Jeff felt his left eye twitch rhythmically, as it always did when he’d had more than three cups of coffee or was under intense, pounding pressure. For the life of him, he couldn’t imagine why Kathy had scheduled a family photo shoot at 4 o’clock on a Sunday afternoon.
Right now, posing with his wife and six-month-old daughter for an 8 x 11 glossy that would sit on their mantle for the rest of their lives was the last thing on Jeff’s mind. What was on his mind was football, specifically the fourth quarter of the Dallas-Cleveland game. As they parked their car at Portrait Expressions, Tony Romo and the Cowboys were on the Browns’ 24 yard line, threatening to score again.
“Get him! Get him!” Jeff screamed at his iPhone as the screen showed Romo scrambling out of the pocket with two Browns in pursuit.
“Jeff, you’re gonna scare Madison,” Kathy scolded. “Put the phone away.”
He did for the moment. But he tuned in again as they waited in the lobby for the photographer. The Cowboys had settled for a field goal and now the Browns had possession.
“Hold on to the damn ball,” he implored.
“Jeff, stop it!” his wife whispered.
Jeff had never been much of a betting man, but Madison’s arrival and his modest salary as an apprentice landscaper for The Grass Hut encouraged him to a little coin down on some NFL games. When he picked up the Plain Dealer on Monday and saw that the Cowboys were favored to beat Cleveland by 14 points – a betting line of absurd proportions for a professional football game – he couldn’t help but put $500 on the Browns to beat the spread. After all, the game was in Cleveland and it was late November. Anything could happen in those conditions, he thought.
The game was back-and-forth for three quarters, then Dallas pulled away. The field goal had put the Cowboys up 31-21. Now, Jeff pulled the phone from his pants pocket and saw Dallas had the ball again, and was driving. There were four minutes to go.
“Bring him down!” he growled.
“Okay, honey.” With Madison perched on her hip, Kathy grabbed the phone from Jeff’s hand and dumped it into her oversized purse. “No more Fantasy Football today.”
Jeff winced. Kathy had no idea about the bet, of course. She couldn’t imagine how much he had put on the line for his wife and daughter. But he knew he had to do it. Two years ago, as a high school senior, he played Billy Bigelow in the school production of Carousel. At the time, taking a role in the play was just another way to meet girls. But now those words from Billy’s “Soliloquy” seared him with meaning: I’ll go out and make it or steal it or taaaaake it… or die!
Finally, after what seemed like an hour, the photographer appeared and ushered them to a stool in front of a brownish backdrop. Kathy sat on the stool with Madison in her lap, and Jeff kind of crouched up against them, knees bent, like he had just taken a shot to the gut.
“Get in a little closer,” the photographer told Jeff. “Pretend you like ’em.”
Jeff complied. He noticed the guy was wearing a Browns ball cap. That gave him an idea.
“Hey, man,” he said. “You catch the final score of the game? Last I saw, they were down by ten.”
The photographer looked into his lens and chuckled. “Oh, it got worse. Dallas scored two more touchdowns. What are you gonna do? Maybe we’ll get a good draft pick.”
Jeff felt the sensation of what seemed like three golf balls working their way slowly down his throat.
“Smiles, everyone!” the photographer said.
Photo pulled from tosh.comedycentral.com.