Had this sitting on my comp for awhile. Sent it in for Tuesday Terror, but with the hiatus, I decided hell with it and to post it up so it'll stop burning a hole in my C drive.
Hope you dig. Criticism, positive and negative, always welcome.
I Know You
by Josh Athanas
“MOTHERFUCKER!!” the giant bellowed, his rage a combination of the pain in his knee, the action on the television, and for the bastard that had knocked him out of the game just before the end of the first half. Stretched out on one of the locker room’s examining tables, Magnus Paglione’s eyes were fixed on the suspended monitor, his ire rising more and more after each play as his third string backup continued to miss blocking assignment after assignment, forcing QB Jeff Garcia into bad pass after bad pass and far too many scrambles for his dear life. Fucking Covernton…why did he have to blow his ankle the week before in practice and leave the new fish as the only backup for the line? Magnus felt confident in giving the position back to the man he beat out for it, but this untested rookie was being forced to play above his ability in the biggest game of the season, the CFL’s Grey Cup championship game, and was coming up short.
No…not fucking Covernton…fucking Ray Brice, the asshole who took out his knee on a cheap blindside hit while Magnus was engaged in a block on the line of scrimmage. Fuck. Him.
The doc finished poking and prodding his knee, doing his best to ignore the series of clean, pale scars running across Magnus’ calf and stood, exhaling deeply and looking grim. “This ain’t good, Magnus. I’m guessing you’ve got at least a partial to major tear in your MCL, damage to your meniscus, and I wouldn’t put much stock in your ACL not snapping like a twig if you do much more than stay where you are. That sonofabitch hit you good.”
head spun, his eyes burning fire. “The
fuck you say. NOTHING about that was a
good hit! That fucking fairy was pissed
I was keeping his boyfriend out of the backfield and lunged into my knee on
purpose! He meant to hit me low and take
me out of the game!”
Doc raised his hands and stepped back, “Easy, hoss, easy, easy. I didn’t mean anything by it. All I’m saying is you’re in a world of hurt right now. You’re done, man.”
Magnus growled and hung his head. His constant scowling had caused the cut over the bridge of his nose to break open again, trailing blood down his face like bloody tears. A crimson drop landed on his chest, instantly blending with the bright red number 74 on his black jersey. A quarter and a half away and he saw his chance at hoisting the game’s biggest prize drifting further and further away.
He leveled his eyes back to the television and watched as Ray Brice streaked in from the side, untouched, and crushed Garcia again. Out of range for a field goal, even for a rouge, the Stampeders had no choice but to punt the ball. Brice got up, saying something to Garcia and laughed as he trotted off the field.
Fucking. Brice. The anger flared again. Magnus’s hands balled into fists clenched so tight his knuckles popped. This was not going to be how it ended.
“Doc, I don’t care what you have to do, but you’re going
to get me back out there.”
“Hey, come on now, big man, that’s just stupid. You go out there now, yo…”
“If I’m not back on that field, we’re not winning this game!!” The anger in his voice forced the doc to flinch. “Stick me with a needle, tape me up, and get me back out on that field. Now.”
“I’m not doing that, Magnus. Your knee won’t…” he was cut off by a giant fist grasping the front of his pristine Calgary Stampeders polo shirt and yanking him inches away from Paglione’s flushed-red face.
He nodded, his breath catching in his throat. “S…sure thing, Mag. Your call, man. Your call.”
Magnus released his death grip and turned his attention back to the game as Doc readied the syringe of Toradol.
Magnus cursed under his breath as Hamilton scored another single.
Ray Brice. Mother. Fucker.
* * *
Wiping the blood from his face, Magnus tried to jog back down the tunnel. His knee hurt. Bad. But the sweet, dripping pain would be enough to keep him sharp, deadly, and ready to kill. The Toradol would take some time to kick in, but the support provided by the expert tape job and the initial injection of the anti-inflammatory took the edge off enough that his limp was hardly noticeable. All of this was helped by his boiling rage.
