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World Cup Madness

Categories: Creative Writing Prompts Tags: creative writing exercises, creative writing prompts, writing prompt.

You’re a soccer player on your national team at a World Cup soccer game. It’s an elimination game. The game has been intense and is tied 0-0. It comes down to the final play and the ball is yours. Do you make it? Miss and send to a shootout? Write this scene, but here’s the catch: There’s something on your mind that’s distracting you and must be incorporated into your thought process while trying to score the goal.

Get two weeks worth of writing prompts that will inspire you to write great stories.Post your response (500 words or fewer) in the comments below.

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545 Responses to World Cup Madness

  1. Tessybear says:

    We’ve got the ball. Asshole on the other team body-slammed Smith. Smith and Jones are kicking back and forth, testing the waters. Christ, these Russians are fierce. He got married so young, I know, and to a Russian of all people. Al and Anne next door are already calling us Communists. Smith kicks it back to our goalie. There’s less than two minutes left. Tick tock tick tock. The goalie kicks it to the other side of the field. Jackson heads it over to Adams, who dribbles it down the edge of the field. The Russians are aggressive. Ball gets kicked out of bounds. I don’t have time for this. Paul! Paul, I’m pregnant. I’m pregnant. Adams throws it to Jackson. Jackson passes to Andrews. Andrews dribbles down and passes to Smith. It’s going to be a girl. Hm…What should we name her? I side-step the Russian defender and run into a small opening. Pass to me! Got it. Dribble. A baby at only twenty-two; it’s sad, really. Closer, farther, closer. Pass to McAndrew. Glance at the crowd. There she is. She shouldn’t be here, she’s due any day. Anna. Let’s name her Anna. I stand in front of the goal, cutting off defenders. McAndrew is surrounded. Blanco provides an opening. McAndrew does a low pass to me, right at my feet. Time slows down. Screams, everyone screaming very loudly. I lightly kick the ball up, enough to give me some time for momentum. My foot makes contact with the ball. I see her. The ball goes closer to the goal. I see her with her mother’s eyes and my hair. It looks like it’s going in a straight line. She’s watching me next to the goal. It looks like the goalie’s going to block it. She’s excited, she’s waiting for me. The ball curves at the last second. She’s depending on me. It hits the net. She needs me. The crowd goes wild.

  2. celloaded says:

    This was it. It all boiled down to this moment. I could feel the eyes of every person in my country eagerly glued to their TV screens, already planning out my slow and painful death if I didn’t make this goal. The throbbing in my nose only intensified as I tried to pinpoint the angle I would need to shoot it at in order to avoid the multiple defenders running towards me. Regaining composure, I let my eyes shift to the right and saw an entire mass of red in the stadium, cheering me on and waving flags and banners in the air. The red reminded me of my broken nose, which was now bleeding profusely onto my raised arm. Time seemed to slow down as I lifted my foot back and aimed for the black and white ball in front of me. I felt my right foot make impact with the ball and I could swear I heard a collective inhale from the entire audience as it sailed through the air towards its destination. Suddenly, everything turned red.
    I started to panic, thinking my nose had quite literally reached its breaking point and maybe fallen off. Then, I realized that my blood couldn’t possible be weighing me down this much… and what was that screaming in my ear? Another wave of red pushed me downwards, and then I was drowning in it; it was everywhere. I felt myself being lifted upwards, and in my peripheral vision I saw a face emerge from the sea of red. I felt pats on my back, and some more red enveloped me in a giant bear hug. Only when a whistle blew twice in the distance did I realize that we won… we won! I rode the wave of red to my red coach, and my teammates set me down and I felt my face turn hot and red with joy – I did it! I had scored for my team… my country… and my semiconscious self grinned broadly at the thought. Suddenly, everything turned black.

  3. Augie says:

    ——-Just for fun———

    The worn out husband returns home after a five-week journey in literary battle. He pulls the emergency brake and signs. How would he explain to his wife his secret life? He enters his home taking in the smell of sweet perfume. “Honey, I’m home!”

    Her feet run across the upstairs wood floor. Deep in thought, he gazes at the grandfather clock. Its pendulum knocks back and forth echoing throughout the house. “Balance, I need balance.”

    His wife turns on the lights and rushes down stairs in her bathrobe. “Where have you been?”

    He body is silky with sweat and perfume, as she stands face to face with her husband.

    Its time, he thought. He removes his long coat revealing a blue skintight spandex uniform. A large red letter F glows on his chest. “Honey, I’m Super Fan.” He removes his patent leather utility belt and boots.

    Beads of sweat roll from her brow as she nervously sits, “Wa.. What?”

    “Yes honey. Last week I saved a child’s life. Poor kid was kidnapped and held hostage so the father wouldn’t score in the World Cup. It was a pretty graphic week full of gangsters and weird time travel.

    Then there was the waco that hung out in the women’s bathroom stalls. Real nut case that one!

    But ohh, let me tell you about the damn zombies in the school! Probably the most grueling thing I have ever witnessed!

    His wife nervously looks up the staircase, “Uhh huh, go on.”

    Well, I stopped a bunch of kids getting electrocuted in a spelling bee and then I saved our neighbors life. If he didn’t owe me a hundred bucks, I probably would have let him jump!

    His wife shakes nervously, “Are you talking about David?”

    Super Fan detects something is wrong. He hears someone moving around up stairs.

    Then a mans voice shouts from the top of the stairs, “ Jenny, you coming back up? I’m awful lonely up here!”

    Super Fan shouts, “What? Is that David’s voice I hear up there?”

    His wife held his hand, “Super Fan, you missed one. I made a Tough Decision while you were away!”

  4. Edy says:

    I was already upset about the game. Things wasn’t going as plan and we was still tie 0-0. The timeout alarm sound and I ran off the field throwing my towel at the lockers.

    “Damn can things getting worse.” I said to myself and the rest of my teammates entered into the lockers. “We have to get the upper hand.” I scream at them.

    “Dress.” Maria scream inside the locker room. Maria has been our coach way before I enter the picture. She was good, but like the discipline the girls needed.

    “Yes.” I match her tone. I didn’t like this one bit and I was going to let her know this. The girls was not playing at there best and needed to puts some points on the board.

    “Girls, I want to introduce you to one of our supports Mr. Frank Bellman.” Maria began. I didn’t even look up from my seat. Not another support who thinks they know all about the game and the way it should be ran. Damn, I put my face in my hands and shook my head.

    “This is our capital…” Is all I can hear Maria say before I seen this goddess of a man standing before me. His beard was cut short, full and well tame. He had on a three piece suit that flatter his well built body. I can barely utter my own name as Maria continued to introduce him to the rest of the team.

    “Have a great game girls.” He uttered, flashing his perfect white teeth and gorgeous smile. It made me weak in my knees. Then he walked out. As we ran back on the field, I seen him conversing with Maria. I watched him closely, running into one of my teammates, causing a chain reaction.

    “Damn Patterson, what the fuck.” She said. I pull her up wondering if he seen me or not. The alarm sounded for the second half of the game. I couldn’t focus, I ran down the field looking his direction.

    “Patterson, pay attention.” One of my teammates yelled. Damn what has he done to me, I didn’t even get a chance to say hi, but I wanted him. I wanted him in my arms, I wanted him in my bed.

    “Patterson.” Someone yelled, before the ball hit me right in the face. I came back to focus, looking into his grey eyes. “Are you ok?” He smiled.

    We have been marriage for two years and I can’t get enough of those grey eyes and gorgeous smiled.

  5. k.spicer says:

    “Get up Brewinski, so we can finish you off.” The voice was Russian and very familiar. I released the grip I had on my swollen shin and tried my best to focus on the voice that was speaking to me. It was Boris Volkov, my old teammate and captain of the Russian squad. I blinked my eyes into focus and saw the tall muscular figure that was taunting me. “Get up and meet your traitor’s fate.”
    It’s been only a year since my defection and the raw feeling are obviously still festering. I expected as much from Boris Volkov; what else would you expect from a person whose name means “wolf”, but the others? Anyone of them would have jumped at the chance to defect had they had an ounce of courage in their despicable bodies.
    Looking around at the shamed faces of my old teammates I realized that it wasn’t their fault, they’re in a very difficult position; I felt pity for them. They have to think of their families back home. I glanced over at my old friend, Ivanov, and rubber my swollen right eye that was still throbbing after meeting with his left elbow. He turned away with a shameful glance. I got the same response from, Utkin, my old roommate when I stared at him and wiped the blood away that flowed from my nose. They couldn’t even look me in the eye; except for Boris of course, he took pleasure in all of this. I guess that’s why they made him captain, to keep all the other sheep in line.
    I knew at that moment that I had to win this match. Somehow I found the strength to stand and as I did the fans in the stadium erupted in mass applause causing Boris to momentarily lose control of his hardened expression, and for a brief moment I could see fear in his eyes as the crowd denounced his brutal attacks with their cheers. I could feel strength returning to my wobbly legs as if the roar of the crowd somehow energized me. Boris looked back at me and I could see his hardened shell stiffening as if he were willing pain and torment on me.
    I ran toward the center of the field pulling off my USA jersey. The crowd went silent as they watched. Then when I stood motionless in the center I held the jersey high above my head and began waving it as one would proudly wave their nations flag. The crowd stood to its feet in wild applause as I turned around in the center of the field wielding my newly found freedom.
    When I turned around and pulled the shirt back over my head I faced Boris Volkov and defiantly wiped the streaming blood from my nose once again. At that moment I realized for the first time that it didn’t matter if I won or lost this match, I had already won…I was free!

    • Reaper says:

      Very nice. S strong story with a powerful message. You did have some tense shifts in there but that was the only error I noticed.

      • k.spicer says:

        Yea, thanks. There were a couple other mistakes as well but I wrote it pretty quick. Some times I just have fun writing these prompts. I did one the other week on the pirate treasure. I enjoyed that one.

  6. girl-in-progress says:

    This will be my first time posting here. So any constructive criticisms will be much appreciated! :) Enjoy!

    ***
    Tick tock. Tick tock. Twenty seconds remaining and the game will come to a draw if nobody goals. The score: 0-0. I was running clear as the black and white orb rolled viciously to me — almost knocking my padded knees. Oh gosh, now the fans went wild, almost looking like an angry bear ready to devour anything blocking his sight. And the ball, oh, looked as if it’s begging to be kicked…by me. I knew that I was now in full control. “This is it amigos! I have to strike while the iron is hot.”

    Everybody felt silent. Or did I just drown their chanting? I don’t know, but, all I know is Lustro, our opponent’s goalkeeper, knows no bounds. This game is currently between us two. Come hell or high water, we’ll goal.

    As I was dribbling the ball, blocking every intervention made by England’s midfielder, I remembered something I was supposed to do but didn’t. You see, Brasil’s weather was not cooperating today; it is an über hot afternoon so I have to keep hydrated. I drank almost five bottles of water when we were still on the holding room doing warm-ups and another three when we were making our way to the stadium. Also, I took a few sips, no, guzzles when the game’s about to start. I forgot to take a quick trip to the bathroom. No! I shouldn’t be thinking about this now.

    The ball almost disappeared from my view. “Oops, nice try, Gustavo, but this is MY BALL, MY GOAL.” Again, I was balancing our hope, swiveling it carefully against these hungry men while positioning myself to make a goal. Then, it started dripping – the thing that I dreaded the most came, first in trickles then in power surges. I can almost feel the back of my shorts leaking. Now’s the time to use my grandfather’s nappies…
    “Do I need to say goodbye to my hard-earned career as a footballer? Well, not this time, not in this situation. This is too embarrassing!”
    I can now imagine the headlines that will make history:

    FOOTBALLER SURELY KNOWS HOW TO GOAL, PEES IN HIS PANTS

    What to do? Five more seconds and the game’s over. I cannot make a scene here. “Get your head in the game, man!”

    4…3…then as if it was on autopilot (or was it adrenaline rush?) my foot rose and forcefully slammed the soccer ball amidst the sloppy Johns, past the quick Lustro and finally, into the net.

    GOOOOOOOOOAL!!!

    Our supporters immediately rose from their seats and started making all these much-deserved noises. My teammates were all over me as I was sandwiched into a tight congratulatory embrace. I, on the other hand, was literally crying as I tried my best to be freed from them. As soon as I’m free, I ran as fast as I could towards the bathroom, my teammates looking over me, confused. I was wrong. I sure know how to make a scene.

    ###

    • Jay says:

      There are a quite a few mechanical errors, but the story you told is a good fun one. :D Just some quick thoughts, though. You did a really good job giving the main character his own voice. You should avoid passive voice when at all possible because you want to keep the reader in the action even when the story is past tense. Speaking of tense, make sure you keep the tense throughout. I noticed at some spots you went present tense and then back to past tense.

