Chapter Four

Now there is a secret thing that coach Bryant an them done figgered out, an nobody sposed to mention it, even to ourselfs. They been teachin me how to catch a football pass. Ever day after practice I been workin with two goons an a quarterback, runnin out an catchin passes, runnin out an catchin passes, till I'm so exhausted my tongue hangin down to my navel. But I gettin to where I can catch em, an Coach Bryant, he say this gonna be our "secret weapon" - like a "Adam Bomb," or somethin, cause after a wile them other teams gonna figger out they ain't thowin me the ball an will not be watchin for it.


"Then," Coach Bryant say, "we is gonna turn your big ass loose - six foot six, two hundrit forty pounds - an run the hundrit yards in 9.5 seconds flat. It is gonna be a sight!"

Bubba an me is real good friends by now, an he heped me learn some new songs on the harmonica. Sometimes he come down to the basement and we set aroun an play along together, but Bubba say I am far better than he ever will be. I got to tell you, that if it weren't for that harmonica music, I might of jus packed up an gone home, but it made me feel so good, I can hardly describe it. Sort of like my whole body is the harmonica an the music give me goosebumps when I play it. Mostly the trick is in the tongue, lips, fingers and how you move your neck. I think perhaps runnin after all them passes has caused my tongue to hang out longer, which is a hell of a note, so to speak.

Nex Friday, I git all slicked up an Bubba lend me some hair tonic an shavin lotion an I go on over to the Student Union building. They is a big crowd there an sure enough, Jenny Curran an three or four other people is up on stage. Jenny is wearin a long dress an playin the guitar, an somebody else has a banjo an there is a guy with a bull fiddle, pluckin it with his fingers.

They sound real good, an Jenny seen me back in the crowd, an smiles an points with her eyes for me to come up an set in the front. It is just beautiful, settin there on the floor listenin an watchin Jenny Curran. I was kinda thinkin that later, I would buy some divinity an see if she wanted some too.

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They had played for an hour or so, an everbody seemed happy an feelin good. They was playin Joan Baez music, an Bob Dylan an Peter, Paul an Mary. I was lying back with my eyes closed, listenin, an all of a sudden, I ain't sure what happen, but I had pulled out my harmonica an was jus playin along with them.

It was the strangest thing. Jenny was singin "Blowin in the Wind" an when I begun to play, she stopped for a secont, an the banjo player, he stopped too, an they get this very suprised looks on they faces, an then Jenny give a big grin an she commence to pick up the song again, an the banjo player, he stop an give me a chance to ride my harmonica for a wile, an everbody in the crowd begun to clap an cheer when I was done. Jenny come down from the stage after that an the band take a break an she say, "Forrest, what in the world? Where you learn to play that thing?" Anyhow, after that, Jenny got me to play with their band. It was ever Friday, an when there wasn't an out of town game, I made twenty-five bucks a night. It were jus like heaven till I foun out Jenny Curran been screwin the banjo player.

Unfortunately, it was not goin so good in English class. Mister Boone had called me in bout a week or so after he read my autobiography to the class and he say, "Mister Gump, I believe it is time for you to stop tryin to be amusin and start gettin serious." He han me back an assignment I had writ on the poet Wordsworth.

"The Romantic Period," he say, "did not follow a bunch of 'classic bullshit.' Nor were the poets Pope and Dryden a couple of 'turds.' "

He tell me to do the thing over again, an I'm beginnin to realize Mister Boone don't understand I'm a idiot, but he was bout to find out.

Meantime, somebody must of said somethin to somebody, cause one day my guidance counselor at the atheletic department call me in an tells me I'm excused from other classes an to report the next mornin to a Doctor Mills at the University Medical Center. Bright an early I go over there an Doctor Mills got a big stack of papers in front of him, lookin through them, an he tell me to sit down and start axin me questions. When he finished, he tell me to take off my clothes - all but my undershorts, which I breathed easier after hearin cause of what happen the last time with the Army doctors - an he commenced to studyin me real hard, lookin in my eyes an all, an bongin me on the kneecaps with a little rubber hammer.

Afterward, Doctor Mills axed if I would mine comin back that afternoon an axed if I would bring my harmonica with me, cause he had heard bout it, an would I mine playin a tune for one of his medical classes? I said I would, although it seemed peculiar, even to somebody dumb as me.

They was about a hundrit people in the medical class all wearin green aprons an takin notes. Doctor Mills put me up on the stage in a chair with a pitcher an a glass of water in front of me.

