Warning Miracle

 

 

 

 

 

  by John Klee

the beginning of...

 

Chapter 2

 

 

 

             A couple of days later, after he had returned from his trip to California, Dexter was driving home from picking up an ink cartridge at an office supply store.  He had just gotten on Route 315, heading south toward Grandview.  Of all the freeways in Columbus, 315 was Dexter’s favorite.  He had unofficially dubbed it “The Woody,” in honor of Woody Hayes, the legendary Ohio State football coach.  Dexter thought it only reasonable to give the freeway that name, since it ran through the Ohio State University campus, passing no more than a quarter-mile from Ohio Stadium itself.  Dexter’s mind began to wander as he began to weigh Ohio State’s chances at another national championship this year.  If only that quarterback can learn to scramble outside the pocket a little better and if only---wait a second, thought Dexter.  What’s that smell?  I know I’ve smelled that before.  Is that smoke coming from under the hood?


 

            “Awww, nooo!” said Dexter aloud.  “Not now!  C’mon!”  He slowed the car and pulled to the side of the highway, just as the dashboard warning lights began to come on.  He wasted no time in shutting off the engine and raising the hood.

 

            “Dog-gone-it!  I hope it’s not the radiator!  Man, I just had the hoses replaced on this!”

 

            He was shuffling around the front of the car, trying to look at the engine through the smoke when he realized he ought to call a tow truck on his cell phone.  He reached into his pocket, only to remember he had left it at home to recharge.

 

            “What else can go wrong?” he rhetorically asked the car.  He looked past the car and saw a taxi coming down the freeway.  Without a moment’s hesitation, he stepped to the edge of the road and frantically waved his arms.

 

            “Yo!  Taxi!  Hey!”

……

 

            Thad Rankin slowed as he saw the man gesturing to him by the side of the road.  Must be late for an appointment, he thought.  He stopped his taxi on the side of the freeway and carefully began to back up.  At five-foot ten and one-hundred eighty pounds, Thad was beginning to look like the typical taxi-driver.  Over the past year he had added a small potbelly to his profile, which he disdainfully referred to as “the Stum.”  Blessed with thick black hair and JFK looks, he was often questioned by his passengers as to his “other job.”  Somehow Thad didn’t seem to fit the image most riders expected of a cabbie.  The fact was that, although Thad thoroughly enjoyed the cabbie life, he didn’t plan on making it a career.  He had developed an acute case of insomnia a few years ago and was forced to put his real career on hold.  His doctors had told him that he should avoid the high-pressure engineering jobs he had held and pursue something a little more “bucolic,” to use their expression.  Consequently Thad had drifted from job to job until he “discovered” the job of taxi driver.  He immediately liked the work and had been doing it for over a year now.  He knew someday he would return to aerospace engineering, his “first love,” but until then, he was quite satisfied to live the cabbie lifestyle.

 

            Thad stopped the cab and climbed out.

 

            “Man, am I glad to see you!” Dexter said as Thad walked toward his car.

 

            “No problem,” said Thad.  “I’m not on a call right now, so I’m available.  What seems to be the problem?  Radiator burst?”

 

            “I’m not really sure…I just had the hoses replaced a couple months ago…”  Dexter stopped and tilted his head back slightly.  “Hey, you’re that guy that gave me a ride to the airport a few days ago.”

 

            Thad looked puzzled for a moment and pressed his lips together.  “Uhh, let’s see…you were in Arlington, was it?”

 

            “Grandview.”

 

            “Oh, yeah, Grandview!  Now I remember--hey, did you read that pamphlet I gave you--the one about Garabandal?”

 

            A sheepish look crossed Dexter’s face.  “Not really, I’ve been sort of busy lately.”

 

            “My name’s Thad Rankin, by the way,” said Thad, holding out his hand.

 

            “Nice to meet you…I’m Dexter Griffith.”  They shook hands.

 

            “About that brochure--you seemed so interested in it then,” said Thad.

 

            “Yeah, maybe I was…uhh, look, I really need to get going.”  He turned toward his car and abruptly stopped.  “What am I thinking?” he said.  He walked over to Thad.    “Why don’t I just use your cell phone?  I can call a tow-truck and ride with him.  My mechanic’s place is a few blocks from my house.”

 

            “Oh,” said Thad, showing a hint of disappointment.  “I suppose you’re right.  Here you are.”  He handed his phone to Dexter.

 

           Dexter arranged for a wrecker to come, handed the phone back to Thad and thanked him for his time.  “Here,” he said, reaching for his wallet, “let me give you something for your trouble.”