      I liked this, it made me smile: “the sloppy Johns” :)

      The best advice you could ever get though: practice and read tons. Study what the good writers are doing with their prose and learn from it. Find a scene you really like and try to rewrite it, but in your own voice with your own descriptions. Use their techniques to hone your skills, and you’ll get better in no time.

      You don’t have to have perfect grammar and punctuation because, well, writing is an art, but you do have to have a really good grasp of it so you can use mistakes as a style rather than an actual mistake.

      Study the masters, learn from them, and you’ll do just fine. Good job, and keep posting every week! :D

      • sjmca1966 says:

        I agree with Jay’s comments. I loved the concept so i hope you don’t mind that I’ve re-told your story. I’ve tried to keep as faithful to the original as my warped mind will allow :)

        Tick-tock. Tick-tock. Twenty seconds remaining to break the deadlock. Nil all and I was running clear as the black and white orb rolled viciously towards me.

        The fans were going wild, looking like an angry bear ready to devour all that blocked their sight.

        The ball was begging to be kicked, I was in full control, “This is it amigos! I have to strike while the iron is hot!”

        The stadium fell silent, at least I think it did. Lustro, the opposition goalkeeper knew no boundaries and it was down to him and me. ‘Come hell or high water, we’ll score.’

        As I dribbled the ball and blocked all intervention from the English midfielder, the five liters of water I’d drunk at our hotel, not to mention the three I’d consumed in transit to the game, began to have an affect. I’d overdone it in an attempt to stay hydrated in Brazil’s uber-hot climate and I was regretting not visiting the bathroom before we took the field. ‘No, no, no! Not now!’

        My bladder was taking over my body and I was losing focus of the ball. “Oops! Nice try Gustavo! But that’s my ball and this is my goal.” is all I could hear as I swiveled to meet the ravenous opposition. That’s when it started, a dribble at first. ‘Oh Grandpa lend me your diapers!’

        I was in a dilemma. Do I kick for goal and lose all control of my faculties or whimper like a coward just to save my dignity? There was now more than a dribble in my pants. ‘Surely no one would notice a little extra moisture, combined with all the hard earned sweat’.

        As I took the shot I could see the headlines – Gustavo scores with piss-poor effort!

        As the ball hit the back of the net, my relief was immense, ‘Oh the relief!’

        “GOOOOOOOOOAAAAAAAAALLLLLLLLLL!

        In the stands my countrymen rose as one, on the field my team-mates engulfed me sending me to the ground writhing in pure ecstasy, ‘Ah the pleasure!’

        In all the adrenalin fueled emotion, no one had noticed. ‘Phew!’ I could enjoy the moment and accept the accolades in my urine soaked shorts. You have to love the game!

        • girl-in-progress says:

          Why thank you sjmca1966! Absolutely, I’ll allow your warped mind to do some magic. :D I was actually quite flattered that you’ve retold my story. You sure made it more hilarious! Nice one!

      • girl-in-progress says:

        Thanks for such wise words Jay. I really appreciate it. Yes, I’m guilty as charged from using the passive voice and from not being consistent with my tenses.  I tried to beat my timer here — thirty minutes, 400+ words. Hahaha… Glad you liked the MC’s voice though. And the ‘sloppy Johns’, I thought no one would get that. Don’t worry I’ll try posting more!

    • Reaper says:

      First, welcome to the prompts and please keep posting because there is passion and talent here. Jay covered a lot of what I would, the tense shifts primary amongst them. The story is very interesting because it is really believable. Your style is very attractive as it pulls in visually and with metaphor. Three minor things I would suggest in addition are… Try to avoid numbers and spell them out unless they are large numbers or there is a specific style reason you are using them. Try to avoid caps when an exclamation point will do. The Goal, and the story headline worked well for capitals, the my ball, my goal could have been accomplished with a an exclamation point. Last is that your use of metaphor is good but I would avoid comparison. You take power from the comparison when you make it one. Instead of an founds like an angry bear ready to devour I suggest, the fans going wild, an angry bear ready to devour. This was a good story and you have a lot of talent. Also as much as I agree to read a lot and learn from it be careful of that as well. You have a unique voice and want to keep it.

  7. sjmca1966 says:

    Thought I’d take a different approach from my first effort, hanging out for next prompt.
    All a fantastic learning curve in editing, to keep at 500 words.

    The Beautiful Game:

    She had the most amazing bongo’s I’d ever seen. But the artwork on her miniature drums paled in comparison to her beauty.

    I was used to seeing myself on the big-screen when I ran out on the pitch. I was not, however, used to seeing anyone as beautiful as the woman in the front row that the cameraman had wisely focused on behind me.

    She had the Brazilian flag painted on her left cheek and my countries flag on her right. There was no doubt who she was supporting in our clash against Italy.

    I wasn’t a ‘sly-look’ type of guy, but I had to see the woman who’d stolen the suns setting rays. As I turned for a firsthand glimpse, Charlie passed me a warm-up ball. I trod straight on top of it, my face then hit the turf.

    “Oi! Dickhead!” yelled Charlie, as I regained my feet as quickly as possible.

    ‘Nice move Dufus’ I thought to myself, I could see in my periphery that she was laughing at me with her friends.

    From the opposite side of the field, I’d surprisingly held my own. No one expected a nil all score at half time, the Italians were expected to put away at least five goals against us.

    In the second half ,every stoppage of play had me sneaking a peek at her.

    It took all my will-power to block her from my mind. With injury time almost up, neither team had scored. One goal and we make the second round for the first time ever, the ball landed at my feet. ‘Maybe one last chance to impress her with my dazzling footwork. No! Don’t be greedy, Charlies wide open.’ Dufus did the right thing, sending the ball hurtling towards the far post of the Italian goal. Not a perfect cross, but good enough. The six-foot-four inch Charlie Green latched onto it and headed home the winner.

    When the team celebrations had died down, I noticed a young boy not more than fifteen seats along from her. He was thrusting my countries flag towards me. I accepted the flag and insisted he write his phone number on it so I could repay him in the future. In the euphoria of the moment, I ran towards and then stopped to ask for her flag. I demanded her phone number too, as she graciously handed the flag over.
    Heading back towards my team mates, I knotted two corners of each flag together and slipped the impromptu attire over my head.

    “Papa, I love it when you tell the story of how you met Mama,” said three year old Genevieve, as she looked up with eyes that miraculously eclipsed her Mothers in beauty, “Mama tell me again your way of how you met Papa.”

    Maria had her her thumb outstretched as she poked her head out from behind the canvass, “I like your Fathers version better my sweetheart.”

    • jhowe says:

      That was a very good story. Your style seems so effortless and natural. Nice job on this one.

    • jmcody says:

      Now that’s romance! (Aside from the bongos remark…)

      Your writing is very smooth and a pleasure to read. I agree with Jhowe that it flows effortlessly.

      • sjmca1966 says:

        Thought process-about forty-eight hours. Writing time-about forty-five minutes. Editing-about three hours.
        J & J’s feedback-Priceless.
        :)

        • Jay says:

          Man, maybe I should spend more time on thought process. lol I spend maybe 10 minutes on plot, twists, characters, setting, etc… and about fifteen minutes writing it. I’d probably do a lot better with my stories. >.<

          By the way, sjmca1966, well done!

          Sincerely, another 'J'.

          • sjmca1966 says:

            First of all Jay, I hope you realize how immeasureable your contribution to this forum is as a published author! I’m glad you enjoyed my little piece and I’m in awe that someone of your stature may actually have learnt something from myself.
            I must admit I have not read any of your published work, YET! But as a pimply faced teen, Stephen King almost had me with ‘Carrie’ blew me away with ‘Christine’ and I was incaptured by the time I read ‘Stand By Me’. I get the feeling from your website that we may be on the same page-so to speak.
            Once again thank you and I look forward to reading your work.
            Sincerly S.J.

      • sjmca1966 says:

        Hehe! Sorry about the bongo’s, but I was inspired by watching Brazil’s third game, where the cameras focused on a beautiful woman holding a pair. So glad you enjoyed, as I’m trying to diversify in my writing and I’m finding this forum immensly rewarding. :)

      • sjmca1966 says:

        Oops! Dufus’s reply to you ended up down below somehow!

    • derrdevil says:

      Make that: J, J & J, haha!! Sorry to spoil the ‘J’ show, but I have to butt in here. This was lovely, sjmca. A sweet turnaround at the end. Thought shows really nicely in the prompts.

      • Kerry Charlton says:

        J, J, & J & D and now KC. You are a beautiful naural, sjmca. Your writing spills on the screen like warm honey. I can’t add much to those before me but your talent is a pleasure to witness. The bongo’s are a wonderfu touch to the story, no need to worry about them. At least they both come in pairs. For me, I call them, ‘you knows,’

        You let the secret out about dynamite writing, rewrite, rewrite, rewrite.

  8. Shalden says:

    “I am Felipe Juan Gonzalez” he says out loud as he stops the soccer ball and himself out of a dead run. The defender takes two extra stumbling steps, a fatal mistake. Spinning to his left he passes the ball behind his left foot as he encircles the defender. Felipe’s right heel shoots it straight toward his teammate Brian Watters left foot, the sweet spot …Brian, a seasoned player who has 8+ years under his belt, had been in this position numerous times and instinctively sees what it is Juan wants; he taps it up toward the backside of the defenders shoulders, just out of the goalies reach it spins toward the gap. Just twenty feet from the goal Felipe passed the last of the defenders on his outside shoulder. Now he is just 15 feet from goalie himself as he leaps right at him before he reaches the goalie’s line… His foot lifts just 6 inches above the turf as the roar of the crowd spreads to a deafening crescendo. His mind goes blank… He’s not in the air….He… He sees his daughter when she was just 3 years old kneeling right there before him in a beautifully glowing angelic white gown … He could vaguely remember where he really was in reality let alone what he was doing in the here and now. His heart broke again as he pictured the horrid last time he saw his darling Emily. Her lifeless body lied there cradled in his arms as he brushed the hair and leaves from her face while he stood along the riverside… Yet, here she was… A stinging tear mixed with sweat and broke him away from his reverie as the ball was just two feet from his forehead. Having not even a half of a blink of an eye to make a decision his eyes noticed the rotation, velocity and trajectory of the ball with unnatural mathematical precision…. He struck!!! “Emily!!!!!!” His bellowing scream pierces the cacophony of sounds around him as his head punches at the ball with his neck whipping around to hit it toward the upper corner of the goal…. I don’t know if it was the boldness of the act or the sound of him yelling Emily or destiny itself that heard his call but whatever it was it startled the famous goalie Franz Keplochecht and stopped him from reaching the ball, it was all Felipe needed. The ball spun viciously toward the back of the goal as he and Franz met with a horrendous clash…He didn’t come around until 3 hours later finding himself in the E.R at the hospital…

  9. Augie says:

    For Josie Cat….

    I remember the hour
    Our tears flow sour

    As we said, ‘goodbye’

    Crying in frustration
    Our loss of gestation

    Emptiness wonders why

    I have to continue
    It’s just what’s in you

    Another game, another day

    The score is tied
    Running I cried

    “This is for Johnny,” I Say!

    The crowd goes wild
    As I see my child

    Smiling with his mothers gleam

    The voice of my son
    Says, “Dad you won”

    I’m embraced by my team.

    We win the game
    But all the fame

    Goes to Johnny, my son…..

  10. Critique says:

    The game was in overtime. The score: 0-0.

    Sweat ran down Anton’s forehead and into his eyes making them sting. His intense focus never wavered from the play at the end of the soccer field.

    Mikhail his offensive teammate bicycle-kicked the soccer ball towards the opponents net and the spectators were on their feet with a roar. The goalie intercepted the ball and kicked it sideways to his midfielder.

    Anton loathed the noisy crowd and tuned them out. He couldn’t shut his mind off so easily. Win or lose the game – didn’t matter – his life as he knew it would be over.

    Coach Viktor Pashkov had made that crystal clear last night when he cornered Anton alone in the hotel room.

    “You try anything stupid Anton and you’re finished.” Viktor’s lean pock-marked face loomed close and a strong hand gripped Anton’s throat painfully. “You hear me?”

    Impotent rage and fear warred in Anton’s chest. He loathed Viktor and the stranglehold he had on some of the guys in his team. He stared silently back into the man’s glittering black eyes.

    He thought of his friend and teammate’s suicide two months ago and the team members that struggled with depression.

    It had to stop.

    Anton slept poorly. By morning his mind was made up.

