The Ball’s Gotta Move: Chapter Seven

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

I woke up next day and my legs felt like Dani Alves after he gets a bump and rolls around clutching the knee, his mouth about as wide as that Scream mask. Except, you couldn’t see it on my face, and the pain was real. I walked downstairs and with every step I stopped myself from whelping.

The team had been talking in the locker saying Coach would have us run two miles every day for the first week, and then practice and run at the end. Jefe said, “You got to go through it.”

GG saw my face while I minced down them stairs and she said, “What’s wrong with you?”

“Nothing,” I said. If I talked about my shins she would say some stuff about how my dad never was injured, how he ran all summer, and somehow it would be my fault, and I didn’t want to hear it.

She said, “Got you some eggs and toast and bacon today. Got to get your energy up for practice.”

I said, “I don’t have practice today.” I tell her I’m injured, she going to ask from what. I say from running, no way I want to hear that shit.

She said, “Then I wasted time cooking this breakfast.”

I said, “Thanks GG,” slid into that green bench so fast. I got that fork working like a backhoe shovel and ate those eggs before they disappeared. Then I went up to my room and played some FIFA.

About ten o’clock I was bored and wished I went to practice. I remembered a kid on our club team who came to practices after he broke his leg. He always cheered for us and was at the games and my attitude was, “Why are you here?” Coaches ate that shit up. Gave him a sportsmanship award at the end of the season. Lamest award ever. For when you don’t win, you don’t’ even play, you win this other thing: “You were nice.” Forget that.

Anyway, I thought, maybe Coach would look at it like that, so I was like, I’m going back tomorrow even if my legs still feel like this.

I was so bored I scoped these summer books we were supposed to read. I looked at them and started this one that kind of got me laughing. It was called Absolutely True Diary of A Part Time Indian. It was actually pretty interesting, and it kind of got my excited about going to school. My thinking was if TIS assigned us books like this, school could be pretty legit. I didn’t hate learning, really, it’s just the stuff you do in school, like they let loose boredom worms in your brain.

When I woke up the next day my legs weren’t that bad. I mean, I could walk at least and I felt like maybe I could run. I looked up and there was Nogs and Suarez above me.

Nogueira has the ball about a yard in front of him, his head is up and he’s yelling, his hands out. You know what he’s saying, right, if you’re a Union fan? He’s like, where the freak are my runs? A lot of people said that was his whole frustration with the team, because he came and he was a player actually capable of playing possession, he had the skill set, but then you got these guys. But when he was on the team, the U could do something with the ball. And that dude made it happen.

I figured I’d get out of bed.

When I got to practice Coach called me over. “Where were you yesterday, Jimmy?”

I said, “I got this pain in my shins. I don’t think I can run today.”

He said, “I don’t think you’ve run yet.”

I said, “My shins hurt really bad.”

“You know what’s wrong with your shins?”


“Shin splints. You get those because you put sudden stress on your legs. Basically you are out of shape, haven’t been running and then come out and run the first day of practice and your body isn’t ready. Now it’s hurting.”

He said, “Go warm up, you can rest on the weekend. And show some heart. Pain is part of the process.”

I honestly hated the crap out of this coach but he was the only one I could play for for free, so I just nodded like I wasn’t having a talk with the biggest hater/smart ass ever. I didn’t see him out there running with his bean pole ass.

He wanted us to run the two mile first thing. Well this time I wasn’t thinking about winning. I just started running and it was like pieces of glass were in my shins. I just told myself to keep my legs moving. If I was who I am, a Philly kid, a little hurt wasn’t going to kill me, you push through that shit, right? But my body was saying stop the whole time. Saying it, then shouting it, then screaming it. Like at what point is your body telling you something important? On my third lap Jefe is lapping me, but he slows down next to me. “Jimmy,” he said.

I looked at him but didn’t say anything. I was saving my breath.

He said, “You’re going to be good, just keep working. He’s always hard on new kids. He wants to make sure you got the heart for it. Show him you do.”

Then he took off running. I thought about trying to surge after him but then I remembered what my legs were telling me. I was last. No more Mini-Fatty to beat, he must have quit. I counted and there were only seventeen of us, and only three or four could really ball.

After the run he put us on two teams. Even though it was only nine on eight, I could tell it was his first team against his second. The one side had this athletic kid who played goalie, and then he had Jefe playing stopper, and Toussaint at center mid, with that gangly kid Trout at striker.

I was on the other team. Not even in center-mid where I told coach I played. He had me back at left back. I was at least good enough to play center mid second string. Really, I was like the fifth best player overall on that team. The good part was, though, I didn’t have to run too much at left back. I had a couple of good touches. First team eight, or whatever you want to call the other side, beat us three to zero in a twenty minute game. Coach called practice. Then I unlocked my bike. Only three miles to ride home. I wished I had one of those bikes with gears so I could put it in a low one, but I had to stand up on it to get up hills. Then I coasted down. Two more days of preseason.

I got home and I thought this coach was seriously off. I mean, you run at club practice, but not like this. Coaches always say, “Run, run.” And everybody nods but the only thing we really do is we play basketball or hockey and stuff. That’s enough to keep you in shape. He thinks this is track or something, and because I’m not a track star, he doesn’t have me starting?

I could tell you about the next few days but there really isn’t any point. I puked some more. My shins felt the same. On Friday he just had me sit through the whole practice. “Just watch, rest your tired little body.”

I tried to think of another team in the world that would have me.

GG said, “How did practice go?”

I shrugged.

“You going to start?”

I shook my head. “He doesn’t like me.”

She laughed. “If you’re good enough, doesn’t matter how he feels. So you aren’t good enough.”

“I’m good enough at soccer. He wants us to just run. Like, is this cross country or soccer? The sport isn’t running.”

GG laughed for a while and walked out of the room.

Pops looked away from the infomercial he was watching. “Jimmy.”

“Yeah, Pop?”

“Soccer is running.”

Shit, everyone is against me. I went up to my room and texted Mom.

“Can I come home?”

She didn’t respond.

I added, “I’ll listen to Drew. I’ll get along with him.”

Still no response.

I decided to walk over there.

I knocked on the door and no-one answered. I knocked again and Ginny the neighbor leaned out. “Junior, they all went out.”

“How long ago.”

“Like ten minutes.”

After my texts.

I walked back home and flopped down on my bed, and there was Luis Suarez marching into the eighteen, eyes beaming at the net like this dude is Superman and, on the real, he is. And you know how many coaches hated that dude? All coaches hate him. But in the end, they have to play him. Because he’s going to get it done. Plus, he’s a fighter. Not clean, he works hard. Like my patron saint of soccer, this guy. His two teeth sticking out like a weasel.

My phone went dink later that night. Kat had texted me a video with the message, “We heard you on the machine but Mom said we were going to the park.” I watched the video. It just this corny little thing she made for me with Ry, I guess last night. She was saying how I was the best big brother, and I honestly love her but was annoyed with her because what an idiot to think I’m great.

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