The Marked Field

Carl L. Biemiller's The Marked Field appeared in
Blue Book Magazine
October 1949, Vol. 89, No. 6

Please respect the copyright.

Chapter One Chapter Two Chapter Three Chapter Four Chapter Six
Chapter Seven Chapter Eight Chapter Nine Chapter Ten Chapter Eleven
Chapter Twelve Chapter Thirteen Chapter Fourteen Chapter Fifteen Chapter Sixteen
Chapter Seventeen Chapter Eighteen Chapter Nineteen Chapter Twenty Chapter Twenty One
Chapter Twenty Two Harvest of Memories Biemiller Home


The field-house locker-room had a cozy quality not yet indigenous to the newer, larger, less-used facilities of the big stadium which the squad overran for games only. Time had had more opportunity to coat its bilious green walls with the aura of male sweat, wintergreen rubbing oil and shower-room steam. The newer concessions to male hygiene—a foot spray device designed to prevent athlete’s foot, and a whirl bath designed for the hydraulic massage of tender muscles—sparkled with a chrome incongruity.

A bank of tilted rubbing-tables, the exclusive province of old Dan Dooney, Central’s trainer, lined a third wall. Old Dan, a slight, stooped figure with a pair of enormous hands, had worked out charley-horses for three generations of Central football players. He dabbled in liniments and probed sore muscles. He was an expert analyst of grunts, knowing exactly how much good or evil he was accomplishing at any given task by interpretation of the soul fiber which accompanied the grunts of his subject. Old Dan also had a sterling reputation as a student of hair; wherever it grew thickest, that was where the adhesive tape went.

Old Dan was analyzing grunts as the squad filled the room at the end of practice. The grunts were being prodded from Ike Berg, two hundred pounds of regular guard. Between grunts, Berg was holding a noisy conversation with Ab Reichen, another lineman. “I don’t know what the hell from these guys,” he said. “The dirty bastard tells me what he’s got in mind—me a father in two months—I told him to go to hell. Shaw don’t win this conference with fairies.”

Reichen listened reflectively, scooping a pellet of turf from his navel. “They’re supposed to get inside your mind. It’s all sex with those jokers, like the psychos in the Army.”

Dane was tired. He leaned against the locker door and let the swirl of talk flow around him. The squad’s psychoanalysis, held the previous afternoon, was a dominant subject. Rodrigues and Schwartz, two junior backs, both of whom ran from the halfback spot Dane wanted, were yanking jerseys over each other’s head beside him. “How’d you make out with all the word-association tests?” quizzed Schwartz. “Can you believe in God and be a Communist? How often do you daydream? Oh, brother! “Heave the damn’ thing, will you? You got me wrapped like a cocoon.”

Dane stirred. “Hey,” he said. “Help me with mine, will you, Roddy?”

“Lean up, Dipper. You dead? How ‘bout a coke downtown?”

“Can’t said Dane, “and neither can you. Tod Morgan wants the backs to hang around a half-hour after we dress. There’s a notice on the board. He wants to chart a new sequence for our play books.”

Football under John Shaw was something more than a casual game. Every member of the squad owned a loose-leaf notebook that bulged with such mimeographed instruction as “How to play guard” “What to do with a 5-3-2 defense” “The technique of L-blocking, cross-shoulder blocks, and downfield brush-blocks.” The notebooks also held individually charted assignments for each particular player on every Shaw play. One of Shaw’s famous quotes succinctly stated the reason for his play books. “Dumb guys don’t play ball for me.”

“Let’s hit the water, then,” said Schwartz. He yipped shrilly.

It was the horseplay, the old to-hell-with-it, that made this game worth-while, thought Dane, the water streaming down his back in the open shower-room. But it wasn’t quite the kid stuff any more. He could hear Sapio and Jeffers, hidden across the tiled room in steam, arranging a bridge game with their wives for the evening. Both of them lived in trailers on the fringe of Bakerston, as did Berg; both had served in the same outfit overseas, and were back in school with G.I. funds which they fattened with athletic-sponsored jobs. The G.I. guys were thinning from college squads, as they were thinning from the campuses of the land, and the legit kids were replacing them. But Central had its share. Dane wasn’t the only “old man” playing football. Blackhern, a lineman, was thirty and had two kids.

Dane cocked a water-logged ear at something Piskoti and Wienstock were discussing at his left. “So it’s a week to the Clinton game, and the jerks from Iron City are down here figuring odds and points already. Shaw will have your uniform if you talk to them, though, and bang goes your scholarship! They tell me a guy can pick up a hundred a week just supplying squad dope, injuries, and that kind of stuff. They don’t ask you for anything crooked. No throw-the-game jokes—they know better; but that inside information helps them trim a million suckers. You wait—I bet a sawbuck you’ll be combing those guys outta your hair. I also bet you John Shaw crosses ‘em at least twice this season on points. They hate his guts.”

