The Sculptor


“Shake off your slumber, O son of Jupiter.”

Tommy Campbell, lightning fast wide receiver for the Boston Rebels, opened his eyes expecting to see the end-zone. He could hear the cheers of the crowd—that familiar drone of “Sooooup!” coming from the stands—and his heart was pounding, could feel it pumping in his thighs as he ran. Yes, he was sure that he had caught the ball—his fingertips, the palms of his hands electrified with that familiar sting of “Touchdown!”

But as the cries of his fans quickly faded, as his vision cleared into a bright ball of light, amidst a milky haze Tommy Campbell understood all at once that he had been dreaming. Yes, he was lying down—could feel something cold, something steel-hard on his back and buttocks. He felt groggy, doped up on something, but at the same time alive with energy. And he thought he recognized the light hovering above him.

From a movie? Or from that time in the hospital. When they operated on my—

“That’s it,” said a deep voice to his right. “Come forth from the stone.”

“Not my knee again, Doc,” said Tommy. His throat was dry, and his words came out in spurts of cracked whispers. “Tell me it’s not my knee…”

No reply, but instead a dull prick, a tug at the skin on his forearm. His heart was racing now—even more so than before his first start as a freshman at Boston College; even more so than before his first game as a second round draft pick with the Rebels. But this was different. Indeed, Tommy felt as if there was a war raging inside him: one side trying to drag him back down to his dream, to his winning thirty-seven yard touchdown versus the Dolphins; the other, trying desperately to pull him awake, to bring him back to reality—to wherever he was now.

“Where am I?” Tommy whispered. The light above him solidified into a white rectangle—like a floating movie screen only a few feet from his face, its edges sharp against the surrounding darkness. Yes, his senses were returning quickly now—the blood pumping fast through his veins—and with every beat of his heart the memories came flooding back.

He had been drinking a beer on the porch, looking out over the water—had made only a brief appearance at the victory celebration that afternoon in Boston; had wanted to spend time with his parents down at Watch Hill in Rhode Island before the big game, before flying off to Tampa to prepare for the Super Bowl versus the Giants. He had been alone—Yes, Vicky is gone now, and Mom and Pop had gone to bed. And it had been cold, the January moon dancing playfully on the frigid waters of Foster Cove—those very same waters in which Rhode Island’s favorite son used to swim with his father as a boy.

“Pop?” Tommy croaked. “You there, Pop?”

Then he remembered the wasp—Wasps in January?—the hiss, the sharp pain as if something had bitten him on the neck, right on the jugular. Tommy Campbell had shot up instantly, sure that the top of his six-foot-six frame would crash into the low ceiling of the wraparound porch. But he did not remember coming down, did not remember landing on the wooden planks the way he still remembered landing on the five yard line last season versus the Texans—the now infamous landing that the networks played over and over again; the landing that dislocated his knee and caused him to fumble; the landing that—as those asshole Monday morning quarterbacks put it—cost his team the AFC championship.

But this was a new season, and the tough-as-nails twenty-six-year-old