Sudden Death

23 Sep

Sudden Death

By L. Stewart Marsden

 Chapter One: To Dream the Impossible Dream

Scott Jeffries stepped up to his offensive line and looked over the defensive secondary. Three linebackers jostled positions, stepping up and away from the line as if to blitz, shifting to the sides.

He fastened his chin strap and slid his hands under the butt of his center, bending down to call out the count.

“Jerzee — mark down,” he shouted down one side of the line, then repeated it to the other side.

He raised his right foot up and back down, signaling the split wideout, who turned and trotted towards Jeffries.

“Chet! Hut! . . . Hut-hut!” he barked.

The football slapped against his open hands, and Jeffries turned and faked a handoff to the wideout, then danced back three steps, looking downfield. He planted his right foot.

Kajil Moore sprinted forward from his split position and drove the defensive corner back. He feigned right, just enough for the defender to take the bait, then suddenly skirted left towards the sidelines.

Jeffries had already launched the pass — a bullet spiral, down and outside — away from the defender. Moore dove for the ball, his gloved hands cradling the pigskin inches from the ground, and rolled with the reception.

“Great pass, great catch!” erupted John Hutchison, head coach of the Trinity U Devils. “That’s the way we need to run it every goddam time!” he shouted. “Why the hell can’t the first squad do that? Tell me?”

“Okay, second squad to sprints — first team, let’s run the quarterback gadget play till we get it right.”

Jeffries pulled his helmet off and tried to stanch the flow of sweat from his head down his face with the sweat band on his wrist. He stood a moment to watch the first squad — the starters — huddle together on the practice field. The sun had dipped well below the tree-lined border that cupped the field away from all but approved eyes.

Taj Butterfield stood and growled out the snap count.

“That’s where I’m going to be one day,” thought Jeffries as he shielded his eyes with one hand from the dipping sun to watch the play develop.

Butterfield took the snap and rolled to his left, handing off to Jason Tripp, his wide receiver, who sprinted back into the backfield and grabbed the ball as if to run a sweep right. Tripp stopped suddenly, and looked back and threw a pass to Butterfield, who was wide open in the left flat.

“Finally!” shouted Hutchison. “We are gonna catch Tech goddam flatfooted as a flounder on dry land, Gentlemen! Shit! Huddle up!”

The starters grouped together while their coach gave one or two quick encouragements, then shouted in unison “One – two – three Devils!”

“Run it again!” he ordered, and the hulking athletes broke the huddle to line up once more.

In three days the Trinity Devils would travel down to middle Florida to face the Techtronics — the number one-ranked Division I football team in the nation. Responsible for that ranking, according to most of the sports gurus, was Jamaal Salem, a second-year phenom at quarterback who led the Techtronics to an undefeated season — and the national BCS championship — the year prior.

Salem was six feet five inches of pure ego — and for a reason. He threw, scrambled, ran and boasted his way to more than 40 touchdown passes on over 4,000 total yards throwing. In addition, the 230-pound QB tiptoed across the end zone for four additional running touchdowns. He was hands-down the overwhelming selection for the Heisman Trophy.

Like most Division I schools, teams of lesser quality — or at least teams that presented little to no threat — were scheduled for the first three games. That was so powerhouse programs like Tech could iron out any hitches in their offenses or defenses. It also gave the team a sense of winning — which was critical to success once conference play began.

Normally that worked. But every once-in-a-while, a cinderella team inexplicably upset a powerhouse. That happened when virtually unknown Appalachian State knocked off Michigan.
The odds were slim, of course, but every player and coach and trainer — anyone associated with the Trinity program — dreamed and hoped for the impossible: an upset over Tech.

And, over Salem in particular, who brashly boasted the Techtronics would crush Liberty like a steamroller smashing a clod of dirt.

Salem also promised more than 400 yards passing, as well as three passing touchdowns.

“What I wouldn’t give to shut his mouth with a win,” Jeffries said aloud in the locker room as he punched Kajil Moore in the arm.

