Archive for October, 2014

"Righto, chaps, laddies ..."

“Righto, chaps, laddies …”

Stan finally found the courage to face the players.

“Righto chaps, lads. Now I know things aren’t going too well out there. But don’t give up.”

Stan rubbed his palms together and glanced at his players but no-one was interested. Stan decided, Now’s not the best time to address the chaps and laddies. He turned and faced the Bessa brick wall. The team’s been this far behind before. Lots of times. But the half-time break’s never been this out-of-control. Stan raked his fingers through his oily hair, and scratched at his scalp – packing the Californian Poppy tighter under his fingernails. He rearranged the lump of clothing tucked into his Y-fronts, and tugged at both earlobes. It’s only a little incident. It’ll sort itself out. Stan removed his specs, slid them into his shirt pocked, buried his face in his hands, and shook his head. No coach deserves this.

Rags eyed Stan closely. For quite a while. Like a Council worker studies the ground before he starts digging. He moved across and patted Stan’s back.

“Don’t worry, Rags. No-one wants your job. It’s safe.”

Rags’ voice echoed in the change shed. He chuckled at the truism, and stepped back as Stan straightened. Everyone appreciated the humour of Rags’ quip but no-one was in the mood to laugh with him.

Paul looked to his left and right. He saw the row of sunken heads, and added one more to the line.

Stan nodded at Rags as if to say, Thanks for trying to cheer me up. But don’t bother next time. He replaced his specs, and patted his hair into place.

“Righto chappies, lads. There’s only half a match left for the year.”

He pirouetted around to face the players, saw the two rows of lowered heads, withdrew his fist, and slotted his hands into his trouser pockets.

“Have a bit of a rest for a few minutes, lads, and we’ll talk a bit later. Before we go back out.”

Stan spun on his heels, and buried his own head in the Bessa brickwork.

At the sound of the umpire’s two-minute-whistle warning, the players rose from the benches. As Shep jogged daintily towards the door, Stan dipped his head to him. He listened to the sound of Shep’s sprigs trotting on concrete, waited for the crunch of gravel, then poked his head through the doorway. He watched Shep retreat from hearing distance, and slithered back to his customary postion in front of the blackboard.

“There’s been some pretty piss-poor umpiring out there today.”

Stan launched into one of his customary attacks on the injustice of shithouse umpiring decisions.

“We shouldn’t be this far behind. It’s obvious the ump’s not going to pay frees behind play. Or half of them in play. But there’s no use complaining. There’s nothing you can do about it. As hopeless as he is, he’s the ump, and you have to abide by his decisions.”

“Who’s he talking about? The ump or himself?” Arnie quipped to Ed.
“He’s not even convincing himself.”
“He’s a joke,” Arnie said with finality.
“Jokes are funny,” Ed said with double finality.

Snow decided to kill the morbid silence.

“Righto, you fellas. Come on!”

Other players joined in with shouts of their own.

Stan smiled dementedly at the collective noise. He motioned the players to take the field with a jerk of his arm.

“Okay, Sticks. Take the lads and chappies out there.”

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"You're a disgrace to the club."

“You’re a disgrace to the club.”

Eddo (Reds’ centre-half-back) was up to his usual tricks. He tucked the Sherrin under his hairy left armpit, put his good arm in front of him to fend off opposition players, and made a futile attempt to run the length of the Clayton oval without taking a bounce. Two opposition players dragged him to the turf (couch grass and lumpy dirt) on the half-back-flank.

Shep (the local league’s stuttering umpire) blew his whistle in short staccato bursts, and gave the signal for holding the ball.

“Pig’s fucking arse!” Eddo removed the clump of couch grass from his mouth, and hoiked the Sherrin as far as he could over the fence – beyond the row of spectators’ cars, onto Stationmaster’s Terrace.

Shep blew his whistle again. “Th-th-th … That’s f-f-f … fifteen metres.” Shep paced out the distance of the free, which was more like thirty.

“No fucking way!” Eddo pushed one of his tacklers to the ground, and stood over him, bully fashion.

Shep blew his whistle again. “Th-th-th … that’s th-th-th … thirtyl!”

