November 20

            I’m getting ready to watch the Redskins and the Packers, knowing what kind of game this might be. We’re playing Aaron Rodgers. 

            At least we’re playing at home. 

            It’s halftime with the Redskins up by a field goal. I’ve scooped up a nice mound of salsa onto my chip when the screen flickers and then stops. I wonder if something’s wrong with my DirecTV. This doesn’t stop me from taking a bite. But then Bob Costas looks directly at me as if he’s looking at me. 

            “What are you doing?” he asks. 

            I’m waiting to see who he’s talking to and if they’re having some kind of miscommunication or something.

            “I’m talking to you, Nolan,” Bob tells me. 

            I just stare and drop my mouth even though I haven’t finished my bite. 

            “Stop gaping. You look like a monkey.”

            Bob Costas is talking to me. Through the television. 

            What the f—. 

            I swallow and blink and hope I’m going to go back to normality. 

            “Listen, you don’t have much time, Nolan,” he says. 

            “Can you see me?” I ask.       

            I swear I haven’t had that much beer. 

            “Of course I can. I’m surprised you’re still a Redskins fan. We both know what’s probably going to happen tonight.           

            “That’s not very optimistic,” I say.

            If I’m going to have an imaginary conversation, I might as well be able to talk some smack too. 

            “Forget the game. You need to think about something else. Something more important.”

            Bob looks at me as if he really, truly sees me. 

            “Something like what?” I ask. 

            “Your life. Your very existence.”

            “Okay. . . “

            I have no idea what’s happening. 

            “You need to drop everything you’re doing tomorrow and go to Grand Rapids,” Bob tells me. 

            “Why’s that?’ 

            “Because—because your life is on the line, don’t you get that, Nolan? You need to head out there.”

            “And go where?”

            “The Lowing Woods Community in Jenison, Michigan. Be there at one p.m. eastern time.” 

            “Why am I supposed to go there?” I ask. 

            “To find someone who doesn’t belong. To find someone who’s searching, just like you.”

            “That’s Grand Rapids. That’s crazy.”

            Bob just stares at me. 

            “You’re not really talking to me,” I say. “That’s impossible.”

            Bob nods. “You’re right. Impossible. You’re having a conversation with your television.”

            This reminds me of some quote I’ve heard. 

            “Isn’t that a line from The Game?” I ask. 

            “You want to know a clue, Nolan? You keep getting them. Over and over again.”

            “I’d like to know what the hell is going on.”

            “Gun Lake.”

            I nod. “Gun Lake.”

            “Yes,” Bob Costas tells me. “Gun Lake. With italics.”

            “Italics?” 

            “Yes. The italics are very important.”

            “Why’s that? Does that mean someone’s thinking it?” I ask.  

            Bob just stares again. The screen flickers. 

            “Bob?” I ask. 

            I never thought I’d ever utter Bob’s name while talking to him on my own television. 

            “Just think of what I’ve said,” Bob says. “And—since this isn’t live, I’ll let you know the outcome of tonight’s game.”

            “How do you know?” 

            “You’re right. Impossible. You’re having a conversation with your television.”

            “You repeated that line,” I say. 

            “Here’s the Associated Press headline tomorrow: ‘Cousins, Redskins light up Packers in high-flying 42-24 rout.’ So when you see it happen, then you’ll know if this is ‘real’ or not.”

            In a blink the television screen fills with the Redskins and Packers once more. The third quarter has started. 

**

            I can’t believe it. 

            No, I’m not talking about Bob Costas speaking to me through my TV. 

            I can’t believe the Redskins actually do rout the Packers. 

            Kirk Cousins throws for 375 yards and three touchdowns. It’s the Redskins’ sixth victory in eight games. They are now 6-3-1. 

            How’d they do that? 

            The next game is on Thanksgiving against—yessirree—the Dallas Cowboys. But that’s down the road. 

            I think back to what Costas told me. About the fact that I have to go to Grand Rapids tomorrow. 

            But why? 

            I think of the place he tells me I need to go to. 

            The Lowing Woods Community in Jenison, Michigan. 

            To find someone who doesn’t belong there. 

            My very life depends on it. 

            Uh huh. 

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