Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Combustible- Chapter 5- Clara

Donny  dreamed about her. Most of his recent day, the argument over the straws, the walk over the Charlestown bridge, the heavy weight of his pack played no part in his mind. It was rare that the past entered into his thinking at all. In fact, most would swear that Donny didn't think. He was just the weird guy wearing a bow tie, carrying a knapsack, talking to himself. But tonight he dreamed of his dear Clara who he would see no more.  He dreamed of a time when he was a graduate student at Louisiana State University and Clara was a cheerleader for the football team. Their brief engagement and then quickly following marriage had people confused. She was a beauty; he was a dump. When asked how she ended up with the bookish, frumpy physics major, she would say things like "Don't believe all the fairytales. Eventually the smart cheerleaders end up with the geniuses most of the time."

Sometimes, without even knowing why we do it, we make preparations. It could be something as simple as mindlessly tossing a little used map into the glove box. Then when lost, pulling it out and telling yourself, "I sure am glad I put this map in the car." We may even get ourselves a little too much credit, "I sure am glad I was so smart as to put this map in the car." Sometimes its for big things and sometimes a lot of thought is put into the preparation. If the advanced planning is needed there is a sigh of relief; if not there is no big loss and we can take comfort just in knowing we were prepared.

Clara made such preparations months, even years, before her illness. She, the cheerleader, the socialite, had married a genius, it is true. But he was a genius not without his flaws. And in some ways, she was much more intelligent when it came to the things of real life. Clara knew she was ill, she wrote in a diary, 3 years before she was finally diagnosed with a rare form of lukemia. Alas, she did not tell her husband. He, who relied on her for everything - clothes to wear, paying the bills, breakfast, lunch, dinner, and even pointing him in the right direction as he left for his walk to work everyday. She had set up a trust fund using the value of a life insurance policy her parents had bought for her when she was born. She had created a will that provided for basic care for Donny in the event of her death. A salaried caretaker was thus hired; bills were set up to auto pay. The local grocer's delivered Donny's groceries every week and the care taker prepared the food for him, boxed him up lunches, provided him his allowance of cash, and through the trust fund, provided healthcare, clothing, transportation - if needed - all of Donny's cares were taken care of. When Clara died, Donny understood the physics of it. Her cells stopped working. Something had infected the Sodium-Potassium pump and lowered its efficiency. The cells could not longer fight infection and slowly, agonizingly, he watched the love of his life literally waste away.

Somehow she knew that Donny would collapse without her so she made the preparations. And even still, you see what he has become - somewhat oblivious, socially awkward, withdrawn, forgetful like he always has something on his mind.

The slamming of the door caused Donny to open his eyes. "That must be Ms. Davis", he thought to himself. "Time to get up." Donny dressed in the wrinkled shirt and slacks, put on fresh socks and proceeded with his ritual of forcing his feet into still tied shoes. He tightened his bow tie, said hello to the slightly built, slightly greying, slightly wrinkled spinster who was busily unloading a grocery sack into the refrigerator.

"Mr. Mackey," she asked in mock derision, "are you just now getting up?"

"Ms. Davis", he nodded, "had a late night."

"You want breakfast? I'll whip one right up!" She did not wait for Donny to respond. In a blue/gray tornado of activity and the constant sound of rattling dishes and the hum of a gas burner she prepared what she called her Hobbit Breakfast Special. Within minutes a plate of two hard cooked Marin eggs - James Bond's favorite eggs, dark brown, almost chocolate shells and deep yellow yolks - link sausage, grilled cherry tomatoes and mushrooms coated in a buttery sauce, a thick slice of French bread, a small chunk of Cotswold Cheddar cheese were set before him with a cup of coffee - black - and a large glass of freshly squeezed orange juice.

Donny sat down to eat. He appreciated everything the housekeeper did for him though he did not always express this to her. They had grown used to the silence and in some way she worried what would happen to the gentle but excitable professor when she could no longer perform her weekly tasks. "Well eventually, he's going to have to take care of himself." she would think. Perhaps he would.