He's sayin a whole bunch of crap I don't follow, but after a wile I get the feelin he's talkin bout me.

"Idiot savant," he say loudly, an everbody be starin my way.

"A person who cannot tie a necktie, who can barely lace up his shoes, who has the mental capacity of perhaps a six�C to ten-year-old, and - in this case - the body of, well, an Adonis." Doctor Mills be smilin at me in a way I don't like, but I'm stuck, I guess.

"But the mind," he says, "the mind of the idiot savant has rare pockets of brilliance, so that Forrest here can solve advanced mathematical equations that would stump any of you, and he can pick up complex musical themes with the ease of Liszt or Beethoven. Idiot savant," he says again, sweepin his han in my direction.

I ain't sure what I'm sposed to do, but he had said for me to play somethin, so I pull out the harmonica an start playin "Puff, the Magic Dragon." Everbody settin there watchin me like I'm a bug or somethin, an when the song's over they still jus settin there lookin at me - don't even clap or nothin. I figgered they don't like it, so I stood up an said, "Thanks," an I lef. Shit on them people.

They is only two more things the rest of that school term that was even halfway important. The first was when we won the National College Football Championship an went to the Orange Bowl, an the second was when I found out Jenny Curran was screwin the banjo player.

It was the night we was sposed to play at a fraternity house party at the University. We had had a terribily hard practice that afternoon, an I was so thirsty I coulda drank out of the toilet like a dog. But they was this little stow five or six blocks from the Ape Dorm an after practice I walked on up there fixin to git me some limes and some sugar an fix me a limeade like my mama used to make for me. They is a ole cross-eyed woman behin the counter an she look at me like I'm a holdup man or somethin. I'm lookin for the limes an after a wile she says, "Kin I hep you?" an I says, "I want some limes," an she tells me they ain't got no limes. So I axed her if they got any lemons, cause I's thinkin a lemonade would do, but they ain't got none of them either, or oranges or nothin. It ain't that kind of stow. I musta look aroun maybe an hour or mo, an the woman be gettin nervous, an finally she say, "Ain't you gonna buy nothin?" so I get a can of peaches off the shef, an some sugar, thinkin if I can't have anythin else I can maybe make me a peachade�Cor somethin, I bout dyin of thirst. When I git back to my basement I open the can with a knife an squash the peaches up inside one of my socks an strain it into a jar. Then I put in some water an sugar an get it stirred up, but I'll tell you what - it don't taste nothin like a limeade - matter of fact, it taste more than anythin else like hot socks.

Anyhow, I sposed to be at the fraternity house at seven o'clock an when I get there some of the fellers is settin up the stuff an all, but Jenny and the banjo guy are nowhere to be found. I assed aroun for a wile, an then I went out to get mysef some fresh air in the parkin lot. I saw Jenny's car, an thought maybe she just get here.

All the winders in the car is steamed up, so's you can't see inside. Well, all of a sudden I think maybe she's in there an can't git out, an maybe gettin that exhaust poison or somethin, so I open the door an look in. When I do, the light come on.

There she is, lying on the back seat, the top of her dress pulled down an the bottom pulled up. Banjo player there too, on top of her. Jenny seen me an start screamin an flailin jus like she done in the pitcher show, an it suddenly occur to me that maybe she bein molested, so's I grapped the banjo player by his shirt, which was all he's got on anyhow, an snatched his ass off her.

Well, it did not take no idiot to figger out that I gone an done the wrong thing again. Jesus Christ, you can't imagine such carryin on. He cussin me, she cussin me an tryin to git her dress pulled up an down, an finally Jenny say, "Oh Forrest - how could you!" an walk off. Banjo player pick up his banjo an leave too.

Anyhow, after that, it were apparent I was not welcome to play in the little band no more, an I went on back to the basement. I still couldn't understan exactly what had been goin on, but later that night Bubba seen my light on an he stop down an when I tell him bout the thing, he say, "Good grief, Forrest, them people was makin love!" Well, I reckon I might have figgered that out mysef, but to be honest, it was not somethin I wanted to know. Sometimes, however, a man got to look at the facts.

It is probly a good thing I was kep busy playin football, cause it was such a awful feelin, realizin Jenny was doin that with the banjo player, an that she probly hadn't even a thought bout me in that regard. But by this time we was undefeated the entire season an was goin to play for the National Championship at the Orange Bowl against them corn shuckers from Nebraska. It was always a big thing when we played a team from up North cause for sure they would have colored on their side, an that be a reason for a lot of consternation from some of the guys - like my ex-roomate Curtis, for example - altho I never worried bout it mysef, on account of most of the colored I ever met be nicer to me than white people.