Dane pushed the water from his hair with a useless gesture and left the shower room. Randy Perkins, first-string quarterback, stopped him. “I was looking for you,” he said. “C’mon in this corner a minute.”

“Let me get dried off.”

Ah, to hell with it! I want to show you something.” Randy yelled down the room: “Hey, heave me that ball a minute.” A student manager pitched it up, and Perkins took it in a one-hand grab as smooth and unconscious as breathing.

Dane had never seen a quarterback fake a ball like Perkins. The guy was as devious as a Politburo poker session. A dark, rangy senior, playing his last season for Central, he had worked, polished and honed his motions under the center until Shaw himself couldn’t tell when he had finally committed the ball. He took a magicians’ delight in hoaxing the opposition, and he needled every other back on the squad until they at least caught the rudiments of his magic.

They stood naked in a quiet eddy within the corner of the room. “Look, now,” said Perkins eagerly. “When you take that hand-off on 63-play, don’t lift your elbow for me. Your natural running motion will lift that arm enough for me to slide it to you. Right now you’re conscious of the play, and you’ll tip it sure as hell if you try to make me a bucket for the ball. Don’t even pull your outside hand up. When that agate goes in, you’ll automatically squeeze down on it. You stop worrying. I’ve watched you run, and as long as you take your right steps before breaking for the hole, we can slick this down so your own mother won’t know you’ve got that ball…. Wait a minute.” Randy looked down the room. “Peterson,” he shouted. “you’re supposed to be a center. Here a minute.”

“I appreciate this,” said Dane warmly.

“The hell with that,” grinned Perkins. “You’ll appreciate it a lot more when you go all the way for a score some sunny day against State.” He turned to Peterson, a grimacing, sweating, naked figure. “You’ll get your bath, but right now I want to show Dipper something. Snap this a time or two, will you?”

“I ain’t handed you that thing enough today!” growled the center. “I got to give it to you all night too.” He winked at Dane.

They moved in the corner like a Greek frieze of some nude Olympian ballet, walking through the play. “You see what I mean?” asked Perkins. “Even when you walk, you swing your arms. You gotta—everybody does. Now, when you jog a little, the arm comes up more. Got it?”

It was the detail, thought Dane, the everlasting picayune pecking at detail that made Perkins so good, made all Shaw teams as good as the material would allow.

“Okay,” grunted Peterson. “I quit. I had it. Work the rest out tomorrow.” He tossed the ball down, and watched it bounce into a puddle near the shower-room door. “Fumble!” he yelled, and laughed as a half-dozen heads came up in automatic response.

Dane went back into the showers; he got wet and thus warmed briefly, he emerged and toweled. He finished dressing, looked up and caught Shaw’s eye. The big man was standing in the doorway of the short corridor led from the locker-room to his office. He had been surveying the room, a faint smile on his face. It was still there as Dane’s eyes met his glance. It vanished. Shaw gestured, and Dane walked over to him.

“Your friend Connor wants you to meet him in Iron City tonight.” There was an irritable bite in the big man’s voice which Dane found unusual, and at variance with the long-disciplined patience of the man. “After the meeting with Morgan will be time enough,” he continued.

Dane’s glance was as good as a flat question.

“It seems that you are in tonight’s paper in a cute little story by Sally Whittaker. She makes a reference to your hopes for making my number one halfback spot, goes on to say that you are delighted at the opportunity of playing for me, that you think so much of the squad in general that you even came up with her to get a picture of Rogalski and his brother so some of the team could write to his parents and express sympathy, and that this is the old Central spirit.”

“So I gambled,” said Dane evenly, “and was right on the picture. Because she was curious, and because I couldn’t tell her anything, she slides this in to prove to me that she realizes that a thing so unimportant certainly could be published.”

“That’s about it. But you’re only playing football for me. You’re working for Connor, for something even more important than Connor; and from my limited words with him awhile ago, he thinks you’ve upset the wagon.”

Dane felt a warm glow at the base of his neck. “Lets wait for him to tell me, shall we?” He regretted the words as soon as they left his lips.

Shaw’s face grew wooden. “Sure,” he said somberly. “I think I’d duck Sally Whittaker for a while, though. You can duck the play session too. I’ll see that you get sheets. Go over them when you get time.”

The Dipper took a half pivot step away and paused. “I’ll check with you later.”

“Do,” said the big man crisply.

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Chapter One Chapter Two Chapter Three Chapter Four Chapter Six
Chapter Seven Chapter Eight Chapter Nine Chapter Ten Chapter Eleven
Chapter Twelve Chapter Thirteen Chapter Fourteen Chapter Fifteen Chapter Sixteen
Chapter Seventeen Chapter Eighteen Chapter Nineteen Chapter Twenty Chapter Twenty One
Chapter Twenty Two Harvest of Memories Biemiller Home