The Team

“Hey! Where are you going?” Harry called out, as Peter thundered past the doorway. His son skidded to a halt and backed up into sight.

“Just up to my room, Dad.”

“To do your homework.”

“Um, sure.”

“Good, because I’m unplugging the Internet.”

“Dad!”

“Until you’ve done your homework. You know the rules.”

“But it’s Friday.”

“Homework first.”

“If I do all my homework tonight, can I go to the game with you tomorrow?”

“You’re too young.”

“But Dad, all my friends have been.”

“You’re too young. You know your mum would worry.”

“You go. She doesn’t worry about you.”

“That’s because she knows me, and besides, my life insurance is all paid up. She worries too much about you as it is.”

“But I’m fourteen.”

“Yeah. Fourteen and you think you know it all.”

“You left school when you were fourteen. You said so. You said when you were my age you had a job.”

“Yeah, a shi – a crappy job that paid pennies. That’s why you’re going to do your homework and shine at school, you hear?”

“But I’d be with you, Dad. What could happen if I was with you?”

“It’s bad enough when football’s on the box,” said Mary, coming out of the kitchen, wiping her hands on the tea towel. “Your father should know better when he shouts at the box in front of you. I’m not having you hear the language that goes on in the terraces.”

“You think I don’t know what those words mean, Mum? You think my mates don’t use them?”

“But you don’t use them,” she said, more of a command than a question.

“Not in my presence,” said Harry, ” or you’ll get a hiding, big as you are.”

“So why can’t I go, Mum? Dad will look after me.”

“It’s nothing to do with your mother,” said Harry. “You’re not ready. You don’t know what it is to support a team.”

“But United is my team, Dad. Why can’t I go see them with you?”

“No, they’re not. You want to know why? Because last season we were fourth in the league. This season, who knows? Maybe better. You don’t join a team at its height.”

“Why not? Seems the best time to join them, if you ask me.”

“No son. See? That’s why you’re not ready.”

“Why?”

“Because it doesn’t matter what team you choose. What matters is, you choose them.”

“What? Of course it matters. I’d never choose City.”

“You know what? If you chose City, I’d be just as proud of you as if you chose United, if you chose them properly.”

“How can you say that?” Peter stepped into the living room. “How can you respect a City fan? They’re pants. They’re the enemy. Besides, they’re halfway down the division.”

“This is why you don’t choose your team in fair weather. When you choose, you choose for life. You see your ma? You think she looked like that when I asked her to marry me?”

“Hey!” Mary threw a cushion at her husband. “I’m sitting right here, you know.”

“The point is, I love her. I loved her then, and I love her now. I loved her when she was pregnant, throwing up every morning. I loved her when she was dog tired from nursing you day and night when you had hooping cough. I loved her when she was all dressed up for the wedding and looking like an angel from heaven itself. I loved when she was at her best, and at her worse. I love her no matter what.”

“Dad!” Peter dropped his eyes, unable to look either of his parents in the eye.

“The same goes for the team you choose. More so, because you can divorce a wife easy.” He gave Mary a pointed look. “Very easy. But if you choose to support a football team, you support them no matter what. You support them when they get relegated. You support them when they play the worst game of football you’ve ever seen. You support them when they lose to a bunch of girly-boys like City. That’s what it is to support a team. They’ll break your heart and not even know it. They’ll play with half a heart and trot off back to their villa while you walk home in the rain. But when they win, oh son, when they win…. So that’s why you’re not ready. When you start courting, and know what it is to love, then maybe I’ll take you to a game.”

“Fine.” Peter whirled on his heel.

“Wait! Come here.”

Peter turned back and approached his dad. “What?”

“What was the fight about?”

“What fight?”

Harry shot an arm out and grabbed his son’s head. He brushed the fringe to the side with a thumb.

“You didn’t duck fast enough. I can see the mark.” He released his grip and made a grab for Peter’s hand. “And a graze on your knuckles. When you get a bit more savvy, you’ll use the heel of your hand. Who have you been fighting with, and you lie to me boy, and you’ll get a lot worse from me.”

“Jack.” Peter looked at the ground.

“Jack?” said Mary. “But I thought he was your friend. What happened?”

“He was being a dick.”

Harry fetched Peter a clip round his head. “Watch your mouth. Jack? He was your friend?” Peter nodded. “Who won?”

Peter shrugged. “We both did, I guess. Neither. It wasn’t that sort of fight.”

“But you and Jack were such good friends,” said Mary. “Oh, that’s such a shame. What did you fight about?”

Peter shrugged. “Just stuff. He said stuff, stuff he shouldn’t have.”

“Well, you’re a nice boy. I’m sure you’ll make friends with plenty of other nice boys.”

“We’re still friends, Mum.”

“You are?”

“Of course. He was being a – an idiot, and we had a scrap, but he’s a mate, Mum. You don’t just give up a mate because of one fight. What’s the point of mates if you did that?”

“Right, homework!” said Harry. “And no Internet for the weekend.”

“Dad!”

“Fighting. You know how your mum feels about that. Homework now, no Internet, and an early night too.”

“What?”

“Well, be fair. You’re going to have to get up early tomorrow if you’re going to the match.”

“The match? What? You mean it?”

“Well, it seems to me, if you understand what it is to be loyal to a friend, even when he’s being a whatsname, maybe you can understand what it is to support a football team.”

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About snodlander
Snodlander is the nom de plume of Bob Simms. He is an IT trainer, but it's not as glamourous as it sounds. When he's not enthralling classes with adventures through SQL Server, he writes, draws and drinks his own home-brew. Buy his novel on Amazon Kindle at The Young Demon Keeper, It's 74p, for crying out loud!

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