Anyhow, we gone on down to the Orange Bowl in Miami, an come game time, we is some kind of stirred up. Coach Bryant come in the locker room an don't say much, cept that if we want to win, we got to play hard, or somesuch, an then we be out on the field an they kicked off to us. The ball come directly to me an I grap it outta the air an run straight into a pile of Nebraska corn shucker niggers an big ole white boys that weigh about 500 pounds apiece.

It were that way the whole afternoon. At halftime, they was ahead 28 to 7 an we was a forelorn an sorry lot of guys. Coach Bryant come into the dressing room an he be shakin his head like he expected all along that we was goin to let him down. Then he start drawin on the chalk board and talkin to Snake, the quarterback, an some of the others, an then he call out my name an axe me to come with him into the hallway.

"Forrest," he says, "this shit has got to stop." His face right up against mine, an I feel his breath hot on my cheeks. "Forrest," he say, "all year long we been runnin them pass patterns to you in secret, an you been doin great. Now we is gonna do it against them Nebraska corn jackoffs this second half, an they will be so faked out, they jockstraps gonna be danglin roun they ankles. But it is up to you, boy - so go out there an run like a wild animal is after you."

I nod my head, an then it be time to get back on the field. Everbody be hollerin an cheerin, but I sort of feel they is a unfair burden on my shoulders. What the hell, tho - that's jus the way it is sometimes.

First play when we git the ball, Snake, the quarterback, say in the huddle, "Okay, we gonna run the Forrest Series now," an he says to me, "You jus run out twenty yards an look back, an the ball be there." An damn if it wadn't! Score is 28 to 14 all of a sudden.

We play real good after that, cept them Nebraska corn jerkoff niggers an big ole dumb white boys, they ain't jus settin there observin the scene. They has got some tricks of they own - mainly like runnin all over us as if we was made of cardboard or somethin.

But they is still somewhat suprised that I can catch the ball, an after I catch it four or five more times, an the score is 28 to 21, they begin to put two fellers to chasin after me. However, that leave Gwinn, the end, with nobody much to chase him aroun, an he catch Snake's pass an put us on the fifteen yard line. Weasel, the place kicker, get a field goal an the score now be 28 to 24.

On the sideline, Coach Bryant come up to me an say, "Forrest, you may be a shit-for-brains, but you has got to pull this thing out for us. I will personally see that you are made President of the United States or whatever else you want, if you can jus haul that football over the goal line one more time." He pat me on the head then, like I was a dog, an back in the game I go.

The Snake, he get caught behin the line right at the first play, an the clock is runnin out fast. On the second play, he try to fake em out by handin me the ball, sted of thowin it, but bout two tons of Nebraska corn jackoff beef, black an white, fall on top of me right away. I lying there, flat on my back, thinkin what it must of been like when that netload of bananas fall on my daddy, an then I gone back in the huddle again.

"Forrest," Snake says, "I gonna fake a pass to Gwinn, but I am gonna thow the ball to you, so I want you to run down there to the cornerback an then turn right an the ball be right there." Snake's eyes are wild as a tiger's. I nod my head, an do as I am tole.

Sure enough, Snake heaves the ball into my hans an I be tearin toward the middle of the field with the goalposts straight ahead. But all of a sudden a giant man come flyin into me and slow me down, an then all the Nebraska corn jerkoff niggers an big ole dumb white boys in the world start grappin an gougin an stompin on me an I fall down. Damn! We ain't got but a few yards to go fore winnin the game. When I git off my back, I see Snake got everbody line up already for the last play, on accounta we got no more time-outs. Soon as I git to my place, he calls for the snap an I run out, but he suddenly thowed the ball bout 20 feet over my head, outta bounds on purpose - to stop the clock I guess, which only has 2 or 3 seconts lef on it.

Unfortunately tho, Snake done got confused about things, I spose he's thinkin it third down an we got one more play lef, but in fact it were forth down, an so we lose the ball an also, of course, we lose the game. It sound like somethin I woulda done.

Anyhow, it was extra sad for me, cause I kinda figgered Jenny Curran was probly watchin the game an maybe if I done got the ball and win the game, she try to forgive me for doin what I done to her. But that were not to be. Coach Bryant were mighty unhappy over what happen, but he suck it up an say, "Well, boys, there's always nex year."

Cept for me, that is. That was not to be either.

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