The Football Match-Part 8

Intro- https://stantonsislandblog.wordpress.com/2017/01/13/the-football-match-intro/

Previous- https://stantonsislandblog.wordpress.com/2018/04/08/the-football-match-part-7/

 

William stepped out of the passenger side of Hugh’s car and the two of them made their way up the walk and into the Stingers’ house, where a number of mourners had already gathered.  Through the crowd, they saw Lester standing alone in a corner and they walked over to join him.

“Hey, guys.  Thanks for coming,” Lester said, greeting them both with a hug.

“Of course.  We’ll always be here for you.  You know that,” Hugh said.

“Thanks.  Hey, William, can you grab us a round of beers?” Lester asked, nodding toward the refrigerator.  William turned, grabbed three beers, handed them around, and he and Hugh sat down on the couch on either side of Lester.

“So, how you holding up, buddy?” William asked, looking at Lester.

“As well as can be expected, I suppose,” Lester said with a shrug and a smirk.  He shook his head and took a sip from his bottle.  “It helps that we knew it was coming.”

“I would think so.  I mean, I guess.  I don’t know,” William said.  He took a breath and looked around the room.  “Where’s Barry?”

“Mingling.  He’s better at that crap than I am.  I don’t even know half these people, so he’s taking care of all that social shit,” Lester said.  “And I’m sitting here drinking.  So we’re both doing what we’re good at.”

“That’s good.  You have enough to deal with.  You shouldn’t have to worry about impressing these bunch of assholes,” William said.

“Come on now, William,” Hugh said.  “They’re just trying to offer their sympathies to the Stingers.”

“I know.  Bunch of cunts,” William said under his breath.  He took a sip of his beer and patted Lester on the back.  “Your mom was a hell of a woman.”

“She was.  Tough as nails.  Raised two kids by herself while working full time, and never complained.  Not even once she got cancer.”  Lester took a sip of his beer and nodded slowly as he swallowed.  “Never made excuses either, you know?  A lot of people want a simple solution, or a scapegoat.  To be able to blame all their problems on society, or on one group of people or another.  Mum always used to talk about how ridiculous this was, given that we all know it’s the Jews who are to blame.”

William and Hugh chuckled nervously.  “That’s right,” William said, wincing.  “Your mum was such a sweet lady. I always forget that she was also a horrible racist.”

“Yeah, you know, she seemed like a sweet old lady, but underneath that was a lot of anger at the way her life turned out.”

“But under that anger was a heart of gold, right?” Hugh said with an awkward laugh.  Lester nodded contemplatively.

“Sure, sure.  But underneath the heart of gold was more anger.”  Lester took a sip of his beer and thought for a moment.  “But under that, she really did love me and my brother more than anything.  What can I say?  The woman had a lot of layers.”

“Were most of them anger?” William asked.

“No, no.  A lot of them were, sure.  But there was also a good deal of hatred and resentment thrown in there.”

“That’s good,” Hugh said absentmindedly, pulling out his phone and checking it.

“What’s up?” William asked.

“It’s Amy.  She and the kids will be here shortly.”

“Oh, they don’t have to do that,” Lester said.

“Yes, they do.  They want to.  You know how they feel about you, Lester,” Hugh said, putting his arm around Lester.  “You and Barry are like family to us.”

“What took them so long?” William asked, looking past Lester at Hugh.  “They were almost ready when we left the house, and that was some time ago.”

Hugh shrugged.  “Apparently something with Gemma and her boyfriend.  I didn’t get the details, but Amy and her had a bit of a dustup, I guess.”

“Gemma’s got a boyfriend now?” Lester asked.  “I didn’t hear anything about this.  When did this happen?”

“About a week ago.  Hence why I haven’t said anything,” Hugh said.  He sighed.  “Amy isn’t thrilled about it, and I’m kind of hoping it will pass, but you know how kids are at that age.”

“Stupid?”

“Well, they’ve been dating a week, so they think they’re in love and want to spend every moment together.”

“So, stupid?”

“Pretty much.”

“So, what’s Amy’s problem with it?” William asked.

“I don’t know.  She says she doesn’t trust the boy.  I don’t like him either, but I don’t think I’d like anyone my little girl is dating.  Objectively, he seems as alright as any other thirteen-year old.”  Hugh took a sip of his beer, hesitated for a moment, and took another sip.  “Frankly, though I think she won’t say it to spare my feelings, I think Amy’s afraid of Gemma becoming sexually active.”

“Your little girl is growing up,” Lester said, smiling, shaking his head, and shrugging.  “Did you think she’d stay young forever?”

“No.  To be honest, I’m not sure I really want to think about it though.”

“I can see that,” Lester said.

“She should try anal,” William added.

“William!” Hugh said harshly while Lester looked at William with wide eyes, raised eyebrows and an amused look on his face.

“What?”

“She just turned thirteen.”

“So?” William said.  “It will be good practice.  Plus, it’ll make her the most popular girl in school.”

Hugh took a deep breath and started to say something, but was stopped upon seeing his family walk in.  He got up and went to greet them, and Lester turned to William.

“Hey, William?”

“Yes, Lester?  What is it?”

“Has anyone ever told you you’re an asshole?”

“No, no.  Just my dad, my mum every day of my life growing up, every girlfriend I’ve ever had.”  William shrugged as he took another sip of his beer.  “And pretty much everyone I’ve ever met at one point or another.”

 

“Ugh, it’s in a church?” William said as they pulled up, his face distorted in disgust.  “Why’d it have to be in a church?”

“Because it’s a funeral?” Lester said, getting out of the car that Hugh was driving.  The three of them had ridden to the church together, with Hugh’s family going separately, and Barry arriving earlier, since he was to give the eulogy.  “Besides, you know how religious mum could be.”

“Yeah, William’s mum too.  Why do you think he hates religion so much?” Hugh said.

“I always assumed it was for the same reason he used to leave multiple choice tests blank instead of guessing,” Lester said.

“It’s not that.  I just don’t see why I constantly have to have religion shoved down my throat,” William said.

“You mean by going to a church once or twice a year when someone dies or gets married?”

“Exactly.”

“William, don’t start,” Hugh warned.  “Now isn’t the time to revisit the issues you have with your mother.”

“I told you it isn’t that,” William protested.  “I just don’t like churches.  That’s all.  They’re oppression palaces.”

“Right.  Never mind the soup kitchens and homeless shelters they fund, house and staff,” Lester said, rolling his eyes.

“I know.  Fuck that shit,” William said, looking at the large building in front of him with trepidation.  “Bunch of cunts.”

“Anyway, shall we, gentleman?” Lester said.  The three of them entered the church and made their way to their seats, with Lester stopping a couple of times to shake hands or hug another attendee.  They sat down and waited until the service began.

The service went smoothly until it was time for Barry to give his eulogy.  He approached the pulpit, took a deep breath, and began.  “Thank you all for coming today.  It’s fitting that we are saying farewell to my mother in this church.  She loved this church, and she loved the people, and I know that a great many of you today were friends with my mother due to your mutual involvement in this church, and for that I thank you.  For your friendship to my mother, for your support during her illness, and for your support today.”

Barry smiled sadly and cleared his throat.  “What to say about my mother?  She wasn’t a fancy woman, or a glamourous woman.  She was never rich, at least not materially.  She had her faults, as do we all, but at the end of the day, she was a good woman.  A solid woman.  She raised two boys by herself, while also working full time to make sure there was always food on the table.  And I think that’s the best thing that can be said for her.  No matter the situation, she did what she was supposed to.”

