Football Fan

Paddy’s Bar and Grill, early January 1985.

“Hey guys, I’m here.” They’d been doing this for ages now. Every Monday night of the regular football season for 10 years. “The Jets’ll really kick butt tonight. Hey Larry, get me a Miller.”

“Coming right up guy.”

“You really think the Jets have it? Why I’ll give you two touchdowns and a field goal. The Dolphins have it wrapped up. McNeil – out. Salams – out. And worst of all, Todd’s in. They don’t have a chance.”

“Bill you have always been an optimist – come on. You’re a New Yorker, for Chrissakes.”

“Ya and after this year, the Jets ain’t.”

“What are you talking about?”

“That deal, man. The Jets are movin’ to – get this – JERSEY!”

“Jeez, first the Giants and now …”

“Nothin’ lasts forever.”

“Except our Monday nights at Paddy’s, huh?”

“Well Jets or no Jets, we’ll always have those.” The two men smiled. Over the years, they’d formed an understanding of one another. Bill knew his friend inside and out and loved him like a brother.

“Say Bill, how’s – GO GO GO – ” Jets score – “Laurie doing?”

“Oh great, just great.”

“What’s going on?”

“Ah hell, I can’t lie to you. I’ve been staying in a hotel for the past month.”

“What the hell for?”

“I think she’s having an affair – now go grab me another brew.”

Dolphins score.

“Do you have any idea who …”

Bill cuts Larry off. “No.” Extra point.

“You want to talk about it?” The Jets run it to the 50 yard line.

“I’ll tell you what I want. I want to watch the game. And another beer.”

“All right.” He smiles.

Half-time and it’s 21 to 10, with the Jets in the lead.

“OK, so what makes you think Laurie’s cheating on you?”

“She’s out nights.”

“Uh-huh – and where are we right now buddy?”

“I go out Monday nights during football season, I compete in my office bowling league on Friday nights – and that’s it.”

“So?” Dolphins score.

“Laurie never goes out Mondays or Fridays – ever.”

“Well that doesn’t mean anything at ….”

“Shhhh!” Bill points to the TV screen. Extra point.

“Hey hey, your Dolphins might have a chance after all,” Larry laughs.

“That is strange, isn’t it?”

“What, that it’s the Third Quarter and your team isn’t completely out of the game by now?”

“No, that my Dolphins are turning the tables on the Jets just as I’ve been doing the same thing to you.”

“What do you …?” Dolphins intercept at the Jets 25 yard line.

“Remember, during halftime, when you went to the John …”

“It was 25 minutes ago, of course I remember, I’m not that drunk yet.”

“Yes well, we’ve been doing our Monday nights at Paddy’s for an awful long time and, every week, you hit the bathroom exactly three minutes before the Third Quarter starts.” Bill’s face tightens. “Every week.”

“So?” Larry is confused.

“So, my friend, this week, I poisoned your beer – arsenic, hold the lace.”

“Shut up, you get stupid when you drink, you know that? That’s not even funny.”

“No Larry, it isn’t – but then again, neither is adultery.”

“What are you …”

“Come on, my friend – surely you can tell the truth now?”

The sounds of the bar muffle their conversation as the poison begins to weaken Larry.

“How long …?”

“Well that depends. Stay calm, maybe an hour or two. But you’re excited, nervous, panicked. The chemicals are surging through your body – adrenalin’s now your enemy.”

Dolphins take the lead.

“Why Bill?”

“Like I said, buddy, I know you. You’re like an old reliable dog to me. Except, I’ve had all my dogs neutered. Don’t want them messing around with the master’s wife, do we?”

Larry understands. “You know.”

“I know.”

“So you’re just going to kill me? Here in the middle of Paddy’s? In front of everyone we know? You’re crazy.”

“You got that right. Crazy like a fox – everybody in the bar is my alibi. We spent our evening together as we have every Monday night for every football season forever. Tonight has been exactly like every other Monday – it’ll even end the same old way. Keep up.”

“She doesn’t love you, you know.”

“I don’t care anymore – you should thank me. I’m saving you from her you know. The hurt, the betrayal . . .”

“My God, you are crazy.”

Larry slowly rises from the table, his movements go unnoticed by everyone in the bar – they are, after all, the same sluggish movements of any old patron who’d had too much to drink yet again.

Bill throws down some cash, pulls on his jacket, and puts a supporting arm around the stumbling Larry.

“He hit the limit first this week,” Bill says to the bartender as they walk toward the exit. “That means next week is on him.”

Larry can barely get the words out but he mumbles in the direction of the bartender. “Dan, Dan, help me. The beer . . .”

“Honestly Larry,” Bill interjects. “G’night Dan.”

Everyone remains enthralled with the game.

As Bill helps Larry outside, he chides “I told you nobody was paying attention to anything but the game.”

” . . . A-and, what about Laurie?”

Two minute warning.

“She’ll be fine – with your influence gone …”

The pair walk down the street and melt into the darkness.

Tuesday morning. Bill is off to work. He picks up the newspaper at the same newsstand he frequents every day.

“Ha! I told him. The Dolphins won it.”

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