Clara's death had done something to Donny. He was never quite the socialite his wife had been. He was shy but given to fits of temper, which, when caught fire, usually ended up at the end of an awkward situation, with Clara apologizing, taking his hand, and leading him away from those he had offended. Especially toward the end, when Donny could see something was wrong with her, but Clara just said she was fine. When his research hit a brick wall and funding dried up; when his crack-pot ideas, the words of dean of the physics school, had stung him and he had been removed from the classroom. The happy, fairytale beginning for Clara and Donny, ended up, not in New Orleans, with him shaping young minds, but in Boston, because he had no where else to go. A small consortium of scientists invited him to join their research partnership, privately funded by a philanthropist millionaire who had lost his son in mysterious circumstances. Donny's prior research at Tulane, which was inspired by the death of his wife, consisted of trying to explain the causes behind cell mutations that caused, or were at least, marked by diseases as far ranging as Cystic Fibrosis, Lukemia, Sickle-Cell Anemia, and others. His research also studied the condition of cells, the function of the sodium-potassium pump and how its performance decayed to the point of ceasing to function at all and the subsequent death of the body. What, you may ask, is a physicist doing on a research project concerning the biological and chemical processes of the human body?

Donny believed in the unified answer that has been alluding all philosophers throughout the history of such thoughts. He truly believed, when everything was okay, when he was on top of the world, that there was a reason for everything. He decided to start, and received funding through the Tulane University Research Review Board for, a project that would investigate the entropy, that caused the human cell to eventually shut down. This was true mechanical engineering applied to bioscience and it fascinated him to be able to explore this world. The questions he asked his students, 'What is the answer to 2+2=4?', was much more of a philosophical questions than even the philosophy major had realized. In the physical world there are phenomena that are reproducible. Mankind knows it works. Mankind, also, attempts to explain the phenomena with equations, theories, and pictures. But, Donny believed, those are only representations of the way things are - not explanations for why or how they work. When he asked his students that simple math question he had something deeper in mind. Something, that had become an obsession for him; something that he had devoted his life and research to. This question brought him to Boston. This question of a unified answer, a purpose for everything, and answer for why the world works as it does, kept him alive. It was then, in the midst of one of the happiest times in his life, Clara's death shook his belief in a unified answer at its very foundation. He became dysfunctional to extreme degrees and were it not for Ms. Davis, who was now cleaning up the dishes in the kitchen, he would have starved to death under a stack of newspapers.

"You going to church with my tomorrow Mr. Mackey? It's been a while..."

Donny always declined her weekly invitation but since Ms. Davis could see that Donny had not yet dealt with his new lonely life and that he was struggling with the answer of why Clara had passed, she kept asking.

"I don't think so, Ms. Davis. I'll be heading back to the office tomorrow as usual."

Donny, every morning, made the walk back across the Charlestown Bridge into downtown Boston, to his small studio/office. He made the walk, expectantly, as if something important would be waiting for him there. Many years ago he had subscribed to at least 50 newspapers - it was a part of his research he would say - and every morning he always had at least a dozen waiting for him. Some inside the drop box built into the large painted oak door - grey, and then when the postman couldn't fit any more inside, he dropped them haphazardly onto the cracked side walk just beneath the awning. What he was looking for in the papers was a mystery to the few people who knew him and tolerated his idiosyncrasies.

This Sunday started, for Donny, as every Sunday since becoming a widower, losing faith in reason, and being asked to leave the university. He awoke, put on his wrinkled out fit, forced his feet into his laced up shoes. He loaded his pack with yesterday's newspapers and began his trek. The stop at the coffee shop was uneventful, the straw actually worked this time, and as he made his way through the highrises of north Boston, dodging early morning tourists, hurriedly trying to get to their planned attractions, taxi cabs, buses, and the homeless, he made his way the whole 7 miles to Copley Square. His office was on the second floor of an old, and now out of place, brownstone building nestled between two massive hotels at one end of the convention center. The apartment, now office, had been purchased many years ago and in spite of pressure from developers, had not been sold. It was Donny's retreat. He approached the door and pulled his key ring out of his pocket.

