As the party and pairing off picked up steam at the off-campus house, Kit
leaned against the mushroom cloud “Ban the Bomb” poster in the corner of the living room nearest the door. The
radio blared out the play-by-play from the Cascade-UCLA game, and Kit and two guys listened to the unfolding rout in Los Angeles.
The Cascade radio network’s play-by-play announcer sounded as if he were trying to remain solemn, so he wouldn’t
offend the relatives of the dearly departed. His sidekick had all but given up game details and instead kept reminding listeners
that the charter flight would return to Cascade in the morning and that next week’s game against Idaho would be a chance
Somebody hollered from across the room. “What’s
the score now?”
Kit said, “UCLA 40-21.”
“How much time?”
Kit took her reporter’s
notebook out from the back pocket of her jeans and walked away from the radio console. The party’s host, a senior business
student, Scott Probst, was leaning against the refrigerator, holding court, when Kit interrupted. “Can we talk now?”
“Sure. Step into my office.”
Scott led her down the stairs, into the dim and damp basement, reached up, tugged on a little chain and threw light
on the subject. The basement was a jungle of marijuana plants.
and Scott already had agreed she wouldn’t use his name or say anything about the location of the house in her Campus
Daily story. She was going to use his campus nickname, “Weed.” Kit thought he was an idiot for not trying to be
more discreet. Kit heard about it before she even joined the newspaper staff, and she knew that some of the pot that passed
through the sorority came from this basement.
Kit the tour, which didn’t take long. There were yells from upstairs, and Weed paused just long enough to decide it
wasn’t a raid. “Probably just Cathy Whatshername showing off again,” he said, laughing.
“How much do you sell?”
“How much is that.”
“That’s all I’ll say.”
“Hell, no, have
to keep it under control so idiots aren’t knocking at the door at four in the morning.”
“Give me a break.”
“Do I look scared?”
He offered her
“No, thanks,” she said without looking
up, scribbling to catch up.
“On the job, huh?”
When Scott led Kit upstairs, Cathy Whatsername indeed was showing off in the
middle of the kitchen. Rushing through to the living room, Kit spotted her coat
on top of the television cabinet and momentarily angered the solitary guy watching Mannix by getting in his way for about
eight-tenths of a second, apparently long enough for the private detective to dodge another bullet. She threw on her coat
and poured herself a beer for the road from the keg.
“How bad did the
game end up?” she asked the guy.
you hear us screaming? We won 41-40!” By now, he didn’t seem to care about Mannix.
She headed to the door, assuming he’d go back to smoking or taking whatever
had been passed around to make him hallucinate about a comeback.
Jake Powell had a hard time believing it. Not long ago, the
Fishermen were getting blown away 40-21. UCLA even put in a few scrubs. Jake had lost one contact lens in the second quarter
and didn’t have a replacement, so he couldn’t read the time on the Coliseum scoreboard. But he knew there wasn’t
enough left. Get in the locker room, get on the damn plane, and get home. Finally, he asked the trainer. Four minutes, thirty-eight
[Spindly sophomore quarterback] Rick Winslow threw a down and
out to [standout wide receiver] Keith Oldham and then a little flare to [star tailback] Timmy Hilton, who did two pirouettes
and made it into the end zone. Even the UCLA fans gave him a hand, and Timmy coolly handed the ball to the zebra. After the
extra point, UCLA led 40-28, and the trainer told Jake that 4:05 remained in the game.
Jake trotted back on with the onside kick team. A UCLA player jumped, got his hands on the bouncing kick and managed
to hold on in the collision. In the pile, Jake clutched and grabbed and tried to steal the ball, but the guy wouldn’t
let go. UCLA could kill the clock or, even if it had to punt, probably hold on. As the third-and-eight play unfolded a minute
later, Jake thought, even as he tried to fight off a blocker: What idiot called this play? The quarterback cruised down the
line, [All-Coast middle linebacker and team leader] Alex Tolliver hit him as he was making the pitchout, and the ball bounced
far short of the tailback. The Fishermen recovered.
next play, Rick tossed to Timmy along the far sideline. Timmy had a step on a linebacker, cut back and turned it into a forty-yard
touchdown. After the extra point, it was 40-35, with 2:24 remaining. The Fishermen had only one timeout left, so again there
was no debate about kicking it deep and trusting the defense. It had to be another bouncing onside kick. Don’t go for
the ball, Jake decided as he saw the UCLA guy’s eyes widen and his hands start to reach. Hit him so damn hard the ball
will pop off his hands. Yeah, just like that. As he ended up beneath a pile, he listened as his teammates’ celebratory
hollers let him know they had the ball.
Some UCLA fans were
returning to the stands. The Fishermen had plenty of time. Timmy gained five yards on two carries. On third down, Rick threw
down the near sideline. Keith Oldham and a UCLA defender came down together, fighting for it, and when the official ruled
it dual possession, the Fishermen had a first down on the UCLA 11.
Timmy ran for six. Rick was sacked, but on the next play threw to Oldham in the back of the end zone for the touchdown
that put the Fishermen ahead 41-40, with thirty seconds left. They failed on the two-point conversion, but that didn’t
turn out to be a problem because UCLA couldn’t get into field-goal range. On the last play, Jake watched the last pass
sail over his head and fall incomplete. He heard the gun and leaned over, spent.
the locker room, [Fishermen coach] Larry Benson told them they’d remember this one for years, and Jake knew he was probably
right. Rick’s locker was near Jake, so Jake could hear the young quarterback talk with the reporters.
“What’d you say in the huddle when it was 40-21?”
Rick responded, “I said, ‘We’ve got ‘em right where we
want ‘em.’ And Timmy told us to pick it up because he could score from anywhere on the field in ten seconds.”
[Young defensive coach] Carl Steele appeared at Jake’s locker and shook
his hand. “Good game,” he said.
anyway,” Jake said. “Any chance we could burn the defensive films?”
[Athletic director] Bill Wyden squeezed through the tiny visiting locker room, congratulating the players. By now,
Jake wore only a jock and his sweat-soaked T-shirt. As Wyden neared him, Jake turned and bent over, pretending to be searching
for something in his equipment bag.
It was an effective
* * *
[Beleaguered Cascade University president] Neal Hassler listened to the football
game with his wife for a while, until UCLA seemed to have it locked up. He told Eleanor he was going to putter in the garage.
As he stacked the old newspapers, he suddenly felt the need to get away, on his own, for no good reason he could think of,
just because, so he poked his head back in the door and said he was going for a walk.
“El, this is the first
night in a week it hasn’t been raining and I feel like taking a walk!”
Eleanor said the kids might be calling long distance at some point, as they often did on Saturday nights. “And
have you taken your pills?”
“El, yes, I’ve
taken the darned pills, and yes, I can walk alone.” He didn’t add what he was thinking: Get away for a while.
Screw the governor. Screw ‘em all. And: Maybe I should get a dog.
After two circuitous tours of the neighborhood, the second because he realized he didn’t remember many of the
details of the first, he ended up at the always-open Payless and bought razor blades. A little later – how much later
he wasn’t even certain, but his watch said 12:45 – he was startled to realize he was sitting on a bus bench several
blocks up Wadsworth Boulevard and hadn’t remembered walking there.
Back at home, Eleanor greeted him at the door, and for a second, he thought it was because she was worried he had
thrown himself into the Astor River.
“You missed the
end of the football game!”
“How much did we