It was the first game of the season at Florida Field, and in typical fashion the Gators had scheduled something less than a fearsome opponent. This year it was the University of Tulsa. Midway through the second quarter the score was already twenty-seven us, zip for the Golden Hurricanes.
Reality would come home to roost in two weeks when we faced off against Tennessee, but for now the future appeared glorious, and the only thing in life that even mildly concerned me was why a football team from Oklahoma would call itself the Golden Hurricanes.
I turned to Barbara Pickering and said: “Don’t you think they ought to call themselves something more geographically appropriate? Like the Golden Cow Patties?”
It got laughs from the people sitting around us.
“Or the Golden Tumbleweeds,” said a woman to my left.
Barbara looked up from her book.
“I’m sorry,” she said. “Did you say something?”
It was Barbara’s first time at Florida Field. In fact, it was her first time at a football game. I was trying hard not to be offended by the fact she had not only brought along a book—A House for Mr. Biswas, by V. S. Naipaul—she was actually reading it. I had never seen anyone reading a book at a football game.
A man sitting in front of us turned to Barbara.
“Honey,” he said. “Please tell me that’s a book about football.”
“Well, actually, it’s about the Hindu community in Trinidad and how this poor downtrodden man, Mr. Biswas, so badly wants a house of his very own, yet—”
I gave Barbara a nudge. She stopped.
“You’ll have to forgive her,” I told the man in front of us. “Barbara’s British.”
Barbara gave the guy a smile so stunning that his ears turned red. I could relate. I do the same thing whenever she smiles at me.
I reached under my seat and found the pint flask of Mount Gay that I had smuggled into the stadium. I poured a healthy dollop into my cup. Then I pulled a wedge of lime from the plastic baggie in my pants pocket and squeezed it into the rum.
The man in front of us turned around again. Mainly because I had succeeded in squirting the back of his neck with lime juice.
“You’ll have to forgive him,” Barbara told the man. “Zack has scurvy.”
Moments later, the Gators scored. I stood to cheer with the rest of the crowd. Barbara took the opportunity to stretch and yawn and work out the kinks. She glanced at the scoreboard.
“Oh my, only two minutes left,” she said. “Perhaps we should go now and beat the crowd.”
“That’s just until halftime.”
“Meaning . . .”
“Meaning, with TV time-outs and the Gators’ passing game, I’d say we can look forward to at least another two hours of this. Good thing the relative humidity is 187 percent. That way it will seem like a whole lot longer.”
She faked a smile. Even her fake smiles are pretty damn stunning.
Just then I heard someone yell: “Yo, Zack!”
Monk DeVane was standing in the aisle, waving for us to join him.
“Come on, there’s someone I want you to meet,” I told Barbara.
“An old college friend?”
“Yeah, we go way back.”
Barbara put her book on her seat and we began edging our way toward the aisle.
Monk DeVane had been my roommate when we played for the Gators. Like me, he had knocked around in the pros a few years before getting hurt and calling it quits. He opened a car dealership, but it went belly-up. So he tried selling real estate and tried selling boats and tried selling himself on the idea that he could stay married. Last I heard there had been three wives, but I had lost track on exactly what he was doing to make a living.
Monk’s real name was Donald, but one Saturday night on a bye weekend during my freshman year, when I had gone home for a visit, Coach Rowlin decided to conduct a curfew check at Yon Hall. He caught Monk in bed with not one but two comely representatives of Alpha Delta Pi.
While Coach Rowlin booted players off the team for missing practice or talking back to a coach, and did it in a heartbeat, bonking sorority girls at 2 a.m. was not high on his list of misdeeds. At the following Monday’s team meeting, when Coach Rowlin handed out punishments for a variety of weekend infractions, he gave Donald twenty extra wind sprints.
“You boys need to be saving your strength during the season,” Coach Rowlin told us. “Not engaging in wild-monkey sex.”
Donald had been Monk ever since.
Despite all Monk’s ups and downs over the years, he seemed none the worse for wear. Still fit and handsome, his sun-streaked brown hair was considerably longer than I remembered, and he had grown a beard. It was spackled with just enough gray to lend a note of dignity.
Monk stuck out a hand. I took it without thinking, and a moment later I was grimacing under his grip. Monk had a Super Bowl ring. I didn’t. He liked to remind me of that by catching my hand in just the right way for his big gold ring to bear down on my knuckles.
I wrenched away and introduced him to Barbara. Monk pulled her close and wrapped an arm around her.
“How about you dump this joker you’re with and come up to the skybox and have a drink with me? We’re throwing a little party.”
“This skybox of yours, is it air-conditioned?” asked Barbara.
“Cool as Canada, with an open bar and food that’ll make your eyes bug out.”
“Since when do you have a skybox?” I said.
“Since never. It’s the president’s skybox.”
“As in president of the university?”
“As in,” Monk said.
“Traveling in some pretty swank circles these days, aren’t you?”
“Well, it helps that I work for Darcy Whitehall.”
Monk saw the look on my face. On Barbara’s, too.
“Yeah, that Darcy Whitehall,” he said. “I’d like for you to meet him, Zack. Plus, there’s something I need to talk to you about.”
I had seen Darcy Whitehall that very morning at Publix when I went to pick up a few things for our pregame tailgate lunch. He was staring at me from the cover of People, along with a host of other celebrities the magazine had proclaimed “Still Sexy in Their Sixties.”
Barbara spoke before I had a chance to.
“We’d love to join you,” she told Monk.
After that, things went straight to hell.
Copyright © 2005 by Bob Morris. All rights reserved.