    The thing with games is no one can accurately predict the outcome. It must be played out. Every second into overtime tightened the nervous tension in Anton’s stomach. As team captain he was determined to come through for his guys.

    Mikhail kicked the ball and it sailed diagonally across the field straight to Anton.

    Anton was on it. Dancing the ball back and forth with his feet he waited precious seconds before
    expertly dodging the opposing defensemen charging him. Then with one lethal kick the ball (Anton envisioned Viktor’s head) sailed dead straight through the goal posts.

    Pandemonium broke loose.

    The game was over.

    Mikhail raced over, grabbed Anton in an exuberant hug and swung him around. His teammates crowded around hugging and slapping each other on the back and cheering.

    Media people approached and the team opened up to allow access to Anton and then closed ranks.

    Anton glanced around to see Viktor futilely trying to push his way through the tight knot of teammates.

    “It’s time.” Anton said.

    “Yeah man. Let’s do this.” Mikhail said.

  11. SuzieWritres says:

    What was making his hands quiver? The percussion made by the throng of shouting fans? The adrenaline pumping like mercury in his veins? He never thought they’d come this close to winning. And he sure as hell never thought it would all come down to him. His teammates were in position, and he knew he could do this, win for his team, his country. Knew it like he knew his children’s names. But with the winning goal in his sights, he felt rooted to the pitch, knowing a win was not his to have. Not with so much at stake.

    He could feel their eyes upon him like lasers. It was uncanny how they must have anticipated this decisive moment. Fuckers probably hoped for it. He could hear again the heavy Russian voice yelling from the pock-marked face inches from his own, “Make goal, nevar see your famooly again.”

    His wife, five-year-old son, and three-year-old daughter had flown in two days ago to surprise him, to bolster him for the match no soccer expert of fan had anticipated, yet was upon them. As they’d left the restaurant late yesterday afternoon, he’d spotted the unmarked car along the opposite curb and assumed it was his personal undercover protection attachment assigned him and his family by the league. He’d grown accustomed to them over the weeks, so his suspicion was never aroused.

    Seconds later, as his children climbed into the stretch limo, the sedan pulled a 360 in the middle of the busy road and pulled parallel the limo, facing the opposite direction. Two masked thugs leapt out of the sedan carrying absurdly large guns and grabbed him, each by an arm. They shuffled him into the back of the sedan while over his shoulder he watched two similarly clad, arms-bearing hulks manhandle his wife into the back of the limo. The sedan lunged forward and sped away. He had another brief glimpse in the rear-view mirror, before a blindfold was tied around his head, of the limo speeding away in the opposite direction.

    He spent the next two hours in an overly ornate, smoke filled hotel suite being verbally assaulted by Armani-suited, Gucci loafered thugs. A full 110 minutes of which was wasted, since he got their message in the first ten minutes: “Mericans not big heroes. Loose the game, you family will live.”

    Now, less than twenty-four hours later, wasting precious milliseconds deliberating over a choice that was already made, he raised his hand to signal and inadvertently blocked the sunlight from his view. Wait. He caught rapid movement along the sidelines only yards away. Unbelievably, there was his family running, waving, yelling, flanked by a small army of what must be security and police personnel, all giving him the thumbs up sign. His instincts took over. He passed the ball, faked a sprint to the left, corrected and got in position, opposite where the goalie had anticipated him. He kicked the ball in and won his family back.

  12. Jay says:

    Reaper, I took the liberty of doing Part V, and now it’s up to you to decide how you want to end it. I took some liberties with the direction, but I hope I left it open enough for you to do whatever it is you wanted to do to Sammy. It is, after all, your story. :) For everyone else, if you haven’t done so, read the previous version on this page. Part I – Reaper, Part II – Jay, Part III – Reaper, and Part IV – BilboBaggins.

    My Participation Trophy V

    Three years of murder. Three years of turning the world into my own personal playground of mayhem and revenge.

    When I reached the toilet, I slammed the lid into the upright position with a loud clatter and dropped to my knees. The back of my tongue felt heavy, and my gut twisted. The vomit tunneled through me and splattered hard into the porcelain bowl. The smell of bile and food sickened me, causing me to further eject the contents of my stomach.

    Eventually my involuntary purge forced me to retch dry heaves of nothing into the air. The sour smell of vinegar and acid filled the air, and I quickly closed the lid of the toilet. I laid my head on the covering, and the cold felt good against my clammy skin. I wanted to close my eyes, but I knew what I would see, I knew the kind of nightmares I would have.

    I blinked the tears from my eyes, stood, and took a deep breath. The air felt cool against the back of throat, which was raw and irritated. I left the bathroom, and glanced back at it as a soft retch begged me to go back in there.

    Near the door there was some caution tape dangling next to a wall full of graffiti. The office building had closed some time ago. Apparently they found some crazy asshole carving up a young woman and trying to flush her parts down the toilets. After that, they shut down the building, which allowed me to use it unhindered to do what needed to be done.

    When I entered a nearby office, the small flashlight sitting upon the abandoned desk illuminated a scared and helpless Sammy. His red hair was plastered against his slimy skin, and his once white shirt was now mottled with dark brown splotches from that same disgusting fluid escaping his pores. His grossly large belly jutted from between the duct tape that held him to the chair at both his shoulders and his waist.

    I’d finally arrived at a crossroad, and I needed to finally make a decision. In three years I killed four women—his sister and trophy wife included, twelve men—all of which were tortured until they begged for death, and his son.

    That last one was what made me so sick. That poor boy didn’t deserve to suffer for the sins of his father. Sammy himself once told me that, even. I didn’t care, though. For so long I’d convinced myself that everything I did up to that point was with righteous vengeance. My daughter and my lovely wife were both killed by a man that knew no boundaries. But… what did I do? What carnage did I leave in the wake of all this madness to find only a glint of hope that I may indulge in fleeting future satisfaction?

    We watched each other for a long time, and I finally moved to pick up a knife sitting on the table. I looked at the reflection of the stranger in the blade’s polished surface, and then looked up at Sammy. He shook his head no, and I finally broke the silence between us.

    • Reaper says:

      Nice reference to the bathroom there Jay. Very nice twist to it. I will write up where my mind has been on this soon, though I may have to post it on the next prompt due to where life is right now. I don’t know that I can claim this as my story anymore, definitely not completely after the intensity Bilbo and you have added to it. I like the continuing evolution of the voice that has occurred and your flowed naturally from Bilbo’s post. Very nice.

    • jmcody says:

      I got a kick out of how you worked in last week’s psychotic bathroom incident as told by Reaper. (I did not post last week but did manage to read a few of my favorite authors.). I also appreciated how you wove in Reaper’s earlier reference to Sammy’s position that the son should not have to pay for the sins of the father, but then your MC crossed even that uncrossable line.

      So this is interesting… You set the final shot up for Reaper, but now Reaper feels the ball is no longer his to own. Reaper, I think you have the mastery to… Sink that putt, score that touchdown, or whatever sport it is that we are now watching. ;) Sorry, I am having a little too much vicarious fun with this.

      Nice setup, Jay, and excellent teamwork

    • Critique says:

      Wow this is chilling. Sounds a bit like a mix of The Mentalist/Dexter. Your writing was so good I wanted to break the silence with my own scream.

  13. …the author also known as Marc Ellis.

    I was sorry to miss you all last week. It’s been busy. Thought I’d start using an alias like some of you. My post is nice and short this time.

    “Jingle Bells. Jingle Bells. Jingle all the….” What the hell am I doing? I rolled over. The grass was cool and damp on my hands and knees. Two men were lifting the guy lying next to me to their shoulders. He was saying, “Yo soy Batman. Yo soy Batman.” His teammates exchanged a concerned look and nodded in feign agreement. They moved quickly off the field.

    I fought to get to my feet. I winced under the blazing stadium lights. That’s right…We’re in the middle of the game. A quick glance at the scoreboard revealed a tied score of 0-0. Coach and a referee were now at my side. The ringing in my ears muffled their words. “I’m OK,” I said and waved them away. I lied.

    I heard every footstep drum inside my head as I took my place on the field. I struggled to see over the crushing pain between my temples. I squinted through small flashes of light and growing shadows around the periphery.

    I wasn’t going to miss this. A chance to play in the World Cup was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. An elimination game wasn’t the time to be weak. My tongue was numb. Cactus needles pricked my toes and fingers. Oh crap. I’m going to puke. I took a few deep breaths but couldn’t hold back the acrid flow. A referee blew his whistle, and the ball was in play.

    I was living the dream and surviving every excruciating second. Head throbbing and vision blurred, I spent myself supporting my team. I was determined to feed the ball to my teammates at every safe opportunity. I would be blessed with an assist, yet fate or destiny placed the ball at my feet in the final seconds. My left cleat tore into the field as the ball curved around my right with a perfectly placed blow. I plunged backward with the follow through of my kick. Shock and amazement was on every face–those of my team and our opponents. Blackness.

  14. Josie cat says:

    I hear the crowd cheering
    I hear the crowd jeering
    Overwhelmed by joy.

    Sweat running across our faces
    All wanting our moment of glory.
    Scores all tied, It is my moment of glory.
    My moment,
    My moment to shine!

    As I watch my fellow players
    My mind drifts into an abyss,

    I am tiny,
    I am nothing,
    I have nothing to fear.
    Pressure high, arms are tied
    Ball between my small feet.

    I kick,
    I miss,

    But no one cares. This is the first,
    The first of many.

    I reel myself back in
    Back to the present

    I kick,
    Ball soars through the air,

    I hear the crowd cheering
    I hear the crowd jeering
    Overwhelmed by joy.

  15. JR Buchanan says:

    USA 1 and Ivory Coast 0
    By JR Buchanan

    Her name was Audrey, she had the most beautiful spirit even with her heart condition. The doctors said she needed a new heart, but the irony was that she had the best heart in the world. She was our mascot and we rallied behind her dad once we found out she only had weeks to live. I had no clue how he was able to play with such a heavy weight on his own heart. The family had spared no expense from what little they had to try and save her life, but alas in the world we live in money makes the world go round, which our little country of Ivory Coast had little of. Still he played his heart out for her, and we joined him. We played with greatness, upsetting great power house teams such as Germany, Holland and now the only team in our way is USA.
    Audrey was the most excited at our success, to her we were supposed to be here and she begged her mother to buy a betting ticket, she thought that this win would be her way to a new heart. Her mother, wanting to give her every last wish, obliged and purchased a ticket for it to be Ivory Coast 1 USA 0. Audrey showed it to me prior to the game, and I whispered for her not to show it to anyone else out of good luck.

    Our offense was a combination of will, skill and luck, our defense was unmatched and her father, our goalie was determined to let no goal score. Each moment he saved goals and made astonishing plays to keep us alive in this World Cup final. Then a blow came our way, he was injured on a save that left his ankle severely sprained, we were devastated but rallied around our second string goalie to help lead us into a shootout situation. Now here we stand in the finals 0-0, and it comes down to the ultimate play in soccer, two men, a ball and a net. USA was up first, and although we prayed that our goalie could pull us through, the sound of the net, the cheers of the crowd, and the chants of USA was a kick to the stomach as the score board didn’t read in our favor. Hope was still with us, I was up next, the best shootout kicker on the team, touted as the best in the world. I squared myself up and planned my point of attack, looked in the goalies eyes, and started my decent onto the ball. My steps quickened as I got closer, I knew exactly where I was going to send it, and it went right there, over the goal net and into the stands. The chants erupted in the stadium, USA had won and our little country lost.

    When we returned to the locker room, sad faces filled the air, and Audrey’s dad tapped me on the back, giving me comfort to the feeling that we lost it all, unmatched to his feeling that he is losing something more than this game.

    Audrey and his wife ran into the locker room, both bursting with joy. Everyone looked at her like she was crazy. His wife explained in tears, she had purchased a betting ticket hoping that we would win. However at the end of the game, she was shocked that her poor English had gotten the best of her, she had purchased a ticket USA 1 and Ivory Coast 0.

    • jhowe says:

      Cool concept. You told this story well.

    • snuzcook says:

      Masterful use of the secret that the narrator knew but kept to himself to the unexpected punchline of the story. The use of past-tense at the beginning strengthens the idea that Abby did not survive to the telling of the tale and neatly misdirects the reader, but anything else would have spoiled the ending.
      I enjoyed it!

    • Reaper says:

      Very touching story. A very nice way to end it and a valid reason for your MC to throw the game. A little heavy on the use of the word heart in the opening paragraph, though I got the feeling that might be intentional.

      • JR Buchanan says:

        Thanks Reaper,

        I agree I overused the word ‘heart’ in the opening, it wasn’t intentional, but I’ll do a rewrite and see how it flows. Less is always better in my opinion. Thanks again.