The opposition player escaped the tangle of Eddo’s legs, and the neck-lock of liniment-stained, strawberry-blonde Ranga hairs.

Shep paced out a forty-metre fifteen this time, and guided the opposition player to the edge of the ten-metre square.

Eddo’s two younger brothers, Steve and Alan, decided to avenge their off-field grudges on-field. They stood wrestling each other on the half-back-flank as play continued on-and-around them.

Stan sent Arnie out to separate them. Alan accidentally knocked Arnie to the ground with a roundarm meant for Steve.

Eddo ran across to separate his brothers. He put Steve in a headlock, dragged him to the ground, and open-palmed Alan across the back of the head.

“You piss-weak cunt. Pick on someone your own age.”

At half time, the Reds players trudged into the change shed, socks down and guernseys out. Arnie lay recuperating on the rub-down bench. Steve and Alan Edwards were still at it. Steve had his finger almost up Alan’s nostril.

“I told you during the week I’d fix you up.”
“And I told you, you wouldn’t know how to.” Alan smacked Steve’s finger away.

Steve and Alan eyeballed each other. Stan looked anywhere he could except in their direction, and prayed for divine intervention. Joe Edwards – their old man – stomped past Arnie and Stan, and clapped their two heads together like an enraged cymbalist. The crack of skulls was felt by everyone in the change shed. Steve and Alan reeled apart like two world championship wrestlers who’d accidentally made contact and given each other an Irish kiss.

“Grow up, the pair of you. You’re a disgrace to the club. And, Alan, you go straight up to Arnie and apologise.”

“It’s alright. I’m fine.” Arnie raised a lethargic arm and shook his head.

“I don’t care. He can bloody well apologise.”

“Go on.” Old Man Eddo pulled Alan by his guernsey, and shoved him towards Arnie.

“Sorry, Arnie.” Alan moved across, and put his hand on Arnie’s shoulder, checking Steve’s reaction.
“It’s alright.” Arnie waved Alan away. “Forgiven and forgotten. Done and dusted.”
Alan made his way back to the bench, and sat down.

All noise and movement ceased in the change shed. Steve and Alan glared at each other. Old Man Eddo glared at both of them. Eddo glared at all three of them. Stan gazed into the corner as though Bessa brick and concrete had suddenly assumed fascinating qualities. Stillness hung like damp bedsheets. The thickness of the atmosphere suffocated and strangled time. Slowed it to a halt. And prevented it from further movement.

Stan forced his arm upward, and cleared his throat with a timid cough.

“Thanks, Joe.” Stan acknowledged Old Man Eddo with his words but not his eyes. Stan’s words intruded rather than flowed, but restarted time. Each second dragged itself slowly forward again, catching up to its regular beat.

5. Enough is Enough

Posted: October 11, 2014 in Beyond the Boundaries
Barnsey is that you? David?

Barnsey is that you? David?

The Reds team squeezed through the gateway in the Clayton oval fence, and fanned onto the ground as the opposition team completed their warm-up laps. From the opening bounce, the pattern of Reds’ game unveiled an all-too-familiar style.

Snow was his usual wayward self. After completely misjudging his leap at the centre bounce, he staggered across to the fence on the far wing, and threw his guts up over the railing, throat-blending two Clayton Pub, Friday night, lounge bar ‘Special’ schnitzels into a bubble-and-squeak pizza base on the gravel track.

Stan shifted Snow into the forward line, then into the backline. He eventually placed Snow back into the ruck when he realised Reds were a man short in the centre square.

The opposition full-back smacked Deery (Reds’ full-forward) behind the ear early in the first quarter. Deery abused the umpire for missing the incident (referring to him as female genitalia bereft of a brain and vision [“You dumb blind CUNT!”]) and, from that point on, refused to try.

Deery’s team-mates started the name-calling.

“You’re a fucking big sook.”
“Stop being such a fucking cry-baby.”

Deery’s behaviour only worsened.

“You can all go and get fucked, the lot of youse.”

Deery folded his arms, and leaned his frame into the goal post like a disinterested town bike sitting on the front porch of Cliff and Zeta Kelly’s house.