“Hey, man! I’m gonna catch the winning touchdown! You watch and see if I don’t,” he returned, his muscular black torso glistening from his shower.

“Amen!” echoed throughout the steamy room, and two or three hulking linemen slammed their giant paws on their lockers, beating out a rhythm.

One of the linebackers began to sing “To Dream the Impossible Dream” at the top of his lungs.

Someone began to chant, “Tri – ni -ty! Tri – ni – ty! Hey! Hey! Hey! Hey!” until the entire team was caught up in the shouting and slamming and dancing — like a war dance — which continued and escalated until the poignant moment a trainer stuck his head in the room and shouted,

“Hey, you guys! Know what just happened to Taj? He’s out for the season!”

And that’s when everyone awoke from the Impossible Dream.

Copyright © by Lawrence S. Marsden, 23 September, 2014

Coming soon to a blog near you:

21 Sep

 

 

 

Sudden Death

By L. Stewart Marsden

Trinity University backup quarterback, Scott Jeffries, finds himself facing number one nationally-ranked Division I football team, Florida Tech, in a once-in-a-lifetime game. In addition, brash Tech helmsman, Jamaal Salem, who led the Aggies to an undefeated season and national championship the previous year, has become even more obnoxious than Johnny Football ever was.

He’s promising a trouncing of the small division II football team — and predicts he will throw over 400 yards and three touchdowns.

Wouldn’t it be great if the Trinity Devils could knock off the high-flying Salem and his Techtonics?

Stay tuned . . .

The crowd

19 Sep

The Crowd

by L. Stewart Marsden

 

And they all shouted
different things
simultaneously –
straining to be heard over the other;
hearing their own voice only;
listening to none other;
their red faces
and vein-etched necks
pulsating,
contorting,
gyrating to the beat of another drum –
awaiting some
body
to
stop
and
hear
their
words
of
wisdom.

Copyright © by Lawrence S. Marsden, 19 September, 2014

All I know I learned in Boy Scouts

17 Sep

 

All I know I learned in Boy Scouts

by L. Stewart Marsden

It’s not true, of course. I didn’t learn everything in the Boy Scouts. But pretty darn much. I learned how to:

  • Read a compass
  • Open and close a pocket knife safely
  • Assemble a two-part canvas pup tent
  • Dig a latrine
  • Cut a fuzz stick to make a fire
  • Basic first aid — including helping a drowning victim (which has since changed)
  • Pack a backpack
  • Sharpen an ax

and all those other essential skills.

I also learned that opening a large can of Chef Boyardee spaghetti and meatballs and putting it over a fire is not cooking.
I learned it’s not safe to chop wood at night in the dark.
I learned that mixing aspirin and hot Coca-Cola does not get you drunk.
I learned that rabbit tobacco is not tobacco.
I learned that Morse Code is not easy to learn — especially the signal flagging part.

The two best parts of being a Boy Scout, besides the uniform and all that military regalia stuff?

Camping and summer camp.

I belonged to Troop 4, sponsored by the largest United Methodist church in town. It sprawled over what seemed to be a billion acres. We called it Vatican City. So big it even had a bowling alley. I guess that’s where the term “bowling for Jesus” came about.

Meetings were once a week at the church. We’d play games — dodge ball if it was raining outside; Fox and the Hounds if it wasn’t.

Now, that was a game!

We’d break the troop up into two equal sides. There were always between 20 and 30 boys at our meetings (before Boy Scouting fell victim to things like soccer leagues).

One half was the foxes, who would dash outside and find a place to hide on the church grounds. Five minutes later the other half, the hounds, would stream out of the church, baying to the moon, in search of the foxes. When everyone was caught, the sides would switch, and the chase began again.

Mr. Zimmerman, one of the adult Scout leaders, had a farm just on the edge of the town. That’s where we held most of our camping trips.

We lugged all our gear in station wagons and the beds of trucks out to the property drive way (a rutted dirt road), and hiked the rest of the way into a forested area that abutted a large field.

Once tents were pitched, fire pits were dug, and latrine sites were selected, the designated cooks pulled out thin steel cookware to begin dinner: usually some mixture of ground beef and Hamburger Helper.

