[Originally published February 1, 2008.]
Overhead, the sun is a wrathful god. It is made to ravage a dying land.
The boy stands in a dry gulch. He tilts his hat to the sting of the wind.
These men are patriots, says The Coach.
Do you know their soul?
A hoarse laugh echoes through the heat. It singes the cragged escarpments of the red canyon.
You won’t be the first, says The Coach.
I ain’t scared of you.
Tengo otros cuerpos. Quiero el tuyo.
The Coach wears a bone around his neck. It is hung from dead sinew. Other bones he has ground by pestle and mortar. In the ancient caves he swallowed white dust.
I am here to erase you.
The boy squints at the arroyo bed. The earth is scorched in jagged lines.
It ain’t no kind of life, he says.
Overhead, the sun is a wrathful god. It will bake the world.
Prediction: Patriots 27, Giants 6
I really admire what the Giants have done this season. It isn’t often you see a team struggle early, eke out a series of road wins, and still manage to peak at the perfect moment. It’s a rare occurrence, I’ll say that much.
On the other side, you’ve got football’s version of Goliath. Experts tell me the Patriots are the strongest team in NFL history. From the moment they beat the Colts, they’ve been earmarked as Super Bowl Champions. It’s tough to pick against an undefeated record.
All that being said, I’ve been so impressed with Eli Manning’s development these last four weeks that I’m willing to take the underdog. What can I say? I believe in the New York Giants.
Prediction: Giants 31, Patriots 28
Raymond Carver, edited by Gordon Lish
It isn’t a thing you see often, I’ll say that much.
They tell me this is Goliath.
I believe in Giants.
When he saw Bill Belichick in the hallway before the press conference, Tom Coughlin’s face contorted into a whine. “It isn’t fair!” he shrieked. “You have all the best players!” he whimpered. “What happened to helping your fellow man?!” he mewled. “You … all you care about is winning!” he sniveled.
The muscular coach set his prominent jaw, and his hard, handsome eyes glistened. “Why, Tom,” he asked with a smile, “isn’t winning what the NFL is all about?”
Coughlin’s face turned bright red as he flapped his effeminate hands in hysterical gestures. By this time, a large crowd of reporters had gathered. “But, but … your players are the best in the league! Your offense is unstoppable! How am I supposed to go on the field with my weak players or my simple, predictable playcalling?? We’ll be destroyed! I tell you it isn’t fair! We deserve to be helped! This is social treason!”
Belichick squared his broad shoulders as he stared Coughlin in the eye. The smaller man cowed and threw his hands to his face in a pathetic flail. “Tom,” said Belichick, “I bet nobody has been honest with you in your entire life, so let me be the first. I was taught in the ways of strength. Yes, my men will win today. But it’s because we’ve had the courage to act on our judgment, and the fortitude to trust our decisions. Long ago, we were faced with a choice—the same choice you faced. We chose conviction. You chose impotence. And now, today, you ask me not only to cut my wrists and bleed on your behalf … oh no. You would also have me fund, design, and build the knife. You accuse me of social treason, and yet you beg me to betray myself.” The beautiful man laughed a throaty, attractive laugh. “You are a coward, Tom, and a coward in this world deserves nothing.”
With a great cheer, the reporters stood in unison and applauded.
Prediction: Patriots 326, Giants 27
Like BAM-skip-a-tap young Eli shouts down the line and oh me oh my it’s a beautiful thing to behold out in rusty Arizona twilight where American ghosts have come to die and be born again in a land of ten thousandzilliontrillion dry summers nursing the prickles on a cactus’s back. Don’t sing to me about patriots, old man, because iftheretrulyis agoddamnflagatall it was wrought from what we did not what we said and young Eli knows it without knowing and says it without speaking down on that dusky field all brown and bright green with blueclad muscled lineboys gone berserk and fierce A-FWOP-youaintseennothinyetoldman-CRACK-POP.
Watch while those hard-raised salt-of-this-or-any-other-earth calloused hands uphold what became more than a youngman’s idea. Watch them put down those others, oh America, those slinkingshirking fallen boys who for sixty true minutes (may the Blue God bless you one and all) are no kind of patriot I’d ever dream.
Would a man be baptized in all that?
You’re goddamn right.
Prediction: Giants35 and a dance in goldendusk
Hyacinth and amethyst adorned the landscape of her heart, betrothed to fragrant oakmoss and blazing scarlet within the amorous lovestrokes of an incandescent horizon. In the shade of the gray branches, she put pen to paper. “I love you, Tom Brady,” it began. “Though others call you wicked.”
Prediction: Handsome Tom 46, Stern Aunt Louisa 9
Thusly and thricely slaked he uptrod the spiral staircase and fancied for himself only a briny frieze.
— Give out, Jesuit, or forever in peace may you lie.
Sardonic, sardonic was the smile then adopted. It can twist forever (if the vicars will allow, if the oxen pull the plow).
— Dearly beloved, he quipped through shut mouth, did not Rapunzel cry from on high?
She skipped with a slow whistle to the first stone slab. As at Young Colin’s, on the eve of Fata Morgana, all rose quietly. How could it be remiss?
Thanatopsis. Requiescat In Pace.