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The Ghost of Dobie

I.

It had been troubling me for some time, all those sightings of the ghost of Gloomy Gil Dobie. He coached sixty-one straight games at Washington, from 1908 to 1916, and never lost one game.

Most of these sightings occur at Denny Field (Washington's old home field near 45th). Dobie's been seen haunting Husky Stadium, been seen on fishing outings. I've communicated with him by crystal ball, as others have, but seeing him in person is another thing. 

With this in mind, I decided to make an appointment with the neighborhood gypsy lady, who conjured him up for me a while back using her crystal ball. Her establishment is run out of a rickety building in Lake City.

Picking up the phone, I dialed her number.

"Dogmatic Metaphysical Infinity Advice Center," she said in a foreign accent.

"Mike Archbold here. I had a session with you last month."

"I recall. You are a fan of the Washington Husky. I saw the Husky did beat Michigan. This game I watched on television. I like the player Roc Alexander. You spoke with the grouchy dead coach through my crystal ball. This man, however, I do not like."

"Well," I mused, "it seems that nobody likes -- err -- liked him. That was one of his problems. He was a great coach but not particularly popular."

"This is obvious," stated the gypsy lady. "What can I do for you?"

"I want to know why Dobie has been haunting the area. I've heard reports that he has been seen at Denny Field, which is on the north part of campus. I thought you might be able to find answers with your crystal ball."

"I see," replied the gypsy lady. "However, even though my power bills are outrageous, this I cannot do. I do not like this man. I'm sorry, but you will have to find another psychic."

Long pause...

"What if I paid you double your going rate?" I asked.

"I'm sorry, it is impossible."

"Triple your going rate."

"It's just that my bills are so high," she replied, "and I want to take a trip to Hawaii this winter. Also I go to the espresso stand too often."

"How does four times your regular rate grab you?" 

"Can you be here at 3:30?" she asked.

"You take a check or VISA?" I asked. "I might even be able to charge it to my health insurance under the new 'Holistic Healthcare' section. One of my friends has been getting acupuncture."

Long pause...

"I'll be there at 3:30 with greenbacks," I stated.

"How very kind of you," she replied.

II.

Dilapidated. Ramshackle. Anyway you describe it, the gypsy lady's Lake City establishment was no Taj Mahal. The paint, or rather what paint there was, appeared to have at one time been a mixture of blue and white. 

There was a weed-strewn "lawn" in front of the structure, sporting a large sign boldly announcing "Dogmatic Metaphysical Infinity Advice Center." The shuttered interior consisted primarily of one room, but there was also a small restroom and some storage space.

The structure appeared to have been propped several feet off the ground, as if the original designers had feared a potential flood. Since when do you get a flood in Lake City? The elevation design gave the structure an even more precarious look.

As I walked up the creaky staircase, I was in the process of opening the screen door when I had to take a quick step back, because an elderly woman was in the process of banging open the screen door with a prodigious walking cane. 

"Excuse me young man," she said.

"That's OK," I replied, assisting her in opening the screen door, even though assistance wasn't necessary. "Nice weather we are having today isn't it?" I asked.

"I think it's about 3:30," she replied, evidently not registering my comment.

She hustled down the stairs and walked off at a fast pace, which I thought was remarkable since she looked to be ninety or so. 

"That was Gladys," the gypsy lady said, standing just inside the door. "She's ninety-nine years old. Her husband Horace passed away forty years ago. Since then she has always had a cat named Horace. When one dies, she gets a new Horace cat. The recent Horace ran away, and we think it is a case of him taking an interest in lady felines. I keep telling her to get him 'fixed,' but she won't do so." 

"Any luck locating Horace?" I inquired.

"We think he's somewhere near the old theatre down the street," she replied.

We walked inside and I sat down at the card table in the center of the room. It was quite dark inside, lit by just a few candles, and smelled of incense.

"Before we begin, I would appreciate it if you would sign this release form," the gypsy lady said. 

"Release form?" I asked.

"It's strictly routine. Some things are beyond my control. For instance, if this grouchy Gil Dobie were to inhabit your body, I cannot be held responsible. This is very rare, but I must take precautions. I could lose my license."

"Of course," I said as I quickly reviewed and signed the form, wondering what official body issued the "license." 

"In a complicated case such as this, I must kindly request payment in advance," stated the gypsy lady.

"Of course," I replied. "No problem." I slid the money across the card table.

