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The Alden Chronicles, Part III

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In which our hero leaves too many messages. (Reminder: this is a work of fiction. Any ties to real people and real events are not to be taken literally. For the most part.)

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Your buddies told you that you had to wait two days before calling. Two days. Seemed unprofessional, with as fast as it all moves, as many handshake deals are made on the fly, but two days is the industry standard, they said. Never the next day. Always wait.

The index card had been ripped out of the the Rolodex and left on that weird mat, the one on the desk, yeah, that weird one. It is just sitting there in the spill of light from a desk lamp that could probably swing more than a semester’s tuition for most students here. A glaringly white rectangle, imposed upon the rich and luxurious earth tones of that weird leather mat.

It stares at you just as you stare at it. Your fingers massage your salt and pepper temples that haven’t seemed to stop pounding with stress and ache since that infernal press conference. Wow, had you gotten hammered for that one in the press. Apparently nobody ended up happy afterwards. No one. Who knew?

You really have no desire to make that phone call. None. The numbers are there. But you have a better idea. An idea that seems so good that there just doesn’t seem like any way that it can go poorly. An idea which can make that carnivorous, white smile of yours relevant and hungry again. Even those check-writing, uppity moneybags would have to stop their incessant whining and puppet-string pulling to sit back and admire a move like this one. You roll and crack your neck. You smile. It hurts a little and you have that dry mouth taste again. Hmph.

The Alden Chronicles

Has it been a full 48 hours, you wonder? Does that matter? Is that truly two days, or is it just as the squares on the calendar march along and fall to the wayside as they inexorably do? Two days. You drum your fingertips on the cradle of the phone. Is it too soon to set aside the gnashing of teeth and the rending of garments from the fans? Seems like it, but business is business, or so you’ve been told ever so many times recently.

The index card has something to say, some reflexive radio frequency from those monetary behemoths. You ignore it, as you’ve ignored a lot of the tiny voices in your own head along the way. This idea is better. Has to be better. Has to be the saving grace.

You pick up the earpiece in that very non-cell-phone kind of way and punch the numbers with your middle finger extended, the irony not lost on you as you aim it with some venom towards that dastardly index card. The number keys you hit, in the order you hit them, do not match the ones on that card on that mat.

"C’mon. Pick up. Somebody’s got to be in the Athletic Department at this time of day. C’mon."

"Really? A machine? Shi…"

Click.

"Let me try this other number, for the basketball office directly."

"Ring ring. Hey, remember those Sesame Stree… Ugh. Machine there, too?"

Click.

"Better not have Caller ID on there, bastards."

"I can’t just call his personal number, can I? Is that allowed?"

"C’mon. Doo te doo. C’mon."

"Meh meh meh, this is Bill, thanks for calling Tulsa, meh meh meh…"

"Hi, Bill. This is Mike. I’ve met you at some clinics and around. I, uh, just called to say I, uh, I’m really glad we’ve met and you should give me a call. So call me tomorrow, or, like, in two days, whatever. My number is 573-555-123… WHAT? It beeped?"

"Hi, Bill. This is Mike again. I just called because it sounded like your machine might have cut me off before I gave you my number, and also to say sorry for calling so soon after that presser, but you were still doing the tourney thing so I guess I’d get your machine. Anyway, my number is… ARRGGHHHH"

"573-555-1234. That’s all. I just wanted to leave my number. I don’t want you to think I’m weird or desperate or something … I mean, you know, we should just hang out. That’s it. No expectations. Just, you know, hang out. Bye."

"I just got out of a really long coaching relationship. Okay? That should help to explain why I'm acting so weird. It's not you. It's me. I just wanted to say that … … this is Mike."

"Hi, Bill. This is Mike again. Could you just call me when you get in? I'll be up for awhile, and I'd just rather talk to you in person instead of trying to squeeze it all… GRRRRRRR!"

"Hi, Bill. Mike. I don't think this is working out. I think you're great, but maybe we should just take some time off from each other. It's not you, really. It's me…."

"BILL! Great, did you just walk in or have you been listening the whole time?"

Your head hits the desk with a hollow and foreboding thump. You can hear your heart racing as it pushes the stress enzymes in your bloodstream through every looping inch of your veins and arteries. Oh god ... it seemed like such a good idea at the start. It seemed so money...

The numbers from the index card are surprisingly easy to dial, even though your vision is jumpy and watery. The dry mouth has returned with a vengeance, and your temples pulsate with angry hornet’s buzzing.

"Yes, hi. This is Mike Alden calling to speak to your athletic director about the promising, young assistant coach Quin... "