A SHORT STORY
ME: Wow, this is really kind of you to take time out of your day to go grocery shopping with me. I wasn’t sure how I was going to get it done, what with my car in the shop. You turn your back for three seconds, and your toddler’s stuffed the engine block with gummy bears. And on such a busy week for you! I know things are looking really busy for you, what with you being an Unnamed Nfl front office member, and this year’s draft coming up Thursday night.
UNNAMED NFL FRONT OFFICE MEMBER: We’ve got a lot of things we’re considering right now. Anything is in play.
ME: [looking at grocery list] Buddy, don’t I know it! It’s so hard to plan and cook healthy meals for a family with two working parents and small children.
UNNAMED NFL FRONT OFFICE MEMBER: Planning is crucial. We’ve got a strategy that we’re confident in, and we’re confident we’re going to execute that strategy.
ME: I was thinking tacos.
UNNAMED NFL FRONT OFFICE MEMBER: That’s on our radar; we’re going to be assessing a dynamic range of options.
ME: Hey, are you going to tell me your name? It’s getting unwieldy typing this character description each time.
UNNAMED NFL FRONT OFFICE MEMBER: We’re going to play that one close to the vest.
ME: I’m gonna call you Gary.
GARY: It’s a good, solid name. Solid, workmanlike. Rhymes with a lot of things. You like to see that kind of schematic flexibility. Hairy. Wary. Marry. Dairy.
ME: Right. And it’s shorter to type.
ME: Fantastic. So, anyways, I was thinking maybe fish tacos with a black bean and mango salsa. [stares at produce racks with concern] I can never tell when a mango’s ripe, though.
GARY: You’ve got to put it to the test. You want to make sure, no matter what it’s shown so far, it’s ready for what you need from it.
ME: Well, I need it to be in a sals-
GARY: [holding mango an inch from his face, screaming] YOUR FATHER WAS THE GREEN RIVER KILLER.
MANGO: [does nothing, is a mango]
GARY: Unflappable. I’d buy this right now. It’ll take anything you throw at it.
ME: Terrific. Next, we need fish for the tacos. I was thinking something light - tilapia or cod. Want to keep it healthy; summer’s coming up fast!
GARY: [glaring at fish case] We play on land. None of these fish have shown me anything on land. That’s a big red flag for me. Sure, you can swim, but what if I’m taking you out of water? You’d be completely out of your element. You’d be like a-
ME: [chuckling] a fish out of water?
GARY: That’s not the analogy I was going to make at all.
ME: I see.
GARY: You’re going to want an animal that’s proven it can thrive on land as well as water. What if suddenly Baltimore’s defensive front activates a Doomsday device that drains the world’s oceans? You’ve just wasted a draft pick.
ME: I think we’d have larger concerns th-
GARY: Here’s my choice. [puts live otter in cart]
ME: What the hell - where did you get that?
GARY: He’s gonna thrive in a variety of ecosystems. Land. Rivers. Streams. The AFC North. And he’s scrappy. Look at those claws.
ME: You have a number of deep cuts on your arms. You’re bleeding quite a bit.
GARY: Impressive dedication. Passion for the game. That’s a football-first animal there.
ME: And you want me to put it into a fish taco.
GARY: He’ll do what’s best for the team [screams at no one in particular] UNLIKE JOSH ROSEN.
ME: He’s already escaped the cart and is biting other shoppers.
GARY: You’re not going to hit on every pick, but you can’t let that change your strategy.
ME: I’m just going to put some Mahi-mahi in the cart.
GARY: That’s a lot of mahi. You gotta be concerned about the focus level there. We look for a fish to have one or fewer mahis. Our preference is none.
ME: Alright, last thing on the list: Beans. I’m thinking black beans.
GARY: What about cannelini?
ME: We’re not going down this road, Gary. Black beans.
GARY: [holding can of beans] I’m not sure about these. Sure, they’re beans now, but you know what beans do? They grow.
ME: Well, these are already cooked.
GARY: Let me tell you what. I once scouted a kid; nice kid, hardworking, family first. Traded his cow for beans. Now, on the surface - that’s a bad trade. You’re giving up a big, productive, space-filling body for what? Magic beans. Magic beans don’t fill gaps.
ME: This is just Jack and the Beanstalk. Everyone knows this fairy tale.
GARY: No, this was when I was with the Chiefs. Anyways, magic beans, those are like draft picks, you’re gonna hope they grow and succeed and put The Shield first, but these beans, they let a dangerous giant down from his castle in the sky.
ME: Again, I’m familiar with the story, but the point you’re making is wildly unclear.
GARY: The giant died. Real tragedy; lot of potential. Tall frame like that, sky was the limit for his quarterback potential. Just had to learn to throw.
ME: So... beans.
GARY: Nothing but trouble. Use these instead. [hands me a bag]
ME: These are pebbles for an aquarium.
GARY: Smooth. Consistent. No rough edges, no complaints. No surprises. That’s a bean that’s not gonna grow into something you don’t want it to be, or question why you hired Pat Shurmur as head coach.
ME: I’m not going to eat rocks.
GARY: [narrows eyes] You don’t have the temperament to be in the National Football League, son.