The Ball's Gotta Move

The Ball’s Gotta Move: Chapter Two

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Note: Josh Trott’s multi-part fictional Philadelphia soccer story continues with Chapter Two. New chapters will run on Mondays and Fridays beginning next week. All the characters, soccer clubs, and schools in the story are fictional.

I showed up at GG’s and my mom is there. She don’t look great, I mean, to other people. Like you can see the vodka lines down her cheeks and across her neck, but I can see too, how that dark wavy hair and those flinty gray eyes were once the hottest thing at St. Benedict’s. My mom played too but she didn’t like it that much. She didn’t like how it was always a fight.

“You okay, Junior? You look strong, you been growing? GG feeding you right?”

GG says from out the kitchen, “Feed him right? I’m goddam broke from feeding him. The fridge is empty every day.”

Mom said, “You don’t sound very Catholic, mom.”

GG came out of the kitchen saying a couple Hail Mary’s and told us to sit down. Pop turned off the TV and shambled after us. Mom yelled for Ry and Kat to stop playing and sit down.

Mom asked GG, “You got him playing club, GG?”

GG shook her head. Mom said, “Why not?”

GG said, “I asked Larry, he said they had to raise it to six hundred a season.”

Mom said, “I can help.”

GG said, “Larry said they weren’t going to help us.” GG turned and looked at me, and it was like she was punching me in the face. “Said if he can’t get over the anger issues, how can they play him.”

Mom said, “Jesus Christ, it’s Portside soccer. Don’t they all play hot?”

GG said, “He’s gotten two red cards in the last four games he’s played. He’s got the team in danger of being kicked out of the league.”

Mom said, “What?”

I said, “The refs are crazy. A little kick and they’re like, you get a freaking red card, kid.”

Her hand come up and flicked my ear so fast, “Watch that mouth.” Not like it hurt anymore.

Everyone just staring at me. Even Ry and Kat.

Mom said, “What’s wrong with you?”

I shrugged. Not a question you can actually answer.

“You can’t win if you get a red card.”

I said, “Those games were over anyway. We were down 4-1 both times. I scored the goal too.”

She said, “You idiot.”

There wasn’t any point in saying anything. Those games, everybody on the team walking around with their head between their knees on our side. Plus the other team, Northtown or Bucks, they were man marking me. Elbows and knees every time I touched the ball and still I scored. Then I got pinched. I mean, legit, dude was going for my balls but them marbles so small all he got was thigh. It was a cold day. But yeah, I swung on him. Hit him hard in the jaw. Then everyone is pulling me off. I’m like, “Dude molested me!” but it’s a red card for me. I said “Now play like freaking men.” The ref shrugged cause they’d already shown me red, and you can’t really give a guy another card.

Honestly if you watched that game, my boys played better after that. They were down a man, but it was like, I showed them how to fight, and before that moment they were ready to give up.

Mom said, “We try any other clubs?”

GG said, “They all cost so much, and then we’d have to drive him to all the games, and Pops can’t see and I don’t have the time. Every coach I talk to, they say, ‘Yeah, he’s good, but that temper.’ He needs to learn some control. If his dad could see him now.”

Her bringing up dad was real pointless.

“What dad?”

GG stood up. She was angry.

I threw my hands out, “I don’t see any dad, GG.”

Pops shook his head. I didn’t know if it was at me or GG.

Mom didn’t say anything.

GG said, “What do I feed you for, what do I feed you? My fridge freaking empty, I’m supposed to be retired, and you here with this freaking mouth.”

Mom said, “Wish we could get him to play club somewhere.”

It’s okay at GG’s except she always wants to talk about ‘my dad’. But I’m okay. I don’t even need club soccer. I’ll just play pick up at Penn. That’s what the greats did, right? But you know, it really isn’t. Because Pele did that. Maradona. Old time greats. But Lionel Messi was in a world premier soccer packed-with-Mario-mushrooms land from like eleven or something.

