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 Five
Chapter Six Chapter Seven 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


Central’s gym house, the site of the university’s basketball and hockey games and swimming meets, was a huge square building set on the east side of the campus. Ivy climbed its stonewalls and made a home for innumerable small birds which town moppets, shouting in the summer dusk, flushed into twittering confusion with pebbles. The place needed paint, thought Shaw, passing through its entrance into the echoing emptiness of the steel-girdered basketball court. The seats surrounding the court, which could accommodate some five thousand round-ball fans, were worn smooth. One of these fine days they’d need a new building, and that would be another headache for the big man to cope with as the athletic director. Football revenue, source of the main support, for most of the minor sports, was on the ebb. They’d be lucky to play to four hundred thousand people this season. Radio income would hold as long as Shaw could hold the appeal of Central teams entrenched in the public mind. The last lease with the oil companies was worth one hundred thousand dollars to the university.

Shaw pondered a trend. Radio broadcasting had begun it, and now with television moving into the picture and with the major chains sewing up the nation’s leading universities, there might conceivably be a day when Central would play to only a handful of spectators in the big stadium; millions more would watch the game at home, getting it free through the courtesy of some national advertiser. Then what would be the difference between college football and a variety act? Show would separate the commercial value of a fine running back and a crooner? The game would belong to the advertisers. The big man smiled ruefully. He had a vision of some huckster offering a package deal which included three big games as a unit. There would be money in it for the board of regents and the university board, big money…but the game would go, and its traditions would die. The kids, however could be pros frankly and openly. Education itself would be an honest extra instead of a pseudo-prime purpose. He shuddered. What would stop some of the top commercial agencies in the talent field from representing a likely tackle?

He could hear a sample sales talk. “H’yare, Coach, one backfield unit, guaranteed eligible and all A-grade students for only $2500 a game…that includes a right and left-handed passer, and two guys good for five yards per average carry.” He grinned as he let his fancy run.

Dane was talking to Pipes Johnson in the basketball locker-room. Dane was flat on his back in his underwear on a flat leather-padded cot, with an old side-line blanket draped over him. Pipes, for years the custodian of the university boiler-room and the allied plumbing which game him his name, was a grizzled man with a back long bent from shoveling. There was no one else in the quiet room as Shaw entered.

“Step on it, Dipper,” grinned Shaw. “How are you, Pipes?”

“Fine, Mr. Shaw,” grunted Johnson. “Just keepin’ one of your boys amused. How’s the team?”

Dane slid off the cot with an easy motion, walked across the room to a locker and began to dress. He looked a little less pale, thought the big man. “The team? Oh fine, Pipes. We’ll win one or two, I guess. What are you doing away from your boilers?”

“I can get twenty points if I take Clinton,” said Pipes succinctly.

“Sucker bet,” grunted Shaw. “Iron City boys again?”

“Same bunch,” agreed Pipes sagely. “Anything from two-bit pool cards up—and all the local gossip they can get.”

“Ready when you are,” interrupted Dane, yanking on a sports coat. “If I need a tie, I’d better stop by the house.”

“Lend you one of mine,” said Shaw absently. “Let’s go—my kids will be hungry.”

Bakerston was quiet as Shaw drove the car from the driveway in front of the gym house. It was quiet with that small-town autumn hush comprised of blue evening mists and the faint tang of burning leaves. Lights in the house windows winked cheerfully as they passed Fraternity Row. On the western horizon the dark rolling hills were capped with a faint green-violet afterglow. The air held a fresh upland nip that in the months to come would sharpen to an icy bit. They rode in silence.

Dane was tired. Old Dan’s hands had left him limp and his nap had culminated in a restless semi-sleep which he had only been too glad to have Pipes interrupt. There was still the shadow of a small ache in his head. He wasn’t a bit hungry, yet he was aware of a vague hollowness. It was good of Shaw to invite him out to dinner.

The big man’s house was friendly, Dane decided, as Shaw wrenched into his driveway. It seemed odd to realize that it had been less than a month since he had first seen it or the Central campus.

“Oh, oh,” said the big man as he idled the car toward the back of the house and the left-hand door of his double garage. There was another car parked in the driveway to the right, a coupe that seemed half familiar to Eddie Dane. “We’ve got company,” continued Shaw. “That’s Sally Whittaker’s car, or did you know?”

Dane gazed steadily at the big man, felt a smile tug at the corners of his lips. He grinned, and there was an answering chuckle from the coach. “What the hell,” he said. “My dear wife Molly must have run into her. She was over in Iron City shopping today. But then Sally’s been running in and out of here for a coon’s age. She’s nuts about my kids, and she and Molly are pretty good friends. Come on, Dipper,” he added wryly. “I’ll give you a lesson in staying away from Miss Whittaker.”

Molly Shaw met them at the door. She kissed the big man soundly with frank pleasure. She shook hands with Dane with a pleased, open gesture. “Good to have you with us, Dipper,” she said. “John tells me you hand an accident.” She looked at him brightly. “I hope you’re feeling better. Frankly, it makes you look pale and interesting.”

Dane warmed to the friendly charm of this tall, slim comfortable woman. She owned an easy grace, a beauty that was not a matter of physical features, but a reflection of character. “It’s awfully nice of you to feed me, Mrs. Shaw,” he said “I hope it isn’t too much trouble for you. Coach says you’ve been shopping. That must cut a day up enough without adding dinner guests.”

