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It was half-past November, and time for Champagne Chuck Stewart to commence preparations for his annual pilgrimage from Golf. Illinois, to the Eastern seaboard. His venerable Spalding putter--the one he used to ace out the guy from Columbia on the seventeenth hole--seven cases of Hamm's Beer his DKI sweatshirt, a wrinkled and somewhat threadbare plain jacket from J. Press York Street. New Haven, and one very blonde Midwestern girl--all of it went into a creaking and rather obscene '64 Thunderbird, the same one he had tried unsuccessfully to unload on this ensign from Harvard when he was in the Navy. It had become a ritual even down to the blank check he folded twice and tucked into his wallet just before heading East on interstate 90 Champagne Chuck Yale 69 was going back to New England and this time be wasn't going to shell out any money to those obnoxious people from Cambridge.
As he stopped at the McDonald's just outside of buclid. Ohio, to share a few burgers with the blonde girl his mind went back to that sorry evening a year before when he had made a similar pilgrimage to New Haven Yale had been favored then but that damn kid Crone, the quarterback that Carm Cozza was supposed to have convinced to come to Yale, had passed the Eli defenders silly. Stewart had had a cool hundred on that game, even though he never expected his Harvard counterpart to show up. For all he knew, the Harvard guy was still out there with the Navy, steaming around on a rusting bird farm and arguing Ivy football with Shack the Rack, who had gone to Princeton Surely, he had forgotten about me even-up wager they had made a year earlier after a few beers at the Mavport Officers Club. A standing bet, $100 annually on the Harvard Yale game supplemented yearly according to the cost of living increase. And even if he hadn't, surely the Harvard guy wouldn't be able to get off the ship during an at-sea period to come North Champagne Chuck had checked on that. He had called the Great Lakes training center a few days earlier, and had checked the ship's operating schedule. The aircraft carrier would be 200 miles at sea, he was told, launching and recovering Phantom jets at the very moment Phil Faust was kicking off for Harvard at the Bowl, Stewart was golden, and he knew it.
So even after Harvard had taken a 28-2 lead at the half, and had gone on to win 35-16. Champagne wasn't worried. He wasn't aware that the Harvard guy was sitting comfortably across the field, dispensing Hungarian wine to anyone in the immediate vicinity, and rubbing his hands together in anticipation. "We'll go to Gotham City tonight," he was saying to his brown-haired girlfriend. "We'll spend a big chunk of Champagne's hard-earned money." The Harvard guy had remembered that bet, and had taken appropriate steps. He had signed up for a three-day school ashore two months in advance, had cut out of the school a day early, and had flown to Boston on the 10 a.m. Eastern jet from Jacksonville, stopping at Washington and LaGuardia.
It was hard finding Champagne after the game, though. He hadn't shown up at midfield, as the contract had specified. He had gone directly to DKE for a rendezvous with a pockmarked, greased-up Danish count called The Bag. The Bag was still the best drinker at Yale, and Champagne wanted to sharpen his skills, mano a mano, for a few hours.
It had all gone very nicely at first. Brian Dowling had shown up, as had Chuck Mercein, Mike Pyle, Brad Lee--all the immortals. It was a regular reunion. The Harvard guy showed up, too, around 9:30 p.m., and tapped Stewart on the shoulder. It was like those posters you see in the Naval station exchange, where the icy hand of Death descends upon the clavicle of those who drink then drive. Stewart never had to turn around. He just reached into his pocket, produced a crumpled, beet-soaked check, and signed CHARLES KING STEWART. It was that simple.
Stewart cringed just thinking about it, as he pulled away from the toll barriers at Ripley, New York. This time, it would all be different. Champagne knew that the Harvard guy was out of the Navy. He had sent him a copy of his separation papers. He just hoped that the Harvard guy's bank account was in good shape. The names Jauron, Doyle, Hennings, Green and Perschel were each worth about $20, Champagne figured.
It had never been like this in the old days, when Champagne's roommate. Brian Dowling, had been running the Yale varsity. No one every took away Stewart's lunch money then. Champagne made a perfunctory check of his wallet, saw that everything was in order, and began humming something about marching down the field. This time, it would be different. All of it.
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