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 Fourteen Chapter Fifteen
Chapter Sixteen Chapter Seventeen Chapter Eighteen Chapter Nineteen Chapter Twenty
Chapter Twenty One Harvest of Memories Biemiller Home


For three days Dane lived in a dim shadow-land where thick, roiling fogs blanked thought, and only the stabbing, hot lightning across his chest foretold some horizon beyond the darkness which engulfed him. Slanp’s bullet had entered beneath his armpit as he whirled, nicking the top of a lung and tearing a diagonal path across his chest and out near the collar bone of his opposite shoulder. He had bled profusely, a condition which a series of transfusions finally corrected. His first conscious thoughts, beyond the framed expressions of a will to live, were those of chagrin, an awareness of ineptitude; and they were followed by the sick-weak fear that somehow his failure would make a difference to Sally. Although the stirrings of doubt were the feeble evidence of returning strength, they sent his temperature rocketing, keeping the nurses and doctors at his bedside.

Not until the fifth day, when Sally, Connor and Shaw were permitted to stand beside him for a brief minute, did his illogical worry abate. The yearning concern in Sally’s eyes, the grave pride in John Shaw’s, did as much as Connor’s curt words, “Well done. It’s over,” which he used to cover his sentimental relief at Dane’s condition.

From there on in, a trained, physically hardened body did its job.

It was another ten days before they propped Dane in a semi-seated position within the adjustable bed where he sat and listened to Connor, an ex-boss with his bags packed on his way out of the area.

“Don’t worry about a thing,” said Connor. “You’re staying on active duty until you’re completely back on your feet, and the tab for your leisure is on the man with the big whiskers. I wouldn’t be surprised if there weren’t a few other chores available when you’re fit again…. No, not with us. But that guy Hebert, who runs the Independent, has an idea concerning you.

“As far as the case goes—well, where do they ever go? The thing goes on and on. Plug one rat-hole today, and you’ve got even more tomorrow. The hell of it is that there’s never anything definite, never anything clearly resolved, never a thing you’re sure of. Only, once in a blue moon, whether you can prove anything or not, there’s a little glimmer of satisfaction. The work piles up.” Connor rose took Dane’s limp hand and squeezed it. “So long, kid. It’s been nice handling you, and you’ll never know how much it means to have you come through. You’ll be hearing from us.”

Dane’s smile was unconvincing but it was a smile, and it brought the faintest of all tremors to Connor’s thin lips as he walked out of the room.

There it goes, thought Dane, his eyes on the man’s retreating back. There it goes—until the next time.

Sally and Shaw were daily visitors, but not until another full week had passed, the third since Dane’s admission to the hospital, were members of the squad admitted. Berg, Piskoti, Ziborsky, Peterson and Daniels formed the first delegation, and they hadn’t waited for him. Not even Shaw’s reports of squad progress could match the chatter they brought with them.

The team had slugged through the Austin game, dumping a good club from the Southwest by ten points. It had entertained Whitman, a team from the Coast, and beaten it by twenty. “We ain’t losing any this year,” explained Berg, dropping a sheaf of candid-camera shots of his new baby on Dane’s bed. “We can’t,” said the practical Perkins gleefully. “We figure all the publicity that’s been breaking around and about this autumn, most of it due to you and the general state of the nation, has upped our pro prices about one full third.” He was flip. “There seems to be a bit of old college try seeping into things too,” he added, “Also due to you and your sterling efforts. Naturally, this condition will change about the time you’re ready to join us in the Rose Bowl--.” Berg’s elbow interrupted him. “How you do babble, Perky,” said the big guard. “Dane’s gotta have rest, and that blat’s enough to drive him nuts.”

They made a solid phalanx around the bed, and Dane could do no more than grin at them. “The whole thing’s had some funny results,” said Peterson gravely. “The University has taken a helluva ride. Maybe Shaw told you. But after the first general yapping died down, we ran into a lot of jokers on some of these clubs. Some Texas jerk on that Austin club—you know how the chatter goes when the big wrassle’s on—called us Central’s Red Army, and it didn’t go so good. We trompled him some, and they yanked him. That’s what fancy mouth here means about not dropping any for a while. We can’t. At least, we aren’t going to .”

