Another Summer Steamer

Brother Bone conjures up a tale about the Old Man and the Lake. Or perhaps just a stranger. Check out this Commentate-Off 2K2 entry with a twist.

Another summer steamer, a giant sun peered through the morning haze and Carl knew what was in store. The heat had been unbearable lately and today it was again obvious, no respite in sight.


Carl stepped back from his window and uttered aloud to himself, " well, what's a Cleveland boy to do?" A smile came over his face as he made plans for the day. The phone rang and it was his best friend Rich," Dude its gonna be hot again today and I cant take this anymore with no air conditioning, you want to go down to the lake and pound a few?" "Dawg, you must have been reading my mind", Carl acted surprised by the call, as if he hadn't gotten the same call a hundred times before. "Call the girls, meet me here at eleven". It was on, the usual diversion, a case or two of cold ones and one of those cheap disposable grills, some hot dogs and their loud beer guzzling girl friends, who felt everyone else drank to much. Carl and Rich both new they could do better, some day they felt, when they had a little more money. Just another day sitting in Richs chalky Grey aluminum, and plastic lawn chairs at the Lake and tailgating by Carl's ancient Bu-Hog Electra-225, the one he told everyone was his winter car, the one he drove all year long. Just another summer day in Cleveland.


They had made their way to the parking lot and just behind them loomed Cleveland Browns stadium, just up the hill they could see the Rock Halls pyramid and the cold ones were going down particularly good this day. It was right about the time when the discussion came up again about Carl's' dinosaur car when they first noticed him, a man standing at the edge of the corrugated iron shoreline, standing perfectly still and looking out over the Lake. "You see that guy over there", Carl was the first to speak up. "No way dude you aint changing the subject again, you got to get some real wheels man", Rich was relentless, "no, shut up!" his girlfriend piped in, " I have been watching that guy and he is giving me the creeps. "What are you talking about, he's just some drunk," Rich was intent on continuing the ribbing he was giving his friend about the Bu-Hog that was as old as he was. "And you aren't?" Jen had a way with words and the ensuing discussion Carl wanted no part of, he stood up and walked away mumbling about having to take a leak.


As he walked closer to the figure motionless by the waters edge a cool breeze blew in off of Lake Erie, it seemed to be made just for him, just then the man turned around and began walking away. From the waters edge, he strolled effortlessly, not like some drunk, Carl thought to himself, toward the colossus that was the home of the new Browns. Carl walked down to the shore and began taking his first leak of the day into the Lake. A strange feeling came over him realizing the man was somewhere behind him, but no sound was coming from that direction. Carl finished ‘paying his bill' and turned to see the man some thirty feet away sitting on a concrete traffic barrier, and he walked towards the man. "You OK?" Carl uttered in a slightly nervous voice, he was somehow uneasy about this character but at the same time compelled to find out more about him and why he seemed to be watching his group. He felt for his pocket knife and squeezed it, the one his brother gave him before he left for Vietnam, the one he promised to take care of while his big brother was away, the one he never got the chance to return. He walked toward the silent motionless stranger. " I said, are you OK" Carl had mustered a little more confidence into his voice as he strode toads the stranger. He could hear the girls bickering with Rich about his drinking and Carl's old beater of a car in the distance, he could now see the man clearly, his heavy jacket on such a hot day, his face as dry as a bone. Carl was near the edge of fear when the man finally spoke, " Where do the Browns play?" The man said in an echoed sort of voice.

Carl nearly broke out in a laugh, this guy is a nut case, he thought to himself, "Dude! take a look behind you…HELLO?"  "What is it called?" the man spoke again with that almost reverb voice.


"Man where are you from" Carl was ready to taunt the stranger, but he was more curious than anything else. They were only a few feet from each other now, and Carl could see the man was very old, almost haggard looking but at the same time he seemed like he was in better shape than he was, it was then he realized this was the strangest person he had ever met, and began to count back in his mind how many beers he had already drank.


"I am from Cleveland but I have been away for a long time, tell me son, are the Browns still the best team in football?" "Dude you must have been away in freaking Japan, we ain't never won a Super Bowl, that scumbag Modell stole the whole damn team away we didn't even have a team for years and then we got them back and this Elmer Fudd looking wuss-coach lead us to the pinnacle of disgrace for two years, we sucked like the Indians used to suck when you were a fan."


It was then when Carl noticed a profound sadness on the mans face, a look like he had never seen before, it was bit chilling to him and he caught himself, thinking hey this guy is a nut and I am talking to him, and this whole thing is crazy, "I better be getting back, you know the girls and all" Carl, spoke aloud as he was just about to backpedal when the stranger said, "I will always be a fan"


"Do you know about the Browns?" The stranger asked, "Dude, I just told you about the Browns" Carl was ready to leave end this conversation when the Man began telling a story about the Browns, Carl was thinking to himself how much it sounded like one of his fathers lectures, that was when he was sober enough to give them. The stranger went on about men named Graham, and Motley, Lavelli, Ford and Mitchell, Gatski and McCormack. Carl thought to himself, he hadn't heard those names since he was a kid and his brother and dad used to…he stood motionless and listened, gulping down the last of his now warm beer as the man went on about #76 who averaged 5.7 yards per carry for his entire career, even more than the Legend Jim Brown, who even all of Carl's friends knew about. The stranger told stories about a Quarterback who wore #60 and a led the greatest team in NFL history the 1950s Cleveland Browns, while wearing Converse high-tops. A team that played in the Super-Bowl of the day, the NFL championship, six years in a row. A team that defined a town and its people, simple tough, and proud. A team that would break your nose if you doubted it. He talked of a team during the sixties that played an average .681 ball for ten years. He talked of the kind of play that was to later be named smash mouth. He talked of the cradle of football, Ohio, and Massillon and Canton. And when he was finished he looked at Carl and asked, " Tell me what of this year?"


Carl couldn't ignore the pained look on the mans face, so he began his story, about a real football coach from Arkansas, and a defense that will be the most feared in the league, and the return of  hits that could be heard from row triple Z at the old Muni his Brother always talked about, and in the winter in the frozen swirling air off of the lake. He talked of the return of smash mouth, and men named Warren and this kid from, Ohio Taylor, and a running back like Emmit…he stopped.. Well like Leroy, and how it was going to get back to normal again with the Indians out of it by summer and the Browns playing late into winter all the way to the last game. Carl was just getting into it when he noticed for the first time a smile broke upon the mans face.


Feeling a bit proud of himself, Carl blurted out, "hey wait here I am going to get us a couple of beers," he turned and began a thirsty trot back to the still bickering trio, by the old Bu-Hog.


He was greeted with a chorus of, whats up dude?, what is your problem? etc.


"I have been talking to this old guy about the Browns" Carl crooned like he had just won Springsteen tickets. "What old guy?" The girls were looking at him with a quite puzzled expression. The one reserved for drunks at last call who want to drive everyone home, "The guy by the Lake," Carl said, as he turned around to point to the old man. "That guy walked away when you went down there and pissed in the Lake, we thought you were over there pouting all by yourself, I have told you about that, pouting and drinking" …… Jen began her familiar song again, as Carl stared into the distance in disbelief, finger outstretched… no one was there, just a strangely cool breeze of off Lake Erie on a hot summer day. He stood puzzled, motionless.


It was going to be a long ride home. He was going to lay off the beers.


Just another summer day in Cleveland.


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