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


Ike Berg tapped Dane on the arm as he left the locker room to walk downtown. "My wife and I would like you to join us for dinner tomorrow night," he said. "I understand from Perkins that you are dating the press, so I had Florence call her. She accepts with pleasure and will pick us up right after practice." Berg's dark face, its generous nose tilted slightly to the left as a memento of some ancient cleat, was grave. "Goulash cooks fine on a trailer stove. It's easy to make, and Florence wants company. What do you say? Perkins, Piskoti and Ziborsky are coming over later to bull awhile, and we'll break up about nine?

"Fixed everything nice, haven't you, Ike? What can I say except thanks a helluva lot."

They swung down the common together, headed toward Bakerston, where Berg had to catch a bus out to Central's trailer park.

Dane recalled what he knew of Berg from his earlier investigations of the squad personnel. The big man was twenty-eight, a New York youngster who had come up through one of the public schools via the scholarship route and the dogged, encouraging efforts of a delicatessen family which had already produced one of Manhattan's finest doctors. Berg had served in the Pacific with a Marine unit, had been hit on Okinawa and invalided home, to lose a year in a Navy hospital and another hitting the books at a business school before returning to college. He had married a year ago, a girl from his home neighborhood in the city. The two of them were about to become parents. Berg, an amiable clown during the squad's looser moments, was majoring in physical education; but Dane had reason to believe that, underneath his locker room badinage, Berg was a determined, serious man.

"You're a funny guy, Dipper," said the big lineman, interrupting Dane's thoughts.

"Funny ha-ha, or funny peculiar?"

"You don't mix much, though sometimes when I'm scrabbling around that locker room I get an idea that you'd like to, and that you could because, what the hell, the guys all seem to like you. They like the way you play this game too."

"Anything else, Ike?"

"This isn't any of my business, you know, so shut me up if it bothers you, but the guys aren't too dumb on this ball club. You seem to spend more time with John Shaw than most of us, which isn't much like Shaw, now that I think about it. Then there was that story of Sally Whittaker's. She did a piece on me last year, so there wasn't anything too unusual about that, except for that crack about Rogalski's picture. You weren't any big buddy with Roggo, and if Shaw had wanted the print for Roggo's family, all he had to do was ask Sally. Ziborsky was a real pal of the guy's, and I wouldn't be surprised if he asked you about it. Not that anybody of this club wants to pry, but you know how guys are. Hell, we gossip worse than women. You'd be ripe meat anyhow, since this is your first year on this team, and especially with the kind of ball you've been showing."

Dane slipped an arm through Berg's. "Do me a favor, Schmoe," he said. "Let's stop wondering about me for a few weeks. Some day I'll tell you the story of my life. Tell your wife I like lots of onion in the goulash."

"Like that, huh? Well, I tried," grunted the man.

"Like that. And while we're talking, I didn't know that Sally business was showing on me."

"Perkins has a keen eye. He's a self-loving hamhead most of the time, but he knows it, and it's okay. But don't flatter yourself. I figure on playing a spot of pro ball when this is all over, and it helps to stay cozy with the press. As far as anything showing on you, forget it; nothing does."

Berg swung off toward the intersection of Bakerston's main street and the Iron City cut-off to get his bus, and Dane waved a hand at him in farewell. He would eat and then study, he decided.

Central's student trailer camp, a not-so subtle reminder of the differences between modern college life and that of a gentler past, lay two miles north of Bakerston. Some desperate organizational work by the university's SVC and some civic assistance within Iron City had brought an REA power line swinging over the hills to light the small community. The same sort of drive, financed by a special university fund, had created an artesian well which, capped, supplied a network of open pipes long since covered with rough-and-ready insulation against the hill-country winters.