Barry paused, took a sip of water, and continued.  “Even though life was never good to her, she never complained.  Never took the easy way out.  After my dad left, it would have been easy for her to fall into despair.  But she had two young boys, and it was her duty to take care of them, so that’s what she did.  She toughened up and went out and took the first job she could find.  She had no skills and no experience, and the pay was minimum, but she not only went to work each day, she came home, took care of her kids, and found time to help at the church on weekends.”

Barry sniffled, and wiped a tear from his eye, his voice beginning to crack as he continued.  “And she was like that right up until the end.  I remember when she was first diagnosed with cancer.  We were sitting around that night.  All of us were in shock, so to speak, and she leaned over to me.  You know what she said?  She asked if I was alright.  She had just been given a death sentence, and she was more concerned about how I was taking the news than herself.”

Barry sobbed a little, and excused himself for a moment.  Drawing himself back up to the pulpit, he continued.  “And that is the best way to summarize her life.  No matter how poorly fate treated her, no matter how hard things got, no matter how much pain she was in, she always thought of others first.  She could be a hard woman, a tough woman, but that was because that was what she needed to be.  She was not a remarkable woman, but she was the woman she needed to be.  She was your friend.  And she was my mother.  Thank you.”

 

“Another round, Dave,” William said as the barkeep came to clear their glasses.

“Sure thing, William,” said Tommy, picking up the empty pint glasses on the table.  “You guys seem to have quite the party going on tonight.  What are you celebrating, if you don’t mind me asking?”

“My mother’s death,” Lester said solemnly.  Tommy’s face fell, and Lester started laughing along with the rest of the table.  “I’m just fucking with you.  We did just come from her funeral though.”

“Oh, so she is dead, then?”

“I certainly hope so, or we just made a massive mistake,” Lester said.  “No, seriously though, she’s really fucking dead.  We checked like, I don’t know, three times, maybe.”

“Well, I’m terribly sorry for your loss,” Tommy said, nodding his head solemnly.  “I’ll get those drinks right out to you.”

Tommy took off, and Hugh turned to Barry.  “So, now that your mum’s gone, have you decided what to do with her house?”

Barry shook his head.  “No, though it’s funny you mention that.  Lester, you know the Bensons, right?”

“Sure, the family from next door,” Lester said, shrugging.  “What of them?”

“Well, they were at the house today, before mum’s funeral.”

“I know.  I saw them.  I remember avoiding talking to them.  What’s your point?” Lester asked as Tommy returned with a round of beers.

“Here you go, gentlemen,” Tommy said, distributing the beverages.  “This round’s on the house.”

“Oh, thank you so much, Tommy.  You didn’t need to do that,” Barry said.

“It’s the least I could do.”

“Why are you calling him Tommy?” asked William.

“Because that’s his name.”

“No. His name’s Dave.”

“My name’s Tommy,” said Tommy.

“Shut up, Dave,” William said.

“Anyway, thanks again, Tommy,” Barry said.  Tommy smiled and walked away, and Barry continued, “So, the Bensons were there, ostensibly to pay their respects.”

“That is typically why people go to funerals from what I understand,” Lester said.

“I said ostensibly.  They asked in passing, I think they were trying to be coy about it, but they asked what we were planning to do with the house.  They even offered to help us out, if we needed some assistance in keeping it.”

“That’s oddly nice of them,” Lester said, holding his beer to his mouth.  “What’s their angle?”

“I think it’s that the Talbots on the other side want to buy the house for their mother to move into.  Well, one of their mothers, anyway.”

“So?”

“So, you know how those two families get along.”

“No, I don’t,” Lester said, casually shaking his head.  “I go out of my way to avoid knowing anything about any of our neighbors.  You know that.”

“Right,” Barry said.  “Basically, I think the Bensons are offering to help us out because they want to make sure that the Talbots can’t buy our house.”

“Ah, it’s nice to see that neighborly kindness is still in vogue,” William said, smiling as he took a sip of his beer.  “It’s always nice to see neighbors coming together in difficult times to screw over other neighbors.”

“So, did you tell them to fuck on off?” Lester asked.

“Yeah, pretty much.  I didn’t quite put it that way…”

“Coward.”

“But I told them that mum had owned the house outright, and that she left it to us in her will.”

“You guys are going to stay there, then?” Hugh asked.

“Don’t know.  The funeral was just today.  We haven’t gotten that far,” Barry said, taking a sip of his beer.  He thought for a second, looking into his drink.  “I don’t know if it’s more respectful to her to stay there, or to leave and move someplace else.  We have a lot of memories in that house.”

“I don’t think your mum cares too much, one way or the other,” William said.  “On account of being dead and all.”

“William,” Hugh said, slapping his friend as he scolded him.

“No, I suppose he’s right.  Even if she were here right now, I don’t think she’d care one way or the other.  Still, I feel that we ought to do something, you know?  Something to honor her memory.”

“Like what?” Hugh asked.

“I don’t know.  Maybe we should get the team together and volunteer.  Like at a cancer ward for children or something,” Barry said.

“Where did you get such a stupid idea?” William asked.  “Did you just combine the fact that your mom had both kids and cancer and roll with that?”

“No,” Barry said defensively.  He took a sip and shrugged.  “Yes.  What of it?”

“It’s a terrible idea.  We’ll catch their cancer.”

“I don’t think that’s how cancer works,” Hugh said.  “It isn’t contagious.”

“Oh yeah?  If it’s not contagious, then how did all those kids catch cancer in the first place?”

“Smoking, probably,” Lester suggested.

“Anyway, we get the point, William.  If you don’t want to volunteer with us, just say so,” Barry said.

“I don’t want to volunteer.  And neither do you,” William said.  “The only reason you’re suggesting it is because you’re six beers in.  As soon as you sober up, you’ll realize what a stupid idea it is.  It will be terrible depressing and require more initiative and effort than you have.  I just don’t see any way you think hanging around with dying kids could be fun.  This is all just drunk talk.”

Barry took another sip and pondered William’s comments for a moment.  “So?  You’re probably right.  I’m never actually going to do any of this, but so what?  At least I’m talking about it.  And it makes me feel better about myself, and my dead fucking mum, so where’s the harm?  Besides, drunkenly talking about improving the world is easier than actually doing anything about it.”

“Yeah, that seems to be the attitude of most people,” William said, pushing his seat back and standing up.  “I’m going to get another round.  Who else wants one?”

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The Football Match- Part 7

Beginning- https://stantonsislandblog.wordpress.com/2017/01/13/the-football-match-intro/

Part 6- https://stantonsislandblog.wordpress.com/2018/01/26/the-football-match-part-6/

 

“Where the hell is Barry?” William asked, looking at Lester.  Lester shrugged.

“Don’t know.  He’s supposed to be coming right after he finishes taking care of mum.  I don’t know what’s holding him.”

“Hmm.  Anyway, you were saying?” William asked, looking at Hugh.

“Right.  I can’t figure out what to do about George,” Hugh said, shaking his head.  “I know I need to punish him, but how?”

“Remind us what he did again.  Because I’m really not seeing the problem,” William said.

“There’s this kid at his school who has really bad hygiene.  As in, he’s known for not showering,” Hugh said.  “Anyway, apparently, as a result, George and some of his friends have been picking on him.”

“Kind of sounds like the kid deserved it,” Lester said.

“That’s not the point,” Hugh said.  “You can’t single somebody out like that.  It’s bullying.”

