“He’s a one-cut running back,” said Daniels, a little too loudly. “That’s what he’s paid for. Why does he keep dancing around behind the line?”
“Maybe they should send him back to the minors,” said Pretends He Understands Football Man. “Until he’s ready for the big time.”
Daniels blinked, and glanced sidelong at Peterson.
“Yeah,” he said.
Thad looked at his shoes.
Things got quiet.
Peterson cleared his throat. “So who’s in for this Sunday?”
Daniels raised his hand. “I’m going to eat your nachos and watch the Cowboys ruin your day.”
“You’re having a Superbowl party?” said Pretends He Understands Football Man.
Peterson hesitated, and then recovered, quickly. “Yeah!” he said. “Yeah. Sorry, Jeff, I would have invited you, but you never want to come to these things.”
“I’d love to, if there’s room.”
“Sure. There’s always room. We start around 4:00.”
“Great! I’ll be there.” Pretends He Understands Football Man picked up his coffee and smiled around at everyone, then went back to his office.
The rain was slapping against the windows. He sat down and looked at his phone. Don’t, he thought. But he picked it up and dialed.
Three rings, and then her voice: “Hello?”
For a moment, he couldn’t speak. She must not have looked at her caller id.
“Sheila,” he said, finally. “Don’t hang up.”
Silence. He could hear her breathing on the other end.
“I just want to talk to them. Just for a minute.”
Nothing. She was chewing on her lip now, he thought: the way she did, just the two front teeth, the crease between her eyebrows deepening.
“Or at least hear their voices. Please. Put Jason on. I won’t say anything.”
She drew in a breath, like she was getting ready to answer.
But she didn’t. The line went dead.
He held the receiver to his ear for a moment more, then put it down, gently.
After a while, he picked up the newspaper and flipped over to the sports section and sat there until evening, studying.