He looked around at the people in his kitchen, all of them with a drink in tow and a story to tell. “What would happen if I just went to bed right now?” he thought to himself. Josh Franken was, at his core, an affable person. He credited his strong personality and reputation with friends as a “solid party conversationalist” to his modest middle-class upbringing in the Midwest.
Josh had, at the time of this party, two loving parents who supported him through thick and thin. He had just moved to New York City some six months ago with two thousand dollars in his savings account and a degree from The Ohio State University in Columbus. The fact that he had moved to the city with no job prospects was never something that troubled Josh. Things always had a funny way of working out for him, and he knew landing a job wouldn’t be an issue once he was physically operating out of the apartment he had agreed to move into with a college friend.
When he told his dad that, actually, no, he didn’t want to move back to the Chicagoland area following graduation, it was met with an eager approval that Josh had not been expecting. In fact, when Josh thought about it, the conversation was eerily similar to one that he had had with his father when he was about to start his first year of high school. This conversation, of course, was the one in which he told his dad that he did not want to go out for the freshman football team this year. He wanted to focus on making some new friends.
The four-hour practice times every day after school and the toxic masculinity involved with being on a football team repulsed Josh, and while he did enjoy watching the sport and the occasional toss in the backyard, there was simply not enough there to keep the boy interested. There was also the issue of a waiver form, which Josh had seen other boys taking home for their parents to sign.
That first paragraph, in all caps, “I HEREBY AGREE TO ACCEPT ANY AND ALL RISKS OF INJURY OR DEATH…” scared the living shit out of Josh. While he didn’t actually believe that he would die as a result of going out for his lowly high school football team, the idea that he could get paralyzed going across the middle for a ball on a short five-yard crossing pattern just wasn’t attractive to him. That was the kind of rational and a little bit dramatic thinking that Josh possessed.
Having no reason to think that this was merely a ploy to hang out in the woods behind the high school and smoke pot or, God forbid, use some other illicit drug that would mortify his mother, Josh’s parents simply said “Okay, fine. Don’t play football.” They knew that he was a good kid, and if he didn’t want to feel like being a tackling dummy for the larger boys at school then he didn’t have to be. That was the bottom line. And the fact that Josh knew he would more than likely be nothing more than a glorified water boy on the team made him only that much more endearing to his loving parents.
Josh’s father, Dan, understood this to a degree, never forcing his children to play a recreational sport that wasn’t of interest. The Dr. and Mrs. Dan Franken’s of Wilmette, Illinois were good people. Dr. Franken worked as a prominent psychologist in the town, with nearly all of his clientele being made up of Prozac-seeking housewives in their mid-40s.
That Dan had always wondered what could have been had he and Sherry stayed in Palo Alto after graduate school at Stanford was a secret he kept buried deep down inside himself. Dan’s wife of 15 years, Sherry, was an accomplished editorialist with The Chicago Tribune before the kids came along. She still wrote from time to time, but, as children so often do, Josh, and his little sister Margaret became her primary job- not because it had to be, but because Sherry believed that the kids needed her.
He didn’t much care for the hitting involved in the sport. Getting tackled hurts, so why the hell would he want to do that? It probably didn’t help that Josh hadn’t hit puberty by the time that tryouts for the Freshman football team came around, but it didn’t matter. He ended up becoming an accomplished tennis player during his four years at a mid-sized high school in Illinois, and he wouldn’t trade those memories for anything that happened on the gridiron.
Why Josh was thinking about his formative years at Wilmette High School while standing in his kitchen in New York City he did not know. Josh was nursing a beer and nodding along to a conversation that he wasn’t paying attention to with two guys whose names he had only just learned an hour before. He took another sip of his beer, and thought to himself, once again, “What would happen if I just went to bed right now?”
Josh’s phone, which had been lying dormant on the kitchen counter just five feet away from him, began to buzz. It was Margaret, his only sibling who was three years younger than himself and just beginning her sophomore year of college at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
“What’s up Margaret?”
“Where are you?” Her voice quivered and shook as Josh slowly backed away from the two men he was previously in conversation with.
They were now arguing, rather loudly, about whether Emily Ratajkowski or Charlotte McKinney had a better rack, and Josh was having trouble understanding that the phone call he had just gotten from his baby sister was of some importance.
“I’m at my apartment. We’ve got a few people over right now but we’re planning on hitting a party in Bushwick in a few hours. Why, what’s up?”
“There’s been an accident. I need you back in Wilmette by tomorrow morning. Call me back when you’re someplace quiet.”.