Mom and I walked around the block while she drank an ice tea with vodka and smoked a couple ports. She says I shouldn’t ever smoke. She says, “I’m been busy, Junior. You know.”

“It’s cool, mom. You got the littles.”

She says, “I wish you and Drew could get along.”

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That dude? “It’s okay, mom.” Drew. I don’t know where she got this dude. I mean, he thinks he’s tough. He says to me, “Pull your shit together.” Three different times he whupped me. The last time I landed three mean licks on his face before he got me down. He had to explain that at work. “Drew, looks like somebody whupped your ass.”

“Well, you should the other guy.

“Who’s that?”

“My stepson. He’s like thirteen years old.” Haha.

A couple days later, Mom is like, “Junior, you got to move to GGs.”

I said, “Why?”

I knew but I was going to make her say it.

She looked down, lit a cigarette. We were on the stoop and the old ladies from down the block came over so that was a long pause, we asked them, they asked us. Hot summer day, but Drew didn’t allow smoking inside. One good thing about him.

“Drew and me, well, it’s good.”

I just look at her.

“You don’t even try, or listen.”

“He’s not going to beat me and me not fight back, mom.”

She shook her head. “He probably wouldn’t beat you if you just said, ‘Okay’ when he says shit, but you got to argue, got to fight.”

I didn’t say nothing. She was right, I had to, but I wasn’t going to apologize for it, or the fact that the dude she liked wasn’t one tenth the dude my dad was and a thirteen-year-old could take him three rounds.

She said, “I don’t owe you some big freaking explanation. You’re moving to GGs this weekend.”

I said, “I got to, mom?” I sounded like a baby. I wished I didn’t say it, but I didn’t want to go.

She nodded and went back inside.

I guess the hard part was looking at Kat and Ryan and telling them. Turns out I didn’t have to because Mom did it for me. I grabbed Kat and I said, “Nobody talks shit to you, girl. You tell em Jimmy is coming if they try it.”

She nodded, this little head bob thing. I just wanted to crush her with this hug, I mean I hugged her, but not as much as I wanted to, like those fat lil’ cheeks and her green ass eyes.

To Ryan I said, “Okay little man. You the other boss now.”

It meant a lot but he knew all about all what it meant.

He said, “Don’t go, Jimmy.”

I said, “I’m not going far, Ry. It’s just GG’s.”

He nodded. I could tell he was trying to be cool about it, and I didn’t want to mess that up for him so I just punched him on the shoulder and walked out. Mom had talked about a ride, but really it’s like ten blocks and I guess too I just wanted to be on my own.

On the walk I’m just imagining Kat and Ry, like what are they doing now, and I don’t like thinking about Drew and Mom and them together with me not there, so I just imagined that somehow I made it from Port Fishington to Barcelona and I’m this nineteen-year-old star, and before the game the coach is like, “Just get the ball to Jimmy. Just get him the ball.” And I’m nodding to the other guys. I can do it. We’re down four, it’s half time. Champions League Final. Against Man U, or Real Madrid. Maybe Chelsea, Mourinho will have them bunker for the second half. But I’m the smart bomb. Just get the ball to Jimmy.

Well, in that second half I play out of my head. Crazy soccer. It’s like legendary, slalom run, the first goal, three guys are converging on me but I blast the ball and it goes far post upper ninety. Even the crowd can’t cheer. Too amazed. We’re still down three. But I will bring them back.

Next play . . . Anyway you don’t need the whole thing. I score a volley from the eighteen, a header at the near post (which is a hard goal for a short guy) and a free kick. Tied. Over time. They triple man mark me but I score from seventy yards out on a ball that beats the keeper.

I ran that whole scenario through my head a couple times until I knew that if I let my head free it wouldn’t run back to where it was before.

Instead I think about living at GGs and Pops. I know GG will be crazy with talking about Dad but I can live with that. Pops is okay except he doesn’t talk much. He comes to my games, though. Usually he’s the only one. Too bad he can’t drive.

One Comment

  1. Thanks for writing this, it’s been a fun read so far, looking forward to the rest.

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