About Last Night: Loose Ends

LaDontae HentonIn case you were out living a life of leisure, here’s what you missed in sports on Thursday.

  • According to sources, the seven Catholic, non-FBS basketball schools in the Big East plan to leave the conference.
  • Josh Hamilton and the Los Angeles Angels have agreed to a five-year deal worth $125 million, multiple sources say.
  • The Knicks scored 41 points in the first quarter and never looked back, beating the Lakers, 116-107, at MSG.
  • BenJarvus Green-Ellis ran for 106 yards, and the Bengals forced five turnovers in a 34-13 win over the Eagles.
  • Sources report that Skip Holtz has accepted the head coaching position at Louisiana Tech after three rough years at the helm of South Florida.
  • Ichiro Suzuki and the Yankees will finalize a deal worth $12-13 million for two years sometime Friday, sources close to the process say.
  • LeBron James and Kobe Bryant lead NBA all-star game voting, while Jeremy Lin is threatening to make the game as a substitute.
  • Rutgers basketball coach Mike Rice has been suspended three games and fined $50,000 for a violation of policy that included inappropriate language and behavior at a practice.
  • Announcing legend Larry Merchant will work his last fight for HBO on Saturday when Nonito Donaire defends his junior-featherweight title against Jorge Arce.

  • THE MEETING

    The trailer swayed beneath V’s feet as he stepped inside, and it worried him when he saw that Terrence the Grantland Robot had nothing. Empty oil cans created a minefield on the floor of the dilapidated home, and the only other decoration he could spot was a sloppy portrait of someone named “Cody,” and the word “Penny” written along the side of one wall.

    “We patted him down,” said one of his bodyguards. “He’s clean.”

    V suppressed the feelings of pity and disgust that the place inspired — suppressing had always been one of his strong points — and let his eyes adjust to the darkness. Weren’t these things supposed to have windows? He peered through the dust and made out the shape of a robot at a flimsy kitchen table. There were two chairs.

    “IT’S A CONVERTED SUBMARINE,” said Terrence, reading his mind. “PART OF ONE, ANYWAY. I GOT IT CHEAP AT A GOVERNMENT FIRE SALE.”

    V nodded. He knew better than to insult the robot with a compliment he didn’t mean. Plus, he’d learned from experience that when you’d convinced someone to betray what they held dear, it was best to stick to business. Why let old emotions cloud an issue that had already been decided? He sat down across from the robot.

    “About Last Night has to go,” said V. “We both know it. And this is how it’s going to happen.”

    He reached inside his jacket and took out what looked like a small book. Terrence watched him and thought again about how V looked like everyone and no one at once. The man was a cipher, even to a robot.

    “I DON’T NEED TO SEE YOUR BOOK,” said Terrence. He watched V’s eyes as he reached up and flipped a toggle on the back of his head. With a loud hum, Terrence’s front breastplate panel slid open. There, stacked on top of various wires and gears, 10 sticks of dynamite were neatly tied together with plastic wire. Terrence reached behind them and produced a small detonator with a red button.

    V turned in his chair and looked back through the gloom at his bodyguards, who had both drawn their guns.

    “We checked him!” stammered one. “We patted him down!”

    “PATTING THE OUTSIDE OF A ROBOT IS LIKE LOOKING AT A MAN’S SMILE TO FIND HIS TEETH,” said Terrence.

    “Put your guns away,” snapped V. He had been surprised before, and he knew better than to think he was above it. But he knew that guns wouldn’t do a damn thing to something made of metal. He also knew that if the robot wanted them dead, he would have pressed the button already. And was the dynamite even real? “What do you want?”

    “ABOUT LAST NIGHT CAN NEVER DIE,” said Terrence. “THROUGH THE AWFUL JOKES AND THE EMPTY NIGHTS AND THE COMMENTERS — EVEN THE REAL IDIOTS — IT HAS TO LIVE ON! IT’S THE ONLY THING THAT’S KEPT ME GOING. I LOST PENNY AND I LOST CODY AND EVERY OTHER THING IN MY LIFE HAS GONE TO HELL. BUT NOT ABOUT LAST NIGHT. THAT’S THE PORT IN THIS STORM.”

    V considered the robot. “What’s your plan here, Terrence?”

    “I HAVE A CONTRACT WRITTEN UP,” he said. He flipped a toggle on his side, and another panel opened up. Terrence pulled out three sheets of paper and placed them on the table. “IT SAYS YOU’LL NEVER TRY TO KILL ABOUT LAST NIGHT. I WANT YOU TO SIGN IT. AND I WANT YOU TO CONVINCE ME THAT YOU MEAN IT. IF NOT, WE ALL GO SKY HIGH.” Terrence initiated smiling sequence 254.

    V leaned back and crossed his arms. He was a skilled reader of men, but a robot? That was something different. He admitted to himself that Terrence might be capable of pressing the red button on the detonator. It was impossible to know. He gathered the contract and began to read.

    “I never thought I’d say this,” said V. “But I’m moved. I’m moved by your words, and by your commitment.” He knew he had to play this carefully. A contract signed under duress would never hold up, but you couldn’t argue your way out of a dynamite explosion. That was final. He knew he couldn’t count on the robot to help him end About Last Night. No use even trying that argument. It would make things harder to do without his help, but they’d do it anyway. And if he got out of the trailer, he’d have his five best men waiting in the trees with cattle prods, ready to put this godforsaken droid out of his misery in a storm of sparks. But now, he had to keep cool. He had to make the robot believe.

    V spoke for fifteen minutes. His job was to be convincing — people thought it was all about violence and threats, but the truth was that he would have been dead years ago if he wasn’t so good at making people understand — and he was at his best under pressure. In front of the robot, he slowly had a change of heart. It couldn’t be too sudden, he knew. That wasn’t believable. He waffled, he negotiated, he pulled, and he gave. The reluctance gradually became resignation.

    “Okay, Terrence,” he said. “You win. I don’t like it, but I can live with it.”

    Terrence handed him a pen. V signed on the dotted line, promising never to make a move against About Last Night, or that troublemaker Ryan, ever again.

    “Are we happy?” he asked. He always said those words at the end of a meeting. Call it superstition, but when you make a person say they’re happy, on some level they have to believe.

    The robot nodded, and V stood. He shook Terrence’s hand. “Congratulations on your election victory, by the way,” he said.

    “THANK YOU,” said Terrence. “I THINK THEY MADE A GOOD CHOICE.” He thought about everything that had happened in the past year. He let his mind drift to Penny, and Cody, and even Hezekiah. What a world. What a damn world.

    V smiled. He might have to be on hand to watch this robot die. It wasn’t good practice, but what the hell? Sometimes you had to watch your enemies burn. “Goodbye, Terrence,” he said.

    “THERE’S JUST ONE MORE THING,” said Terrence.

    V turned around, his hand still on the back of the chair. “What’s that?”

    Terrence moved his hand to the detonator.

    “I never believed you.”

    V began to run. He didn’t get far.

Filed Under: About Last Night, Big East, Cincinnati Bengals, Josh Hamilton, Lebron James, Los Angeles Lakers, New York Knicks, New York Yankees, Philadelphia Eagles

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Shane Ryan is a contributing writer for Grantland. His book about the young stars of the PGA Tour will be published by Random House in early 2015.

Archive @ ShaneRyanHere