        • Jay says:

          JR, first of all, nice story. I really liked it. Second, I can’t stand using more than one of the same description words within like 5 paragraphs of each other, unless I don’t have a choice or my thesaurus says I’m running out of words to use, haha.

          • k.spicer says:

            I have to agree about the “heart”. The first one could simply be dropped and use only the word “condition”. The next sentence explains what the condition was, which is where “heart was used correctly. The third use of “heart” could have simply been “the biggest one” or “the best one” or something of that nature. That would have broken the over usage up and made it flow a little better. But other than that, nice story.

  16. Josie cat says:

    I hear the crowd cheering,
    I hear the crowd jeering,
    Overwhelmed by joy.

    Sweat running across our faces
    All wanting Our moment of glory.
    Scores all tied, It is my moment of Glory.
    My moment,
    My moment to shine!

    As I watch my fellow players
    My mind drifts into an abyss,

    I am tiny,
    I am nothing,
    I have nothing to fear.

    Pressure high, arms are tied,
    Ball between my small feet.

    I kick,
    I miss,

    But no one cares. This is the first,
    The first of many

    I reel myself back in,
    Back to the present

    I kick,
    Ball soars through the air.

    I hear the crowd cheering,
    I hear the crowd jeering,
    Overwhelmed by joy.

    Josie cat

  17. rosmid says:

    GOAL
    The ball went off sides and Coach called a time out. We ran back to the sides.
    Coach gave the usual speech. He told us that he believed in the game and he believed in the team. “Now, if you believe in the game, the game will set you free” he said. His moustache twitched with an excited energy. And why wouldn’t it be? This was the World Cup. Fans with painted bodies and drunken eyes shouted and screamed and played instruments. It was enough to make me smile. Two things kept me from grinning: the game, of course, and her. Always her. Especially the last few months, I had been thinking of her. I prayed this night would come so that we could finally be done with this football business. I love football, but she, she is my sun, my moon, my everything. Without her I am just a castle made of sand.
    Coach explained the play. We had about fifteen seconds to score or we would go into overtime. He pointed at me and said, “Roberto, you’re our top offensive player. It’s all on you.”
    I sighed and rubbed my knees. My mind was already stretched to the breaking point. And now the World Cup rests on my shoulders? I grunted, wiped the sweat out of my eyes and looked at the field. I gazed upon the green ground as a hunter, surveying my prey before I made the kill. The other team was huddled around. They wore bright garish yellow to our regal purple. “It makes them look like canaries” said Raul, the thick goalie with the broken teeth and wizened eyes.
    We broke out of the huddle and took the field again. The crowd roared again and I felt it swell and crash against my ears like a tidal wave. Everywhere there was lights and sound and music. I focused on the feet in front of me. Focus on the ball, and all you can do is win.
    The game started in earnest. The ball moved like a pale grasshopper, bounding between feet and spanning great distances. In the distance I could hear the withheld breath of the crowd, the tension building in the air. The ball was passed to me. I dodged one player, dodged another, ran at the goalie and, with a tap of my foot, sent the ball flying.
    I don’t remember it going in. I don’t remember the scream, that great beast of emotion roaring in the throats of thousands of people. I don’t remember my teammates coming up to congratulate me.
    All I remember thinking was, He’s here.
    I ran. I ran as fast as I could. Out of the stadium, out of the city, into the hospital, to the top floor. And there she was, waiting for me with my child in her arms.
    “His name is Raul” she said. I picked up my child and kissed him.
    If you focus on what you love, all you can do is win

  18. snuzcook says:

    GOALS (373 wds)

    It was down to the wire. ‘Junior,’ in Brazil’s colors, was in my right peripheral. His feet barely touched the ground as he evaded obstacles to left, right and center. The ball skipped ahead of him as if it were attached by an elastic cable, fully in his control. My legs were longer, but I could not get it away, he was that good.
    But then, he had been born to it, the prodigy. He was performing a dance, a song, not an offensive play. When he controlled the ball, the entire field was his orchestra.

    I had come to the sport later in life. It was an avocation, but not a calling. I was good for a guy nearing the end of my career, and I had a lot to be proud of. But watching Junior was mesmerizing.

    Our goalie was posturing. I could tell he was tired, despite his quick moves to anticipate the ball’s trajectory. If Junior could get a good shot off, it would probably go in.

    Junior tried to feint but I stayed on him like a wooly blanket, shadowing from the side, the front, trying to tease away enough margin for a deflection. Then I had him. He slowed; it gave me some distance and I stepped into the gap. I had the ball. I looked up field to see my options. I nudged to direct the ball, but I nudged empty air.

    Junior materialized behind me with the ball back in his own control. By the time I turned, the ball was already bulleting into the gap left by the goalie’s split second of inattention—the distraction that I myself had created when I stole the ball.

    Goal made. Game over. ‘Junior’ had made the play.

    The fans were wild. The team members gathered in the field. The goalie slipped off his head gear, put out his hand to ‘Junior.’

    He mussed ‘Junior’s hair. “Nice play, little brother. You got me.”

    “Dad, did you see that? I really faked you out, didn’t I?”

    “You sure did.” I bent down and embraced my son, the nine-year-old prodigy, the artist, the musician. A tear threatened the corner of my eye. That always happened when I watched my son play.

  19. Jay says:

    This one’s for jmcody! I’ve never read, written, or even sniffed a romantic comedy, but I couldn’t ignore a request for something feel good, so I hope this comes out okay. I’m thinking I should just stick with horror, though. haha

    The Great World Cup Challenge of 2014

    I reached down, grabbed the handle with the tips of my fingers, pulled as hard as I could, and spun my players. Frank, who was second from the left, kicked the plastic ball and it skittered along the painted grass. The goal was only a second away from being mine, but my determination and silent prayer to the Gods of soccer denied me my win.

    I looked up, and my opponent grinned as she rejected the ball from her goal and sent it flying my direction. The smile seemed to intoxicate me as I stood there wondering why I was given the opportunity to play my favorite game with such a gorgeous woman.

    My gaze went from her smile to her eyes, which seemed to smile more than her full lips did. The subtle crow’s feet at her temples were feathered by golden locks that bounced as she fought for her title of Foosball Queen. A title I wanted, except, you know, as King.

    I looked down a little too late and watched as the ball smacked loudly against the corner of my goal box. It rolled back into one of my player’s feet, and I snapped it back at her. I let out a loud sigh of relief. I’d almost lost the game.

    She reciprocated, and as I blocked her return I said, “You’re really good at smacking balls around aren’t ya?”

    Oh my god, oh my god, oh my god, what did I just say? I thought as my face probably turned a deep shade of red. Okay, you can recover from that, David.

    I immediately said, “No, like, you’re really good. How often do you practice yanking and twisting on rods?”

    My face burned even redder and was actually probably purple by then. Damn it, just keep your mouth shut.

    She didn’t say anything. I wondered what kind of effect my awkwardness had on her. Did she think I was too weird? Did she think I was one of those strange creeps? You know the kind, the ones that comment on Facebook pictures posted five years ago as if they’d been looking through all five years’ worth of photos, creeping around, until they finally came upon one they couldn’t resist commenting on.

    I took in a deep breath, and realized I needed to take control of the game. I needed to take control of our unhealthy interaction. She had a spell over me, some kind of witchcraft. I needed to do something to change the tides of war in my favor.

    I glanced up at her crystal balls as they emitted a power with which I could not contend. So, I haphazardly spun all my men as best I could and suddenly heard one of them smack the plastic ball. I looked down just in time to watch the ball dance across the field and disappear into her goal.

    I threw my hands in the air as my heart pounded, and I screamed, “Foosball Queen!”

    She giggled and said with a fake old English accent, “Well, your highness. Grab a drink with me, if it’s not too bold?”

    “I, uh, sure.” I stumbled over my words, but managed to find my way to the bar with her. I didn’t know what would happened next, but I figured that if I survived after all the awkward shit I did, then she’s a real keeper.

    • Augie says:

      Hilarious! As always, Jay delivers!

    • jmcody says:

      Wow, thanks, Jay, I’m honored. I think you went more com than rom — that was pretty darn funny. I liked the part about the facebook pictures — that never would have crossed my mind, but yeah, that’s creepy. Well, I think your MC has met his match, and yes, she’s a keeper.

      Thanks for the laugh, Jay. Now back to our regularly scheduled murder and mayhem. :)

      • Jay says:

        I agree, I wen’t a little more comedy, but it technically as Romance, but only from a man’s perspective. ;) One day perhaps I’ll try my hand and a dual romance perspective, and see how that goes!

        Glad you enjoyed it, jmcody!

    • I enjoyed this because I can sympathize with the MC. If only I could shut up! Very well done.

      • Kerry Charlton says:

        Good story. It only takes two things to attract all women.

        Give up?

        Okay:

        !. Take out the trash, don’t worry about the cash.
        2. Do the dishes and you won’t have to worry about her wishes!

        • Jay says:

          @originalalchemist: Thanks! I could never sympathize with the MC, haha. I don’t open my mouth in public unless I have soemthign of value to add to the discussion or topic.

          @Kerry: Glad you liked it. As far as your two things, I don’t do the dishes, but then again, I can cook a mean meal, so I think I more than make up for it. haha So perhaps we should replace #2 with: If you cook, you won’t have to read her like a confusing book!

    • Reaper says:

      Nice Jay. Your description here was as good as always which I mainly comment on because it is such a different type of describing. Very funny, and I felt the romance part of it. I will agree you went a little more comedy than romance but I think that was perfect. With this huge market of women’s fiction romantic comedies are written for women because men are going to call them chick flicks anyway and either not, or pretend to not want to read/watch them. This felt very strongly written for a more male audience, the kind of thing if it were made into a movie you would take your girl to because you want to see it and know she’ll enjoy it too instead of compromising mine this week yours next. I think that is very difficult to do in this genre and you nailed it, because to a guys mind this is the romance.

      • Jay says:

        Exactly. I was trying to veer far away from the standard romance tropes and decided to center around an awkward man who can’t for the life of him function correctly when trying to win at a game and woo a woman at the same time.

    • snuzcook says:

      I love the foosball spin (ahem) on this prompt. You wrote with a certain authenticity that made me chuckle. ‘Her Highness’ was definitely underdeveloped character-wise (ahem, again). But then, the focus was all his, and you did it well.
      (My first draft was a foosball romantic triangle which stunk to high heaven. This is hilarious.)

      • Jay says:

        Snuz, I agree. She lacked a lot of character, but after I realized that I didn’t have nearly enough room to properly develop her romantically, I had to resort to underdevelopment. Since it was his point of view, I wanted to make it so that she was this unknown and mysterious Foosball queen that the main character had just met. Enamored by her beauty, he wants to woo her and win his game, and only succeeds by accident on both counts. haha

        I’m glad you enjoyed it, Snuz!

      • snuzcook says:

        Okay, so I suck at puns, and I’m not even going to bother in future. I don’t have that particular gene.

    • derrdevil says:

      Foosball Queen!! Haha. Loved it. I struggle with comedy, but this read so easily. How do you’rl do it?! Nice one, Jay.

    • Critique says:

      Very fun read Jay. Ms Foosball Queen seems to ‘get’ the MC. Sounds like a potential match to me ;)

  20. Scott says:

    Like many people already, I know nothing about soccer. (Frankly, in America, we really don’t care that much.)