“And what about the kid not showering?”  William asked.  “It sounds less like they were bullying him and more like they were teaching him not to be a disgusting dumb fuck.  Really, they were helping the kid out, when you think about it.”

“Regardless, things came to a head this past week. A couple of kids, led by George, apparently, cornered this kid before school and threw a bucket of water on him.  Soapy water, if I understand it correctly.”

There were a few seconds of silence.  William burst out laughing.  “That’s hilarious,” he said.

“It’s not funny, William.”

“Yes, it is,” William continued.  Lester nodded.  “It is.”

“Anyway, he and his buddies had to stay after school the rest of last week, but that sounds like that’s it from the school.  Since he’s never really been in trouble before, they’ve pretty much left it up to us to figure out how to deal with him from here.”

William looked at Lester, then back to Hugh.  “Buy him a candy?”

“A candy?”

“Damn it, William, don’t be daft,” Lester scolded.  “Kids these days aren’t into candy.  You’d have to buy him at least a video game if you really wanted to reward him.”

“I don’t want to reward him, you guys.  I want to punish him.”

There was another pause as Lester and William looked at each other.  “Why?”

“Because, the school takes bullying very seriously.  I need to send the message that this isn’t appropriate.”

“I don’t know that this falls into the category of bullying,” Lester said.  “It strikes me more as throwing water on some stinkpot.  Besides, it sounds like the kid’s showing some pretty great leadership.  He saw a problem in his school, and he took steps to fix it.”

“Call it what you will.  The school calls it bullying and they take it seriously.”  Hugh looked at the ground and shook his head.  “I don’t know what it is with kids today.  This never would have happened back when we were in school.”

William shrugged and shook his head slowly.  “Nah.  Never would have happened in the past.  I mean, we might have held him down and used the soap to beat him, but we never would have done something so lame as tossing water on the lad.”

“William…”

“No, William’s right.  Kids today are pussies,” Lester agreed.  “Besides, where was school administration in all this?”

“What do you mean?” Hugh asked.  “They were inside the building.  George and his mates caught the lad when no one was around.”

“No, I mean before this.  The kid didn’t start stinking overnight.  Shouldn’t they have done something about the kid’s hygiene?”

“Yeah, apparently they did,” Hugh said, leaning over in an attempt to touch his toes.  “But the parents said they didn’t want to repress his expression of his individuality, or some other nonsense.  And once the parents are involved in dealing with the kid, the school really can’t do anything about it.”

“Really?”

“No.  They can, they just choose not to because they don’t want to deal with that shit.  You have parents who are letting their kid walk around like a walking biohazard to promote ‘self-actualization’ for Christ’s sake.  Would you want to deal with that?”  Hugh asked.  “Which I understand, from the school’s perspective, being in school administration myself.”

“Alright, first off, you’re a janitor.  I wouldn’t go around calling that school administration, unless there is some puke that requires oversight,” William said, wagging his finger at Hugh before turning to Lester.  “And second, where the fuck is Barry?  He was supposed to be here almost twenty minutes ago.”

“You want me to call him?” Lester asked.

“Yes, call him,” William said, waving Lester over in the direction of his phone.  William continued to stretch and turned back to Hugh.  “So much for kids being our most important investment, huh?”

“Yeah, I always thought that was a bad strategy.  The return just isn’t good enough, and the risk is too high.”

“So what are you going to do about George?”

“I don’t know.  Just because this kid’s parents are inattentive wankers doesn’t mean I can be.  George need to learn that two wrongs don’t make a right.  It’ll keep him out of trouble later in life.”

“Absolutely.  You have to punish your children,” William said.  “Personally, I recommend hitting.  Hitting and withholding affection.”

“Really, William?”

“Preferably without telling them why.  Let them figure it out on their own.  That’s the way my daddy raised me.”

“That explains a lot.  Um, just, you know, stay away from my kids, William,” Hugh said, looking up at Lester, who was now off the phone and staring at the ground.  “So, what’s up, Lester?  Is he coming?”

“No.  Um, no,” he said, turning to William and Hugh.  “Um, guys, it’s mum.  She’s dead.”

 

“Come in,” the voice called from inside Headmaster Davis’ office in response to Hugh’s knock.  Hugh opened the door, slipped in, and quietly shut the door behind him.  Headmaster Davis looked up.

“Ah, Amos, have a seat.  Did you punish that little ratfuck son of yours yet?”

“Uh, no, sir, and his name is George.”

“I don’t care what its name is,” Headmaster Davis said, waving his hand dismissively.  “I hate children.  You know that, Amos.  They’re like little people, and I hate people.  Therefore, I hate children.  See the logic in that, Amos?”

“I suppose, sir.”

“Just a bunch of little pains in the ass.  And the parents are worse.  All thinking their little fuck shits sunshine and farts rainbows.  Cunts, all of them.”

“Sure, sir.”

“And they’re always screaming, and snotting, and dirty.  Always bawling their fucking brains out, like they’re the only one for whom life sucks.  I remember when my oldest, Beth, or is it Becca, or Betha?  Anyway, when she was a kid, she used to bawl all the fucking night long.  Kept my wife up all night, which of course turned her into a bitch.  A bitch who didn’t want none.  That’s why she’s my ex-wife now.”

“Can’t imagine that’s the only reason,” Hugh said quietly.

“Yeah, it got real bad, until I figured out how to keep her down for the night.  Little something extra on the tip of the bottle.  You know what I’m talking about, eh, Amos?” Headmaster Davis said with a laugh.

“I do, sir.  Little scotch in the bottle, help the kid sleep,” Hugh said with a smirk.

“Scotch?  No.  Fuck that shit,” Headmaster Davis said.  “Like I’m going to waste my good scotch on some little cunt who can’t tell the difference.  No.  You ever hear of Rohypnol?”

“You roofied your baby, sir?”

“Sure as hell did, and let me tell you.  It worked like a goddamn charm.  Little fucker slept for eighteen hours straight on that shit.”  Headmaster Davis paused for a second, then slammed the desk.  “Bill.  That was its name.  Could have sworn it was a girl, though.  Anyway, you know who had the right idea, Amos?”

“Please don’t say Hitler,” Hugh said under his breath.

“My father.  Never gave a rat’s ass about me or my brothers.  I could cry and cry, and no response whatsoever from him.  Taught me to be a man.  Also, gave me this limp, since I had to walk myself to the hospital after I broke my leg.  Still, great man.  Anyway, you know what the point of this story is, Amos?”

“That your father is in hell?”

“No.  Well, yeah, probably, but that isn’t the point.”

“Then what is it, sir?”

“I honestly have no idea, but I’ve already had like five scotches, so I was hoping you’d be able to tie it to something relevant.  Make it look like I know what I’m doing, instead of just pulling things out of my ass all the time.”  Headmaster Davis looked across the desk at Hugh and leaned back.  “So, what did you want to talk to me about, Amos?”

“Well, sir, I was hoping I could get the end of the week off,” Hugh said hestitantly.

“Sure.  I’ll just make the kids mop up their own puke this week.”

“Really, sir?”

Headmaster Davis began laughing deeply and shaking his head.  “Jesus Christ.  No, Amos, of course not.  If I could do that, don’t you think I’d be doing it already?  But these child labor shitheads won’t let us do that, or whip them, or force them to work in coal mines, or anyplace else for that matter.  I’m telling you, Amos, these kids are completely worthless.  I don’t even know why they bother to come to school.  Anyway, what do you need the time off for?”

