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I Know You

  • Avatar of athanas

    Happy Labor Day, all!
    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.”

    Magnus’
    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.

    “NOW.”

    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.

    “What’d
    Doc say?”
    ”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!”

    “All
    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.
    “1..2…3…”
    “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.
    Ready? BREAK!”
    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!
    Set!! Hut…hut…HIKE!!!”
    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?”
    “Golden.”

    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
    crossbar.
    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.

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