“Dad…” I hear Daniel say in a voice about one octave higher than usual. I know I am being buttered up for something.
“Do you want to throw the football around?”
This is my one weakness. Daniel and I are both football junkies. We sit together and watch it in the family room. Actually Daniel watches a lot more than I do (of course, he doesn’t have a job). And we both like to play catch, weather permitting.
“Weather permitting” means “a tornado isn’t on the ground nearby”. Otherwise any time is probably a good time to play a little catch. We’ve been playing catch for about five years now. We started out with a little toy football that fit in the palm of my hand. It was quite a challenge catching that little ball, even though we stood probably five feet apart. Daniel would face me when he threw the ball, but that was no guarantee the ball would actually go in my direction. Often times, the game would end when I finally caught the ball. I always wanted to end on a good note and would stay out there until I caught one of Daniel’s passes… sometimes this took several hours.
At home and in California, we use a Poof ball (“Poof” being the cheaper alternative to “Nerf”), essentially a big piece of foam rubber painted bright orange. The first morning we were visiting Meka’s parents, Daniel and I threw the Poof ball around the backyard until it ended up in the swimming pool. Four days later, we fished it out to play catch again. The orange paint had cracked in the intervening four days and the foam rubber had turned out to be nothing more than a really good sponge. Daniel heaved the ball in my direction. It flew perhaps six feet before crashing into the grass. I reached for it and ended up using both hands to lift it up. The ball had sucked up maybe four gallons of water from the pool. At least it wasn’t mildewed. I hoisted it to my shoulder and hurled it at Daniel like a shotput. It hit him smack in the chest with a watery thump, almost knocking him down. It wasn’t one of our longer games of catch.
The Poof ball at home didn’t fare any better. The snow had stopped and the wind had blown most of the backyard clear except for a few drifts. The sun was out and the wind had died down. Daniel had kept the Poof ball in the sandbox all winter. There’s no sand in the sandbox, but there was water. Our Poof ball had not only absorbed the water, but now it had frozen solid. Large chunks of Poof were missing, but the ball was still roughly football shaped. I had a hard time holding it while wearing my gloves. Daniel didn’t have gloves on, but he was trying to catch it on the sleeves of his coat. We were both wearing boots, standing in ankle deep snow. The throws had to be accurate. However, the Poof ball was covered in a slimy rime of ice; this didn’t make it very easy to handle. At least the ball didn’t bounce all over the place like it does in the summertime. A poorly passed Poof ball would just sit in the snow in its own crater.
Eventually, the Poof ball softened up as it got warmer. However, we were getting cold. Daniel’s face was red and my nose started running. Neither of us could feel our hands. We made one last set of catches and retired the Poof ball to the garage. My dad bought Daniel a football that glows in the dark. I don’t have stadium lights in my backyard, so we may switch to the new ball for our next game of catch… weather permitting.