CSN is 50: Short Story: “The Ball” by Eugene O’Brien Nov19

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CSN is 50: Short Story: “The Ball” by Eugene O’Brien

Wet dew on the ball; it slid into the air like a flower opening its petals in rapid speed like I’d seen on a David Attenborough nature show on a Sunday morning before mass. The ball dipped, looked beautiful, like something out of the Matrix when the main character dives out of the way from the incoming bullets. The keeper was invisible; however, that was just my bad peripheral eyesight because I forgot my contact lenses; my mom woke me up late for my game, again. As the ball edged closer to the goal I could hear the wind, coming like a subway train pulling into the station in London. Then bang! bang! swoosh. As the post rattled (bang 1) and then the loud bang from Fat Murphy’s beer belly (bang 2) and then finally the sound I had been craving, like you crave a chocolate sundae after your roast on a Sunday: the swoosh of the ball off the net. Finally, my first goal for Buffalo FC.

Monday rolled around again and another dark and depressing day in the life of an eighteen-year-old, his Leaving Cert. fast approaching in one hundred and one days. But this Monday was the first since the last Monday of Fourth Year where I was looking forward to be able to boast about my ‘winning’ shot from 40 yards out. In truth it was 6 yards out. Sauntering up to my friends like I were Gaz from Jersey Shore: chest out, shoulders swaying back and forth, the big macho man.

“Look who the cat dragged into school,” Tom said as all the lads laughed.

“What’s got you in a mood as if you scored with a minter last night and she didn’t leave you?” Tom asked very smartly, as usual.

“Oh, if that had happened to me I wouldn’t be in today; I would be still in bed. Wink, wink,” I replied with a tone of despair.

“Anyway, your question. I will answer it momentarily just after I ring my agent and let him know that I can sign autographs for the fans tomorrow night.” The word ‘agent’ was our code word for “I have big news and you all have to hear it,” just as Minty said when he walked into the pub after completing his 12 mile run from pub to pub.

“Yes, the goal you’re claiming wasn’t yours in the end; it was a Murphy own-goal so you never scored, just like you can’t score in the bed.”

How did Tom know this? I thought to myself. Then I remembered little cocky Chris on the sideline watching on. I hate that Chris guy; always going to my games and then telling everyone how badly I did. If I sneezed on the football pitch he would be the first to tell everyone in my year.

“Ah, no it can’t be. I was the last Buffalo player to touch the ball,” I protested, like George Hook protesting that Brian O’ Driscoll didn’t knock the ball on.

“The ball was moving away from the goal and was hit in by another player on the other team so it’s counted as their goal; in this case it was Beer Belly Murphy.”

Well now I am back to the dark depressing mood. I felt like I was reading Child by Sylvia Plath. The poem starts off bright and cheerful and then turns depressing and dark very quickly. That’s basically my life in a nutshell there. Everything good always ends up in disappointment.

As the week moved on day by day, hour by hour, minute by minute, we move closer to our death. But no one thinks about life like that. For me my death comes every Sunday at about four o’ clock when I come off the pitch knowing I still haven’t scored for Buffalo FC. But what you do when you don’t succeed? You get up and try again and never give up because if you give up then the world will be going nowhere, still stuck in the Stone Age using rocks and lazing around all day. The day came, “The Holy Day” as my old granny calls it. I always like to think of it as a good luck charm when she says it at the Sunday dinner.

“Another Holy Day again, and may be the last.” She was very depressing, but sure aren’t all old people? Togging off in the dressing room our manager Minty walked in and did the usual – put on his boots, put on his jacket, pull out the jerseys and then said, “Right, Shane you’re in goal, no surprise there.”

Honestly, ask anyone on my team what Minty did before every game. They could recite as if it were a Shakespeare quote. Somehow I made the starting team again. I thought to myself: “it was mad…ridiculous.” Walking out like Gaz again and a bit of an animalistic look in my eyes to show I was ready for this game. The game kicked off and we started like rabbits with rabies, hunting down every ball we lost and then scoring. Half time: three nil to us. We settled down in the second half and just passed it around and created the odd chance here and there but I could feel the Plath storm on the way. Having a good game and then bang! Depression again. I made a darting run towards the box and got impeded, free in a dangerous position.

I said: “This is mine.”

“Ah, you took the last free kick,” sneered Timmy.

“Ya from the corner flag, hardly a goal scoring chance,” I scowled back at him.

The referee blew his whistle and I ran up. Rainbow flicked it up and shot, top corner, goal. How bad. Finally there was no Plath to ruin my day. In the dressing room Minty said: “Feck it Eoghan, it was insane, but it worked.”

“Yes, yes it did.”

“At this rate we will win the league as we now have a game in hand over Ringmahon,” Minty called out to the rest of the lads.

Next stop for the lads – Hannover – and me for a night of getting drunk and probably not coming home until five in the morning, but I have this thing called the Leaving Cert., so Hannover will have to wait until June.