    Erich was just a boy when he started playing football. His father taught him; his father used to be good at football. And now here he was, at the World Cup. Fans cheered aggressively, black and red and yellow clashing against red, white and blue in the stands. His head swam, and he sorted through the crowd for his wife, six months pregnant with what he hoped was a boy. A whistle blew, and he turned as much of his focus as he could to the field. The game was tied, and people were outraged. The United States, who, Erich thought, didn’t seem to care all that much about football, was tied with Germany two-two.
    His wife sat with a number of his teammates’ families. She chatted idly with someone’s wife, and he felt himself go numb. Somehow, the ball came between his feet and a teammate called his name. He steadied himself and ran, searching for the nearest person to pass the ball to. He felt himself weaken even more.
    Suddenly, he was thirteen again. He flew up and down the field determinedly. His father watched from the bleachers. The ball came towards him, and before he knew what he was doing he was charging towards the goal. He struck the ball with his foot one final time and watched it sail past the goal keeper and fly into the net. He watched his parents cheer from the sideline. It hurt his father to move, but god, how that man tried. It was the last time he could attend one of Erich’s games. He a year later.
    He was in Brazil again, sprinting along with the ball between his feet. Time ran down. His time ran down, too, or so said neat, twelve-point font and the doctor’s scrawling signature. People called his name and the crowd was shouting and it was overwhelming. Mere seconds were left. The ball was his.
    His wife wouldn’t have a husband and his child wouldn’t have a father one day, but he decided the least they deserved was a champion. The seconds ticked away. Life is only so long. It was too late to pass the ball now. With a sigh, he closed his eyes, reared back and kicked.
    When he opened his eyes again, he was on his knees, head resting against the dewy grass. He was fourteen, and he’d just scored the winning goal. His father was four days dead. He grabbed at stray blades of grass and tugged at them. Tears rolled down his face. He cried loudly. His teammates and his opponents stared at him blankly. What a disease, he thought. What a disease that could kill a forty-five-year-old man over the course of eight years.
    The ball slides just past the goalkeeper and lands with a satisfying thud in the right corner. There’s an explosion of noise. Time ticks further. The game is over. The crowd erupts and his teammates surround him. There’s a flurry of black, red and yellow. Somewhere in the crowd his wife stands and cheers.
    He stares at her and wonders how he’ll tell her what was revealed to him wrapped up with bright white paper and a neat letterhead. He supposes he’ll just have to tell her that he has Huntington’s, that one day he won’t be able to play football or walk or recognize who she is. But for now, he’s a champion. And there’s something to be said for that, something that can’t be wrapped up in Times New Roman.

    • Cceynowa says:

      Wow. Powerful message here, wrapped up nicely in a short story. Huntington’s is a scary thing, and would definitely weigh on the mind. Well done.

    • Augie says:

      Nice…. thank you Scott

    • Reaper says:

      Powerful stuff. The illness is strong, but the story about how we live inspired by the hopes of other people and our hopes of our own legacy was even stronger in this. I liked the writing and the tale a lot.

      Because of that I would suggest changing up the format. You missed the word died in He died a year later, but that is a small thing. Some space between the paragraphs or the time shifts would clean this up. Because of it I did not realize until the end that his time ran down was a reference to your MC and not his father. That threw me because it felt like the next two sentences were out of order. As I said that is all formatting and a little typo though, because I have nothing but good things to say about the story and the writing.

  21. A. Lawati says:

    The foul was unmistakably his, he thought, as he stood facing the goalkeeper for the final penalty kick that would either make or break him. A billion or more eyes remained affixed on him from all over the world, anxiously anticipating his penalty shoot as the score hung at nil for both teams.

    Desperately trying to buy time, Carlos squatted pretending to lace up while allowing his eyes to wander away from the field trying one last time to locate his wife’s confirmed location in the throngs of faces that filled every last seat behind the goal post. That was the deal offered to him a fortnight in advance, to play for the Consortium (as they wanted to be known by) and not for his country’s team. Being the star player of the world, they had offered to spare his wife if he agreed to do their bidding.

    The deal was to score no goals against the other team allowing the odds to drastically increase in favour of the other team, ultimately filling the coffers of the Consortium with untold riches. This was the reality in sports that everyone had turned a blind eye to.

    The whistle from the referee bought him back to the matter at hand. Tensed, Carlos stood up feeling the electricity in the air as beads of sweat trickled down his broad back. Suddenly, he felt his heart heading for his mouth as he spotted his wife in the third row above a few metres, shy of the right goal post and flanked by an unknown employee of the Consortium he assumed. The moment he noticed his wife’s frightened gaze, Carlos knew he had assumed rightly and knew what he had to do.

    Carlos took a few steps back and looked at his teammate; a slight nod of the head put his plan into action. Next he moved with lightning speed as he kicked the ball penetrating all defences put up by the shocked goalkeeper. Taking advantage of the brief window of surprise, he kicked the other ball seemingly into the innocent crowd positioned a moment ago by his teammate near the boundary with ferocious intent, propelling it at a blistering speed instantly neutralizing his target being the consortium employee on the spot.

    Carlos was already going through the crowd that were desperate to get a hold of their hero, while managing to extract his wife and taking her back with him to the safety of his team mates.

    • Reaper says:

      Nice take. I definitely like the different angle. This could be a good beginning to a longer story, or the middle of a first chapter. The last sentence of your second to last paragraph is a little rough and would probably flow more smoothly if broken up as well. The main reason I noticed that is because of how smooth the rest of this flows though.

  22. Augie says:

    Unitas shouts, “Dude, this isn’t foot ball!”

    Maris’ shouts back, “ Johnny shut up, I want to hear it again!”

    The new Hall of fame winner, shares his story once more.

    “Well gentlemen, I was surprised to be selected to compete in the World Cup! They never selected me to participate in practice or any playoffs. I sat on the sidelines wondering if I would ever be used!

    Game after game I sit watching famous players maneuver the field. Now it’s the World Cup, and the score is tied! Then it happened! A player fouls the ball and it sails into the stadium! This mistake gives me the opportunity to get in the game! Yup, that player is out!

    The head coach walks by our line. He measures each of us with his eyes. “You will do!”

    Ohh my! How long have I waited for this moment! Just to be involved in the final game with all these famous players!

    Little did I know how much it stings as I volley across the field.

    A swift kick, ‘ouch.’ I race across the field with great force!

    Knee kick ‘ouch’ Head hit, ‘ouch’ Long drive. ‘OUCH’!

    I was performing my best out here today even though the pain was immense!

    Then I panic! “NO!” The stitches around my mid section are ripping!

    ‘Ouch!’ ‘Ouch!’ ‘OUCH!’ ‘OUUUUCH!’

    I maneuver across the field with quick kicks. The stitching is definitely loosening. I don’t know how much longer I can keep it together!

    How horrible it would be to my reputation if my colors fall off!

    Dizzy and bruised, I stop. The players rotate in my vision.

    Then all of a sudden, ‘THUNK’ ‘OOOOUUCCCCH!’ I sail into the net!”

    —————————————————————————————————–

    The security guard turns off the lights as the three Hall of Fame balls reminisce.

    Now that the three spotlights are off, the football whispers in the darkness, “So what! Its STILL not football!”

    The Soccer ball responds, “Hater!”

    The base ball responds, ‘Gladi-hater!”

    Hey, you gotta laugh sometimes!

  23. Marie Therese Knepper says:

    Sorry for the interruption. I haven’t had a response to my question regarding how to post a picture to my profile, and I would also like to know if it’s possible to get notifications when someone leaves a comment on a thread I’m following.
    Anyone?

  24. lionetravail says:

    Part 2- “Aftermath” (Thank you to all who read and commented on the first piece, who really encouraged me to tell the rest of the story!)

    … I kick the ball, my toe hitting just right of center to impart a vicious spin. It flies at the goal, and Ordonez has to dive for it. My heart is in my throat as he gets a touch on the ball, but its curving path takes the ball off his fingers and into the net. I can hardly believe it, but the crowd is roaring with a sound like the end of the world.

    I’m swept up by a teammate- Anders, of course, who promptly tackles me screaming his joy. Before I’m swarmed by others, I see that Ordonez is on his knees, cradling his right hand.

    My teammates let me up, finally, and we do the regulation sportsmanship thing, saluting our opponents. Ordonez is grimacing as we meet, and I go to shake his hand, but he demurs. “It’s broken, the finger,” he says in heavily accented English. Instead, I give him a hug, which he returns one-handed after a moment of seeming uncertain hesitation.

    Minutes later, I’m already impatient to be free of the media and fans, as the crowd has spilled onto the field. I ask Anders to run interference, and for once, his jokester eyes are serious when he sees my face.

    He puts a hand on my shoulder, and gives it a gentle squeeze- there’s a reason he’s my best friend on the team. “Ja, gut,” he says quietly in our native German, and turns abruptly to head off some reporter with more balls than talent, who has invaded our locker-room.

    I get my Vodafone from my locker, and call the hospital. More than anything, I want to give Josef the news.

    “A moment, Herr Koehler,” came the reply from the nurse’s station. “Please hold.”

    The moment stretches into minutes before a deep male voice comes on the line.

    “Herr Koehler? This is Herr Doktor Friedrich. I’m so sorry to tell you, but Josef Acker passed unexpectedly this morning during his dialysis treatment.”

    The phone drops from my hand and shatters against the cement floor in the exact way my heart has.

    **********************************************************************

    Three Months Later, Headline-

    Die Welt- International Edition:

    “Sports Hero Becomes International Hero”
    by Rolf Muechster

    Rumors became reality as Gunther Koehler announced his retirement from football today, shocking the nation. The leading scorer and team captain of the German National Team, beloved by so many, cited “personal challenges” as the reason for his choice. He steps away from the game in which he has so excelled during his seven year career.

    Simultaneously, he announced today the creation of a new charitable Foundation, “Kidneys for Kids”, which will seek to enhance education on organ donation for unfortunate children suffering from kidney disease. In a statement to the press, he said:

    “This Foundation will raise money to address the pressing and tragic concerns of childhood kidney disease, and disperse funds to promote research into the development of artificially grown kidneys and other organs, partnering with the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine in the U.S. It will also promote education on organ donation in Germany and around the world, so as to enhance the donor pool specifically for children. Our ultimate goal will be to create a future in which no child will die from kidney failure.”

    Reaction from fans has been enthusiastic…

    • Marie Therese Knepper says:

      Wonderful.

      • Kerry Charlton says:

        Way to go David! It’s a great finish to your first story. If only the world knew how many people lose their lives due to lack of available donors.

    • jmcody says:

      This was simultaneously heartbreaking and uplifting. Your MC is a true champion. I also sense perhaps some personal feeling for the cause on the part of the author?

      In addition to the heroism of this tale I also enjoyed the kinetic descriptions — “it’s curving path takes the ball off his fingers ” as well the German flavor. It’s funny how so many of us felt this had to be something other than an American tale.

      This was a wonderfully satisfying follow up.

    • Reaper says:

      Beautiful. I can also sense a real passion from you on this. The story seems very personal. It is a great story both for the information and of someone who realizes what is really important to them and takes control of their life. If only more people were able to do that.

    • lionetravail says:

      Thanks everyone! Yeah, this was a bit of a gut-wrencher for me, and something I’d really wanted to explore in its sadness, the sense of empathy which runs through the MC, Anders, and even Ordonez, and the ability to take a heartbreaking setback and turn it into something positive. As others have said, I can’t think of anything more heroic than facing adversity, being affected by it, and climbing out of the hole it puts you into in order to do something truly meaningful. And so, from that perspective, the way this story evolved was intensely personal- I broke my own heart writing this.

      From the perspective of this exploring my personal feelings, I am often disheartened by the shallow folk who do not use their celebrity status in ways like the MC did- it’s a waste of potential, the waste of an opportunity to make the world a better place. As for the kidney/organ donation topic, I am well familiar from a professional standpoint, but fortunately not from a personal one. The excitement of the artificial organ production is, however real- the technology is progressing, and some organs are already being substituted in clinical practice. Wake Forest is absolutely on the forefront of these techniques and explorations, giving us the tantalizing possibility of replacement organs grown from our own cells to replace ones which fail.

      Again, thank you all for the kind comments and thoughts.

  25. George says:

    ‘Free kick in the last minute, ladies and gentlemen! Oh, what a game we had so far! The result might still be 0-0, but both teams had tons of shots on goal and only by miracle the ball hasn’t entered the net so far. And now it’s down to this free kick from 22 meters way, in the last play of the game…George is considered to be the best free kick taker in the world and he has the chance to put it in for a qualification in the big final. Germany’s faith is in his hands right now.

    This is a historical moment in football. George has a chance to score from this free kick and send Germany in the final, and we all know that he can score, he did it all season long and from way bigger distances…but what an irony will it be to score against Romania and send them home…he’s actually born in Romania and he obtained the German citizenship just two years ago after the Romanian coach refused to call him in the national team…

    In the last few months he kept saying how much he still loves his country of origin and how he one day dreams to go back…but let’s see what will he do now…will he score and take revenge after he was refused by his own country, thus qualifying his adoptive country in the World Cup Final? Or will he miss it and let the penalty shootouts decide the fate of this match, in which case, the burden will be carried by his teammates as well…

    He’s taking an awful long time to set up the ball…the referee is instructing the defenders and positioning the wall…the new spray gives the kicker a great advantage, as the wall stays where it should, 9.15 meters away from the ball…Finally George takes his five steps back…deep breath…I wonder what’s going through his head in these tense moments…He runs towards the ball…neat shot…and…crossbar!!! The ball hits the crossbar and goes out! Oh, what an ending to a perfect match…the gods want penalties…not even the best free kick taker in the world wasn’t allowed to score…or maybe he did it on purpose and made it look like an accident?! I guess we’ll never know…

    We head on to penalties…let’s see whose prayers will be answered next!!!’