Adrenaline had shot through his system when the third quarter came to an end as Garcia scrambled into the end zone with a 1-yard rushing TD, cementing the perfect end to a crucial 75-five yard drive. With a quarter to go, Calgary was only down by one. Magnus had to use every ounce of self-restraint then to keep from running out onto the field while Doc finished taping up his wounded knee.
As he came to the end of the tunnel, he heard a few cheers and calls of his name from the Calgary faithful in the Winnipeg stands.
“YEAAAAAAAH!!! GIVE ‘EM HELL, MAGNUS!!”
“Go get that cocksucker, Paglione! Show him what cheaters get!”
“PAG-LI-ONE!! PAG-LI-ONE! PAG-LI-ONE!”
Knee pain? What knee pain? It was game time.
As he finished his jog to the bench, he watched the lead the Stampeders had managed to build in the 4th quarter courtesy of two field goals go up in smoke as Hamilton’s Ronald Williams 4-yard rushing touchdown gave the Tiger-Cats a 24-23 lead with 3:00 left in the contest. The championship was slipping away, play by play. Magnus roared inside his head. Those field goals would have been touchdowns if he was in this game, and then some. There would have been no failed drives, no punts, no singles, just a showing of dominance that would leave no doubt to the world why Magnus Paglione was the lynchpin for the Stampeders front five.
Coach Buono threw his clipboard to the ground. “GOD!! DAMMIT!!” He was witnessing another implosion that was keeping one of the most dominate teams of the decade
from bringing home the trophy for yet another year and maybe even his job as head coach circling down the drain. The luster of the championship season in 1992 had worn off and players and fans alike wanted more awards in the lonely trophy case by any means necessary. He turned, coming to a stop. “Paglione! You better not be jerking my dick coming back out here like this.”
“No, sir!” barked Magnus, strapping on his helmet. “I’m ready to take care of business.” Buono looked at the abnormal size of Magnus right knee, roll after roll of tape padding the injured extremity.
”I’m here, that’s all that matters.”
Buono opened his mouth to respond, but both men paused as Hamilton lined up for a two point conversion, forgoing the traditional single point after kick. If successful, they would extend their lead to 3. It was a risk by the Tiger-Cats, but if they punched the ball in they’d severely limit the Stampeders offensive play calling in the final minutes of the game.
The roar of the stadium was deafening. The ball was snapped and the lines converged, the cracking of the pads audible even over the intensity of the crowd. What was only a matter of seconds felt like a lifetime before another roar erupted from the fans. The Calgary fans. The Stampeder’s defense had stopped the conversion. The score still stood at 24-23.
Amped on adrenaline, the D sprinted off the field.
“That’s how you do it, boys!”
day, motherfucker! All day!”
”Bring it home, offense!! Bring it home!!”
Calgary’s kick return unit sprinted to the field, their
offense collecting around Coach Buono.
Garcia’s eyes brightened as he caught glimpse of the monster lineman
he’d sorely missed.
“Mag!! My man! You ready for this?”
“No place I’d rather be, bubba.” Three years later and the QB still didn’t realize “Bubba” wasn’t exactly a term of endearment. Garcia smiled, and slapped his guard on the side of the helmet.
“Let’s get it done, big cat.”
“Stop the circle-jerk, men, we’ve got business to attend
to!” shouted Buono. He looked directly
at his rookie lineman, battered, bruised, and sucking wind. “Dawsey, hell of an effort, but Magnus is
back in.” Dawsey nodded, smiling briefly
at the applause from his teammates thanking him for his effort; Paglione’s
hands stayed at his sides. “I don’t have
any pretty words left, gentleman; you know where we’re at. If we gotta, we’ll settle for a single and
OT, but I’m much more willing to win this one outright.” There was a barking approval from his
players. “It’s all about the little wars
right now. Play your man. Beat your man, every single down. You do that, and we will win this game. STAMP ON 3!!!” The offense collapsed around their coach.
