A late September Saturday afternoon. The sky godless and electric blue and filled with trumpet blast and statistics. What a tiny scab on this roadmap Touchdown is, but would you look at that stadium! Worthy of the vilest gladiator games. And, now, a crowd of townsfolk appears, a sweaty biological mass of many moving as one, willing itself towards relevancy. They scuttle past in a harsh slanted light. Their mouths snap open and shut like sea turtles. They say — Go State. Snap. They say — Beat Tech. Snap. They say — We're number one and so on and so forth. Snap snap snap.
The town, having been founded by some fur trapper of dubious French legend way back in the buck-skinned year of eighteen and blah blah blah— did you see that monster truck yonder?! Covered in State stickers and flags. Horn blaring the State fight song. Go State! Muffler blast of yon truck. Beat Tech! Rat-a-tat of marching band snare and tom. Hot white flash of damp cheerleader panties. Sacrificial teenaged flesh, sweaty and bare. Old men devouring their young with gauzy-going eyes.
And look! Right there in the shady square beneath granite Jeb Stuart upon his horse — it is the town derelict, standing atop a park bench and shouting.
He makes a bullhorn of his filthy hands and shouts, "Hypocrites on parade! Love thy enemy!"
His beard a tangled owl's nest, his face the texture and color of oak bark. Townsfolk shuffle past, oblivious. Glances here and there. Gravel and hard candy cast upon him by trailer trash children, then snickering. The derelict continues.…
"Oh, the poor shall always be among us! Poor in health. Poor of mind. Poor in the Holy Spirit!"
The derelict's name is Gaylord Gunn Godd, PhD. Long ago, this man a much-lauded thinker and writer. An East Coast doctorate in Ancient Rhetoric or Meta- Religious Studies or Philosophical Poetics or some such horseshit. Upon retirement, he gave up office hours and tramped abroad for several years (war-torn Latin America, drab Eastern Europe) only to find himself returning to Touchdown and squatting in the back room of a meth lab ranch-style two miles out on the highway. Doctor Godd, the hick tenants call him. He hath blessed us, they say between pipe sucks. Fits of sick laughter and wet coughing. Godd be with us, har har.
Sky a softer blue now, with high wispy cirrus in the north. The marching band townsfolk parade has moved on down Champion Street and now fills the stadium with such Old Testament noise. Sun dropping behind tall pines. Far-off hum of the highway. Nighthawks zigzagging above.
There is no one left in the square but Doctor Godd. He still stands atop the bench, stroking his tangled beard, huffing and puffing. The air suddenly reeks of paper mill, of popcorn, of sad-eyed surrender. He turns slowly around to face the stadium and shouts.
"Blessed are the meek for they shall inherit the earth!"
He shouts, "Faith without works is dead!"
He shouts, "Beware of false prophets!"
A rumbling now from down the street, overtaking the game noise. His bench is quaking, but Gaylord stays put, still staring at the stadium. Like riding a surfboard, he is, laughing and pointing now as the giant lights flicker and go out. He can just catch a multitude of screams on the wind. A weeping and gnashing of teeth. Again, he shouts.
“And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell: and great was the fall of it!”
A pause. A nighthawk keers overhead. Then, a prehistoric boom, and the stadium collapses in on itself like some motion picture nightmare. Champion Street crumbles into a gaping maw. A crevasse to hell. Doctor Godd screams his laughter now. Screams to the silent heavens. He places his filthy hands together in prayer, and then drops like a stone with the rest of Touchdown into the black and unforgiving earth.
Harold Whit Williams is guitarist for the critically acclaimed rock band Cotton Mather, and he releases lo-fi home recordings as Daily Worker. He is a 2018 Pushcart Prize Nominee, and also recipient of the 2014 Mississippi Review Poetry Prize. His collection Backmasking was winner of the 2013 Robert Phillips Poetry Chapbook Prize from Texas Review Press, and his latest, My Heavens, is available from FutureCycle Press. He lives in Austin, Texas.