The Ball's Gotta Move

The Ball’s Gotta Move: Chapter Ten

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

Lunch was weird. I was sitting with these other kids that I kind of liked, but I didn’t really know. The reason that I sat with them was because Jeanie was there, and as I walked through that lunchroom the first day, lowkey eyeing the tables for anybody I knew, Jeanie saw me and waved me over. The problem was that all the kids were sophomores and I was a freshman and they knew my teachers, but I didn’t know theirs.

They were talking about this couple, Jana and Thibault, I didn’t know them. They talked about how they were on and off, comparing who had treated the other worst. Shit, I wished somebody cared enough to mistreat me. Like, really, I had nothing to offer and half the time I just chilled there and listened to them talk, eating the free lunch from the district.

The next game I actually started, but on the left wing. For me I’m thinking, okay, if I can’t play center-mid than what I’m going to do is score goals. Maybe he ends up putting me at center forward. I played there before. I like it because you get to score a lot and no one yells at you when you don’t play D. But on the other hand you kind of have to stay in one area of the field. At center mid you just run everywhere. If I’m really honest the reason I like it is because it’s not really a position. Like, no matter where you are, as a center mid, if you’re near the action, you’re playing soccer.

That day the ref was crazy. I don’t know if he read the rule book or what. Maybe instead of reading the book he smoked crack. First crazy call is this offsides call. Jefe floats a ball over the top and I’m running onto it from five yards into the midfield. I mean, when he hits the ball I’m still twenty yards from the sweeper, he placed that thing perfectly. Like, it hangs there and I sprint about twenty yards, past the sweeper, cushion it onto my chest, not even breaking stride.  Sweeper is moving across, but I have space to get the shot off if I take it before it hits the ground. I point my left toe down, get that knee and hammer the half volley back across for a goal. Goalie doesn’t even leave his feet.

I’m sprinting upfield. Best goal I ever scored and there is the whistle blowing the goal. I look for Jefe to thank him for that sweet dime, but he’s running toward the ref, who is holding the flag straight out. Offside!
I ran over next to Jefe and said to the ref, “What’s wrong with you?”

Ref said to me, “Watch your mouth, next time you get a card.”

It was a sweet goal and now his whole thing was that it was about me talking. He was ruining the game, but he wanted me to be nice to him. That’s grown ups for you. I said, “Card? You just stole my goal!”

Jefe was there with his arm around my shoulder, pulling me away. He said, “Look, nice finish. We’ll get another chance.”

I nodded but it didn’t turn out that way because next thing I know I’m hearing my name, and Coach is pulling me out. He grabs me as I come out the game and says, “Jimmy, no talking to the ref.”

I said, “You see what he did!”

He said, “You don’t talk to the ref.”

I said, “But . . .”

He was on me like, “Shut up and sit down.” I didn’t know he could get all intense like that because he was up in my space. Honestly I thought about decking him but I could see how that wouldn’t help me chances of getting playing time with the last team on earth that had a spot for me.

I sat down on the bench, and Jeanie rubbed my head. “Ew, it’s sweaty.”

“Yeah, I was playing soccer.”

“Good job out there. Coach was hype when you scored.”

“Then how come he didn’t talk to the ref?”

“I think the ref was busy talking to you.”

I’m watching and it’s clear this dude that is reffing the game knows less about it than a city kid knows about corn farming. Finally Coach calls my name and tells me to go in for Trout. The score is still 0-0 but we’re getting more chances.

The next play, I’m on the top of the eighteen, and I turned my man. I’m in on goal, and he hooks my trailing ankle with his foot and I hit the dirt. No whistle. NO FREAKING WHISTLE!

My arms are up and I’m marching toward this ref. “What are you doing!” I shout.

He pulls out a yellow card. I pointed at the kid who fouled me. “What does he get?”

The ref said, “Leave the game.”

I shook my head. Jefe was there, guiding me toward the sideline. “Jimmy, in high school soccer you have to leave for five when you get a yellow.”

