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words by genghis , pictures by rhoda
"since today is st valentine's day, or maybe it's confucius' birthday, or lenin's birthday, or the feast of lupercal, the assignment will be a simple one."
miss susan b anthony, or maybe she was agrippina or madame ching or ethel rosenberg, adressed the class.
"the assignment is to write a story so simple that no originality could be claimed for it, and therefore, could not be copyrighted. are there any questions? there shouldn't be."
jughead, or maybe he was gilgamesh or agammemnon or ishmael, started to raise his hand, but put it down and began writing his story.
valentine's day, by gilgamesh
joey liked shirley.
he really liked her.
he thought about her all the time
it was the day of the big game.
joey was on the team.
when coach and the guys came by in the bus to pick him up, he had forgotten all about the game. he got in the bus and sat in the back. he was thinking about shirley so much he forgot to say goodbye to his mom or ask her for some cookies to give to the guys.
danny was the leader of the pack. what he said, went. where he went, the other guys followed. all the girls wanted to run away to hollywood or a desert island with him. all the guys wanted to follow him to hell and back. coach loved him. coach's wife, when she made cookies and brownies, always gave danny the best ones.
so when danny looked over at joey and laughed, naturally all the other guys and coach laughed too, even though danny hadn't let on yet what he was laughing about.
danny just kept laughing at joey, until finally reese asked him what was so funny. reese was danny's best friend, and laughed at all his jokes. well obviously everybody laughed at danny's jokes. but only the ones they heard. reese was danny's best friend and so he heard them all. so because reese was danny's best friend and also because the bus was almost at the opposing teams field, reese finally asked danny what was so funny.
and danny just said, " ah, he just looks like such a goof." and that set off a fresh round of laughter that lasted until the bus stopped.
joey was actually relieved. he had been afraid danny was going to say something about shirley.
joey started thinking about shirley again as soon as they got of the bus. he was the last guy to finish getting into his uniform. he stood for minutes at a time in front of the locker just staring into space and thinking about shirley.
joey really liked shirley.
agrippina picked the composition book out from under gilgamesh's ball point pen
and began reading it, with an increasing look of bewilderment and disgust on her face.
"what is this garbage, agammemnon?" madame ching asked.
"it's - it's what you said you wanted,' ishmael stammered. "i'm just writing the first stuff that comes into my head. how original can it be?"
"yes, that's all very well," ethel rosenberg snapped. "but that's no excuse for writing such slobbering nonsense as this. please try to tighten up your brain a little." she slapped the composition book back down on the desk.
chastened and bewildered, jughead continued:
"hey, goof," danny called to joey, "let's go!" this brought more laughter, especially from coach. joey finished pulling his jersey over his left shoulder pad, picked up his helmet and ran out on to the field behind the other guys, still thinking about shirley.
wade hampton high won the toss and elected to receive the ball from home town john brown high.
the john brown kicker sailed the ball over the end zone - to the cheers of the home crowd.
the wade hampton team. in their road white uniforms with confederate flags on the back above their numbers, lined up on the 20 yard line.
coach was an avid devotee of the single wing formation. danny of course was the tailback. joey lined up at right end. he would be the most frequent target of danny's passes.
herman goering, the fattest boy in wade hampton high and a regular recipient of coach's and danny's barbs, was the center. he snapped the ball accurately to danny, who started to run to the left behind the quarterback, blackie mcgurk, then pulled up and passed to joey, whose defender had moved a little to his right.
danny's passes were accurate enough but tended to be a little high, making for long afternoons for the receivers who had to take their licks going up to get them.
miss susan b anthony picked the composition book on gilgamesh's desk up again and scanned it. "can you please tell me how any sane civilized human being is supposed to make sense out of this imbecilic drivel?"
she glared at him. " single wing formation - does that mean something or did you make it up? and why does the pedestaled shirley not have a face or a voice?"
agammemnon hung his head. at least, he thought, she is using up her supply of invectives. "i'm sorry," he mumbled, 'i'll try to do better."
reggie, or maybe he was mark antony or sir henry morgan or frank james, spoke up from the seat on ishmael's right, spoke up. "the single wing formation is actually quite interesting, miss agrippina , when you consider that it dominated football for decades but is now -"
madame ching silenced poor mark with a withering glare.
veronica, or maybe she was salambo or morgan le fay or valeska suratt, was seated behind jughead.
ethel picked up agammemnon's composition book and handed it to salambo.
"perhaps you could point out to this hapless creature exactly what his problem is."
morgan le fay quickly scanned the book and handed it back to miss anthony. "actually i think it is developing quite nicely," she fluttered her eyelashes at agrippina.
"a little slow perhaps, but i think you should give it a chance. i think it plays quite nicely on some classic themes. and i am sure" - she smiled again - "we will hear most interestingly from shirley, whose delayed entrance only adds to the subtle tension of the narrative."
the teacher was not proof against the young woman's charms and handed the composition book back.
reprieved, gilgamesh picked his pen back up and continued:
danny's first pass of the day proved no exception. joey had to go up as high as he could to get it on his fingertips and he had just got it between his hands when he took a picture book hit from john brown's best player - john brown, the quarterback and left outside linebacker.
it was whispered that john brown the player had negro blood in him - that he was the love child of jack johnson and greta garbo.
joey managed to hold on to the ball. he got up slowly after john brown got up slowly off him. somewhat to joey's surprise, john brown said nothing to him.
joey had made nine yards on the play. it was second and one. he went back to the huddle.
"nice catch, goof," danny greeted him. the other guys (except blackie mcgurk) were awed by danny's generous response.
"he could have got the one extra yard," reese, who played left end, muttered.
"sure he could," blackie said, "if the ball had been put in his hands so he could run with it."
danny clapped his hands together. "guys, come on. it's just one yard. play 31, right up the middle."
danny took the snap from herman goering. he headed to herman's left behind blackie but the two guards, the siamese twins bucky and bunky o'banion, were stopped cold by the opposing john brown linemen. blackie, with danny close behind, cut right, but john brown the player had gone right around danny, blasted through the feeble efforts of the wingback and fullback, and pushed blackie back into danny. danny tried to veer left but was tackled for a loss by the john brown right cornerback . it was obvious that john brown the player was going to be a problem.
"what are we going to do?," reese asked in the huddle. "the goof is no match for the negro."
danny was upbeat. "coach will figure something out."
"right," said jeff davis the left tackle and class clown, "he'll get some negroes of our own. " blackie mcgurk laughed at this but nobody else did.
"what we are going to do right now," said danny, "is go to reese, play 43. let's go!"
but danny's pass to reese cutting across the middle was a little high, and poor reese was almost cut in half by the john brown middle linebacker when he got his fingertips on it.
now it was fourth and four, and danny dropped back to punt.
on the sidelines coach remained calm and smiling.
danny's girl friend magnolia carlson, the head cheerleader, stood with her hand and megaphone on her hip. "what a bunch of sissies - can't any of them play except danny?"
standing beside her, shirley nodded.