Saturday, November 27, 2010

Larry The Football Fixer

By John McDonnell

Blinky and Mushy were two of the patrons at Murphy’s bar. You may wonder why they had those nicknames. Well, Blinky was a man who tended to blink a lot whenever he got excited, and Mushy got his name because he could get misty-eyed at anything, including the sound of a clock ticking or the taste of buttered toast.

One day when Larry came to work in the form of Michelangelo, and he was up on a scaffold painting a replica of the Sistine Chapel ceiling in Murphy’s bar, Blinky and Mushy came to him with an idea.

“You’re an expert at time-traveling, right?” Blinky said.

“Si,” Larry said, putting the finishing touches on a cherub.

“The man’s a genius!” Mushy said. He was starting to tear up.

“Well, we were thinking,” Blinky said, “that it would be a small thing for you to influence the outcome of the Wagstaff State game this week. You could ah, travel forward in time and maybe do something that would allow our team to win.”

“Change the future?”

“That’s it,” Mushy said, tears brimming in his eyes. “Gosh, Larry, it would be the most beautiful thing. Wagstaff hasn’t beaten Crusher Tech in 30 years.”

“I dunno,” Larry said. “It’s not really permitted. It’s against the rules, like eating store bought pasta.”

“Aw, Larry, just this once,” Blinky said, blinking furiously. “One time, that’s all. You’d be making so many people happy, especially if you could arrange for Wagstaff to win by three.”

“Okay, maybe just once,” Larry said.

“I knew you’d do it!” Mushy said, sobbing with joy.

Larry got down from the scaffold, wiped off his paint spattered hands, and closed his eyes. The air shimmered and he disappeared. In a matter of seconds he was back.”

“The deed, she is done,” he said. “Now, I have to finish this ceiling. The Pope wants me to paint his bathroom next.”

The Saturday of the big game Murphy’s bar was packed. The word had gotten out, and there was a rumor that a lot of Murphy’s patrons had taken a financial interest in the outcome. As the game progressed the mood quickened, because Wagstaff State was actually holding its own. It seemed that Crusher Tech’s best players were coming down with a stomach virus that required them to spend a lot of time in the locker room, and the second stringers who replaced them were not doing as well. Larry intimated that he had placed a small colony of viruses in the team’s Gatorade.

By the fourth quarter the game was close, and the excitement was palpable. Mushy had had several crying jags by now, and Blinky was blinking so much he could hardly see the TV set. The game came down to one big play, with Wagstaff State lining up to kick a field goal that would win the game for them.

“This is a historic day,” Blinky said, blinking three times in succession.

“I can’t believe I’m here to witness it,” Mushy said, choking back tears.

You could hear a pin drop in the room when the players lined up. The ball was snapped, the kicker strode forward, swung his foot, and --

the ball disappeared.

There was a gasp from the crowd and then a shout, as a football appeared on the bar and the crowd realized it was the same ball that the kicker and his teammates were searching frantically for on the field.

“Larry!” Blinky said, jumping up and down, waving his arms, his eyelids moving like hummingbird wings. “What’s going on? Is that the game ball?”

“This is terrible,” Mushy said, tears streaming down his face. “Oh, this is horrible!”

There was pandemonium in the bar, with people yelling directions to the kicker, others cursing, Mushy crying, and Larry turning into an 8 foot ostrich and running about madly in search of a hole to stick his head in.

Then the ball disappeared from the bar and reappeared on the field 25 yards from the kicker. He ran after it as it bounced crazily down the field, followed by the other 21 players.

Then it reappeared on the bar, and the crowd screamed, groaned, cursed.

Then it disappeared and reappeared on the field, this time in the lap of a Mr. Charles H. Hungadunga, who was sitting at the 50 yard line, and the teams charged into the stands after it.

Then it was back on the bar.

Then it was back on the field.

“Folks, this is the craziest thing I’ve ever seen,” the TV announcer was saying. “In all my years of doing the Big Game, I’ve never seen a disappearing football.”

Finally it ended up on the bar again, and the gun sounded that ended the game. Crusher Tech fans rushed the field, the Wagstaff State fans sat in shock, and the mood in the bar was funereal. Mushy was sobbing, Blinky was staring into space (his eyelids seemed paralyzed) and Murphy watched in horror as his patrons lost their thirst and started filing out of the bar.

“You know, the first official football game was between Rutgers University and Princeton, in 1869,” Larry said, from the ice bucket where he’d stuck his head. “It was played under soccer style rules. Rutgers won, by a score of 6 runs to 4.”

“Interesting,” Murphy said, pouring himself a beer. “Do you think they had a  disappearing ball in that one?”