"How very kind of you. Now before we begin the session I must consult one of my ancient tomes. This is not an easy case, and even I do not have all the incantations memorized. You will excuse me for a moment please."

"Of course," I said. "Take your time."

The gypsy lady walked over to a closet door and creaked it open. Reaching in with both hands, she removed an enormous, worn-leather book. Carrying the monstrosity over to the card table, she dropped it with a loud thud, raising a cloud of dust in the process.

"Sorry about that," she said. I waved my hand in front of my face to avoid a potential allergy attack from the dust cloud.

The gypsy lady, exerting considerable physical effort, creaked the tome open and referred to what must have been the index in the back.

"Yes... yes... here it is... page 2,345, section IV" she said to herself.

Several moments went by as she studied the tome. I took a moment to glance around. Gaudy ornaments and brightly colored objects adorned the room. It was actually quite relaxing. Soft music was playing from a small radio. I felt fine.

"OK, now we are ready to begin, Mr. Archbold," she said as she slid the tome to the side of the card table.

III.

The gypsy lady was silent for a few moments. She waived her hands over the crystal ball, situated in the middle of the card table, while softly reciting incantations. 

Her incantations would increase and decrease in volume and tempo. This continued for some time.

I stared into the crystal ball, which slowly began to turn white. 

Then some images focused and I could see a group of people from all walks of life standing in a line. Behind an elevated, gold colored counter, an official looking man faced the line. He held an ordinary clipboard. Surrounding the official were enormous pearly gates, and beyond him a road paved with gold.

There was no mistaking this image! That was Saint Peter and these people were in a line to apply to get into heaven!

My attention was drawn to a thin, tall, scowling man at the back of the line. He sported a woolen overcoat trimmed in fur and wore a felt hat. I recognized him immediately.

Dobie!

The images increased into a much sharper focus.

Dobie (for there could be no doubt), shifted his stance and removed a pack of cigars from his overcoat, lighting up.

A tall, heavy-set man in front of him turned around. "Excuse me sir, but there is no smoking in here," he said, pointing to a "NO SMOKING" sign affixed to the wall.

"Who asked you, fats?" Dobie replied, as he blew smoke in the man's face.

The heavy-set man studied Dobie, like he was looking at a work of art, and said nothing.

"Say," Dobie continued, "I could have used you at tackle. You ever played football girlie?"

"Who are you calling 'girlie' sir?" the fat man asked.

"You want a fat lip or something, you blimp?" inquired Dobie.

The heavy-set man decided he'd had enough of the conversation under the circumstances and turned around to wait his turn in line.

IV.

Eventually Dobie stood in front of St. Peter.

"Hmmmmm," said St. Peter looking at a sheet on his clipboard. "You're lucky. You said 'go to you-know-what-place' one million times. The cutoff to get into heaven is one million and one times. You just barely made it! We don't crack down too hard on profanity since we know it's kind of tough on Earth, so we put the cutoff up pretty high. I can't recall anyone pegging it exactly at one million! That's remarkable! By the way, will you please extinguish your cigar Mr. Dobie?"

Dobie evidently decided it would be a good idea to extinguish his cigar at this point. He was eyeing the golden road beyond as he put it out.

"Oh man!" exclaimed St. Peter looking at his clipboard. "That was you?... the 'bunk play'... that was you?!"

"Sure, sure, that was my play. We beat Oregon with that one," Dobie said absently.

"Look, we like to watch a lot of football," said St. Peter. "We have all the cable channels, but of course we can see everything anyway. With cable you get the commentary. Once a year we have a 'Heaven and Hell' game. They got some bruisers down there, they talk a lot of trash, late hits and cheap shots, all that kind of stuff. We haven't been doing that great, though we pulled out a win in OT last year."

"Uh-huh, that's swell," said Dobie, apparently taking no particular interest.

"Hey Jim," shouted St. Peter. "Go over to the storage locker and get some of those old helmets and the football... round up the rest of the team. I have to show you guys something! You're the last in line today Dobie, could you humor us and show us the play? I don't mind if you light up another cigar."

"Uh... well, sure, why not?" replied Dobie as he reached for his cigars.

Several guys showed up with some leather helmets and pads.

"Jim, Frank, John, the rest of you guys, listen up," said St. Peter. "This here is Gil Dobie, the coach who never lost a game at Washington... the genius that invented the 'bunk play.' Now listen up, this is a great play. So what do we do coach?"

