Mid season - Monday Night Football. I feel the whiff of air. I hear the heavy wooden door slam. The kids mutiny. No more Mom on Monday night.
Shocked, I stand alone on the porch, ejected from the house. My grocery bag stuffed with Oreos and cheese curls snug under my arm and six pack of Coke in hand, I scout my situation. I'm prepared for football battle. Where can I go? I refuse to go down in defeat of teenager interference.
The door flings open, a reprieve - nope, out fly my car keys, NFL sweatshirt and purse.
"Out, out, out!" The voices cry behind the door. "And don't come back until the game's over." An instant replay from the moment before.
"Personal foul!" I fight back. I rummage through my brown bag and find a yellow napkin. I wave it frantically at the living room window. "Flag on the play!" I jump up and down on the cement steps.
Swoosh! The blinds snap shut. Rap music rattles the panes. I make note to self as I juggle my survival goodies and hustle to the car - coal in children's Christmas stockings.
Only fifteen minutes to kick off. The engine ignites in one swift turn and a tiny voice inside calls "head west".
Down the busy, deadlock freeway of growling faces and mouths hooked to phones, I make inch-by-inch haste. "Go to Dave's house. He'll let you watch the game." The voice urges.
"Hey, Cin," Dave envelopes me in his muscular arms and hugs me against his full chest. "What's up?"
"Monday Night Football, Dave," I wiggle my head free and sneak a peek under his arm for the television screen. He squeezes harder and I struggle for air. "I brought food." I offer my rite of passage.
"No go, kiddo. Cable's out." He points to a blackened television, brushing his graying moustache in thought. "Come on, let's head over to Bob's place."
A man with a plan, I can't refuse. We climb into the monster Expedition and ride high on the back roads to Bob's house.
Raw knuckles tap the entranceway. The porch light flicks on, an inquiring face pokes through the drapes and Bob opens the door.
We exchange the official Monday Night secret code combined with a swivel of the hip and we're in the door. I kick off my sandals, plop down on the couch and high five the other refugees, all finding respite at Bob's place. Now this is more like it.
Rebecca sits on the couch, tipping a gin and tonic. Barry leans against the wall, legs stretched out, hole in sock, left big toe. Sam the Man passes the bean dip. Dave flips open a Hornsby, swigs the draft cider and nudges me over on the crowded sofa. Everyone waves and acknowledges, “The last hold out arrives.”
"Thought you'd be here last week," Bob sits down next to me, elbow on my naked knee.
"Kids lasted a little longer this season." I curl my feet snug under my butt.
"See Barry over there? Wife booted him out second quarter of the first game." He nods towards the far corner, "and Scott, well, let's just say his significant other is out pumping up those credit cards."
"The price we pay for some football, right?" We concede our fate and focus on the forty-five inch screen.
Outcasts. We cheer and toast the beginning of the game.
A stout man, dressed in floral shirt and low riding shorts, pushes a piece of paper in my face and grins, "We've got a pool goin'. Quarter a square." The words thick with booze hang on crinkled lips and bubble out. His face in my face, I hug my back against the cushion and dodge spittle.
"Touchdown!" Claps and ‘oh yeah’ fill the living room.
Who? What? I see only an exposed belly button, an outee. I scribble my little Cin in four squares, palm my four quarters and shove him away.
I grab an oversize pillow and take it to the floor. Got to hear the game. Too much noise. I position myself mid stage, three feet from the screen. Ah better, I can actually feel the action.
"Who has four and one?" Belly button props in front of the screen and waves the betting table above his head. "Look the Panthers have the ball. Yeah, they're gonna' score."
"Like look dude, it’s fourth down and that's a punt." I peek around his knee and point at the screen.
He turns towards the play, bends field level and burps.
Posed in a center position, the temptation to hike the “family” ball draws a thought. Bad, Cin. A carpet Quarterback-not, I shift to the left, away from the not-so-tight-end.
Dave whacks loud mouth with a handful of popcorn and he shuts up, momentarily.
The game sputters to a dismal finale. We hug good bye, collect our winnings and file down the front walkway.
"So what do you think, Dave?" I search my mind for alternatives. "Next week Buck Henry's Bar and Grill?"
"No, remember they closed it down. Something about food poisoning or something."
"Headlines claimed 'bad ref camera trip'." I recall the cramps and nauseating replays. I hold my stomach even now.
"Guess I've got a week to work on my kids. Think maybe pizza might calm them down?"
Dave shakes his head and he draws in the cool, autumn freshness. "You're doomed kid, doomed."
Oh, what the heck, I've got a whole week to negotiate viewing rights and practice my cheers for next week's game. I'll win them over, somehow.
Award-winning author, Cynthia Borris, NO MORE BOBS, resides in Northern California. Humor columnist for Valley Lifestyles magazine and a numerous CHICKEN SOUP FOR THE SOUL contributor, she is working on her next novel, TO SERVE DUCK. For speaking engagements, visit website. She'll bring the coffee and laughter but not the Bobs!