Save One For Me

Huddled over the pan like a numb handful of eskimos over a fire, they nervously talked about yesterday’s game. None of it was in truth. Filler mostly. Just biding the time until a glance here or a distraction there opened up the line of attack.

If timed right, a miracle of a swipe could cut through the oncoming flurry to the prize. It all came down to the moment when their shooting hand was drawn from their pocket.

“I hear that’ll be all for Gary. He ain’t got that nerve, the stuff to take it to the house. And that’s why coach is canning him for good.”

Howard Billis, standing head and shoulders above the rest at 6-foot-10, could have fooled the chief of police himself with the banter.

His wide stature was unflinching. His brow was as dry as the sandhills, withering away toward the horizon, which peeked through the garage door of the quonset.

There were four men bellied up to the collapsible table and, in the pan, only three goodies glistened with mocking sneers. As Howard beat his point to death, the others painted him as the odd man out and honed in on their target.

“I mean, just look at what Britt’s done to the kid. She hasn’t let him outta her sight since birth. He’s a blind follower of her creed, can’t take no instruction from anyone else.”

“Sure, you could say that has something to do with it,” Don chimed in. He couldn’t contain himself. What they were saying hit home, and he wasn’t going to beat around the bush anymore.

“But that kid’s my nephew. Britt’s my sister-in-law, and she ain’t got nothing but love in her heart. Why, you try and raise a child, Howard. I can’t see you making it past ten days. You’d be running back to the hospital to give ‘em back.”

“Now, Don. This ain’t a matter of me and your nephew. You know Britt hovers around her son like a shark. And whenever she smells blood in the water, whenever anyone takes a step toward Gary, she swoops in to save the day. Gary ain’t got no heart just ‘cause he’s never had the chance to see if he had one.”

You could almost hear the steam hissing out of Don. For him, the pan in front of them, the thing that had lured him in to begin with, was up and gone, like a fart in the wind.

For the rest, especially for Howard, it was the first order of business. So Don wallowed in his woes, struggled to win over his friends in this argument while, unbeknownst to him, they couldn’t give a flying whoop about it.

“It’s all a matter of time, Howard. You’ll see. You’ll see when Gary takes us to state. And your kid ain’t gonna play a minor role. Ain’t that right, Troy?… I said, ain’t that right, Troy?”

Troy was already in for the kill. He grabbed his flaky hunk of chocolate brownie and threw it down his gullet in nothing flat.

Frank, who had been silently waiting for someone to break, pounced on his piece and did the same.

That left one. Over a brownie, Don set himself up for a knock-down-drag-out fight. He boiled with rage. Howard didn’t move a muscle.

“Daddy. Daddy, where did they go?”

Damon pulled at Don’s pant leg.

“I thought they were in the house, but I looked there, and I didn’t see them.”

Howard jumped at it. In a flash, Don was on his back, and it went flying. Damon picked it up, smiling.

“There it is.”

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Published in: on March 7, 2009 at 6:10 pm  Leave a Comment  

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