“STAMP!!!” they bellowed in unison. They all turned to the field, waiting for the kick off. The linesmen blew the whistle and the kick was way. The ball was caught and brought forward for a short gain. The ref blew the play dead and the offense took the field.
Magnus watched Hamilton’s defense trot on to the pitch. His eyes never left Brice. Once he saw #74 back in action, Ray almost took a double-step in his jog, but regained himself his composure and smiled, adjusting his cup in Magnus’ direction.
“Back for more, are you, Fagnus?”
“Try that bush-league shit again, motherfucker, and see what happens. I don’t care what the play is, I’m going to find you and bleed you like a pig before this game is over.”
Brice took another step forward. “Your boys are done. The champagne outta that cup is going to taste sweet in about 3:00 minutes. Hope your healthcare’s good enough you don’t walk with a limp after this.”
Magnus took several steps towards the man, but was held back by his team.
“Easy, easy Mag,” breathed his fullback Farell Duclair, “nothing will be sweeter than seeing him lose this game.”
“No, nothing will be sweeter than seeing him at my feet twitching like a palsy victim.”
Duclair laughed. “Whooo! I missed you, brother! Let’s run this shit!” The two men jogged to the rest of the offensive huddle while the linesmen reset the ball and down markers.
Garcia took a knee in the center of the huddle. “Alright, we got our line back. That means we’re moving down the field. Play smart. No risks. We’ve got…”
His words trailed off. A blood red rage boiled in Magnus Paglione’s soul. He had meant what he said to Duclair: seeing Ray Brice as a rapidly cooling slab of meat in front of him meant more than winning the Grey Cup.
“… 3 dive right on 2.
Magnus snapped back into reality. He’d missed most of the play call, but knew the offense was testing him early; the play was coming right between him and the guard. Time to show that Tiger-Cats what they missed for the past two and a half quarters.
As he approached the line and began to enter his stance, he looked to the outside linebacker position, ready to glare daggers into Brice; instead he looked into the grinning face of Lamar McGriggs. He looked across the field and saw that Brice had lined up on the opposite side of the field.
“Fuckin’ pussy….” Magnus muttered.
Defensive End Willie Whitehead smiled. “We gon’ win the game AND you ain’t gon’ get to hit him, Paglione. That’s gotta be a mean bitch!”
Magnus snarled back at Whitehead. “Then you get what’s his, asshole!!” Whitehead laughed.
“DOWN!!” came the call from Garcia. “Northstar 13! Northstar 13!
Center Jaime Crysdale slammed the ball into Garcia’s hand. The line erupted into a fierce 1-yard blood feud for control of the line of scrimmage. Magnus exploded from his stance, his outside hand slamming under Whitehead’s arm as he grasped a handful of shoulder pad and pectoral muscle, his inside hand firing forward into Whitehead’s chest like a wrecking ball. Forgetting all about his destroyed knee, he drove forward, knocking Whitehead off balance and driving him back. Magnus saw a blur of black and red as fullback Duclair streaked through the hole, threw a juke on McGriggs and was taken down with a shoestring tackle by Ray Brice after a six-yard gain.
The clock ticked down.
“Brice!” yelled Paglione, “Find your nuts and get back to the right side of the field!” Brice simply shrugged and laughed, jogging back to the defensive huddle. Whitehead took a little extra time to make his way to join them.
The offensive circled together, waiting to hear their general’s orders. All of them but one. Again, Magnus heard nothing from Garcia.
“….on 2! Break!”
Magnus missed the entire play, but caught up as he jogged
to the line.
He leaned toward Crysdale. “Check?”
“Rooster deuce,” Jaime answered, code for a slant-pass play
on 2. “You alright?”
The offensive line took their positions. Again, Brice lined up on the opposing side of the field.
Whitehead growled at Magnus. “That was good, little man. Let’s see you do that again.”
“Get Brice back and you won’t have to taste anymore of your own blood,” Magnus sneered.
