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XII. The Jersey Devils and the Water Tower

 

They got to go home then—for the two weeks including Christmas and New Year’s. At midnight between Saturday night and Sunday morning, 8–9 January, they were due at the Louisiana Superdome for the semifinal against the New Jersey Consolidated Lyceum’s Jersey Devils. The residents of Louisiana were not aware, for the most part, of the athletic events taking place, since they happened in the intervals between seconds: between 12:00:00 and 12:00:01 for the east-north Lyceum level semifinal, 12:15:00 and 12:15:01 for the Academy level west-south semifinal, and so on.

The place was packed. The Lake Wind fans were in their crimson and yellow, and were fairly polite (for people who had spent formative years in Chicago); the Jersey Devils fans, in their green and silver, were complete bleeps. The field shields were constantly alight with repelled wand blasts during the pregame warmups and introductions. All insults, including signs, that did not meet standards for taste and sportsmanship were magically translated into a nearly extinct Inuit language.

“Aa iktiq Daphne!” shouted one fan. “Tiqshuqalushkik Arnulf brik-tiq tunk!” A carefully lettered sign showed Angelica’s head and the words “Ariqshuqliuk Angelica Aliyev ayyuqi-qattuk shik!”

The Zephs were intimidated enough. The Jersey Devils were huge. They were confident. They were scary. And Treymond Framer was all those things especially.

The Zephyrs won the toss and, unusually, chose to receive. “Coach thinks it may be the only time we get the ball,” said Angelica to Bertie.

“She wants to be ahead just once, at least,” he replied. “We have to get her a field goal.”

“Okay,” said Daphne, looking across Angelica, Kate and Bertie. “Ange post, Kate corner, Bert, oh, give me a hitch and go. And look sharp, okay?”

“Zephs,” they all chorused.

Daphne stood in shotgun formation, which she had started doing once or twice in games. Right now she wanted to give herself as much of a head start as possible against those big lines folk. She looked left. She looked right. Someone shouted a suggestion in Inuit.

“Red forty-two,” she yelled. “Hut.” Half the Devils line came across. She glared at them, then over at the ref. They jumped back, but the left defensive end stumbled over her own big feet. Daph yelled, “HUT!” The ball flew up into her hands. The yellow flags flew: offsides! Free play.

Daphne rolled out and had a look. The Devils were starting to break through here and there but seemed a bit confused. Bonnie the center was muttering confusion spells as she blocked.

Angelica was way deep, and covered. Kate was out on the sideline, double covered. But Bertie, on the hitch and go, had made two defenders fall down. He was so wide open. No way he could drop this. Come on, Bertram, no way you can drop this…

And there it was, in his hands, and it didn’t get away this time as he gripped it with his fingertips and ran his way into the ball, and twenty untouched yards later Bertie was in the end zone.

On their first play from scrimmage, Treymond Framer rumbled for six. On the second down, he rumbled for fourteen more. Then on first down at the Devil forty, he took the ball, headed into the line and burst through, and he was in Henrietta’s arms when he realized that he didn’t have the football.

“Missing something?” she asked—as a blitzing outside linebacker with the name “CLOUD” on his back picked up the bouncing ball and ran it forty yards into the end zone. And if Cloudius spent just a moment looking around to make sure he was in the correct end zone, no one else noticed, because he was, and one Tom Hexane extra point later, the Zephs were suddenly up 14–0.

One minute later, Treymond was back on the field. They gave it to him on second and ten, and he rumbled right through every Zephyr defender, and was dragged down after a sixty yard gain, at the Zephs fifteen, by Arnulf, Henrietta, Spiny, Cloudius and several others. The next play they tried to give it to him again, but this time Henrietta and Arnulf were both blitzing and they presented themselves as alternate candidates for the handoff. In the event, Henrietta took the ball from the quarterback, and, with Arnulf running right behind her and Cloudius blocking Treymond completely out of the play, the Zephyrs made it 21–0.

Of course that meant the Jersey Devils were back on the field almost immediately. This time, they tried three passes and saw all of their receivers completely blanketed. In fact, Arnulf and Spiny had used just a little ag successfully on their quarry, nothing more than what the rules generally winked at, but after the third down incomplete was almost an interception by free safety Maggie Melillo, the Jersey quarterback threw lek ayn goth at her. She went down hard and the referee threw a personal foul on Jersey. The Devils punted.

This time it was Angelica for twenty, then Daphne’s rarely used tight end Peterboro Case on an out for fifteen, then Bert for nine on a slant, and then Angelica on a post, running wild and free, the lame spells of the hulking but slow Jersey safeties washing off her. It was 28–0.

But the half got even worse for Jersey, because when Treymond Framer was stuffed by an all-out safety and linebacker blitz on first down (“How obvious is it that they’re going to keep running that guy up the middle?” asked Maggie) the quarterback, finding Arnulf on top of him, tried lek ayn goth again. Arnulf said kno eur, and the spell rebounded at close range; the result was a headache so bad that the quarterback couldn’t see for hours.

Framer jumped up from the pile and started to yell trt kar ho at Arnulf. His offensive line quickly pushed him down and stopped his mouth, but it was too late. The yellow flags were flying, and Treymond Framer was ejected.

They eventually decided that the quarterback’s infraction was worth fifteen more yards, and Arnulf’s spell was clearly allowable, so the Devils were now hopping mad—and without their two best offensive players. The substitute quarterback fumbled the pitch on the option, and Spiny scooped it up and ran five yards for the touchdown: 35–0.

From there, things slowed down, as the Devils became ever more unglued and the Zephyrs tried to let up. The final score included a Daphne quarterback sneak before halftime, then second half touchdown catches for Kate, Estelle and Peterboro Case, as well as two field goals and two safeties. The final was 73–0.

“That was different,” Daphne said to Arnulf while they were showering on opposite sides of the No-See-Nothing blinder seal.

“Dapher,” said Arnulf, “that was good practice for spell battles.”

 

The next morning, after a rowdy night at Magical Pizza in Baton Rouge, they were whisked magically back to the Windy City to practice and get ready for the Texas Rose, who had beaten the La La Lyceum by a solid 34–8 to advance. On Tuesday afternoon, after he hit ten field goals in a row from forty yards out, Tom went in to talk to Professor Temple in his office.

“Ah, my boy,” said Temple. “Come in. Some tea?” Tom didn’t feel he could ask for root beer instead. So he and his scariest teacher sat and sipped Constant Comment while Temple told him where he would look, but not so much what he would look for. “You already know,” said Temple, “the way to Giordano’s. Right?”

“Right,” said Tom.

“But you may not know that there are hidden ways that meet about eight meters this side of the opening into the Giordano basement. Well, now you do know, eh?” Temple leaned forward, his hands clenched in front of him, his glasses perched on the very end of his nose. “Xu won’t do the trick, I’m afraid. It’s not a simple case of invisibility. The ways are hidden. So, what do you use to see what is hidden?”

“Light,” said Tom brightly.

Temple just smiled. He leaned back in his chair and sipped and watched Tom over his steaming cup. Then he said, through the tea mist, “And I suppose you must still be wondering what else yulugensis albus does. Put this in your pants pocket.” He pushed a little packet that looked like potpourri.

“It’s got that bark in it,” said Tom.

“You will see things that otherwise are unseen, and you will be unseen by some who might otherwise see you. Isn’t that sort of cool, Mr Hexane?” Tom grinned, took the packet and put it in his back pocket. “One more thing. You don’t need to be in the basement, the pumping station itself. You want to go into the sub-basement. You do not, I think, want to go into the below-sub-basement. You might look, if you feel strong, but you will not want to go there.”

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