Jarrell and Nacho were among the unfortunate few to witness the debacle that played out in Jones Stadium on Saturday morning against West Virginia. Rex Taylor hosted the two in his suite high above the 50 yard line on the stadium’s west side.
While Nacho was engrossed in the unfamiliar life of Lubbock’s high society inside the suite, Jarrell was less than impressed. It was all too antiseptic, all too pristine and, most importantly, all too quiet. Sure, the product on the field didn’t help matters, but even early on when the game was still within reach for Texas Tech, the fans inside the suite were less than committed. It was a funny thing to consider—so many of those in the seats below probably looked up at the suites and wished they could watch the game in style. But all Jarrell wanted to do was sit down in the stands with the rest of them, where it was ok to get a little rowdy.
On top of that, the Red Raiders played miserably. Pat Mahomes was obviously still not 100% and no one seemed to step up to help him out. It was one of the worst games Jarrell could remember, and he could remember a lot of them. It was a gorgeous fall Saturday in Lubbock, ruined by mid-afternoon by a lackluster effort from his beloved Red Raiders. Jarrell just couldn’t shake the gloomy feeling amidst the revelers inside the suite.
Rex noticed Jarrell’s discomfort and sat down in an empty seat to Jarrell’s left. Nacho sat cheering on Jarrell’s right. “Ever wonder what the first person to ever make popcorn thought?” Rex asked.
“What?” asked a confused Jarrell.
“The first guy to make popcorn. You know, he was probably messing around with some dried up kernels of corn on the fire and all the sudden POP! All those kernels just started popping into the little lightweight balls around him. It had to freak him out, him with his tiny little caveman brain. He probably ran off and got his cavemen friends and they all jumped around and snorted all night, beating their chests and stuff,” Rex continued. “I’m sure they went around to all the caves, scavenging for dried kernels, and when they found some, they’d grunt to the other confused cavemen. ‘Come with me, they’d grunt, you gotta see this crazy shit.’”
Jarrell shook his head and laughed. “You’ve got a strange mind, Rex,” Jarrell said. “I know,” Rex replied.
Rex leaned in and spoke quietly. “Hey listen,” he said. “I think I’ve got an answer to your Roy problem,” he said. Jarrell looked around to make sure no one was listening, especially Nacho. The boy was focused entirely on the game. “Go on,” Jarrell said. “Not here,” Rex said. Meet me tomorrow morning for breakfast at Montelongo’s.”
“I’ll be there at 8,” Jarrell said. “Alright, see you then,” Rex said, rising from his seat. “Man, I wish ol’ Kiff had a little more Leach in eem,” Rex said before walking away. “Me too,” Jarrell thought.
When the game was over, Jarrell and Nacho stopped at Tommy’s for burgers and chili cheese fries. It felt good to drown their sorrows in beef and grease, and both felt better on the ride home. The two made small talk about school work, Evelyn’s recovery and the sad situation with Red Raider football. “Do you think Mahomes is still hurt?” Nacho asked. “Probably so,” Jarrell muttered. “But that don’t fix stupid.”
“What do you mean?” Nacho asked. “I mean the way they play, stupid penalties, stupid plays, it’s just all so stupid,” Jarrell replied. “Yeah,” Nacho said and held his arm out the suburban’s window to fight against the rushing wind. “Mr. Jarrell,” Nacho said. “Are you gonna get that baby back?”
“We’ll see,” said Jarrell and turned up the radio.
The next morning Jarrell pulled into Montelongo’s and noticed Rex’s Lexus was already there. He could tell it was his by the “T-Rex Esq.” vanity plates affixed to the black luxury car. Jarrell walked into the small restaurant and saw Rex sitting with a very large man at a table near the back. He approached, cautiously.
“Jarrell!” Rex exclaimed, rising from his seat. “Come on over, I want you to meet someone.” Jarrell stopped at the table and allowed Rex to throw his arm around his shoulder, while he simultaneously did the same with his other arm when the large man stood up. “He has to be seven feet tall,” Jarrell thought as he quickly sized him up. The man extended his hand and Jarrell shook it. Jarrell is not a small man, but his hand was completely engulfed in the fleshy palm and strong fingers of his new acquaintance. “I’m Jarrell,” he said. “Nice to meet you.”
“Hello” the man said in a surprisingly crisp, intellectual voice. “My name is Gilbert.”