"Grey key - Grey Door" he recited to himself. He turned the bronze door knob to the left and with no little effort pushed the heavy door open which, in turn, pushed away the pile of newly delivered newspapers that had fallen out of the box onto the floor, sweeping the dust away like the wing of a snow angel.

He closed the door behind him, turned to view his empire. The office was one room with an adjoining restroom that is shared with the office next door, and small telemarketing firm. The room held that particular form of stasis between clutter and organization. An outsider would, at once, see the clutter, but with a second look, would see at least a resemblance of a filing system. The large, solid wood, book cases, stained a deep walnut, reached from the floor to the ceiling and encircled the room. A ladder, like those in old libraries, rested at an angle on a single track that also encircled the room. A narrow path of the circumference of which was kept clear to allow access to any shelf at any height. His desk was situated in the middle of the room and facing a large bay window, that, like the whole building itself, was out of place, surrounded as it was by the oversized, perfectly flat glass fronting the skyscrapers to either side. It had been many years since the natural light of the sun shone directly through this window. Now only the intensified reflections from the buildings across the street made their way into the room. The heat was intolerable at times, but the light kept the direct billed electric rates low. His chair was of leather, dark, well worn, custom fit to his body after years of use, and comfortable, not like those inadequate chairs where he gets his coffee. The desk was stacked with papers, some yellowed, some crinkled because the awning had not protected them from a recent rain. The blotter pad in the middle of the desk was clear and ready for him to write or read or to stare at. Across the room, behind the desk was stretched a woven clothes line upon which other papers, recently soaked by the elements, were hung to dry. There is no phone, no computer, just Donny and his books and newspapers and journals in which contained years of cryptic notes only he could understand, written in the left handed scrawl, thin, wiry, and somehow elegant, of a genius with nothing better to do.

The hard wood floors, where they could be seen, were in need of a good sweeping and refinishing, as his foot prints were easily recognizable in the dust that covered them like flour on breadmaker's table. Just over the door, from which Donny entered, and subsequently, the only open wall space in the entire room, hung a needlepoint framed in a black plastic frame, also dusty, the words from his non-annotated Cambridge edition, King James Version of the Bible:

"And he is before all things, and by him all things consist." - Collossians 1:17

Clara had made this for him using dark blue lettering on a sterling white back ground that had, over time, turned a dull grey. This served Donny, in his early research days, as a reminder of his purpose, his unified answer. And though that reminder was still strong, it did not retain the fire in him as in the past. Somehow, now, it served him as a reminder that if all things do consist in this god, that he made a very poor job of it, especially where Clara was concerned.   Donny unloaded his pack onto the cleared blotter pad on the desk and retrieved the newly delivered papers from the pile at the door. He must remember to leave a thank you to the poor postman who must carry these burdens up a flight of steps every morning. Donny, as is probably little surprise to you, never remembered to say thank you at all. Every morning Donny's real world was lost in perusing the multitude of periodicals he collected in search of clues, that no one, not even the Google, whatever that was, could provide him. . He arranged the papers in order of their state of origin and laid them out as closely as he could geographically, as if the map of the United States was imprinted on the desk. The Oregonian, The Seattle Post Intelligencer, the Billings Gazette to the Northwest; The Santa Fe Times, The San Antonio Express to the Southwest; The Oklahoma Constitution, The Columbus Dispatch and others through the Midwest, Ohio Valley, Southeast and Eastern seaboards, one by one, "Look at the title, look at the date, arrange where it belongs, then we read", Donny thought to himself. Donny was looking for answers, for clues, for hope in the columns of what strangers wrote ostensibly to provide unbiased facts for their readers. For no reason at all, Donny would confess later, he picked up the Arkansas Democrat Gazette, the oldest newspaper west of the Mississippi. He started on the front page and read every word of every article, even those with continuing pages designated when the editor ran out of room. The side bars were noted in a journal. Nothing yet. He turned page after page, reading every word, searching for key words that would spark his interest. He would then, in these rare cases, make a note in a journal, catalogued as to the date, the edition, the paper, and the subject. Funny pages, sports pages, ads, and inserts were all the subject of Donny's investigative eye. In section F of the Gazette, Business and Agriculture, a small column caught his eye. He laid the paper down without reading it. Something similar to excitement filled his breast, the feeling of his last quickening pulse was a life time ago. He took a deep breath, picked up the paper and resumed reading once again.  

