Halftime Entertainment

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Authors: Kyell Gold
Halftime Entertainment

    by Kyell Gold

It’s halftime of a pretty important game in the division. The Crystal City Sabretooths are top of the league, and us, the Yerba Whalers just up the coast, are struggling to hold on to the middle. It’s my third year as a pro football player, and I’m finally in the starting lineup, if only as a change-of-pace back. Means I get about fifteen carries a game, on average.
    I’ve had ten by the half of this one, because our starter needs a lot of rest. Crystal City’s defense is number one in the league, featuring a bear and a boar who are beasts at stuffing the lanes, and a lion on the end who is quick as lightning, with muscles like thunder. The boar ain’t afraid to use his tusks, which do not have to be capped or blunted. If you manage to get through them, they’ve got two muscular coyotes and a wolf, faster than the lion, even, waiting to take you down. I’ve got a nice set of antlers—points capped per league policy, unlike the boar’s tusks, and you can call that unfair, but that don’t change the way it is—but these guys come at you from all angles. We’re down 14-0 at the half. I’ve gained nine yards total.
    Our regular starter, a tough, compact wolverine, is sucking wind all during coach’s halftime speech, and so nobody questions me when I say I need to take a break. That’s our code for “go throw up somewhere quiet,” and as long as you don’t make a big deal out of it, nobody else will. Everyone gets worked up for games, it just affects some of us different from others. If you need to settle the stomach, better do it in the locker room bathroom and get it out of the way.
    And I am pretty worked up. It’s hard getting amped up for a game when you sit on the bench most of the time, so I jump around on the sidelines. When I get into the game, I can’t wait to break out, but I also love gettin’ down in there behind my blocker, running into the line and straining forward for those precious few yards in the scrum, hugging the ball against my chest, antlers lowered. Any game of the season, I get a charge out of it. Today, it’s especially electrifying when I see that number “55” on the other side, his coyote’s grin waiting for me. He tackled me once in the first half, and as we were getting up, I got a smoldering look to go with his grin.
    That look, that grin, are fixed in my mind as I slip out of the locker room. I don’t head for the visitors’ bathroom. I trot down the hall, getting more and more worked up as I go, only now it’s not the game that’s doin’ it. I see his grin, I feel his weight on top of me during that one tackle, and I’m getting hard enough that my cup is starting to get uncomfortable.
    I pick up the pace. I’ll only have ten minutes and I don’t want to waste a second. It’s only my fourth time here in three years, but I know just which stairs to trot down, the smell and look of the short, dim, hallway, and the sign on the door next to the stairway that says, “Supplies.” The hall is clear, like always, so I tap-tap, tap-tap-tap at the door. There’s a brief pause, then it opens into darkness and the smell of bleach. A radio’s playing, softly, the highlights of the first half we just finished.
    I fumble for the light switch before I kick the door closed. “I can’t see in the dark,” I say, becoming aware of the smell of coyote in the air as I step in. My heart races. “I don’t got antlers,” he says, and I can see the laugh even in the dark. “C’mon, we ain’t got all day. I got a game to go back out there and win. You tellin’ me you can’t feel your way?”
    The door slams shut. I find the light switch. He’s taken off his pads, but he’s still got on his navy blues with the gold trim, the big number 55 on the back under his name, the snarling Sabretooth logo on his sleeve, and his white pants down at his knees. The coyote tail wags over his bare rear. “Course,” he says, “you ain’t

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