had logo

June 6, 2024

Bell Rung

Andrew Belfry

“You good?” Kevin, the boy’s father, asked. The words hovered somewhere between question and command.   

The boy couldn’t tell if the buzzing was in his head or a bee had infiltrated his helmet. He shook his head quickly. No bugs. The buzzing wasn’t there when his father unbuckled him from his car seat before the game started.

“Kevin, is he—” Coach Nick began.

“He’s good, he’s good,” Kevin said hastily. “Just got his bell rung is all.”

“We’re on the two yard line here,” Coach Nick said. “We need him to punch this in.”

“Of course,” Kevin replied.

An assistant coach grabbed Coach Nick by the arm and directed his attention to a playsheet.

“They’re counting on you, buddy,” Kevin said. Even with his father on one knee, the boy had to look up to him, given his small stature. But thanks to his quickness and small frame, coaches describe the boy as “elusive” and “explosive” instead of  “tiny” and “weak,” as the bullies do in his first-grade class.

Kevin began a speech about grit or commitment or something the boy couldn’t fully hear because the buzzing was still pretty loud. It wouldn’t have mattered. He knew his coaches, his father, his teammates, their parents—everyone was counting on him.

The boy nodded at his father’s muffled words. He wanted his old man to know that he was okay to go back into the game, even though he was not qualified to make a neurological diagnosis at six.

“Tell them we’re switching the play now that you’re good to go,” Coach Nick said, smacking the boy on his small helmet. More buzzing. “Run it straight up the gut. Get us another touchdown.”

Despite being unsteady on his feet as he jogged onto the field, his cleats kept him from falling over, providing a false assurance to the parents watching that the boy was still in control of his body.

He opened his mouth, but the quarterback stopped him.

“It doesn’t matter what play coach called,” the quarterback said. “We’ll get you one after that cheap shot.”

“Yeah,” the biggest kid on the team said. “I’ll clear the way.”

Though the boy knew there was no such thing as a clear path in this game, he said nothing and simply hoped for a fumbled snap.


The boy watched the ball go from the quarterback’s hands into his own arms. He closed his eyes and ran forward.