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Flash Fiction from Taylor Napolsky

September 27, 2019

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If You Live Around Here

December 30, 2017

 

If you live around here, Packer games are a thing.

 

If you grew up here and your family has generations of history here, the Packers are part of your heritage.

 

Like it or not.

 

Even if it only manifests itself in contrarian ways, like becoming a Bears fan and making your kids be Bears fans.

 

“Put on your Urlacher jersey, it’s picture day at school.”

 

“But the kids make fun of me.”

“Fuck them.”

“But my teacher makes fun of me.”

 

“Your teacher’s a lazy, parasitic queer! Put it on!”

 

And so on.

 

If you want to see a game, you can always find a way to get tickets.

 

Of course it’s pricey.

 

Your best bet is to marry a girl that has season tickets in the family.

 

That’s dowry around these parts.

 

We’re simple people.

 

I’ve been to a lot of games, including several Packer/Bear games.

 

There is always a ton of extra tension when the Bears are in town, a glut of animosity.

 

I especially enjoyed those games when I was drinking.

 

You could pick a fight in the parking lot, or the concourse, anywhere you chose!

 

Now that I’m sober, I have fewer public confrontations.

 

At the last Packer/Bear game I was at something “telling” happened.

 

Comprehensively telling, it seemed to me.

 

Now I’m telling you.

 

There was a group of college buddies sitting behind me.

 

They’d all been in the same frat at Northwestern.

 

They flew in from all over the country.

 

One was living in L.A., one on the east coast, etc.

 

They had big mouths.

 

They were following the Cubs game on their cell phones.

 

The Cubs were about to win their first world series in a thousand years.

 

They seemed to fully appreciate the luck of this moment in history.

 

And it was nearly intolerable.

 

The boys caught the attention of a Packers fan in Carhart overalls across the aisle from us.

 

At first there was just a lot of good-natured ribbing.

 

“First down!” he’d shout, looking up at our buddies from Northwestern and pointing downfield.

 

“How do you like that?”

 

And: “You guys got Matt Barkley at quarterback? Matt Barkley?! You don’t have a chance!”

 

And other truisms that were obvious to everybody.

 

As the game went on and the Bears were inevitably pounded into the ground, the guy in the overalls paid more and more attention to the Cubs/Bears fans.

 

He noticed that one of them was Indian or Pakistani-looking.

 

“Heeeeeeey!”

 

His voice ascended in volume and pitch with his profound discovery.

 

“Parks and Rec. Parks and Rec! You look just like the guy from that show, Parks and Rec!”

 

“Oh, Christ. Alright, whatever, Paul Blart. Hey, is that the fucking King of Queens over there? Jesus Christ.”

 

I laughed pretty hard at that one.

 

But our guy from Wisconsin couldn’t let it go.

 

He came across the aisle to better make himself understood.

 

“But no, really. I work in the hospitality industry. I manage the banquet accounts for all the Marriotts in Eastern Wisconsin! I deal with celebrities all the time. You ever heard of Tony Robbins?”

 

The guy was nauseating, ingratiating.

 

“I was just giving you guys shit. You guys are alright. Can I get a picture? Come on let’s get a picture!”

 

“No, that’s alright. No, I’m not doing a picture.”

 

Every couple minutes the guy would be back across the aisle.

 

“Hey, did I tell you? I did an internship in Chicago when I was in college. I went to the UW Madison. Chicago’s a great city, great city. You guys are alright. I was just giving you shit back there!”

 

“Okay, we get it dude. You’re a good guy. No problem. We get it.”

 

“Come on, get in here!”

 

Mr. Wisconsin held up his phone and leaned back into the Aziz Ansari-looking dude.

 

“Get the fuck out of here! I’m not taking a picture with you! Goddamn!”

 

Halfway through the fourth quarter, our friends from Northwestern made for the exits.

 

The guy in the Carhart overalls was left standing in the aisle, holding his eight-dollar beer, looking out over the field in quiet contemplation.

 

If I had to guess at his thoughts right then, I’d say they went something like this:

 

“Yes, our team is a very, very good team. And the world is strange.”

 

This too is part of our legacy.

 

To go through life screaming, “We are good!”

 

“Like us!”

 

“Please, LIKE US!!”

 

“It doesn’t matter that we don’t live in the ‘big city’ or know important people.”

 

“We are the same as you!”

 

“We are the same as you . . .”

 

 

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