Dobie scowled at the group and took a puff of his cigar.

"Well, first of all, I'm no genius," said Dobie. "My teams never were any good. Anyway we usually only used about five plays. 

But since you're so interested," Dobie continued, "there really isn't that much to it. The quarterback is lined up behind the center, real low-like, see? His head is almost touching the center's back. That way the 'backers aren't as wise to what's going on, see? They think it's just another run up the gut, maybe even a sneak. The center 'hikes' the ball straight into his own gut. After the center hikes the ball to himself, the two guards to either side of the center take a dive, and the center sort of settles on top of them, real subtle-like, trying to make it look like a muffed play, but the center's knees don't touch the ground, so he's not down, see? It's still a live play."

"Now the real act starts," Dobie continued. "Our quarterback, Wee Coyle, pulls of his leather helmet real quick-like and makes like it's the football, and tears off around the end, along with all our players blocking for our 'runner' Coyle, except our end, who is lingering near our center. The whole Oregon team, those dopes, run like the dickens after Coyle and his helmet! After counting to three, the center laterals the ball off to our end, patiently waiting, who leisurely runs in the opposite direction for a Washington score."

"And it fooled everybody!" exclaimed St. Peter.

Dobie replied, "Fooled everybody -- the Oregon players, all the fans, the Oregon coaches, even some Washington coaches who weren't wise to it, the officials, the ballboys, the ticket-takers, the mayor, that SOB Suzzallo, you name it, we fooled 'em all!"

Dobie flashed a very quick smile that just as quickly disappeared and took a long drag on his cigar, looking lost in thought.

"Are right men," commanded St. Peter, "line up and let's give the play a try. I only count ten guys... where's Paul? Will somebody go get Paul?"

One guy ran off, evidently in search of Paul.

"What position do you play?" Dobie asked St. Peter.

"Why, I'm the quarterback," replied St. Peter.

"How many times have you beaten the 'hell' team?" inquired Dobie.

"Well, last year we won in overtime. But to tell you the truth, we are actually 1 - 3452 overall against them."

"Uh-huh," replied Dobie.

Eventually Paul arrived and the eleven men were ready for the bunk play reenactment. St. Peter filled Paul in on the play.

"All right, everybody get lined up. You heard Dobie. We'll run it on two."

"Set!" screamed St. Peter.

"Hang on a minute," said Dobie.

Dobie walked in front of the line. Puffing on his cigar he looked at each man, one by one.

"I don't like your stance, #59," said Dobie pointing to the left tackle.

"So what's the problem?" asked #59. 

"Mr. Dobie," said St. Peter, "I'm really the coach so I think I know what's best for my team."

"I'm having a private conversation over here Pete," responded Dobie. 

St. Peter took a start at having been called "Pete" but said nothing.

With a swift move a gaunt arm extended quickly out of Dobie's overcoat and jabbed #59 in his shoulder blade. This motion knocked #59 completely out of his stance, sending him careening into the guard, who knocked down the center, and eventually sent the entire line onto the ground like so many dominos.

St. Peter and Paul couldn't contain themselves and broke out laughing.

Paul, lined up as halfback, said laughing, "No wonder I never get any blocking!"

"All right, you mugs get back in your stances," commanded Dobie to the line.

The players got up off the ground and back into their stances.

Again Dobie walked over to #59. "Your problem is your center of gravity is way too high. It's the same with the rest of you mugs. Get those legs further apart." With a swift motion Dobie kicked #59s left foot out about five inches. "Get lower. That way the lout rushing you is going to have to go over the top or around. Unless you are yellow and can't throw a block...?" Dobie blew a thick cloud of smoke into #59s face.

#59s face became a bit red and he bit his lip, puffing out his chest and buckling his chinstrap.

"Anytime you're ready, Pete," said Dobie. "I'd run it without a signal either. Try to catch them napping."

Dobie moved back a few paces.

The team huddled up and broke for the line of scrimmage as the center grabbed the ball.

St. Peter lined up directly over the center, hunkered down low. The center snapped the ball with no count, per Dobie's instructions. The guards took a dive, and St. Peter removed his helmet and ran a sweep to the right. The center then gently handed the ball of to the end, who ran downfield.

"That was great guys!" exclaimed St. Peter. "Wait until the hell team sees that one next year! What did you think coach?"

