The International Writers Magazine: The Match
The ticket came in on Monday; it indicated the stadium, the row and the seat. It was delivered by registered mail.
There was no sender, or rather, it was illegible; the post mark was smudged from the rain, yet the address matched his name. He wondered: maybe it was a ruffle he had won and forgotten? Maybe a bonus? But in the end, he put it down to a promotion, perhaps of the stadium or maybe a sponsor – a bank or a supermarket. He was new to this town; he was from the North. The ticket specified nothing more. Was it a football match? Or rugby? But the event, if there were to be any, was to take place on Sunday. Oh, yes, by the way, there was in fact the date.
On Friday he bought things - the usual things you would bring to a stadium – he would make sandwiches with pastrami, smoked salmon and cream cheese (after all it would be a Sunday), he would hard boil a few eggs, he would, he thought, have a good time.
‘How’s your rugby team doing these days?’ he asked the cashier at the store where he bought cold cuts, but she replied: ‘Rugby? We don’t have such a thing here. Not in this town.’
‘Oh, no?’ he asked with a hint of disbelief in his voice.
‘No, sir. No rugby team here. Definitely,’ said the cashier, a young and rather pretty girl, and gave him his change. ‘Positively none.’
She then helped him pack his things, asked to call again and bid him good-bye. This was nice, he though, things are changing, improving. He walked home, didn’t want to take the bus, and paid special heed to posters, placed at the bus stops, in the streets and on the walls of the buildings where they were not allowed. No, there was no rugby team in this town as the cashier had said, nor a football team either, it seemed, yet there was a stadium; after all he had the ticket, and there was a row stamped on it, the seat number and there was the stadium’s address. He was moved here by his company - he was unmarried and childless. He sold TVs for a living, yet he himself had none. He liked to watch sports live, he’d preferred it, but his old team had no stadium, he had never seen a game, live or televised.
Then at last came the day of the event – Sunday. He wasn’t vain, yet - he smiled at it himself - he took a hour to figure out to wear: first shirt (must be sporty, not too smart), then trousers, then shoes, a coat, or a jacket rather, in the end he settled for a coat, and finally the scarf. Yes, the scarf was important. Very. Yet he picked none. ‘Maybe I’ll buy one at the stadium.’ he concluded. It was getting late; he had to hurry.. or else he’d be late. He made it on time – thank God - arrived there by bus. The bus, to his surprise was empty, save, of course for him and the driver. And so was the stadium, except, of course, for him. He found his row and took his seat. ‘Maybe I’m here too early?’ He checked the ticket again ‘Or perhaps too late?’ ‘Maybe I got the stadiums wrong.’ he thought beginning to panic. No, to his relief, the time and the date (he checked the date too) and the stadium were right. He was at the right place, on a right date, at the right time.
He was right; something else was wrong. He waited an hour, looked at the empty bleachers, boxes too, but calmly. No, he wasn’t impatient, that was his day off; he had plenty of time. Two hours into the wait though, he became hungry, hungry indeed, and bored. He unwrapped his first sandwich and took a big bite.
‘Get off your arses, you wankers!’ escaped him 'Go for it! Go for it, lads!’
A morsel – a chunk of smoked salmon glued to a piece of white bread with cream cheese – fell out his mouth. A seagull saw it from a distance; it took to the air, made a circle or two, and landed on bleachers nearby. It stared now sternly at the food, at him, but he continued his feast undisturbed.
‘You want it, you have to earn it,’ he said then he cracked an egg on the wooden plank, the seat opposite him. The echo bounced around the empty stadium, returned twice as loud and scared the bird which took off, crossed the wide open pitch frightened, followed by its shadow.
He wiped his mouth with a tissue, disposed of it rather crudely; it landed on the cement pavement between the bleachers. He took a tin of beer out his coat’s pocket; it was still cool. It hissed like a disturbed snake when he opened it, and a bit of dark thick foam seeped out of it and wetted his fingers. He sipped on the bitter venom then took a big gulp - Kilt - an unfamiliar brand; that too, he thought, he had to get used to. But the beer tasted good, he liked it, he was happy. . He was, very satisfied; there were no teams, no crowd, and the stadium was silent and empty, but that made no difference, that was all right.
On his way home, he decided not take the bus which, again, he knew, would be empty. He took a detour, a longer cut through the town’s centre which, no longer to his surprise, was desolate save for a few lost souls - a couple of youth in love and two or three drunks. He kicked a trash bin – hard with violence –which made an awful, hollow noise as it tumbled; a single burnt globe fell out it, a small one, at most 40 watts, he observed expertly (he sold electrical goods before he was moved to electronics), but it didn’t break. It rolled instead on the pavement and slowly came to a stop. Later, he tried to smash the glass at a bus stop, in the shelter, but the glass was hooligan-proof; it wouldn’t break so he gave up. ‘That’s what we do where I come from, you sissies,’ he said almost loud ‘This is what we do when we win, when we’re happy.’
He arrived home late, worn out and sweaty. He did some other crazy things that night. He had wished for a tin of spray though. ‘Well, he thought, it’s gotta be next time.’ He was now sleepy but felt good. It’s been a good day, he thought when in bed he closed his eyes What if the mail won’t come? he wondered a bit worried. ‘There’s got to be some place, I’ll ring the phone company. I’ll see this week if I can buy a ticket,’ he said to himself while falling asleep ‘Maybe I can even get a better seat.’
© Piotr Wesolowski Dec 2009
Nubility by Piotr Wesolowski
Morelos watches as Boeing 747, a delayed charter flight from Budapest, touches the ground. Rubber burns on hot tarmac raising clouds of thin smoke; wheels squeak like dying lobsters.