Eight Men In A Box
Dear American Football Broadcaster:
My husband is not interesting in my culture except halftime while TV show the red lobster, the big shiny truck driving in bed of creek and something call Cialis with man and woman each in bath tub holding hands so romantic. Then I am become My Little Matryoshka. I say, “Is this what you call hurry-up no huddle offense?”
I am Ludmila of Belarus newly arrive in your beautiful country, but all I see is gray sky from the airport to my husband apartment. Sky like I am used to see. Sky of heavy future. I am also call My Russian Wife or My Wife From Internet. My husband is half as tall like he say in profile. He is never go to museum or on hiking like he say in profile. “Ballet?” he say, “what is?”
I am one day so sad I call Lubov, my mother. She say, “You want so much live in America with a couch oladka, you learn what interesting him. “For your papa,” she say, “I learn to drink vodka and play ice hockey. Then I learn to eat stuffed carp without teeth.”
“My husband like beer,” I say.
“So drink beer,” Lubov say. “What else?”
“He like football.”
“So play football.”
“No,” I say, “ he watch football on TV. He talk football, even sleeping. Three-four, four-three, nickel package ... like that.
“So,” Lubov say, “keep your teeth and stop crying. Talk football.”
I am young and strong and fit, but am get fat from drink beer. I am smart woman good at learn language and besides, I study mathematics in Belarus. Why I can't learn to talk American football?
There is eleven men for offense, and same for defense. I understand. There is running with ball, throwing of ball, kicking of ball. There is first down and third and inches. There is touchdown, yay, field goal and end zone dancing. But I am confuse. I need your help. You say, “He is running downhill.” What is running downhill? Football field is flat like the frozen sea of Siberia. What is “lose the handle on the ball?” A ball with a handle? Are you make joke? Are you perhaps talk in code?
I am good citizen of United States. You can tell me, Ludmila, why do they put “eight men in a box?” All the time you say, eight men in a box. I ask my husband and he say nothing. I hold his beer behind my back and he say, “It is to stop the runs.”
“Not in my country,” I say. “Eight men in a box is serious punishment.”
“Beer now Ludy,” he say, “please.”
“Want to stop the runs, we say no more herring in cream sauce,”
I see my husband almost sit up. “Beer, Ludy, beer,” he say.
I point to TV at the man they call quarterback. “Is he in his pocket now or did he come out of his pocket?”
“He's in the shotgun,” my husband say.
“They might blitz,” my husband say. He needs more time. I need more beer.”
“The eight men from a box are come after him?”
“You could say that,” say my husband, almost reach his arm behind me but I am too fast.
“What about their families?” I say.
My husband shake his head. Always shake his head.
“That one,” I point.
“The quarterback,” he say.
“He need protection?”
“Yes, of course.”
“From the eight excite men coming out of the box?”
“What will they do to him?”
“Tackle him, Ludy! They want to tackle him.”
“Then what?” My husband is almost shout. “They dance. They celebrate. They get the ball back.”
“I don't believe you,” I say.
“You don't believe me,” he say, like nothing is more ridiculous in the world.
“Because you never take me hiking or shopping or skating or dancing and because what the man on the TV say.” I can shout, too! Then I start crying.
Again my husband shake his head. He get his quiet sad face. He get his own beer from refrigerator so far away. Is not even halftime, friendly time, my little Matryoshka time, he say to me in soft voice, “What did the man on the TV say?”
“I can't tell you.”
“Come on, Ludy,” my husband say. Now he is sit up. Now he is hold my hand in his.
“He say they are getting penetration on his backside.” Is true! I hear you say it.
“No Ludy, no,” say my husband. I think he is laugh at me. But you did say it!
Now my husband is stomp his foot. Something go wrong.
“What is?” I say. The men in black and white stripes throw yellow flags and blow whistle. They wave arms like to stop a speeding train. “What is happen?”
My husband, so weary, he say, “Offsides.”
“Someone crossed the line.”
“I understand,” I say.
“I don't think you do, Ludy,” he say.
I don't think I do either. In my country they would say someone crossed the line a long time ago.
About the author:
Daniel Coshnear works at a group home, teaches at UC berkeley Extension and is the author of two story collections: Jobs & Other Preoccupations (Helicon Nine 2001) and Occupy & Other Love Stories (Kelly’s Cove Press 2012). He is currently completing a new set of stories called The Second Lowest Common Denominator.