    • Reaper says:

      I was going to say there was some unnecessary repetition of facts in the first two paragraphs, but then I got into the sports announcer voice and it was just perfect. Nice job.

  26. pinkbamboo says:

    let’s wing it again this week XD

    ***********

    I could feel the sweat dripping down my back. I could hear the crowd, half of the stadium was cheering me on and the other half was hoping I would fail. The world cup, 4 years once. My focus should be on the ball right in front of me but at that moment my thoughts were on something else.

    Sadie.

    I remembered her lying down on my lap and I stroked her hair while I shared about my day. I loved her brownish black hair as it felt soft when I combed them between my fingers. Sometimes she fell asleep halfway but I knew she had a busy day so I let her sleep.

    I loved Sadie for many reasons but one of the best reason was because she was very supportive of my passion for soccer. We would kick ball together in the field and she would try to steal the ball from my legs. At times I let her and she would run away with the ball rolling forward.

    When I was received the confirmation to be part of the team for the world cup, I came home to Sadie and told her the news. That was one of the best days of my life – I was jumping for joy and Sadie danced around the hall. Now Sadie was not a good dancer and she didn’t like me laughing at her. She pounced on me and buried her face into the couch in embarassment but we had a great steak dinner afterwards to celebrate.

    “I made it, Sadie. You’re coming with me” I kissed her forehead and she lay her head down on my lap with a nod.

    One day, I came home to find her out which was rare but not unusual. Usually she’ll be at home at 4 pm. I took off my coat and turned on the television while I passed the ball between my feet, waiting for Sadie to come home. That’s when I heard a knock.

    I opened the door to Mr Cole, my next door neighbour. He delivered the bad news and I ran after him to the corner of the street to see Sadie laying by the roadside.

    A small crowd gathered around her and I pushed them aside to cradle her head on my lap. She was bleeding from her nose and lips with her eyes half opened. Her body was bent in an unnatural way.

    “What the fuck happened? What the ..” I screamed.

    No one answered me. I just heard some mumblings of ‘car speeding by’ and so on.

    I tried to carry her but she groaned in pain. I told her I loved her repeatedly and I kissed her forehead one last time before she left me.

    That was 3 months ago and Sadie didn’t make it to the world cup with me. Nothing changed, she will always be my girl.

    I will always remember the way she danced, the way she greeted me when I came home and her passion for life. I smiled as I pictured her in my mind. Her sharp pointy ears, black nose, soft paws and her barks.

    I took a step forward and kicked the ball. I heard the stadium erupted with cheers as the ball fell into goal. For Sadie.

    • Reaper says:

      PinkBamboo, as soon as I read your switch into memory I thought this was a prompt custom made for you. I got an inkling of where you were going about halfway through but I wasn’t sure. I became more sure as your story went on but I was not completely convinced I was right until your reveal. That is amazing writing, that your descriptions told me where you were going but also left the doubt so Sadie could have been a woman or a dog. Very emotionally powerful and just a lovely story. I liked this a lot, but I always like your writing.

      One thing I noticed is the term rare but not unusual. It seemed like it should read unusual but not rare. That may just be me though and again, wow this was gorgeous and touching.

  27. Observer Tim says:

    And here’s another look at the World Cup.
    _____

    It’s the deciding game of the World Cup quarter finals: Canada versus Mexico. The clock is running down and neither side has any points on the board. Wells is moving downfield, away from the play. Ramirez is shadowing him watchfully. Carlos moves in from the left, but Ramirez waves him off. Wells shifts from left to right, trying to fake out Ramirez and remain open.

    “Out of my way, Wells.”

    Wells slips past Ramirez and checks the field. There’s a busy crowd around the Mexican goal, performing the purposeful and energetic dance that is football. The linesmen are occupied at both ends and the referee is distracted. Wells ducks quickly to the sidelines to get a drink.

    “Pretty good turnout tonight, eh Jeffrey?”

    Wells nods to his teammate, downs his drink and heads back onto the pitch. Down near the goal he spots a foul; so does the linesman. The signal goes up, and Johnson gets a yellow card. But play isn’t stopped and the scrum continues. Wells insinuates himself deep into Mexican territory.

    “Hey!”

    An opposing guard pushes Jeff while he scans the field, but he ignores it and moves away. Carlos is closing in to cover the Mexican goal. Wells edges closer, trying not to arouse the suspicion of the Mexican guard or the linesman. He know he has to be open when the ball comes his way.

    “Ouch! Get off my foot, jerk!”

    Wells has fouled one of the other players. Did the referee notice? Will he get carded?

    “Sorry Dave. I’ll be more careful next time.”

    No! It seems to be just the rough and tumble of the game. Once again he tracks the Mexican goaltender and shifts toward the net. Ramirez is moving to intercept, but gets distracted by Levesque. Wells moves into position and signals he is open.

    “What is it, Mister Wells?”

    The linesman focuses his attention on Wells.

    “Nothing, sir.”

    Now the linesman is extra vigilant. He’s decided Wells was trying to distract him from something. But Wells doesn’t care. The ball drops down at his feet. He whirls around to face the goaltender. He’s got just one shot at this. It’s now or never. He takes the shot.

    “Hi, Maria. Would you like to dance?”

    The ball is flying for the corner of the net. Is it fair or foul? Will it strike the post? Time itself stops in breathless anticipation.

    “Sure thing, Jeffery.”

    Score! Wells has scored the winning goal! Canada advances to the next round, and the crowd goes wild!

  28. MY PARTICIPATION TROPHY IV
    (Disclaimer: This is my meager attempt to match Reaper and Jay’s awesome talent. Please proceed with extreme caution.)

    I will admit, I felt a slight rush, almost frenzy, as I attack the bulky goon, smashing his femur in half with all my strength. The crunch is surprisingly loud, and he opens his mouth to call out, before, slammed against the post behind, his breath rushes out and he crumples to the wooden pier.

    The luxury yacht was around 80 feet long, a sick pleasure boat that Sammy was on for sure. As soon as the sun began to beat a hasty retreat from the surrounding hills, my team had loaded up our shotguns, packed our knives, and got ready to play the great game. Deception was primarily his card, but who said a man can’t cheat?

    Silently, as age sneaking on an unwitting body, we enter the boat, gently rocking, back and forth. Harsh artificial lights were on up ahead, and I wave forward. Bursting into the cabin, we hold at a sharp metal tip’s reach the captain and two others, their eyes sweating tears and their vulnerable necks pulsating with tensed strains.

    “Where’s Sammy?!” I spit into their faces. When they refuse to answer, I give each of them a nice crimson necklace. Peering down at the swelling pearls, my curling smile dissipates.

    “Find him. He’s here, I can tell.”

    They fan out, weapons raised. I press a hand to my frozen heart. His daughter’s cause still lives on, though encapsulated inside my wicked quest. Staring out the foggy windows, I notice the man climbing down the ladder with eagle’s pupils.

    “There he is!” and I storm outside, only to hear a hollow splash below. My men crowd around, gazing with stone faces. Sammy begins to swim, and I can see his face for just a second, his long cheekbones and crumbling nose, his impeccable brown suit still oozing smugness.

    “Get him! Fire, now!” Twirling tongues of fire bellow from my esophagus.

    Round after round from my agent’s semiautomatics slice into the water, making rippling waves as the torrents of lead sunk into the blue. Sammy dove, his drenched suit only a bare flicker, getting darker by the second. I watched on, enraged. It appeared like a couple bullets hit him, but the pinpricks of red around him were small and insubstantial.

    “Stop firing! The bastard’s not going to get away if I have a hand in it.”

    With every possible sinew poised I launch myself over the guard rail. For one dizzying second my hands are spread out in front of me, watching the metal hull sail by, and then I’m submerged. Time slows as if in sleep, and moonlight reflects off the surface, not daring to penetrate down into this darkness. Ripping my shirt open, I claw at the bitter salt water, my trained muscles from my soccer years flexing with savage intensity.

    Amy’s dismembered body came back to me at the worst time, and I felt myself slipping back. Kick, for God’s sake, kick! Water came into my mouth, and I surfaced to cough violently. My chest seizes with sudden sorrow, and the speck of my mentor’s body fades. Revenge pushes me forward blindly, but his haunting hand sends me running.

    He was swimming away into his brutal deeds, to surface wounded in body but unhindered in resolve. Sammy Saner is a strong swimmer, and every murder he committed only drove him deeper into the wide currents. What twisted irony, I muse as I come dripping onto the deck, my agents standing morosely around me. The water was icy cold.

    • Reaper says:

      I am very glad Sammy escaped here. I have this idea forming in my head based on everything so far for a sudden shift involving him. However, it feel more like a part six, or beginning of book/chapter two idea. So I think from earlier comments Amyithist owes us a part five. ;)

      Well written Bilbo. The voice changed a bit but it did that in my last posting too. It’s hard to write bleak all the time and you often have a much more uplifting tone than Jay or myself. I felt that worked well as this started as the moment of redemption, then you slid the tone back down at the MC’s failure. Very nicely done and I don’t think this attempt was meager at all. Your writing never is.

    • jmcody says:

      I just think it’s great fun how this story line is getting passed around like a soccer ball. Yes, the voice did change, but the evolution of this character and story is fascinating to see. Who’s next? Who’s going to drive it into the net? ;)

  29. Resnir says:

    Let me just begin by saying that I know absolutely nothing about this sport. So for those of you that know the rule book by heart, just, sorry in advance.
    _______________________________

    The ball danced between my feet, and though I kept my eyes fixated to it, I stole occasional glances at the scoreboard. And for what? To see that they had zero points and we had zero points? It stood there, posing as nothing more than a mockery to both sides, and I had never found such hatred for an inanimate object in my entire life.

    I was nearing the goal, and they began chasing after me in a pack like hungry wolves, blood-thirsty and ravenous. I dare not look back. “Keep your eyes forward and to hell with them,” I recited mentally. Dribbling the ball, I slowed down and began planning for the final shot, well aware that I was surrounded and at any moment, things could go horribly wrong.

    This was it. The goalie was all that stood before me and my ultimate victory, and behind me, I could hear the silent prayers, the whispers, the pleas that I would make it uttered by the mouths of my teammates as they stood, helpless. All they could do now was hope, and let’s face it, that only works a third of the time.

    I shifted to my right foot, and just as I was about to kick it, I felt my feet fly up before me, and I landed flat on my back, my head thudding against the ground like a dense, hollow melon…

    “You’ll do fine, trust me.” It was her voice, and it rang in my ears. “I’ll be watching!” It was my girlfriend, lecturing me even in my own mind. But where was she now? Was she here? Impossible, she couldn’t be, she would be in London, watching me on the television right now, getting treatment for her cracked skull. For a second, I saw her face in mine, a look of concern, and I hated it. She had enough to worry about.

    My breath was fire in my lungs, and sweat cascaded down my forehead. The ref came over, a Goliath of black and white stripes. Other players encircled me, their eyes gleaming maliciously like vultures. I had been slide tackled, and to my amazement, the ref declared a foul. My foe threw his hands up in the air, both frustrated and in disbelief, and I couldn’t help but manage a sly grin as my teammates dusted me off and lifted me to my feet.

    “It’s all you, man.”
    “Hey, we’re counting on you.”
    “This is it, beat these bastards!”

    Their encouragement mixed with the cheering of hundreds of thousands of fans, their stares boring into me. The old and the young, and I knew that with this one final shot, I could give them one hell of a story to talk about, or crush their dreams into oblivion.

    Standing before the goal, the enemy team watched me intently. My heart was drumming in my chest, threatening to burst out, and I could feel the very air quake with excitement. Looking up at the sky, I prayed to the god that I didn’t believe in that maybe I would make this goal, and my Lisa could see it and that pout on her face would dissolve into a smile. We would have a lot to talk about next time I visited.

    Taking a step back, I stared back at the scoreboard. The seconds were ticking away now, and in my mind, all I could hear was a clock, and its tick, tock, tick, tock as ten turned to nine and nine turned to eight. The crowd was going wild, their shrill screams cutting through everything like knife’s edge. I took a deep breath, and ignored the dull ache that pulsed everywhere. and burned like wildfire.

    No second chances.

    Kicking the ball with all the force I could muster, the whole arena went silent for a second as we all watched, collectively as a whole, the round projectile whizzing through the air, a bullet as big as a man’s head. No one dared breath as the goalie jumped, as the timer ticked, as the anticipation reached a breaking point. I closed my eyes, and let out a long, slow sigh.

