THE OLD MAN AND THE 'D'

Ernest Hemingway in Havana Harbor after catching a marlin, 1934

THE MACK ADAMS STORIES, VOLUME 6: THE OLD MAN AND THE 'D'

Mack leaned back into the sun the way that old men do when they want their faces to be warm. They had sat in the plaza all morning as they thought about football without talking. Sometimes it was good not to talk, even about football.

"The bear will be up now," Manny said finally. "The sun will feel good on his fur and he will get up to eat."

Mack nodded. His friend talked this way sometimes.

"What bear?" he asked.

"The bear at the zoo, Mack. Bryan took the players to the zoo this morning to talk to the bear."

Mack's hand was steady and strong as he reached for the galletas de animalitos. You could sip sweet drinks a long time and not have things go bad if you knew how to do it.

Manny said, "He wants them to talk to the bear to learn the secret of the Baylors."

The old man thought about the bear and about the secret of the Baylors. He sat quietly for a long time thinking about this.

"It's good for the players to try new things, Manny."

Manny did not like new things as much as Bryan did.

"I believe a man when he hits a man should hit him so hard that he never wants to stand up again. This is not new, Mack." Manny got angry when he thought about defense. He took a drink of his Doctor Pepper to take away the anger. It tasted sweet and cold but he was still angry.

"Bryan will have the players ready, Manny."

Manny thought about his friend. They talked through the holes that Will had punched in the wall before he left. So Manny spoke carefully.

"It is difficult to hit another man as hard as you want to hit him when he is dancing, Mack."

Mack agreed. "It will be good for them to be in motion."

"But they are singing, too, Mack."

"It is good for the players to be happy, Manny."

"Yes, Mack. But he has them singing the plays. They dance before the snap and they sing the signals to each other."
Mack thought about this as he sipped his dark sweet drink.

"Mack, where is the honor hitting a quarterback when he sings 'Some enchanted evening', and the receivers say 'you may see a stranger'? Where is the dignity in that?" Manny took a long drink. "How can you tackle a man when you are thinking of South Pacific?"

Mack remembered the great Ezio Pinza. "It has always been a good song," he said.

"I know that, Mack. And I respect it. But when an offense runs a play named 'Surrey with the fringe on top' it is not easy for a man to think."

Mack nodded. "What does the Major think about that play, Manny?"

"He says it will be good for Oklahoma."

Mack thought about Oklahoma. "We do not need to worry, Manny. When luck comes, Bryan and the Major will be ready."

They sat together and drank as the sun rose in the sky. Soon tourists would fill the plaza and so would the dark birds who make their hard cries echo from under the tables as they eat French fries. But their friends would join them and then they would talk about things until there was no more to say. It was good to have another season, Mack thought. Together they would make the football good again. Tonight he would sleep and dream of the bear.

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