"Yeah," the guy said, "but you've been on Arsenio Hall."
They talked on for a while, Emmitt growing more depressed by the second. When he got back to his parents' house that night, he slept on the couch in the living room. It was where he'd slept sometimes when he was a kid. "You're stargazing," Emmitt had told his friend, and it all made Emmitt wonder, Is it possible to get too big too fast? If you run way out ahead of everyone else, where does that leave you? All alone in a nightclub crowded with people, one of them shoving a scrap of paper at you and saying, "Sign here, Mr. Superstar"?
But, hey, Emmitt has moved to another room of his new house now. And you should see it. "This is my kitchen," he says. "This cost pretty good. Come to think of it, somewhere between $75,000 and $100,000. Those cabinets, that's mahogany with a high gloss on top. Check out those stools. Go ahead, pick one up. Heavy as hell, ain't it? That refrigerator door? That's mahogany, too. See the finish?" He gives a nod. "Right. High gloss."
He moves from room to room and eventually makes his way upstairs. "This is my little boy's room," he says.
Your little boy?
"Well, when I have a little boy...."
In the game room he pauses before an enormous fish tank and bends over, staring through the glass. "Some of these things in here," he says, "they look dead, but they're not." He points to a fluttering wisp of something on a rock. "Now that—yes, that is a skeleton. If it looks dead, it's because it is."
In spite of everything that a new house demands and all that this one has to offer, Emmitt still gets restless on occasion. How long can you look at fish? How many movies can you watch? It was on one such night that he rounded up the pen and the piece of paper and compared his numbers with Payton's. "It's a dream until you write it down," his coach told him half a lifetime ago. "Then it's a goal." Somewhere in the heat of all that scribbling, lost in the numbers, was the place to which Emmitt was running.
To end the tour today, he goes through a glass door and stands outside on the balcony. It's getting late, and the shadows are long, and the view is all manner of lovely. You can see Emmitt's barbecue and smoker down to the right. Straight ahead, occupying a big chunk of the backyard, is Emmitt's swimming pool. It's a little cold to go for a dip, but the pool is in perfect shape, a dream. And, wait, what's that down there on the bottom?
Emmitt leans over the rail to get a better look. "Oh," he says. "That's a friend of mine." The image is made of blue and white tiles, and though it lacks the precision of a snapshot, it's so familiar that even 20,000 gallons of water can't distort it.