“To attend a funeral.”

Headmaster Davis’ face grew serious, and he leaned forward onto his desk.  He looked across the desk at Hugh.  “Is it a relative of yours?”

“Well, no, sir.”

“Someone particularly close to you?  Like a friend or something?”

“No, sir.  It’s the mother of two of my closest friends.”

“Oh, thank God,” Headmaster Davis said, letting out a huge sigh of relief before he began laughing again.  “For a second there, I thought this was going to be serious.”

“Sir?”

“You were all ‘I need to go to a funeral’.  And I was all like ‘shit, somebody died.  Now I have to act all sensitive and caring about this putz’s stupid emotions.’  I’m not very good at the whole emotional thing, you understand, Amos?  Even when we were getting divorced, my own lawyer said I was a prick.  But what was I supposed to do?  She kept plopping out kids I didn’t want.”

“Back to my request, sir.”

“We even had one die, I think.  Actually, that was when things started to go sour.  We were at the funeral, and she was all crying, and I’d had one too many, perhaps.  Anyway, I was like ‘What are you going on about, woman?  You can always poop out another, since you seem so good at it.’  She, uh, didn’t appreciate that, I guess.  Anyway, things were already going downhill, on account of the kids she wouldn’t stop having, you see?”

“So, about my request?”

“Ah, yes.  Of course you can have the time off, Amos.  You know, I always like it when I hear that other people died.  It makes me feel better about myself.  Like, I might be a loser, but at least I’m winning at staying alive.”

 

William walked in past the receptionist with a takeaway basket of fish and chips, approached his cubicle, and dropped the basket on the table.  He picked up a few chips and started to eat, when he was approached by Michelle, the receptionist.

“Why do you look so miserable today?”

“I don’t,” William responded.  “This is just my face.”

“Little different from your usual fare, isn’t it?” she asked, nodding toward William’s lunch.

“How do you mean?”

“It seems you usually just have a piece of fruit or something like that.”

“Yeah, well, piss off,” William said.  “I’m having a bad day.”

Michelle sat down across from him.  “Do you want to talk about it?” she asked in her French accent.

“No.  I want to sit here and eat too much unhealthy food,” William said, putting another chip into his mouth.

“I’m not sure that’s going to make you feel any better,” Michelle said.

“That’s where you’re wrong.  It will make me feel better in the short term, while I’m still eating.  Sure, after that I’ll feel like crap, but until then, I have my good friend food to comfort me,” William said, smiling as he stuck another chip in his mouth.  “Since, you know, we aren’t allowed to drink at work.”

“But, at the end of the day, you still end up feeling worse.”

“Right, but by then I’ll be able to drink, or find some other short term pick me up, like eating more junk.  You see, that’s the way normal people function.  We do something that makes us feel good in the short term, but feel worse long term.  Then, because we’re feeling worse for it, we find something else that will make us feel good immediately despite the negative long term consequences, and the cycle repeats.  And repeats, and so on.”

Michelle leaned forward and rested her chin on her fist.  “That sounds like a miserable way to go through life.”

“Yeah, well, living is a miserable way to go through life,” William said, picking up his fork and breaking off the first piece of his fish.  “Besides, I’ll break the cycle eventually.”

“Really?  And when and how do you plan to do that?”

William shrugged.  “I don’t know.  By dying?”  He put the fish in his mouth, chewed and swallowed.  “Did you want something, or did you just come over here to hassle me about my eating habits?”

“Oh, right.  I almost forgot,” Michelle said, sitting up in her chair.  “The board is coming in today.”

“So?  How’s that affect me?  I’ll just keep my head down more than usual.”

“Which would normally work, except they want to hear from a salesman, and Norman wants you to do it.”  Michelle looked across the desk and winced at William.  “Sorry.”

“NO! No, no, no, no.  Oh, fuck me,” William said, throwing his fork down, leaning back in his chair and hiding his face in his hands.  “I hate the fucking board.  They’re a bunch of sanctimonious cunts who sit around arguing about semantics and technicalities because in their warped minds being smart excuses the fact that they never actually accomplish anything.”

“True,” Michelle said, nodding sympathetically.  “Though in their defense, what you just said basically describes the entire internet as well.”

“Not YouTube,” William said with a scowl on his face.  “YouTube’s all about making racial slurs on videos of cats.”

“Well, like it or not, this afternoon you’re speaking to the board.  Unless you’d like me to get you more fried food so you can try to eat yourself to death before then.”

“Would you?”

“No,” Michelle said bluntly as she stood up from her seat.  She started to walk past William’s desk, but paused.  “You know, when I’m having a difficult day, I meditate.  You should try it sometime.  It really helps.”

“Thanks.  Maybe I will.”

“Like try it now.  Because I don’t think your day is about to get any better.”

“What do you mean…oh, fuck,” William said as he swiveled in his chair to face Michelle and saw Norman standing over him.  He put on his biggest, phoniest smile.  “Hi, Norman.  And what can I do for you, today?”

Norman took a deep breath as he walked across William’s desk and sat down across from him.  “Michelle told you about the board?”

“She did,” William said unnaturally joyfully, still with his fake smile and with a phony nod to boot.

“You can cut the crap, William.  I know you don’t want to do it.”

“Then why are you making me?  Is it because you hate me?”

“Partially,” Norman said, smiling with a nod.  “No, of course not.  And I hate to put you in this position, but you’ve been doing a good job lately, and have been here for a long while.”

“Don’t remind me.”

“So you’re one of my veteran guys, and an example of how this office is moving in the right direction.  I need to make a good impression, and you seem like the best guy to put front and center for that,” Norman said.  “Besides, it’s not something to worry about.  They’ll just ask you some questions, and answer them the best you can.  In a way that makes you and I look good, of course.”

“So, lie?”

Norman took a deep breath.  “Normally I’d say yes, but things have been going well lately.  I never thought I’d say this, but I think you can just go ahead and answer honestly.”

“Will do, bossman.”

“Good.  See you in about an hour,” Norman said.

William looked across the desk and stared at Norman as he continued to sit there.  He smiled and nodded, but Norman didn’t budge.  “What is going on here?” William asked.  “You’ve finished speaking, but you’re still sitting there.  It’s customary to leave when you’re done our conversation.  Have you forgotten how to leave?”

“I heard about Mrs. Stinger,” Norman said solemnly.

“Oh, fuck me,” William said.

“I just wanted to express my condolences, and let you know if there’s anything you need, just let me know.”

“Jesus Christ, she’s not my fucking mother,” William said, shaking his head.  “Though, if I could take Friday off for the funeral, that would be great.”

Norman nodded slowly as he stood up.  “Of course.  Anything you need.  If there’s nothing else, I’ll call you in when we’re ready for you.”

 

Next- https://stantonsislandblog.wordpress.com/2018/04/21/the-football-match-part-8/

The Football Match- Part 6

Intro- https://stantonsislandblog.wordpress.com/2017/01/13/the-football-match-intro/

Part 5- https://stantonsislandblog.wordpress.com/2017/11/28/the-football-match-part-5/

 

William dribbled the ball through Hugh’s legs.  Barry charged toward the ball, but William managed to beat him there and tapped the ball back to the middle of the field, where Lester was waiting to tap it between the shirts that were their makeshift goal posts.

“Damn,” Barry said, pausing for a moment to catch his breath.

“4-2, our lead,” Lester said, walking over with the ball in his hand.  He tossed the ball to Barry, and pointed at William.  “Nice one, William.”