            “N-n-n-no,” replied Thad, brightening somewhat as a mischievous grin spread across his face.  “I know just how you can repay me.”  He reached back for his wallet and pulled out a business card.  “Here.  Take this.”  He placed the card in Dexter’s hand.  “Talk to this man--call him up.  He’s my cousin.”

 

            “Huuhhh?” asked Dexter, reading the card.  “‘Father Matt Rankin.’”  Why would I want to talk to him?  Is he a preacher or something?”

            “He can explain that brochure I gave you, all that stuff that happened in Spain.”

 

            “Hey, I appreciate it, but you’ve got the wrong guy.”  Dexter held out the card for Thad to take.  “I’m really not interested, but I appreciate your help.”

 

            “A deal’s a deal,” said Thad, backing away from Dexter’s outstretched hand.  “At least think about it.  Keep the card for now.  And, while I’m at it…”   He pulled a different card out of his pocket and also put it in Dexter’s hand.  “Take my card as well.  If you ever need a taxi you can call my cell phone.”

 

            “Whatever.”  Dexter shoved the cards into his pocket and waved goodbye to Thad.  “See ya!”

 

            “Okay!  Hope your car is okay.”

 

            Thad drove away and Dexter only had to wait another ten minutes before the tow-truck arrived.

 

 

*********************************

 

 

            “Parakeet twenty-eight, hike, HIKE!”  Kevin Conaway took the snap from under center and ran left.  The Ohio State football team had been practicing the option since the beginning of fall camp, but they weren’t quite adept at it yet.  Kevin looked for Jason Manera and--where the heck was Jason!?

 

            The coach’s whistle blew and Kevin threw the football into the ground.  “Son of a gun, Jason!” he yelled.  “This is the option, for Pete’s sake!  Where were you?”

 

            “Sorry, man,” said Jason, running up to his quarterback.  “I got a little confused.”

 

            “That’ll be all,” said Dan Panaski, OSU’s head coach.  “Let’s try it again…mistakes will be made.  Jason, you with the program now?”

 

            “I’m all over it, coach!  Sorry about that; I just got distracted.”

 

            They ran the play again and this time it went picture perfect.  Jason managed to gain 15 yards, even though he was up against Ohio State’s legendary first-team defense, and even though the defense knew what to expect.
           

            “Good deal!  Good deal!” said Panaski, clapping his hands along with the rest of the OSU coaching staff.  “Take five, guys!  Conaway, I want to talk to you for a minute.”

 

            Kevin jogged over to get a few pointers from the head coach.  He was all of six-foot, four and 227 pounds, and he looked exactly like what a college quarterback was supposed to look like.  Kevin’s close shaven red hair, intelligent-looking green eyes, and chiseled face spoke of a youthful vigor tempered by a mature wisdom which helped him be the leader he was on the field.  Affectionately known as the “Red Baron”--for his aerial prowess with the football--Kevin mixed well with his troops and was surprisingly competent in his schoolwork, much to the relief of the coaches.

 

            Head coach Dan Panaski gave Kevin a few pointers on the intricacies of running the option.  It had been a first for OSU when Panaski introduced the option at the beginning of this season since Ohio State had long been known for its formidable running game.  Granted the quarterback didn’t have to choose the passing option, but there were signs so far this season that OSU might actually start putting the ball in the air more often.  And so far this season things were looking very much up in the one statistic that mattered: the win-loss record.  The fact was that the Buckeyes were still undefeated and it was the second week in October.  Their record of six and oh put them at the number three spot in the national rankings and Columbus was astir with memories of the fabled 2002 National Championship team which went 14 and oh and set a benchmark for Buckeyes around the country and especially in good ol’ “C-town.”  Not a week went by this fall without some zealous sportswriter proclaiming in The Columbus Dispatch that the ghosts of championships past were in town again and ready to visit the dear old village on the banks of the Olentangy and Scioto Rivers with yet another national title.
 

            Squarely at the center of the gathering maelstrom was none other than Kevin Conaway, the standout Buckeye quarterback who had come to the spotlight a year earlier when he stepped in for an injured teammate during the Michigan game and engineered a come-from-behind victory over “the people from that state that begins with the letter after ‘L’” as his dad was wont to say.  Yes, Kevin Conaway seemed destined for this season since his youth.  He had been a star player at Lakewood Saint Ed’s High School in Cleveland, Ohio and chose to attend Ohio State over such other high profile places as Miami, Tennessee, and USC.  Now in his senior year, he had been backup quarterback for the last three seasons, and was putting all his doubters to shame.  It was always the same story each of the previous seasons:  some upperclassman was just a smidgen better.  Not enormously better, but just enough to convince the coaches that it wasn’t quite Kevin’s year yet.  But this season, all the keys were tuned in Kevin’s piano and he was giving Buckeye Nation the best recital they’d heard in a while.