"Uh-huh, yeah, it was OK, I guess. The execution was a bit slow, and you need to do a bit better job selling the sweep Pete. But not too bad, I guess, not too bad for a first try," Dobie remarked through a cloud of cigar smoke.

"Ha, Ha, that was fun, thanks coach!" said St. Peter. "By the way, what did you tell the referees when they argued if it was legal?"

"I told them they could go to hell," said Dobie.

Everybody took a start. Dobie shut his eyes and put his hand to his mouth, immediately realizing his gaffe. This had sent him up to the "go to hell" limit of one million and one. "I mean I told them to go to heck," corrected Dobie.

The team filed out of the room with a somber look.

"I'm really sorry, coach, but you reached the cutoff. That was one million and one 'go to you-know-whats'" said St. Peter.

"Aw, come on Pete, I showed you the play, you wanted to know what happened. I told you!" protested Dobie.

"Well, hang on, Gil, I'll call upstairs and see what I can do. Anyway you're already dead. Maybe there is a rule for this. Hang on."

St. Peter picked up a golden phone and pressed a gold button.

"Hello," St. Peter spoke into the receiver. St. Peter explained the situation.

St. Peter said, "I see... yeah I know 'rules is rules'... but we asked him to recount the play... yeah but... yeah but... look, he's already dead sir... I know but... yeah but... can't you make an exception?... yeah but... yeah but..." 

Evidently there was to be no exception as St. Peter slammed down the phone.

"I'm sorry, coach," said St. Peter. "I did everything I could."

"This means I'm going to hell?" asked Dobie.

"I'm afraid so. However, the Profanity Ward isn't really all that bad. You get your own private room, a pretty big fan, TV, radio, private shower, and three square meals. No pitchforks or any of that type of scene. You won't be stuck in with the truly awful ones. You won't even see them. Also, in one hundred years you can reapply up here for good behavior. I'm really sorry. I think this was my fault."

"Rats," said Dobie, lighting another cigar and talking a small flask out of his overcoat for a quick drink.

St. Peter picked up a bright red phone and pressed a button. "Yeah, it's me," sighed St. Peter. "Send up Rocko and Jimmy. I have one for the Profanity Ward."

"I'm really sorry Dobie," said St. Peter. "If I hadn't asked you about the 'bunk play' no of this would have happened. I'll be expecting you back up here in one hundred years."

"Don't worry about it Pete," said Dobie. "It was fun to see it again."

V.

Eventually two thugs appeared out of an elevator in the side of the room.

"Is that him?" asked one of the enormous thugs, pointing at Dobie.

St. Peter nodded.

The two foul-smelling thugs grabbed Dobie, one arm each.

"GET YOUR GRUBBY MITS OFF ME!" screamed Dobie. He held up his fists and said "I CAN USE THESE!"

St. Peter smiled faintly but sadly.

The bouncers took a step back and looked at each other with raised eyebrows, not sure what to do with this tall man who clearly was no match for them.

The bouncer named Rocko said, "All right, look man, just get in the elevator over there, and we'll be right behind you. Now lets go."

Dobie and the bouncers entered the elevator. The elevator had only two floors listed on the selection panel. Rocko punched "DOWN."

As the elevator descended it began to get hotter. Dobie reached for his hanky and dabbed his forehead.

"Mind if I smoke?" Dobie asked the bouncers.

"No," said Rocko, "we all 'smoke' down here." Rocko ribbed Jimmy and they both smirked.

"You two mugs are some comedians, huh?" asked Dobie.

The conversation was cut short as they arrived in hell.

Dobie walked out of the elevator followed by Rocko and Jimmy. They walked down a humid hall, dimly lit by only a few smoldering torches. After several minutes of a rather circuitous hike, they arrived in a small antechamber.

In the center of the antechamber sat the Devil, red from shoes to horns. Sound asleep, snoring loudly, slouching on an old stool, he was clutching his red pitchfork.

"Boss?" asked Rocko.

Nothing. The Devil continued to snore.

"Boss!" shouted Rocko.

The Devil took a start, nearly dropped his pitchfork, rubbed his eyes, and sat up in his chair. He looked around to get his bearings and then looked straight at Dobie.

Standing up right in front of Dobie, he said commandingly:

"I HEREBY CONDEMN YOU TO THE IMMORTAL FIRES OF HELL!"

