A short story, set in Houston.
[scene: an H-E-B grocery store in suburban Houston]
[a forty-ish man, athletic and, by his appearance and dress, seemingly well-to-do, stands by a grocery cart. He studies the produce.]
MAN: Hmm, now, Melody said to pick up spaghetti squash, but they only have acorn squash. I wonder if that’ll work. I oughta call her and ask. She doesn’t like when I guess. I really did screw up that zucchini casserole of hers by using cucumbers instead. [chuckles softly to self] Boy, was my face r-
FELLOW SHOPPER: [slams him into a display of melons]
[a cascade of melons spill off the shelf, each individual one bonking him on the head]
MAN: Ow. Ow. Ow. Ouch. Oof.
STORE EMPLOYEE ON PA: Cleanup in produce. Brent to produce. Bring a mop. It happened again.
[SCENE: later that day, inside a bank]
[The same man waits in line. He has changed shirts, but his otherwise placid demeanor remains]
MAN: You know, a lot of people prefer to do all their banking online these days, but not me. I still enjoy the personal touch; getting to know my banker, and knowing my money’s in good hands. Makes you feel like the bank’s a part of your community, and not just a big corporation. Besides, I’ve got more time on my h-
ELDERLY BANK CUSTOMER: [tackles him into the check-writing counter, sending a flurry of deposit slips into the air]
TELLER: next in line
[SCENE: a youth soccer game that evening]
[Seven-year-olds run back and forth in disorganized fashion, all trying to kick the ball at once. Our man watches; presumably, one of the children is his]
MAN: [clapping supportively] Good hustle, guys! Good hustle!
FELLOW PARENT: hey, aren’t you-
SEVEN-YEAR-OLD: [blindsides him into a table of orange slices] CLICK CLACK.
FELLOW PARENT: yep, you are.
[SCENE: the next day, at a doctor’s office]
MAN: Doc, I’m having a rough time. Life seems harsh and cruel. I try to be nice, a good citizen and decent person — but wherever I go, people tackle me brutally. I’m just trying to live my life. How can I cope?
DOCTOR: [popping in a 2002 Houston Texans highlights DVD] I’ve seen something like this before. You know, David Carr arrived with a lot of promise. He was supposed to be a franchise quarterback for the Houston Texans, after a record-setting career at Fresno State. But in his first season as a pro, he set a NFL record for times being sacked. Some said he had a bad offensive line, but as soon as he was replaced, the same offensive line surrendered noticeably fewer sacks. It was all David Carr. Doesn’t that make you feel better?
MAN: [sobbing] But Doctor. I am David Carr!
DOCTOR: I know, your name was on the appointment. [watching DVD] Whoooo look at this one. They smoked you there.
MAN: Why did they put this on a highlights DVD!?
DOCTOR: I made this one myself. Man, that team sucked.
That’s right, this week, the Seventh Circle Podcast is covering Houston, Texas!
America’s fourth-largest city (and rising) has had its share of sports success — the recent World Series title by the Astros, and two NBA championships in the mid-90s, but by and large, their sporting history has been tinged with sorrow.
The biggest city in football-mad Texas, Houston’s never seen its love for the sport paid back in full. From the Luv Ya Blue Oilers of the 1970s all the way through to the present-day Texans, they’ve often put together good teams, but something’s gone wrong. The biggest playoff collapse of all time. An incompetent and greedy owner moving their team to Tennessee. It’s been a rough time, and in a half-century of play, they’ve still never seen a Super Bowl team come from their town.
Reliving this pain with us this week is a consummate expert on the subject — Houston Chronicle writer Stephanie Stradley, who’s seen more heartbreak than most people ever should.
Tune in! EPISODE 8: WELCOME TO HOUSTON is now live.
Remember, you can find The Seventh Circle Podcast on Apple, Google, Spotify, and most anywhere podcasts are found. Follow us on Twitter and Instagram at @CircleSevenPod. Like us? Rate and review on those same apps. Have feedback? Hit us up at seventhcirclepod at gmail dot com.
Thanks for reading and listening! Welcome to hell.