Chapter 1, Blog 4
By Chuck Wells As told To Ray Hochgesang
The sudden shift in Ralphie’s temperament had all the potential of an impending natural disaster – in my 10-by-12-foot living room. Ralphie didn’t like to be corrected – especially when he was wrong. And he sure wasn’t going to let a stupid Colts fan sipping a Coors Light have the last word, not in front of a drunken, testosterone-laced crowd bored with the game and lusting for something to cheer. A murmur hummed in the background, powered by the instant anticipation.
I envisioned the likely desolation. My precious, brick bungalow leveled in a Bears-Colts cage match. The police would drag the survivors – if there were any – downtown. The Times and Post-Tribune would take turns trumpeting the violence:
VALPO SUPER BOWL PARTY TURNS UGLY
And what would I tell Melinda if she could muster the mercy to bail me out? Maybe my ever-compassionate wife, who worked as a city police dispatcher no less, would instead ask her working buddies to beat us good and silly.
“It’s bad enough you have to embarrass me in front of all my friends,” a virulent Melinda would begin, those piercing blue eyes lasering tiny holes into my skull. “I TOLD YOU not to have those Neanderthals over here … ”
I snapped my eyes shut. What to do? Quick, think.
… pppllleeeassse, something, anything…
Peeking, I saw Ralphie shaking his left fist at Frank. In his other hand, Ralphie clutched an empty bottle, ready to cave in the Colts fan’s forehead.
“All he can do is run. Big, godddamned deal,” said Ralphie, enunciating every syllable. The anger radiated out of his steely, green eyes. “Ain’t no way. He ain’t no athlete.”
Frank showed no sign of backing down.
“You wouldn’t know an athlete if he … ”
“Marvin Harrison is no damned athlete,” said Ralphie.
“Right, that’s for sure,” said Nicky. “The Patriots always knock him around like, like, like a damned pinball. Yeah, that’s right. What? He’s – go ahead, correct me if I’m wrong. He’s caught only three passes in five games ’gainst the Patriots.”
Now Frank, all six feet, five inches, arose. He took a monstrous step toward Ralphie.
“Dat’s right,” said Ralphie, baiting Frank. “He’s one of dose pussies da Olympics were made for, right, Chuck?”
They all stared at me.
Yes, I was a Bears fan. But I liked Marvin Harrison. He was a little guy like me. I loved his moxie and his breakaway speed.
But I loved my house more.
“You know what, Ralphie,” I exhaled. “There’s only one way to prove your point beyond all doubt.”
Ralphie dropped his fist and turned his wrath toward me. Was that a wisp of steam coming out of his nose?
“AND WHUT DA HELL IS DAT?” he growled.
“The Olympics,” I said.
“Whut DA HELL ’bout the goddamned Olympics?”
“Let’s train for the goddamned Olympics,” I blurted.
Copyright © 2012 by Chuck H. Wells/Ray Hochgesang