Dribble

Posted: February 20, 2013 in Beyond the Boundaries
Tags: ,

stans son

STAN ROACH chalked the players’ names onto the blackboard, and spun around to address the team.

“Righto chaps and laddies,” he muttered, spraying those in range with a watered-down version of his lunch. Now chaps and laddies, as you’re all aware, today is the last match of the season for us. Now, although we haven’t won a match all year, there were a couple we could have won; a couple were pretty damn close.”

Arnie dug his elbow into Ed’s ribcage, and protected his whispered comment with an open palm. “Yeah, the match they played last week was close. Both teams played at the same ground. You can’t get much closer than that.”

Stan continued his address, oblivious to the detractions, pacing little circles in his Bata Scouts. “Now, a lot of teams in this position would throw the towel in and say there wasn’t much to play for at this stage of the season. But you chaps are bigger than that. I know all you laddies will look upon this match as the first match of a new season; the first match of next year.”

“It’s the same meaningless dribble every week,” Arnie whispered openly. “Off the cuff it’d be bad enough but the tragic part is, he spends all his spare time thinking this shit up.”

“He’s bloody hopeless.”

Snow macheted his way through the supporters and humid liniment with his battered red-and-white Adidas sports bag as Stan’s son trailed off him like a lapdog.

Rags – Clayton Reds number one supporter – fossicked in his trouser pocket for a fistful of coins and handed an assortment of ten, five, two and one cent pieces to Stan’s son, and ruffled the lad’s hair. Stan’s son clutched at the money, ran outside to count it and, in his childish innocence, wished he had a dad just like Rags.

“Snowy lad, thank God you’re here,” Stan sighed as his stiff shoulders slumped. He watched Snow drop his grip bag to the floor while the players sat waiting for him to continue. Stan looked at the page with hospital letterhead on his trusty green plastic clipboard and read to himself: Key Words. Forget the season. Think next year. Desire to win. Stan smiled at his own doodling, especially his stick-man Super Stan complete with Superman logo.

“Oh, that’s right … Now chaps and laddies, as I was saying, the year hasn’t been as bad as it looks on paper. It hasn’t been a complete waste. Some very positive things have come out of this year.”

The umpire poked his head around the partition which divided the shed into two distinct sections, and blew his whistle. “Two minutes Stan.”

Stan offered the umpire a half-nod while Rags picked at the wax in his left ear as if doing so would remove the ringing.

“Righto chaps and laddies. Up on your feet. Now, the main thing today is … today. You can forget the rest of the season. That’s behind us. The important thing is how we play today. The team’s the same as last week. You all know your positions.”

Stan arched his back and clenched his fist. He thumped the blackboard in preparation for his coup de grace but his frenzy was anything but contagious.

“Righto chaps and laddies. The big question today is … Do you wanna win?” Stan paused and passed his eyes over the players. Nothing came but a spasmodic half-hearted ‘Yeah’. Stan repeated his appeal, anticipating a more enthusiastic response. “Do you wanna win?” Another collective ‘Yeah’ hung stiff and uneasy. The players fidgeted and eyed the doorway. Sticks – Clayton Reds captain – bounced a worn football to himself at the head of the group.

Rags picked the uncomfortable moment to pull Stan aside with a tug on his fawn cardigan sleeve. He leaned into Stan, draped one arm around his shoulder, planted his spare hand firmly in the middle of Stan’s chest, and whispered his beer-breath into Stan’s ear. Stan listened to the barely audible words and began to nod drunkenly to himself. He pulled away from Rags with an expression of vague enlightenment.

“Righto chaps and laddies, there’s a keg on the game. Now, do you wanna win?”

“YEAH!” The response was enthusiastic and almost unanimous. Paul Reilly stood at the rear of the bunch of players with total indifference. He could not get excited over a keg of beer.

“Righto, Sticksy laddie, take the chaps and laddies out there.”

As the players filed towards the doorway, Stan clapped them on their way an expression of dumb contentment splashed across his face. Rags slapped the players through the doorway and, was so impressed with his own input, turned to shake hands with the remaining supporters.

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