Dobie's response was immediate. He slugged the Devil in the gut, hard, which caused the Devil to double over, dropping his pitchfork in the process. Dobie quickly sent his knee straight into the Devil's face, which got the Devil wobbling up straight. Then with a full roundhouse swing, Dobie clobbered the staggering Devil and sent him careening into the side of the antechamber, where he hit the wall with his head and slid down slowly, bleeding profusely, eventually slumping to the ground, knocked out cold. 

Dobie picked up the red pitchfork and broke it cleanly in two, throwing it on the unconscious devil. "YOU WOULDN'T LAST FIVE MINUTES IN A WASHINGTON PRACTICE!" screamed Dobie.

The two thugs smirked at each other, evidently impressed with Dobie.

"Wow, I haven't that before," whispered Rocko to Jimmy.

Dobie walked over to the Devil and propped him more-or-less straight up in a sitting position. Slowly the Devil opened his eyes.

"OK, how many fingers?" asked Dobie.

"Uh, um, two... no three," replied the Devil. "Where did you learn to hit like that?"

"Here, take a swig of this," said Dobie, giving the Devil a swig of whiskey.

"Rocko," said the Devil, somewhat recovered but still slouched against the wall, "let me see his chart."

The Devil assembled his senses long enough to read Dobie's chart, even though one red eye was swelling fast.

The Devil said, "Look Dobie. We've got a lot of troublemakers down here already. I make one or two mistakes and I wind up with the red suit in this job. Who needs it? You get labeled the 'fallen angel' and can't work anywhere. Can we make some kind of a deal?"

"I make no deals with the Devil," stated Dobie.

The Devil rolled his eyes. "OK, look at it this way. I'll give you two choices. You can either go back in to the Profanity Ward, or I'll send you back to Earth as a ghost. If you go back as a ghost you can still work on your plays, do whatever you want, and if you do some good things apply back up at heaven in one hundred years. What do you say?"

"Ghost," said Dobie. It was a no-brainer apparently for him.

"OK, Rocko, Jimmy, lead him out the ghost door," said the Devil.

"So long red," said Dobie, "hope to never see you again."

The Devil was busy mopping blood from his face and made no reply.

Dobie, Rocko, and Jimmy left the antechamber and went back into the cave. They followed another circuitous route, past skeletons, torches, and flitting figures in white. Screams could be heard in the background.

"Here we are," said Rocko, pointing to a door. "Walk through that door and you are back on Earth as a ghost. The boss says you'll be stationed at Denny Field, but you can move around as you wish. Just be back at Denny Field in one hundred years if you want to get upstairs. Anything you do will be held against you or for you just like when you were alive. Now you are free to go."

Dobie opened the door and walked through.

VII.

I lifted my vision from the crystal ball and looked up at the gypsy lady. She was still and her face bore a questioning and worried look. 

Black and white chaotic images, like those emitted by a television set tuned to no station, began to drift into my eyesight from the borders of my visual spectrum, moving closer to the center, and the gypsy lady, the crystal ball, and the card table drifted further and further away... I was drifting... I lost my eyesight completely... 

I didn't fight it.

Blue I had the ball Where was the blocking You got hit pretty hard Are you OK Everything is blue The grass is blue I'm numb The fans are blue They are cheering The noise For what Who are we playing I got hit pretty hard I can't think Are you OK he asked again You got hit pretty hard #35 Who are we playing The grass is as blue as the sky and the fans are blue Who has the ball Are you OK Arch I can't see anything but blue You got hit pretty hard Walk over to the sidelines That's right, that direction Coach everything is blue I got hit pretty hard Are you OK How many fingers I can't remember who we are playing coach I think I got hit pretty bad I got hit bad coach What should I do How many fingers You got hit pretty hard I have to get back in Not like this I can't think But we're behind You got hit pretty hard #35 How many fingers Are you OK I can't remember who we are playing coach or any of the plays Time is running out We are behind by 3 points I have to get back in the game Everything is blue Rest I can't It's blue Winning We have to win We have got to win this game We have got to win this game 

VI.
 
On Denny Field, a man stands alone on a bitterly cold night. Winning is everything to him. 

He remembers his plays. The crowd is there, and the players are too. 

It's the fourth quarter and he's behind. And he knows that he must win the game. 

Because there is no losing for this man.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------


Copyright 2001 Michael P Archbold
All references to persons living or dead are entirely fictional.

 

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