"Unusual Circumstances Surround Organic Farmer
October 11, 2002
by Dave Cordis

Perryville AR- Mystery surrounds the sudden death of a local Perryville organic farmer. Just hours after arriving home from a local market, remains of Robert "Sy" _________ was found on his property in the Antioch Community, after neighbors reported hearing a small explosion and witnessing a "floating ball of light". One witness who first arrived at the scene says there was an aroma he described as ozone similar to that following a lightning strike. Authorities have ruled out the possibility of a lightning as the cause, as the sky was clear when the incident occurred. Positive identification was made by the Perry County coroner's office from the shoes, ash, and extremities of the victim found at the scene. One theory is that of spontaneous human combustion and the incident, says an Arkansas State Crime Lab spokesman is "very similar to another reported three months ago in Louisville KY. Human Combustion is rare and cases where this is the only explanation are usually closed with no cause of death. It is just a theory with no basis in science." No cause of death, in this incident or the one in Louisville, has been determined as of the date of this printing."

Donny was stunned. After years of searching, he finally had a report of a phenomenon he had been researching since the early nineties - spontaneous human combustion. His research into the mechanics of human cells had led him into this "slippery slope" of science, the basis of which is reasoned thus. If human cells, cardiac, muscle, blood or otherwise, really are "closed" packages as they are depicted in the vernacular of the scientific community, then the application of Charles/Boyles law of Pressures in a closed system should apply. If, the cell is a self contained package as observations show us, then if the pressure within the cell increases, the temperature will also increase. Likewise, if the temperature within the cell increased, the pressure will increase proportionately. This logical path brought Donny face to face with two problems. The first is, in the right circumstance and under the right conditions, can a cell destroy itself based on this law of pressures? If they can not immediately implode or explode due to an increase in pressure or temperature, can they, over time, cause the entropy that has been identified in cases of natural death. Can this be the cause of illness or disease? In other words, perhaps smoking and eating biscuits and gravy are not the cause of heart stoppage due to artery blockage and nicotine poisoning. Perhaps, over time, wide swings in cell pressure and temperature simply weakens and eventually wears out the functioning of what is known in the scientific community as the sodium-potassium pump.  The second problem Donny faced was the acceptance, or lack thereof, of this theory which really sought to challenge long held theories of disease and its treatment, developed by the medico-scientific community since the Marlboro Man had been banned from television ads. Needless to say, Donny's research had not been accepted, he had become the pariah of the scientific community, labelled a crack pot, and black-listed from any funding provided by the government or private pharmaceutical companies with a vested interested in keeping people sick. The final straw was Donny's request for a research grant to look into the phenomenon of Spontaneous Human Combustion, the natural extension of his theory surrounding cell temperatures and pressures. His theory, simple in its construction, was that this human combustion might be caused by an intensive change in the temperature of the cells of the human body, in such concentration throughout the body, that the very material, liquids, fats, muscle, etc. simply caught fire and burned, quickly from inside the body out. It was the stuff of dreams, science-fiction, or a maniacal mind. Then Clara died and Donny's world with her.

But now, as he sat at his desk, reading and re-reading the account of Sy in Perryville Arkansas, he felt a resurgence of a passion he had long since forgotten. He set the Arkansas Democrat Gazette aside, picked up his journal and recorded the entry, with the only particulars that were contained in the article. At the end of his entry, immaculately recorded in his aforementioned scrawl, he wrote: "See Louisville Courier-Journal - August 2002. Setting the journal down as he stood up, he scanned the walls of his office, quickly found the newspaper shelf for 2002, located the cardboard magazine file, in which the papers from August were stored, and pulled them out of their tightly packed position. He found the paper he was looking for. He opened it where he stood and read every word until he found a small entry in an the personal interest section.

