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Penalty Flags in the Dust: a Faulknerian preview of Texas A&M vs. Ole Miss

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He crept in the field house unobtrusively, gliding like a shadow through the back door with only a faint creak to give him away. Bossman Bjork looked up immediately and saw him and remarked him softly but sternly.

Dust yourself off before you come in here. Look at you: gonna track that mud and grit from Memphis all over everywhere.

It was true. His neatly creased slacks were faded and caked with the grime of the Liberty Bowl. He radiated fatigue and defeat and he felt all the failures of the world on the crumpled and tatty shoulders of his woolen pullover. There was a hole in his office underneath the scattered paperwork and machinery and he wanted to crawl inside it and float away into the fields of his memory: where he was in control of his fate through the absolute and ignorant assurance he had in his own ability. He made to leave but

Hold on there Hugh. Let's talk a minute.

But I

Now, listen.

Bjork was standing now, leaning calmly against the wall with one elbow cradled in his other hand, a pensive look on his face and a pen poking the corner of his mouth. His face was almost a scowl as if he'd just bitten into a green persimmon and didn't have anyplace to spit it out except into Hugh's ear so he let loose

Goddamn it Hugh this won't do.

Hugh cringed at the blasphemy but he didn't stop-

That's two games in a row now and I could maybe see Florida and all but not Memphis. Not Memphis. We have a certain standard to uphold here Hugh you know that even though you did come from Memphis and we can overlook that but it's a matter of image, Hugh. Of principle, you understand?

Hugh was flushing red and thinking about that hole under his papers but Boss Bjork was just getting warmed up

Principle of prestige. Of position. We are Ole Miss, Hugh. Folks in Oxford have a certain degree of expectations and they will abide a Florida but not a Memphis and we thought you knew that. Now next week you are back at home and it's time to get things in order, Hugh.

Home. The word instantly brought down his imagined refuge and not even his office held any hope of respite for him for this was something he did not want to admit even to himself: there was no home when facing that man Kevin. He got uptight and nervous when the man visited and felt ashamed of his surroundings and lost his discipline and sense of a need for self-image and suddenly he felt himself sweating. He looked back across the room and Bjork was gone. He panicked and ran to his office and threw open the door and there it was, a neat and tidy package in the center of his clean desk--no escape there--and it had a tiny square card and in impeccable calligraphy was the brief note

Looking forward to Saturday, Regards, Kevin

and his breath sunk down below his heart to where he couldn't get any air in and he stood for moments with his mouth agape, perspiration beading on his upper lip as the feeling of total isolation crept back upon him and he ran his shaky fingers through his sandy tattered hair and rushed across the final few steps to the desk and grasped the small box tightly in his clenched hands, shaking as he clumsily tore the plain brown paper wrapping from it in frantic shreds, ripping through it and chewing the tape with his rodent-like teeth and grunting with an intense nervous cackle until finally the box was open and inside it was empty save for a tiny slip of paper, a neatly folded and narrow piece of parchment that he hastily opened until he stood transfixed, staring at the name that was written on the paper and he dropped it noiselessly to the surface of the desk and sat down in a lump like a sack of corn dropped off the back of a truck because he had forgotten that name in his pining disappointment on the way back from Memphis. From alongside the tiny piece of paper a miniature yellow banner had fluttered to the surface of the desk, twirling in the pale motes that hung in the light from the window: a premonition of the vast impossibility of the task ahead

See you soon.
Regards, Myles Garrett

the paper had said


Previous editions:

GBH 2012: Ackbarlom, Ackbarlom!

RCR 2012: Go Down, Aggie

GBH 2013: Slow Down, Boses

RCR 2013: If I Forget Thee, College Station

RCR 2014: Ag I Lay Dying

GBH 2014: Pylon

RCR 2015: A Rose for Reveille