The Lombardi Sweep

From Issue 1 Poydras Review

Life in the ward with Weiss was a blessing year-round, but in autumn, with the classes open and the students back from all corners of the globe it was a holy thing. Just throw the brakes in the wastebasket and glide down the hall as fast as you can, racing down the rails, pushing the pedestrians off to one side, doctors and nurses flying everywhere. See old Doc Hall give us the bird. Come to a halt just at the edge of the wide white picture window twelve stories up, overlooking the stadium, the chapel, the campus crossroads between the girls’ and the boys’ dorms. Laughing like maniacs.

This is where the boys tossed the pigskin and the girls sunned themselves, one-piece, two-piece: red, red flesh. They worked hard at it, incessantly tanning, sleeping in the sun, baking like snakes on a rock all the way up through the tail end of fall and starting up again even before winter was fully through. They disappeared though in the summer, leaving us alone to fend for ourselves, to face down our demons in the darkness of the ward at night, our own private trials and tribulations, while they all scattered like grains of sand in the wind.

But eventually they returned. Thank God, they always came back.

Weiss threw the biggest parties then. He’d convince the nurses to turn the other way and bribe old Doc Hall to take a break, while he dragged out the Kool-Aid and the Tang and whatever else he could find. Then we’d mix up a batch of his top-secret potion and we’d dish it out in little Dixie Cups. Then we’d watch them all unpacking—the leggy girls in their short, short skirts, the boys in their crew cuts and Weejuns—everyone setting themselves up for the good times to come. Weiss knew how to throw a party. The greatest of all time.

The leaves falling and carpeting the whole wide world with color, points of yellow and red light, and the cheerleaders—by God Almighty the cheerleaders—would melt your frozen heart, I promise. Leaves falling and falling and soon snow falling and the football sailing for home in the end zone. Like watching a shooting star, and each and every time I would still make a wish.

Give me the glasses he’d say from his chair. Fingersnap. Give them to me, Mickey. I know where they live: don’t make me come and get them.

He’d arm-wrestled me once out of my chair and onto the ground, forearms like canons, so I knew better.

We’d teeter at the rails in front of the wide white picture window, Dixie Cups full of Tang and ground up tramadol or valium or fioricet or whatever Weiss had stored up over the course of a summer of not taking his medications. The sun gleaming in, coming up off the waxed floors and the stainless steel rails, the blacks and whites, the tabletops covered with checker sets and chess sets and carom boards. Sunderson and Brace and Grimes behind us fighting over the pawns like little girls.

Feel the warmth of the sunlight sinking in to our pale skins, warm to our bones, melting and melting.

By God, Mickey. They’re running the Lombardi Sweep.

We’d seen that one in practice how many times? Watching from the wide white picture window with the glasses, taking turns. We watched them run the ball, back and forth, up and down, practice after practice. A thousand times. A million. And it was beautiful, each and every time. You couldn’t get tired of a thing that perfect. A thing so perfect in its execution that Plato himself would have thrown out his table and table-hood altogether just for a glimpse, a peak at the blockers blocking and the sweepers sweeping and the leaves come a-tumblin’ down.

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