Read Atop an Underwood Online

Authors: Jack Kerouac

Atop an Underwood (5 page)

BOOK: Atop an Underwood
“What may prove to be the year's finest football eleven in college ranks can be seen down on the field this fine afternoon, running through its paces like a perfectly geared machine.”
The backfield, composed of Felix Henderson at the quarter, who had now forgotten the first day of Bill Clancy's football career and had become one of Bill's finest friends; Harrison McCoy, the highly heralded halfback; Ben Barnouw, the passing ace; and Lou Ginelli, the big Italian fullback line-plunger, was called in by Coach Alexander for a final word. The linemen then received their instructions, after which the entire eleven joined hands before going out on the field to receive the kickoff from Blaine.
Barbara Barnard was seated up in the stands with her father, Professor Barnard, and with Scotty Cobb. She and Scotty had become inseparable, although hardly in an amorous way. Among others in the vast crowd were Big Gertie, Old Chet Hingham, and the faculty of the University. Almost everybody in Brierville was in the stands.
And then the kickoff. The ball, gyrating end-over-end, came down on State ten yard line, where Big Lou Ginelli picked it up. He returned it to the forty-seven yard line, plunging straight ahead, with the State team blocking beautifully. And so the State football season had begun.
On the play, Bill Clancy had had a huge lump in his throat just before the kickoff. As soon as he had seen the ball go sailing over his head and beyond him to the State backs, he had sorted out a Blaine man to take out. And this he did. He hit him head on, flattening the unsuspecting Blaine player out on the green, and falling on top of him to hold him intact.
The game was on. The highly vaunted State University team was ready to show whether or not it was the mighty team it has been predicted to be, even against the weak Blaine eleven.
On the first play, Harrison McCoy was in the tailback. But the ball was snapped to a short back, Ginelli, and the latter plowed into the Blaine line like an elephant through the jungle grass. He made six yards before crumpling underneath the weight of four men.
Second down and four to go.
The team came out of its huddle and snapped into its formation with a fancy dancelike step. The glistening white helmets flashed in the September sun. The blue jerseys, with large white numbers and white stripes on the sleeves, lined up in a perfectly geometrical formation. The Bob Alexander shift had a beauty and grace about it that made the team look like a million bucks.
The brown ball, brand new and just beginning to pick up a little dirt, went spinning back to Harrison McCoy. The guard, Bill Clancy, pulled out. The right side of the line cross-blocked as Bill pulled out, accompanied by Ginelli and Barnouw. The three of them darted toward the Blaine left end, bowled him over, and went on to the close back. Behind this steam-roller blocking pranced Harrison McCoy, his long powerful legs cutting up the gridiron. He swept around the fallen end, past the bewildered close back, and down the sidelines. Right ahead of him ran Bill Clancy. Now, McCoy was on his own, and had already gained 12 yards. He went down the sidelines until almost pushed out of bounds by two pursuing Blaine backs, whence he cut back suddenly and flanked toward the left. One of the Blaine linemen dove frantically and hung on to McCoy's foot. McCoy stumbled forward, and finally crashed to the ground. Otherwise, he would have scored a touchdown; the field ahead of him had been clear.
The ball was now on the Blaine 30. First down, and ten yards to go. State again came out of its huddle, and went into their graceful shift. The ball went back to Ben Barnouw, who began to sweep the end. It was the identical play which the varsity had tried out that first day in practice, and which had resulted in a sixty-four yard jaunt on the part of McCoy. Barnouw suddenly faded from his end run, flipped a neat pass to quarterback Henderson, who in turn lateraled to McCoy. The latter had a clear field down the sidelines, and as he dashed down in a straight line, the lane began to narrow with potential tacklers. By the time McCoy had reached the 18 yard line, he was confronted by four Blaine men. With a lightning cut, McCoy veered to the left and flanked the men, heading for the goal-line in a long diagonal sprint. He reached it with plenty to spare, going over standing up.
State 6, Blaine 0 .... and the game was hardly two minutes old.
Felix Henderson converted the point, making the score 7—0 in favor of State U.
The crowd went berserk, and the newspapermen began to typewrite wildly. The radio announcer began to take on an “I told you so” air. Truly, the vaunted greatness of State University had been no exaggeration.
The afternoon went on, and the gridiron was dug and marred and mauled by the scuffling elevens.
When the sun was going down in the West, and the football fans all had that tired, happy look in their faces; when the stands were painted by the russet glow of sunset—the score was immense!
State—54 Blaine—0. And through the keen air of the evening sunset, there was the blast of a gun, ending the game. Seven touchdowns! Seven successful conversions by the drop-kicking Felix Henderson. And out of the seven touchdowns, five were chalked up by the Galloping Ghost of the new season, Harrison McCoy.
