The World’s Greatest Wide Receiver

by John Waterfall 

All the great quarterbacks are dead. Not the good ones. Those schlubs are the ones slinging it around on your television. They are, at most, pale imitations of what a truly great quarterback is, that same epochal difference that separates even grand animals like the elephant from its even grander primordial ancestor, the tundra-stomping mammoth. Yes, the quarterback position is a kingdom of mediocrity, because anything truly great pertaining to that marquee throne of American tackle football is either dead or undiscovered. There are stone tablets that confirm as much. Scared parents that cripple their young sons at the first blush of arm talent, all to avoid the gaze of the world’s greatest wide receiver. Yes, there are no great quarterbacks in this league, because that dread wideout kills them all.

Let me explain. Let me divulge. Let me show you the truth of that which runs the 40-yard dash in less than no time at all. You can call me the scout, or you can call me the surgeon. Either is fine. It’s my calling to locate those who may be in the grave danger of possessing unique quarterbacking talent. Once found, I offer a service, to make a small incision in that rain-making arm, those pocket-escaping legs, sometimes even in that mildly clairvoyant brain. I’m a crippler, not that you’d ever know. My patients often go on to greatness, or the mockery we perceive it to be. Tom Brady’s one of mine. There’s a reason he moves like he’s got the rickets. If not for me, he’d be a pile of snowy bones out beyond Lake Michigan. If you’ve ever come across a pile of bleached bones, chances are you’ve come across one of his, and in a way one of mine.

Any chance I could have a glass of water? Like I said, all I do is make a small incision, wherever a small incision needs to be made. I remove an inch of ligament here, poke a hole in a bone there, maybe cut away a little grey matter. Just a bit. Just the right amount. Knowing what’s needed is the part of the job I inherited from my predecessor, the thing I’ll pass down when Father Time unsteadies my hand.

Look, I get it. You’re scared. A man such as myself shows up at your door. Middle of the night kind of guy. Holding a briefcase like the one I’ve got. A single silver instrument inside, something between a scissor and an ice pick. It’s scary. What I’m telling you is scary. But hold on, let me get Aaron Rodgers’s parent on the line, they’ll vouch. Let me show you the stone tablets, I’ve got xeroxes. They found them in the Dead Sea. Ever wonder why Cain killed Abel, it’s because little brother threw a spiral that wobbled.

Listen, I’ve heard things, something about how your kid can throw a rock off one highway sign and into another. So let me paint you a picture. Imagine for a second he grows up, fine and strong, humble too. There’s a calmness to him, a belief in himself that’s unbreakable. He’s got that lopsided, knowing smile car commercial actors have when they off-road into the sunset. And you want all this for him. Because it’s an escape. Because it means he’ll be special, he won’t have to worry about all the things you’ve had to worry about: mortgages, cancer, the ever-dread of American rootlessness. He’ll be free. Because he can sling it. And I mean really, really sling it. Arrow through a sparrow.

But maybe one day he’s out having a little fun, responsible fun because he’s a good kid, but he needs to get away from those talent scouts planning his future.

He goes out into the desert with a few of his teammates, linemen and running backs. His girl’s there too. The one he’ll either marry or let down gently, call her every year on her birthday so she knows he never stopped caring.

It’ll be fun, but your kid, he got that something special, and he’s got to stare at the moon by himself every now and then, so he can think about how one day, on his best day, he’ll sling it up through gravity and into that pale eye.

There’ll be a whiff then, a smell of sulfur borne in on a bad breeze and your kid will see a shadow in the moon glow, skinny and strong and just out of sight enough to wriggle the skin. It’s human right? Got to be. But it’s too tall. Something hairless and serpentine about it. Head cocked at a hungry angle. And those legs, those calves and ankles, they’re not bending backwards are they? Prehensile like raptor claws.

With a flash of teeth, the thing’ll toss a ball into your boy, thumping his chest and sacking his lungs.

“Spin it,” The world’s greatest wide receiver will say, voice coarse and distant, like sand blowing through an ancient tomb.

And your boy will have to, even if his bowels are uncoiling, because there’s no escape now, and that day he’s been dreaming of, when he craters the moon, well, today better be that day.

I’m sorry. This is upsetting you. Nobody wants to imagine their child mutilated into a pile of limbs. That humming vitality rendered inert. But this is what I do. And this is how I do it. Your kid wont ever be a messiah but at least he’ll live. Isn’t that your job? Your true job. And maybe he’ll still make it big.

So do this for me: your son, go wake him up. Hold his arm down on the table and tell him this next part, it’s all a dream he won’t remember. Just another circumcision. Because there’s only been one Jesus, but there’s plenty of Icarus bones. All the great quarterbacks are dead, let’s not have your son be one of them.

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