“When do you think you’ll blow out of here?” asked Ziborsky. “or are you still full of tunnels?”

They waited for his answer. “Don’t know, but soon. Other people need hospital room, they tell me. John Shaw’s going to let me bunk at his house for a week or so until they make sure nothing silly’s happening to me. I won’t make any letter this year, though.” He pursed his lips at them. “You guys play too rough.”

They jeered him. A minute or two later an irate doctor and two imperious nurses put them brusquely out of the room.

Berg returned alone, his dark features queerly intent. He put his hand over Dane’s, his swarthy paw dwarfing the pale bony hand on the counterpane, and looked down at Dane’s questioning face.

“Listen, kid,” he said softly. “Things are some different for me and Florence than for most folks you know real well, and you know what I mean. We think we’re as good Americans as they come, but I’m a Jew-boy too, Dipper. I got a new kid. Call this corny, if you want to, but I’d just like to say thanks for everything. See you.”

For a long time after Berg had gone, Dane lay quietly thinking; maybe that’s all there was, decent people against those who weren’t. Hardly a new philosophy, or an original thought—but one a man could tie to, and a simple, understandable thing. He fell asleep, into a deep, untroubled, restoring slumber, the gnawing, constant ache in his chest curiously lightened.

He told Sally of Berg’s comment the next day, and she bent over and kissed him like a mother caressing a not-quite bright child.

Nor until the week of the State game was Dane removed from the hospital. The gang had marched through Belmont in the conference and past Marston; but if Central remained undefeated, so did State. And as in so many past years, the conference title and the possibility of an undefeated season would be the stakes in Central Stadium.

Dane was well enough to walk a few minutes each day, but his chest remained strapped and one arm was bandaged sling-fashion. He still spent most of his time in bed.

Sally and Shaw picked him up from the hospital the Tuesday before the State game. They came with a chauffeur, Peterson, driving his relic Pierce-Arrow and they helped him down the steps into the huge back seat, where they propped him with pillows and their own bodies for the ride back to Bakerston. Peterson, in an old sheepskin short-coat, its moth-eaten collar raised against the keening wind, rode alone in the front with the Whittaker television set on the seat beside him, nearly as propped and padded as Dane in the rear. The set was going into the Shaw guest-room with the patient, where Dane would see the game. Both were installed an hour later after Peterson, driving with a leisure alien to him, had traversed the valley road past the now bleak hills into the campus town.

Molly Shaw fussed over Dane, and the children came to his room to make obviously rehearsed and hesitant speeches of welcome. “We’re going to see the State game with Mother,” they told him. “We’re sorry you can’t play in it. We’re glad you’re here with us, and if you want us to, we’ll keep you lots of company.”

Dane thanked them. The big man and Peterson helped him into pajamas and put him in bed.

The temperature dropped near zero on Thanksgiving Day. Sally, driving down from Iron City to eat and spend the day with the Shaws, had spoken about it as she came into Dane’s room. The cold did not abate Friday, and by the Saturday of the game the turf in Central Stadium was iron-hard underfoot. It would be a bruising battle; and Shaw, dropping in to say good morning, wondered whether or not to put the team in basketball shoes. “Cleats aren’t going to take hold today.” The big man also worried about his passing attack. “Be a lot of stiff fingers out there today. But they’ll belong to both teams,” he said. He looked at Dane seriously. “Wish I had you in there for a quarter or two. We’d run ‘em some dizzy on my sweeps for a while.”

“Don’t think I wouldn’t trade places, either,” said Dane wryly. “Tell the guys luck for me, will you?”

Shaw grunted as he left.

The house was quiet when Sally came. Molly had packed the children into the car and gone down to the stadium shortly after noon, the kids in snow leggings, and layered with sweaters under their coats, Molly with two blankets piled on the seat beside her.

“Timmy raised hell again,” explained Sally, kissing him. “I haven’t been doing my job at all well. Unfortunately for Timmy, Mr. Hebert thinks it’s more important to amuse you than to work, as long as the sports staff and its editor are hale. He sent you his best, and told me to play engineering on the television to the best of my ability. He doesn’t want you to miss anything.” She snapped on the set as she spoke, and the screen flared, burst into the quivering mass of a junior electrical storm, and then as Sally spun the dials, focused on the stadium.