“Thanks.  I’m surprised,” William said, resting his hand on his hips.  “I was expecting that, after not having played for two months, I would be rusty.  But I actually feel better than I did at the end of last season.”

“That’s just because you’re in better shape, I think,” Barry said.  “I feel the same way, and I think it’s conditioning paying off.  You just beat me to that ball.  That never would have happened a month ago.”

“That doesn’t make sense,” William said.  “How does being in shape improve my footballing skills?  Just because I can run faster and longer doesn’t seem like it should have an impact on how accurately I can kick the ball or how well I can control it.”

“It wouldn’t.  However, it does mean that you can get to balls faster, which allows you to be in better position to pass or dribble it.  Also, since you’re less out of breath, you’re ball handling and passing is less sloppy,” Barry said.  “At least, that’s got to be the case.”

“Why do you say that?”

Barry shrugged.  “Because we haven’t played in two months, yet all of us seem to be playing better than we were at the end of last year.  Maybe next weekend we can get the rest of the squad out here.  Have all fifteen of us practicing.  Or at least the starting eleven.”

“Has anyone talked to them?” Lester asked.  William looked at him as if he were crazy.

“Hell no,” he said.  “I avoid talking people like the plague.  You know that.”

“I do,” Lester said.  “Which is why I wasn’t asking you, but I’ll rephrase the question.  Has anybody who isn’t a complete knob talked with them?”

“I have,” Hugh said.  “Nothing serious, though.  Just spoken with a few in passing.  Plus Amy’s friends with some of their wives.”

“What’s going on with them?” Barry asked.

“I don’t know.  Existing, mostly, I guess.  As I said, it’s mostly just running into each other and small talk, stuff like that.  Though I did run into Alex the other day.  He complimented me on my weight loss, now that I’m not fat anymore.”  The rest of the group stared at Hugh.  “What?”

“Not as fat, I think you meant,” Barry said.

“What?  I’m not fat,” Hugh protested.  “I’m just overweight now.”

“You do realize what overweight means, right?” William said, looking at Hugh with his mouth hanging open.  “Over.  Weight.  As in having more weight than you’re supposed to.  Weight in the form of stored body fat.”

“Alright, Hugh’s fatness aside, what are they up to?” Barry asked.  “Do you think you could talk them into coming out and playing next weekend?  A little bit of practice?”

Hugh shrugged.  “I could ask, but I don’t think they take this thing as serious as we do.  Which makes sense, considering we take it way too seriously, for some reason.”

Lester shrugged.  “It’s primarily a motivator to get into shape.  At least for me.”

“Speaking of things that motivate us to take this way too seriously,” William said, turning his back, nodding his head behind him, and hiding his face in his hand.  The group looked up to see Norman Ordway and Devon Lewison.

“I still don’t see what you have against those guys.  They’ve always been nice enough to me,” Barry said.

“I don’t have to justify my hatred to you,” William said.  “I’m an adult.  I can hate anyone I want for any reason I want.”

“Yeah, well, it seems like a bit of irrational hatred to me,” Lester said, looking up.  “But rational or not, you better brace yourself.”

“Why?”

“Because they’re coming this way.”

“Noooo,” William moaned.  “Alright, everybody.  Quick.  Hide.”

“Hide?” Barry said.  “What are you?  An Irish kid after daddy gets home from the pub?  Besides, they’ve already seen us.”

“Shit.”

“Hi, you guys,” Hugh said, waving at Norman and Devon with a big smile on his face.  William slapped his hand down.

“What are you doing?  Don’t encourage them,” he hissed.

“Hey.  How you guys doing?” Devon’s voice was warm and friendly, but caught William off guard, causing him to jump a bit before he slowly turned around.  “Fancy running into you here.”

“Yeah, who’d have thought we might be using a public park on a Sunday afternoon,” William said, smiling through gritted teeth.

“What are you two doing?” Hugh asked, still with a big, goofy smile on his face.

“We just thought we’d come out and enjoy the beautiful day,” Norman said.  He looked at the ball and the makeshift goals.  “You playing a little football?”

“No, we’re just taking our ball for a walk and placing our shirts on the ground for shits and giggles,” William responded.

Devon and Norman laughed.  “Mind if we join you?”

“Absolutely,” William said, still with a forced smile on his face.

“Sure, we’d love to have you,” Hugh said jovially.  “It’s me and Barry against Lester and William, so each of you hop on one team.”

 

Devon dribbled between William’s legs, ran around him, took the ball and started charging toward the goal.  Norman chased him down and managed to position himself between Devon and the goal.  Devon tried to juke him, but Norman stuck his foot out, tapped the ball away, took it and started charging toward the opposite goal.  William took off up the flank, and Barry and Hugh moved toward Norman.  Norman ran past Hugh, then dribbled sideways between Hugh and Barry before tapping the ball gently toward the goal.  The ball slowly rolled toward William, and with nobody else around him, William easily tapped the ball in for the final goal of the game.

“Nice, William,” Norman said.

“Damn.  Alright, good game,” Devon said, walking up next to Norman and resting his hands on his hips.  “We should get going.  But it was great playing with you guys.”

“Please, the pleasure was all ours,” Hugh said between deep breaths.

“Sure, I had a blast,” William said quietly, subtly rolling his eyes.  “I love watching other people do all the scoring and dribbling.”

“Seriously, though, it was nice having someone to push us,” Barry said.  “You guys should stop by more often.  I think we’ll probably be here most weekends.”

“Nooo,” William said quietly and tensely to Barry.  Barry ignored him.

“Yeah, maybe we’ll do that.  I’m usually up for a match,” Norman said.  “Anyway, you guys take care.  William, I’ll see you tomorrow.”

“Looking forward to it,” William responded with a phony smile.  Norman and Devon walked away, and once they were out of earshot William said, “Choke on a dick and die, you cunts.”

“What’s your problem, William?” Barry asked.  “They were perfectly pleasant to us, and we had a rather nice game of football.”

“Oh, please.  Those arrogant cunts just wanted to play with us so they could lord over us how much better they are.”

“I don’t think so.  I think they just wanted to play some football,” Barry said.  He shrugged.  “But I could see why you might think that.”

“Really?” Hugh asked.  “Why would you say that?”

“Because William’s an idiot.”

“I’m not an idiot,” William said, quietly and defensively.

“Perhaps not.  But you do have some sort of irrational hatred towards those two that leads you to view all their actions in the worst possible light,” Barry said.  William thought for a moment and shrugged.

“To be fair, I see everything everybody does in the worst possible light.”

“That’s true,” Lester said as Hugh nodded in agreement.  The group started to walk away in silence.

“They are a lot better than us,” Hugh said.  He started to chuckle.  “I mean, they are a whole lot better than us.”

“I don’t want to talk about it,” William said.

“Of course they are.  Remember how much better they were at the end of last season?” Barry said.  “It will take time.  You don’t just exercise for a month and magically become better than people who’ve been doing it for years.  But we’re improving, and that’s the important thing.”

“But do you think we’ll improve quickly enough to be able to beat them next year?” Hugh asked.

“I don’t want to talk about it,” William said glumly.

Barry shrugged.  “Who knows?  We don’t play them until the end of the year.  Anyway, if we keep working out and playing every weekend, we’ll be a lot more competitive than we would otherwise.”

“Hey, you know what would be a hoot?” William said, clapping his hands.  “Let’s all head to the Holstein for a pint.  What do you say?”

