The Nitty and the Gritty

So here’s where things are about to get real. I’m going to post my chapter 2 for Sunset Perfect knowing full well that it’s going to be changed. This is where you see the draft 1 vs draft 2 stark difference.

First, I have to introduce a female lead. I don’t know about you but I love that aspect of formulaic thrillers and mysteries. If there’s a guy lead then there should be a female. Provides tension right? Provides a bit of a second look into things. Well, I introduce her here, and I don’t like the gal I introduced. I think I’m going to fall back on what I did in my first book and make this gal a former lover. Secondly, she’s all over the place. She’s too silly and undetermined. I’m going to make her a lot more forceful.

Finally, I’m going to change the setting. I hate this setting. I’m not sure what the hell I was thinking when I wrote it. It’s boring and dumb. Yesterday I was reading a short story in a compilation by Alfred Hitchcock. In Tales of Terror I was stunned by the first story “Black Disaster” and how well the author, Richard O. Lewis puts the reader into the mine pits with the main characters. I feel like I’m in that mine with the main character. Hell, it’s more than that. I feel like I’ve been working next to the main character for thirty years.

That’s what this setting needs. I used an NFL team as a backdrop because I am listening to an audible book about NFL teams and because I think it’s an interesting cultural phenomenon. I have a military background and I think it’s interesting that these players make so much money playing a game and everything is taken to such a heightened level. Why the hell am I not using more of the football practices and games as a setting? I should be. Just like Richard O. Lewis put me into that mine, I think I should be putting my reader into that practice. So expect that.

For now, feel free to read and let me know if you agree.

“How’s the nose?”

I looked up and saw a woman looking down at me. I had come into the cafeteria to get a quick cup of coffee. I had been thinking of leaving, but now, with Monroe asking me to take on another job with the team, I had some things to consider, and thanks to his deadline I owed him a decision fast.

“I’m sorry?”

“Your nose,” she said. “I was the one who help you stop the bleeding when you came in earlier this morning. The nurse who helped you with your nose.” I vaguely remembered a nurse helping me as I came through the training room door with Monroe, but my eyes had been too filled with water and my attention had been focused on my nose and not on what was, or who was, going on around me.

She took the seat across from me and held out her hand for me to shake it. “I’m Victoria. Victoria Stracner.”

“Have we met?”

She smiled and I saw her dimples around her cheek. “No, but I’ve seen you around. I’m one of the trainers, one of Dave’s assistants. Like one of seven or something. But I’m not complaining. Beter to be one of seven than one of fifty, right? The new girl. That’s what they call me.”

“How new?”

“I started last week.”

“Then it’s a good name.”

Her hand was still up and the fact that I wasn’t shaking it was awkward. She motioned with her hand for me to take hers. “I won’t bite.”

“Nobel Ralston.”

“Nice to meet you Nobel.”

“Call me Ralston,” I said. “No one uses my first name.”

“So you work here?”

“Not really,” I said. “Used to.”

 “I don’t know how you can jump back and forth from this place. Now that I’m here, I’m never leaving. They’ll have to call security and drag me out if they want to get me out of here. This is like my pinnacle, the apex. It may not always be fun, but it’s a whole helluva lot more fun than any other job I’ve had.”

“Why?” I asked, unable to surpress a smile. “What did you do before this?”

“Oh, man, everything I guess that had to do with medicine. I did some EMT work, worked on a Life Flight crew so I got to ride in the helicopters a bunch, I tried doing nursing with a boutique group that overworked us and finally drove me away, you don’t get as much money as you might think with those snazzy place. I was a school nurse for a bit, couldn’t stand that, but it’s a lot like working here.”

“So this is better?”

“Well, similar but the money is much better. I mean we don’t get player salaries, but it’s a lot better than I used to get it.”

For some reason it seemed as thought she wanted to append “And I could use it” at the end of that sentence but instead of probing I asked, “So now you’re just one of the assistants?”

“Well, I wouldn’t have put the “just” in there, but yeah.”

“Like it?”

“It’s easy, you see the same stuff everyday and for the most part the guys are afraid of me cause I’m a girl, but I make bank so I can’t imagine I’ll ever leave.”

“Point taken.”

“So why the look? I came in here to ask about the nose, but you look like you’re really chewing on something, is it this job thing?”

“Yeah,” I said. “Part of me really wants to take it, but the other part of me says that it’s just another effort by the team to screw me over.”

I looked up and saw that she was confused.

“When I first made the team I was a rookie, first year in the league, first year out of college, undrafted. :I had to get on the practice squad first and prove myself. I saw this one guy, huge guy, I mean this man was gargantuan, and he got on the team based on his record. Real high draft selection. I think the team took him fifth overall. His name was Sade, Montgomery Sade. Sade was huge, a lineman. O line not D line so he was a walking mountain. He was drafted for this one play that he had, a pulling guard play where he came running out from the side of the formation in a bowl game that his college team had made. So here he comes, all three hundred fifty pounds of him, running for all he’s worth right at this linebacker who sees him coming, and BOOM!” I clapped my hands together. “He levels the guy.”

