Chapter 28

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Ten Years Ago (Part 1)

Howie Boy Collier walked across campus feeling dejected. The rainy August evening added to his funk. After football practice today, he had spoken with a pro scout who told him he wasn't quite big enough, strong enough, or fast enough to make it as an NFL defensive back.

He couldn't understand it. He was about to enter his senior year at Penn State University and the coach had named him as a starter on defense. How could he be playing for one of the most elite college football teams in the country and not even be considered for the draft?

He had some serious sulking to do. A few minutes later he found himself sitting in a bar in downtown State College, PA. It wasn't one of the more popular places, so it wasn't busy. A few people sat in booths and a foursome played pool in the game room.

"Bourbon, straight up," he told the bartender, "and a beer chaser." His father had introduced him to the joys of bourbon when he had turned twenty-one. He didn't like the stuff much but couldn't argue with how quickly it worked to remedy his sour moods. When the bartender set the spirits and mug of beer in front of him, Howie Boy threw back the bourbon savoring the burn to his throat and chest. He put out the fire with a long pull of cold beer.

"Another," he ordered. The bartender was only too happy to oblige. Howie Boy had the reputation of being a big tipper when the wait staff showed him special attention.

From a booth behind him, a voice asked, "Woman troubles?"

Howie Boy swiveled on the bar stool and recognized Neil "Manty" Mantener, a student who had been on the same floor of his freshman and sophomore dorm. Although they both took some of the same classes, they didn't have the same circle of friends, Howie Boy being an avowed jock and Neil Mantener a nerdy electrical engineering major. At keggers, though, the nerd loosened up and was always good for a few laughs.

"What makes you think I have woman troubles?"

Manty sat in a booth, books piled high, stacks of papers strewn about, a plate of nachos sitting near his left elbow, and holding a mug of beer in his right hand. "Looks like you're planning to go on a bender. Most of the time that behavior can be traced back to problems with a woman."

The bartender delivered Howie Boy's second round. He picked up his drinks and joined Manty in his booth. "For your information, Sherlock, you're way off base in your deduction. It isn't about a woman." He eyed the nachos.

Manty noticed him looking and slid the plate of nachos his way. Howie Boy grabbed a few of the chips and laid them on a paper napkin.

"What then?" Manty asked. "Why the long face?"

Howie Boy downed his second bourbon and snapped his fingers, signaling the bartender for a third.

"I wish I had the power to do that, have people come running when I snapped my fingers."

"Has nothing to do with power. It's all about how much money a person is willing to spend."

"Ah, but money equals power."

With his head already gone fuzzy, Howie Boy considered his classmate's statement. "Yeah, money. It's a double-edged sword. When you have too much money people become jealous of you." He had a sudden revelation. That had to be it! "Those sons-of-bitches are jealous of my father's success and wealth. This is their way of getting back at him. Through me. That's why I'm being black-balled. All the team owners are conspiring against him and me. They're telling the scouts to ignore me."

Manty set down the paper he had been reading. "What are you mumbling about?"

It was crystal clear to Howie Boy. Someday, he'd be in a position of power to get back at those old bastards, the cartel of NFL owners. He might run for congress, maybe even president, and tax the hell out of them. Make them sorry for what they're doing to him.

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