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The Hail Mary Play

by Stacy Woodson

About the Author: Stacy Woodson is a U.S. Army veteran. Her military memories are a source of inspiration for her stories. She made her crime fiction debut in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine's Department of First Stories in 2018. Her short fiction will also appear in EQMM and Flash Bang Mysteries this year, Malice Domestic’s Mystery Most Edible, Chesapeake Crimes: Invitation to Murder, Mickey Finn: 21st Century Noir, and The Beat of Black Wings: Crime Fiction Inspired by the Songs of Joni Mitchell.


Wyatt stood outside his classroom. His palms were damp and dread twisted his insides. His grade, the outcome of their latest exam, would determine if he remained at Westfield Military Academy or if he went back to bagging groceries at the Quick Mart in Lewisville. 

He pushed to his toes, craned his neck, and tried to see the results thumb-tacked to the wall. But his classmates, clustered in front of him, blocked his view. He rocked back on his heels and imagined another failing grade. His stomach churned. He belched back the tuna salad sandwich he had for lunch and suddenly wondered if things went bad if he’d be able to keep his meal down.

“Yes!” Meathead Malone pumped his arm like he just scored a hole in one. He flashed a goofy grin and then peeled away from the grade sheet. 

If Meathead passed, maybe he did too.

Wyatt pressed closer and tried to fill Meathead’s space, but the football team flooded the hall, and Wyatt was swallowed in a sea of black and gold jerseys. 

Shrek, his roommate, played offensive lineman. At seven feet and 375 pounds, he stood out among the crowd. He lumbered over to Wyatt. “How did you do?” 

Wyatt swallowed, his throat thick. “Don’t know yet.”

Cadets, men and women, flowed in behind the football team. Some carried signs with game day slogans: Sink Maritime. Maritime has small decks. They’re going to need a bigger goat.

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