“So that’s why he went so high?”

“No,” I corrected her. “That was part of it, but that, what I just described is something every lineman does. If he can’t do that then what good is he. No, it was right after that play. You see the running back broke free after that block and he had the edge. He’s screaming around the edge of the formation, the sideline on his left, pandemonium on his right and only Sade to protect him from all those defensive players who are establishing new angles and getting a bead on this running back who’s about two steps from getting into the open field. Well, there’s this safety and he sees that Sade is an obstacle, so instead of targeting the running back, this safety see’s Sade is focusing his attention on the next block and doesn’t necessarily see him. He’s coming in at a dead sprint, and he sees his chance to level him a lineman with a blind side hit and maybe get a name for himself with all the recruiters in the stands. Plus, if he makes this a real cracker of a hit, it could swing the momentum of the whole game, some hits have that power.”

I held up my hands to demonstrate all that was going on in the story.

“So here’s the running back screaming along the outside, Sade running with him as a blocker looking for his next block kinda up the middle the field and the safety coming along behind and beside Sade who doesn’t see him. And it’s a perfect storm and the whole stadium sees it coming, when a split second later the hit from that safety comes, instead of Sade being toppled over with a cracking hard hit, it’s the Safety.”

“What?”

“Yeah, that safety kinda hit Sade and it was as if he ran into a wall. He bounced back and over and was kinda run over by ole Sade.”

“So that was the reason he was drafted so high? Cause he blocked a guy?”

“Well, first of all a safety is smaller than a lineman, but still, it looked for all the world like this hit was going to level Sade. And for the most part most folks who watch it it looks just like Sade didn’t see it coming, but if you watch it enough you can kinda tell that at the last moment kinda Sade sees what he’s in for and it’s not as if his body changes, or his leverage or anything, if you watch the tape real close you can see that everything is the same his running, his momentum, his body, it’s just the tilt of his head changes just a bit, I’ve watched it enough times to know, and it’s just that tilt of his head is enough so that he was able to change that hit from one that he took to one that he made. That’s what the coaches want you see, someone who delivers the big hit everytime, not someone who takes it.”

“So, I’m not sure what this has to do with the team and your job? Sounds like a success story?”

“I’m getting to that,” I held up my hands for quiet. “You see, he’s a hero now and Sade, he comes in here and everyone acted like they knew him. They were glad-handing him and smacking him on the back and everything. And then one day he and I were going into the locker room and one of the coaches is there with his kid. He says, Heya Sade, hey there, John. He was talking to me.”

“You’re not John.”

“Nope. Never been a John. Everyone knew Sade, me, they didn’t give a damn about.”

“How long did you end up playing for?”

“Over ten years,” I said. “And coached for another ten.”

“Well then  you’ve had a great run.”

“Sure I did,” I said. “But think about it. I’ve made a great career here, but what about Sade, did you ever hear of him?”

“No.”

“Exactly. He’s a nothing now. He was a bust. He was out of the league in just two years. Me I stayed around almost twenty, yet I bet that most people around her don’t know me. Just like you. A few might, but for the most part very few would know who I was. This place does that. Its like they focus on the wrong things. I’ve been working for this place for most of my life now and I’ve lost my job like five times. I wonder if I should just learn my lesson.”

“ I guess I can see that.”

“It’s not a pity party,” I said quickly. “Don’t get me wrong. This can be a great job. But it’s not a career. It’s just the nature of the beast.”

“Thanks for the warning,” She sat back. “What happened to Sade anyway? Do you know where he is now?”

I couldn’t not laugh. “He’s out coaching in Texas,” I said. “Still huge, but he’s leveraged that little bit of notoriety to become a highschool coach in a small town in Texas. Last I heard from him he just made head coach. Saw him at one of those autograph sessions we get invited to every now and then. Usually he’s not there, not a big enough name. Hell, usually I’m not there either, but he was there at one and we had a great time. Says he loves coaching.”

“Well, see,” she said. “Alls well that ends well. Sade’s career here may not have been all he wanted but it was a spring board to something better. Who knows, if you take this job it might spring board you to something better.”

“Eternal optimism is a great quality to have around here,” I said to her.

“Want to go out this weekend? I’m off on Sunday.”

“Don’t you have a game to get ready for?”

“Get ready for? What do you think I am? A player?” Another laugh. “I’m just a doc around here. An assistant doc at that. I’m needed most after the game not before. So what do you say? Coffee with me at a place where it’s not cold and bitter? Maybe drinks? Dinner?”

“Sure,” I said. “All of the above or you pick.”

We made a date for Sunday night, our game was on a Monday. As we went out separate ways at the hallway, I decided to turn right for Monroe’s office and take his job. Her speech about spring boards had gotten to me.

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