“Hand me that bathrobe, will you, dear?” Dane swung his legs out of the bed. “I think I’ll sit up with this one for a while.”

She draped the robe over his shoulders, dragged a chair out a proper distance from the screen for him, then got another for herself. “The cozy old married couple before their warm fireside,” she muttered. “If we ever get married enough to have one!”

“Shut up,” said Eddie Dane.

State scored first. Midway through the second quarter, Jenkins, a slashing runner behind good blocking, bulled his was into the clear and went thirty yards to Centrals’ ten before Perkins bounced him out of bounds. State scored on the next play with a sucker pass right down the middle. Floyd’s desperation jump for the ball deflected it right into a State man’s hands. Berg blocked the try for the extra point.

“Blast and double damn!” swore Dane.

Sally laughed at him. “Relax,” she said. “You want a relapse?”

He shook his head at her.

Central took the ball on the ensuing kickoff. Perkins passed gambling outrageously from his ten-yard line on the first play. Daniels plucked the ball out of the air behind the surprised State secondary and wound up at midfield before they dumped him. They slammed him hard, and Dane could see the tiny figure in the screen bounce. But the parade was on. Perkins, hammering the tackles and sweeping the ends with Floyd, Tripelda and Schwartz, boomed them down to the State two. He pulled the sneak for the rest of it, and seconds later, kicked the point. Central lead at the half seven to six.

The vicarious excitement and the inner knowledge of the action before him sent a flush into Dane’s cheeks; and Sally, observing it, ordered him into bed. “What do you think you’re doing?” she fretted. “Playing State? Stop working! Shaw has enough men without you to take this one. Come on now, bed! If you’re a good lad, maybe I’ll let you up again before the game’s over.” She snapped the set off, took the robe from his shoulders and packed him beneath the sheets.

Her touch was warm and sure, patting and smoothing the bed, making him comfortable. He reached his good arm around her neck and locked her, still bent over the bed, while he kissed her. She grabbed a handful of his hair and shook his head gently. “Behave. I’ll go down and get you some milk.”

He drank it when she returned. Sally snapped the set on again as he finished it, half-sitting, half-leaning on this pillows. He watched Central kick off, saw the line go down under the boot, a churning restlessness still within him. Sally was watching him, an amused smile on her face and her glance pulled his from the game. He met it directly, and in her eyes found a certainty, a sureness which he knew would endure for him forever.

“They’ll pull this out,” he said.

“Stop playing it.”

He had a brief thought of Connor, of Shaw on the bench, and in a kaleidoscopic moment, of Berg, Perkins, of even the thousands of nameless faces in the stands. “Nobody ever stops,” he said softly. “Not us. Not anybody.”

“The big games go on,” she murmured, understanding him. “Ours too. Watch the screen. You missed a play.”

Central scored again late in the fourth quarter to put the game on ice. They sprang Rodrigues on a double reverse that Dane had never seen before, a play added for State. He watched the blocking, crisp, sharp, and even in the miniature of television, efficiently brutal. Rodrigues was in the end zone bouncing the ball, kissing it, throwing it away, and the gang was clustering about him. He could see the numbers on their jerseys as the cameras caught and held the milling gang. With an inner clarity that no camera would ever pick up, he saw the smeared-lip grins, the dirty rough-fondling hands, the bruised glee on their faces. He could almost hear Perkins bark them back to work, back to kick the point. He saw them line up, watched the precise kick thread the crossbars.

Now the club was trotting back, not haphazardly down the field, but loping down the sideline by the bench, touching, each man in turn, an object in Shaw’s outstretched hand. The announcer was mouthing words, but Dane was not registering them. Shaw was holding a black jersey, loosely now, and the cameras picked up the exposed number. He knew that number well. It had been stamped on all the gear he had left in a locker a long time ago.

He knew now what Shaw’s parting grunt had meant when he had wished him luck.

“What do you know?” he murmured. “What do you know?”

Sally leaned over and kissed him.

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 Fourteen Chapter Fifteen
Chapter Sixteen Chapter Seventeen Chapter Eighteen Chapter Nineteen Chapter Twenty
Chapter Twenty One Harvest of Memories Biemiller Home