Garcia came under center. “Diamond 6-2! Diamond 6-2! Puck Red! Set….hut…HIKE!”
Again, the one yard distance between lines disappeared in an instant, this time the offense taking a step back, catching the charging defense in stride to create a passing pocket for Garcia. Jeff scanned his options and hurried a pass as Brice burned through the line and nearly sacked him for a loss. The lame duck pass fluttered to the turf in front of a wide open tight end. 3rd and 4. Punt, the game would most surely be over. Go for it, and they at least go out fighting if they come up short.
Out of timeouts, Bouno sent the play in with a replacement receiver.
“Here we go…we’re keeping it on the ground for all the…”
“Run the same play,” growled Magnus.
“What? They blew right through…”
“Run the same fucking play! Freddie,” across from Magnus, Freddie Childress looked up, “let Brice through. Farell, step up and block Whitehead for me. He’s winded from the last two plays. I’m pulling and hitting that motherfucker.” No one doubted who Magnus was referring to.
“No way, Magnus.
We screw this up and…”
“We run the ball and this game is over right here. They’re expecting it and will send everyone to the house. Moore was wide open in the flat on that play; you just needed time to throw, Jeff. Run it again and we’ve got the first.”
“Magnus, there’s no way you’ve got the speed in your knee to…”
“The fuck I don’t. Any man who doesn’t run that play doesn’t make it off the field.”
The huddle was silent. Not a single man doubted Magnus intentions.
Farell laughed. “Fuck it, man. Let’s do it. Let the man get some payback. That run won’t do a damn thing, anyway, and every one of you know it. This might just be what we need if you fight for.”
Garcia shook his head. “Christ...there’s hell to pay if this doesn’t work, Paglione.”
“It’ll work just fine, bubba. Just make sure you throw the ball with enough heat on it.”
They called the same play. The offense made their way to the line of
scrimmage. Whitehead crouched on wobbly
legs. “One more and you done, boy!”
Magnus sneered back “I could say the same for you.”
At the line, Garcia hesitated. He exhaled deeply, and made the call. The ball was snapped.
As Whitehead shot forward, Magnus took a drop step back and sprinted behind the line.
* * *
Stunned, Whitehead never took his eyes off Paglione. What the hell was he doing? Paglione doesn’t pull; the Stampeders didn’t have ANY play where their tackles pulled. He didn’t check in as an eligible receiver, so what the hell play were they running??
In that split second while his eyes were locked on Magnus, Farell Duclair stepped into the gap and stood the big man straight up, knocking him back several steps. In most games, that block would have been hit of the game; however, this game included one very pissed off Magnus Paglione.
* * *
Blitz. That’s all he needed to hear while the defense huddled up. Ray Brice salivated at the thought of sticking Garcia to the turf in what would be a championship clinching play. His stat line, exploding after he took Magnus Paglione out of the game, would be more than enough to earn him MVP of the game. Sure, that hit may have been a bit low, but they would have no way of proving he added a little theatrics to the dive that took him into the knee of the hulking lineman while he was already engaged with Whitehead. This is a physical game, accidents happen, bones and ligaments get shattered. Don’t like it? Stick to Curling.
Like a kid at Christmas, he could hardly contain his excitement when he saw Freddie Childress double-down on the Defensive End and let him blow right through the line. Adrenaline added strength to his legs and he picked up more speed.
Garcia and the Grey Cup were a mere 4 yards in front of him.
* * *
What Ray Brice didn’t see was Magnus Paglione with blood in his eyes. As he rounded Childress, intent on driving Garcia through the center of the earth, he never saw the freight training Canadian lowering the boom. He heard the growl only a fraction of a second before the world went black.
* * *
A perfect hit is a strange thing. The world blinks out of existence for both players, a fraction of time in darkness that seems to last an eternity. The only thing that matters in that moment is what happens when two moving objects put every ounce of energy they’ve gained into converging at the same point of space at the same time; they say car accidents have the same effect.
When reality blinked back into existence, only one man was aware enough to appreciate the violence of the collision.
