Web writes: "I'm a short story writer,both on-line and off, and for 40 years was a newspaper
reporter and editor."
‘Twas late afternoon.
And Marian, feeling trapped, put her kicker up on the table and said,
“You boys got me into this. Now get me out.”
She was in a heck of a fix. The young mother was but a waitress making improved but less-than-thrilling wages. And now she had the attention of the Chicago underworld.
She could remember back a few weeks how it all started, perhaps innocently enough.
It was in late August. Deadlines had been met. The boys” -- sports aficionados all -- were having coffee in an across-the-street-from-the-Seattle Times soiree.
In other words at Danny’s, where Marian was working.
Sports writers from the Seattle Times, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, Associated Press, United Press International, and several other news organizations were talking about the upcoming football season. They were trying to think a gimmick for predicting winners. In other years, each sports writer had been picking his predicted winners for print a few days ahead of Saturday’s college football showdowns.
Throughout the years they had tried everything. They’d tried keeping score -- putting it in print on Thursdays -- on who predicted what, and continuing throughout the season to see which sports writer made the best predictions.
Some years the writers had predicted point margins. Other years they had not.
It all had been entertaining. But this year, as in other recent years, the exercise In sports divination had worn ho-hum. Perhaps even stale.
Other things they had tried included getting “the dope” -- all right, predictions -- from sports luminaries around the country. They had tried clever arguments to go with predictions. They had even got ridiculous some years, making statements like, “I think Washington will beat Oregon State because Washington has such pretty purple socks.”
Well, that particular year, they DID get housewives reading the sports pages, But that, too, wore thin.
However, all of those innovations were water past the dam at that point. They wanted to come up with something new to keep readers interested. Especially if that reader was but a casual football fan. The sports writers had decided that they didn’t want to be overly serious, yet serious enough to keep the newspaper-reading sports nut interested.
Ideas flew around the table like shrapnel. They opined this. They opined that. It was brainstorming, but it brought lots of laughs. Still no cigar. They couldn’t agree except for one thing -- this year it had to be different.
On it went -- for more than two hours. No decision.
About that time Marian waltzed over to the big table and asked if anyone wanted refills.
She added that for one day she had heard enough about football. Picking winners can’t be that hard, she had said. “Just do it. Like you do most years. . . . Now how about some cash for more drinks or coffee, eh boys?”
The group of guys grew silent. One writer from the United Press, however, casually looked at Marian. Everyone thought he was checking out her physical attributes.
Then he broke the silence. “Hey, I’ve got it! How about Marian The Waitress picks football. We could all chip in, giving advice. Take a vote. And everyone put the same thing on the wire or in the paper. Marian the Waitress picks football. The readers would go wild.”
“Wow! Great idea,” said one of the sports writers. The suggestion got a full round of praise. “Let’s do it,” one of the sports guys said.
“Hey boys, c’mon. I don’t know a thing about football,” she said.
“You don’t have to,” the sports scribe said. “We sports writers would take a vote and even come up with points. You wouldn’t even have to talk to us, or anyone else. We’d just use your first name for the printed predictions. The reading public wouldn’t know who you were, until perhaps later. If they did find out, you could defer questions to us. After all, we have some of the best minds in football sitting right here. We’d just use your name behind the predictions.
“How about it?”
‘Uhhh, I dunno. Sounds sappy.”
“Hey, Marian. It’d be just a gimmick.”
“Uhhh, I don’t know. Let me think about it.”
A week later, she said, “Okay, I’ll do it . . .just for you boys. But I warn you, I don’t even know what a football looks like. I just hope I don’t get fired.”
Two weeks later, Jimmy Bob O’Tool, who was assistant chief of the United Press International bureau in Seattle, and unipresser cohorts were sitting around the bureau. They were speculating on their Marian The Waitress Picks Football program, saying that it might have sounded like a good idea at the time, but it appeared now that it wasn’t. There had been absolutely no response.
Not a hooray. Not a complaint. Nothing.
Two weeks of minor college football -- plus a couple of early big college tiffs – and not a reaction.
As they were discussing the matter, admitting that it was probably good that they had stopped sending out the feature, saying that now they’d have to come up with another idea, the telephone rang. It was the newspaper in Yakima. “Hey are you guys going to sit on that Marian The Waitress Picks Football feature all day or what? We need it in a few minutes for early pages.”
”Omigosh,” said Jimmy Bob. “You haven’t got it? We’ll check. Perhaps we’ll move it again.”
