She stares out the window. Which of it was worst? The media that called her for weeks, inflating her feat to legend? The pep rally two days afterward at which she sat on a platform in the center of the basketball court, head hung in silence as the town and school speechified her to the moon? All the Division I college coaches she'd never heard of, writing and calling every day? Or all those strangers creeping her out at restaurants and games, asking her to autograph their sneakers and T-shirts? What about that agonizing hour and a half of princess-waving as grand marshal of Brady's July 4 parade? Or that ruse at the McCulloch County annual banquet, where she was hoodwinked into busing tables only to hear herself being summoned to the podium and anointed the county's Citizen of the Year?
Nope. The hands-down, barrel-bottom worst was that Sunday at church when the preacher made her stand while the choir crooned, to the tune of My Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean: