The Football Match- Part 4

“Come on, William.  Time to get going,” Barry’s voice called out, accompanying the pounding at the door.  William rolled over in bed and sat up for a minute trying to wake up before the pounding started again.  He rushed to the door and answered it quickly, primarily concerned with stopping the pounding.

“What the hell, mate?  What time is it?” William asked, looking out at Barry, Lester and Hugh, all clad in their workout gear.  He answered his own question by turning around and looking at the clock on his nightstand.  “God damn it.  My alarm isn’t even set to go off for a half hour.  What the hell are you assholes doing here?”

“We came to get you up.  To run.  Like we discussed at the pub last night,” Barry said, smiling and bouncing up and down excitedly.  He turned and looked at Lester, then back at William.  “Except for Lester.  He just wanted to see you in your underwear.”

“They’re nice undies,” Lester agreed.

“Oh, fuck off,” William said, turning around and walking to his sink to grab a glass of water.  Uninvited, the other three followed him into his apartment.  William filled the glass with water and drank it down in one gulp.  Catching his breath, he turned back to the group.  “I’m not going for any bloody run.”

“What?” Hugh said.  “But last night at the bar, you said you wanted to rededicate yourself.  To get in shape and practice so that we can stick it to the Wolves next year.”

“And last night, I meant it.  This morning, I want to get as much more sleep as I can before I have to drag my miserable ass into work.  Not wake up an hour before I need to to go do something I hate.”

“Yeah, well you’re up anyway at this point,” Barry said, going through William’s drawers.  He grabbed a shirt and pair of gym shorts and threw them at William.  “So, you might as well get dressed and come with us.”

“No,” William said, tossing the clothes back at Barry.

“But you gave such an inspirational speech last night at the pub,” Hugh said in protest.

“No, no he didn’t,” Lester and Barry said in unison, both shaking their heads.  The brothers looked at each other, then Barry said, “No, the speech was nonsensical, but it did get us up and over here this morning.  So, get dressed.  We’re going.”

“Piss off.”

“Come on, William.  Think of Norman.”

William looked at Barry with a confused look on his face.  “What about Norman?”

Barry shrugged.  “I don’t know.  He’s a prick because he does his job, I guess.  Or expects you to do yours.  You never clearly articulated exactly what your problem with him is, but you were ranting about it for a good long while.”

“I do hate me some Norman,” William said, nodding thoughtfully.  After a moment, he winced and shook his head.  “But last time was such a disaster.  I’m not looking to try that again.”

“We’ll take it slowly.  Baby steps.  The season doesn’t start for another eight months, and we don’t have to play the Wolves until the end.  We have time to build up to it,” Barry said.  “Just think of Norman, all trying to get you to work and what not.”

“Yeah, and think of Devon, all banging Jackie and what not,” Hugh said.  The other three went silent and an awkward pall fell over the room.  They stared uncomfortably at Hugh.

“Hugh, don’t,” Barry said.

“What?” Hugh said with a shrug and a tone of legitimate confusion.  “They’ve been married for like ten years.  They’re obviously fucking each other.”

“That’s not the point.  Just don’t bring it up,” Barry said.

“Thirteen years,” William said solemnly, muttering under his breath.

“And I mean they’ve lived together for what?  Fifteen, twenty years?” Hugh said, continuing obliviously.

“Sixteen years,” William said quietly.

“Hugh, for the love of Christ, stop talking,” Barry said.

“But…”

“Hugh!”

Silence again overtook the room as Hugh got the message.  William looked up at Barry, who threw the clothes back to William.  William turned and walked into the bathroom.

“Give me five minutes to get dressed.  Then we’ll get going.”

 

“You’re bailing on me too?” William said, talking into his phone.  “Come on, man.”

“I’m not bailing on you.  No one is,” Hugh’s voice came from the earpiece in William’s phone.  “I’m just tired and don’t feel like heading to the pub tonight.  Besides, we’ve been going there a lot recently.  I need to spend some time with my kids.”

“You’re ditching me to drink with your kids?  Some friend you are.”

“Yes.  Well, no,” Hugh said.  “I’m going to spend time with my kids.  I’m not going to drink with them.”

“Why the hell not?”

“Um, maybe because I’m not an alcoholic.  I don’t drink alone, I drink to socialize with you and other people.  If I’m the only one drinking, it destroys the point for me.”

“Right.  So, you’ll be drinking with the kids.  They’re other people.  Well, kind of.”

“My kids don’t drink, William.  Obviously.”

“Oh.  They religious nuts or something?”

There was a long pause at the other end of the line.  “They’re children, William.”

“Right,” said William, failing to grasp this simple concept.  “So, they’re going to puke all over and piss themselves anyway.  You might as well let them drink.”

An audible sigh came from Hugh.  “Goodbye, William.”

Hanging up the phone, William shrugged and entered the pub, taking a seat alone at the bar.

 

“Dave.  Another pint, please,” William said to Tommy the barkeep six pints later.  Tommy nodded and brought him his beer.

“Anything else, William?”

“Not for now.  Cheers, Dave,” William said, holding up his glass and taking a sip.

Tommy leaned over to William and said quietly, “I don’t normally get in the middle of this sort of thing, but that lady at the other end of the bar was asking about you.  You know, if you’re interested.”

William looked down the bar where a couple of women sat.  “Which one?”

Tommy glanced behind him quickly.  “The one in the light blue shirt.”

“You mean the fat one.”

Tommy winced.  “I would never call a customer fat.  That seems mean.”

“But you are talking about the fat one, right?”

“She’s not that fat.  Sure, she’s bigger than the other ladies she’s with, but I wouldn’t call her fat.”

William sighed.  “Fine.  The plus sized one, then?”

Tommy thought for a moment.  “I think even plus sized is considered inappropriate.”

“Well, Jesus Christ, Dave.  I don’t know how to put it any nicer.  If I can’t call her plus sized, what should I call her?  Fat fuck sized?  Are you referring to the fat fuck sized woman at the other end of the bar?”

“Yeah.”

“See?  That wasn’t so difficult, now was it?”

Tommy shrugged.  “So, I’m guessing I should tell her you aren’t interested?”

“Whatever.  I’m not, but honestly I wouldn’t mind the company.”

William looked into his beer.  For a moment he zoned out, lost in his thoughts and his drunken haze.  Then, a voice brought him back into awareness.

“Hi.”

William looked up at the woman in the light blue shirt who was now sitting next to him.  Though Tommy was right and she wasn’t as fat as she looked across the bar, her face and teeth did more than enough to kill any attraction William might have had for the woman, even through his increasingly heavy beer goggles.  He mustered a weak smile.

“How do you do?”

“Pretty well, I suppose.  I’m Kathy,” the woman, Kathy, apparently, said, extending a warm, moist hand which William took.  Cringing, he shook the lady’s hand, and she responded with her own relatively weak handshake.  The woman smiled at him.  “So, what’s your name?”

“Huh?  Oh.  It’s, uh, William, I suppose.”

The woman laughed a lot more than she should have given the situation and the half-hearted nature of the joke.  “You’re funny.”

“It wasn’t intentional, I assure you.”

Kathy leaned over and rested her head on her hand in an attempt to be seductive.  “So, tell me about yourself, William.”

William shrugged.  “Not much to tell, really.  I work a dead end job at an insurance company, so that’s rather boring.  I live alone in a small, crappy apartment.  Overall, I guess I’m something of a pathetic loser.”

“Oh, come now.  I’m sure that’s not true.”

“It most certainly is.  I also drink too much, eat like crap, and am an emotionally crippled and closed off loner incapable of forming an emotional connection with another human being.”

Kathy reached over and touched William’s hand.  “I may be able to help with that.”

William looked around the room, searching for a response.  “I have a small penis,” he said, grimacing.  Again, Kathy laughed an inappropriately large amount.  William sighed.  “So, tell me about yourself.”  He paused for a panicked moment.  “Katy,” he guessed.

“Kathy.  Well,” she said, sitting up excitedly and smacking her lips.  She gathered her thoughts as if preparing for a dissertation.  “I’m 36 years young.  I’m a bank teller.  Well, I work as a bank teller, but I’m really a writer.  That’s my passion.  I just work at a bank to pay the bills while I follow my dreams.”

“So, you’re a bank teller?” William said, taking a sip of his beer and rolling his eyes.

“I like my friends, and I like to have fun.”

“That’s a unique perspective.  Most people I know hate their friends.  And I personally have never met anyone who likes to have fun before.”

Kathy slapped William playfully, and continued.  “I don’t care what other people think about me, and I dance like nobody’s watching.”

“Of course.  You have to show everybody what a free spirit you are.”

“I know, right?  See, you understand me.  Nobody else gets the real me,” Kathy said, smiling as sweetly as she could at William with her misshapen buck teeth.

“Yeah.  It’s almost like people judge you based on what you do and say as opposed to the fantastical image you have of yourself.”

“You know, we could get out of here,” Kathy said, licking her lips.  “My place is nearby.”

“No.  Uh, thank you for the offer and everything, but I think I’m just going to sit here and drink.”

“Come on,” Kathy said, leaning over and rubbing William’s thigh.  William pulled away slightly.

“No.  I’m good.”

“Pretty please.  With an extra sugar coated cherry on top,” Kathy said, sticking her tongue out in a gesture that was supposed to be sexy, but ended up being just plain weird.

“Seriously?” William asked with more curiosity than disgust or anger.  “Has that ever worked?  Has a man ever been like ‘well, I wasn’t really interested in having sex tonight, but since you said please, I’ll give you my cock’?  It just seems like it would be a wholly ineffective strategy.”

“Fine,” Kathy said, standing up angrily.  “I get the point.  You men are all so shallow.  Just because I’m not conventionally attractive, you won’t sleep with me.”

“You aren’t attractive by convention, or any other standards that I’m aware of,” William said, shrugging and returning to his beer.  “Though I agree it is absurd that men find sexual attraction to be an important component in deciding who they engage in intercourse with.”

“You know what?  I don’t care what you think.  I’m sexy damn it.”

“No.  You aren’t.  And that’s alright,” William said, putting his beer down and turning back to Kathy.  “Not everyone is going to be physically attractive, and for the most part it’s not something you have control over.  But not everyone needs to be.  There are a lot of other positive qualities an individual can have.  You could be smart, caring, funny, creative, industrious, or have any other number of positive qualities.  All of these traits are more important than physical attractiveness, so who cares if you aren’t sexy?”

“I know.  Right?” Kathy said, happily sitting back down and turning back to William.  “I’m so glad to hear you say that.  I totally agree.”

William shrugged and picked up his pint glass.  “The fact that you feel the need to sit in a bar and insist that you are sexy tells me you probably don’t have any of these qualities, but you never know.  You might.”

Kathy got up from her seat again.  “Goodbye, William.”

 

“Mmm, that smells like, well, like food,” Hugh said as he walked through the door.  He walked over to Amy, who was cooking something at the stove, and gave her a quick kiss on the cheek before gingerly walking over to the kitchen table and taking a seat.  “What are you cooking?”

“It’s a new recipe I found online for shrimp and vegetables,” Amy said, continuing to stir the pot on the stove.

“Shrimp? That doesn’t have shrimp in it, does it?” Hugh asked, his voice growing heavy with concern.  “Because I’m allergic to shrimp.”

“Ooh, it might,” Amy said, wincing and turning around to face Hugh for a second before returning her attention to the pot.  “Don’t worry.  If you die, I’ll just tell the kids I meant to kill you.  Probably for the insurance money.”

“What?  Why would you do that?”

“Well, honey, it’s easier than admitting I made a mistake,” Amy said, turning to look at Hugh.  She laughed at the humorless expression on Hugh’s face.  “Relax.  How long have we been married?  I’m well aware of your shrimp allergy.  I replaced the shrimp in the recipe with chicken.”

“Oh.  Uh, good,” Hugh said, slowly sitting back in his seat and closing his eyes.  Amy turned around and looked at him curiously.

“Everything all right?” she asked with a tinge of concern in her voice.

“Hmm? Yeah, why?”

“I don’t know.  You just seem a little quiet, that’s all.”

“I’m just tired.  These morning runs are beginning to wear me out,” Hugh said.  He took a deep breath.  “Oh, well.  I’m sure I’ll get used to them eventually.”

“I suppose,” Amy said, taking the pot off the stove and carrying it over to the table.  “Kids, dinner’s ready.  Anyway, it does seem a little silly.  Doing all that effort to win a football game.”

“Meh.  It has nothing to do with that, really,” Hugh said, scooping a serving from the pot and putting it onto his plate.  “Sure, that was what motivated William to mention the idea.  And maybe it’s what drives him.  You know how fucked in the head he is.”

“I do.  It’s kind of sad, really.  He’s such a nice guy, at the heart of it.”

“But anyway, I just like the idea of getting into shape.  I’ve been fat my whole life, and slow, and I just thought it was a good opportunity to maybe change some of that.  Hell, even if nothing works, at least I’ll have tried, you know?  I don’t know.  Maybe it’s stupid, but I figure it can’t hurt.”

“Well, for what it’s worth, I’m very proud of you,” Amy said, taking a bite of her own meal.  “I think you’re setting a great example for the kids.”

Amy smiled at Hugh, who returned the smile across the table as the kids came running into the kitchen, took their seats, and began to eat.

 

 

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The Football Match-Part 3

February 16,2017

“Oh, man, I’m sore as shit,” Barry said, walking up to Lester at the construction site they were at that afternoon.  Lester ignored him as he finished measuring and marking the piece of wall he was working on, then removed his goggles and turned to his brother.

“Not sore, but tired.  I don’t know how I’m going to make it through the day,” Lester said, lifting one leg, then the other.  “This morning I felt fine.  Good, even, you know.  Refreshed and rejuvenated.  But since lunch I’ve just been floored.  I could crawl up right here and take a nap.”

“So, do it, mate,” Barry said with a wry smile.  “I’d love to see old man Frank react to that one.  Seriously, though, we may need to rethink this.”

“What?  Running before work?”

“Yeah.  If it means we’re going to be this tired, then maybe we should go after.  At least then we can go home after, eat, drink, and sleep.”

Lester shook his head.  “William’s not going to like that.”

“What?  Fuck him,” Barry said.  “But why do you assume that?”

“It’ll cut into his drinking time,” Lester said, cracking a smile.  The two laughed until their boss, Floyd Frank, a slight man with black hair that was beginning to thin on top, interrupted them.

“Hey.  You two. Stop wasting time.”

“Piss off, old man Frank,” Barry said as he and Lester continued to laugh.  “We’re not wasting time.”

“Yes, you are,” he said holding his old man clipboard.  “And stop calling me ‘old man’.  I’m two years younger than either of you.”

“Yes, and you’re the boss man.  Which makes you old man.  Do you really need me to explain this to you?” Barry said, patting old man Frank on the shoulder.  “We’ve been over it about a hundred times.  And you accuse us of wasting time.”

“You are wasting time.  You’re standing around chatting when you’re supposed to be building this…” Old man Frank paused for a moment, looking through his papers and partially unfolding and glancing at the blueprint.  “Pub?  That doesn’t seem right.  Damn it.  I brought the wrong damn plans again.  Anyway, you’re supposed to be working on this whatever the fuck it is we’re building and instead you’re chatting.  That’s a waste of time.”

“No, it isn’t,” Barry said insistently.  “We are discussing and planning a new fitness regime.  Wasting time implies that we are frittering away the time.  Spending it on something frivolous and unproductive.  We are not.  We are discussing the pros and cons of a new morning workout we’re trying, which I contend is a very productive use of our time.”

“It’s not what you’re being paid for.”

“If we’re being given money for a service, and failing to provide that service in exchange, it would seem to me that’s stealing.”

“It is.”

“So accuse us of stealing.”

“Stop stealing.”

“Alright, then,” Barry said, nodding his head.  “Just don’t accuse us of wasting the time that we’re stealing from you.”

“Yeah, we can’t really argue with that, after all,” Lester said, shrugging.  “We are stealing the shit out of you.”

“All that juicy, juicy hourly wage.  Accumulating in our paychecks in exchange for absolutely no services being rendered on our part,” Barry added, practically drooling.

Old man Frank rolled his eyes.  “Get back to work you two.  I need to head back to the office and get the right plans.  Barry, you’re in charge until I return.”

 

“What was that about?” Norman asked William as the chubby middle aged lady waddled quickly out of the office.

“Nothing.  It’s nothing,” William said, turning around in his chair to face Norman.  He sighed.  “Ms. McGregor just cancelled her account with us.”

“I see,” Norman said, dropping his head and staring at the ground solemnly.

“Which is good, because she was a pain in the ass.”

Norman chuckled to himself.  “It certainly looks like you frightened her out the door pretty quickly.”

“It wasn’t so much that…” William began.

“Which is good, because she was a pain in the ass,” Norman said with a smile and another chuckle.

“Glad we’re on the same page,” William said, winking at Norman and turning back to his desk.

“On the other hand,” Norman said as William, with his back to Norman, cringed, “it is one fewer account we now have.”

“Yeah, well, got to lose money to make money, or whatever,” William mumbled under his breath, quiet enough that Norman couldn’t hear him.

“Tell you what,” Norman said in what William found to be a superficially friendly manner.  “Why don’t you give me five minutes, then meet me in my office?”

“Because I don’t want to and I can’t imagine I’m going to like what you have to say,” William said, spinning his chair back around to face Norman and looking up at him with a smile.  Norman smiled back at him.

“I’ll see you in five minutes,” Norman said as his face fell serious.  William dropped his head and stared at his watch, waiting for the five minutes to be up.  After three, he couldn’t take anymore, and so braced himself, slowly rose from his chair, and walked gingerly into Norman’s office.

“William, have a seat,” Norman said, looking up from his computer and gesturing to the open chair for guests.

“Uh, you aren’t hiding Chris Hanson in here somewhere, are you?” William said, smiling a meek, toothy smile.  Norman laughed.

“Don’t worry.  You’re safe.  You didn’t even bring a Happy Meal,” he said, pushing himself up in his seat, then leaning back.  “So, I pulled Ms. McGregor’s file, as well as your portfolio.”

“Okay,” William said tensely.

“But obviously I don’t have the cancellation report from you regarding the McGregor account yet, so why don’t you just tell me what happened?”

“Alright,” William said, sitting up straight in his seat.  “So, she came in.”

“Right.”

“She walked through the door.”

Norman nodded.

“She walked through the door, entering our building.”

Norman nodded.  “I get it.  She came in to see you.”

“Right.  Then she walked up to me, or to my cubicle, or workspace, or whatever the fuck we’re calling them these days.”

“Productivity spheres.”

“Right.  My productivity…productivity spheres?” William said with a combination of shock and disgust on his face.  “Really?”

“No,” Norman said quickly.  He shrugged.  “But it might be something equally as stupid.  I don’t know.  Just say your desk.”

“Right, so she walks up to my desk,” William said, leaning over and lowering his voice. “And she says to me…”

“What?” Norman asked, leaning in closer to hear William.

“I’d like to cancel my account,” William whispered before leaning back with a self-satisfied look on his face.  Norman started at him, waiting for him to expand, and the two sat for a long moment in silence.

“And?” Norman asked eventually.

“She left,” William said matter-of-factly.

“That’s it?”

“That’s it.”

“Do you have any idea why she cancelled her account?”

“Yeah,” William said, nodding his head.  “Because she’s a bitch.”

“Because she’s a bitch?” Norman asked, seeking clarification.

William held his hands out and smiled.  “There you have it.”

Norman leaned back and rested his head on his hand.  He slowly nodded his head.  “Well, I’m sure that’s it.”

“Sure is.”

“She probably got up this morning and thought ‘Gee, how can I be a bitch today?’”

“Probably before she even had her tea.”

“Then she pulled out her insurance policy and thought ‘This is a good policy, and they’ve always taken good care of me, but it sure would ruin someone’s day if I were to cancel it’.”

“Yup.  That’s definitely what happened.”

“Then she did just that, because her entire life revolves around figuring out how she can be the biggest bitch possible.”

“It does.”

“It’s her sole motivation for existing.”

“I’m glad we’re in agreement,” William said, leaning forward and struggling to slowly rise.  “Now if there’s nothing else.”

“Sit down, William, I was being sarcastic,” Norman said, pointing William back into his seat.

“You were?” William said, gingerly returning to his seat.  “I never would have guessed.”

“Now, do you want to tell me what really happened?  Because I can’t keep having you lose accounts like this without bringing new ones in.”

William nodded and paused for a moment, gathering both his thoughts and his courage.  “Her son opened his own insurance company, and she’s switching over to him.”

“Oh,” Norman said, sounding pleasantly surprised.  “So that’s why she left?”

“Yeah.  Apparently she loves her son and wants to support him, or some other retarded bullshit.  I don’t know.”

“I see,” Norman said, leaning forward onto his desk and resting his chin on his closed fist.  “Of course we’ll follow up with Ms. McGregor, but if that’s the case, I don’t see how that’s your fault.”

“Thanks.”

“However, it still puts you an account down.  I would like to see you be more aggressive bringing in more accounts.”

“What more do you want from me?” William asked.  “I’m posting a new tweet about this place almost every day.”

“And certainly using the company social media is important.”

“Yeah.  The, uh, company’s account.”

“But, well, tell you what.  Why don’t you go ahead and talk to the other salespeople?  See what they do.  John brought in three new accounts already this month.  I think they can probably advise you better than I.”

William grimaced as he stood and left the office.  “Sure thing.  Thanks.”

The Football Match- Intro Pt. 2

“Good morning, William,” Michelle Mercier, the cute French receptionist who was banging Norman in William’s mind, said to him with a smile as he entered the insurance company where he worked a half hour after he was supposed to.

“Ah, right.  Morning,” William said with a brief, awkward smile as he made a beeline for his desk.  He took off his coat, set down his bag, and sat for a moment before noticing the cottony feeling in his mouth and the deep thirst.  He got up to head to the water cooler when he was stopped by a voice from behind.

“William.  Good to see you this morning.”  William, filled with dread, turned around melodramatically to see Norman Ordway walking toward him.  Tall and built with long, flowing blond hair, Norman was both his manager at the insurance company and one of the Wolves best players.  He had scored two goals the previous day, one of which he had gone right around William to get.  William froze like a deer being approached by an affable predator.

“Oh, ah, hi, Norman,” William said, shuffling pathetically in his place, hesitating between staying where he was and continuing to the water cooler.  Norman came up to him and placed a hand on his shoulder.

“Just getting in?” Norman asked with a smile that William chose to interpret as sadistic.

“Oh, ah, yeah.  The bus was running a touch off schedule this morning,” William lied.

“Really?  I would have assumed you were just tired from yesterday,” Norman said with a shrug.  “Perhaps a bit of a late night on top of it.”

“Well,” William said with a wince and a bit of a chuckle.  “That didn’t exactly help.”

Norman laughed.  “I understand that.  I had a bit of trouble getting up to run this morning myself.  That was an intense match yesterday.”

William gritted his teeth and smiled.  “I don’t know about that.  At seven to nil, it seems you guys got the better of us.”

“Bah,” Norman said with a wave of his hand.  “We were a bit upset because we ended just out of reach of the league crown, so we had a little extra kick.  You guys played a tight match.  We just had everything clicking.  Anyway, what are you up to?”

“What do you mean?” William asked, scrunching his forehead in a confused look.  “I’m working.  I thought that was what I was supposed to be doing.”

“No, that’s not what I mean,” Norman said, shaking his head with a smile.  “I meant what are you doing right now?  Do you have a second to talk?”

“Oh, ah,” William muttered, repeating his new catchphrase, “I was actually just on my way to the water cooler.”

Norman clapped his hands in an excitable manner, a gesture that didn’t go over well with William in his current state.  “Rehydrating?  Beautiful idea.  I’ll come with you.”

“Uh, sure,” William said, gritting his teeth as he made his way toward the water.  Norman put his hand around his shoulder.

“Anyway, I wanted to talk to you about your numbers from last quarter,” Norman said as William poured a plastic cup of water and handed it to Norman.  “Oh, thank you.”

“What about them?” William asked, taking a sip from his own cup of water.

“They were a bit disappointing,” Norman said, looking down at William.  “You lost two accounts.  Now that’s to be expected, but the number of new accounts you brought in was lower than we hoped for.  As in, it was zero.”

“Yeah,” William said, looking down at his cup of water and swirling it.  “It was first quarter.  It’s always a little slow.  But I agree, it was a bit disappointing.  Things will pick up.”

“I’m sure it will.  Look, you’ve been here for how long, now?”

“Fifteen years.  About five longer than you.”

“Right.  So clearly you know what you’re doing,” Norman said, finishing his water, throwing the cup in the recyclable bin and leaning against the wall.  “I just want to make sure there’s nothing I can do to help you out.”

William shrugged and tossed his cup in the trash.  “No.  Nothing.  Though I can’t very well bring in anything if I’m standing here talking to you, so…”

“Of course,” Norman said, gesturing toward William’s desk.  “I wouldn’t want to keep you from your clients.  Just let me know if there’s anything I can do to help, alright?  My office door is always open.”

“Absolutely.  Will do,” William said, walking back to his desk, picking up the phone, and listening to the dial tone to avoid having to do any work until his hangover subsided.  He was zoned out and half asleep when the voice of the company president, George Hamlin, brought his attention back to the present.

“Attention everybody.  I was going to wait until the end of the day to do this, but I figure there’s no time like the present.  As you know, your branch manager, Richard Swanson, is retiring at the end of the month and we’ve been looking for his replacement.  I’m proud to announce that we’ve found an outstanding candidate from among your own managers.  Ladies and gentlemen, your new branch manager, Norman Ordway.”

The room clapped as Norman smiled and shook the hand of Mr. Hamlin.  As he added his sarcastic applause to the chorus, William slipped his cellphone out of his pocket and texted Hugh.  “Holstein after work?  I’m having a shit day.”

 

“Why does everything good always happen to that cunt Norman?” William asked, taking another sip from his pint glass.  “Seriously.  Why does he get the promotion, to go along with everything else in his perfect little life?”

“I don’t know,” Hugh said as he drank from his glass.  He shrugged.  “Hard work and discipline?”

“Fuck that.  I work hard and… discip-line.”

“Weren’t you telling me that the other day you were trying to find a customer’s old policy for her, but after searching for a half hour decided it was too difficult and told her all old policies were destroyed after a year?”

William shrugged.  “So?”

“Then you took an hour nap at your desk?”

“Yeah, but I was hungover.”

“Aren’t you always hungover?”

“When I’m not drunk,” William said as he finished his beer.  “What’s your point?  Just because I’m not perfect doesn’t mean Norman should have everything go perfectly in his perfect life.  That cunt.”

Hugh nodded as he got up and walked with William to the bar for another pint.  As they walked back, Hugh said, “Didn’t his father die recently?”

“So what?” William asked as he pulled his seat out.  “All fathers die.”

“I heard it was a car crash.  It killed him and the woman he was sleeping with.  That’s how his mother found out about the affair.”

“See?” William said, sipping the head off his beer.  “Even perfect Norman’s fucking old dad is getting laid more than me.  Perfect pretty boy.”

“Apparently his mother was so distraught at her husband’s death and infidelity that she killed herself shortly afterward.  Shotgun to the head.  Blew her face clean off, apparently.”

“I…didn’t…what’s your point?” William said with a pained look on his face.

Hugh shrugged.  “Simply that maybe things aren’t as perfect for pretty boy Norman as you imagine them to be.”

“Oh, no,” William said sarcastically, waving his hands in front of his face as if to prove his point.  “So pretty boy has had a few bad things happen in his life.  A couple blemishes so that everyone can feel bad for him and say that his perfect life isn’t so perfect.  Big deal.  My point is that if he’s going to be successful, then I should be too.”

“Why should you be successful?”

“Because I want to be,” William said, slamming his hands against the table like a child throwing a tantrum because his mother won’t give him a candy.

“Hmm…,” Hugh murmured in an attempt to disengage.  Then, trying to soothe William, he said, “What’s so great about success, anyway?  Why do you want to be successful so bad?”

“For all the people who’ve mocked me.  Who’ve been mean to me.  I want to show them.  I want to shove it in their faces.”

“Whose faces?”

“You know, theirs.  Them.  Thoooose people,” William said, drunkenly slurring out the last bit.

“People from school?”

“From school?” William said, taking a moment to think about it.  “No, actually.  That’d be you and the Stinger boys.  No, people in school were actually quite nice to me.”

“Your family?”

“Don’t even joke about that.  You know how I feel about my family.”

“Then exactly whose face are you meant to shove this desired success in, Will?”

William thought for a moment before shaking his head in disgust.  “I don’t know.  Them.  If I can’t figure out who ‘they’ are, I’ll find some homeless guy and shove it in his face.”

“That’s terrible.”

“Bitch, I ain’t Mother Theresa.” William shook his head as the Stinger brothers walked in.  “Hey, boys.  Pull up a seat and grab a pint.”

“No, we can’t.  We have to get home to our mother,” Barry said.

“Oh, do you have to get home to mommy?” William said, snickering.  “What are you? Ten?”

“She’s sick,” Lester said gravely.

“Oh,” William said, knocking the snickering off and composing himself into a drunken solemnity.  “I’m sorry to hear that.”

“It’s fine,” Barry said, waving him off.  “It’s nothing serious.  Of course, at her age, anything could become serious, but for now it just looks like the sniffles.”

“That’s good to hear,” Hugh said.

William nodded.  “We’ll hope for the best, but in the meantime, and I say this with the utmost respect, what the fuck are you doing here?”

“Hugh texted us,” Lester said, nodding in the direction of William’s fat friend, who smiled jovially.

“We just were wondering what was going on,” Barry said with what William perceived as an accusing tone.  “It seems a little funny that the two of you are drinking considering that we have to get up and run tomorrow.”

Hugh and William exchanged confused glances before Hugh asked, “What are you two talking about?”

“Yes, what the fuck are you two talking about?” William added.  “I don’t think I’ve ever run in my life except for after a football.”

“Remember the vow?” Barry asked.  When William and Hugh responded with blank faces, Barry sighed and said, “Our vow to get in shape and beat the Wolves next year?  Guys, it was just last night.”

“Oh, fuck off with that,” William said as he returned to his beer.  “You didn’t think I was serious about that?”

“You seemed serious at the time,” Barry said.

“Yeah, I was.  At the time. I’m serious about a lot of things when I’m drunk.  It doesn’t mean I actually care about them.”

“We’re going to go.  We figure even if we can’t win next year, at least it will help us get in shape,” Lester said, looking down at his gut.  “And we work construction all day.  If we’re planning on it, what’s that say about you?”

“That I’m a sad, fat, little drunk.”

“And you’re alright with that?”

William smiled and held up his pint glass.  “I will be after a couple more of these.”

“Alright,” Barry said with a sigh.  “Well, we got to go tend to mother.  Offer stands if you’re interested.  Have a good night.  Hugh,” he said, nodding at the fat man and patting William on the back as he walked by.

 

“Have you tried berating it?” William said an hour and four pints later.  Hugh shook his head.

“Can’t say that I have.”

“Well, give it a try.  If something isn’t how you want it, just yell at it, and mock it and berate it until it gives in and starts acting in the way you want it to.  A brute force type approach, if you will.”

“Alright.  First of all, stop referring to my daughter as ‘it’,” Hugh said, sighing and sipping at his pint.  “And it’s not that big of a deal.  She’s a good girl, overall.  Just a little on the heavy side.”

“By which you mean fat as all fuck.”

“And I’m certainly not going to yell at her for it.  That’s not going to solve anything.”

“It might.  What have you got to lose?”

“My daughter’s love and devotion, for one.”

William smirked and waved his hand dismissively.  “Bah.  Hogwash.  You’re going to have to decide whether you want a thin daughter or one who loves you.”

“One who loves me.  Definitely.”

“Really?” William said, surprised for some reason.  He shrugged.  “If you say so.”

“She’s my daughter, William.  Not some status symbol I whip out to impress the neighbors.”

“She could be both,” William said, still not quite grasping the concept.

“Besides, it’s not her fault,” Hugh said, looking sadly into his glass.  “After all, I’m heavy.”