    The sound was deafening as every single person stood and cheered, those who loved me and those who hated me. Either way, it was legendary. The enemy team just stood in absolute shock, still processing what just happened, and my team ran up and body tackled me. I couldn’t hear myself think, and now, I couldn’t move.

    But what did it matter? I had won the game for my team, for my country, for myself,

    and for Lisa.

    I could ask for nothing more.

    • I don’t think I noticed much unknowledgeableness (yes, I know that’s not a word) in your writing. Your prose was delightful, and I loved the imagery. “The ball danced between my feet.” The story flowed well, and I was able to feel the MC’s frustration and hope.

    • Reaper says:

      The imagery is wonderful, the story well written. There were points where I was holding my breath. Well done.

      There is one thing that… confuses? intrigues? me. The way you wrote his inner conflict. The hospital, the pout to smile, the having so much to talk about. What the fractured skull his fault? It felt like he was guilty of it, or maybe just felt guilty of it and was somehow hoping winning the game would give him a second chance there. I may be reading way too much into that but it made me curios if that was your intent.

      • Resnir says:

        Well guys, thanks for such positive feedback on my first prompt. Just typed it up one night because I was bored. You can be sure to hear from me on ever my prompt now on!

  30. Warning: This prompt has unleashed the Brasilian football (a.k.a. soccer) nerd in me (Yes, I am a Brasilian). And I feel conspicuously like the only football fan answering the prompt.
    Note: The is the Amazon for you. I get ready to post this, and lightning strikes the transformer, so we’ve been without internet. And after that what detained me was, ironically enough, playing soccer.

    Five minutes have been added to the clock, and Alves, exhausted, passes the ball to me. The score is 0 x 0.
    David Luiz is one of the nicest guys on the team. A good defender. When the ball gets past us midfielders, I feel a lot safer knowing he’s back there.
    But trust has to go beyond the football field.
    And it does. If he hadn’t been there when the phone call came, I don’t know what I would have done. My thirty-eight-day-old daughter. They had had to take her to the hospital. Ludmilla didn’t know what was wrong, but Júlia had been coughing, and then, she was choking. Right after that, came the call to prepare for the game. But first, I prayed.
    Back in the present, I dribble Thomas Muller, not easy to do. But then, I’m known as an excellent dribbler. In my mind, I’m also dribbling through the voices in my mind; Ludmilla’s over the phone. “Júlia wasn’t breathing. I’m in the emergency room with her.” David Luiz, again, “It’ll be alright. I’ll pray with you.” Felipão: “Losing is not an option.” Ludmilla’s again. “The doctors say it’s serious.”
    Then I hit someone’s leg and feel the bite of a spiked shoe in my calf. Foul. Clearly a foul. But the whistle doesn’t blow. “German ref”. Ginter has the ball, and he passes it to Schweinsteiger. But Marcelo;s there, stealing it neatly, passing it to Neymar. I pick myself up. Concentrate. There’s time for worrying later.
    I run to the assist, ignoring my aching calf. Trying to clear my mind of the murk, I think just don’t pass it to Fred. Or Paulinho. What’s the time? 2 minutes.
    What is wrong with Júlia? What will happen to her?
    Shut up, I tell myself fiercely. Pay attention. Neymar is about to cross it to you.
    He passes instead to Fred. I groan as Fred misses. It goes straight to Mustafi. He passes to Muller. I feel fire in my stomach and go after him.
    What if the doctors can’t do anything? She’s only a baby!
    I try to ignore my thoughts, and steal the ball from Muller, now in midfield. Not much time left, but I don’t dare look at the clock.
    I need to know what’s happening to my girl. Focus!
    I dribble, dribble, the grass thick beneath my feet. The goal isn’t open, but Neymar is, and that’s almost as good. I pass it. His shot is blocked, but Marcelo recovers it. He passes to Alves, on the far right. I’m in position, and I know he’s going to cross to me. It was one of those electric moments, when you’re sure everything will go well. But, then, destruction. It’s too high. I’ll never get it. But I have to try.
    Sickness in my stomach, and dread in my heart, I jump, and pray. I slam my head towards the ball. God. That prayer was for a number of things. That round ball flies through the air like a meteor, and that electric feeling comes back. It’s going in. It slips through Neuer’s hands like water through a sieve. And the stadium explodes. I hear my name chanted through Marcanã: Os-car, Os-car, Os-car! and my team is around me, pounding me on the back, jumping on top of me. That goal was for you, Júlia. Winning the World Cup, even if it’s for a world record sixth time, suddenly doesn’t seem so important. Not as important as that tiny life. Lord help her.
    Twenty minutes later, in the middle of the celebration, my cellphone vibrates. I leave the Cup, for which we fought so long, for a moment to answer. Ludmilla. There are tears in her voice, but are they tears of sorrow or relief?
    “They found the problem. She’ll be okay.”
    The real victory was won.

    • All the people mentioned here are real.
      I hope this reads well. I’m not used to writing in present tense, but it felt right for the prompt. Also, I promise to participate more in the prompts!

    • jmcody says:

      I really liked this tale, Teller! The way you managed to merge soccer and prayer was inspired. Kicking, passing, dribbling, running all became forms of prayer — for both victories, on and off the field, for his country and most of all for his little girl. The cleat biting into his shin mirrored his emotional pain. Really, really clever and moving. Loved it. I’m glad your power came back on, and I hope you come back again!

  31. Reaper says:

    Okay. I had to do it. I don’t even know entirely where this came from but it felt right for the next part of the story. Dang you Jay and Amyithist! Hope you all enjoy and if you haven’t you should probably go read my first piece and the continuation from Jay before embarking on this madness. Also, a few words over but only nine.

    My Participation Trophy III

    Sometimes time dulls memory…

    Sammy Saner made me what I was, twice.

    …sometimes it hones it to a razor’s edge.

    Amy would have been eight.

    It took the better part of two years to track Saner down. His spotless home was too quiet. Small sounds of his son and the nanny drifted from below. A soft whimpering continued, nearer to me. It was not enough. I needed volume.

    I turned towards Saner’s whimpering trophy wife. Purchased after his first one mysteriously vanished. Tears turned her into an Escher painting. The sea in my eyes set my mind adrift.

    ______________________
    The stench of gasoline filled my nose. Flames licking too close seared my skin. I was torn from my hellish second womb by Saner. He never told me my parent’s crime but insisted a child should not die for the sins of his family. I guess time changed his mind. From that day I was his student. He made me a monster.

    ______________________
    “Scream, bitch.” I growled.

    From behind a tacky crimson mask of my design cerulean orbs flicked up. Over my shoulder was a blinking red eyed monster. She looked on that. A voice made for singing whispered back.

    “No.”

    “Why not?”

    Chittering glee filled my voice. I went back to work. She was going to scream. No matter how she resisted. Saner would feel my pain.

    “Sammy would never forgive me.” Her soft sobs reminded me of the mist in his eyes that day.

    _____________________
    He made me a monster but he loved me. To everyone else I was a hammer Saner wielded. I never failed. To him I was more. He was grooming me to take over. He accepted me completely. He insisted I would marry his daughter so the business stayed in the family.

    He never raised his voice to me. Not even the day I told him I was leaving. The one happy memory I had of my father was the soccer ball. My first childhood was filled with the reek of gin, the crashing weight of heavy fists, and a red eyed devil glaring at me in judgment. Those moments in the back yard were different. They built my dream.

    I was following my heart. I made the team. I had fallen in some sort of love. He listened, he nodded. He said nothing.

    I thought he understood.

    _____________________
    “Oh. I know.”

    I continued my work. They were not the clean cuts I gave the tough in the garage. Each brought increasing pain. She held out for a long time. She was a tough broad, but eventually she screamed.

    When she did the receiver happily blinking away measured the decibel level. A loud thumping sound crashed through the house as her son became another casualty of war. I did not feel bad about the nanny, though she was not part of this. I was me again.

    I left the woman alive to face Sammy’s wrath. She was right, he would never forgive her. As I had learned, only love can make you a monster.

    • jmcody says:

      No, Reaper, no! Not the nanny! Do you know how hard it is to find a good nanny???

      And I really must know… Is Sammy really saner? Is anyone sane in this story? I’ll bet the Nanny was sane.

      This was seriously sick and twisted, in all the ways that you meant it to be, so I know you will take that as a compliment. One part that I thought was exceptionally clever was the blinking light on the receiver that measures the sound level. Brilliant! And I love how you eventually brought it back around to soccer, right about the time when I started wondering what any of this has to do with soccer. The last line really drove home just how twisted this character really is.

      I think you have upped the ante here, and I can’t wait to see who’s going to see your dead nanny and raise you one… what? Who will be the next to decide? I’d do it, but I am constitutionally incapable of writing anything remotely like this, so my money’s on Jay. :)

      • Reaper says:

        Thank you jmcody. I do know because my sister is a good nanny. I felt a little bad writing that. I’m not sure anyone that works for a criminal is sane so I’m going to say the daughter probably was.

        I do take that as a compliment and thank you for the comment on the light. I wasn’t sure I was going to be able to bring it back to soccer so I was glad I could. Aww. Thankfully your constitution leads to other styles of great writing.

    • Amyithist says:

      Chills. I have chills. I LOVED this. I felt as though I was crossing between consciousness and subconsciousness. I liked how you didn’t really go into detail of the torture…it left it mysteriously void and dark. Very well done. :)

      • Reaper says:

        Thank you Amyithist. That is very high praise. I do occasionally go into detail on torture stuff but most often the mind does more than my words can.

    • Dennis says:

      I like. The tale gets more complex. I like the switch back and forth from past to present, adding to the tension but keeping it subtle. This reminds me a little of a book I read by John Hart called Iron House. There are two orphan brothers and one ends up in a crime family. He is allowed to leave by the father, but when the father dies, the true son wants the protagonist killed because he knows too much. I like Hart’s books.

      • Reaper says:

        Thank you Dennis. I don’t know him. I think I may have to look him up because that sounds like a great story.

        • Dennis says:

          And I should say that is one of the subplots. Hart’s books all have family as the main focus in some way, and they are all pretty dysfunctional with hard topics like rape, infidelity and even pedophilia. But Iron House has more of the gritty crime feel of your story.

  32. Amala says:

    The Final Kick
    This is the moment , I had been waiting for , this is it. My dreams, my passion all consummated in a single moment.
    When I had been young, I was shy and very innocent, everyone made fun of me for my appearance . I was short, dark, out of the ordinary and naive. I had but a few friends , only in my neighborhood. I dreaded school, for no one wanted to be with me nor have lunch with me. Even if they did, they would eat fast and leave me alone, with my food. I used to cry during such moments, asking myself as to why everyone is being rude to me.
    As I grew up, the tormenting continued. Maybe, it was my appearance, I thought. If I could change myself, change my style, my appearance, then everyone would be friends with me, I wished.
    Stories like the ‘The Ugly Duckling’ fascinated me. Maybe, I was a swan stuck inside a bunch of ducks. I wanted to find more like-minded people like me. But, I wouldn’t fit in. It was hard being alone. My mom arranged for some psychology sessions with the local family counselor, on account of my depression. He did some therapy, but nothing worked.
    I wanted to help myself out. I had equal rights in the world. I was a human too. To let out all my anger and rage, I learned some soccer. I felt as though I was born to be a soccer player. My coach foresaw my talent and made me a member of the school soccer team. But, that didn’t stop the bullies from disturbing me. But, the more opposition I got, the more firm I became in becoming a fine sportsman, though the bullies traumatized me. I got nightmares almost daily and would wake up with a sweat. This would sometimes show up in my game too, as whenever I remembered some incidents the bullies tormenting me, during the match, I would lose the ball.
    After leaving school, college happened. It was pure bliss. I gained a lot of friends there. I had gained myself a seat in the state football team. We won many matches. Even though I was happy on the outside, my childhood had scarred me. My nightmares were slowly going away, but during the matches, the ‘losing the ball’ continued. My problem sometimes cost the match dearly. I wanted them to go away , but they would appear out of nowhere during some critical point in the matches. This had happened to me some twice or thrice when I was in college and the amount had reduced considerably from that of the school where I would get some 10 such attacks for 6 matches on an average.
    And here I was, selected in the National Team playing the World Cup after many years of practice in the state level matches. I wanted to badly win this elimination game. None of the sides had scored a goal, 0-0 the scoreboard read. Suddenly, my fellow footballer threw the ball to me, and the match time was going to end too. I felt a sudden surge of panic as I held the ball on my foot. The opposite team looked like my bullies, surging forward to attack me. I wanted to escape but I couldn’t. The bullies had trapped me up in a web, in my head. I had to come out of it. I have to end this and didn’t want to lose the ball this time. I have to win. I’m a human. I’m a swan. No bully can stop me, neither my ball. With a sudden surge of enthusiasm and madness, I stopped my opponent from grabbing the ball, with great swiftness and dodged by him quickly. I could see myself at the same time trying to pull open the web; the bullies had covered me up, in my head. Only 2 more opponents remained. The next opponent, I tricked, by making a move to hit in the right, but hit in the left. The goal keeper remained. In a split second, I thought of nothing , but hit the ball towards the net. The next moment, I could see inside my head, that I had come out of my web and that none of my bullies existed. All of them had vanished.

