THE BIG GAME • by Greg Chase

Jerome sits down to watch the big game. He has been preparing for this moment for hours. Earlier that afternoon, he purchased all the necessary supplies — Tostitos, salsa, cheese dip, and a six-pack of Budweiser — and assembled them on the coffee table in front of his couch.

This is it, he thinks to himself, as he turns on the TV and closes the curtains to keep out the glare from the sun. This one’s for all the marbles.

It has been a year filled with adversity: mounting injuries, bone-headed refereeing, unexpected losses in close games. Also mounting credit card debt, bone-headed co-workers, unexpected losses in custody battles. But if only the team can get a win in the big game, Jerome knows, it will make up for everything.

The first half is painful to watch. Put in Brabowski! Jerome keeps yelling at the screen. But the team refuses to put in Brabowski.

At halftime, Jerome kneels on the floor beside his couch. Please God, he prays, if You are a kind and merciful God, don’t let us fuck it up this time. If You can just grant me this one wish, God, I swear to God, I’ll never ask for anything again.

In the second half things start to look up. Pass to the open man, Jerome exhorts, and the player passes to the open man. Now we’re talking! Jerome says aloud to the empty room. See what happens when you listen to me?

The score is tied as the game approaches its conclusion. Jerome grits his teeth and wipes the sweat from his face with his sleeve. Put in Brabowski! he urges again, and this time, miraculously, the coach listens. I have a good feeling about this, Jerome thinks, standing in front of his couch and bouncing on the balls of his feet.

Brabowski scores. Confetti falls. Jerome rips off his shirt and throws both hands in the air. We did it! Halleluiah!

He orders pizza to celebrate and watches the recap on the evening sports show. He wonders if his ex-wife will call to congratulate him, but when he checks his phone, there is no activity. He texts his son, Did you see the big game?? but figures he was too busy doing homework.

The pizza arrives. Jerome eats one slice and puts the rest in the fridge. He isn’t as hungry as he thought he would be.

Greg Chase is a full-time Ph.D. student and part-time writer. His favorite authors include Faulkner, Wharton, and Eggers. He lives in Boston, MA.

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