(Editor’s Note: This is the first in what will be a relatively long series. Therefore, each post will link to the story immediately preceding it and the story immediately following it, as well as linking back to the introduction.)
“I can’t believe those posh bastards beat us again,” William said, looking at the ground and shaking his head in frustration and disgust. Beside him, Hugh Amos laughed.
“What in the bloody hell are you rambling on about?” Hugh said with a smile on his dumb face. “The score was seven goals to none. And that was only because they laid off in the second half. It wasn’t exactly a surprise.”
William sighed like a bitch. “I know. But I thought we’d finally have them this year.”
“What? You wanted to have sex with them?”
“No, Hugh. I meant I thought we’d beat them.”
“Oh. Well, I guess you were the only one who thought so,” Hugh said as their teammates, Barry and Lester Stinger, walked over to join them. “Hello, mates.”
“How you two doing?” Barry asked, looking over at William, who was still pouting like a schoolgirl. “What’s he so down about?”
“Oh, he thought we’d have them this year,” Hugh said with his big, affable smile.
“He wanted to have sex with them?”
“No,” Hugh said with his big, jolly yet vacuous laugh. “He thought we were going to beat them.”
The two brothers roared with laughter, and Hugh soon joined them, leaving only William to sulk in defeat. As Barry wiped a tear from his eye, he looked up at William. “You sure you don’t want to just have sex with them? Because I think you’d have a better chance of that.”
“I don’t want to have sex with anyone,” William said in frustration.
“It seems you’re succeeding then, mate,” Barry said, igniting a fresh round of laughter from the three men. As he regained his composure, he looked back at William. “It is a bit of a pity that you don’t fancy our opponents, however.”
“Why is that?” William asked. Barry nodded to a man approaching behind William.
“Because Devon’s coming this way, and from the look on his face, you may not have a say in the matter.”
Devon Lewison walked over, and William looked him over with a look of disgust and envy on his face. Devon was tall and handsome with clean cut black hair, and was one of the best players for the Wolves. He ran a car dealership that he had inherited from his father, was married to the woman William had had a crush on as a schoolboy, and, worst of all, seemed to be a genuinely nice guy.
“Hey, chaps. Nice game,” Devon said, patting William on the shoulder and extending his hand to the rest of the Lions, who took it in turn and shook it, with the exception of William, who only nodded at him briefly.
“Thanks, mate. You too,” Barry Stinger said as he shook Devon’s hand. “Though I suspect it was much nicer for you.”
Devon laughed, a forced, friendly, exaggerated laugh. “Well, you know, we had a couple of nice bounces and what not. But you guys put up a hell of a fight. It was much closer than the score indicated.”
“Sure. Whatever you say,” said William, again looking up only briefly while still primarily looking away and at the ground. Devon looked down at him uneasily, and then to the rest of the group.
“Anyway, the rest of the team and I were going to head on over to the Fragrant Horticulturist. What do you say to joining us, huh? Have a couple pints with us, rehash the season?”
“That sounds g…” Barry began before William cut him off.
“Actually, mate, I think we’re just going to head on over to the Promiscuous Holstein. It’s kind of our bar. It’s what we do after games. Can’t much change that on the last game of the season.”
“Are you sure, William?” Devon asked. “Drinks are on me.”
“Yeah, William, are you sure?” Lester asked with an aggressive undertone to his voice, drawn out of his silence by the offer of free alcohol.
“Yeah, well, you know,” William said, moving his hands nervously and looking for a reason to support his illogical decision. “It’s a nice offer and all, and thank you for that. It’s just that we don’t want to be rude to them down at the Holstein, is all.”
“Who down at the Holstein?” Hugh asked, seeming genuinely confused.
“You know, them. They. Those people. Our blokes down at our pub,” William said to a sea of blank faces. William scratched his head. “Um, Dave?”
“Dave?” Lester asked. “Who the hell is Dave?”
“You know, Dave. The barman. Good old Dave, always there with a drink and a kind word. We can’t disappoint Dave.”
“What’s Dave’s last name?” Lester asked. William’s face drew a blank, as he shrugged with a nervous laugh.
“I don’t recall ever hearing you say more than two words to Dave,” Hugh said.
“If anyone cares, the barman’s name is Tommy, by the way,” said Barry.
Devon took a deep breath and looked behind him, where his teammate Norman Ordway was gesturing for him to go. “Right. Anyway, I have to get going, but you know where we’ll be if you change your mind,” he said, clapping his hands and turning to leave. After a few steps, he stopped and turned back to the group. “William, you know, Jackie will probably be there. I understand you two used to be rather close. I’m sure she’d love to see you.”
The rest of the group turned and looked at William. “So? The Holstein?”
“Every year. Every god damn year,” William said sullenly, looking into his pint glass and twirling the beer around.
