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[lights a cigarette inside a Cici’s Pizza buffet]


Son, you want me to put this out you’re gonna have to come over to this side of the counter and put it out your damn self. Yeah, that’s right. Run your ass and get a manager, ‘cause you ain’t managed to be worth a goddamn yet.

[puts cigarette out on table, immediately lights another one]

Doctor says I should quit, but I ain’t takin’ health advice from a man I could lift. Little thing says he runs half-marathons. Well damn, boy, that’s halfway to somethin’ I ain’ give a shit about. You’re like Garfunkel. Sound of silence my ass, how come I can still hear you, then?

[sticks in chew, continues smoking]

Loggins & Messina, now that was a duo.

[glares at busboy]

Anyways, that doctor don’t know my life. Smoking’s killed everyone in my family that died indoors, an’ that’s how I’m goin’, too. Not leaving behind anything the government can re-use.

[nods toward yellowed, framed picture on wall]

Y’all might not believe it now, but that was me. Ooh, boy, I was somethin’ back then, I’d give you more than you could handle. Miss Bearcat. Yeah, he’ll try to cover it up now, but back then, your boy Bearcat needed someone to make him look good, you know? People were asking questions. Why ain’t you got a girl, Bearcat? You’re young, you’re athletic, you’re more or less a made-up creature? [raises eyebrows as if you’re on board with the things she’s saying] Anyways, the University needed someone. Not a lot of Bearcats out there, though, what on account of us being made-up. So, they do this big search. Found me workin’ at the ShowBiz Pizza in Amarillo. Well, I was lookin’ for somethin’ new anyways, there was tension in the band after I stabbed Jasper T. Jowls one night, but he shouldn’a been lookin’ at her like that if he ain’t want stabbed, I say.

[glances at television, which is tuned to The Weather Channel]

These spoiled-ass rich boys.

[pops piece of nicotine gum; has not removed chew or stopped smoking]

Anyways, I seen everything workin’ those sidelines. We was an independent back then, wasn’t no American Conference.

[leans across table]

Back then, all the conferences were American.

We played ‘em all, though. I seen them thinkin’ they’s better than us now, but we played your asses back then.

Florida State? Ol’ Bobby mustn'tna figured out yet where to send them Free Shoes back then, ‘cause we sure as shit gave ‘em a run. Nice fella, though, and good kids. That Terry was a hoot, and I ain’t never seen a tween that could take a punch like that.

[is informed that Terry Bowden was 26 in 1982]

Well, whoever that was, then.

Louisville? Oooh, I know your ass from back then. You still playin’ in that baseball stadium? Nice of them to make space for y’all with all they got goin’ on there. I ain’t seen a football team have to share space with a horse show since SMU took that trip to Tijuana before the 1980 Holiday Bowl.

What’s that? Oh, they got a pizza stadium now? Boy, that’s more degrading than what I saw Craig James do that night.

[glances back up at TV, where an ad for the movie Geostorm is playing]

This is happening everywhere, you know. Media just ain’t coverin’ it, but I see things.

South Carolina, we played ‘em too. Wasn’t no SEC for them back when. Box score might tell you they ran us off the field that day, but we was more worried about gettin’ out of town before the banjos started. 37 points, whatever. Ain’t been since my semester at Arizona State that I seen a sorrier-lookin’ buncha c-[abruptly looks up toward door] KENNY YOU GOT MY MONEY OR NOT, I KNOW YOU GOT PAID THIS WEEK

[glares at man who we presume is Kenny until he leaves]

Now what was I sayin’? Anyways, Bama. Sure, this little ethnic fella they got now wins games, but I can’t trust a man who doesn’t wear a hat. Bear Bryant, now, he knew how to wear a hat. Sad story, there. Spent a memorable afternoon with us and died a couple months later. Not the only man in my life that’s happened to, you know.

[stares at TV, which has cycled back to weather reports]

You know why they ain’t doin’ nothing about this, don’t you? It’s the Deep State.

[blots grease off of pizza slice with napkin, places napkin in cheek]

Now, Miami. There was a fun one. No, not those no-account sweater-wearin’ khaki boys from Ohio, I’m talkin’ the Florida ones. Hoo, that was a trip. Thanksgiving weekend in South Florida. Those were the glory days down there, you could get anything. Anything. Got this in the back room of a pool hall. [pulls up sleeve to show you a tattoo depicting, in surprising detail, your own death inside a Cici’s Pizza] You ever watch that show Miami Vice? They based one of the characters on me, but they had to change it after I wouldn’t fill out a W-2. Ain’t nobody gonna know my permanent address ‘til there’s a headstone over it.

[you’re still staring at the tattoo, and considering both the sheer inexplicability of it and the implications]

So what was I saying? Oh, the Hurricanes. That Howard Schnellenberger, he was the real thing. [chuckles warmly] We almost beat him that day, but you know what? He won his first championship the next year. [smiles] I taught that man how to win, and he taught me how to love.

[sound of a gun cocking under the table]

Unlike that sonofabitch Daddy of yours.