She grinned. “You are a thoughtful lad, Dipper,” she said. “You’ll make some girl a docile husband some day. Not like mine. He glowers.”

“Who else is eating with us, Molly?” quizzed the big man gravely.

“Well, let’s go see, shall we? Or do you two want to stand here in the hallway all night?” She swept ahead of them, talking as she went. “I’m going to let you in on a big secret, Dipper. Coaches are not people, you know. They can’t do things like other humans. For instance, John Shaw doubtless annoys all of you boys with training rules, and to do that successfully he has to set an example of conduct. No smoking or drinking. But when John Shaw gets home. I sometimes allow him a big hooker of bourbon, which he seems to enjoy, just as the wife of this builder of youth enjoys a Martini. We’re going to have a drink, Dipper, and I have a nice cold glass of grapefruit juice for you.”

Dane grinned understandingly. “When they were bending me into uniform a few years ago,” he said, “I’d have screamed for some gin to go with that juice, Mrs. Shaw. But I get your point.”

Sally Whittaker was on the davenport, half concealed by the two Shaw youngsters, seven-year-old Terry and eight-year-old John. “I can’t get up, John,” she said, trying to pull her skirt down without moving young Terry. “This is the story hour, and I’m busy with a masterwork about a bear that hates honey. Hello Dipper.” Her face was flushed.

“Finish it, finish it,” yelled Terry. “You hurried too much, anyhow.”

“Well,” continued Sally, “there he was, right in the barrel of the stuff, and the only way he could keep from drowning was to eat fast as he could. So he ate honey. He ate honey until the bottom of the big barrel felt solid under his feet. By that time he decided that it tasted fine. He was beginning to like it—so he finished the rest of the barrel. Then, feeling so round and full he leaned against the side of the old thing and tilted it over.”

“Then he grunted,” cried John. “He made big grunts. Make some grunts, Sally.”

Dane could feel his grin reach from ear to ear, saw the same sort of smile rack the lines on John Shaw’s face. Sally grunted. “Louder,” insisted Terry. “Make a big grunt.” She complied, the flush in her cheeks growing redder. “Then the old bear waddled away in the woods to take a big nap. He never hated honey again. In fact, he spends most of his time following bees…. Now, you kids beat it. Go hug your daddy.”

“Tell me a story, Sally,” said John Shaw gently, reaching an arm for the children. “They ready to go up?” he asked his wife. “You guys fed?”

“Take ‘em away,” said Molly. “Bye, boys.” She busied herself with glasses on a tray as the big man, boy-laden, headed out of the room. “Hurry back, John.”

Dane eased himself into a chair. “Good to see you, Sally,” he said. “Meant to call you and say thanks for the publicity the other night.”

“Only he never got around to it,” flung Molly Shaw over her shoulder. “He took a nosedive on his own doorstep and cracked his head.”

Dane could feel Sally’s frank stare, and it made him uneasy for a moment. “It was a silly thing to do,” he muttered self-consciously. He wished Shaw would come back. Sally’s direct glance was suspicious, and he was tired. He couldn’t read the worry in her gaze, but Molly Shaw, turning with the glasses, caught it and gave it a surprised, womanly interpretation.

“Here’s your fruit juice, Dipper,” she said. “And you are joining me in gin, Sally. I hope it’s not too vermouthy. I am a poor bartender,.” She sat on the davenport beside Sally. “Here’s to a winning season,” she said, “and I hope I sound exactly like a coach’s wife.” She chatted freely. “You know, Dipper, when I first knew Sally, we were in the midst of a terrible streak. John had dropped five in a row that year, and I was beginning to realize the heartache of this business. Otherwise sane people, many of them complete strangers, would stop me on the street and snarl about the team. They’d call the house at night without any regard for common decency and bawl John out and insult me.”

She took a reflective sip of her drink. “The alumni publication was yelling for John’s scalp, and even the trades people in the stores were surly. I just never thought that football could be so vicious. Why, you would have thought John deliberately set out to lose his games…. It was awful. The student body would boo and hiss on the field. I got so that I stayed home and listened to the radio.

“That’s when our Sally came riding to the rescue with her newspaper. She wrote some rather fine pieces about the importance of good manners that were a big help. Then John went in the service, and Morgan inherited the squad. I grew very fond of Miss Whittaker.”

“Stop it, Molly,” said Sally. “Are you going to play Saturday, Eddie?”

“Doubt it,” answered Dane. “Can’t work out until almost game time, and you don’t help a club much if you can’t practice. Beside, only J. Shaw can answer questions like that. You covering the game?”

“Every Central home game and most of those away,” said Molly Shaw. “She’s a fixture.”

“And I’m hungry,” boomed Shaw from the doorway. “Where’s my drink, Molly? Home and children! You ought to try them sometime, Dipper.”

“I intend to,” said Eddie quietly.

Sally Whittaker’s hand plucked idly at the fringe on the davenport cushion. She was thinking that his gray eyes looked darker in the pallor of his face, that he hadn’t once met her glance directly, that he seemed ill at ease with her. She decided to ask Molly for a form of advice that she had never before thought necessary.

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Chapter One Chapter Two Chapter Three Chapter Four Chapter Five
Chapter Six Chapter Seven 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