“You know, Jay Foxx, if Studdbecker had intercepted that pass before the half, the result might have been completely different.”
“Perhaps, Marv, the fans would have demonstrated so long and so loud that the game would have been suspended. Called perhaps. Perhaps even the half-game show would have been canceled. And we might have had to fill a couple of hours of dead network air.”
“And, Jay, it was the Birds’ air attack—”
“Perhaps an unforeseen eclipse would have suddenly darkened the field so that, even under lights, the teams would have turned terrified their eyes to the skies.
“Or perhaps, Marv, sunspot activity would have so interfered with radio waves that the coaches would have failed to rouse their eyes in the skies. Our own broadcast might have failed.
“You have to think about it, Marv: If a football falls and there’s no video to record it, does it ever fall really?”
“Jay, I don’t think–”
“For all we know, if Studdbecker had intercepted, the idea of football would have ceased to exist. If it had ever existed at all. At that point. You’re right, Marv, the result might have been completely different. Completely different.”
“And speaking of something different, Jay—”
“On the other hand, Studdbecker might have scored… ”
“That’s what I meant in the first place, Jay, because then—”
“… with the resulting overconfidence among Studdbecker’s teammates at the hat (debilitating the Blues’ efforts to assemble any offense in the second half even as the Birds would have rallied to score touchdown after touchdown.)”
“Forget it, Jay. Will you please just forget it? Studdbecker did not — he did not — get the I-N-T.”
“No. But even if he had, Marv, the Blues might have fumbled it back to the Birds on the next play allowing them to score so that the result might have been the same although arrived at slightly differently, right?”
“I as well.”
“And so the Birds won the game.”
“Let’s send it back to New York then.”
“Yes. Let’s try.”
A native New Yorker, James Penha has lived for the past three decades in Indonesia. Nominated for Pushcart Prizes in fiction and poetry, his work is widely published in journals and anthologies. His newest chapbook of poems, American Daguerreotypes, is available for Kindle. His essays have appeared in The New York Daily News and The New York Times. Penha edits The New Verse News, an online journal of current-events poetry. Twitter: @JamesPenha
In 1969, we had just started dating. Michael was in twelfth grade and I was in eleventh. We were standing in the halls of Miami Norland Senior High. Lockers were clanging and feet were shuffling. Holding out his hand, Michael offered his wrist.
“It’s from my uncle,” he beamed.
The face read Bulova, the band black, the dial stainless steel. At first glance it looked like any other watch.
Michael side-glanced like he was telling a secret. “It’s for my graduation.”
That watch followed him everywhere. He wore it at our wedding. To Michigan where we finished school. To the law office where he had his first job. But while we grew up and moved on, the rest of the world went backward. His parents divorced. The uncle and his wife divorced. When we bought a house and a car, the so-called grown-ups downsized. And when we started a family, they started smoking pot. How crazy it all seemed! My husband in his Brooks Brothers suit. My in-laws and the uncle with their new hippie lifestyles. Lava lamps and waterbeds. Nehru jackets. Bongs. On good days, we were amused. On bad days, we were mortified.
The uncle was the oddest of the oddballs. And it didn’t take long before drugs addled his brain. Birthdays were forgotten and bills were overlooked. Instead of furniture, his living room was filled with pillows. To have a conversation, you had to reach down to his level. Lay on the floor. Shout over the rock music. Pick at food on paper plates.
There was the time Michael’s first cousin got married in California. Little did the uncle know that pot on the West Coast packs a punch. An hour into the cousin’s wedding, someone called the rescue squad. They thought it was a heart attack, but the father of the groom was just stoned.
How Michael laughs at this story, like it happened to another family in another life. One glance at his watch and all is forgiven. One kindness erases a lifetime of hurt.
Years passed. My husband’s parents died. Then the uncle slid into dementia and he died, too. The uncle’s second wife is still around. She’s about our age, or she says. She’s a little bit like a stranger and getting stranger all the time. Though we invite her to Thanksgiving and Seder, she seldom makes an appearance. If she comes, she’s the last to arrive and the first to leave.
But all is forgiven. Each year we make an invitation. And each year she either ditches us or leaves. Like the hands of a watch, time circles in a loop. What’s the use of complaining? Memories fade. The heart heals. And after two or three shakes, that Bulova still ticks.
Marlene Olin was born in Brooklyn, raised in Miami, and educated at the University of Michigan. Her short stories have been featured or are forthcoming in publications such as The Massachusetts Review, PANK, Catapult, and The Baltimore Review. She is the winner of the 2015 Rick DeMarinis Short Fiction Award, the 2018 So To Speak Fiction Prize, and a nominee twice for both the Pushcart and the Best of the Net prizes.
Apache Indians hunt the buffalo.
Comanche arrive on the war trail to Mexico,
the Apaches disappear.
On the staked plain, a sacred white buffalo waters at Deep Creek.
A hunter shoots the albino with ease
and skins it as tumbleweeds tumble by.
Pete from Pennsylvania opens a trading post.
Big cattle ranches arrive.
Rusty untangles a hung up goat.
Barb wire cuts into its neck.
Nearby, a mare nudges its foal.
The Santa Fe Railroad lays tracks through town
and builds a depot, and men warm themselves
by a fire of burning crossties.
The Snyder Rodeo Arena opens.
Overseas, Snyder’s son Bobby orders his men across a canal.
Bobby is fatally hit by enemy fire.
Farmers plant cotton in cow pastures.
The bank folds in the Great Depression.
Friday night football begins,
Snyder Tiger adolescents become heroes.
A prospector discovers the Canyon Oil Reef,
the town triples in size.
A Phillips 66 gas station-restaurant opens.
Powers Boothe flees Snyder, acts in movies.
Oil collapses. Money leaves.
A boy falls asleep watching a Zenith television
in a small frame house on 3765 Avondale.
A dung beetle rolls a ball of dung
on a scraggly cattle ranch at town the edge.
The citizens erect a white buffalo statue.
They argue about its testicles, remove them.
A rich man parks a gold-plated Delorean
in the Snyder National Bank lobby.
An employee at the gas plant claims a UFO hovers,
a disc with lights, soars to the southwest.
Tumbleweeds ramble across the fields into mesquite.
The wind reveals an arrowhead in a creek bed.
Down the dirt lane where huge wind turbines line the horizon,
the white buffalo skin hangs on a ranch house wall, decays.
Alan Nelson has poetry and stories published or forthcoming in numerous journals including New York Quarterly, The Stand, Acumen, Pampelmousse, Main Street Rag, Texas Observer, California Quarterly, Connecticut River Review, Adirondack Review, Red Cedar Review, Wisconsin Review, South Carolina Review, Ligeia and Whale Road Review. He also played the lead in the viral video “Does This Cake Make Me Look Gay?” and the verbose “Silent Al” in the Emmy-winning “SXSWestworld.”