An Excerpt from “COG”

Set inside the Superbunker on the eve of nuclear war… Here’s a snippet from the draft of chapter 11:

The football game resumed. The Saxons had scored a touchdown during Jin’s interlude, but somehow the Normans had scored as well. The game was now tied at 17 with two minutes left in the game. The Saxons broke the huddle and approached the line of scrimmage which was their own twenty yard line. The home crowd quieted once more. The first play was a pass that resulted in an eight yard gain. The second play connected for ten yards. McGuinn signaled for a timeout. After  commercials for lite beer, erection pills, and more pickup trucks, the game returned. McGuinn ran four plays, connecting with his receivers on each, taking the Saxons down to the Norman forty yard line. There were fifty seconds remaining in the game. McGuinn rushed up to the line while the clock ticked away. Forty-nine… forty-eight… forty-seven… He took the snap and spiked the ball into the ground, stopping the clock at forty-four seconds. The camera cut to the pot-bellied Saxon place kicker who kneaded a football, placed it on a tee, and with a look of furrowed seriousness, booted it into a practice net on the sideline. His longest-ever, career field goal was fifty four yards. From where the ball was placed, it would be a fifty seven yard try. The Saxons knew they had to gain a few more yards to have a decent chance.

Coach Fulbright took off his headset. His lips silently formed words on the screen. McGuinn lifted his helmet and his lips started to move. Then Fulbright, noticing that a camera was zooming in on his face from a hundred yards away, covered his mouth with his laminated play sheet that resembled a Denny’s menu. McGuinn stopped talking and just nodded every couple seconds. Then McGuinn turned and ran out onto the field and into the Saxon huddle. The huddle broke and the players assumed their positions. McGuinn took the snap on first sound and extended the ball to the halfback who cut towards the right side of the line… but it was a play action fake. McGuinn rolled out with the ball in the other direction. The Norman linebacker pursuing from the back side discovered the ruse and cut towards, preparing to murder him. McGuinn was just able to get the pass off before he was pile driven into the ground, face first. The ball wobbled out, fluttering downfield about ten yards before it was intercepted by the Norman safety who was already charging fast…

The referee watching the play unfold could easily discern that the interception would be returned for a touchdown. He glanced at the flattened Brock McGuinn, then over to the charging Norman defender who snatched the fluttering ball out of the air and continued, without breaking stride, towards the goal, then he looked back at McGuinn…

And as if he was perhaps overcome by some sense cognitive dissonance at the notion of the underdogs actually winning the game…

Or perhaps because he was subtly informed by his supervisor before the game that it would be best for television ratings that Brock McGuinn continue playing in the post season for as long as possible…

Or perhaps because he was of Anglo-Saxon decent and ancient blood rivalries are sub-consciously passed on through genetic inheritance…

Or perhaps it was a legitimate, objective, unbiased assessment of the situation that merited a personal foul call…

The referee reached into his pocket, withdrew his yellow hanker chief weighted by a roll of pennies and…

The Norman safety ran into the end zone and spiked the ball. His teammates followed him and embraced each other and celebrated the miracle play and good fortune, but they heard the Saxon crowd begin to cheer and they instantly knew something was amiss. They turned back toward the original line of scrimmage and their fears were realized when they spotted the yellow flag and they spotted the skinny-armed, villainous referee whom they now cursed, and they spotted their arch-nemesis Brock McGuinn, now up on his knees, tufts of mud and grass stuck in his facemask and a shit-eating grin scrawled across his face.

“Unnecessary roughness!” shouted the president with unrestrained glee. “Fifteen yard penalty! Fuck you Normans!”

The skinny-armed referee announced the call and the crowd went into a frenzy of approval. The chubby Norman coach protested and spiked his headset to no avail. The ball was moved to the twenty five yard line. There were thirty two seconds left in the game.

The Saxons called three halfback dives in succession, forcing the Normans to use their timeouts. With twenty one seconds left, the pot-bellied Saxon kicker pranced out onto the field in his spotless uniform. The teams took their pre-snap positions. The crowd fell silent, meditating on the field goal that would secure victory. The long snapper snapped the ball. The holder plucked it from the air and set it on the ground. The kicker approached, planted his left foot and unleashed his coiled right leg. The ball launched toward the center of the uprights, over the outstretched hands of the desperate defense. The kick started out true. The crowd’s roar built. But then the ball started to fade left. The crowd roared louder, as if they might will it through the uprights with their screams. The ball tumbled, hooking toward the left post it…

The screen went totally dark…

“What the fuck is going on?” screamed the POTUS.

The cabinet members stared at each other and at the blackened screen in confusion. Then the page poked his head into the situation room.

“Mr. President, you have a call on the bat line.”

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