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The Thart Heel Incident

Part One
By Mike Archbold, 3 June 2002

As I drifted off to sleep one night, my telephone woke me in loud, ear-splitting rings. Fumbling with the head piece, I managed to cradle it to one ear. 

The voice on the other end seemed nervous and spoke rapidly. "Dogmatic Metaphysical Infinity Advice Center here, may I speak to Mr. Archbold, please?"  As the head piece tugged at my ear, I struggled to untangle the phone cord in the dark. Rats afrats! Why me?

Half-conscious and untangled, I recognized the gypsy lady's voice. What a strange accent. Last year, she helped me speak with the famous Washington football coach, Gil Dobie, using her crystal ball. Dobie had passed away many years ago, and is the coach who never lost a game in 61-straight contests. I said hello to her, wondering what was up, and switched on a lamp.

"I had a visitation from that grouchy, dead coach," the gypsy lady managed to say in a trembling voice.

A visitation! "Dobie?!" I said excitedly, now wide awake. "Please tell me what happened!"

"I was just preparing to close my shop for the evening," she said, still sounding agitated. "I smelled the smoke of a cigar. Looking up, I saw Dobie's shadowy image, just several feet from me. I recognized him at once from our prior crystal-ball sessions. His image was somewhat obscure, and made more so by the cloud of cigar smoke in front of him."

"Wow!" I exclaimed. "That must have been frightening... what did he say?"

"A visitation can be quite unsettling, even for one such as I who is experienced in such matters. It is also a problem," the gypsy lady continued, "because it is difficult to charge the client, and business is slow these days..."

"I think I will be in the neighborhood tomorrow. Perhaps if I were to compensate you for your troubles?" I said, picking up on her not-to-subtle drift.

"How very kind of you. But anyway, all Dobie said was that something will be happening tomorrow afternoon, at 3:58, and you would be interested. There are many parallel realities, infinite in nature, and my eclectic study of metaphysics may enable me to call upon the potentialities of this event with my crystal ball. This can even achieve the fusion of actuality with potentiality and sequential eternities are possible. Of course it is impossible to guarantee anything, as Aristotle has been shown to have failed with his 'Law of Noncontradiction,' and the fee is somewhat higher for a difficult case such as this..." she stated as her voice trailed off.

Seeing that she appeared to have muddled Aristotle in with other concepts and wondering why my cases were always 'difficult,' I still dismissed these matters in my excitement. "I will come in tomorrow a few minutes before 3:58."

"That will be fine," replied the gypsy lady, by now having totally regained her composure after the shock of the visitation. "By the way, I watched the Husky play the Hurricane last year. The first drive looked fine. What happened?"

"Don't ask," I replied. "Even you couldn't alter that outcome."


The next day dawned beautifully with bright sunny skies. I always know summer is here when the sun comes out and the rain stops. There is no spring in Seattle -- it goes straight from gloom to summer.

I eased my car into the gypsy lady's gravel parking lot a few minutes prior to 3:58. I made my way past the huge "Dogmatic Metaphysical Infinity Advice Center" sign in front of her shop, walked up the creaking stairs, and knocked on the front door.

The gypsy lady showed me into the darkened interior, and not much had changed from the last visit. A card table sat in the middle of the room with a crystal ball in the middle. Gaudy ornaments decorated the dimly lit interior. Incense burned. She wore bright, multicolored clothing and huge hoop earrings. I did notice a fancy magazine rack -- prior to this, the magazines had been arranged in a huge pile.

I seated myself at the card table as we exchanged formalities and I slid the fee, in cash, over to her.

"How very kind of you, as this is actually more than I expected," she said. "I have reviewed the necessary incantations... it is now almost time. Let us begin."

She became quiet and began murmuring various incantations as she waved her hand over the crystal ball. By now I was accustomed to this process. It takes a few moments before images appear within the ball.

And as usual, images began to flicker and fade, and finally became focused.

An image of a man, sporting a somewhat scruffy beard, appeared in the crystal ball. The man was situated in a cluttered office typing into his computer. I noted that the surroundings had piles of sports magazines, some old and some newer. The man appeared to concentrate deeply, and then smile broadly as he typed something into his computer. "Aha, they will love that!" he whispered to himself.

Looking closer on his desk, I could barely make out a front page of a newspaper which read: "Sea-Tac Post-Lobotomizer."

A man who appeared to be a clerk knocked on the half-open door. The man with the scruffy beard motioned him in.

"Here's my piece for the 'Sports Special Report' tonight, Jeremy," said the scruffy-bearded man. "And this time, will you make it snappy and give it to the right person for a change? There are plenty of people who can do your job, you know."

"Yes, Mr. Heel, I'm really sorry about last time. I'll make it quicker this time"

"You'd better make it snappy this time. And bring me some more of those East-Coast clippings. Get moving. I need more coffee too."

