“Captain of the World” by Alex Jeffers from Speaking Out: LGBTQ Youth Stand Up (Bold Strokes Books, 2011).

It says something that I read and enjoyed every word of this story, when large parts of it are a play-by-play of a soccer match. To say that I am not into sports would be an understatement. I have attended maybe three or four baseball games in my life, I have never watched a basketball game (despite living in Chicago during the reign of Michael Jordan), and in high school (or was that college?) I went to half of a football game. Yes, half. It was more than enough.

The author fired a shot across the bow by introducing his main character, an American of Turkish descent, and then ending the first paragraph by calling attention to the fact that someone has perpetrated a hate crime against him by writing a racial slur on his car. The next sentence is “My heart went bang-bang.” Yeah, well, it’s not the only one that did. So Raki Burak is the captain of a soccer team and this story is going to take place with that as a backdrop? Well, okay then. Tell me more.

He does. Raki’s gay and not out except to his sister, and only then because she confronted him about it. He’s not out to Paul, the guy he wants to be his boyfriend, who acts as if the feeling is mutual. What I’m trying to say is that this story is rife with conflict, things at stake, and definite good guys and bad guys.

No wonder I couldn’t put it down.