Why do we love football?

We used to play football over the field, me, my brother, and a bunch of other kids from the estate. It was an obsession. It was all we did. None of us were any good, but we never let that put us off.

We never let anything put is off. One time I slid through some unseen dog’s muck, ended up covered in shit from my knees up to my shoulder. I ran home weeping, of course, in disgust and shame and sheer shivering horror, but I still went back the next day. I wanted to go back that day, but I’m pretty sure my mother didn’t let me. I’d already caused her enough work.

Similarly, when I sliced my shin open on some rusty piece of debris, that didn’t put me off. Didn’t put any of us off. That time, if I remember it right, I didn’t even run home, just played on covered in blood, revelling in the gore and the carnage of it all.

Football was like a mania, really, some desperate delirium. Football, football, football. The drumbeat of our lives. I was 10. 11. 12. It went on and on.

It wasn’t even a field we played on. Just some small patch of grass in a piece of dead space between the houses, bounded by garages and back garden fences, forgotten by everyone except us and whoever it was that parked their car at one end, there every day and gone at night, the visible dents in the doors increasing month by month, wayward shot by wayward shot.

I was too young then for music.

***

I was 13 when it happened. I fired in a shot at goal. It the hit the handlebars of whoever’s bike it was that was being used as the right hand goalpost, ricocheted off into the windscreen of the parked car, looped up high over a back garden wall, and disappeared from view. Followed soon by the sounds of shattering glass. Followed soon by everyone running away.

Except for me.

That ball was mine. I couldn’t leave it behind. An official World Cup 90 Adidas Etrusco. It meant everything to me, loomed large in my imagination in a way incomprehensible to me now.

If I was obsessed with football, I was obsessed with all the rest too – boots, balls, kits, stickers, subbuteo, video games, everything. It was a debilitating disease of the mind. It was all I had.

So I looked around, shrugged my shoulders, and climbed over the fence. No one ever saw me again.

***

Don’t worry. They did really.

***

I wasn’t even in there long, to be honest. It just seemed like forever.

The whole place had the stink of abandonment and despair. The garden was overgrown. The rotary washing line was rusted into its hole. A rotten shed. Paint peeling from the window frames. The back door swinging back and forth on its hinges, the glass from the bottom window panel shattered all around.

I stepped forward, stepped inside, big steps across the debris field, small steps as I shuffled as silently as I could across the yellowing lino of the darkened kitchen.

From the shadows, movement. A white orb, floating ominously, the ball as heavenly object, ghostly terror.

The figure holding it smiled out at me over the top. Was it a smile? I couldn’t tell. She had too many teeth, they were too long, too wide, too white. It stopped being a smile and became something else.

The ball rested on her palm, and the fingers were splayed out towards me. Even longer than the teeth were the claws. Even longer than the claws the fingers. Her other arm hung down to her knee. Those claws scraped at the carpet, undulating rhythmically, unable to keep still.

I took the ball silently and turned to leave. I felt those claws on my shoulder, on my legs, running up my inner thigh. Those teeth I felt against my neck. And as they parted, her tongue slathered across my cheek, searching slowly for my mouth. So cold, so wet.

The ball bounced slowly away across the room. Beneath our feet the crunch of broken glass.

I fell into a dream.

***

After that I didn’t really play football much any more.

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Notes:

1. Written in December 2020
2. The title is from this
3. All though that version’s slightly different from the one they usually show on the tv.
4. But anyway this story has nothing at all to do with that really I’m afraid.

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You Don’t Have To Read This, But I Hope You Do

Dear Sir,

I thought it best to contact you by mail, considering the events of this past week. You don’t have to read this, of course – I’m sure you are very busy, after all – but I hope that you do. Perhaps it will do you good to hear an explanation of events from a point of view other than your own.

