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THE LOOKING GLASS SELF

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All rights reserved; no part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted by any means; electronic, mechanical, photocopying or otherwise, without the prior permission of the author and publisher. This is a work of fiction. The events and characters portrayed are imaginary. Any resemblance to real-life people or locations are entirely coincidental.

Copyright © 2020 Edward (E.T.) T. Milligan

All rights reserved.
 

THE LOOKING GLASS SELF

Excerpt from the book.

PROLOGUE

I remember the year a shy, introverted African American teenage boy from the inner city slums, who had low self-esteem and a lack of confidence, learned a valuable lesson about success, and in the process, transformed himself into a winner in football and in life. 


Eddie Mindenhall, a sixteen-year-old junior varsity football player, endured the boos and heckling of nearly 500 of Lexington’s East Central High School spectators, as he jogged from the corner of the end zone across a rain-soaked gridiron towards the home team bench. He had just dropped his third pass of the game after being inserted into the lineup as a fringe tight end following the starter’s injury. 


As he passed members of the field goal unit trudging onto the field, none of the players offered encouraging words or gestures as would be the norm when a player made a mistake. It seemed like an eternity to reach the end of a splinter-ridden, cold, wet, wooden bench. As he plopped down, he struggled to pull mounds of wet Bermuda grass from his scarred and slightly dented football helmet. 


Eddie had worked extremely hard to make the varsity squad, having lack the talent and coordination of kids his age. But the empathetic, compassionate coach named Jim Bean had decided not to cut any of the kids that tried out for the team, especially since they had worked so worked to prove themselves. Thus, Eddie was one of twenty non-starting players that suited up for home games and one of the few that actually saw playing times. No other substitute players had tried out for the tight end position. So, when the starting tight end went down with an injury, Eddie got the call. 


He wiggled around gingerly on the bench, having received a strawberry bruise on his right hip from the dive in the end zone. There was only one consolation to this personal disaster. His failure to grasp onto a perfectly thrown touchdown pass would not be the cause of another football loss. Teammates stood along the sidelines, wet, tired and frustrated. They had blown another game against a supposedly weaker opponent; at least by the preseason ratings. A pass reception would have ended a mistake-ridden team performance on a positive note. 


This feeling of disgust was beginning to overshadow the pain he suffered from the hard impact to the ground. A sure touchdown was lost when it was jarred from his clutches by the impact. Eddie had, in fact, exhibited his usual clumsiness by stumbling over his own feet again causing a loss in balance. 


Suddenly, a small group of other bench warmers walked over and offered a consolatory pats on his shoulder pads. Yet, Eddie surmised it was a gesture to camouflage their loss for words. As they walked away, murmuring their frustration, Eddie glanced up at the scoreboard clock and noticed that the fourth quarter had begun, meaning his misery would be over in fifteen game clock minutes. He had that much time to get himself together before heading home. He didn’t want his feeble Grandma Nellie, who moved into the house to look after him when the parents were away, to see him arrive home in his current state of mind.


As the rainfall poured endlessly, it seemed the game clock descended slower than sands through an hour glass. Frustrated, he continued to slump over and drift further into his thoughts. The bench became colder as the home crowd grew silent and began to filter out towards the parking lot, resigned to the inevitability of another home defeat and their third straight loss of the season after winning their first five games. Despite the losing streak, the team’s playoff hopes were still alive if they would win the final two home games.


Finally after a lackluster fourth quarter of punts and fumbles, the game finally game to a merciless end with Wilson Academy shutting out North Central by the score of 27-0.


For the next few minutes, Eddie became so deep in thought that he didn’t hear other players voicing the school fight song as they garnered encouragement while they started their way off the field. Now as most of the players had sauntered down toward the west end zone sideline, Eddie stuck out like a sore thumb and he overheard a mumble Loser directed at him by a couple of overzealous fans.


As he watched the rest of the team and coaching staff trudging despondently towards the long, dark tunnel leading to the locker room, Eddie remained perched on the bench. He didn’t feel he deserved to walk amongst the rest of the team after his multiple blunders that he took personal responsibility for losing the game. As he slumped over further, with his hand in his chin, his thoughts shifted to a happier time in his earlier life as a pre-teen growing up in the large 24-room Victorian mansion his parents shared with their parents. He had been given all the material things a child could imagine. Yet, there were times when both of his parents were away on business trips that he felt alone and abandoned. There were other times when both parents were present, he still felt alone because they were always consumed in conversation about their travel and business ventures and spent very little time engaging their only son about his activities. They seemed unaware of a young boy’s mental challenges associated with teenage angst.


Suddenly, his thoughts were interrupted by the sound of a deep, scraggly voice from above his head. He ignored it momentarily but then the voice rang out again.  He glanced around to see if the few people that were walking out of the stadium had noticed the noise.  But no one had noticed it. It sounded like the voice of Obi Won, in Star Wars. From up above him, he heard the voice, say again, “Hang in there, Eddie.  I’m here with you.” 


Eddie craned his neck and stared in the direction of the voice.  Between the northern star and the big dipper, there suddenly appeared a white, puffy formation.  Although it was dark night, with only a quarter moon in the distance, Eddie noticed that this strange formation of white was slowly forming into a well-defined cloud. The bottom of the cloud was becoming elongated by the moment.  As Eddie continue to stay frozen in place and staring, it stretched into the shape of a person’s chin, with a goatee.


Eddie began trembling in fear, shock and disbelief.  He couldn’t believe what he was seeing and hearing especially since no one else in the area seemed to notice it.  As the cloud continue to form into the shape of a human head, Eddie’s jaw dropped and his eyes bucked out. He couldn’t believe what he was seeing. 


It was the face and voice of his late grandfather, Pepe.  


But it couldn’t be, was his initial reaction.  His grandfather Pepe had died years ago and never returned to him, not even in a dream, much less a physical appearance while he was awoke.   Then, he thought to himself, how can this be? Clouds don’t appear at night.  


At that moment, Eddie remembered that his head had landed harshly against the ground in the corner of the end zone when he’d lunged for the football and it slipped from his hands Although the padding inside the helmet had absorbed most of the shock from the contact with the ground, he surmised that perhaps he’d perhaps suffered a mild concussion from the impact and that he was now just hallucinating. 


So, Eddie grabbed his helmet off the ground, tied the shoelaces of his cleats, and began sprinting towards the locker room at the end of the tunnel without looking back up at the sky.  He hoped he could catch the team physician before he’d departed the area, who would confirm to him that he’d just suffered a hallucinogenic episode as a result of a concussion. 


But Eddie Mildenhall  just been introduced to a whole new world that would change his life.
 

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