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I slid down the bluff to the hard-packed sand on the beach. Yeamon threw up
his arm and ran at an angle toward the surf. I tossed the nut high and long, watching it
fall just beyond him in the water and make a quick splash. He fell on it and went
under, bringing it up in his hands.
I turned and sprinted away, watching it float down at me out of the hot blue
sky. It hurt my hands again, but this time I hung on. It was a good feeling to snag a
long pass, even if it was a coconut. My hands grew red and tender, but it was a good
clean feeling and I didn't mind. We ran short, over-the-middle passes and long
floaters down the sidelines, and after a while I couldn't help but think we were
engaged in some kind of holy ritual, the reenactment of all our young Saturdays —
expatriated now, lost and cut off from those games and those drunken stadiums,
beyond the noise and blind to the false color of those happy spectacles — after years
of jeering at football and all that football means, here I was on an empty Caribbean
beach, running these silly pass patterns with all the zeal of a regular sandlot fanatic.
As we raced back and forth, falling and plunging in the surf, I recalled my
Saturdays at Vanderbilt and the precision beauty of a Georgia Tech backfield,
pushing us back and back with that awful belly series, a lean figure in a gold jersey,
slashing over a hole that should never have been there, now loose on the crisp grass of
our secondary and an unholy shout from the stands across the way; and finally to
bring the bastard down, escape those blockers coming at you like cannonballs, then
line up again and face that terrible machinery. It was a torturous thing, but beautiful in
its way; here were men who would never again function or even understand how they
were supposed to function as well as they did today. They were dolts and thugs for
the most part, huge pieces of meat, trained to a fine edge — but somehow they
mastered those complex plays and patterns, and in rare moments they were artists.
Finally I got too tired to run anymore and we went back up to the patio, where
Sala and Chenault were still talking. They both seemed a little drunk, and after a few
minutes of conversation I realized that Chenault was fairly out of her head. She kept
chuckling to herself and mocking Yeamon's southern accent.
We drank for another hour or so, laughing indulgently at Chenault and
watching the sun slant off toward Jamaica and the Gulf of Mexico. It's still light in
Mexico City, I thought. I had never been there and suddenly I was overcome by a
tremendous curiosity about the place. Several hours of rum, combined with my
mounting distaste for Puerto Rico, had me right on the verge of going into town,
packing my clothes, and leaving on the first westbound plane. Why not? I thought. I
hadn't cashed this week's paycheck yet; a few hundred in the bank, nothing to tie me
down — why not, indeed? It was bound to be better than this place, where my only
foothold was a cheap job that looked ready to collapse.
I turned to Sala. "How much is it from here to Mexico City?"
He shrugged and sipped his drink. "Too much," he replied. "Why? Are you
I nodded. "I'm pondering it."
Chenault looked up at me, her face serious for a change. "You'd love Mexico
"What the hell do you know about it?" Yeamon snapped.
She glared up at him, then took a long drink from her glass.
"That's it," he said. "Keep sucking it down — you're not drunk enough yet."
"Shut up!" she screamed, jumping to her feet. "Leave me alone, you goddamn
His arm shot out so quickly that I barely saw the movement; there was the