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Cormac McCarthy Previews The Big XII: Part II

From time to time, WRNL asks certain writers to weigh in on subjects concerning Iowa State. In this edition of the WRNL Book Club, novelist Cormac McCarthy (author of such works as "Suttree" and "Blood Meridian" returns to our august forum to provide part II of his preview of the upcoming Big 12 football season.

***Part I of Cormac McCarthy's Big 12 preview***

6) Kansas State: The old man was not one for looking back. Small and bent, he stared at the ground beneath his bowed head or watched the action unfolding directly before his grayblue eyes from behind glass. Looking back invited memories, doubts, questions.

If Michael Bishop hadn't fumbled.

If he hadn't met Bobby Elliott.

If TV had never been invented.

It was better to look ahead. What lay before him offered change, new possibilites, new recruits. Always new recruits, culled from the lower institutes of learning to outplace the ones that came just before and burned like the thin pale sun that eternally orbited his balding pate. Recruits. Renewal. Rebirth. A chance to forever stand in the house that bore his name with generations reflecting long upon the nature of his deeds and the laws of athanasia.

The old man bent forward and stared at the ground in front of him. Gathering the regnant fabric of his windbreaker around his frail shoulders he pulled the wireless down to his etiolated lip.

The new boy, Waters. Should have Pop Warner's playbook memorized by tomorrow, I imagine. Move him along to Fritz Crisler next.

7) West Virginia: Holgo stares at the ceiling. The thermantidote swept its lazy circuit across the ceiling, chasing flies and thoughts across the room's planchement. Lines creased his high forehead and a shadow troubled his face.

This wasn't the way it was supposed to be, he said. It wasn't supposed to be like this at all.

At his first flush of success in the western Virginia he'd imagined himself a god, unknowable, untouchable from the acts and desires of man. A leader among leaders. A peremptory notion rent asunder by the complete blight of the last year. A campaign lost. Arrogant Icarus felled by Syracuse.

Something was wrong. Something crucial had been misfigured. Could his philosophy, the architecture of his universe, could he himself have some heretofore unseen flaw?

A voice revealed itself from the murkiness of the room.

Maybe you could run the ball a couple times. Or at least look at the defense.

Holgo took a long drink from the bluedsilver can next to him. The carbonated liquid tasted sour and aesculapian, and he gagged slightly as he spoke.

Get out of my bed, whore.

8) Iowa State: When he woke in the plains in the dark he'd reach up to touch the picture in his pocket. Nights dark beyond darkness, with the mutemuffled forms of his men unconscious surrounding him. He'd lay awake, breathing shallowly and watching the stars make their empyreal orbit in the blackness above.

How long had he been in this planate expanse? Four years? Five? During the day it was easier with the road to superintend his steps. Always moving. Every week a new challenge on the road. Always a new assailant to be met and conquered in a hideous contention of crimson viscera and yellowed pus. Nights were when he needed the picture to help him remember why they marched.

He pulled the picture up to his face, its outline indistinct against the darkness. That was alright. He knew the particulars of the photograph by heart. It had been taken just two years afore. A field at night thronged with jubilant hordes clad in cardinal and gold, the residue of a storm still visible overhead and in the grass. Cowboys with heads in hands in the distance.

We did this, he said to the sky. We did this together. If that night wasn't the word of god, then god never spoke.

9) Texas Tech: A figure appeared on the horizon, small and black against the cerise gloaming of the Yolo mountains. The raider approached quickly up the trail, hand heavy with crop insisting his horse forward with harrowing urgency. The tumbled nopal and creosote of the Lubbock outpost splayed low and broken before his mount's hooves.

At the fence outlaying the town borders he caught up a man waiting at the fence and dismounted, patting the riling beast's neck.

¿Está Hocutt?


Yo soy el hombre SWAG usted solicitó.

Te traje es demasiado apretado.

Tal vez, pero yo soy el hombre usted contrató. Yo trabajado para tu padre.

Usted es demasiado joven.

The raider swallowed and a shadow clouded up his narrow cheeks. Son of a bitch, he muttered under his breath.

Trabajé con Manziel. ¿No es eso lo que quería?

Curious onlookers had begun to cluster by the two men, convenient to the conversation but at a fair distance to dissumulate indifference.

Si. Pero usted no es Kingsbury. Usted no es una persona seria.

Que soy yo, carajo.

Mire a su traje. Mira a tus zapatos. Su actitud es equivocada. Usted no es el jefe que queremos.

Kingsbury was close to tears. Tu hombre me dio esta ropa .Yo no quería esto.

The man at the gate pondered this statement and the Raider's crumpled visage. Sí, es cierto, he said after a pause. Entrar.

A slight cheer approbated from the crowd as the gate opened to admit Kingsbury.

10) Kansas: The judge smiled, his bulk massive and naked and hairless in the firelight.

Men are born for games, he declaimed. Nothing else. Every child knows that play is nobler than work. He knows too that the worth or merit of a game is not inherent in the game itself but rather in the value of that which is put at hazard. A player's body. A boy's esteem. My career. Only the last a sufficient stake to make the game of sport one worthy of attention.

The judge searched out the circle for disputants.

What about love? asked Heaps. The love of the game?

A fool's notion. Love is an invention of mankind for the disenfranchisement of the powerful in favor of the weak. History subverts it at every turn. You play this game for glory. My glory. You joined me because I am the ultimate arbitrator of what is right and wrong. A universe of my own creation I have made on the field. No godserver but a god myself.

Goodman studied the judge. You're crazy, Weis. Crazy at last.

The judge rose up smiling and gathered him in his arms against his immense and terrible flesh and without a word snapped Ben Goodman's neck in two.