I went over to the bench. Coach said, “Good job not talking to the ref. Go sit on the end of the bench. You aren’t going in this half.”

I said, “But he doesn’t know what he’s doing.”

Coach said, “I can see. I also know that you aren’t helping. You up in his face with your fists balled up like this is some street show. He isn’t going to listen to you. I’d like to explain the rules to him, but he can’t hear me when you are up in his face. You aren’t doing what you are supposed to do. Now sit.”

At this point I don’t really know what to say. If the ref can’t see that when Jefe hit the ball I’m still ten yards from offside, and I score a lit goal, and then it gets called back, I’m going to lose my shit. Like what is the point of playing if the ref doesn’t even know the rules?

Well, even without me, cause I only got in at the end of the second half, we won 3-0. In the end the crazy ref gave us a penalty for a ball-to-hand jawn that Jefe said later was a bad call, so it equaled out, or something. Coach talked to all of us about always keeping our focus on the objective, which was the game. He said you can’t play against the refs because they aren’t the other team. The refs, he said, were his job, and our job was soccer. I shook my head because the whole thing was crazy. It was crazy that that guy could be a ref.

That weekend I was supposed to go to Mom’s. I texted her I was coming over.

When I got there, Ry says, “RAHR.” Jumps on me. His body’d starting to get a little wiry but mostly its just three year old chub. “RAHR,” I say back and give him some monster bites. He giggles, rolls away off the couch.

Kat then is holding my knee. I pick her up and hold her. “Hey, Kat. What you learning in school?”

She nodded, her forehead squinched up.

“Do monsters attack big girls who go to school?”

She shook her head, her forehead still squinched up.

I said “RAHR,” and she started twisting and laughing.

Mom wobbled down the stairs, wearing make-up and heels. Drew was in a button up. Mom said, “We’re going out. There’s twenty on the table for pizza. Make sure they get in bed by ten.”

They left out. We ordered pepperoni pizza and went to watch a movie, but Mom must have let the Netflix subscription lapse. I ended up dusting off the DVD player and we watched Wall-E. I put them to bed and said, “Good night, sleep tight, don’t let the bed bugs bite, but if they do, take your fist and punch them til they’re dead and blue.”

Kat said, “We don’t got bed bugs. Andrea got bed bugs.”

Ry said, “Those bed bugs can’t try nothing on me.”

I closed the door and sat there. I knew Ry would cry in a minute, and when he did I went back in. “Shh,” I said. “There’s no monsters.”

I put a hand on his head and he stopped crying.

“You can’t be crying no more, Ry.”

A couple minutes later he was asleep.

I waved at Kat, who was still wide awake and left the bedroom. I watched an NBA game and fell asleep on the couch.

Mom and Drew came in at four in the morning. I heard the car doors slamming out there and it didn’t take a genius to figure how they got home. The door slammed open, and Drew stumbled through.

Drew said, “What’re you doing here?” It was kind of loud.

I wasn’t really awake yet.

I heard something clatter on the steps, I guess it was Mom ‘cause she said, “Oh, shit.” He turned around and looked down at her. He started laughing. Mom said, “Shut up, Drew.” They went upstairs, hands on each other. I rolled over on the couch. They’d both be hell tomorrow. I guessed I’d take the kids to the park.

I made Ry and Kat Pop Tarts in the morning. We had fun. When we got home Mom said that I should go back to GG’s cause she was worried about her, so I’m like, “GG can take care of herself and Pop’s fine, mom.”

She made a weird face, asked me if I wanted to come outside for a second, she needed a smoke. I shook my head cause I could see where it was all going. “I’m going, mom.”

She said, “No, it’s not like that.”

I said, “Thanks for paying me to babysit.”

She said, “Drew gave you money for sneaks, this is the least you could do. Anyway, you like being with your brother and sister.”

I shook my head and banged out the door. I heard her mutter, “Fine, whatever,” as I left.

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