After the events of the dance on Friday night – I’m sure I don’t have to explain that in detail – it seems a vital misunderstanding of the importance of our … tryst (shall we say) … has begun to blossom in your mind. Yes, I enjoyed myself very much – as I hope did you – but I thought a man in your position would have understood, as seemed clear to me, that this was simply an enjoyable dalliance rather than the precursor of something, indeed of anything, deeper, or more personally committing.

Now, it is possible this misunderstanding arose from the manner of my departure, which I admit was in haste, and taken without the necessary politenesses which such occasions surely warrant. So please forgive me for my sudden disappearance – although I should say that the hour was exceedingly late, and indeed not just you but most of your guests seemed slightly worse for wear by then. Even in my haste, I did still call out a ‘goodbye’ across the room to you, but it seems that my words did not rouse you sufficiently from your slumber for you to recognise it as my farewell.
It seems however, that my words did, indirectly, contribute to our misunderstandings this week, as apparently you were awakened enough by them to have subsequently watched my departure through the windows of your room, catching a glimpse of me fleeing through the front gates as if pursued, and I assume this is where your belief that I had been kidnapped, or was in some way being held in servitude, was formed.

In point of fact, I was simply hurrying to catch the final carriage of the evening, for it was a cold, wet, and very long walk home for me if I happened to miss it, and I was very much determined not to do so, not least because of the clothes I was wearing – I had not even brought a coat, nor boots, and the thought of my gown being ruined by a mile or more of walking through puddles and mud made me shiver in an anxiety probably unknown to those such as yourself, who have others to worry about such mundane matters as the washing of clothes.

Now, having laid out the facts of the evening in question, and having made clear that I accept some fault for the misunderstanding that has, evidently, occurred, I would like to turn to your behaviour in the week since.

It is of course very flattering to discover that you enjoyed the evident delights of my company so much that you’ve since been searching the city to find me – or ‘save me’, as you have reportedly been putting it – but that does not give you the right to barge uninvited into my home, insult my mother, accost my sisters, and accuse all and sundry of god knows what crimes and misdemeanours against me (‘an innocent’, as you kindly put it, although innocent of what I do not know).

My mother has been in tears ever since, and is simply inconsolable. To have someone of your power and standing insult her so brazenly, and with so little foundation, was deeply upsetting for a woman of her years (and long-avowed patriotism), and was, I believe, genuinely shocking to her on a spiritual level. If even half the things she alleges you said to her are true, then, well, I too am truly lost for words.

At least, if I am to search for small mercies, with my mother you were merely verbally abusive. Yet in your overzealous attempts to save me from my own family, you inflicted, beyond the spiteful insults towards their appearances, such grievous injuries on my two sisters that I fear it will be months before they can walk again. I have never seen wounds of such severity inflicted outside of a war, and even with months of rest I am not sure their feet will ever fully heal.

I am truly sorry I was not here when you called, as perhaps all this upset could have been avoided, although, in my darkest hours, I fear that, in fact, it would have been much worse. As it was, I happened to be working when you arrived – which is what you no doubt consider my servitude, but to the rest of us is known simply as employment.

Of course now, not only do I have to continue to support myself and my mother on my meagre earnings, but my two crippled sisters, too.

So it seems, even if after all this I somehow decided to consent to attend another one of your parties, there is much less chance of my being able to find the time to attend. I suppose I should consider that at least an amusing irony of the whole affair, and one which presumably would have made me laugh if not for the horror and harm inflicted upon those I love in service of it.

Thank you for the return of my shoe.

Please do not call at my house again.

Kind Regards

Cindi

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Notes:

1. Written on October 13th, 2019
2. This was previously posted here as Tale #102
3. But is now being reposted (with some slight editing differences I expect)
4. Due to it being performed at a Liars’ League event
5. On 14th February, 2021
6. Where it was performed wonderfully by Martine McMenemy
7. Whose reading I enjoyed very much

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Building

My father was building things in the garden again. It’d been a while. Once he started he would not stop, no matter what. Not until it was finished. Not until he’d made you look, made you comment, made you evaluate its worth.