"...Occupy Louisville....Summer ________...hands and feet, loud flash, and then a hovering white light...cause of death unknown..."

Donny turned around, stupefied. "Two in three months after 10 years of nothing, statistically significant, what do I do next? Clara what do I do?"  He fell into one of those wide-awake stupors we sometimes find ourselves in, as if he were waiting for Clara to answer. When he came out of it he was staring at the needle point hung above the door. "In Him all things consist. We'll see", he said as he closed up the office and headed back north to his home, somehow, with a renewed curiosity about the elusive, unified answer to everything..."

*    *    *

The day after Thanksgiving, 2002 - Little Rock Arkansas - War Memorial Stadium, Markham Street - The Miracle On Markham.

The overcast sky did not do the grand old structure of the stadium justice. The rain had stopped, the seats were still covered in drops that the more austere attendees wiped clean with souvenir towels or pocket handkerchiefs. The less austere simply sat down figuring they were going to get wet at sometime during the game so might as well start now. Flags upon poles, one for each state, one for the nation, and to some, just as importantly, one for each school in the conference, flapped in the wind along the top circumference of War Memorial. The pregame festivities were just concluded and the home team band began the all too familiar march to form the 'A' the football team would run through to start the game. With the exception of the band playing their march into formation the stadium was quiet in anticipation as, from the south, a squadron of A-10 Tank Busters from the National Guard Base in Ft. Smith grumbled their way directly overhead. A little over a year after the 9/11 attacks on America, the crowd rose to its feet in a deafening roar. God Bless America, God Bless Arkansas, God Bless the Razorbacks! God Bless the Southeastern Conference! The dark grey camouflage of the jets made them barely visible against the dark grey sky. Fifty seven thousand stood to their feet as if they were all connected by a single muscle as the Fighting Razorbacks exited the tunnel and ran through the uprights of the 'A' formed by the marching band.

Though their opponent on this blustery day was the powerhouse, LSU Tigers, the crowd expected a big day from their home town college, which, by some quirk of state government, was actually located three hours to the Northwest in Fayetteville Arkansas. Two games a year were played in this home away from home, ostensibly to keep the money-fans happy in the central and southern parts of the state content.

The Razorbacks are the Chicago Cubs of the college football. They always seem to beat a team they should not; they always lose to a team they should not; and periodically they rise to the precipice of greatness, only to choke an almost certain victory into an agonizing defeat. The year, 2002, culminating in this annual rivalry game against LSU was no different. And now, the only way for the Razorbacks to make it to the championship game was to beat the ruthless, fast, and mean LSU Tigers.

This regional game had come to have national significance mostly because it was the last potential stumbling block for the Tigers, who had just run onto the field accompanied by a chorus of boo-s from the delusion Razorback faithful. Donny was watching in Boston, from his dark, melancholy study, on a TV with a Cathode Ray Tube and no remote. He had to get up and turn the big knob on the front of the set if he wanted to change the channel. As you may remember, Clara was a former LSU cheerleader and she forced Donny to watch this Thanksgiving game every year  - back then, he feigned discomfort at such a waste of time, but now, he missed the tradition. Somehow watching the game provided him some comfort after all. If he truly believed Clara was somewhere, he figured she would be watching. So he did too.

