Monday, June 7, 2010

Taking It Personally.

Remark- 490 Words
Stephen N. Dethrage

Man-to-man marking, close quarters, one-on-one, and the bastard looked me right in the eyes and whispered, "My next goal is for your whore of a mother, defender. Tell her hello for me."

The little voice in my head nagged at me and whispered to me gently, imploring me to ignore my opponent's words. It insisted that on a soccer field, sometimes things are said by men of less mental caliber, and almost always, their insults merely reflect insecurity. The competitor inside me disagreed. The striker whose words made my blood boil left me no option but to take things personally. Close quarters, man marking, adrenaline flowing, everything's personal.

A turnover at the other end of the field brought the ball into our half, and three passes later, it was at the feet of their best striker. The one who insulted me. My mark. He looked at me briefly as his feet took the first touch of the soccer ball, a skillful, gentle thing that kept the ball moving fast but close enough to him to discourage anything but perfection from our defense. In that single moment as my eyes drilled into his, before he committed his entire attention to the game, he winked at me. One impish gesture. An insult on top of injury. A spark too close to my fuse.

I was only vaguely aware of that little voice becoming louder and begging me to ignore the arrogant prick racing towards me, towards my zone, towards the net behind me. All intelligent thought was suddenly drowned by a klaxon set off in my mind that could only be satisfied by one thing. I sprinted to meet him and watched a dark smile cross his face as I closed the distance. My right foot shot forward, a sloppy stab towards the ball, inviting the striker to pass on my right side and, otherwise uncontested, score the point he promised for my mother.

The fool took the bait.

I crouched and pivoted and swung my left leg around behind me, a 180 arch, moving in a way that seemed more like Judo than defensive soccer. My left heel, powered by legs and hips and momentum and anger traced a straight line until, at last, it found my target and crashed with a terrible thunder just below the striker's knee on his strong right leg. He crumpled and crashed and rolled, just like I knew he would. A cheap hit. A dirty hit. An indescribably satisfying hit.

An hour and a half later, after the the red card, after the stretcher, after their blocked free kick and our eventual victory, as I unlaced my cleats in the locker that that little voice, somewhat disappointed but ultimately understanding, asked me if it was all worth it.

I thought of the comment, the wink, the hit, and the fall. I couldn't fight off the smile that crossed my lips.

Of course it was worth it.

Spitting Venom - Modest Mouse

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