(With apologies to Philip Roth)
Norman, Oklahoma, 1970
Greggy, age 6, is walking down the street with Daddy. Daddy is a â€˜fessor of the laws, which Greggy doesnâ€™t know about except that the janitor where Daddy works takes off his cap and says, â€œMorning, Sir.” All Greggy knows is that he has his new ball and the sun is shining brightly.
Then Daddy stops to say hello to the neighbor, Professor Snik, and his dog Thunder. â€œSnik,â€¿says Daddy. â€œHow are you! Greggy, you play with Thunder while we talk.â€¿ The adults converse, and their talk, to Greggy, is Charlie Brown discourse: â€œWah-WAH, wah wah-wah-wah-wah.â€¿
Thunder bounds up to Greggy, who is a little scared, but says, â€œNice doggy.â€¿ Thunder puts his paws on Greggyâ€™s shoulders, and forces him to the ground. The adults notice nothing.
Thunder presses Greggy to the grass, his hot breath on Greggyâ€™s face, his saliva dripping in Greggyâ€™s eyes. â€œNuh-nuh â€¦ NO!â€¿ Greggy gasps, as Thunder pins him to the ground. Greggy begins to scream, a sharp sound like glass breaking.
Thunder marks his territory, peeing in great gushes on Greggyâ€™s crimson football jersey. Greggy, drowning in dog pee, screams louder.
â€œWhat the hell, Snik!â€¿ Daddy says. â€œWhat kind of dog is that, peeing all over my son?â€¿
â€œI donâ€™t understand it, Doyel,â€¿ Snik says. â€œWolfhounds never pee on people. Amazing.”
On Greggyâ€™s jersey, the humiliating stain widens.
Oxford, Mississippi, 1986
The boy in the red shirt charges out the backfield. Gregg, defensive end for the Oxford Rebels, is ready. It is the second day of football practice, full contact.
The boy in the red shirt feints, twists, and Gregg is down, slapped between the eyes with a sweat-crusted Bike arm pad that is hardened by sweat and Mississippi sun into armor plate. Heâ€™s hit in the right â€“ the wrong â€“ place, and axons and dendrites misfire, cross-connect, and shut down.
Gregg writhes in the Ole Miss heat, nerves useless. He lies in the wet grass and cold chalk line, and looks up at the boy in the red shirt, the red shirt which says, â€œN.C. State Wolfpack.” Adrenal overload, system collapse, fear-sweat in a soaking stain – immovable, unmistakeable.
â€œTime to join the cheerleading squad, Gregg,â€¿ says Coach. â€œWe donâ€™t need girls on this team.â€¿
The humiliating stain widens.
Jacksonville, Florida, 1991
â€œItâ€™s a common problem, Mr. Doyel,â€¿ says the infirmary doctor. â€œNo need to be alarmed. Many young men your age suffer from ejaculatio praecox .â€¿
â€œBut the girls are laughing at me,â€¿ Gregg whines. â€œI canâ€™t go on like this.â€¿
â€œItâ€™s just one of those things,â€¿ says the doctor, busy now, ready to go on to the next patient. Gregg sees the doctorâ€™s degrees on the wall of the small office. One reads, â€œNorth Carolina State University.â€¿
â€œDid you go to N.C. State?â€¿ Gregg asks. The doctor, writing out a ticket to the Mental Health Center, does not respond.
Later that night, it happens again. She laughs, leaves him in the middle of it. Gregg sits, devastated. The humiliating stain widens.
Charlotte, North Carolina, 2002
â€œItâ€™s not that I donâ€™t love you, Greggy,â€¿ she says, standing against the bar at The Graduate. â€œItâ€™s just that I need more out of a relationship than you give me.â€¿
â€œIs there someone else?â€¿ Gregg asks, anguished.
â€œI need more,â€¿ she says. Gregg, frustrated, slams his beer down on the bar. The glass breaks; liquid begins to flow.
â€œI have to go,â€¿ she says. Leaving no time for talk, she gets up and walks rapidly to the door. A man is standing there. The man is wearing an N.C. State sweatshirt. She takes his hand; they leave together.
Gregg begins to sob. The spilled beer has soaked his lap. The humiliating stain widens.
CBS, May 2006.
“Sendek is gone. And soon, if there is a God in that Carolina blue heaven, Wolfpack basketball will follow,â€¿ Gregg writes, sweating as he pounds the keyboard. The sweat drips, puddles, pools.
The humiliating stain widens.