“What are you going on about?” Lester asked, putting down a fresh glass of beer and handing one to his brother Barry.
“Oh, he’s still upset about losing today,” Hugh said jollily, taking a sip and wiping the froth from his lips.
“Yeah, we lost to a far superior team,” Barry said, smiling and rolling his eyes. “Who’d have seen that one coming?”
“Seriously, though,” William said, putting his beer down and looking at the group, slurring his words slightly. “Why?”
William looked at the group but was met with only blank stares. After a few awkward moments, Barry said, “Why what, mate?”
“Why do they always have to beat us?” William said, picking up his glass and swallowing another swig. “At everything.”
The group laughed. “That might be a bit of an overstatement,” Hugh said.
“Yeah,” Barry said. “Look, I like football as much as the next guy, but it’s not everything. It’s one game a year in a friendly league. It sucks to lose, to be sure, but it’s hardly ‘everything’. It’s just a game.”
“It’s not though. It’s more than that,” William protested. “Think about it. Not only do they beat the ever-living snot out of us every year in football, they beat the snot out of us in life. They’re better looking, have better jobs, nicer houses, prettier wives.”
“It’s true,” Lester said.
“Of course, it is. Look at Hugh’s wife,” Barry said.
“Hey, guys, come on. Leave Amy out of this,” Hugh said.
“She’s a bloody dog,” Barry said.
“Knock it off. Don’t be mean to Amy,” Hugh said.
“I don’t know that I’d call Hugh’s wife a dog,” Lester said, taking a sip of his beer. “Dogs are small and slender.”
“You’re thinking she’s more of a cow?”
“Mate, after last holiday season, I’m thinking an elephant.”
“Guys, I’m serious. Leave Amy alone,” Hugh said.
“Seriously, though,” William said, inserting himself back into the conversation. “Think about it. They have everything. Nice cars, nice houses. Devon has Jackie and I’m pretty sure Norman is banging that French receptionist who works with us.”
“Really?” Barry said with an impressed look on his face. “What makes you say that?”
“I don’t know. She’s European. I just assume those people are banging everybody, all the time,” William said. “The point is that they have these awesome lives, and what do we have? Shitty apartments, shitty jobs, and Hugh’s fat fucking wife.”
Barry shrugged. “Sure, but what are you going to do about it? Some people have nicer things than we do. At least they’re nice guys.”
“They’re not though,” William said, banging his fists on the table. “They’re dicks.”
“I don’t know about that,” Hugh said with an uneasy chuckle. “What makes you say that?”
“Envy,” Lester said. The rest of the group looked at him, and he elaborated. “William feels that they are better off than us, and since human beings determine their self-worth and well-being in comparison to others, it’s natural for him to dislike them and want to see their worth diminished in order to increase his comparative worth. However, he can’t very well say that he dislikes them for doing better than he is since that would make him the asshole and force him to admit his own insecurity and inadequacy. Therefore, he has to view them as dicks to justify his dislike for them without admitting to the fact that, at the end of the day, his grievance is nothing more than misplaced internal insecurity.”
“That makes sense,” Barry said, nodding his head.
“Really? Because I didn’t follow any of that,” William said.
“We can probably add smarter to the list as well,” Barry said, looking to Lester who nodded in agreement.
“And better looking,” Hugh said, jumping in. “After seeing those long blonde locks on Norman, they’re better looking for sure. This is fun. What else are they better at?”
“My point is…” William said, cutting off the conversation. “My point is that once, just once, it would be nice to get the better of them in something. Anything. Even if it is just a stupid game, I just want to beat them in one thing. One time. So why do they have to win every year?”
“Seriously?” Barry asked, raising his eyebrows to William. “Primarily because they’re in excellent shape. They’re also better at soccer, but did you see Devon? The man looks like he was chiseled by Michelangelo himself. Let me just say that I somehow doubt Jackie has any buyer’s remorse on that one.”
William continued. “Well, why can’t we get in that kind of shape?”
“Laziness,” Barry said, taking another sip of his beer. “We like to sleep in as late as we can, drink beer and eat shit food. If you wanted to do that, with our work schedules, we’d have to get up around six every morning and run. We’d have to practice almost every day. There’s no reason we can’t get in shape and give them a run for their money. It’s just that we don’t care enough to put in the requisite effort.”
“So?” William said. “Let’s do it.”
Barry looked at Lester, then to Hugh, then back at William. “You really want to try?”
“Sure. Why not?”
“Alright, mate,” Barry said, taking another sip of his beer. “We’ll start the morning after tomorrow. Tomorrow, I plan to be sore and hung over as shit.”
Part 2- https://stantonsislandblog.wordpress.com/2017/01/19/the-football-match-intro-pt-2/