BRIAN is playing his last high school football game. When he gets hurt, the coach tells him he must stay in the game since there isn't anyone to replace him. Brian is worried about his future and his love for DEANIE, a beautiful cheerleader.
After the game, trouble develops when BILL, Deanie's old boyfriend returns to town. Brian is distracted by a beer party and mischief with the rival school. Deanie is with her girlfriends when Bill appears. Deanie is coerced into his car and forced to have sex. Deanie doesn't tell Brian. Bill leaves town, promising to return in the spring.
In February, Deanie tells Brian she is four months pregnant. Brian counts the months back and suspects that Bill might be the father. Deanie confesses and Brian is devasted.
When Bill returns, Brian lures him out of town. Bill is severely beaten, but when Brian's back is turned, Bill manages to get into his car and grab his pistol. Brian is shot in the arm. With the barrel pressed against Brian's head, Bill blurts out that he had sex with Deanie many times. Suddenly there is another shot, but this time a bullet slams into Bill's chest. Deanie is holding Brian's rifle. Bill dies at the hospital.
In the summer, Deanie gives birth to a baby with dark hair and eyes like Bill's. Heartbroken, Brian enlists in the army. Aboard the bus, he agonizes over leaving Deanie. Alone and afraid, he slumps back in the seat. Then, he remembers what his coach said about playing hurt, and he realizes that he must go on, even if it does hurt.
OVERVIEW The fear and insecurity in growing up in a small town that offers little opportunity and few role models, exacerbated by an uncertain future and pressure by emotions difficult to control, inspired Gerald L. Nardella to write this novel. Life's struggle can be lonely and painful. Gerald grew up in a small town, experiencing firsthand the insecurities from living in a broken home. Those insecurities still haunt him to this day.