Whatever did happen to all of Hiram’s friends, anyhow? High School, the best years of their lives, already 16 years gone… they won the state championship, the STATE CHAMPIONSHIP, and what does he have to show for it? Trophy on the mantle, sure… looking at it now makes him so queasy sometimes he literally vomits in his mouth. He can’t seem to take it down, though.

The recruiter from the state college had him at the top of his list. It would have all been different if it wasn’t for his knee.

The last of his buddies must have left Duncanville over five years ago now. Losers. Why did they leave?

Well, Ben won’t be going anywhere now, at least. Ben and his family were just passing through the “old stomping grounds.” Stopped in the truck stop and Hiram didn’t even recognize him, he was so goddamn fat. Ben, however, recognized Hiram right off (hardly a change other than the deeply receding hair line). “Hiram! You’re still here! Good to see a friendly face!” the doughy mass gurgled uncomfortably.

Seeing Ben obese and domesticated was just too much for Hiram. Ben had been their goddamn quarterback… their LEADER… and now he was just a sack of shit. They had been brothers… warriors! This moon-faced, jiggling monstrosity that stood in front of him was a sick abomination, an insult to the memory of what he had been. Worse yet, it ruined the fantasies that he had long harbored of their reunion. Hiram found he could no longer picture young Ben as he was in his mind without having it blotted out like an eclipsed sun by this fat caricature of his lost beauty.

How Hiram had missed him… Ben’s return as an unrecognizable slug (with a wife and kids, no less), was not merely disappointing, it was a betrayal. He put him down quick, from behind, like a horse with a broken leg. He never knew what hit him. Hiram sobbed and mourned his lost friend as the tire iron solved the problem of Ben’s bitch and brats.

It was a mess, sure, but the law is sparse and incompetent around Duncanville. Hiram saw their local Barney Fife, Officer Earl the next day, and damned if he didn’t help him load the bags of cement into his blood-splattered pickup.

Hiram would mourn Ben until the day he died.

There was still hope for a happy ending, though. Maybe Craig would pass through town, Big Craig the linebacker, just as fine and strong and beautiful as he had been that night under the bleachers…

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