Sean smiles as he hears the chime ring out, indicating the outer door has opened. That’d be Martha and the grandkids. His daughter’s clear voice blares over the intercom: “Hey Coach, we’re here!” He hasn’t coached a damn thing in over a thirty years, but his family never lets him forget his old occupation. Not that he could forget.
He hears the inner door open and the faint gurgle of decontamination fluids draining from the lock. His grandkids round the corner into the kitchen, nearly bowling him over as they hug both his legs. “Epa, Plae, both of you need to be careful! Grandpa ain’t a jungle gym!”
“What’s a jungle?” asks Plae’akshun inquisitively.
“Well, P.A., you know my solarium?” replies Sean, matter-of-factly. “A jungle is like that solarium times a hundred or a thousand. Oh, and it’s outside.”
“Outside? But how does it survive all the acid rain?” Plae is always so damn curious.
“That’s a conversation for another time. Now who wants some cookies!”
The steam rises from the plates under the autofeed dispenser as it excretes this week’s flavors. The soft mix of garlic chicken and mashed sweet potatoes: always a winner. After a couple of bites, Epa, the youngest, breaks the silence and asks, “Grandpa, did you ever coach against Russell Wilson?” On the island of Neuvo Angeles, Sean’s cardiologist receives a high-priority alert about a sudden increase in his patient’s heart rate. Sean’s grip on his spork tightens; he can feel the warm bioplastic start to give. Plae’akshun smacks his sister’s leg and glares.
“Its okay, Dad,” quickly blurts Martha. “You don’t need to talk about it.”
He takes a deep breath and feels his heart start to settle. “Oh Russ, yeah I guess I must’ve coached against him once or twice. But that was so long ago it’s tough to remember.”
“But you don’t –” Epa’s objection is cut off by not one but two thumps under the table that Sean guesses hit both of Epa’s feet, courtesy of her brother.
Defusing the situation, he slips into the rhythms of one of his grandkids’ favorite stories. “So you remember Uncle Jared, right? He was the first quarterback I coached. Let me tell you about the time that I made him play so well that a real life NFL GM payed him 35 million dollars a year…”
The red glare of sunrise greets Sean as he leaves the bathroom after his second or third piss break of the night; it’s hard to remember these days. As he is about to get back in bed, he hears voices downstairs. What have Epa and Plae gotten into now? He quietly makes his way down the steps. His grandkids’ voices grow louder.
“Plae, you know that Grandpa doesn’t forget a football play!”
“Yeah, but you know the rules, nobody mentions R-U-S-S…”
“You aren’t a little curious about him? You’ve seen where he is in the record books. He had an entire wing in the Hall of Fame before it sank.”
“Ep, of course I’m curious. I just don’t want to get caught and have to memorize the starting defensive lineups of teams from 50 years ago!”
In Neuvo Angeles, warning signs start trickling in as Sean’s heart rate begins to climb again. He walks toward the voices in the film room (not that his grandkids would even know what film is). The crackle and hum of the video monitor nearly causes him to jump out of his skin.
That’s when he hears the words.
“Wilson steps through… and WIDE-OPEN…” Sean sees the ball careen off of Chris Carson’s fingertips. Maybe this time, he drops it. “AND CAUGHT, after a juggle.” His stomach roils as the projected images diverge from the ones he sees-remembers: the ball tumbling to the turf, Carson collapsing after it. “For the Touchdown!” Talib yelling victoriously, swinging at the air like it was wearing Crabtree’s chain. “Carson!”
The roar from the monitor is drowned by Sean’s memory of the roar which is drowned by the deafening silence of a shocked stadium from his not-memory. His cardiologist is strapping into his hyperjet and will be at the front door in 40 minutes.
Thomp–Everett snags a key third down–son sprawls on the turf–the clock ticks down as Zuer–tipping the ball barely into the air, snatching it–lein lines up the kick, Pete Carroll out of time outs–from the air–The kick goes up and-wide–it–right–is–wide right–GO–wideright–OD.
Sean slides to the ground, the elephant sitting on his chest telling him it’s time for a new cardiac synth. He’s glad he ponied up for the express medical services, because he isn’t quite ready to go. But as the monitor’s overload of action green casts his features in a ghoulish hue, Sean McVay wishes, for the first time, to forget.