AN: The original broback. I’m re-posting some of my old favorites because I can, and this is a good place to start.
It was a delicate art to fish a too-large smartphone out of the pocket of jeans which should have thrown away years ago. Lloyd went through it, as he always did, to check on game thousands of kilometers away. He certainly didn’t care for the Stars, for whom he’d supposedly come all the way to Canada. He kept his back to the TV where they played.
Lloyd had forgotten about his excuse, earlier than usual, and raised a glass to the pipeline.
Ralph didn’t bring it up. He was grateful that, for once, Lloyd wanted to talk business before the beer had lost its flavor. ”Eventual pipeline,” he corrected. ”I hear there’s another snag.”
Lloyd brushed him off. ”It’s an election year, you know these are the sort of things that happen.” He drank to his own toast. ”Give us a few months, we’ll get a quick reroute together and everything will be back on.”
“Hope so.” He could have gone on about how much he needed the jobs, but he kept his mouth shut.
The smell of old grease and men hung in the air, thicker even than the cigarette smoke. Ralph had to squint through it to see the game. His mind hung in Edmonton, and to a lesser extent in Dallas, as the two battled to gain ice.
Lloy’d mind could hardly even be placed in Houston, at the moment, as he fought through over-cooked wings. A snob about bar food, this was his punishment for trying to hide his indifference to the game. Ralph would have joked about it, and many other things, if he were looking for a fight. They both knew better than to start something during playoff season.
Or, maybe he wouldn’t. The blur of the players seemed tense, so the game could have been going badly. Even if he were able to avoid the mockery from a loss, goading would definitely bring up another grilling on diversification and why he hadn’t expanded on this or that.
The questions were always out of a brotherly sense of worry, and he felt guilty about complaining so much. But he was surrounded by businessmen, as it was. The last thing he wanted, or needed, was someone else on his case. Particularly since this was an oil and cattle man, who should have understood.
Lloyd, instead, had begun a love affair with computer chips, and didn’t understand that Ralph was fine without them. After all, he had… what was it? There was an estimate of about 200 years, at the current rate of consumption. There was no need to rush into anything, especially the computers he’d never cared much for.
When the time came that he couldn’t lean on oil, he’d probably just dive more deeply into agriculture and let tourism handle the rest. There were always people interested in wildlife, scenery, and the millions of other things that produced money just with pictures.
Lloyd frowned on that, but growing up in the desert would make anybody doubt their land, Ralph figured. Lloyd could, and had, said the same thing about tundra. But they were far more different than he liked to think, and Ralph remained comfortable.
He treated the land well enough, so he was able to hold onto his roots rather than try to simultaneously panic about being even a day out of date. To do both seemed like a confused, depressing life to him.
It might seem like it to Lloyd, too, were he to be more honest than ambitious for a while. Maybe they could go back to watching sports and women, getting drunk and partying with people in back rooms without worrying about how it’d look in a board room the next day.
But Lloyd took lessons, now, to learn how to drop his accent. It made him look better in the eyes of men he’d made fun of for being too corporate. He still did, in hushed tones, but he saw no irony in himself these days.
Ralph was one of the last cowboys, he supposed. He’d hold that proudly, even if he couldn’t say it out loud without starting a brawl.
The players headed into the second before Lloyd could pull himself from the tension of the pregame. ”Who’s ahead?”
“Dunno,” Ralph said. ”Maybe we should pick places to where you can actually watch a game, next time.” He looked over with a smirk. ”Might not get so sick on the food.”
Lloyd chuckled into his beer. “I’ll think about it.”
It wasn’t until they’d left that Lloyd wrestled his phone out of his pocket to figure out how the Stars had done. He, just as quickly, brushed it aside for what was coming up.