The players are lined up on the field. It’s the 4th quarter. Seven minutes and twenty-two seconds are left on the clock. The stadium is packed for this October homecoming game. The temperature is a balmy seventy-two degrees. The crowd is doing the wave. Their voices are a senseless jumble of cheers. It’s third down. Hope is in the air. The marching band in the bleachers is readying to play the school’s fight song.
Coach stalks the sideline like the lead singer of a metal band. The back and armpits of his polo shirt are large navy blue ovals of perspiration. The team is down by a field goal and they’re on the attack. The ball is at the defense’s forty yard line.
The center is bent over, his haunches an elastic band ready to snap forward the moment the quarterback gives the command. The wide receiver is already juking the cornerback out of his pants with the darting movement of his eyes. The running back is gazing at one of the opposing team’s cheerleaders with the smoky eyes and smoking hot body.
The referee in the zebra shirt looks at his watch, whistle at the ready. The stars and stripes rustle with the breeze. Somewhere there’s a bonfire.
The quarterback yells hut-hut-hike.
Suddenly, there’s an orchestra of movement and grunting collisions spread over the long green field.
It’s a play-action call.
The quarterback fakes a handoff to the running back and drops back to pass but the defense is not fooled for one second.
One of the defensive lineman breaks through and is a freight train of heft and speed as the quarterback tosses the ball, which sails through the air with a slight tremor, just evading the gloved fingertips of the wide receiver, who is promptly clobbered by the safety. It’s a clean hit and they both tumble out of bounds, towards the wavering pyramid of cheerleaders.
The noise of the crowd is a seesaw of anticipation and dismay. Their voices crest in simultaneous hope, then recede once the referee whistles the play dead. The quarterback unsnaps the chin strap of his helmet and spits in disgust. The wide receiver is helped up by the safety, who then slaps his butt and says, “Better luck next time, chump.”
In the grand tumult of action and drama, no one except the lazy trumpet player notice the guy carrying a tray of nachos and beer losing his balance on his way down the concrete steps. At first, it seems like he’s righted the ship and saved the day, but then he tumbles forward, a masterclass of clumsiness, hurtling henceforth into a barrel roll. It’s like a comet entering the atmosphere, the yellow cheddar cheese sauce and spraying beer are the trailing tail of his demise.
He hits the metal barrier with a wince-inducing smack and pops up immediately with the elastic buoyancy of a child. But when he tries to walk it off, his legs become uncooperative and he wobbles like a Bourbon Street drunk. He can’t remember the make and model of his car, nor the name of his wife and children. The world flashes red and white, urgently turning, turning, turning.
A concerned citizen approaches.
“Hey man, you all right?”
The man gives a big shit-eating grin and says woozily, “Yeah, man. No problem. Have you seen my life?”