Food had to be hung up by a rope because of the critters that might come late at night to steal it.

Nobody was ever constipated on a camping trip because the meals were so greasy. Everything slid right through.

When it got dark, it was time for Fox and the Hounds! Now, at the church, the game was somewhat benign as far as danger. In the woods on Mr. Zimmerman’s farm, however, there were troughs and tree limbs, spider webs — and old rusty barbwire to contend with.

Much practice of first aid skills resulted from those games. In fact, it’s amazing we didn’t lose a kid or two. Come to think of it, maybe we did.

Then, campfire stories.

Ghosts, ghouls, and other creatures that go bump in the night. It’s amazing how a simple tale or two, told with just the right voice — low and slow — can creep a kid out so he stays wide awake with his flashlight on all night.

The adult leaders lived in the lap of luxury. Zimmerman and our Scoutmaster, Mr. Ingram, “roughed it” in a Baker tent — a square, four-sided tent of heavy canvas. They also had cots and really thick sleeping bags. They cooked on a Coleman stove. And they sat back and smoked their pipes, perhaps listened to a Saturday night broadcast of an ACC basketball game. Cool, nonplussed sorts, they were.

When you first awoke in the early morning, the sound of crows cawing came to ear. Then you noticed that somehow a rock had crawled under your sleeping bag, and poked you in the ribs.

The metal clang of camp cookware slowly stirred you to sit up, and the smell of bacon frying in a pan wafted into the tent.

Those were the best parts of camping out.

But the very best part of Boy Scouts was summer camp!

Our troop went to Camp Uwharrie — the name of the council we were a part of. It was a short distance from town, out on acres and acres of land covered by pine forests and two lakes. One of the lakes was about 50 feet above the second lake. They were separated by an earth dam. The upper lake was for fishing, boating and canoeing. The lower lake was the swimming area, and was cordoned off into four swimming areas designated by swimming skill level: non-swimmers, beginners, intermediate and advanced swimmers. You had to have earned your swimming merit badge to swim in the advanced swimming area. It abutted a concrete dam, and had no bottom that you could touch standing up.

A typical Camp Uwharrie cabin.

A typical Camp Uwharrie cabin.

Camp was divided up into camp units of four to five cabins that circled a sheltered common area. The cabins were built of wood, with an open screened area at the tops of the two flank walls. Bunk beds were positioned against the walls.

I always chose a top bunk, as the screened opening was at mattress level. At night I would listen intently to crickets sing and the lake bullfrogs croak. At times a cool night breeze would blow into the cabin.

Camp was where you earned a boatload of merit badges — especially the ones that were more difficult in finding a merit badge counselor to pass you. Camp counselors were the instructors, and usually only a couple or three years older. And they were cool. They all wore the same T-shirt: a light blue shirt with the profile of an Indian chief printed in red, with the words Camp Uwharrie arching over the top. With the dark green summer shorts, green knee socks with red flags hanging from the tops, the counselors were the tops.

Nature, basketry, archery, riflery, swimming, life saving, canoeing, rowing, fishing and more were the courses offered. As well as needed skills for Tenderfoot, 2nd and 1st Class.

The lower lake with swimming areas marked by buoys. The cafeteria is in the background.

The lower lake with swimming areas marked by buoys. The cafeteria is in the background.

The cafeteria was a large one-level expanse with dozens of tables and benches. Best food in the world at camp! This is where you learned to mix grape jelly with your grits, and drink bug juice. Milk was served ice-cold in metal pitchers. Bread was hot and gone in seconds.

Once at camp, I was downing glass after glass of milk. I was working on life saving merit badge, and my body was dehydrated from being in the water so long.

One of the volunteer adult leaders, Dr. Nicholson — a junior high science teacher — warned me about overdoing the milk.

“You’ll pee in your bunk!” he warned.

Sure enough, that night I had the most realistic dream about peeing — then awoke midstream to discover I had saturated my sheets! Mortified, I quietly stripped my bed of the soaked bedding, and buried them under leaves outside the cabin. I unrolled my sleeping bag for the rest of the week. No one in the cabin said anything. I can’t remember what happened to the sheets!

