Melissa Mitri

March 18, 2004

1st hour

Short Stories

Witch's Brew

The day Ned Blake was cut from the football squad, he consoled himself by doing experiments in the Lincoln High School chemistry lab. He poured rainbow-colored chemicals in test tubes. He stirred steaming pots of paste. He was hurt and angry―and reckless.

"You're too light for football."

That's what Coach Reynolds had said, patting him kindly on the shoulder. It meant that Tony Kay—Ned's bitter rival—would win a spot at halfback.

A cheer floated in the window. "Yeaaaa, Tony!" Ned slammed down the sash. His eye caught a view of the scrimmage just as Tony sprinted across the goal line.

Ned swung around irritably. His hand knocked over the beaker of red solution he had just mixed, splashing him to the elbow. Instantly, he cried out. There was no pain, but all the wet area had disappeared—hand, wrist, shirtsleeve.

Holy Cow!

He felt his fingers. His flesh was there, but he couldn't see it.

Half his arm had simply vanished. Reaching out blindly, he dumped a similar beaker of blue solution on the spot. It was the luckiest choice possible. Slowly, murkily, the flesh and shirt came back into view. He moved his hand. It was perfectly okay.

Ned sat down, trembling. "I've discovered a vanishing solution, and a restoring one!" Moments later, he heard a faint shout again. "Yeaaaa, Tony!" He grinned. He poured more red solution in a beaker. Slowly he began to mix it until it was exactly like the one he had knocked over. This was going to be the best idea to get back at Tony Kay. To light for football? Ha. Coach Reynolds would have to ask him to be halfback when Tony quit the team. Ned knew that Tony was highly superstitious, so all he would have to do is recruit his black cat, Spooky, and use the vanishing solution during football practice. Simple enough to scare the wits out of Tony, yet brilliant enough to earn him a spot on the team. Now all he had to worry about was Mr. Bailey, whose keen sense of smell could ruin his plan and finding a way to apply the solution to himself without being seen. He would become the Phantom Football Player. Even if Tony didn't quit, Coach Reynolds would have to keep the Phantom Football Player. Ned was so excited by his discovery that he never thought about the after-effects-if any-that his vanishing solution would have.

The next day at school, Mr. Bailey handed their chemistry tests. Ned saw, as usual, a 100. Tony on the other hand, had gotten a C-. Ned said to Tony, "Tony, would you like help studying for the next test?"

"I don't need help from you, Encyclopedia."

"We could make a trade. I tutor you in chemistry and you could teach me some things that would help me build my body up."

"Good idea." Little did Tony know that Ned was going to use the techniques that were taught would be used to create the Phantom Football Player. Only time would tell how good this worked.

A month went by and improvements kept coming, both in Tony's chemistry grade and in Ned's body. Finally, it was Friday and a good time for the Phantom Football Player to arrive. Ned had the vanishing solution and the restoring one ready. He put it on when he got to the field letting Spooky out around the players. He stood behind Tony, but moved out of the way when Spooky struck, leaving Tony howling with pain and fright as he realised that he had a black cat on him. Trying, and succeeding in his attempt not to laugh, Ned got ready with the other players. Play by play came Tony's way and Ned caught half of the one's Tony didn't and then passed them to Tony. Tony then went on to score all of the winning plays. During halftime, Coach Reynolds said to Tony, "What's with you today?"

"I don't know, Coach. Maybe it was that black cat, but I've been having the weirdest luck all game. First the black cat, then whenever I miss a pass, it lands in my hands. I…I think we have a phantom football player!" The school ended up winning-70 to nil. Game after game went by and the Phantom Football Player kept playing. The newspapers were catching on to the idea and started talking about it.

One day, Coach Reynolds stopped by Mr. Bailey's room. "Can you help me find out who this Phantom Football Player is? I have reason to believe that it's one of the students."

"Will do. I've been noticing some odd things in the lab, odd smells. I think that I know who it is. Do you know Ned Blake? He is the only student I allow to use the chemistry lab after school, because he's so bright."

"Yea. I cut him from the varsity football squad because I thought he was to light for football."

Meanwhile, Ned was starting to get uneasy about being the Phantom Football Player. He toyed with the idea of going to Coach Reynolds and confessing. Later that day, he went to Coach's office to see him. "Coach? Can I speak to you?"

"Sure. What about?"

"About the Phantom Football Player. It's me."

"That's what Mr. Bailey thought. Why did you do it?"

"Because I wanted to prove to you that I'm not to light for football. Tony's been giving me some tips on how to get better in return for help with chemistry."

"Well, I'll admit that you've been a big help to the team. You can stay on, but I think you'll agree that the Phantom Football Player's helped a great deal. What do you say? Want to stick on and help Rocky High win the state champs?"

"Sure!" They won the state championship that year. Ned, being a junior, tried out again and made halfback. Once in a while, though, whenever there's a winning play that no-one can explain, they attribute it to the Phantom Football Player. When Ned or Coach Reynolds hears that, they just smile.