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He found his story but lost his pants
By Malamute, 5 April 2004

A flash of lightning and a clap of thunder jolted him awake. 

“What’s wrong, Jimmy?” his wife yawned sleepily.

“A bolt of lightning; there’s a wild storm outside. Can’t you hear it?” The rain throttled noisily down a gutter near the bedroom window and thundered off the skylight just 10 feet from the bed. Not much chance of sleeping until the storm blew through, he thought. He sat straight up, remembering that the crusty, old coach always visited him on stormy nights.

“Why are you getting up, Jimmy?”

Jim Moore, sportswriter — columnist extraordinaire of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer — slipped into his Palouse-alpaca bathrobe, then, one foot at a time, into whisper-soft slippers made from the finest Palouse sheepskin.

“Jimmy, you’re not looking for that old man again, that Gil Dobie man?”

“No, dear, I have to finish my column. It’s due tomorrow night.”

The smell of cigar — his calling card — permeated the bedroom.  As usual, he’d be down in the den, only this time he'd have a different message.

As he descended the staircase, he could see a purple-and-gold nimbus shrouding the head of his visitor. Puffing on a cigar, the craggy-faced Dobie sat in Moore’s sheepskin chair. With his feet propped up on Moore's oak desk, one he'd found at a garage sale in Pullman, the comically-dressed Dobie looked the part of a rapscallion. The Royal typewriter, sitting on a breadboard, was as old as the coach sitting in his chair. 

“Hi, sonny, come on in and take a load off your feet,” he said, in a leathery voice.

Moore sat down in a chair opposite the desk and shook his head from side to side as Dobie offered him a cigar.

“Look this is it, your last visit. If you visit me again, I’ll call the police.”

Dobie laughed. “Call the police about seeing an apparition? They’ll think you’re crazy. Now, take that red-and-gray robe off. You should be wearing purple and gold.”

“It’s crimson and gray and these are my colors. I’m a Cougar.”

“Well, loddy-friggin’-daw, a Cougar are we now.” Dobie pointed his hand at the smug-looking journalist and zapped him with a jolt of supernatural radiance that turned his already-mussed hair straight on end. “Remove the robe, sonny. Now!”

“For God’s sake, you’re nuts. And, by the way, that hurts.” He removed his bathrobe, was dressed in long johns, and sat down again, while trying to smooth back purple-colored hair, which looked as if it had been blown straight up by the exhaust from an F-86.  

“That’s better. Now let’s get down to business. First of all, what’s this pile of crap on your desk all about?”

“It’s from the Bureau of Public Records. I’m researching a story.”

“Digging up dirt on the Huskies again? This crap is five years old.”

“It’s the nature of our business.”

“Well, you can take the 'nature of our business' and shove it where the sun don’t shine.” The acerbic, former coach of the Huskies blew on the stack of papers, sending them swirling about the room until, in a matter of seconds, they were funneled into the fireplace with a loud swoosh of air. The hot embers left over from the toasty evening’s fire slowly caught them on fire.

“I need them for a column that is due tomorrow night.”

“Your column has just been revised. Here.” Dobie handed him a sheet of paper, with a story that had been printed from a Cloud-7 LaserJet.

“How did that old fart get this thing written?” Moore mumbled softly.

“Call me an old fart, you Pullman bumpkin?” Again, he jolted the jake with some Husky spirit, this one leaving his country-handsome face painted a hair-matching purple and gold. “It’ll last but one hour, celestial time.”

“What’ll last?”

“You’ll see.” With his purple hair standing on end and his face painted purple and gold, Moore looked like one of those crazed college students the TV cameras manage to find during a lull in a game. At least it wasn't a Mohawk haircut, Dobie thought, of which two quick jolts of radiance were required, one on each side of the scalp.

“This story of yours is an apology to Keith Gilbertson. Why?”

“You sater...sat…made fun of him in a recent…”

“Satirized him.”

“Don’t you correct me, you son of a bitch. Your humor is nothing but kidding on the square.”

Moore covered his face with his hands, not wanting to be zapped again. “Why the apology?” he finally uttered.

“In your so-called satire, you implied that Keith Gilbertson lied about his participation in the 2001 and 2002 sports pools that a grad assistant allegedly ran at the university. Well, that’s simply not true. Repeat after me, 'Gilby doesn’t lie.'”

“Gilby doesn’t lie, Gilby doesn’t lie,” Moore repeated, his face twisting with angst.

Dobie gave him time to mull it over. The whole town is nuts, Moore thought. Why did I ever leave Pullman? Cougar fans living in Seattle bathed luxuriantly in his words, in a tub filled with his schadenfreude, but he knew now what Dobie had been saying all along; it just wasn’t worth putting a needle to a Husky — nor to a venerable program.

“Now go back to bed.” Dobie’s image floated across the room and vanished into the fireplace. As the visage ascended the chimney, the simmering papers burst into what Moore, in his mind's eye, later would call a conflagration.

The storm had ended, its thunder-and-lightning replaced by a purple-and-gold rainbow wrapped around a brilliant moon — the night air so peaceful and serene now, as if the fiery, unbeaten UW coach had never arrived.

For a brief moment, blackness erased Husky Stadium from its Montlake mooring, ghostly images comfortably filling its presence. When white light came on, players dressed in canvas leggings, wool jerseys and dog-flap helmets scrimmaged under the watchful eye of the crusty, old coach who straddled a rainbow that circled the moon.

In a program choreographed by Royal Brougham and "Torchy" Torrance, flappers kicked up their heels, while shadowy mascots wailed to lyrics sung from the fourth quatrain of the PCC Coaches Hymnal:  

"Zapped with X's and O's,
Lost in the hair of his chest;
On the battlefield as it flows,
Is a Pfizer riser on Destiny's quest."

Suddenly, a cheerleader burst from the Husky tunnel and acrobatically made his way to mid-field with somersaults and cartwheels. As he led a cheer, iridescently-colored fans howled with laughter, for his purple hair stood straight on end and his face was painted purple and gold.

The chief mascot, King Redoubt, sensing the falseness of the man, began tugging at his pants until he removed them completely, leaving him clad from the waist down in crimson-and-gray boxer shorts. Then the mascot ran off with the pants, accompanied by cheers and applause.

As the stadium surrendered white to blackness, Jim Moore sat up in bed and wiped the sweat off his face. As the cobwebs cleared from his Cougar gray matter — well, not completely — he muttered, “Thank you, God, it was just a nightmare.”

Down in his den, on his desk, a voluminous stack of papers had been replaced by a single sheet of paper, a story entitled, “An apology to Keith Gilbertson." 

Jim Moore, nettling journalist — the man with a deft needle filled with sarcasm — had his story but, in the process, just may have lost his pants.

Richard Linde (a.k.a., Malamute) can be reached at malamute@4malamute.com

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