 

            “So wait for the running back to get outside the pocket before you leave the pocket.  Got it?” Coach Panaski was saying.

 

            “Right,” said Kevin.  “But what if there’s a blitz?  I can’t just sit there and wait.  Right?”

 

            “If there’s a blitz, roll out of the pocket and look for open receivers.  Remember, it’s called ‘blitz’ for a reason.  You should always have a way out if everyone else is doing their job the way they’re supposed to.”

 

            “Got it.”

 

            “Another thing,” said Ed Rebaugh, the quarterbacks coach, gesturing to Kevin.  “Don’t be afraid to run the ball yourself on the option.  That’s the beauty of this play! There are really about three or four options you can choose from, when it comes down to it.”

 

            “But, Coach Rebaugh,” said Tom Romasco, one of the reserve quarterbacks, “I would think the running back has the best chance at any positive yardage, since the defense is going to know just about immediately what’s up.”


 

            “That’s true,” said Coach Rebaugh, “but don’t give the defense too much credit yet.  I’ll have to show you some game tape from one of Penn State’s games earlier this year.  Purdue ran the option against them four times, and Penn State only picked up on it once.”  OSU was playing Penn State on Saturday and the Buckeyes weren’t really sure what to expect, since the Nittany Lions had a new coach this year.  Joe Paterno had retired at the end of the previous season, having set a win record that probably wouldn’t be surpassed anytime soon.

 

            “Yeah, I would like to see that sometime,” said Tom.  “Maybe tomorrow; I’ve got a midterm to study for tonight.”

 

            “Sounds good,” said Coach Rebaugh.  “You should look at it, too,” he said to Kevin.

 

            “Will do, Coach.”

 

            The team ran a few more plays before calling it a day.  Kevin caught a ride back to his apartment with Chad Walling, one of the tight ends, an old friend from his high school days.

 

            “Did you see that thing in the paper about the prisoner asking the judge to let him stay in the county jail?” Chad asked Kevin as they climbed into Chad’s Ford.

 

            “No, I didn’t.”

 

            “This guy who was convicted of some robbery or something doesn’t want to miss our game this Saturday, so he asked the judge who sentenced him to let him stay in the county jail over the weekend because he‘ll be able to see the game there on TV.  I guess if they transfer him Friday to some holding tank, he‘d miss the game because the holding tank doesn‘t have any TVs.”

 

            “And…?” asked Kevin as he buckled his seat belt.

 

            “The judge said ‘okay’!  Wild, huh?”

 

            “If you think that’s crazy, did I ever tell you the story, or maybe ‘legend,’ might be the better word, that my uncle told me?”

 

            “I don’t think so.”

 

            “Similar situation, but this was about the OSU-Michigan game…happened in the 60s.  That game saved some guy’s life!

 

            “Huh?” asked Chad.


 

            “No kidding!  My uncle told me this when I was in grade school.  There was this convict who was scheduled to be executed on the Friday before the Michigan game.  He had protested his innocence all along, but to no avail.  He petitions the judge to move the execution to the Monday after the Michigan game.  The judge agrees and the execution is rescheduled--I guess it was right down here, near downtown.  There used to be a penitentiary there, I think.  So the guy gets to see the game on TV, which was rare in those days.  He watches the game on TV on Saturday, then, on Sunday, the day after the game, some scuba divers find a car in the Scioto River, a car which turned out to be the supposed murder weapon used by the guy on death row.”

 

            “Someone has actually scuba-dived in that river?”