“Can’t.  Sorry,” Lester said.  “Barry and I have to get home to our mum.”

“Oh, come on now.  What’s the rush?”

“She’s dying, William.”

“Pssh.  She’ll still be dying later.”

“She needs us there.  She’s very sick.”

“Ugh.  That sounds like kind of a downer.  Are you sure you wouldn’t rather ditch your dying mum to come have a few pints with me?”

“How’s your mum doing, by the way?” Hugh asked.

“Not well,” Barry said, shaking his head solemnly.

“Hugh, how about you?” William said, turning to his best friend.  “You’re down for a couple of pints, aren’t you?”

“Sorry, William.  I told Amy I’d spend time with the kids this afternoon.”

“So, bring them with us.  There’s lots of things for kids to do at the bar.”

“No, I told Amy I’d take them to the park.  She wants them to get some exercise.”

“They can exercise at the bar,” William said.  “There’s lots to do.  They can play fetch the beer, don’t get hit by the darts, or my favorite, sit quietly and shut the fuck up.”

“Sorry, William.  Not today.”

“But we haven’t been there in forever,” William protested.

“It’s only been like two weeks, William.”  William’s mouth fell open.

“Two whole weeks?  Without going to the pub.  I didn’t even know that was possible.”

“Later, William.”

“See you tomorrow,” Barry said, waving to William as he walked away.

“Come on, guys,” William called after them.  “You aren’t really going to make me drink alone, are you?”

 

“Drinking alone tonight, William?” Tommy the barman asked him as he took his glass from him and handed him a fresh pint.

“I’m not drinking alone.  I’m with you, aren’t I?” William asked with a forced, awkward chuckle.  His fake smile quickly turned into a grimace.  “You ever notice when people feel pressured to try and be funny, they just come across as annoying, Dave?”

“Every night.”  Tommy smiled at William as he cleaned a pint glass.  “Where is the rest of the group that you usually come in with?”

“I don’t know.  They’re all off doing stuff.  Having families.  Caring about other people and other stupid shit.”  William took a big sip of his beer.  “You know.  Not alcoholic stuff.”

“I don’t know that I’d call you an alcoholic,” Tommy said, checking around the bar to see if anyone else needed a drink before walking up and standing across from William.  William gave him a drunkenly surprised look.

“Really?  You don’t think I’m an alcoholic?”

“I didn’t say that.  I just said I wouldn’t call you one,” Tommy said.

“Why not?”

“Because you might stop coming here if you realize it.  You’re one of our best customers.  There’s no question you’re an alcoholic, but the last thing I’d want is for you to quit drinking.  Do you have any idea how much money we’d lose from that?”

“Of course I do.  It’s my money.  Anyway, I wouldn’t worry too much about that.  I fully realize my alcoholism.  Obviously, that hasn’t slowed me down much at all.”

Tommy shrugged.  He turned around, saw another patron at the bar, and went to pour him a drink.  When he was finished he returned and leaned against the bar across from William.  After hesitating for a moment, he said, “Not to look a gift horse in the mouth here, but why?”

William gave him a confused look, and Tommy continued, “If you recognize you have a problem, hasn’t it occurred to you that maybe you should slow it down a bit?  If you know you’re an alcoholic, why are you still drinking like you do?”

“Why do you ask questions that contain their answers?” William said, looking at Tommy as if he were crazy.  He took another sip.  “Besides, I have slowed down a bit.  I’ve been taking better care of myself.  Haven’t you noticed I haven’t been in for two weeks?”

“Oh, that,” Tommy said nodding slowly.  “Yeah, I had noticed that.  I just assumed you were out of town, or dead, or something.”

“Besides, I work hard.  I’ve been working my ass off, running every day, going to my job.  I’ve even been eating healthier.  I deserve to get hammered every once in a while.”

“By which you mean every night?”

“Hey.  For some people, 24 hours is a while,” William said, taking another sip of his beer.  “Besides, what business of it is yours?”

“Seriously?” Tommy asked, looking at William.  “I run this pub.  It is quite literally my business.”

William waved his hand dismissively.  “Shut up, imaginary embodiment of my conscience.”

“William, I keep telling you, I’m just your barkeep.  I’m not imaginary, I’m not your conscience, and if anything, I want to drive you deeper into alcoholism.  Not help you.”

“Oh, good.  Then we’re on the same side.  You can start by getting me another beer.”

 

“Oh, alcohol.  At least you’ll never disappoint me.  Will you?” William mumbled to himself, the last part angrily.  He continued to look at his feet shuffling in front of him as he kicked a rock slowly down the street on his way home from the Promiscuous Holstein.  Then he chuckled to himself.  “No, of course you won’t.  You aren’t my life and everyone in it.”

He reached a corner and kicked the small stone into the street.  Looking up, he took a second to compose himself.  Realizing where he was, he decided to cross the street and go straight rather than turning left and heading to his home.  As he crossed the street, he leaned down and picked up the stone.

About two blocks out of his way, he stopped across the street from his destination.  He looked up across the street at Lewison’s Jaguar Dealership.

“Think you’re so great.  Just because you married the woman I love, have a better career, and are better at everything,” he mumbled bitterly, tossing the stone in his hand.  “I could have been all that too, if my daddy had a car dealership.  All my dad had was a drinking problem and a sharp tongue.”

William quickly looked around the deserted street.  He bitterly threw the stone across the street at the dealership.  It bounced off the side of one of the cars and fell to the ground.  William scowled.

“Big man.  Who’s great now?  You can’t even not get a stone thrown at your cars.  I don’t get stones thrown at me every day.  William 1, Dicknuts 0.”  He bent over and picked up a pebble from the ground.  He chucked it across the street at the dealership.  It hit a window, but was small enough that it bounced off and fell harmlessly to the ground.  William held his hands up in the air and danced around in a circle.

“William 2, Shrimpdittle 0.  And the crowd goes wild.  William Darry is the undisputed champion of throwing rocks at shit.”  He stopped and looked around.  Finding a bigger stone, he picked it up, licked his lips, narrowed his eyes, and aimed.  “This one’s for the win.”

He threw the stone.  It missed its mark, but hit the driver’s side front window of the car parked next to it, shattering the window.  William pumped his arms.

“And this, folks, is a complete and utter decimation.  Justice has finally been done.  The universal wrongs have been righted.”  He looked around at the deserted and empty street, and his face fell.  “Well, this is a rather empty feeling, isn’t it?”  He stopped and thought for a moment, becoming increasingly conscious of the feeling of disappointment at his latest accomplishment.  He shrugged.

“Maybe if I piss in it.”

He walked across the street and whipped his dick out.  Halfway through his urination session, he heard a loud voice.

“Hey!  What the fuck do you think you’re doing?”

“Shit,” William said, quickly turning and stumbling away, struggling to zip up his fly before bolting off with his newly wet pant leg.

 

Part 7- https://stantonsislandblog.wordpress.com/2018/04/08/the-football-match-part-7/

The Football Match- Part 5

Intro- https://stantonsislandblog.wordpress.com/2017/01/13/the-football-match-intro/

Part 4- https://stantonsislandblog.wordpress.com/2017/06/24/the-football-match-part-4/

“Morning, William,” Norman said, greeting William as he entered the office and walked past the receptionist’s desk.

