Middle of Nowhere Productions

Middle of Nowhere Productions

Don DeLillo: End Zone.

In American colleges and universities, it is customary for members of the football team to be present before classes start (which means in the middle of August, about four weeks early), in order to begin the training as soon as possible. The narrator belongs to his college team, so he is alone on the campus with some sixty other players

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OF ALL THE ASPECTS of exile, silence pleased me least. Other things were not so displeasing. Exile compensates the banished by offering certain opportunities. Exile in a real place, a place of few bodies and many stones, is just an extension (a packaging) of the other exile, the state of being separated from whatever is left of the center of one's own history. I found comfort in west Texas. There was even pleasure in the daily punishment on the field. I felt that I was better for it, reduced in complexity, a warrior.

But the silence was difficult. It hung over the land and drifted across the long plains. One day in early September we started playing a game called Bang You're Dead. It's an extremely simple-minded game. Almost every child has played it in one form or another. Your hand assumes the shape of a gun and you fire at anyone who passes. You try to reproduce, in your own way, the sound of a gun being fired. Or you simply shout these words: Bang, you're dead. The other person clutches a vital area of his body and then falls, simulating death. (Never mere injury; always death.) Nobody knew who had started the game or exactly when it had started. You had to fall if you were shot. The game depended on this.

It went on for six or seven days. At first, naturally enough, I thought it was all very silly, even for a bunch of bored and lonely athletes. Then I began to change my mind. Suddenly, beneath its bluntness, the game seemed compellingly intricate. It possessed gradations, dark joys, a resonance echoing from the most perplexing of dreams. I began to kill selectively. When killed, I fell to the floor or earth with great deliberation, with sincerity. I varied my falls, searching for the rhythm of something imperishable, a classic death.

We did not abuse the powers inherent in the game.The only massacre took place during the game's first or second day when things were still shapeless, the potential unrealized. It started on the second floor of the dormitory just before lights-out and worked along the floor and down one flight, everyone shooting each other, men in their underwear rolling down the stairs, huge nude brutes draped over the banisters. The pleasure throughout was empty. I guess we realized together that the game was better than this. So we cooled things off and devised unwritten limits.

I shot Terry Madden at sunset from a distance of forty yards as he appeared over the crest of a small hill and came toward me. He held his stomach and fell, in slow motion, and then rolled down the grassy slope, tumbling, rolling slowly as possible, closer, slower, ever nearer, tumbling down to die at my feet with the pale setting of the sun.

To kill with impunity. To die in the celebration of ancient ways.

All those days the almost empty campus was marked by the sound of human gunfire. There were several ways in which this sound was uttered - the comical, the truly gruesome, the futuristic, the stylized, the circumspect. Each served to break the silence of the long evenings. From the window of my room I'd hear the faint gunfire and see a lone figure in the distance fall to the ground. Sometimes, hearing nothing, I'd merely see the victim get hit, twisting around a tree as he fell or slowly dropping to his knees, and this isolated motion also served to break the silence, the lingering stillness of that time of day. So there was that reason above all to appreciate the game; it forced cracks in the enveloping silence. (…)

At length the rest of the student body reported for the beginning of classes. We were no longer alone and the game ended. But I would think of it with affection because of its scenes of fragmentary beauty, because it brought men closer together through their perversity and fear, because it enabled us to pretend that death could be a tender experience, and because it breached the long silence.

 

Don DeLillo. End Zone (1972)



05/12/2013
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