Mark jolted up from bed and realising it was Sunday, got out of it and headed into the living room to turn on the telly. Looking out the window, he saw the ball of light he knew so well lilting out from the bottom corner of the high rises across the motorway. There was a purply-black hole in his head where the word for it should have been and he felt embarrassed to himself, without trying too much to find it on the tip of his tongue because he knew it was really early. This was due to the light shedding through the pillars at the bottom of the high rise flats. Knowing his brain would eventually get it’s act together he turned to the clock. It was 7:34. There was time for a quick brekky before Sunday League football. Anyway, he wanted to play on a full stomach this week.
The television winced on and he could hear Fiona Bruce’s voice on BBC News from the kitchen, which made him stop taking the cereal out of the cupboard for a second. Her voice filled the empty space of the living room blankly as a sort of tan-grey light clouded in through the windows:
“The wealthy and their servants from all over the world today met in London to discuss how increased poverty doses are required by them to increase already obscenely high profits that will end what they see as a decades long crisis of benefits, fair wages, pensions and too many rights for workers. They claim that further pointless injections of trillions of pounds into banks for those pounds to stay exactly, precisely there, will not only fill the vacuum they created from their own ideology of greed temporarily, but will give them an excuse to destroy the gains workers have made throughout the 20th Century. A lack of ability to buy things due to skintness on the part of just about everybody is in part blamed for the technical shitstorm 99% of people have been suffering. The current servants of the wealthy blame the previous servants of the wealthy for having exactly they same kind of policies they would have had if they instead had been servants of the wealthy at the time…”
Mark, a fierce defender of impartiality, ran in, grabbed the remote control and rewound her a bit to hear it again:
“Business leaders and politicians from all over the world today met in London to discuss how further austerity measures are needed to create competition and stop the financial crisis from lasting for decades. Many argue that further national bailouts and structural adjustment programmes are needed across the board to ensure less waste and more growth. Some blame in part a crisis of consumer confidence and previous administrations on the technical recession we have just entered.”
Throwing the remote onto the couch, Mark went back to the kitchen. “Bloody hell.” he whispered to himself, “Thought I was losing it for a second.”
As he started to pour the Sugar Crackly Biscs into the bowl Gemma came in. “You woke me up. It’s fucking Sunday. Can’t you get up without making the bed do a somersault?”
“Sorry.”, he mumbled, “Are you wanting some as well?”
She nodded, so he pulled another bowl from the cupboard and started to pour some Biscs into it. The box emptied pretty quickly and there was more cereal in her bowl, so he poured some from hers into his own. “Hey!!”, said Gemma “Put that back. Who says you should get more? Pour that back!”. “It’s just a bit of structural adjustment.”, he laughed “I’m playing football in an hour. I need energy.”. Gemma pushed her bowl towards him:
“What? Structural adjustment? If you don’t put my cereal back into that bowl I’ll structurally adjust your face! How about that?”
Mark ate his breakfast. Each bite seemed the same size but as he took each spoonful, it felt like some kind of essence was lost. He was sure of this but didn’t want to seem daft, so he never mentioned it.
“How did your union meeting go?”, he asked.
“Not bad. Things are hetting up.”
“Waste of time if you ask me.”, Mark shrugged, “People are just sheep.”
Later at the football, Mark and the team sat in the changing room before the game. Ross, the skipper stood up about two minutes after they had all got there, taking the space at the head of the room. “Listen guys. I know you’re not sure about the new technocratic style of the new manager but he’s convinced me we’re going to grow as a team. And I know he just waltzed in one day and started changing things but he can get this Boom-Time Cup. We can do it.” The room groaned. “Quiet.”, said Ross “He’ll be here any second.”
The manager arrived ten minutes later and took the space where Ross had been. He rubbed his hands together a bit slower than he normally did.
“Right. First things first. You may not like this but we’re not United any more. We’re Tesco Town Competitive. Now Tesco have been nice enough to come in and give the team an incentive to play now that we can’t afford to keep things together any other way.”
The room groaned again.
“Ok. Ok. I understand, I really do but I’m afraid you’re going to have to hand in the old strips. Now come on lads, we’ve got to bail the team out here. Any more backlash and I might concievably think about walking. Now we’ve had to tape some of the new shorts together. And some of you are going to have to wear broken clogs. Don’t worry if you break an ankle, there’s enough playfare boys turned up for the subs bench today looking for a place in the team”
There was a sprinkling of “Fuck sake”s and a few sarcastically slung socks, but the old strips made their way into the managers bag, while the team negotiated putting on the new strips, finding holes and sleeves here and there. and pulling material over their rib cages. You could make out the “Every Little Bit Helps” if you put it together over the mid-riffs of a few of the strips with their different deficiencies and giant holes but no one in the team saw this.
Mark followed behind the skipper as they made their way on to the path that led to the field. He hadn’t noticed how much he liked the nice clacking sounds the studs of the team’s boots had always made on the concrete but the clogs they wore now reminded him of the sound police horses make as they come up behind you in the street. Ross nudged his elbow, “Look. The other team are half naked too. And they’re wearing platforms.”
Tesco Team Competitive gathered by the side of the pitch, trying their best to jog on the spot. The manager straightened his suit and started his speech:
“Stakes are high lads. If we score the most goals I get a trophy and more importantly a shitload of reward cash from the SFA. A bit more than if I fail anyway. Infact the more goals you score, the more beer I can trickle down onto you in the pub later. No alternative but for that exact thing to happen to you lads. You see, if we keep doing the same thing we’ve been doing for decades, except more robustly, we can grow as a team. It’s a bit technical I know but eventually you’ll see.”
The game went ahead as planned. It wasn’t quite the same as before. The ball seemed to be even heavier to kick than it was before and definitely took an extra jolt out of the leg, but it would flail about all over the place. Up and down and anywhere it wasn’t expected to go, while the managers shouted “After it! After it!” like their lives depended on it. As the game went on, the word became one. A continuous crescendo of “AUFTERIT. AUFTERIT. AAAAAAAAAAUUUUUUFTERIT.” Both teams eventually drew 0.001 each.
“Ah well it’s only a technical loss.” the manager said, seeming a bit more fine about things than he should have been, “I’m afraid I’m going to have to leave you behind today. As manager, I can only manage to get a feast for my family with all the other managers, so I’m er, going elsewhere with some of the other managers, so you’re going to have to manage on your own. On a side note – sorry about the half time oranges, too much of the juice was going to fall back into the team bag in my opinion so I evaded this by putting all of them into my belly by all accounts. Otherwise I would have been forced to leave to get them from somewhere else and you wouldn’t have wanted that would you? Anyway. I’m off. Well played. Well played.”
And with that the two managers met at the other side of the pitch and drove off in the same direction, with the old strips locked in their boots.
Ross leaned over, red cheeked and exhausted:
“Is he coming back?”
“I don’t know”, said Matt, breathlessly.
“Are we playing next week?”
“I really don’t know. Things can have a way of balancing out though. I think.”
The other team stood at the other side of the pitch talking to each other with their hands on the back of their hips. Matt watched them for a few seconds:
“They look like they’re having the same sort of conversation as us. Should we go over and talk to them?”
“Don’t know.” said Ross, “We might have a different manager next week.”
“Yeah.”, said Matt. “I’m meeting Gemma at the supermarket anyway.”
END OF PART 1