“Morning,” William said with a brief smile at Norman and a nod to Michelle.  The smile turned to a scowl as soon as his back was to them, and Norman returned to his hushed conversation with the receptionist.  William placed his cup of coffee and bottle of water down on his desk and looked at the clock on the wall, which read five minutes to nine.  He took a deep breath, leaned back in his chair, and took a big sip of water.  Then he placed the water bottle down and got to work.

“How’s it going, William?” Norman asked, making himself at home in the guest seat across the desk from William.  William shrugged.

“Well, enough, I guess.  Though I suppose you’re about to tell me.”

Norman chuckled.  “Fair enough.  I did want to talk to you.  Do you have a moment?”

“Sure.  Go ahead.”

Norman looked surprised by the response.  “Really?  No wise-ass remarks?  No trying to avoid or postpone our conversation?”

William shrugged.  “It will only delay the inevitable.  Playing those stupid games only wastes both our times.  What did you want to talk to me about?”

“Well, this, actually,” Norman said, leaning forward momentarily before sitting up straight in his chair.  “Your demeanor.  These past few weeks I’ve noticed a change in your attitude.”

“Really?” William said with a confused look.  “Because I’ve always been a miserable prick.  Frankly, I don’t know how you didn’t pick up on it until recently.”

“No, that’s just the thing.  You used to be a miserable prick.  These past few weeks you’ve been, I don’t know.  More content.  High on life, almost.”

“Are you suggesting I’m bipolar?  Because they make medications for that, but I assure you I’m not.  I can show you a doctor’s note if need be.”

“No, but you’ve seemed better.  Happier.”

“Really?” William asked.

“Well, less prick-like at any rate,” Norman said, qualifying his response.  “The point is that your attitude has improved.”

“And this is a problem because?”

“Like any company, we want to grind our employees into the ground until they become depressed, defeated husks of humanity droning about their tasks as they await their inevitable death, and you’re messing with our modus operandi.”

“That’s what I figured.”

“In all seriousness, though, I’m not the only one who’s noticed,” Norman said.  “Talking to Michelle earlier, she said the same thing.”

“Michelle said that?”

“And a few others,” Norman said, nodding.  “I haven’t heard any feedback from clients to that effect, but I’m sure if you keep it up, they’ll take note as well.”

“So what I’m hearing is that you want to give me a raise?”

“Haha,” Norman said with a broad smile on his face.  His face quickly turned serious and severe.  “No.  I haven’t seen any hard numbers that say your actual performance is improving.”

“Are you saying the sunshine shooting out my ass isn’t increasing profits?”  William asked.  “Then what’s it matter to you?”

“It matters because your new attitude hasn’t impacted your performance.  Yet,” Norman said.  “But if you keep it up, it will.  Take today for instance.  I wanted to talk to you, and you immediately asked what it was about instead of jerking me around like the dick you are for twenty minutes like you used to.  And you were in early.  I can’t remember the last time that happened.”

“It’s been awhile,” William conceded.

“No.  I can’t remember it because it’s never happened.  My point is that this increased efficiency and punctuality will pay off if you give it time.”

“I hope so,” William said, waiting for Norman to finish.  When he didn’t continue, William asked, “So, is there a point to all this?”

“Not really.  I just wanted to say good job,” Norman said, rising from his seat.  “You know, my job isn’t only to lash the whip when people slack off.  I also like to make sure people know that we notice when they do well.”

“I’ve never seen you do that before.”

“You’ve never done well before.  Keep it up,” Norman said, looking down at William’s desk.  He started to leave, when something caught his eye and he stopped suddenly.  “What’s this?”

“Oh, it’s just a donation sheet for some charity thing,” William said, grabbing the sheet away.  “Hugh’s school is doing it, and I agreed I’d participate.  That’s all.”

“Yeah, I’m aware of it.  Devon’s dealership is one of the sponsors of the event,” Norman said.  “I guess I’ll see you there.  You going to be running?”

“Yeah.  Why?”

Norman shrugged.  “You just never struck me as much of a runner, that’s all.  Well, unless you’re running after a football.”  Norman pulled a pen from his pocket and reached out his hand.  “Here.  Let me pledge for you.”

“Oh, you don’t have to do that,” William said dismissively.

“No, I want to,” Norman said, his hand still reached out.  William hesitated, and Norman persisted.  “Please.  I insist.”

“Alright,” William said, acquiescing and handing over the sheet to Norman.  As Norman filled out his space on the sheet, William added, “I guess it’s good to donate to stuff like that, you know?  It makes it look like you care.”

“I do care,” Norman said, finishing up and handing the sheet back to William.  “After all, without the internet, how are those kids going to watch porn?”

 

“I’m telling you he’s mocking me,” William insisted to Hugh as the two showed up for the fun run.  “I’ll bet the whole reason he agreed to donate for me was so that he could make fun of how far I ran.  Probably so he can make fun of me behind my back to that slut Michelle that he’s banging.”

“I doubt that.  And you said yourself that you have no evidence that they’re banging.”

“She’s French.  They’re banging,” William said matter-of-factly.  “Having sex is like shaking hands for them.  It’s more common courtesy than anything else.”

“Alright, well, I’m not sure that’s true, but why do you have to be so cynical?” Hugh said as he saw his wife waving to him and the two started to walk in her direction.  “Maybe he just wants to donate to a good cause.”

“Please.  Giving porn to kids doesn’t exactly make you Mother Theresa,” William said.  “Besides, I can feel the judgment in his eyes every time I talk to him.  Hi, Amy.”

“Hi, William,” Amy said sweetly, hugging William before kissing her husband on the cheek.

“Just because you can feel it, doesn’t mean it’s there.  You may be reading your own insecurities into his actions,” Hugh suggested.

“What the fuck does that mean?”

“It means that you feel bad about yourself, so you assume he’s judging you for the same shortcomings for which you’re secretly judging yourself,” Hugh said, looking down at William and raising his eyebrows.  “Perhaps if you took this new training regimen of ours more seriously, you wouldn’t be in this situation.”

“I’m going to find the kids.  I’ll see you after the race,” Amy said, starting to walk away.  “Good luck.  Good luck, William.”

“Thanks, Amy,” William said, starting to stretch half-heartedly.  “And I do take our training seriously.  I haven’t missed a day yet.”

“No, but you still go out drinking every night.”

“So?”

“So, when you show up, you’re always tired and hung over.”

William scowled.  “Not always,” he said quietly.

“You’re tired and hung over now.”

“It’s early.”

“But you knew you had a race, and you still didn’t get a good night’s sleep.  That’s my point.  Getting into shape requires more than just getting a little more exercise.  You have to take care of your body in general.  And when you see someone like Norman who does that, it makes you feel insecure about your own inability or unwillingness to do so, and so you assume he’s mocking you for it, when in reality it’s just your own subconscious gnawing at you.”

“I don’t know.  Maybe you’re right.  On the other hand, maybe he’s a cunt and I should punch him in the face.”

“I wouldn’t recommend that,” Hugh said.

“Why not?  It’s freedom of expression.  I am a human being and have an innate right to express myself.  In this case, by punching Norman in the face.”  William paused for a moment, continuing to stretch.  Then he looked at Hugh.  “Violence is a protected form of self-expression, right?”

“I don’t think so, but that wasn’t my point,” Hugh said, bending over and trying to touch his toes.  He looked up at William.  “My point is that he would kick your ass.”

“He wouldn’t…” William began.  He stopped and thought about it.  “Shit.  He would, wouldn’t he?”

“Absolutely.  He’s got half a foot and about 3 stone on you,” Hugh said, standing up straight.  He looked around sheepishly.  “Alright, I’ll see you after the race.”

