Bill popped his head into my cubicle.
“Hey, Jake. Got some time off this weekend. How 'bout we go to the big game?”
Saturday morning we headed out, loaded with chips and drinks, excited and looking forward to a great day.
“You got any thoughts on who might win?”
Bill was pulling into the parking lot.
“I just hope we can find a place to park,” he responded.
Rows and rows of vehicles confronted us; a sea of gleaming metal reflecting a high noon sun.
Finally at the farthest parking area we found a spot.
“Hope we make the kickoff,” I huffed as we hurried toward the entrance.
We weren't the only ones running late. Lines of waiting fans stood impatiently before six or seven ticket booths.
At last it was our turn and we approached the window.
“How much?” Bill had his wallet out, prepared to pay.
We both gasped at the price.
“No way! We can't afford that! How can all these people afford that?” I shouted, accompanied by the agitated waving of my arms.
A man dressed in a white suit came out of a nearby office.
“What seems to be the problem, Angel?” His voice was quiet and gentle, and perfectly audible despite the noise of the crowd and of the game already in progress.
“Sir, these gentlemen appear to have concerns about the price of admission.”
The man turned to us and I was struck by his face. He was ageless in appearance, though I perceived that he was older than his calm, unlined face indicated. There was no trace of irritation in him. He simply waited for us to state our case.
“Uh, sir, I – I mean we – just want to get into the game, not buy the stadium, you see.”
My statement sounded pretty lame to my own ears.
“The price is the price, I'm afraid,” he responded after a long moment in which he seemed to look right into our souls.
Dumbfounded, we stood with gaping mouths while the next guy in line cleared his throat loudly.
Not knowing what else to do, we turned and walked back in the direction of our car. All the time we could hear the sounds of cheering and laughter and happy talking coming from the direction of the stadium.
I finally exploded.
“I don't get it. How did all those people get inside there? How could they afford the ticket?”
“Maybe they bought them in advance or something.” Bill just sounded dejected.
I spun around and faced the stadium.
“Hey, what's the gimmick anyway?” I yelled it pretty loud.
“Uh, hey,” I heard Bill say.
Turning I found myself facing the man in the white suit. I looked around for some sort of cart or skateboard or flying saucer. I hadn't heard him following us nor could I imagine how he'd approached us so suddenly and silently.
“You really want to get into the game?”
I narrowed my eyes. What kind of scam was this?
“Yes, yes we do,” answered Bill. I shot him a warning glance.
“What's it going to cost us?” I asked testily.
“Come with me,” he replied.
I don't know how we found ourselves suddenly in his office.
He signed a couple of tickets and handed one to each of us.
Never one to be too trusting, I kept my hands at my side.
“I still want to know the price,” I said, but said it a little more softly.
The man looked up and smiled.
“The price is my blood and my hard work. You see, I own the stadium. The tickets are a free gift to you.”
“But why us?” I persisted.
“Thank you, sir,” said Bill.
“That's why,” answered the man. “And a long time ago I knew a couple of guys a lot like the two of you.”
He came around the desk and placed a hand on each of our shoulders.
“Gentlemen, if you'd allow me to, I'd like to treat you to dinner after the game as well. I have a great story to tell you.”
He did not disappoint. Now we're looking forward to really great things.
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