Brrr! Is it getting drafty in here, or is it just my icy contempt for the literary skills of certain NFL placekickers?
We rejoin Todd Penner as he’s using his hard-earned business school acumen to negotiate some pure profit from Manny, the head concessions guy: hot cocoa style! (Concessionaire? Concessionateur? Fuck it, who cares.)
Todd gave his biggest smile. “Please, boss, I need the money. I’m using the tips to get Jamie’s ring. Do it as a favor to me.” He saw that he was getting nowhere, so he clapsed his hands together, batted his eyelashes, and added, “Better yet, Manny, don’t do it for me; do it in the name of true love.”
Manny’s resolve never stood a chance. Todd had been too good a worker for too long, and the boss broke into laughter at this performance. “Okay, lover-boy, you can have hot chocolate. But careful on the whipped cream - you go through twice the cans that everyone else does.”
"What can I say?" Todd responded, still batting his eyelashes. "I like my chocolate extra sweet."
Sure, Todd. Sure you do. We’ll just keep your crippling one-Reddi-Wip-a-day nitrous problem between you and me - just as long as you promise to do certain “favors.”
So, readers, I’m sure at this point you’re just like me, literally clawing yourself to death in anticipation of more exciting Todd Penner exposition. Well, gird thy loins the fuck up. It’s Penner time.
Todd was totally stoked when he left the room. All his plans were coming together. As he walked across the ramp, his mind went back to his clandestine meeting with Jamie’s dad yesterday. They had met at the Starbucks in Arapahoe Crossing; Todd offered to buy.
Whipped cream jokes, batted eyelashes, and a Craigslist hookup with Mr. Starling this soon? Our soon-to-be-wed Todd?
As he waited for the drinks, he went over his spiel again in his head. It had taken him half the night to process through exactly what he should say. He felt he had put together a fairly persuasive presentation - even alliterating his main points: facts, figures, future, and faith. The drinks came, and with them came the moment of truth.
Oh. Of course. Silly me. The guy-guy flirting between Todd and his nitrous hookup took place as an extension of their rock-solid heterosexuality, rather than some bizarre twist into Tom of Finland territory. This is Colorado, dicknose. Dome of prayer and all that. You wanna repress some shit, Nebraska’s thatta way.
"So you know that I’ve known Jamie for a long time. I’ve also had strong feelings for-"
"Strong feelings, huh? You know, Todd, I have strong feelings for my wife’s meat loaf. Do you consider your daughter on the same level as my wife’s meat loaf?"
Now of course I realize what Elam’s doing here. Like almost all characters who don’t carry combat knives, Jamie’s dad provides very broad, very corny comic relief to a book in which everybody’s eventually gonna be ankle-deep in terrorist blood. I guess it’s just his insistence on making all these allegedly comedic characters sound like Miller-Boyett sitcom dads that makes me wince. We really needed a Coach Lubbock soundalike here? And we don’t even get a good Boner out of it?
So Todd and Mr. Starling eventually have some Real Talk, and Todd actually uses the phrase “her hand in marriage,” but not before Mr. Starling gets off the following warning shot:
"And do you understand that if you ever do anything to hurt my daughter - physically or emotionally - I will cause you pain? And not just the oh-that-stung-a-little-bit-but-I’m-fine now kind of pain, but the oh-Lord-just-take-me-home-‘cause-I-don’t-want-to-live-anymore kind of pain. The kind of pain that will make your unborn great-grandchildren scream out. The kind of pain that will cause old women on the street to have great pity upon you until they hear what you’ve done to my daughter, at which point they will beat you with their walkers, then kick you when you’re down. The kind of pain that the government-"
Todd cuts him off here, which is a good move. Anytime your girlfriend’s dad uses the phrase “the government,” the night’s about to go downhill. Personal experience talking.
Also: that’s 20 hyphens in one sentence back there. 20. Two zero. Kipling? Joyce? Wish they could have done that.
Brian looked Todd in the eye and said, “Son, I can think of no man I would rather see Jamie spend the rest of her life with than you. You have not only my permission but my blessing. I pray that God will give you two the years of joy that He’s given to Jamie’s mom and me.”
As Todd remembered his future father-in-law’s words, tears came to his eyes. He slipped the belt for the loaded hot chocolat tray over his head, looked at the single can of whipped cream, and called out, “Better give me a second can.” Forget what Manny says. Life is too good to skimp. Tonight, we let the whipped cream flow!
At this point I start wishing they’d make a movie of this book and cast The Situation as Todd. Do me a solid, Elam?
At any rate, I did promise you death, and trust me, it’s impending as fuck:
When the game clock indicated 6:30 left in the second quarter, the man sitting in seat 102-4A slowly reached into his coat, pulled out a thin wire attached to a 6.3mm plug, and connected it to a jack that was just barely visible in the tip of a football - a ball that had been on his lap the entire game.
6.3mm? When I was getting my audio engineering degree, I learned that the scientific name for it was “the big headphone plug.”
As the digital numbers on the giant clock across from his seat passed 6:15, he toggled a small switched on the cylinder in his left pocket, arming the device.
At 6:05, he stood and turned his back on the field and yelled to the people around him, “I am the Cause! May Allah have his retribution! Allahu Akhbar!”
As the spectators within hearing distance reacted with fear and shock, the man pressed down on a button set in the top of the cylinder.
In a split second, an electrical signal was sent through a wire into the center of the football, triggering the blasting cap, which had plenty of power to set off a reaction in the surrounding explosive. The football exploded.
Exploding footballs and a bizarre reliance on the metric system. Jason Elam sold you the whole seat, brother, but you’re ONLY GONNA NEED THE EDGE.