"Of course Mr. Heel," replied the young clerk as he departed, shutting the door.

So this was Thart Heel, reporter for the local Post-Lobotomizer paper. I'd read his columns before, noting that he never had a kind word to say about the Huskies.

A few more moments went by.

Heel stopped typing for a moment and lifted his head, twisting his nose. "That brain-dead clerk has taken up smoking cigars..." he mumbled to himself and bent over his computer, continuing to type.

Gil Dobie, dressed in a dark overcoat trimmed in fur, sporting a fedora, and smoking an enormous cigar, strode into view and seated himself in a chair in front of Heel's desk.

Heel continued to type. He stopped suddenly and his head jerked up with his eyes wide open.

"Who the hell are you? Why did you sneak up on me? The new janitor?" demanded Heel. "Why do you think you can sit there? You're just a janitor aren't you? Where is your proper uniform? Please go away and don't bother me. I have important work to do. I have no time to waste with a janitor. I don't like to talk to common sports fans."

Dobie unbuttoned his overcoat, leaned comfortably back in his chair, kicked his shoes up on Heel's desk, and blew a large cloud of smoke at Heel.

Heel's face began to turn red. "Look, I'm sure you're having your own little joke, but I have enough clout here at the Post-Lobotomizer to have you thrown out in ten minutes. I'm not warning you again! I have work to do! Now out!"

Heel got up from his desk and opened his office door. "Now will you please leave, right now? And furthermore, I want my waste basket emptied every day, not every alternate day." Heel glanced into the hallway for a second and then continued, "and my windows are never..." his voice trailed off as he looked into the hallway outside his office.

What he was looking at was unreal.

The entire hallway was a brilliant white landscape. There were no halls, no doors, no floor, no nothing. Nothing but white.

Heel reached into the hallway, his arm becoming invisible as it reached into the whiteness. Quickly, he yanked his arm back and slammed the office door shut.

Bewildered, he managed to walk over to his coffee machine, but bumped his knee on the desk. Shakily, he poured himself a cup of coffee, put it on a small plate, and sat down in his chair, with the cup rattling against its plate. His hand was shaking so badly that he could scarcely bring the cup to his lips.

"Would you... like some... coffee?" asked Heel.

"No thanks," Dobie replied, taking a long drag on his cigar, still comfortably seated.

"What did you say... your name was? ... are you really the new.... janitor?" Heel asked, finally managing to sip some coffee.

"No, I'm Gil Dobie, former coach of Washington. I've been dead for many years."

Heel choked, spraying his keyboard with coffee. He looked at the door, at Dobie, and then grabbed the phone. No dial tone! He set the phone down. 

"I... will you please excuse me... for a moment?" asked Heel.

Dobie nodded and resumed his incessant puffing.

Heel walked over to the filing cabinet and spent several minutes thrashing through the contents. Eventually he pulled out an old file of photographs, glanced over at Dobie and then back at a picture in his file.

Replacing the file and closing the cabinet, he moved quickly to his chair, his eyes focused on the venerable coach. Again he tried to take a sip of coffee, but his hand was shaking so badly that more coffee spilled on his keyboard. Not even noticing, he set the cup down. 

A few moments passed, as Dobie leisurely puffed on his cigar, apparently lost in thought. Heel was utterly pale as he alternately glanced at the phone, the door, and back at Dobie.

"Well.... what.... WHAT THE HELL DO YOU WANT WITH ME?!" a sputtering Heel yelled. 

"Don't talk to me that way, you mug. Not unless you want me to get plenty sore at you."

"What were you expecting? You know, I've never had a coach quite as 'retired' as you in my office!" he emphasized.

"All right, then settle down, you mug," Dobie said. "The trouble is that I've been reading some of your columns on the Washington Huskies. I don't think you really understand what football is about. I have to show you something. You'll have to come with me."

"Come with you?!" blurted Heel. "And where might that be?! I will have you know that I understand football perfectly. The most important aspects are stadiums with luxury boxes, analyzing games with witty metaphors and sarcastic analogies, and political intrigue. I don't need some crusty old football coaching coming in here and telling me --"

"SHUT UP YOU!" yelled Dobie. "You're going to have to come with me, through that door. And when you come back, you'll know what football is really like."

"I already know everything about football! I'm going nowhere with you!"  Heel yelped.

Dobie settled back in his chair and took a long drag on his cigar. "Just where do you think you'll be going? For a nice stroll down the hall? You looked outside. There is nothing out there at all. Only with me guiding you can you go anywhere at all. If you don't go with me, you'll never get out of your office. Well, I guess I will be going now. Care to join me?"

Heel, shaking visibly and white as a sheet, evidently concluded he had no choice as he got up, and followed Dobie into the whiteness beyond.


Copyright 2002 Michael P. Archbold
All references to persons living or dead are fictional. The character of Thart Heel has no relation to any real person. Mike can be contacted at jazzbox@w-link.net



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