Nobody's Baby but MineBy: Susan Elizabeth Phillips
To my mother
“Let me get this straight,” Jodie Pulanski said. “You want to give Cal Bonner a woman for a birthday present.”
The three offensive linemen, who were spending the November evening sitting in the back booth at Zebras, the DuPage County sports bar favored by the Chicago Stars football players, all nodded at once.
Junior Duncan gestured toward the waitress for another round. “He’s going to be thirty-six, so we wanted to make this extra special.”
“Bull,” Jodie said. Everybody who knew anything about football knew that Cal Bonner, the Stars’ brilliant quarterback, had been demanding, temperamental, and generally impossible to get along with ever since the season started. Bonner, popularly known as the “Bomber” because of his fondness for throwing explosive passes, was the top-ranked quarterback in the AFC and a legend.
Jodie crossed her arms over the form-fitting white tank top that was part of her hostess uniform. It didn’t occur to either her or any of the three men at the table to consider the moral dimensions of their discussion, let alone notions of political correctness. This was, after all, the NFL. “You think if you get him a woman, he’ll ease up on all of you,” she said.
Willie Jarrell gazed down into his beer through a pair of thickly-lashed dark brown eyes. “Sonovabitch been kickin’ so much ass lately, nobody can stand being around him.”
Junior shook his head. “Yesterday, he called Germaine Clark a debutante. Germaine!”
Jodie lifted one eyebrow, which was penciled several shades darker than her brassy blond hair. Germaine Clark was All-Pro and one of the meanest defensive tackles in the NFL. “From what I’ve seen, the Bomber already has more women than he knows what to do with.”
Junior nodded. “Yeah, but, the thing of it is, he doesn’t seem to be sleepin’ with any of them?”
“It’s true.” Chris Plummer, the Stars’ left guard spoke up. “We just found it out. His girlfriends have been talking to some of the wives, and it seems Cal’s not using them for anything more than window dressing.”
Willie Jarrell spoke up. “Maybe if he waited until they were out of diapers, he could get turned on.”
Junior chose to take his remark seriously. “Don’t say things like that, Willie. You know Cal won’t date ’em till they’re twenty.”
Cal Bonner might be getting older, but the females in his life weren’t. No one could remember him dating anyone over the age of twenty-two.
“Far as anybody knows,” Willie said, “the Bomber hasn’t slept with anybody since he broke up with Kelly, and that was last February. It’s not natural.”
Kelly Berkley had been Cal’s beautiful twenty-one-year-old companion until she’d gotten tired of waiting for a wedding ring that wasn’t ever going to come and run off with a twenty-three-year-old guitarist for a heavy metal band. Since then, Cal Bonner had been concentrating on winning football games, dating a new woman every week, and kicking his teammates’ asses.
Jodie Pulanski was the Stars’ favorite groupie, but although she hadn’t yet turned twenty-three, none of the men suggested that she offer her own body as Cal Bonner’s birthday present. It was a well-known fact he’d already rejected her at least a dozen times. That made the Bomber Public Enemy Number One on Jodie’s personal hate list, even though she kept a collection of blue-and-gold Stars’ jerseys in her bedroom closet, one jersey for every Stars player she’d slept with, and was always eager to add more.
“What we need is somebody who won’t remind him of Kelly,” Chris said.
“That means she needs to be real classy,” Willie added. “And older. We think it would be good for the Bomber to try someone maybe twenty-five.”
“Sort of dignified.” Junior took a sip of beer. “One of those society types.”
Jodie wasn’t known for her brains, but even she could see the problem with that one. “I don’t think too many society types are going to volunteer to be a man’s birthday present. Not even Cal Bonner’s.”
“Yeah, that’s what we was thinking, too, so we might have to use a hooker.”