Donny turned the volume down to barely audible as the talking heads on the broadcast gave him a headache. He always thought it funny that pencil necked geeks who had never played football somehow became experts. And he always laughed when they tried to make up words like "Trickeration", "Joggernut" as in, "This team has proven to be quite the Joggernut as they've made their way through conference play". The camera scanned the crowd and then finally came into focus on the hot shot Razorbacks quarterback. He was seated at the end of the bench waiting for the opening kickoff, his legs sprawled, helmet off, a grin on his face. His arms were outstretched and perched upon the back of the bench as if he was cuddling a cute, but invisible, cheerleader to either side. To look at him, one would think he was a California surfer dude, but Alma Arkansas, is not California, though they do produce passable local wines. The sideline reporter described him as "cooler than the other side of the pillow" in his opening analysis. The talking continued until finally, mercifully, the teams kicked off and received and the game began.

Neither team did well. The game, by all accounts, was excruciating to watch. Donny lost interest, napped a bit, made a microwave pizza. Somehow, two and a half hours later, LSU had a 21-7 lead, despite playing as sloppily as their opponent. In this case, to call the lack of offensive productivity simply the result of excellent defense on the part of both teams would be silly. The wet, dark conditions, perhaps the teams had too much Turkey and Dressing the night before, at any rate it was agonizingly slow. To put it in perspective, the Razorbacks had a paltry 90 yards of total offense with no completed passes in the first half. The hot shot quarterback was laying an egg. The crowd knew it but none of them left. Somehow, he could always pull it out in the end. "Not this time" a naysayer spoke up, "We're screwed. It's the Liberty Bowl again."

Donny woke up from a game-induced nap mid way through the 3rd quarter and nothing had changed. Both teams looked inept. Neither had scored. Neither had completed a pass. Neither wanted to take control of the game. The 3rd quarter ended, the commercial breaks ensued, and then, in much the same way the last quarter of the game, apparently in an effort to kill the viewers, began. The first incomplete pass by the Razorback's quarter back opened the flood gate of fair weather fans, who soaked, cold, and tired of the ineptitude, headed for the exits to find their cars parked up to two miles away or on the golf course next door. This exodus continued for several more minutes as many finally gave up hope for a miracle.

The radio commentators in the home team booth high above the field in their special dove-cote of a box were trying new comedy material because they had run out of positive things to say early on, had given up on the negative things because they too were getting depressed. The game was all but over, they said, unless the Hogs can get something going here with less than a minute thirty to go.

A pause here, may be sufficient, to describe for the reader, especially those in the northern climes, what college football means to the southerner. I hope you excuse my indulgence into this peculiar study of this peculiar segment of American culture - perhaps if I were to promise you that the conclusion of this chapter really does have an integral part to play in Donny's life and the rest of our story - would that help? We'll see.

There is a particular religion through out the Bible Belt. Sweeping from West Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Louisiana, Alabama, Tennessee, Georgia, South Carolina, and Florida, the fanatical followers of this religion really find one thing sacred - that is, the liturgy of Saturday afternoons. And for a religion which days of worship are one day a week and only from September to November, it has taken a foothold on America that surpasses the impact of the Great Awakening. There is no hyperbole here. Camping trips, shopping, yard work, eating, sleeping, showering, dog walking, any number of activities are minutely scheduled around their worship services on Saturday afternoons.

"Honey can you take out the garbage, change the light bulb in the basement, and mow the yard today?" says the wife.

With microprocessor like calculations, the parishioner of this peculiar church, determines the validity and achievability of this request, and accurately determines his response.

"I can take out the garbage now..." is what he says. Brain function speeds up as he determines the number of minutes to the opening kick off, and then "I'll do the basement light at half time." His brain goes into overdrive, because, I think he really wants to please his wife, and he calculates the probability of his mowing a 5,000 square foot lawn with a push mower between the final buzzer of the 1st game of a double header weekend, and the beginning of the night cap. "I'll do the yard tomorrow after church and before Sunday Night Football."

This conversation happens throughout the south every weekend as grills are loaded with charcoal, watches are frequently checked, radios are turned on in vehicles so not a moment of the game festivities is lost. Really, they must be obsessed turn on a radio so they can hear the pre-game call-in shows,

"Hello, this is the CornDog, Roll Tide!", the caller says, "Huh, I have a question and a comment. I thank are one'y chaince at beatin' da Gater's t'day is if are awffense outscores'em. What you guys thank?"

