Profiles in Courage
Morris Danielson was sitting in the newsroom of the Hillsboro High School 'Hurricane' student newspaper with Maria Johnson-Rodriquez, the features editor, planning out some of the stories for the upcoming weekly editions.
It was only early October but the two already had a story about to hit the front page regarding renaming Columbus Day to something more appropriate, such as Ingenious Peoples Day or Native American Day.
The team was almost done with a humorous piece about Halloween (mostly a tongue and cheek story about what the mandatory trick or treating "retirement age" should be). The Staff was in the process of interviewing alumni veterans for an upcoming story on Veteran's Day and the editors were debating whether or not they should follow up the Columbus Day story with a take on the scandals of early Thanksgiving celebrations or stick with the more traditional Turkey Day stories, like the Hillsboro-Greenville football rivalry.
Maria and Morris were floating ideas back and forth for upcoming editions as they sat in the newsroom after school. Although a talented writer and impressive researcher, Morris had missed out on prestigious assignments that went to Seniors on the Staff because of his previous sports involvement that didn't leave him enough time to fully dedicate to the student newspaper.
But Morris quit the football team in September after suffering his third concussion in less than two years and he became a hero to some by writing a first person narrative of his scary experience with head trauma. Others criticized him as a turncoat betrayer for dishonoring his teammates and the successful football program by printing such a unflattering picture of the beloved and cherished sport of honor.
"I left the hospital after my third concussion in two years with no memory of the previous day, including suiting up for the game I was injured in," Morris wrote. "It's a scary feeling to have no memory of playing in a game I love."
Maria admired Morris' guts for writing the piece and she invited him to assist her on the features desk. Some on the Staff resented Morris because he was a 'privileged jock' in their eyes and they were slow to warm up to him now, even though he was a despised outcast in the school's athletic circles.
Maria took pity on him and Morris appreciated her kindness in giving him a chance to contribute to the newspaper although they had different story ideas and perspectives.
Maria glanced up at the clock on the wall. "I gotta go," she sighed. "I have a part time job I need to get to."
"I'll drive you," Morris offered. "If you'll consider my pitch on the pot story."
"It would never get past Jenkins," Maria said, standing from the table and grabbing her backpack. "I guess I'm walking."
"I'll give you a ride," Morris said. "I'm not a heartless bastard."
She smiled. "Just a bastard," she joked.
The two teens hadn't known each other prior to Maria rescuing Morris from the trash heap. They were in the same graduating class but they ran in different social circles. Their paths crossed on occasion in the newsroom and around the school but Maria wasn't keen on sports and she hadn't paid much attention to Morris' three sport legacy at Hillsboro High (football, basketball, baseball) until he wrote the damning article about his concussions.
Now here he was driving her to work in his aging Honda. Maria noticed Morris glancing longingly at the football practice field were his former teammates were loosening up for that afternoon's practice session as they drove out of the parking lot.
"Do you miss it?" Maria asked.
Morris let out a sigh. "I'll always miss it, the way an amputee misses his leg ten years later. But I want to remember who I am when I'm fifty so I really have no choice but to let it go."
"What about basketball and baseball?"
"I've burned my bridges here," Morris replied. "My sports career is over."
"I'm sorry," Maria let him know.
He looked at her with sadness painted on his face. "Me too."
Maria told him the address on Pine Street.
"What kind of job do you have?" Morris asked. "There aren't any businesses in that neighborhood."
"I do home care," she revealed.
"Really?" Morris asked with surprise.
"Mrs. Clark. She's pretty much a housebound widow," Maria explained. "She gets meals on wheels for lunch. Somebody else does the shopping and med runs. I come in the afternoon and do a little bit of cleaning and I make sure she has a light supper and I help her to bed. She's frail from congestive heart failure."
"That's too bad," Morris remarked.
Maria gestured to a small light gray one story ranch with a brick front a few houses down. "That's it," she said.
Morris pulled the car into the driveway. "Well, good luck."
"You could come in too if you wanted," Maria said.
Morris was surprised by the invitation. "I wouldn't want to intrude."
"She's a lonely sick woman," Maria replied, rolling her eyes. "I'm sure she wouldn't mind seeing another face."
It wasn't as if Morris had anything better to do now that he wasn't participating in football practice. He hadn't gone back to his part time job at Fontaine's Family Grocery Store yet, the scheduler bumping him from the rotation when football started and he was in no hurry to call in his availability. So he climbed out of the car with Maria who appeared somewhat startled that he had actually taken her up on the offer.
"What happened to Lulu?" Maria asked as they walked around to the back of the house.
"You mean Lois?" Morris frowned.
"She dumped me after I quit the team," Morris revealed with defeat in his voice. "She didn't want to deal with the controversy. She thought I was wrong."
"I'm pretty sure she was wrong," Maria replied, using a key to let them in through the kitchen door.