Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Strange Beginnings

Before Harry ever ran a step, with the Knitting Circle, up the street from the soused reveller he had just spilled beer on, away from his responsibilities at times, he played soccer.

Twice a week. In a pickup league that met noontimes one day and after work another to play either with publishing types for a friendly game or Jamaican and Indian engineers for an equally friendly game but a game where it was understood that the visiting publishing types were going to get shellacked by an NBA-like final score even though it was soccer.

That beautiful game that frequented goals like Harry went dancing. That is to say not a lot.

Harry began to play at noon because he had moved from his old job of selling printing to his new job of managing the magazine and a lot of the book's staff played. Harry felt it would bond him into the team, professionally and personally on the field.

So from a relatively sedentary lifestyle Harry jumped into chasing a ball up and down a pitch for ninety minutes mid day and realizing that airport to rental car counter steeplechase was not, in fact, any kind of a fitness program, long term or otherwise.

Selling print had consisted of on-the-road rallys alongside sitting in buyer's offices going "mmm, mmm" while they complained of high prices and asked for rate reductions. It also consisted of sitting in designer's offices going "mmm, mmm" while they complained of the press crew laying down an image that obliterated the thrust of the main image on the title page and where were the artists in these days of high speed production. Only later, in the (rental) car ride back to the airport did Harry articulate the "otherfucker! otherfucker!" conclusions to his daylong preambles.

Playing at noon also taught Harry that those years smoking were in fact, as he suspected when he quit to hack up God knows what for weeks, not at all a good idea as well as the fact that his quads needed to do more now than merely hold a napkin.

One night, post-game found Harry opening the last of his boxes of boxes of boxes of books to put in the last available bookcase in the new house he had moved into. The pain in his legs forced him to lie on his side and ladle the last of the volumes onto the shelf, all rather soup-like. Unable to kneel as one would normally, Harry was momentarily grateful for the lapse in his Catholicism.

Mike was the copy chief at the magazine Harry now managed and on the noon hours when Harry played, Mike ran on the cinder track that for a portion, circled the soccer pitch. You never could tell how many people could get away to play so games were always whatever half of any even number of people that showed up against the other half with the odd player switching sides after goals. It was confusing but so was the day job at times and at least here they were all outside. Harry tried to enlist Mike into the game from time to time as he ran by alone. You could always tell it was Mike, a loping gait with arms that didn't so much pump as they swung forward. A motion that made Harry think of Mike as he ran by of an attorney serving endless writs to the poor clerks of his poor opposition.

"Here's our request of the witness list." "Here's our motion to suppress." "Here's our recall of evidence." "Here's my subpoena of your phone number. I don't suppose you'd be free for dinner once this is all over?"

Mike was never that attorney but he was Mike.

"Play a few with us, Mike?" Harry shouted to Mike as he ran by.

"Morally object to a game that forbids use of my hands." Mike answered and continued, leaving Harry in agreement for that was his initial issue with dating.

In summertime, Mike ran the track alone or with Lou and Jack. In wintertime when the track had first washed half away in autumn rains and then frozen solid into semi-permanent tank traps, Mike and Lou and Jack ran on the streets. Harry, heading out for lunch would either chance upon them, they talking the last breaths of the football season and leaving tracks that doubled back upon their out and back route in the fresh snow, or just come across their tracks again turning one hundred eighty degrees for the run back to the main office.

Soccer kept up for a little over a year as a regular pick up game. Then Harry began to notice that the teams kept shrinking. From the eighteen that showed up to play nine on nine to the ten for five on five to six for three on three to Harry and Andrew kicking a ball back and forth for forty five minutes. Then it ended entirely as the twenty somethings who thought this was a great benefit at their first job moved on to their second job to claim signing bonuses and a semi-office for a great benefit. It ended. Soccer ended as spontaneously as it had begun which was fine except that it left Harry standing at the edge of the track looking at an empty field one day as Mike ran by.

"I saw Jim from IT running the streets." Mike said. "You could pick up with him if you're interested. In fact, the two of you could tag along with us. We're not fast."

Neither was Harry...


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