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and they drive three hours east(3)

Time:2017-10-12 23:23Shoes websites Click:

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THEY SPEND THE afternoon on the back porch, staring at the lake. A breeze crosses through. Condensation from cold beer leaves rings on their table. Dianne studies her dad, hungry for flickers of memory, but he seems to be getting worse. Ten or so times each hour, he utters a version of this: "I grew up in Marshall, Texas. I went to Marshall High School -- the Marshall Mavericks. I went to LSU to play football so that I could be closer to my older brother Jack, who played at Tulane. He was my hero."

He hollers at Anna to bring him a vodka rocks and makes a few crude jokes, as if returning home has transplanted him to his teenage years. It's all too much for Dianne. She walks to the dock and stares at the muddy water. It's clear that there won't be any magic on this trip. "His memory is gone," she says, as if she needs to confirm it to herself. The party seems like a looming disaster. One of his few living high school teammates can't make it. Her brothers are unable to attend. She's out of energy and patience, and she feels guilty about both. Her eyes turn glassy. Something more than a party is at stake.

"You're witnessing a family tragedy," she says.

The lake seems to calm her, as it did the dozens of times she came here as a child. Soon she remembers today's tiny moments that made her smile. During lunch at Neely's barbecue -- a Marshall staple almost as old as Y.A. is -- everyone stopped and stared and pointed. Waitresses wanted a picture. Two teenagers approached him, calling him Mr. Tittle. Y.A. sat with them over brown pig sandwiches, talking about their football careers, not his. When it came time to leave, Y.A. reached for his wallet -- he always pays -- but the boys had already picked up the tab. It gave Y.A. a fleeting moment of honor, and it gave Dianne a fleeting moment of reassurance. She sometimes forgets that he is still a sports icon, even as she's more protective of him than ever.

It's dark now, and the mosquitoes are fierce. Dianne heads back to the house. Y.A. slowly lumbers inside from the porch. He sinks into a couch, panting so hard that it resembles a growl. It's been a long day.

"You still breathing?" Don asks.

"I'm still breathing," Y.A. says.

Y.A. COUGHS HARD most of the night, and by morning he is exhausted and croaking, his voice a scratchy wisp. But he has enough energy to venture into Marshall for a glimpse of his childhood, maybe the last. In the passenger seat of an SUV, he seems more alert, guiding Dianne through the outskirts of town as if he'd never left. They drive a mile down a thin, sleepy road and over a hill -- a stretch he used to walk in the dark after football practice -- until they arrive at a grassy lot, barren except for the crumbled foundation of a brick house that burned down a few years ago. A NO TRESPASSING sign hangs on a tree.

"Here it is," Y.A. says. "I grew up here."

They park on the lawn. A man from a nearby porch looks over suspiciously, then turns away. "This brings back so many memories," Y.A. says. Dianne sits in the car, waiting to hear stories that she's heard many times. He used to tell her about the hundreds of bushes that filled the yard and how in 1936, at age 10, Y.A. would pretend to be Sammy Baugh, taking a snap, rolling right, throwing to them. "They were my receivers," he would say. The ball would lodge in a bush and he'd run to it, then throw to another, then another, for hours -- Complete! Twenty-five yards! Touchdown! -- fighting through asthma, through an allergy to grass, dodging snakes, sick with himself if he missed two bushes in a row, fascinated with spinning a ball long and well. His father, Abe, would come home from his job at the post office and be furious, his yard decimated. But Y.A. couldn't stop. Nothing made him feel so alive.

It's quiet in the car.

"This is a bit sad for me," Y.A. says.

Seconds pass. "What are we going to do with this property, Dianne?" he says.

"Dad," she says, trying hard not to tear up, "a young woman owns it."

Again, silence. As Dianne slowly steers the car away, she says, "This might be our last trip out here." Soon after, Y.A.'s sadness seems to have cleared from his mind like a bad throw. He directs Dianne past the cemetery where his parents rest, past the old grocery store, past the Harrison County Courthouse, to a brick building. "This is the old Marshall Mavericks High School," Y.A. says.

Dianne slows down, but Y.A. doesn't want to stop. He tells her to turn right, then left, until she pulls up alongside a park, fenced up and unkempt.

"This is the old football field," he says.

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