Vag pulled the telegram from behind the beermug on the mantlepiece, and tore off the end of the yellow envelope. He pushed a shirt and a pair of dirty socks off the easy chair, then sat down to read it.
"XCI-317 NL PD NORTHAMPTON MASS" it said. That didn't make any sense. Vag went on. "SORRY CAN'T COME FOR GAME MUST STAY WITH SICK MOTHER STOP SOME OTHER TIME," Vag read it carefully twice over, then crumpled it into a small ball and flipped it toward the wastebasket. It bounced off the rim, and sat smugly on the edge of the rug.
Vag felt a warm, liquid pressure at the back of his throat. He tried to light a cigarette and found his hand was shaking and gave up. He could see out the window and across the quad from his chair; it was a gray day with the wind whipping off the river, and the couples were already filing out of the entrys and towards the dining hall gate. There were boys carrying blankets and shorthaired girls brushing leaves from their green dresses. Vag watched them for a minute, then got up and opened his desk drawer.
The tickets were on top of a pile of old bank statements. 33 MM 4, 33 MM5. Vag had waited more than two hours to get them. Something rattled when he closed the drawer again, and Vag remembered the bottle. He had bought that too. He gingerly reopened the drawer, withdrew the bottle from behind the pile of checks. The contents smelled familiar and unpleasant and Vag felt the first tentative swallow catch in his throat.
Out past the tower, Vag heard the church clock finish out its little four-phrase tune, and then ring twice. That for the kickoff. The next swallow was easier. He reached a glass out of the bookcase, filled it half-full, and gulped it down. This was better, and he repeated the process. Then he thought of the tickets in his pocket. Vag paused for a moment, watching a leaf spiral down past his window, then ran for the closet and grabbed his coat. He sprinted down the stairs and started across the quad, running easily, with the bottle carefully cradled in one hand. It could have the extra seat. This was Saturday afternoon, and Vag had a job to do. "What the hell," he thought. "We've got five more to go." As he paced himself through the gate, Vag lifted his head slightly and looked up at the deserted dining hall. "Kill the Indian!" he yelled, as loud as he could.