Each night Kate Smith belted out a recorded rendition of “God Bless America,” which echoed across camp at its end. It was followed by a beautiful playing of taps — again recorded — by a bugler.

The night of the last day of a week of camp was designated for the Tap Out Ceremony. In Boy Scouts, there is/was a brotherhood of scouts who were selected by their fellow scouts. The Order of the Arrow members were tapped out as part of a very mystical production.

The ceremony began when the entire camp gathered in the main assembly area.

The ceremony began when the entire camp gathered in the main assembly area.

The entire camp assembled in the main square of camp, which served as a ball field as well. We were ordered to silence, and camp counselors, dressed as American Indians, with war paint and all, stretched a long hemp rope along the scouts. We grabbed the rope as told, and were led down to the waterfront, where we formed a large semicircle facing the lower lake.

From the waterfront lifeguard tower, a counselor, his face painted half white and half black, wearing a buffalo headgear, sing-songed the story of the Linni-Linape.

Then, a drum started to beat somewhere from across the lake, and a torch was lit on the far side, and carried by a swimming Indian, careful not to dip the torch in the water. He slowly swam to the near shore, and shouted loudly, shoving the torch into a large pre-built stack of wood.

A second Indian walked out with bow and arrow, and lit the end of the arrow in the crackling fire. He drew the bow, aimed and shot the flaming missile over the lake, shouting again as he disappeared.

Again, from the far side of the lake, a canoe appeared. One Indian held a large burning arrow, supported by a pole, above his head. A second Indian at the rear of the canoe paddled the craft across the lake. The reflection of craft and burning arrow was mesmerizing.

On shore, the arrow bearer began to march in front of the lined up scouts, the second Indian walking behind clutching several arrows. The tom-tom beat rhythmically.

Suddenly the arrow bearer would stop and swing the arrow down in front of a scout. The drum would beat frantically as the second Indian slapped an arrow across the collarbone of the scout, who grabbed the arrow and held it to his chest.

This went on until the last arrow was delivered.

The selected scouts were then bound together and led away into the dark night by Indians. They returned to their campsites much later, sworn to secrecy regarding where they had been taken and how they had been instructed.

Then the chief and his aide returned to the canoe and slowly paddled back across the lake, where the large flaming arrow was doused to a thunderfall of drum beats.

In silence, the camp returned to their campsites.

Kate Smith sang a little later, and taps blew across the camp.

So, not all, but some of the best of what I know and remember I learned in Boy Scouts.

Update:

15 Sep

Writing updates:

1. I’m re-editing my short-story collection, Through the Glass Darkly, and will add new stories and delete others. As with the 1st edition, this 2nd edition will be available on Amazon.com under my writing name, L. Stewart Marsden;

2. The Last Stand, a two-act drama based on Guy de Maupassant’s short story, Boule de Suif, and reset to December, 1864 in Savannah, Ga., is being read and reviewed by several (thanks, Clara, et. al.). Once back in with all suggestions, I’ll edit, rewrite, and format for submission in many directions.

3. Illustrations for Stinky and the Night Mare are undergoing final revisions and tweaking. The release for my first children’s story is still scheduled for sometime in October. It is written for young children (ages 4 – 6 or 7). I am very excited about the project, and have begun other Stinky stories. Thinking about producing an audio/video disc for distribution as well.

4. Another writer and I have launched a local writers’ group. One has not existed here for several years, and it’s a pain to drive lots of miles for critiques. We’re exploring what may be a different way of submitting and evaluating work. If you’d like to peek at our website, go to http://www.hickorywritersgroup.com.

5. Came back from a few days in the mountains where I hosted a military family. Actually, they are no longer in the military. The father of the family lost a leg in Afghanistan, and is giving me much-needed help for background for a young adult novel I put on the shelf a couple of years ago.

6. Gathering background for an eerie work (short story or novella) that combines the mountains of North Carolina, a banished Scottish clan, and the Cherokee for what I hope will be a spine-tingler.

