In hindsight, it was obvious. The unwillingness to admit a mistake and the bossy attitude were there. He even had that certain look, that posture, the quick step in his walk, and the majestic jaw – a “Disney jaw” his old school nurse had called it, the same one who always said he’d grow up to be Somebody.
When he was eight, he said he was special, that he was unlike the rest of them boys running around playing football. Instead, he’d sit at home and read, or if his mother insisted, he’d go out to watch the other kids play, but always stay in the sidelines, wearing a colorful rain coat – another thing his mother insisted on.
He was a great student. He loved school, and the school uniform, and those long socks he always pulled up to his knees.
One time his father came to the park where he was sitting, and watching the kids play football, wearing a bright yellow rain coat. He was busy writing in his notepad, so he didn’t hear his father’s footsteps behind him.
“Hi, buddy, what are you doing?”
“Whatcha writin’ about?”
“What kind of stuff?”
“Numbers. Names. Times. Just stuff.”
“Don’t you wanna play football?”
Just then one of the kids kicked the ball over the sidelines. He got up and sprinted to the ball as fast as he could, beating everybody to it. He threw the ball to the kid jogging towards him – underhand – then did a hand gesture that made the kid turn around and jog back to the game.
He had worked as a traffic school teacher, a car inspector, and a toll booth operator. He’d got to the eighth round in Who Wants To Be a Millionaire – that’s how he met his wife – and he was the head of the local drama club.
All this went through his head as he pulled the yellow card from his breast pocket, and with his heels together, toes a little outward, raised his arm, and pointed to the sky with the card.
This was, finally, his time. He was the referee.