 

            “I’m just telling you what I heard,” said Kevin.  “Anyway, as the story goes, this guy killed his girlfriend’s ‘other’ boyfriend by running his car into him on a bridge over the Scioto River.  The accused man said he slid on some ice and his brakes failed, but witnesses said it looked very much like the guy meant to kill the victim.  Anyway, the death row guy’s car, after hitting the victim, went off the bridge and into the river.  The accused was able to jump clear and landed on the ice on the river.  The car, meanwhile, crashed through the ice and disappeared.  Police couldn’t search for the car because of the ice which completely covered the river.  The death row man told the court that his brakes had failed and he accidentally hit the pedestrian.  The plaintiff’s lawyer, however, had made the point that this guy’s brakes had just happened to fail just when his ‘nemesis’ had just happened to be walking across the bridge.  It was also pointed out in the trial that the accused had a history of arrests for fighting, so in the end, the jury convicted him of vehicular homicide.  In the following spring, when the ice had melted the police had searched for the car in the river, but to no avail.  But then on the Sunday after the Michigan game, police divers were searching the river for the body of a missing girl and they happened upon the death row guy’s car.  After it was pulled from the river, the authorities examined the brakes and, lo and behold, they found that the brake lines were indeed ruptured and the accused was telling the truth.  So, the OSU-Michigan game was responsible for saving someone’s life!”

 

            “Cosmic, man!” said Chad.  “I’d never heard that; when did it happen?”

 

            “My uncle said it happened in the 60s; I never did get the exact year.”

 

            “I’ll have to remember that.  Speaking of court trials, you still thinking about law school, Kevin?”

 

            Thinking would be the key word there,” replied Kevin, looking out the right side window.

 

            “Oh, come on, dude!  You and I both know there’re things called deadlines!  You seriously telling me you haven’t put in any applications anywhere?”

 

            “I’m not seriously telling you anything right now.”

 

            “Huh?”

 

            “I’m a little preoccupied with the team, right now, Chad.  I really don’t have much time for law school.”

 

            “The ‘bull detector’ is picking up some indications, I think--by the way, you like the style of that Architecture building?” Chad pointed to the right.

 

            “It’s decent, I suppose,” said Kevin, “although I prefer the style of the Admin building a little better.”

 

            “Yeah, anyway, uh, I was saying…oh, yeah!  Look, where there’s a will there’s a way.  You should be applying to Harvard, Yale, and all that stuff.”

 

            “I know, I know,” sighed Kevin.


            “Or are you really thinking about the pros?  You think you can make it through the combine okay?”

 

            “Uhh…well--I suppose,” stammered Kevin.  “That’s always a possibility.  Coach Panaski seems to think--”  He broke off in midsentence, remembering something.

 

            “What?” asked Chad.

 

            Kevin said nothing, lost in thought.

 

            “Hellooo?!!”

 

            “Oh, yeah,” said Kevin, giving a quick shake of his head.  “Yeah, Coach Panaski says I could probably go at least second round.  That’s--sort of...why I’m not applying to law school right away.  And even if I don’t go into the pros, I still might--” He glanced over at Chad.

 

            “Go on.”  Chad pointed to the left.  “Hey, can I go east on Northwood?  I’ve been here four years and I still can’t get these one-way streets down.”

 

            “Yeah, you can.  That’s the fastest way from here.  Turn left on Waldeck.”

 

            Chad gave Kevin a knowing look.  “Wait a minute…you’re not still thinking of flying jets in the military, are you?”

 

            Kevin quickly shook his head.  “No, no, no.  That went out about two years ago.  But I still think I…”  His voice trailed off and he looked out the window again.

 

            “Kevin: we’ve been friends for ten years.  Spit it out, dude!  What?”

 

            Kevin hesitated momentarily, then quickly spoke.  “I promised Anne that if we win the National Championship, I‘ll marry her right after graduation.”

 

            Chad opened his mouth and looked over at Kevin.  “You’re serious?  Huh?  I haven’t heard you talk about that for over a year now.  To be perfectly honest, I thought that went out the last time you broke up with her.”

 

            “Right, right,” said Kevin, nodding his head.  “There are still some technical details to work out.”

 

            Technical details?” asked Chad.  “You call marrying a beauty like Anne a technical detail?

 

            “Well, I don’t know if she took it the right way.”

 

            “What did she say?”

 

            “Well, you know how women are.  She acted like she approved, but there’s been little things…”

 

            “Little things?”

 

            “Yeah, like, uh,” Kevin scratched his head.  “I think she’s been taking a little longer than usual to return my phone calls…stuff like that.”

 

            “Well, dude, you know, it is a tad ‘ass-skew.’  Women don’t take kindly to being treated like trophies.”

 

            “‘Trophy wife’ I believe is the term they use, right?”

 

            “Exactly, Kevin!  Maybe you ought to tell Anne you’ll marry her regardless of how the team does this season.”  Chad stopped the car in front of Kevin’s apartment building.

 

            “But maybe I’m not sure I want to marry her.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

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