Martin Kelly starts off  a month of guest fiction stories.  If you want your short story to be featured, send me an email at kosmo@observingcasually.com

There is nothing quite as pleasant as a cool bright fall day in the heartland of America. Make it a Saturday in a university town, and it gets even better. The band is playing, the people are gathering, many drinking too much, all eating too much. This was going to be a great season.

Coach Grendle had finally put together the best team in the league. Nine returning seniors, the two best freshmen in the state, a Heisman candidate at both running back Walter Sumpter and quarterback Jackie Shamacker and award candidates all over the defense. This was one last warm up before league play. The first two games had been against strong teams, one from the west coast and one from the deep south. Both wins were solid; 38-28 and 24-10. Today they faced the tech school from across the state. It was an annual gimme game that pleased the regents. It was nice to play at home this year, their stadium was small and old with no heating in the locker room, not like the newly renovated one hundred and ninety million dollar stadium for today’s game.

As each team lined up for the opening kickoff, Coach Grendle scanned the field. The Tech players looked so young and small. He spotted Coach Smackly on the far side line and gave him a grim look and a nod. Coach Smackly smiled and waved. This would be the only televised game for Tech, they were happy to be here even if they were thirty two point underdogs.

The kick off was a beautiful high arch. Wilson caught the ball and plowed straight ahead. It took four tech players to finally pull him down. Grendle’s proud offence jogged onto the field. Sumpter to the left for 14 yards followed by a quick slant from Shamacker to Wilson for 14 more, just as the planned. Grendle was taking notes, thing that were not quite perfect and need to be for league play. It was the third play that changed the world.

Sumpter took off straight up the middle. He had several of the big guys escorting him up the field. Five yards, then ten, before the Tech Safety caught him. The tackle was clean and should have been uneventful, except for the presence of the guard and center. A combined 500 pounds landed on Sumpter’s leg. Coach Grendle knew the leg was broken before the pile was untangled. There was a long delay as Sumpter was carried off of the field on a golf cart.

Grendle had worked through disasters like this in the past. He had five more running backs ready to go. Jackson was good, not as fast and not as strong as Sumpter, but still high quality. After a long break, the defense can usually get caught flat footed. Grendle signaled for a deep pass.

Shamacker dropped back in a smooth motion. Wilson was breaking free, but then another mistake. McMiller, the left guard stepped backward and stepped on Shamacker’s foot. Off balance McMiller and the Tech linebacker fell on Shamacker. His pass fluttered in a sickening arch directly to the Tech Safety who was guarding the Jackson as he left the backfield. There was no one between him and the end zone. Touchdown Tech, and another golf cart for the home team.

Coach Grendle saw many things in those few moments. This game they could still win, but the rest of the season was over. He would have to talk to Smackly after the game. Smackly was good friends with the retiring coach at A&I. Another losing season and the alumni will be calling for his head.

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Martin writes about writing in his weekly column Ramblings from Martin.

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