In the chilly locker rooms, Bill Clancy shivered as he hauled off his sticky uniform. His body gave out steam, his feet were cold. His ribs ached with exhaustion, and his head felt hot and stuffy. Under the hot shower, Bill let out a long sigh of relief; the prickly sensation of the water sent waves of comfortable blood through his wiry frame.
Milling fans filled the locker rooms, talking, gesticulating, watching the State heroes. Bill Clancy paid little attention to them, and turned on the cold water. The invigorating effect made him yelp, and he darted from the showers to his locker where he dried himself vigorously.
All dressed and with the hair slicked, Bill Clancy began to feel like a human being again. As he was fixing his tie, he nodded and smiled at the people who were surrounding him and talking all at once. He could make nothing out of it, and let them talk on.
“What tackles you made today, Clancy!” an old grad was saying. “You almost killed the entire Blaine backfield!”
“Thanks,” Bill mumbled, picking up his canvas bag and hanging it in the locker.
“You were terrific!” piped someone else.
“Thank you,” smiled Bill.
Outside, the sun had gone down and the stadium was literally empty, except for the scattered remains of enthusiastic fans. Bill shuddered as a cold Autumnal blast came down the mussed up gridiron and hit him in the face. There were cuts and bumps here and there on his face, and his shoulders ached. All in all, as Bill walked along toward his dormitory room, he felt somewhat weary, but happy.
There was to be a victory dance in the evening, and Bill could think of nothing but meeting Barbara there. Wearing a topcoat and felt hat, Bill strode along through the falling leaves and reached the dorm. A big yellow Fall moon was beginning to peep over the little houses of Brierville.
As Bill was about to enter into the hallway of his dorm, he noticed a figure approaching him from the sidewalk. Bill waited, until he could make out the tall graceful form of Harrison McCoy.
Jack Lewis's Baseball Chatter
Baseball Chatter
(this is Number Two, U.S. Cop. 1938 Reg. Pat. Off) was one of young Kerouac's many sports publications. In this write-up, as in stories in his 1938 baseball sheet the
Daily Ball,
he reports on the doings of the teams in his imaginary league: the Boston Fords, New York Chevvies, St. Louis LaSalles, Pittsburgh Plymouths, Philadelphia Pontiacs, Chicago Nashes, and others. This issue of Baseball
stands out for the slice-of-life reporting by “Jack Lewis,” a departure from the insider talk about standings, trades, star players, and the like. Lewis's dispatch opens like a short story and develops into a scene with characters, dialogue, and setting.
Bob Chase was meditatively chewing gum and twirling apple seeds with his thumbs out of his tenth story window, when I came in with a greeting. Genial Bill Mahaffey, who used to sit in Bob's chair in the Chevvy office, would have been quite a contrast to the heavy browed, fiery eyed, and square jawed young man; Bill is a tender faced, portly person, and very enigmatic. But young Robert of the Janke men sat there and mumbled a greeting, and smiled cynically before beginning his talk.
“Howaya, Jack,” said he. “I guess us Chevs are confounding you boys, hey?” I [calculated] they were.
“Well, don't always be too sure about anything; anything may happen to anything, and that's pure, common sense.” Bob spat in his golden spittoon, and leisurely went on.
“Look at those LaSalles of Marty Sloane's. Now there's a real strongly loaded club—loaded with hitters and pitchers that are a revelation. But once they go on a losing spree, they're just like any other club. Take us—we were hot on the trail of the Plymouths, until they beat us the other day. They got hitters and pitchers, but they got the way of winning and they are rolling.”
I wondered about the Chevs.
“We were a-rolling when we met the Plyms, but they were too—and they had a better team.” Then Chase sat up in his chair and pointed a thick finger at me, saying: “That boy Pie Tibs is a real hitter—and that goes for Lou Badgurst and that Gavin kid, Tod. And Ed Stone is a better pitcher than he ever was today, and you remember how good he was one season back, with Harry Packfall's old Buicks. Yup, those Adams boys are going to town, but don't take your eyes away from my club, either.”
“Say,” he enthusiastically cried, “I got a pitcher that is a pitcher, and I mean that rookie Maxfield. He's got speed and control, and boy he's going to win games for us, and I don't mean maybe. And look at the way old Ed Steele and old Texas Davidson are macing that apple; and the Kelley boys, and my young catcher McGregor; and my other chuckers, especially old Joe McCann—say, we got a team that will press those Plyms to death, and don't be surprised of anything that happens here in New York—anything.” And with a knowing smile, Bob spiraled an apple seed out into the spring air, down to the street where trod hopeful Chevvy fans.
[One Long Strange Dream]
In 1939 Kerouac described this dream to his great and good friend from boyhood George J. Apostolos. They had met in Pawtucketville after the Kerouacs moved to that Lowell neighborhood in 1932. Kerouac routinely recorded his dreams, and this appears to be the earliest surviving dream transcription. In 1961 he published Book of
a singular volume in American literature. In the foreword he writes: “The reader should know that this is just a collection of dreams that I scribbled after I woke up from my sleep—They were all written spontaneously, non-stop, just Like dreams happen, sometimes written before I was even wide awake—
. . . .