* * *
Magnus Paglione drove through the hit, the initial shot shattering Brice’s sternum. As he followed through, an errant forearm came up, driving into the dazed linebacker’s chin. The impact shifted his jaw in a way that was only possible if it was broken in several places. Pieces of plastic mouth guard and broken teeth shot from his shattered face.
As Magnus exploded through him, all 6 foot 2 inches and 235 pounds of Ray Brice came slamming down to the turf on the back of his head, neck, and shoulders with a frightening velocity. As he hit the ground, his entire body went rigid. Half snores and garbled moans escaped his ruined mouth.
Magnus stood over his fallen opponent and yelled a primal scream, adrenaline and raw animal instinct having taken hold of every fiber of his being.
It took Center Jaime Crysdale almost ripping Magnus’ helmet off by the facemask to bring him back to reality
The play had worked. The pass had gone for 23 yards. The Stampeders were in The Tiger-Cats territory with 1:31 left. First down.
* * *
The game was postponed for almost 15 minutes while the medical staff attended to the prone Ray Brice. The announcers played and replayed the hit for the fans at home over and over, in awe at the amount of force Magnus sent through Brice. When it became apparent that Brice had not only not moved but had not yet woken up, they turned their attention and concerns to his well being.
Strapped down to a stretcher and secured in a neck brace, the medical team rushed Brice off the field. Magnus smirked as he saw one of the staff holding a bite plate between what remained of his clenched teeth
Ray Brice would never walk again.
* * *
When the game resumed, the Tiger-Cats defense was in shambles. They tried to salvage the remainder of the defensive stop, but the fate of their top defensive player weighed too heavily on their minds. When Whitehead lined up against Magnus for the remainder of the game, he never made eye contact or uttered a single word.
Three plays later, the Stampeders found themselves on the
Tiger-Cats 35 yard line. While the last
3 seconds of the game ticked away, kicker Mark McLoughlin took the team’s final
shot for glory. 2 seconds remained while
every person in attendance stood breathless.
1 second remained as the ball sailed towards the uprights. The clock read 0:00 as it flew over the
Final Score of the 86th Grey Cup: Hamilton Tiger-Cats: 24, Calgary Stampeders: 26.
The Calgary sideline exploded onto the field. McLoughlin was swarmed by his team, all smiles and cheers as they celebrated winning the sports greatest prize.
As the adrenaline and rush of the game wore off, Magnus suddenly realized he could barely walk. He had meant every word he had said to Duclair: making sure Brice choked on his blood was the only thing that mattered in these last 3:00 minutes. Magnus shook his head as he tried to remember everything after the hit and was surprised when nothing readily came to mind. The only thing he felt was the agonizing stab in his knee. He took a double-step and fought to stay on his feet. He was scooped into a hug by a smiling Coach Buono.
“You insane sonofabitch!! I don’t know whether to keep
hugging you or call the cops!”
Magnus returned his coach’s enormous grin with a pained smile. “Just let me hold the trophy first if you decide to call the fuzz.”
Realizing his lineman was hurting, Buono kept an arm around Magnus, both men heading towards the jubilant pile of football players celebrating under the rain of red and white confetti.
With each step, Magnus was that much more certain that his career in the CFL was over. His knee hurt in a way that was almost too much to bear, but he fought it down, almost relishing in it. It was testament to the sacrifice he had made to reach this point in this professional football career. He would leave the game on the highest note possible: a Grey Cup champion.
He’d take plenty of time off. He’d make sure his knee was healed, suffering through what he knew would be months of rehab to strengthen the damaged joints and ligaments. After that, he’d give his brother Dante a call. Maybe it was time he finally accepted his offer to head the security staff of Genada Corporation; rumor had it they were on the verge of something big.
CBBC Corrupter, Official Translator of Pope Siglericus XXX, 2012 Body Maim World Champion, Siglerfest 2K12 Open Invitational Double Elimination Arm Wrestling Champion