Whatever it was. Whatever it turned out to be.

That was the problem, really. You never quite knew what was coming. You never quite knew what you were in for.

Sometimes they were things of quiet beauty, wistful sculptures, delicate carvings, a phrase etched in chalk, as fleeting as thought. Abstract structures as moving as anything Henry Moore ever carved out of dead stone.

Other times they were impracticalities, intrusions, wastes of materials and resources, space, time. Not just his time but ours as well, as we were forced in vain to try and conjure up some validation of his over engineered creations, his cumbersome designs, his broken visions. If you can’t even tell whether it’s a bench or a cage or a new gazebo you’re evaluating, it’s pretty difficult to form an opinion as to his success.

But then there were the nightmares. The horrors only he could conjure. Once he spent six months building a hole. A hole in nothing. Just a hole. Floating there. Inert. Unbounded.

Another time, My mother lost her mind one summer, trying to visualise some casual violation of geometry he’d forced into being. Now she rejects every dimension beyond the three.

And I myself spent six years lost in the fractalising inner spaces of a shed he’d misconceived. Six years! No one even noticed I was gone. I only survived because the roof lekaed incessantly, and the snails proliferated down there in the damp and the mould.

So now I try not to look out of the windows of my room. Try not to listen too closely to the sounds of his tools. Try to escape the looming presence of his coming words.

But this year there’s no escape. There’s nowhere else for me to go. Except to make my way out into the garden, and into his domain. To stand there by his side, and answer that question.

“So, what do you think?”

I can already feel the tears rolling down my cheeks as I try to think of something to say. Already feel that anxiety building in my long since emptied heart as he ushers me through the door, and into his new dream.

__________

Notes:

1. Written in December 2020

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My Life Is Not Especially Cinematic, And Neither Perhaps is Yours

There is basically nothing that happens on screen that I have ever done in real life.

And not just the obviously unlikely occurrences.So I’ve never flown a spaceship, or befriended a robot, or gone on a particularly exciting adventure with a cat, or maybe a dog. No encounters with ghosts or ghouls or zombies or vampires.

Neither have you.

But neither have I experience all the mundane moments, presented there for all to see as if its all some everyday normality. I noticed this last year, when I watched at least four films in a row where people climbed out of windows. As if it was normal. As if it was what everyone does.

But I have never climbed through a window. Never sat on the sloping roof of my house and looked up at the stars. Never jumped down and run stealthily across the lawn of my tyrannical parents, who have grounded me, or will ground me, or perhaps have always grounded me, for the entirety of my teenage years.

I have never been grounded. I never had anywhere else to go. And now I’m 42 years old. I assume I never will be grounded. I have missed my chance. Unless this whole year counts as a grounding. I don’t know anymore.

I’ve never driven around in a roofless car, or sat in the back of a flatbed truck, or clung to the side of a train, or ridden on the back of a motorbike, my arms locked round the waist of some lovable rogue, my hair fluttering in the breeze, as much a visual signifier of my newly found freedom as the ever widening smile that spreads across my face, until it’s big enough to fill the screen.

I’ve never sat in a car as it’s gone slowly through an automated car washing machine, either, water spraying against the windscreens, brushes, whirring, darkness, emergence into light, the whole thing. I wish I had.

I’ve never walked into a pub, or a bar, or a cafe, and just said “the usual”, or waited until whoever I’m with has ordered, and said, “make that two”, two fingers held up to the waitress, just in case she can’t understand.

And I’ve definitely never left everything I’ve just ordered behind, as we leave in some absurd hurry, at the exact end of a sentence, our near full glasses and our untouched lunch extravagantly abandoned on the table behind us, as if money means nothing, as if hunger and thirst mean nothing, as if we ordered simply to fill the time, rather than through want or need or desire.