I digress. Pickup trucks, cars, and RVs, adorned with streamers, magnetic decals, and flags all in their school colors make their way down interstates across the south, to set up in parking lots, front lawns, golf courses, and groves of trees to partake in the ritual called "Tailgating". Night games in the college football south are hell, pure hell, for the visiting team and their fans, as the home town crowd gets adequately medicated starting early in the morning and through out the day, only to let loose in some quite undignified behaviour once the game actually starts. The games themselves are episodes of drama, elation, disappointment, pride, shame, smiles, and tears. Emotions all as diverse as the rituals, chants, and cheers that provide additional color to their "church" meetings. The Gator chops of Florida, The War Eagle flying into the stadium at Auburn, The Hotty Toddy in Oxford, Bulldogs, Hedges surrounding the field within the stadium at Athens Georgia, Mike the LSU Tiger, Tusk the Razorback Russian Boar, and many others are the rituals practiced every weekend. The religious fervor comes to its point at the kick off to open the game as the respective rally cries from the faithful are lifted into the air, in one voice, as incense is lifted in praise of their glorious god.

It was just such a cheer that woke Donny from his nap. There was a minute fourteen left in the game and the Razorbacks had just gotten the ball back deep in their end of the field. With 72 yards to go, down 20 to 14, after a dismal 3 and a half hours of football idiocy, the cocky, shot gun quarterback took the field. Something happened - no one knows what. At least a few of the home crowd left in the stands on this cold Friday afternoon would swear it was Divine Intervention, others would say that the coach got a "Wild Hair" and "Lit A Fire Under'em" but the crowd, again, stood as one and began one of the most iconic cheers in all of college football - They started "Calling the Hogs". As one body they slowly raised both arms in time to the long preamble "Whoooooooooo", which, according to standards set by the University of Arkansas should last at least 7 seconds. With arms fully extended above their heads, both hands flapping back and forth on the vertical axis (kind of like the Queen of England waves), both arms are then brought down sharply and held close to their rib cages, hands balled up in a fist, as they shout "PIG!", and then a sharp extension of the arms again, this time angled slightly forward, as if to punch the other team from across the field, with another shout "Sooie!" Another flex of the arms, "Razorbacks!" The magic formula for a come-behind win, after stinking it up all day, against one of the top teams in the country, on a cold and windy day, is to repeat this mantra at least three times in succession. At the end of the 3rd round of the Hog Call, the hot shot quarterback took the snap and retreated into the pocket formed by the offensive line. The cheers from the crowd became deafening, and it got Donny's attention. Suddenly the protection from the line broke through and Hot Shot was in trouble. Known for his elusiveness and staying cool under pressure, he skipped, skedaddled, and with a twist, turned to his right and rolled out toward the sidelines. It all happened so quickly, no one would dare to suggest that they just "knew"- they just "knew" in their hearts and souls something unbelievable was taking place. As Hot Shot approached the sideline he lofted what is commonly referred to as a "wounded duck" up into the air. If this play were reenacted for a Hollywood movie, time would stand still; the hero and the heroine would hold a conversation, kiss, and plan the rest of their lives. The crowd would hold its breath for an impossibly long time without turning blue or passing out, the music would intensify as the real-world sounds would silence themselves. It did, in retrospect, seem like an eternity before this wobbly, Billy Kilmer-esqe pass dropped like a stone out of the sky, and not to the ground like the previous 14 passes had done that day, but right into the open arms of a Razorback wide receiver, who by divine mercy, a defensive lapse in technique, or pure luck, at the LSU 23 yard line.

Another Hog Call filled the air as the clock was stopped momentarily while the officials spotted the ball, now miraculously deep in the opponent's territory. Now with less than a minute left in the game, Hot Shot trailed his team as they raced against the clock to line up for the next play. Donny sat up on the edge of his sofa. He was not a football fan and he tried to root for LSU, but despite is best efforts, he was focused on this kid from Alma Arkansas, who apparently oblivious to the situation, calmly jogged up the field as time wound down. The rest of the team and the LSU defensive group were lined up and ready to go. 26...25...24 seconds to go. Hot Shot eventually made it up to the line. They did not huddle...23...22...21...20. He called the signals and there was a pause to make sure everyone was set. A penalty at this point would stop the clock but lose them valuable field position...19...18...