Trailer Town streets were neat and trim. Many of the tidy and well-painted wheeled homes boasted small flower gardens in season. There was a pride in this community indicative of the character of the people in housed, earnest young married couples literally hacking out an education while coping with babies, minuscule budgets and, sometimes, backbreaking schedules. Pipes Johnson, the handy and frequently salty custodian of Centrals' general maintenance facilities, had helped many a hard-working denizen of Trailer Town with his plumbing and hardware chores. He had long and loudly confided a sane if loud opinion on the subject of Trailer Town to anyone who would listen. "I see these guys sweatin' over wrenches, shovels, books and wives, all the time helpin' each other until they fall asleep beat, and I feel like comin' downtown and heaving' rocks at the windows of Fraternity Row. There's a helluva lot of education around here but damn little knowin'!"

Sally picked Berg and Dane up at the locker room exit door after a brief interview with John Shaw on the team's chances with Warwick, and they rode out to the trailer village through the early night in comparative silence. Dane had a puffed lip from scrimmage, and the inside of his mouth felt sore, but the rough work for the week was ended and nothing but a session of signal practice scheduled for the following day. They rode closely packed in Sally's coupe' with Dane in the middle and a bottle in Berg's coat jammed into his ribs.

"Vitamins for Florence," explained the grinning host, "-three kinds at five bucks a jug, iron, calcium and an all-purpose pellet for general build-up. I used to get samples from my brother, but he decided that our own doc had better prescribe for her. Bang! I'm spending money again."

Florence Berg, a petite woman with flashing dark eyes and a vivacity only slightly curbed by advanced pregnancy, met them at the trailer door and ushered them in with obvious delight. She gave Eddie Dane a warm handclasp, commented on his run in the Clinton game, and without shifting gears in her flow of conversation, welcomed Sally and asked for her coat. The trailer was a marvel of compact utility with a sense of space out of proportion to its actual size. Mrs. Berg was proud of it, and her delight at Sally's exclamations concerning it was undisguised.

The tiny home held a small bedroom with porthole windows draped with something bright in ruffled curtains, and one combination living, dining and utility room with a small corner galley. The dining room phase of the room was evident now. A table swung out from a wall and was set over a wall-bench seat big enough for two, and two card-table chairs formed the rest of the grouping. A portable screen concealed the galley, and Mrs. Berg popped behind it to check her cooking as Ike took coats to hang in a shallow, countersunk wall closet. Dane and Sally sensibly took the bench seats out of the arena of action.

"This place does tricks," explained Berg. "I'll show you a few after we eat. I can even manufacture a davenport and an easy chair for you, right out of a few folds and bends tucked around here. Cost me almost every nickel of the dough I saved overseas for it, but it's worth every dime. If you ever have trouble house hunting, Dipper, come and see me." He moved with a sure, coordinated easiness as he talked, handing serving plates behind the screen to his wife and swooping them out to the table with a half-turning pivot.

"You out to get Randy Perkins to work out those moves for you, Ike," said Dane lightly.

Mrs. Berg's voice bubbled from behind the screen. "Tell him, Berg."

The big guard was sheepish. "He did, the lug! We had a night out here at the end of the season last year and we all got pretty tight. Perkins stood right about where I am now and went through a whole routine. What's more, he insisted I copy it. He claimed I'd save Florence steps and myself a lot of effort if we always set the table in this corner."

"I'll be damned," grunted Dane. Sally laughed at him and Florence emerged from behind the screen with a delighted giggle.

They ate lightheartedly with Berg outlining an idea for a suspended crib for the baby, to be hung from the ceiling, with Sally outlining the merits of the Iron City Municipal Hospital as Florence beamed upon them all. The goulash, well seasoned, hurt the inside of Dane's bruised mouth, but with a disdain born of hunger and an appreciation of the Berg cooking, he ate hugely anyhow. His efforts did not escape the bulking Berg, however.

"Chewing to your left tonight, eh, kid? Who handed you that lip today?"

"Don't know," answered Eddie. "Caught an elbow going down on that end sweep last time we ran it." He grinned thoughtfully, the play going through his head. "One more step, and I'd have been away."

"That's the one you don't get, son."

