Guys Do Not Do Secret Santa (a CATCHING JORDAN short story)

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Junior Year Following the Event that Shall Not Be Discussed: Me Blowing the Tennessee State Championship Football Game

(Nine months before the events of CATCHING JORDAN)

“I know you want them.”

“I know I want them,” Henry replies, rolling his eyes at the laptop screen. “But they’re $99.95. Why don’t they just make them $100? Really. Why would anyone think saving five cents would be a deal?”

“I’ll buy them for you.”

“You’re not buying them for me.”

I lean against his shoulder and stare at the picture of the gloves. They’re perfect for a wide-receiver, and well, Henry’s a perfect wide-receiver. Maybe I could tell his girlfriend, Carrie, to buy them for him for Christmas. He’d never accept them if I bought them for him. It would hurt his pride too much, even if we are best friends. He needs a great pair of gloves if he expects to play well next season. I’m hoping he’ll get a scholarship.

Henry goes on, “I could find five cents in JJ’s ass –”

“Gross,” I reply, elbowing him, knocking him over to his side of the bed. “I’m exhausted. Let’s pass out,” I say with a yawn.

He shuts the laptop, sets it on my bedside table, and moves to lie down next to me.

“We have to sleep head-to-toe. You know Mom’s orders, man,” I say.

“But I can’t sleep with your feet in my face tonight. I might get fungus up my nose.”

“Asshole,” I say, kicking him. He shoves me back and we wrestle and laugh until I collapse onto my pillow. I’ve been putting in extra hours at the gym since I threw the interception. I’m surprised I can hold my eyes open.

Henry snuggles under the blankets at the other end of my bed and yawns. “Goodnight, Woods.”

“Goodnight, Henry.”

Lying there, I think about how I have this huge house and plenty of money and Henry’s been wearing clothes from Goodwill for as long as I can remember. I wish he’d let me give him something – anything, once in a while. I bet he’d accept the gloves if JJ gave them to him. But not me. Maybe I could give them to JJ to give to Henry? Naw, Henry would never buy that JJ bought them. JJ’s poorer than Henry is.

Maybe I can put an anonymous gift in Henry’s mailbox?

Nah – he’d figure that out too. He’s too damned smart.

What about a football team Secret Santa exchange?

#

“You want to do what?” JJ narrows his eyes at me, staring like I’ve just said I purposely threw that interception, causing us to lose the State Championship. I have to win it next year. I just have to. Or no college will take me seriously.

“I want to have a Secret Santa gift exchange. It’ll be just us on the team,” I reply.

“Guys do not do Secret Santa,” JJ replies, biting into his Monster burger. “I had hoped your first act as captain would be to get us a hot tub in the locker room, but no. You’re arranging a gift exchange.” He chews his burger, clicks his pen on and hovers over his crossword puzzle, furrowing his eyebrows.  He scowls.

The door to Jiffy Burger opens, the little bell dinging, and Matt Higgins, Drew Bates and Corndog, the captain of the baseball team, saunter over.

“What’s wrong with JJ?” Higgins asks me.

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