The characters and events depicted in this novella are entirely fictitious. Any similarity to names or incidents involving Houston Texans staff members are purely coincidental...more or less.
Chapter Three — I Can’t Lose
Buck Cardinal slithered briskly down the hall where he was met with a petite woman in professional dress sitting behind a massive round oak desk. He glanced down at her briefly, “Is he busy, Ms. Johnston?”
“Office of Cletus Glibb, please hold,” Ms. Johnston said before pressing a pair of buttons and repeating herself to another line. The phone was lit up like a Christmas tree, making urgent “I will not hold a minute longer” beeps. Ms. Johnston looked at her totally blank schedule and replied “as busy as he ever is,” without ever looking up at him.
“Thanks. I’ll let myself in,” Cardinal said. Before she could object, several more calls came in. Cardinal sped past her and pushed open the ornate wooden double doors that led into Glibb’s office.
The back wall of Cletus Glibb’s office was floor-to-ceiling glass offering a spectacular view of the gridiron from the 50 yard line. The side walls were littered with Texans memorabilia from over the last 20 years: framed, signed jerseys, fathead wall stickers, footballs from important moments in Houston Texans history, all three of them. In front of Glibb’s desk were a pair of plush faux-leather chairs decked out in team colors. Behind the desk was a stern, almost intimidating, leather executive chair. The only thing missing behind the desk was Cletus Glibb himself.
Cardinal scanned the room and found Glibb, lying on the floor with a Switch controller in his hand, a large glass of chocolate milk (his favorite) at his side, and his favorite food, Totino’s pizza rolls, in front of him on a silver tray. Glibb’s eyes were transfixed to the TV where he, or rather his character, was hurriedly running around on the screen.
“Mr. Glibb, sir,” Cardinal said gently. Glibb reached for his chocolate milk and took a swig, leaving a milk mustache on his actual mustache.
“I’m busy,” Glibb said petulantly, continuing to maneuver his character on TV.
Cardinal fell silent.
“I love this game. You know what the best part about it is?” Glibb asked as he began to harvest parsnips from his in-game farm.
Cardinal sighed inaudibly, “What’s that, sir?”
“No matter what I do in game, no matter how badly I screw up, it is impossible for me to lose. I can only win. Have you tried Stardew Valley, yet, Bucky?”
Cardinal grit his teeth, “No, I haven’t had a chance. Between molding the team into the team culture we want to project, advising Mr. Hulder in the front office, and my ministry/jam and jelly distributorship, I don’t have time for video games.”
“Darn shame,” Glibb said, “you’d really enjoy it.”
“I’m sure I would, sir. But I do need your attention on a situation that’s come up.”
Glibb looked painfully at the screen, “Can it wait? I’m just about to harvest my cauliflowers and those are my real moneymakers.”
“I’m afraid it can’t, sir,” Cardinal said grimly.
Glibb sighed, paused the game, picked up his pizza rolls and chocolate milk and got behind his desk. His suit and tie were wrinkled beyond wrinkled, the chocolate milk mustache remained, coating the whiskers on his ruddy face. “Okay, what is it?”
“I don’t know if you’re aware of this, Mr. Glibb, but your general manager just traded Jerome Arvis to the Lions.”
Glibb looked puzzled at this news, “That’s bad, right?”
Cardinal nodded solemnly, “It is. He was very popular with the fans and especially in the locker room. As the team’s character coach, I can tell you with absolute certainty that this move will not go over well with anybody. We have to get ahead of this right away.”
“But...but why would he trade this Arvis guy if he was such a great player,” Glibb asked before popping another pizza roll into his mouth.
“I couldn’t tell you for sure sir, but I have heard rumor that Mr. Hulder had taken a personal dislike to Arvis, if you get my meaning,” Cardinal said, walking closer to Glibb’s desk.
Glibb looked confused, like a dog trying to eat a caramel, “Um, not...really.”
Cardinal suppressed a sigh, “He seemed to be under the impression that Arvis was a bad influence, that he didn’t want Arvis’ ‘baby mamas’ coming around to see him all the time. And that’s not including the things he said that I don’t even feel comfortable repeating.”
“That’s terrible! I’m going to have him fired,” Glibb said reaching for his desk phone.
Cardinal raised a finger, “I would advise against that, sir. At least not right now.”
“I can’t have someone here who views his players that way. It’d be bad for morale. Wouldn’t it,” Glibb asked hesitantly.
“You’re absolutely right sir. And he can’t be allowed to stay as general manager after something like this, especially for how little the team got back in return.”
“Then I’m firing him.”
“I wouldn’t,” Cardinal said.
“Well why not,” Glibb asked, getting annoyed.
“Because if you fire him now, immediately after making such a controversial trade, it’s going to look weak. To the other teams, to the media, to the fans. Everybody is going to think the Houston Texans are a team in complete disarray. That’s going to lead other teams to circle over us like the vultures they are. Morale will completely plummet because nobody will know where they stand after this season, the team’s performance on the field will suffer, we will lose out on key free agents, our best players will flee to other teams, and then you’re looking at the big “R”: rebuild. Do you want that to happen, sir?”
Glibb eyed the TV longingly, his mind filled with thoughts of cauliflowers, “N-no, I guess not.”
Cardinal put his hands on Glibb’s desk and leaned over him. His thin, wiry frame cast a long, ominous shadow over Glibb and his desk. “But if you were to wait a while, until, say, after the end of the season, when we’ve had a chance to make some inquiries about a replacement for Mr. Hulder, we won’t have to deal with the press making the team out to be a poorly run outfit. It would cast you in a far better light, and you can look like the good guy for getting rid of someone who so clearly doesn’t deserve the job he has. It’s a total win/win/win/win/win for everybody involved.”
“Except Hulder, though,” Glibb said.
“Well, no plan is perfect,” Cardinal glibly.
“Very well, I’ll let him try and dig his way out of this hole. But I need some kind of constraint on him to make sure he doesn’t pull a stunt like this again. I don’t suppose I could ask you to—”
“—to act as your eyes and ears on Hulder and make sure he doesn’t do anything without your approval? I’d be honored, sir,” Cardinal said, possibly setting a land speed record for sentence uttering.
“Good. Good. Is there anything else,” Glibb asked.
“One last thing, sir. We need to schedule a press conference to discuss the Arvis trade with the media and get our take out there before this entirely spins out of control. You may have to take part as well,” Cardinal said trying to break the news gently to Glibb.
“Aw man, I’m going to have to put on another suit? Can’t we just tape me saying something beforehand?”
“Sadly no, they’re expecting you to give your blessing to the trade, which you’ll have to do, remember.”
Glibb sighed miserably, “Is that it,” Glibb asked, hoping the answer was no.
“Not at this time, sir. I’ll go attend to my duties so you can...um...attend to yours.”
Glibb jumped out of his chair and plopped back onto the floor in front of the TV.
Cardinal turned, left the office and strode briskly back to his own office. He stopped at his secretary’s desk.
“Any messages while I was away,” Cardinal asked, not bothering to look at her.
“Good. Call the PR department and tell them we need to schedule a press conference for Wednesday to talk about how excited we are to have Lionel Harris on the team. Make sure Hulder and Glibb are both there. You may have to help him tie his tie for him again. Also, get me Mendoza from the Chronicle, Sorenson from the Post, and Kravitz from the Observer. An ‘unnamed source high in the Texans organization’ has some things he wants them to know about Hulder before the conference.”
To Be Continued...