I’ve never called my sister “sis”, or my brother “bro”. I’ve never introduced myself surname first, or surname only, or ever even really used my surname at all outside of providing official confirmation of my identity, or while filling in forms, or maybe at a stretch when picking up a takeaway. I’ve never said, “be that as it may”, or “it’s a long story”, or asked anyone if they can drive stick, or ever been asked the same.

I’ve never been instantly comfortable in the presence of strangers. I’ve never called people I barely know some cute or demeaning or derogatory or passively aggressive nickname, based on their appearance or their accent or their perceived similarity to someone else, famous, or fictional, beloved or despised.

I’ve never wandered around with my top off, swaggeringly confident in my potent masculinity, even though I live in Essex, and it’s essentially my birthright.

I’ve never walked through a field of waist high wheat, my fingers brushing the golden tips. I’ve never beaten an animal to death with a blunt instrument, to put it out of its misery, said misery being entirely my own cause. I’ve never pointed a gun at someone, anyone, anything.

I’ve never surreptitiously watched someone getting dressed or undressed, unbidden or uninvited, through their window, or in some assumed seclusion on the beach, or a small gap in the curtains of the changing room, or the keyhole of a door, or some unexpected angle glimpsed in a mirror, or simply when told to look away.

I have never loved, or been loved.

I’ve never even owned a dog.

__________

Notes:

1. Written September 2020
2. And similar in thought processes to this previous piece
3. It’s not plagiarism if you do it to yourself

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Five Tributes To The Works Of Daniil Kharms

1.

The artist Michelangelo sits down on a heap of bricks and, propping his head in his hands, begins to think. How hard remembering is, and how easy forgetting.

“What’s up with you? Are you ill?” asked Comrade Popugayev.

These words put Michelangelo into such a frenzy that he pressed a finger against one of his nostrils and through his other nostril blew snot at Popugayev.

And that was that.

2.

Khariton the peasant, having just downed some methylated spirit, was standing in front of the women with his trousers undone and uttering bad language.

“I’ve been waiting for you a whole hour!”

Having said this, he started to increase in height and, upon reaching the ceiling, he crumbled into a thousand little pellets.

A quite ordinary thing, but rather amusing

3.

An amazing thing happened to me today.

I had slight toothache and was not in the greatest of moods. A small dog, which had broken its hind leg, was sprawled on the pavement. Andrey Semyonovich sat down on his haunches and began to howl. Anton Mikhailovich spat, said “yuck”, spat again, said “yuck” again, spat again, said “yuck” again and left. Fedya began shaking his head in denial. Koratygin clutched his head with his hands, fell over and died.

That’s all.

4.

Because of her excessive curiosity, an old lady fell out of the window and smashed into the ground. In this way a very nice summer’s day started.

5.

And that’s just about all there is to it.

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Notes:

1. I made these in December 2020
2. Daniil Kharms was a Russian writer from the early 20th Century
3. And I love his works completely
4. I made these from individual sentences from various stories, pieced together one by one, no two from the same story.
5. Using translations found on this wonderful website
6. As I unfortunately don’t have any books of my own to use
7. The first story was assembled from the following stories: On phenomena and existences – No. 1; The memoirs of a wise old man; Andrey Semyonovich; What they sell in the shops these days; Symphony no. 2
8. The second story was assembled from: The start of a very nice summer’s day (a symphony); What they sell in the shops these days; How a man crumbled; Symphony no. 2
9. The third story was assembled from: A sonnet; The memoirs of a wise old man; The start of a very nice summer’s day (a symphony); Andrey Semyonovich; Symphony no. 2; Fedya Davidovich; What they sell in the shops these days; On phenomena and existences – No. 1
10. The fourth story was assembled from: Falling old ladies; The start of a very nice summer’s day (a symphony)
11. The fifth story was taken from: An encounter
12. Also if you liked these, I did two similar assemblage projects before that you might be interested in.
13. #1: In The Terminals Of Minraud – three short stories made from William Burroughs sentences
14: #2: The New Brothers Grimm – 13 fairy stories made out of old Brothers Grimm stories

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