"Let's get the things moved away before the rest of those man-monsters get here and clutter up my floor," suggested Florence. "Everybody's leaving early, so we might as well have all the time we can together." She teetered upright as she spoke. "These things are very bad for your sense of balance, Sally," she said, patting her abdomen.

Dane and Ike dismantled the table. Ike cleared off the dishes, piled them into the galley for washing. They left the wall bench, swung out another section to make one fairly long davenport, and from a space beneath it Ike fished out a seat cover and cushions. The room changed completely before a horn beeped outside and the trailer took on the extra weight of Perkins, Ziborsky and Piskoti. They had been there before and often, from the way they piled coats into a corner and sprawled on the floor.

"Roll around some," said Florence, needling them with a small woman's flair for harassing big men. "I didn't dust today and you might pick up whatever dirt's around for me."

They hooted at her, called her little mother and threatened to spoil the baby as soon as it arrived. Then, naturally enough, they were all talking shop, seriously, like the craftsmen they were; and the two girls listened, relaxed, comfortable.

"We're gonna get out at a bad time to make anything from pro ball," said Piskoti slowly. He looked at Dane. "You know, I guess, that Perkins, Ike and I have definite pro offers, and that they're smelling around for Zibby too." He grinned at Sally. "The paper had a story about the Eagles looking over the squad a year ago.

"I have an idea that the old two-league dough is about washed up for us, though." He nodded his massive, blond head sadly. "Two years late, that's us."

Berg grunted. "That's the rub that makes you think it might be smarter to look for something for the long haul rather than waste another year, or two or whatever, playing for pay. Maybe try for a high school coaching job to really learn the trade, and then work up."

"It's been fancy for the players since the All America Conference, though," interrupted Perkins, "and personally I'm going to latch on to at least one fancy year before they blow the lid off. That's promised." He rose gracefully, whirled three times in the same spot, crossed his fingers and flopped on the floor again. "And that's for luck and no serious injuries.

"Look at the statistics, though," he continued. "The Philly Eagles win a championship in their own division, go on to win the play-off and what happened? Lex Thompson announces his club has lost thirty-two thousand bucks on the season. It lost about fifty grand the year before. Take the All America league, and only one club, the Forty-Niners, show a profit, and the Chicago Rockets dropped more than three hundred thousand. Club owners can't stand that sort of thing and stay in business."

They argued the intricacies of pro ball until it was almost time to leave; then they conned Florence into making a pot of coffee. They were drinking it when Ziborsky leaned over and tapped Dane on the knee. "Hey, Dipper," he said, "now I know you some better, what's the business about Roggo's picture that Sally wrote about in that story? What'd you want it for?" He wrinkled his brow slowly. "Hell, Roggo and I banged around a lot together. I never knew he had a brother."

"Few people did," said Dane easily. "That's why Shaw thought it would be nice to get the print and send it to the family. I just happened to be in his office with him when Sally mentioned that she had it, the day she came down to do the story."

"So you just went along for the ride to pick it up?" "That's about it." He could feel Sally's eyes upon him. "Doesn't make any difference, I guess," she said, "but I think it was your idea to pick up that print instead of John Shaw's."

"Dane smane, Shaw, smaw, what way you all move? It's nine-thirty. My wife needs her sleep, and so do I," said Berg.

The ride back to Bakerston was short, direct, for Dan and Sally. It was a stormy one; and neither, recalling it later, could say who started the argument. They fought soberly, and with an intensity that surprised them both. "First your head, then this picture thing again. You-there's something not quite right about you, Eddie. I don't know what it is, but I told you once before I can't stand your lying to me."

"There's no lying in telling you to mind your own business," explained Dane sharply.

"You are my business," she said softly, "now."

"Some days business is bad, then; and maybe we ought to let it ride that way, or else go out of business."

"You want it that way?"

"I don't want it any way. Don't put words in my mouth."

"It would be silly. I couldn't believe them, anyhow."

He closed the door of the car softly as she stopped before his rooming house, and strode up the walk without looking back as her car spurted up the street.

DreamHost Web Hosting -

This site is powered by Dreamhost. Touch the moon to join the "dream."

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