7. Longing to get back to The Huguenots, but the stuff above needs resolution first. I think I juggle too many balls at once, and everything suffers.

8. And then there’s the poetry . . . still dreaming of a compilation of work.

Hope all of your writing efforts are progressing, and that you are reaching your objectives.

 

– SM

Cheap words

1 Sep

 

 

 

Cheap words

By L. Stewart Marsden

Cheap words.
Easy-to-use words.
Easy-to-lose words.
Easy-to-loose words
that end up
very costly words.

Copyright © by Lawrence S. Marsden, 1 September, 2014

Old words: new meanings

1 Sep

Old words: new meanings

By L. Stewart Marsden

 

Each day an old word takes a new hit
and is knocked about,
caroming and careening
until it no longer means the same as it did once;
standing in another place,
viewing from another point,
not safe to use by those confused
and stuck solidly in the past;
the long last understanding is lost,
and its once-fine and perfectly sound usage
spins slowly round the eddy,
and is finally flushed for evermore.

Copyright © by Lawrence S. Marsden, 1 September, 2014

Interracial Relationships

17 Aug

 image

 

Interracial Relationships

by L. Stewart Marsden

 

I am an older white male (mid-sixties) who lives in the foothills of North Carolina, the United States.

I am a college graduate.

I am a writer. Poetry, short stories, plays, and a would-be novelist.

I play the guitar and harmonica.

I am an amateur actor — a thespian.

I like to think I can sing.

I like to draw cartoons and silly things.

I have a sense of humor — and am an advocate of puns.

I have five children and three grandchildren.

I am, ostensibly, retired (depending on whom you ask).

I live in an apartment complex.

I drive a Honda hybrid.

I have a drop-kick dog.

I’m a Duke basketball fan.

I’m overweight, and have launched a walking program to get rid of my barrel belly.

I’m balding, and sport a scraggly white beard.

I’m law-abiding, have served on a jury, and hate taxes.

I believe I am responsible for my own actions, and the consequences of those actions.

I believe in God, but am not a churchgoer.

I am heterosexual.

I am single.

If you are a non white, is there anything above that you can relate to? Is there anything that would deter you from at least considering a friendship with me?

I’ve just started a friendship via Facebook and email and WordPress with an African resident of Togo.

David lives in the capital city of Lomé, where he is pursuing writing, acting and comedy. He speaks French. That’s about all I know of him at this juncture.

He was the 800th visitor to my writing website, and I decided to send him a copy of Through the Glass Darkly.

I am looking with great anticipation learning more about David’s life, and sharing mine with him.

David, by the way, is black.

So why, I asked myself today, is it that I can make friends with a black man halfway across the world, and yet have virtually no black friends here in the neighborhood, city or state where I live?

Yes, I’m reclusive.

Yes, there are stereotypes of various ethnicities and cultures that I wrestle with.

If you are a non white, help me dialogue about just what it is I’m missing. I honestly don’t want to go down the last quarter or less of my life without closing what I think is a serious gap in my life.

When I lived in New York City years ago, I became a professional Scouter for the Greater New York Boy Scout Council.

In that capacity, my closest peer friends were from Puerto Rico and the Philippines. My area coordinator was black, and my council chief executive was black.

The latter two were distanced from me due, I think, to rank. Still . . .

The guy from Puerto Rico and I got along famously. He was always asking me to say something in Southern (I’m from North Carolina), and he would belly-laugh at my witticisms. Juan, from the Philippines, was a bit more reserved, but still approachable.

Of course, NYC is more metropolitan — more of a jumble of races and culture (the old metaphor was ‘fruit salad’).

It seems to me that the distance between races — in spite of all the laws and legislation that the government has enacted — has not decreased, but increased.

And I think sadly on King’s “I have a dream” speech, and wonder have I stepped on its potential to become reality through my own life?

In a course I took to become certified as a lateral entry teacher, one course instructor flatly said that all whites are prejudiced and bigoted.

