Chapter 2 The Worst Christmas Present Ever JOEI needed an escape route. Now. I could hear thudding footfalls right behind me. And I could practically smell the stinky breath of --Wham!Two hands drove into my back, which was still feeling charbroiled, by the way. And two seconds later, I was eating grass on my front lawn. "I thought we were playing touch. That was more like slam," I muttered.Brian Conrad dropped to his knees and got right in my face. "Aww, did I hurt poor li'l Joe?" he crooned, blasting me with the odor of Cool Ranch Doritos mixed with extreme halitosis."Poor li'l Joe is just fine," I answered. But I couldn't help giving a little grunt of pain as I stood up. Brian grinned. He'd heard my grunt and he'd enjoyed it. Dillweed.Frank and I got in a huddle with Chet Morton, the other guy on our team. Chet's not exactly what you would call athletic. He's exactly what you would call a couch potato. Usually my brother and I could carry him in a game of touch football. But today, Frank and I were both on the injured list. And our team was getting its behind kicked."Okay, here's what we do," Frank said, quarterbacking. "I hike to Joe. Joe, you hand it off to Chet and haul for the goal line. Chet, hang back, keep the ball close, and let everyone go after Joe. Then make your move.""Got it." I tossed the ball to Frank, then got into position behind him. He leaned over, kind of slowly. Charbroiled bodies don't really like to bend."What's wrong? Your pantyhose bunching up on you?" Greg Neemy called out.I laughed, because, (1) Greg Neemy isn't a jerk like Brian, and (2) stuff like that is pretty much always funny when it's said about your brother and not about you.Frank hiked the ball to me. I did a slick handoff to Chet and tore down the lawn like my feet were on fire and there was a lake right across the goal line. By the thundering sounds behind me, I'd picked up at least two of the three guys on the other team. Excellent.Excellent until a foot caught me in the back of my knee. Whomp! And yes, I was eating grass again. I'd eaten more grass during this game than a dog with a stomachache!"You like my new technique?" asked Brian as I heaved myself to my feet with, yes, a grunt. "Foot-tag football.""One problem. You foot-tagged the wrong guy," I told him.Before Brian could get out a word, Chet bounced the football off the driveway and started into his victory dance. You know how when you were little and you had to go to the bathroom but you didn't want to stop playing, so you just kind of squirmed and wiggled around a lot? That's basically Chet's touchdown dance. Sadly, he uses almost the same moves when he attempts to dance with a girl."We should head back inside," Frank called. "We don't want to miss any of the real game.""Yeah, halftime should be almost over," Mark Smallwood, the third guy on Brian's team, agreed. "And I don't want to miss one second of the Seahawks' road to the Super Bowl." He said that "road to the Super Bowl" part in a sports announcer voice, complete with mike reverb.You have to cut Mark some slack. He grew up in Seattle. All the rain leaked into his ears and made his gray matter moldy. He really isn't able to comprehend that the Jets are now, always will be, always have been, the best football team in existence.Even if they are already out of the play-offs.Frank led the way back inside to the living room. "Wimps! Wimps! Wimps!" our parrot, Playback, called from the kitchen as we walked by."Smart bird. He knows his owners," Brian commented as he flopped down on the couch.Why is this guy in my house eating my Doritos? I thought, watching Brian get his snout in the tortilla chips again.Answer: because Frank and I were friends with Mark. And somehow Mark was friends with Brian. Maybe it was another side effect of the Seattle brain mold.Frank clicked on the TV. "Good, it hasn't startDixon, Franklin W. is the author of 'Feeding Frenzy (Hardy Boys (All New) Undercover Brothers Series #20)', published 2008 under ISBN 9781416954996 and ISBN 1416954996.