They scurried, trying to piece together the feature column that they had not sent, because of no reaction.
After a flurry of telephone calls, getting sports writers’ votes, O’Tool and cohorts began piecing it together. They moved the column feature on the UPI wire within the hour.
“I guess ‘tis more successful than we thought,”’ said one of the others who had been at the sports writers’ coffee klatch two weeks earlier.
It thus was becoming a standard feature every Wednesday.
The feature became talk of the Northwest sports world. It’s success (accuracy) on picks was unheard of -- almost 90 percent. Terrific. Everyone wanted to know how Marian did it. Then, after a while, the recipients and readers began to ask who was this Marian anyway?
The answer usually was, “A waitress who knows and loves football.”
“Yeah, but where is she?” they’d persist. ”I’d like to know how she does it. I’d like to see her predictions a little earlier, so I could get some money down.”
Of such was the opening kick off of the bookies, sports buffs, office betters, and all-around football gurus.
Well, “the boys” -- sports writers at the earlier meeting -- underestimated the bookies.
The “books”were diligent. It wasn’t long before they found out where Marian was waitress.
They’d show up at Danny’s and Danny’s got busier than it ever had been. The owner, Dan Worthell, loved it. He began to see that even though it was the sports writer guys who were doing it, he recognized that it all pivoted around Marian. Because of the increased business, he gave her a raise.
So Marian sort of liked it as well.
Or at least she did for a while. The increased wages made her life so much easier, and she sort of enjoyed being in the limelight.
Bookies would come in and say, “Hey Marian, who do you like, Michigan or Notre Dame?”
And she’d say, “Well, you can read it in the papers tomorrow boys.”
“Ah c’mon Marian! I gotta get some money down. Tell me. I need to know now.”
And she’d say, “Sorry boys, read it in the papers tomorrow.”
And to the others she’d say, “You guys think I’m so dumb because I’m just a waitress. Well, I know futbaw. I know futbaw.”
Then one day, it happened. Mr. Big from Chicago walked in.
One of the bookies introduced them. “Marian, this guy
is Mafia and he’s big. Don’t mess with ‘im. Don’t play games.
Others have tried it and life for them became most unpleasant. Some even
lost their lives. Know what I mean? Catch my drift?"
“Now he wants to bet a bundle, don’tcha boss? Then, as an aside to Marian, “there’ll sure to be some money for ya in his proposition.”
“Yeah yeah,” Mr. Big said. “I need to know. I wanna lay some big money on Saturday’s topper. Who d’ya like, Texas or Oklahoma? Chicago Trib has Oklahoma by seven. Whatta you say?"
“Oklahoma by 7? I dunno,” she said. “Sounds a little shakey. Lemme think about it . . .”
“Wha? You’re not sure?”
“I say lemme think abouddit. Right now, I gotta wait some tables.”
Mr. Big just remained rooted and stammered, “Hey, f-f-forget the tables, this is b–b-big!”
About this time, Danny approached “Hey you, whoever you are, don’t mess with my lunch trade. She needs to wait the tables.”
“I’m Dan, the owner.”
“Yeah? The owner of this two-bit place? Well, jus’ shaddup, or this place will be under new ownership, because you’ll be wearin’ concrete shorts!
“Yeah the syndicate has a contract with Portland Redi-Mix,” said the bookie with Mr. Big.
Marian, terrorized, in the meantime had walked rapidly toward the kitchen. She was muttering, ‘increased wages . . .remuneration from Mr. Big . . .nothing is worth that.” However, instead of going to the kitchen she went next door, into the backroom where some of “the boys” were.
“See that guy out there? Well, I can’t handle this. That guy’s half mean. And he’s big shot from the East.”
“So?” one of the boys asked.
Feeling trapped, she put her kicker up on the table, and said loud enough for even the cook to hear, “You boys put me up to this. Now get me out!”
Louie, one of the boys, said, “Bring your Bible with you and tell ‘im that you’ll tell ‘im your pics, if he’ll jus’ sit down with you for a Bible lesson. Hardi-har har har, he won’t wanna do that. That’s another world for him. But if he nevertheless agrees, and afterwards tries to muscle you, say Texas by 10.”
“Yeah,” chorused the others, half laughing.
Marian, obviously outraged, just stared at them. “All right you guys... Texas by 10,” she warbled. Then she went to a cupboard, hauled down her Bible, and headed for Mr. Big.
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