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Making Faces(15)
Author: Amy Harmon

“Thanks, man,” Ambrose muttered dryly, and turned to walk back to the center of the mat.

“You know how Hercules beat the lion?” Bailey raised his voice to be heard.

“No, I don't,” Ambrose said over his shoulder

“He was stronger than the lion. He got on the lion's back, and he squeezed the shit out of him!” Bailey yelled after him.

Ambrose looked back at Bailey and something flickered across his face. When the referee asked Ambrose what position he would take, he chose top. His fans gasped, the entire township of Hannah Lake gasped, Elliott Young cursed, and Ambrose Young's coaches' mouths dropped along with their stomachs and their hopes for another team title. It was as if Ambrose wanted to lose. You didn't choose top when you were down by one with twenty seconds left in the match. All Altoona had to do was not get turned–or even worse, escape and get another point–and he would win the match.

When the whistle blew it was as if someone hit slow motion. Even Ambrose's movements seemed slow and precise. His opponent scrambled, trying to push up and out, but instead found himself in a vise so tight he forgot for a moment about the twenty seconds on the clock, about the match that was his to win, and about the glory that would come with it. He sucked in a breath as he was shoved face first into the mat and his left arm was yanked out from under him. The vise grew even tighter and he thought about slapping the mat with his right hand, the way the UFC guys did when they were tapping out. His legs shot out, splaying for leverage as his left arm was threaded past his right armpit. He knew what was happening. And there wasn't a damn thing he could do about it.

Slowly, precisely, Ambrose wrapped himself around his opponent, tying up his legs as he tipped the lion onto his back, never releasing the pressure. In fact, Ambrose's arms trembled with the amount of power he was exerting. And then the count began, one, two, three, four, five. Three back points. Ambrose thought about Hercules and the lion with the golden fleece and stretched and tipped the lion from Altoona just a little more. With two seconds left on the clock, the referee slapped the mat.


The spectators went wild, and the whole town of Hannah Lake claimed they had believed in him all along. Coach Sheen looked at his son and grinned, Elliott Young fought back tears, Fern discovered her nails were shredded, and Ambrose helped his opponent stand. He didn't roar or leap into his coach's arms, but when he looked at Bailey there was relief in his face, and a small smile played around his lips.

The tale of his first match spread like wildfire, and the chant of Hercules accompanied Ambrose in ever increasing volume from one match to the next, providing fodder for his longtime fans and flaming a whole new following. Ambrose didn't falter for the rest of the tournament. It was as if he'd flirted with the edge and decided it wasn't for him. By the time he took the mat in the finals, his last match in his unprecedented high school wrestling career, the whole arena roared the name Hercules.

But after he dominated his last match and the referee raised his right arm in victory, after the announcers went wild with speculation as to what came next for the incredible Ambrose Young, the four-time state champion found a quiet corner and without fanfare, slid his singlet around his waist, pulled on his royal blue Hannah Lake Wrestling T-shirt, and covered his head with his towel. His friends found him there when it was all over and the medals were being awarded.

6: See the World

It was in the middle of nowhere, just a big crater in the ground. But the wreckage had all been cleared away. People said charred paper, debris, bits of clothing and luggage, frames of some of the seats, and twisted metal had been scattered and spread around the crash in an eight-mile radius and into the wooded area south of the crater. Some people said there were pieces of wreckage in the treetops and in the bottom of a nearby lake. A farmer even found a piece of the fuselage in his field.

But there was no debris there now. It had all been cleared away. The cameras, the forensic teams, the yellow tape, all gone. The five boys thought they might have trouble getting close, but nobody was there to stop them from taking Grant’s old car off the road and winding it down to where they knew they'd find the place Flight 93 collided with the Pennsylvania earth.

There was a fence surrounding the area–a forty-foot chain-link fence that had withered flowers stuck through the links and signs and stuffed animals wedged here and there. It had been seven months since 9/11, and most of the signs and the candles, the gifts and the notes had been cleared away by volunteers, but there was something about the place that was so somber as to make even five eighteen-year-old boys sober up and listen to the wind that whispered through nearby trees.

It was March, and though the sun had peeked out briefly earlier in the day, spring hadn't found southern Pennsylvania, and the brittle fingers of winter found their way through their clothing to the young skin already prickling with the memory of death that hung in the air.

They stood next to the fence, linking their fingers through the holes and peering through the chinks to see if they could make out the crater in the earth, marking the resting place of forty people none of them had ever met. But they knew some of their names, some of their stories, and they were awed and silent, each one wrapped in his own thoughts.

“I can't see a damn thing,” Jesse finally admitted after a long silence. He'd had plans with his girlfriend, Marley, and though he was always game for a night with the boys, he was suddenly wishing he'd stayed home this time. He was cold and making out was a whole hell of a lot more fun than staring out into a dark field where a bunch of people had died.

“Shhh!” Grant hissed, nervous about the prospect of capture and interrogation. He'd been certain driving down to Shanksville on a whim was a stupid idea. So he'd lectured and warned but had come along anyway, just like he always did.

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