“No, you’re fat as all fuck.”

“Her mum’s heavy.”

“She’s fat as all fuck, too.”

“And both her siblings are heavy.”

“Fat as all fuck.”

“It could be genetic,” Hugh said slowly with a tentative hopefulness.  William laughed.

“Is that what she’s been shoving down her pie hole?  Because unless it is, I don’t think that’s what’s causing it.”

Hugh smiled and shook his head slowly.  “Fair enough.  She eats like crap.  But even that isn’t her fault.  The whole family eats like crap.  That’s why we’re all heavy.”

William started to open his mouth, but Hugh held up a finger to stop him.  “Don’t.  I get it.  We’re all big fat fucks.  It’s just that she’s always been a little bigger than the rest of us.”

“I suppose bigger is a relative term,” William muttered under his breath.

“But I don’t know what to do.  How can we tell her to eat better when we don’t eat all that great ourselves?  And the girl does love her food.”

“Clearly.”

“And now Amy’s going to have to cook an entirely separate meal.  She’s willing to do it, but I feel like we’re singling the poor girl out.  But I can’t do nothing.  I was never too concerned about the kids’ weight, but now the doctor said it’s actually starting to affect her health.  I have to do something, right?”

“Yeah,” William said, finishing off his beer and scratching the back of his neck.  “So, I have an idea.  I realize it might seem a bit radical, insane even, but I’m going to throw it out there.”

Hugh leaned over the table in anticipation.  “What is it?”

“Well, maybe the whole damn family could try eating better.”

Hugh scrunched up his face in disgust.  “What?”

“Well, look at yourself, Hugh.  You aren’t exactly the model of good health.  It wouldn’t kill you to make some improvements in your own diet.  And the same could be said for Amy and the rest of your fat fuck kids.”

“I suppose.  But…”

“But, what, Hugh?”

“Then I’d have to start eating vegetables.”

William laughed as he stood up from his seat.  “It’s not the vegetables you need to eat, Hugh, it’s the chocolate cake you don’t.  I’m going for another.  You want?”

Hugh shook his head.  “No, after this one I’ve got to head home.”

“Fucking lightweight,” William muttered as he made his way to the bar.  “Dave, another round, please.”

William picked up his beer, returned to the table, and rejoined Hugh.  As William focused intently on his beer, Hugh said, “You know, the same could be said for you.”

“What?  What could be said for me?”

“About eating better.”

William took a sip of his beer.  “I don’t follow.  I’m not fat.”

“No, but you aren’t the picture of good health either.  You may not eat as much, but you eat worse than I do.”

“I eat fine.”

“You eat pub food every night.”

William rolled his eyes.  “Not every night.”

“How many times the past week?”

William thought for a moment, counting on his fingers as he did so.  “Five.”  Hugh looked at William with his eyebrows arched.  “What?  That’s not every night.”

“You never work out.”

“What are you talking about?  I play club football with you.”

“Yeah, one night a week for four months a year.  And that’s primarily an excuse to go drinking after.”

“Still exercise,” William said with a shrug and a sip of his beer.

“Not to mention the drinking.”

“Oh, come on, now.  What’s wrong with my drinking?”

“The quantity.”

“Look, Hugh, I appreciate the concern, but I’m fine the way I am.  Really.”

Hugh shrugged, and looked at the last bit of beer in his glass.  “All I’m saying is that with conditioning like that it’s no wonder the Wolves make mincemeat of us every year.”

William gritted his teeth and put his glass down.  “Alright.  I’ll tell you what.  The Stingers are getting up tomorrow, right?  To go running?”

Hugh finished his beer off and put the glass down.  “So?  What’s your point?”

“I’ll go if you’ll go.”

Hugh looked up with interest.  “Really?”

“Yeah.  Think about it.  You’re right about me being out of shape, and you admitted that your family needs to start making some changes.  Well, what a great way to start.”

“How is me running going to make my family less fat?”

“Because you’ll be setting an example.  You’re the patriarch.  Your kids look up to you.  If they see you getting up before work to go exercise, they’ll want to start doing the same.”

“I suppose.  Certainly couldn’t hurt,” Hugh said, looking at the ground for a brief moment before he looked up with realization.  “Wait a minute.  You just want to beat the Wolves next year, don’t you?”

“Eh, well, you know,” William said, shrugging as he took a sip of his beer.  “Icing on the cake.”

“Still, you’re right.  I could use some more exercise,” Hugh said, staring off in thought.  “Alright.  I’m in.”

“Great,” William said, clapping his hands.

“I just have to clear it with Amy first.  Speaking of which,” Hugh said, standing up from his seat.  “I have to be getting home.  You going to be able to get home alright?”

The Football Match-Intro

“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.”