George, one hour ago, I woke up from a strange sleep. I had fallen asleep at 6 o‘clock in the evening, following a Sunday afternoon dinner. I slept till 8 o'clock. During this slumber, I had one long strange dream. It was one of the most magnificent dreams a man has ever dreamed, although I hardly recall what it was about. All I do know is that my subconscious mind worked with the outside world while the dream world wove about me in a maze of stunning and mysterious and moving events.
My writing this brings to mind the time you wrote and told me about a similar situation of yours, when you had slept one day and had awakened, and had gone down to get my letter, and had proceeded to write to me and describe the mysterious mood which occurred.
This dream of mine contained characters which I am sure included you, and also someone else, and I hope you don't think this is a joke, but it was Ernie Noval. But the point is this, it was so well-woven together and my sleeping mind told it to my soul as I slept and I distinctly recall noting this as I dreamt. One of the incidents in the dream was that my mother was sick, and that I was hysterical and you were there to comfort me. My explanation for this, however, is the fact that the picture I saw last night called “Andy Hardy and Family” in which Andy's mother was sick must have caused this event. However, I do remember that there were other events which occurred and which were perfectly Welles in character.
The main idea of me telling you this is the mood which I was in upon awakening. I sat in my big arm chair and stared at the fireplace and contemplated the most penetrating meditations I had done in a long time, possibly since I sat on your wood pile in Lowell a few weeks ago and studied the board which you pointed out to me and upon which you had told me the white cat had stared at you for nights.
Slowly, my mind unwound itself from my unearthly thoughts, and I picked up a book which I had given to me yesterday, called “How to Learn.” As I read it, the materialistic world returned to me, and I unconsciously made it known to myself that I would make this book my second bible. My first bible is the Holy Bible, because of the fact that I am about to make a concerted study in religion soon, and put down my conclusions of it along with its effects and consequences. However, back to my mood. As I made my way out of it, I looked at the clock and saw that it was 8 o'clock. I jumped up and put on WABC. On came the music which seemed to fit my mood, and soon, Orson Welles' tremulous tones came over the ether announcing that he was presenting Jane Eyre. Thus, I enjoyed a program as I haven't for a long time.
Count Basie's Band Best in Land; Group Famous for “Solid” Swing
In addition to publishing short stories in Horace Mann's quarterly magazine, Kerouac wrote regularly for the campus newspaper, the
Horace Mann Record,
in 1939—40. He covered the sports teams and contributed articles on music, including pieces on the jazz critic George Avakian (a Horace Mann graduate) and bandleader Glenn Miller.
15.4Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

Other books

D.V. by Diana Vreeland
An Heiress in Venice by Tara Crescent
Mooch by Dan Fante
Jaunt by Erik Kreffel
Suzanne's Diary for Nicholas by James Patterson
Son of a Mermaid by Katie O'Sullivan