Summary: Steele and Laura and Stanford through the years.
Author’s Notes: Please see the author’s notes at the end of the story.
#1: HAIL MARY
“Plans for the weekend, Miss Holt?” Steele asked on Tuesday.
Bernice walked in; he was unable to complete his pass.
“I have tickets to Saturday’s La Boheme,” he faked on Wednesday.
“Sorry,” Laura answered. “I have plans.”
On Thursday, he sat pretending to read the paper. “Who’s the lucky fellow?”
She sacked him hard with, “Murphy.”
He went deep on Friday with a desperate and very forward pass, trapping her between his body and her filing cabinets. “Forget Murphy. We’ll take the weekend. Visit Catalina.”
Laura ducked under his arm. “See you Monday, Mr. Steele,” she said with a smile.
Murphy’s car in her driveway confirmed the play; Steele frowned at the encroachment.
He went to her door and raised his hand to knock. He heard Murphy bellow “No!” Laura countered with an enthusiastic “Yes!” Steele cringed. Her sudden cries of “Go! Go! Go!” escalated to a climatic “Yes!”
Surely they weren’t...
He knew they’d disapprove of his interference, but Steele pounded on the door anyway, determined to call their foul.
Laura opened the door wearing a smile and red sweatshirt with a huge “S” on it. “You’re not the pizza guy,” she told him.
“No, I’m not,” he huffed.
Steele was educated that day.
He learned that Laura had gone to Stanford University, that the Big Game was a big deal, and that “Cardinal” wasn’t a bird but a color.
He learned that Murphy had gone to the University of California at Berkley (but it’s called Cal, Steele, because nobody says University of California at Berkley), and that, as suspected, Murphy was a real bear (though Murphy insisted it was a Golden Bear).
And, despite the fact that he hadn’t a clue about what happened on television that day, Steele later learned that The Play he saw made history.
He let her wear his clothes.
He made her noodle soup that came from a foil packet.
He offered her his bed, pajamas optional.
He let her cry on his shoulder.
He turned her down when she offered herself in her weakest hour.
When he perused the paper the next morning and discovered Stanford lost the Big Game, he “misplaced” the sports section long before she emerged from the shower. Perhaps it was unsportsmanlike conduct, but she had no house, no things, no Bernice and no Murphy, and there was no way he’d tell her she’d lost one more thing.
#5: TIME OUT
They toured the campus at his insistence. They had hours before their flight and he wanted to see where she’d spent some of her youth. Their last stop was the empty Stanford Stadium.
“So, this is it?” he asked from five rows behind her.
Laura looked back at him. “I spent hours here cheering until I was hoarse.”
“You were a cheerleader?” He leered.
She rolled her eyes. “I was in the band.”
Steele was unsure why he’d fumbled that one. “What did you play?”
She returned to him, pressed her lips tightly over his, then broke and said: “Trumpet.”
#6: FIRST DOWN
It was the first time he’d ever seen an American football game in person. He hoped it would be the last.
His senses were blitzed. College students, parents, and alumni screamed in his ears. The band blasted the school song and pounded endless drum cadences into his brain. The stench of greasy food filled his nostrils.
He glanced at Laura. She had a hot dog in one hand, a beer in the other; she wore her old Stanford sweatshirt and a game-day smile.
Steele changed his mind. He hoped this would be the first of many games they could share.
#7: THE KICKER
The score is 21-20.
Stanford is losing.
On third and six, the Cardinal presses just past mid-field with a play-action pass, netting them a 23-yard gain. But the Golden Bears stop them.
There are four seconds left on the clock. Time for one last play.
Stanford has to make a 47-yard field goal to win. It’s a difficult task, even for professional players. Had the senior kicker not gone down in the first quarter with a shoulder injury (though he did still make that extra point and Cal got called for roughing the kicker), things wouldn’t look so dire.
The game now rides on a sophomore who has yet to see any game-time.
The special team takes the field. Number seventeen looks wiry, like he wouldn’t have enough oomph to kick for ten yards, let alone 47.
In the stands, Remington watches the players line up. Laura twines her fingers with his. He tightens the grip. Over the years, he’d seen numerous Big Games against Cal, but none had ever been this suspenseful.
The ball is snapped. It’s caught and set. The young kicker runs up and takes his best shot.
Remington holds his breath. Laura’s nails dig into the back of his hand.
The pigskin rises...rises...rises...
It sails through the uprights.
“It’s good!” the announcer screams over the P.A. “Stanford wins!”
The kicker is bombarded by his teammates.
“Way to go, Danny!” Laura screams.
Remington knows the young man can’t hear them over the din of the crowd, but he’s hard-pressed to keep his own joy contained as he, too, hollers, “That’s my boy!”
As the kicker is carried away on the shoulders of his teammates, all Remington can see is the back of the boy’s cardinal-colored jersey with a huge number seventeen under the name “Steele.”
Author’s Notes: The story came about because I’ve been watching a lot of football recently.
I wanted to use as many football terms as I could, so every section has at least one football term, most have several terms. I also wanted to cover a long time frame in the most economical way, so I picked the drabble format. The first six are exactly 100-words each. The last one is a triple-drabble of exactly 300 words. The change in tense between the last section and the preceding six is a conscious decision, as I imagine the game to be taking place in the fall of this year (2009).
This story was written before the Arizona Cardinals and Pittsburgh Steelers were decided to be in the Super Bowl this year. I find it amusing how it all worked out. :-P (Steelers won.)
For the story, I did a lot of research on Stanford football, wanting to do something on their “big game,” and discovered a few interesting facts:
- Stanford’s main rival is Cal.
- The Play is, in fact, a very momentous and historical play that happened in the 1982 game (much to the chagrin of Stanford). http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history.do?action=Article&id=57500
- Stanford is the Cardinal (singular, named after the color) and not the Cardinals (plural, named after the bird).
- I fudged the timeframe of “Red Holt Steele” and the Big Game in 1983, as I couldn’t find the exact date that game was played. However, Stanford did lose that year, 27-18.