I can’t argue with her, as I would invariably fall into those positions by virtue of disagreeing with her.

Whites wonder will they ever be released from the curse of being descendants of the South, where slavery and Jim Crow and segregation have occupied most of the history of southern blacks?

We wonder at the anger we sense from our black neighbors. The distrust. Perhaps it’s merely guilt on our part, and the anger isn’t there at all. I don’t think so.

But, you tell me.

The roots of racism and bigotry are long and deep. Are they too deeply rooted to ever rot and disintegrate?

Please, tell me what you think?

My dad thought that this separation would exist until the whole of mankind is one indiscernible color and race. A uni-race.

You have to then think that any difference is bad, and uni-this and uni-that — gender and sexuality and political affiliations — are the ultimate dystopic answer to all difference dilemmas.

But, please tell me.

Why is it I can establish contact more easily with a black man from Togo than I can a black man from across the street?

Update on Stinky and the Night Mare project

12 Aug

For the latest on how the Stinky and the Night Mare project is going, click here.

RIP, Robin

12 Aug

RIP, Robin

by L. Stewart Marsden

 

We have this tendency in the US to slam on our brakes over newsworthy events that rise to headlines and main stories in the media.

Babies left in hot cars by careless parents, guardians or caregivers.

Never again, we say, as if the mere thought or statement will stop it from happening again.

Campus shootings, or bullet rampages in public arenas where random lives are lost to those with severe emotional problems.

Never again, we say.

Police brutality, or profiling that results in a body on the street in the heat of the moment.

Never again, we say.

And Robin Williams adds his name to a growing list of celebrities for whom life has lost its allure and satisfaction. A victim of his own quiet containment of things too overpowering for him to face by himself?

Is this kaleidoscope of tragedy the makeup of daily life?

It’s certainly part of it. And, it has been going on since the beginning of time.

The difference?

Facebook. Twitter. Cable and satellite TV and a myriad of other electronic conveyances of events that, one hundred years ago (perhaps less) would have taken quite some time to travel the globe.

Here’s a small listing of those who attained fame of some sorts as a result of their profession/work/positions (no earlier than the 20th century) and then killed themself, compliments of Wikipedia:

  • Charles Boyer, famous French actor
    Freddy Prinze, comedian
    Earnest Hemingway, author
    Kurt Cobain, musician
    Don Cornelius, emcee of the television dance show, Soul Train
    Richard Farnsworth, actor
    Abbie Hoffman, political and social activist
    Jeret Peterson, American skier, Olympic medalist
    Junior Seau, NFL football player
    Bob Welch, musician and former member of Fleetwood Mac
    Lee Thompson Young, actor

We use words like shocking, and stunning. The world seems to swoon in unison over suicides, untimely deaths (that is a matter of debate), tragic events and accidents and more.

What ends up headlines is but a small percentage of the total of such happenings across the world in remote and isolated places, that will never get this kind of attention — or reaction, for that matter.

I personally enjoyed the work of Robin Williams, as did most who saw him perform. He was a rarity in talent and comic explosiveness.

But I didn’t know him. I didn’t know anything beyond his work, a handful of interviews on late-night television or the various entertainment television magazines.

He was younger than I by just shy of two years. That much hit close to home.

Yes, it’s news.

But, I don’t know what to do with it. Williams was here, and now he’s gone. What am I to do with that?

Perhaps — just perhaps — we want everyone to go on and live forever. We want our stars and those we admire to have never-ending fairytale lives because we certainly don’t. Not at our level.

So when a person like Robin Williams seems to throw it all away — the fame and the money and the talent — that we don’t have, we wonder at a personal level how can that be?

For the curious, here’s a link to that list of famous people who committed suicide. Most I’ve never heard of. Some, like Cleopatra and Hannibal and Socrates (albeit this one is debatable), happened long before the advent of instant, or even quasi-instant, communications.

Wonder how their contemporaries reacted? Wonder if the forums were filled with people who were shocked and surprised.

Or, did life just go on?

http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_suicides

For a related poem, Life is Good, Death is Bad

 

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