You could come across a forty foot whale in the middle of the dessert and that still wouldn’t count as the biggest fish out of water story of the year. That honour belongs to Lance Scuttlebutt.
As far as unfortunate names go, Lance Scuttlebutt could lay claim to that title as well. There is nothing manly about a name like Lance, or Scuttlebutt for that matter. Heaven knows he tried to be macho when he was growing up, but Lance was better at solving physics equations than he was at playing sports, asking out the popular girls in school, or partying.
But that didn’t stop him from saying yes when the maintenance manager at work asked if he wanted to come over Sunday and watch football. It was the championship game, the won that would decide it all and everyone was going to Rick’s party, including the very lovely Eliana Degrassi. Lance never knew that urban planners could be sexy. Heck, up until the day Eliana joined the ranks down at City Hall he didn’t even know they could be female, but Eliana brought his thinking into the new millenium. He worshipped her intellect, appreciated her quirky sense of humour, respected her work ethic, and was entranced by her beauty. He kept his interactions with her strictly professional; after all, he didn’t want to known as that guy. Still, he couldn’t help but to fantasize that if he could somehow came across as an expert on football, he would win her love.
“Hi, you must be from Rick’s work,” said his wife as she answered the door. “Everyone’s in the man cave. Go on down.”
The Man Cave, Lance thought to himself. Of course a macho guy like Rick has a man cave. I’ll likely find an eighty-eight inch projection screen, theatre seating and surround sound when I get down there as well.
He did. He also found the buffet table where everyone had placed the dishes and beverages they had brought. There was nachos, wings, pizza, subs, and chili from one end of the table to the next, broken up only by six packs of beer, cases of pop, plus bottles of vodka, gin and whiskey. Lance barely had room for his veggie tray and bottle of chardonnay.
“Thanks for the veggie tray Lance,” his host said sarcastically. “That’s just what this party was missing – chunks of broccoli on a bed of kale. You got here just in time to pick your squares for the pool. Five bucks will get you three.”
“What am I picking?” Lance asked. “How many homeruns I think the players will hit?”
Rick looked at Lance unsure of whether or not he was talking to a total idiot or to someone who maybe had already enjoyed a few libations.
“Just go over there and write your name down on any three squares. It doesn’t matter.”
Lance did as he was told and then immediately took the first empty seat he could find. As luck would have it, it was right next to Eliana.
“Hi, Lance,” she said. “Big fan of football, are you?”
“Absolutely,” he lied.
To cover up his lie, he made a point to cheer when everyone else cheered, to boo when they booed, and to say things such as “I know, right?” anytime someone cursed one of the referees. All he had to do was blend into the background and no one would discover he didn’t belong. But of course, nothing ever goes according to plan, now does it?
“Who had 7 and 3 for a square?” Rick asked at the end of the first quarter.
“I think Lance!” one of the party goers shouted.
“Here’s your twenty bucks, buddy,” Rick then said. “Care to wager that on how many times you think Denver’s quarterback will get sacked in the next quarter?”
“How can he throw the ball if he’s tied up in a sack?” Lance asked.
“That’s engineer humour, isn’t it?” Rick asked.
“Um, yeah. I’ll just hold on to my twenty.”
Half time came with Denver up 31-20.
“Who has the 1 and 0 square?” Rick asked.
“I believe I do,” Lance replied.
“Well, look at you…Mr. Football. What did you think of that Hail Mary right before the clock ran out?”
The only thing Lance knew about Hail Mary’s was what his confession-going Catholic friends had told him.
“It was…good?” he said with hesitation.
“There was no Hail Mary pass. I just made that up. Do you even know anything about football?” Rick asked.
Sensing he was in trouble, Eliana jumped up and declared she was hungry.
“I hear there’s a veggie tray and a bottle of chardonnay somewhere here. Thank God! All of this heavy food is too much for me. I brought a fruit tray if you’d like to join me at the buffet table, Lance.”
Lance very much wanted to join Eliana at the buffet table. Together they skipped the half time show featuring the latest pop star who liked to let her boobs her hang out, and they missed the fact that Lance had the winning square at the end of the third quarter, and the winning square at the end of the fourth quarter. They were too busy talking and discovering all the things they had in common to care, including the fact that neither one of them actuallly liked football.
“Here’s the rest of your money, Lance,” Rick said at the end of the game. “Thanks for coming.”
“Wow, a hundred dollars!” Lance said as he and Eliana were heading for the door. “That would buy a nice dinner. Say, I know of this really great Indian restaurant if you’d like to join me. I mean, if you like Indian food.”
“It looks like we have something else in common, Mr. Scuttlebutt. I’d love to.”
Lance and Eliana never attended another football related event ever again, but they did attend lots of other events together, always remembering to bring a fruit tray and a veggie tray for their host.