10) Saturday, January 21st – “Time Runs Out!”
At Feargal’s Tavern the patrons jumped up to holler. General Westmoreland Soames sat back with a broad grin and Eric Hopper, on the next stool, shook his head.
“Hoo ah! Be collectin’ on the job tomorrow…”
“Still a fool’s bet. Givin’ that, that… what’s his name…”
“Possum,” Westy smiled. ‘Cause he looks like one, greedy bastard, with that pointy face an’ hairs growin’ all over an’ how he handles that old cash like a little girl’s titties, thought he was gonna clean up on Dallas…”
“Well, he was right. I’d have done so, too, ‘cept that I never bet against the Skins. He shoulda given you at least ten points… what was the line?”
“Fifteen. More, maybe… don’t matter. You gotta have faith, man…”
“You just lucky. Maybe…” Eric mused, “…maybe there’s still time to blow that lead an’ Dallas got two timeouts. But if they hold, you gonna run down to the mall an’ cop one of those Ultra Moonwalk Hi Def models before they done with all your walkin’ round money?
“Nah… Rina and Jeff got birthdays next week… Leo, hit me again.”
The manager nodded at the other end of the bar, filling glasses as quickly as he could while the Skins’ foreign placekicker converted the extra point to go ahead, 20-19, evoking toasts to multiculturalism all over the house.
“So? They ain’t yours… Jeff, that’s Raoul’s kid, right? So buy a set for the house, say it’s his but it’s really yours, of course, or let that ol’ crunk buy his boy a bike, rollin’ in money as he is…”
“Doin’ that well?” Westy perked up.
Eric raised his glass, nodding. “Got suckas linin’ up roun’ the block for them so-called con-verters he’s sellin’ out of that raggedy ol’ truck. When they find out they been hustled, gonna beat his ass…”
“They good!” Wes disagreed. “Have to be… gave one to Miz Lottie, instead of rent. Wouldn’t vic his own auntie; she whomp him with that big ol’ cane…”
Eric looked away, exasperated and rather intimidated by the picture Soames had conjured up, and Leo’s barmaid Syria brought two tequila screwdrivers, grinning ear to ear as the Cowboys marched downfield and the commentators chattered…
“Beautiful, ain’t it?” Syria pointed.
Westy looked up as Dallas converted on third down, Prescott to Elliott, crossing midfield and hustling up to spike the ball. “Ain’t over, yet…”
“Not the game, countryboy, that Zeke. He can get into my end zone anytime he want…”
“How old is he, with that broomstick hair… twenty-one? Eighteen? That’s fraternizin’ with the enemy, by the way” said Leo, creeping up behind his barmaid to give her the goose. “I thought you were talkin’ ‘bout my set. It’s High Def. Tungway forty-four, an’ it’s all plasma, not none of that projection crap. Practically see the shreds of Friday’s porkchop hangin’ off between Lassiter’s teeth.”
“High Def – not mondulated hi def…well, each to his own,” Eric allowed, swishing a healthy belt between his own teeth, just in case there was something clinging that might show up on TV. “Vilma on my back, so I’m getting’ the cable back. Might as well, all this overtime,” Hopper was a sanitation worker, and the winter had kept him very, very busy. “No play havin’ some expensive Mongolian box wit’ nothin’ on but those folks eatin’ bugs on the reality show…”
“Don’t forget the Wizards,” Wes reminded him. “What are they… three an’ sixteen now?”
Elliott pulled down a high one on the sidelines at the Washington twenty-seven, well within range of the impossibly-named Ethiopian kicker, and also stopping the clock with forty-five seconds left, deflating the crowd at Feargal’s except for one squealing barmaid. Westy’s formidable jowls shook in a fatalistic nod as he sipped his drink, silently cursing Fate and Possum… then erupted with every other lost soul in the dive as a Washington defenseman broke through the Cowboy line and hauled their beleaguered quarterback down for a twelve-yard loss. The network cut to commercials as trainers rushed out onto the field to attend to Prescott and an aged and aching Tony Romo rose from the bench.
“Shoulda done one running play, then kicked it,” Biff opined on the tube. “You’re looking at fifty-six, fifty-seven yards and twenty seconds to go and the Cowboys with no timeouts after Prescott’s sack and the injury timeout, spikes the ball, bringing up third and twenty two…
“It’s the clock, as much as the downs,” Snead replied. “Too far for a Hail Mary… with Elliott’s back still sore, Dallas has to work the sidelines, get into range…”
“Or a quick completion downfield, ten yards, although twenty would be better,” Biff suggested. “Then spike it and save maybe five seconds for Ouleyoumeneses... man, I feel kinda dirty every time I say it, oolie-you-menenseeze…”
“Don’t say it that way,” Puson warned. “Children watching.”
“Maybe… field goal kicker won’t do it at this range, though, need at least ten and out of bounds…”
Westy clasped his hands in prayer…
“The snap, Romo drops back, looking… Elliott covered…”
“Lassiter just missing, coulda called it in the grasp…” Snead exclaimed.
“Hawkins has it at the nineteen,” Biff shot back, “making for the sidelines, Sam Bucca has him by the ankles, Hawkins is short of the chalk, he didn’t make it…
“Cowboys lookin’ for a penalty, arguing, coaches screaming… Prescott is back on the field, trying to make it downfield… with five seconds…
“They’re all over the place,” Biff hollers, “can’t line up… three, two, one… Romo spikes but the flags are flying, referees are signaling game over. Ten second runoff means the Skins win!... uh the team whose name we can’t say on the air wins! Washington has upset the Cowboys…”
Westy raised his glass, toasting the man upstairs. “Thank you, Jesus!”
“…an’ fuck you, Possum, right!” Eric cackled.
“After last week’s overtime wildcard thriller against the Eagles,” Puson Snead was already into recap, “Washington scores late, then holds off a patented Dallas comeback to win 20-19 and advance into the Conference finals against the winner of tomorrow’s Seattle-Green Bay showdown…”
“Hoping for a Seahawks upset, because it ain’t no fun taking on Aaron Rodgers and the Pack at Lambeau during January…”
“That fool Possum offer you double or nothing, straight-up on Washington, you gonna bite? No points… when the spread’ll be what, eighteen? Twenty?”
“Hell yeah! Got destiny workin’ overtime here, I say… guidance from above…”
Westy pointed up again, to God or to Feargal’s new Tungwa Hi-Def… Eric glanced at Leo, and the bartender shook his head…
“Can’t fix stupid…”
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