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The cold breeze cut right through his thin scarf. So he pushed the the shopping cart a little further forward. His was sitting on the morning's sport section. Picture of a football player under his bare foot. He looked down at it, pulled it out, and started reading it.
They heard a man's heels along the sidewalk.
Ada elbowed him. “Jeeter,” she said.
He looked up from the paper and said, “Spare change, sir.” But the man simply walked on by. He looked away, across the street.
“They don't even look at us anymore. Bastards,” said Ada.
“It's numbers,” said Jeeter. “Somebody's bound to give us something. Don't worry.” He lifted the paper. “See this? I used to play football. Right tackle.”
“Cant just ask for money,” said Ada. “Gotta do a show. Do something they like. Sing maybe.”
“I could do something, I'd have a job.” He laughed, she slapped at him, and she laughed too.
He pulled up his pant leg, and pushed his swollen bare foot further into the side walk. Easier to see.
“I played football, but I wasn't any good. It was tough. Coach didn't much care, he taught science. I wasn't good at school anyway, algebra.” He shook his head.
“See this guy?” He pointed at the paper again. “Guy plays for the Steelers. Some kind a sex early in the morning with some girl in a bar. She called the cops on him.”
"Spare any change sir?” said Ada. Man walked toward them and right on by.
“Football player's make all that money, and they act like they don't have any rules.” she said.
“You think that way? Some do act up, like this guy, I guess.” said Jeeter.
“Money they make. More than I'll see in a...spare any change sir?” She tried to smile.
Jeeter pushed out his foot even further into the sidewalk.
“I remember a guy in high school,” said Ada. “Played football. I thought we were good friends. Said he liked me. But he had all these other girls hanging around.”
“Guy is in a tough place,” said Jeeter looking at the news story. “All that money, people out to steel it from him, you know.”
“Even with money, guys has to know how to treat a lady. Can't be mean. You can tell. Look into his eyes. Here," she said. "Give me the paper.”
It was a picture of the player along side a smiling young girl.
“Yep, I see that...look...in his eye. He did something, I can tell.”
“It's the people you hang with, you know.” said Jeeter. “Says he's already been accused by some other lady two years ago, up in Lake Tahoe. Says he was her boyfriend already, and she still turned him in. That sounds fishy.”
“Maybe she wanted him to stay with her. Only thing she could do.” said Ada.
“Or maybe she was just looking for a big payday, him being who he is?”
“But guys lie,” said Ada. “Get you to do stuff. Maybe nobody never told him no. And when he hears no from a lady, it don't make any sense to him. He just keeps on.”
“You say no, I know what it means.” said Jeeter, looking over at her.
“I know, not talking about you. Hell, we hear no all the time.” They both laughed, and he started coughing. She pounded hard on his back, and he coughed louder.
“Make him work at the Mini-Mart for awhile," she said, "he'd know how the rest of us feel. Then he'd know how lucky he was. All that money. He's just never seen this side of the fence?”
“It's the team's fault,” said Jeeter. “They should keep a better eye on him, seein' he's already got girls turning him in. He makes them so much money. They should watch out for him better. You know.”
“Spare change ma'am.” said Jeeter.
“No, but have a nice day,” said a lady holding four or five bags.
“That was nice, you hear that?” said Ada.
“Or...you know... maybe he can't stop. Like Tiger Woods. Needs some kind of detox. Rehab.”
“Still, gotta do the right thing,” said Ada.
“It says it happened real early in the morning. Nothing much good happens after midnight, I know that. Guy that big should know better.”
Jeeter angled his foot out into the sidewalk, turning it so the swelling showed better. Ada nodded, then looked up with half a smile, “Spare some change, sir.”
Man walked past, head down too involved in thumbing a text message.
“See that?” said Ada. “He wasn't texin nobody.”
“What happens,” said Jeeter, “This first girl, they had sex, she wants to see him again, and when he never calls back, she gets revengeful. Even if it's not true with this guy, nobody'll look at him the same."
“But twice?” said Ada. “That's what you said. This is the second girl?”
She shook her head. “Like I say, people of goodwill and pure heart don't treat other people like crap.”
“Says here with the second girl, they were at some college bar in Georgia, and there was a $20 cover charge. TWENTY DOLLARS!”
“Well,” said Ada, her eyes dark. “That guy better not try no funny business with me, tell you that.”
“Ada. You wouldn't be a hundred miles from this place. Cost $20 JUST TO GET IN. You got nothing to worry about.”
“Still.” she said. She buttoning her coat close around her throat. “Rich people just go on their way.”
“I played ball until I got my knee hit from behind last high school game I played. Never recovered. 30 years now, you know. But to be quarterback you kinda have to be that way.” said Jeeter. “I'm in charge 'cause I know what's right. An Attitude. Sometimes you just have to bully the team. Can't be weak.”
He looked up and down the street.
“Think we'd be like this guy if we were rich?” said Ada.
“I'd just be guessing, you have to ask me again when I'm rich.” He laughed and then started coughing again.
“We still got hope.” she said.
“He's not been arrested yet,” said Jeeter, “so we'll just have to wait and see how this turns out. Maybe he didn't do this stuff?”
“He don't pay now, well, you will down the line. Look at this picture." She pointed at the picture. “Which one you going to believe?”
“He's still a real good player.”
"Oh, yeah. He's a player, all right." she said, her eyes big.
He looked down at his swollen foot, and took a deep breath. “Can't be worrying about rich people all day,” he said. “Time to make something for dinner. Least a couple bucks.”
“Not saying rich people are bad 'cause they're rich. Poor people are bad too. It's just no body cares much about poor people anymore.”
“Yeah,” said Jeeter. “Never see our pictures in the paper.”
Man in a suit came out of the building, saw them and pulled out his wallet.
“Hey?” said Jeeter, quickly pulling in his bare foot.
The man gave each a dollar, stared back into his wallet for a second, then moved on.
“Holy crap,” said Jeeter, his hands shaking. Then they saw another dollar on the sidewalk, one that had fallen out of the man's wallet.
“Shush, don't say nothin'” said Jeeter.
They looked at each other, and Ada's eyes dimmed. “Okay, okay,” he said. Then in unison, “Hey mister,” and pointed at the dollar. The man stopped and looked around. He stood for just a second, thinking, then waved his hand.
“Our lucky day. Our Luck-Key day,” said Jeeter. He hobbled out onto the sidewalk and snapped up the dollar bill. “I'll eat tonight!” He looked at Ada. “Sorry, WE'LL eat tonight.” They both laughed. Then he started coughing, his eyes all watery, and then they laughed some more.
That's my take. What do you think? Do we hold our athletes up to to high a standard off the field? Off the court? Off the diamond? Off the course?