Keep in mind, reader, that this player had not completed a pass all day, until the previous play. Many of the local fans had left for home. There was no reason for this all coming to pass. It's just a game. But somehow, and Donny had recognized it, a massive surge of energy infused the stands, the field, the air, the living rooms and bars where it was being watched on television. Even in Donny's home there was a palpable pressure, pulses beat faster, blood pressures rose, cheeks on cute little cheerleaders flushed, old men tried to stay composed, old women tried to act like they were disinterested, the radio commentators tried to stay focused...but something was happening.

17...16...15 seconds and the clock still running. Hot Shot took the snap, evaded a would be tackle that would have ended the game...14...13...Hot Shot lofted another "wounded duck" into the right-back corner of the endzone where, with a catch that will forever live in the minds of Razorback nation, and live in infamy to those from Baton Rouge....Number 22 caught Hot Shot's second completed pass of the day with 12 seconds left.

"Touchdown! Razorbacks! Oh My!", said the legendary commentator on local radio.

"Can you believe this?" said the not-so-legendary broadcast partner in the booth with him that day.

The score was tied. All the Razorbacks needed was to kick the ball through the uprights for the extra point. The snap...the place...the was good. Arkansas 21, LSU 20.

This game, now called, the Miracle on Markham, will forever be remembered by those who saw it and those who didn't will lie and say they did. But it was not without its tragedy.

Kenny Dumas was one of those Razorback fans that left the game at half time. He was born and raised in Little Rock but most of his family was from Abita Springs Louisiana. He dreaded family reunions because as an avowed Hog fan he was subject to all sorts of abuse from his LSU loyal family. The abuse was much like some in the American Christian Church heap on others within their religion. Baptist Churches get mad at each other and start new churches. Honestly, would any one go to a 3rd Baptist Church anyway? When Episcopalians get made at each other they start another denomination. It is the same with the new religion of the south. When attacked from the outside by a team from another conference, they all come together in support of their unity. In stadium across the southeast one can hear, at least once "SEC!SEC!" during the day. But bring a brother into town, well then, the fight is on!

Kenny did not drive home. He was sad. Not because of the game necessarily, but because of life. He had no one to share it with, a job he hated. He had bought season tickets, though he couldn't really afford it. This new church he found gave him peace, for as long, and as often as he could watch the game. His old church, ostensibly unified in Christ, rejected him, because he didn't tithe. When it was found out that he dropped $575 on football tickets, he was made the subject of a sermon. His name wasn't used but everyone knew who the minister was talking about. He had hoped, at least, for a good game this weekend. It would make next week just a little bit better for him.

Kenny did not leave the stadium parking lot. He sat in his truck, smoking cigarettes he could not afford, and listened to the rest of the game on the radio. When that first pass of the game was completed, he found hope infuse his body, even as the hot ember of his smoke fell to his lap, burning a hole in his jeans. When the second pass was caught and he heard the roar of the crowd from the stadium, and then the roar on the radio after the 5 second delay, a big smile crossed his face, and then:

A loud pop, like a large firecracker, smoke, ash, and a hovering white light behind the wheel. When it was discovered, the stadium security team documented, a pair of boots, snake skin motorcycle boots,  on the floor board; the lower extremities of the legs standing upright in them as if an invisible person was still attached and sitting there. One hand was outside the truck on the pavement, apparently burnt off, still squeezed between the fore and middle fingers the now extinguished cigarette butt, Marlboro Red 100. Back inside the car, a right hand grasping the floor mounted gear shift. In the seat, scorched but not burnt was a pile of ashes. Nothing else except the still visible foot print of what officials think is a small bird.

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