Cut Down Daze
by Marc Shapiro
Eddie Bristol. Wide Receiver. College: Biloxi State. In big bold letters surrounding a striking photo of Eddie doing the Heisman pose.
That’s how Eddie imagined his rookie card would look.
Eddie punctuated his dream by taking a drag on a tepid bit of third rate brew. He was alone at the bar. He had gotten there early. The last cuts by the NFL San Francisco ‘Niners would be made later in the day. That’s when the Cut Down Bar and Grill would really fill up.
The Cut Down was a legend in the dark side of pro football circles. If a player was cut and could prove it, the house bought the first round. After that, you were on your own. It was a good business move on the part of the Cut Down. Because players cut at the end of training camp, watching their lives disintegrate into a puddle of abject failure, were notorious for closing the bar.
Eddie resigned himself to the fact that, as an undecorated rookie, he had made it through camp with some fairly good reviews. Some of the local rags were even predicting that he might have a shot at starting once the regular season began. But four hours before he wandered into the Cut Down, the axe fell.
The coach had been decent about it. He had been just a half step slow. His competition was high caliber, big money draft picks coddled by super agents. If anybody asked, he would put in a good word for him. Then there was that deadening, uncomfortable silence. A silence that said don’t let the door hit you on the way out.
Eddie tossed down the rest of his brew and ordered another. This one was on him. It was going to be a long night.
His thoughts went to his family. He had not broken the news to them yet. How could he tell them that their meal ticket had flown the coup? Dad would be pissed. For years their relationship had been based solely on his living his failed life through his son. Mom would be upset but not so much as she had long ago gotten used to doing without. The rest of the clan was in jail, high or running the streets. They were used to being cut.
His inner pity party was interrupted by the scrape of chairs and the clinking of glass. It was Fred settling into a corner table. Defensive Tackle. A big tub of rolling fat and lard. His extremely slow and ungainly four hundred pounds had kept him in camp more as a joke than anything approaching even marginal skills. Finally, when the laughs stopped, Fred was dealt the death blow. He ordered a beer and what looked like half a cow between two buns. The beer was gone in half a dozen gulps. The burger, about half of that. Eddie mentally rolled his eyes as Fred ordered up the same again. Fred had it better than most. At least his parents back in Midwest sharecropper hell would welcome him home with open arms. There had to be somebody to pull the plow.
Eddie’s mental eulogy over Fred was suddenly interrupted by a busty blonde sidling up on the bar stool next to him. She ordered her freebee. She was a cut. Eddie was curious. As it turned out, misery loves company and so they struck up a conversation. Her name was Halo. She had been a cheerleader going into what she thought would be a second season waving her pom-poms for a fat fifty dollars a game. Halo had coppered her most valuable cheerleader bet by sleeping with most of the running backs and half of the defensive line. But when she slept with the team owner and he was suddenly diagnosed with an STD, her services were suddenly no longer needed.
Eddie sipped his beer and clucked sympathetically. He ordered Halo another on him. He had thought about making some moves. But now all he could think about was mentally moving down a couple of bar stools.
Eddie finally reached alcohol capacity, paid his tab and, after offering a drunken bow and an insincere “Good luck” to the by now full bar, he wandered out into the night where he passed the time staggering through the parking lot looking for his rental, pissing against somebody’s high end Benz and thinking about the future. He could move to Los Angeles and live by his wits. Maybe he’d play the horses. Maybe he’d become an actor. Maybe he’d write a novel.
Eddie’s phone suddenly went off in his pants. Not the kind of charge he usually hoped for. It was his agent. Eddie thought he was about to cut him as well. Why not? Twenty-five percent of nothing is still nothing. He did not expect what came next.
The ‘ Niners had a change of heart. He was still out with the team but a spot had suddenly opened up on the practice squad. It was seven thousand a week and it would keep him around for at least one season. The gods had smiled. So did Eddie.
Eddie turned around and staggered back into the Cut Down Bar and Grill. He slammed open the door with a flourish, looked around drunkenly triumphant and bought a round for the house.
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Marc Shapiro is a big fan of professional football and thinks the late writer Charles Bukowski walks on water. So he decided to mix and match with this story. Also check out his short story Dose in two anthologies from the same publisher, Deadman’s Tome: Horrgasm and Deadman’s Tome: The Book Of Horror II