“Wait.  Where are you going?” William asked as Hugh started to walk away.  Hugh stopped and turned around, walking back up to William.

“I’m going around back to take a leak behind the dumpster,” he whispered into William’s ear.

“That’s a great idea,” William said, clapping his hands.  “You do that, and I’ll go take a dump in the sink.”

“Why would you take a dump in the sink?” Hugh asked with a confused look on his face.

“Because we’re defiling this event.  Aren’t we?” William asked.  “Is that not what we’re doing?  I thought that’s what we were doing.”

“Why would we defile a charitable event?”

“Because Devon’s car dealership is sponsoring, and he’s a dick.”

“No.  My school is also responsible for this,” Hugh said, walking away slowly.  After a few steps, he stopped and turned around.  “I’ll see you after the race.  Don’t, uh, please don’t defecate anywhere in the meantime.”

 

William crossed the line, completing another lap, the lap that would be his last of the day.  He stepped off the track and held his hands above his head before collapsing red-faced onto his ass.  After catching his breath for a few minutes, he slowly made his way back to his feet and walked over to the table where volunteers were handing out water to the participants.

“Water, sir?” one of the volunteers asked as William approached.

“Only if you don’t have any beer,” William said.  The volunteer laughed and handed William a plastic cup filled with water, which he accepted with disappointment.  He took his water and stood off to the side, watching the remaining runners continue around the track.  He managed to identify Hugh and the Stinger brothers, all of whom were still going strong.

“William?” A woman’s voice from behind caught his attention.  He turned around to see Jackie Lewison standing behind him, looking beautiful, in his eyes at least, despite her flushed face and messy hair.

“Oh, Jackie,” William said, spilling a bit of water on himself as he fumbled about with it.  “How are you?”

“Sorry.  I didn’t mean to startle you,” she said softly, with a sweet smile.

“Oh, please.  You didn’t startle me,” William said, waving his hand dismissively and laughing off his startled reaction.  “So, what brings you here?”

Jackie pointed to her athletic attire and sweaty appearance.  “Participating in the run.”

“Right, right.  Of course.  I knew that.  I just wasn’t expecting to see you here, that’s all.”

Jackie smiled.  “Well, Devon’s dealership is helping sponsor the event, so I felt kind of obligated.  Besides, I like this sort of thing.  It’s a nice way to get outside and get some exercise while doing some good and meeting some interesting people.”

“Sure.  I completely agree,” William said.  He paused and looked around.  “Speaking of Devon, I don’t see him around anywhere.  Did he bail on his own event?”

“Oh, he’s still plugging away on the track,” Jackie said with a chuckle.  She shook her head.  “I like to think I’m in pretty good shape, but I can’t keep up with him.  We tried to run together for a brief while, but I could tell he just wanted to move faster.”

“Oh, of course he is,” William said under his breath with a scowl.  He stood there silently, shifting his feet for an awkward while before Jackie broke the silence.

“So, did you participate?”

“Ah, yes.  Yes I did,” William said with a smile, nodding proudly.  “And you?

“I already told you yes, William.”

“I know, I know,” William said, shaking his head and grimacing.  “It’s just kind of a natural question, you know?  Kind of comes out automatically.”

“Sure,” Jackie said with another soft, sweet smile.  “So, is this your first time?  You never struck me as much of a fitness enthusiast.”

“Yeah, well, you know.  I’m trying to take better care of myself,” William said, attempting to shrug nonchalantly.  “I even took up meditating recently.”

“Really?” Jackie said, raising her eyebrows with an impressed look on her face.  “What type of meditation do you do?”

William shook his head at a loss for words.  “I don’t do meditation,” he conceded.  “But I’ve been meaning to start.”

“Oh.  Well, that’s just as good.”

“Yeah, well it’s a process, you know.”

“Sure.”

“Make a lot of small changes for the better, as opposed to try them all at once and get overwhelmed.”

Jackie smiled.  “That’s a solid plan.”

“So, I started running.  There’s a start.”

“Got to start somewhere, I suppose.”

“And then I started eating healthier.  Nothing major, just substituting veggies for chips and the like.  Water instead of soda.”

“No, that’s good.  That’s really good,” Jackie said supportively.

“I plan to start meditating soon, now that I’ve grown accustomed to my new regimen.”

Jackie nodded.

“I plan to quit drinking.”

Jackie laughed.  “Seriously?  I’ll believe that when I see it.”

“Well, drink less, anyway.”

“That sounds like a better idea.  You don’t have to give up everything you like.  Just, you know, moderation.  A smarter substitute here or there.  That’s all it takes.”

“That’s the plan,” William said quietly.  The two stood in awkward silence again.  William looked away, and Jackie looked at her feet.

“So, how far did you run?” Jackie asked, breaking up the silence.

“Four kilometers.”

“Not, bad,” Jackie said.

“You?”

“Six.”

“Very impressive,” William said.  “That’s a good job.”

“Yeah.  Well, I was a bit tired today.  I usually can make it ten, but it’s been a rough week.”

“Oh, I’m sorry to hear that.  What happened?”

“Oh, it’s nothing.  Been a bit sick is all.”

“I see,” William said, faking a cough into his hand.  “Yeah, I think I’m coming down with something myself.  I was a bit off my game today.”

“It happens,” Jackie said.  She smiled at William and gestured away.  “Well, I should get going.  Devon should be finishing up soon, and we have to get home.”

“Of course.  And how far does Devon usually run?” William asked, putting a mocking intonation on the word ‘Devon’ and hoping it wasn’t too obvious.

“Oh, he’ll go at least ten, probably closer to twelve or fifteen.  But it looks like the event is wrapping up.  I’ll see you around, William,” Jackie said with another soft, sweet smile.  She turned and started to walk away.  After a few steps she stopped and turned around.  “It was really nice to see you again, William.”

“You too,” William said.  The two smiled at each other, then Jackie turned and walked away again.  William watched, his face long and sad, as she left, keeping his eyes on her until she disappeared into the crowd.  He took a deep breath in and sighed.  Suddenly, he felt a large slap on his back.

“There you are, buddy,” Lester said, putting his arm around William.  “Let’s go.  We’ve decided to head to the Holstein for a pint and a bite to eat.”

“You go ahead,” William said, still looking off into the distance.  “I think I’ll pass.  I’ve been meaning to cut back on the beer and pub food.”

 

Part 6- https://stantonsislandblog.wordpress.com/2018/01/26/the-football-match-part-6/

The Football Match- Part 4

Intro- https://stantonsislandblog.wordpress.com/2017/01/13/the-football-match-intro/

Part 3- https://stantonsislandblog.wordpress.com/2017/02/16/football-match-part-3/

 

“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.

 

Part 5- https://stantonsislandblog.wordpress.com/2017/11/28/the-football-match-part-5/

 

The Football Match-Part 3

Intro- https://stantonsislandblog.wordpress.com/2017/01/13/the-football-match-intro/

Part 2- https://stantonsislandblog.wordpress.com/2017/01/19/the-football-match-intro-pt-2/

“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.”

 

Part 4- https://stantonsislandblog.wordpress.com/2017/06/24/the-football-match-part-4/

The Football Match- Intro Pt. 2

Intro- https://stantonsislandblog.wordpress.com/2017/01/13/the-football-match-intro/

 

“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?”

Part 3- https://stantonsislandblog.wordpress.com/2017/02/16/football-match-part-3/

The Football Match-Intro

(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/