    I had also scored the goal and just then the match time ended. “Wow!!” ,I thought to myself. I had defeated my bullies as well as my opponents in the match!! The next moment, I was on the shoulders of my teammates. I could not smile, I could only cry as the whole stadium watched …

    • Reaper says:

      Deep story on a very current topic. Your references and thought patterns of your MC are amazing. There are some tense changes towards the end that shocked me out a bit. There is some strangeness to the language and I can’t tell if it is because English is not your first language, or if it is intentional to give the voice of the MC a more disjointed feel of not belonging. If it is the first, then amazingly good job. If it is the second I am even more impressed by it.

      • Amala says:

        Thank you Reaper for your comments. Yes…I guess I have to work more on improving my English grammar skills since English is not my first language. :) :)

  33. Marie Therese Knepper says:

    Utopia

    Our chaplain concluded his locker room prayer with the now familiar call to triumph, “May God give you victory on the field today.” As was our custom, we chanted in unison “May God give us the victory.”

    Running with my teammates onto the field, my thoughts drifted to a youth filled with endless days of schooling, homework, drills, and chores. I had not the luxury of idle game play, being my father was coach for the national soccer league. He was coach and statesman. I was obedient.

    And now I bask in the glow of raucous applause as my teammates and I laugh and exchange pleasantries while assuming our positions. No such comradery existed back in the day. Smiling was weakness. Fun was a punishable crime.

    It was only after the revolt and subsequent retooling of society that I came to love soccer. No longer forced to play, I excelled beyond even my father’s austere expectations.

    Back to this reality, I see the ball coming my way. I feint right and take a stumble. Watching the ball whizz by, I feel a capable arm right me. “Thanks, Mikey,” I puff appreciatively.

    “Take it easy, will ya,” Mikey shoulders me affectionately. “No broken bones today, compadre.”

    I chuckle as we both try to retrieve the ball from the growing queue. Emerging from the swell bursts the youngest member of our team, screaming towards the net. Score!

    And so went the precious afternoon, us netting ball after ball. My eyes lock with one of the few who remember the mindless drones who once debased this replenished land. He, the Lord of the drones, who was once my opponent and now my dearly beloved mentor and friend. I see my reflection in his carefully disguised careworn eyes. He responds with a knowing gaze, as if saying “I remember. You’re not alone.” He shuffles awkwardly for the ball, which somehow eases its way into his aging space. He winks and instantly places it square at my feet. We banter back and forth, the ball just a prop we use to run the field together.

    The two minute warning bell chimes. Everyone, spectator and participant alike, heave disappointed sighs. My teammates and I gather for what may be the last play of the day. Once again, I’m drawn back to a past marked by robotic compliance demanded by the almighty political machinery. The days when players left the field on stretchers; breaks and contusions the only acceptable symbol of athletic allegiance. Not so today.

    My mentor and friend starts to clap. I sidle up to him and join in. Soon everyone is clapping and cheering. My hearts swells with so much love for the man whom I proudly call Father. Still clapping, we take our places in front of the only goal; each and every one assured of victory.

    • Reaper says:

      Well written story, it sucked me in.

      • Marie Therese Knepper says:

        Ty, although you don’t sound like you’re happy about being sucked in. Thoughts? Constructive criticism is why I’m here; after all, it can’t be all sunshine, lollipops, and rainbows. :)

        • Reaper says:

          You are good at reading tone in short text. In this case I was happily sucked in and that shocked me. I have strong opinions and some of them are kind of brutal, but I respect that other people have their own. I didn’t want to skip commenting because the story is well told. However I avoided commenting as fully as I thought about because I did not want to pollute your story with my politics. :) The last line can be read two ways, one is beautiful. The other can be beautiful but is directly opposed to my philosophy. When I read it the first time I took it the second way, which is the there should be no competition and everyone is a winner for trying. Looking at it again I’m taking it as the message that everyone can win and we should support each other in finding how which makes this even more lovely to me.

          Trust me, I won’t hold back from constructive criticism on writing. I stay polite and encouraging because I think that is how writers should do for each other but am always willing to give feedback that could help. When it comes to the social message of a story, if I feel the author and myself are in direct conflict over the philosophy I try to avoid mentioning it. Because I think it is more important that stories that have a message are written than it is that I agree with that message.

          • Marie Therese Knepper says:

            Ty. I tried very hard to portray that having one united goal could still be played competitively. Although not stated, my MC was well over the age limit for World Class soccer play, which put his father well into the 60-70 age bracket.

  34. ejvonrhein says:

    PRESSURE

    The players scrambled. Chasing.
    Kick—Kick—Kick.
    I dribbled the ball and spun. I made them dance. Made them sweat. But as for me, my only motivation was she: The girl whose promise wrapped around my finger.
    “Eric,” my teammate called. He waved his arms in frantic desire of the ball. But as I was about to lodge it to him, a foreign giant collided against me.
    Falling, I swallowed the turf—lost sight of the world—all went black—
    CHEERS!
    Two hands pulled me up from the darkness. “Come on, Eric. “ My teammate patted me on the back and gestured for me to follow. The crowd roared. The audience was a giant ribbon of red, white, and blue encircling the field.
    The foreign giant was making his charge to mid-field. My teammates had to stop him, or else the game was lost and our team was out of the World Cup, and I would come home to dinner with a ring for Lily and a frown on my face, my heart plagued by national defeat on my conscience.
    APPLAUSE!
    Another teammate intercepted the giant’s pass and kicked the ball back. “Eric,” he said while I was looking the opposite way.
    The crowd booed when the ball grazed my toes and made its way to the edge of the field behind the opponent’s goal. I charged after it, trying to catch it before it went out of bounds. But to my left, I saw a wall of opponents. They collapsed on me, but thankfully, one opponent touched the ball before he lost it out of bounds.
    The stadium vibrated under the thundering scream of the crowd. All for me. It was my ball. I ran to the corner of the field to throw the ball in. I looked around, saw the red, white, and blue audience suddenly morph into a diamond ring. My eyes were tricking me. My vision fogged. All I could think of was her. All I could think of was failure, of a cursed proposal to Lily . . .
    “PASSS IIIT,” my teammates hollered.
    I inhaled the sweat and the fresh-cut grass, then chucked the ball. But—
    “NOOO.”
    The world jumped. The ball was intercepted. I kicked away my dream to win.
    * * *
    “Lily, I’m sorry. Will you still marry me? Please?”
    The tears spilled from her eyes. She shook her head. The chandelier burned from above. The waiters spit on me, their wet saliva smelling of acid. Poison.
    I wept, and my tears flooded the restaurant, drowning me—drowning us.
    * * *
    CHEERS!
    “ERIIC.” I don’t know what happened, but I had the ball. My face boiled as the foreign giant crawled desperately on the field.
    I spun. Raced forward. Led everyone back. KICKED. GASPED. SCORED.
    WON!
    “ERIIC! “ My teammates tackled me; their warmth revived me.
    My confidence had reborn.
    * * *
    Now she will say, “I do.”
    Won’t she?

    • Reaper says:

      I liked this. Very esoteric and almost surreal. That doubt creeping back to ruin what should be the biggest moment of his life up until that point was brilliant.

      • ejvonrhein says:

        Thanks, Reaper! This is my first writer’s digest post. I am 450+ pages into my first novel, a psychological thriller, and I thought this contest would be a great exercise to see whether I could write in short story form as well. Thank you so much for your feedback. :) I am 19. So if there is any advice on writing you might have– I assume you have more literary wisdom and writing experience than I– then let me know :) i need a teacher from this wonderful magazine :)

        • Reaper says:

          I am full of a lot of things that I like to call wisdom but may not qualify. ;) My first advice is take every piece of advice with a grain of salt. Outside of the people here, and some wonderful people you will meet you will find that everyone has advice for the aspiring writer/artist. Listen but be careful of it. People that are, or would be agents, editors, and critics are going to judge you harshly and want you to be a professional when you are in truth and artist. Anyone that does not write or do some other form of art for a living, or have that as their dream are not going to understand, they’ll wonder what your real plan is when the writing fails. Don’t take it too hard and keep writing because at the end of the day you’re writing for yourself.

          The fact that you can put your work in a genre means you have some talents I don’t have. I had to have someone tell me mine in a rejection letter. :)

          Keep writing, keep posting. You will find that the people here give wonderful advice and are very kind about it. I have been writing for a long time and the feedback here has helped me improve dramatically in a much shorter time. It is a different style, but you will find the advice transfers well. Keep reading and see what you can pick up from others, the bits of their voice that appeals to you, but then make it your own. Here is a great place for that because you can have a conversation about it too.

          As for your style and how you write nothing jumps to mind but as you continue I will be sure to comment more. Also don’t be afraid to send private messages to members if you feel a need. I’ve found some wonderful feedback and advice that way. Okay, this is way too long now, but that is my opening advice, because you have talent so keep writing and I look forward to seeing more from you.

          Oh, and since I didn’t say it earlier, welcome!

    • jmcody says:

      This was quite an emotional roller coaster ride, and full of satisfying sensory detail. I liked the cliffhanger ending. Very engaging (oh yes I did :) ) piece.

  35. ejvonrhein says:

    PRESSURE

    The players scrambled. Their cleats clawed the field, pursuing me.
    Kick—Kick—Kick.
    I dribbled the ball and spun. I made them dance. Made them sweat. But as for me, my only motivation was she: The girl whose promise wrapped around my finger.
    “Eric,” my teammate called. He waved his arms in frantic desire of the ball. But as I was about to lodge it to him, a foreign giant collided against me.
    Falling, I swallowed the turf—lost sight of the world—all went black—
    CHEERS!
    Two hands pulled me up from the darkness. “Come on, Eric. “ My teammate patted me on the back and gestured for me to follow. The crowd roared. The audience was a giant ribbon of red, white, and blue encircling the field.
    The foreign giant was making his charge to mid-field. My teammates had to stop him, or else the game was lost and our team was out of the World Cup, and I would come home to dinner with a ring for Lily and a frown on my face, my heart plagued by national defeat on my conscience.
    APPLAUSE!
    Another teammate intercepted the giant’s pass and kicked the ball back. “Eric,” he said while I was looking the opposite way.
    The crowd booed when the ball grazed my toes and made its way to the edge of the field behind the opponent’s goal. I charged after it, trying to catch it before it went out of bounds. But to my left, I saw a wall of opponents. They collapsed on me, but thankfully, one opponent touched the ball before he lost it out of bounds.
    The stadium vibrated under the thundering scream of the crowd. All for me. It was my ball. I ran to the corner of the field to throw the ball in. I looked around, saw the red, white, and blue audience suddenly morph into a diamond ring. My eyes were tricking me. My vision fogged. All I could think of was her. All I could think of was failure, of a cursed proposal to Lily . . .
    “PASSS IIIT,” my teammates hollered.
    I inhaled the sweat and the fresh-cut grass, then chucked the ball. But—
    “NOOO.”
    The world jumped. The ball was intercepted. I kicked away my dream to win.
    * * *
    “Lily, I’m sorry. Will you still marry me? Please?”
    The tears spilled from her eyes. She shook her head. The chandelier burned from above. The waiters spit on me, their wet saliva smelling of acid. Poison.
    I wept, and my tears flooded the restaurant, drowning me—drowning us.
    * * *
    CHEERS!
    “ERIIC.” I don’t know what happened, but I had the ball. My face boiled as the foreign giant crawled desperately on the field.
    I spun. Raced forward. Led everyone back. KICKED. GASPED. SCORED.
    WON!
    “ERIIC! “ My teammates tackled me; their warmth revived me.
    My confidence had reborn.
    * * *
    Now she will say, “I do.”
    Won’t she?

  36. mskruk says:

    My legs burn with exhaustion. My whole life has been dedicated to this beautiful game and now, in the final moments before elimination, I am racing with my team downfield once more. Our wing-back stole the ball, just as their best striker fired off a screamer a few meters from the goal. I thought our chances had drained off until that act of pure thievery. Now, I’m trying to position myself according to coach’s game plan.

    As our sweeper, I creep inside the defenses of our worthy opponent. Everyone is focused on that ball spinning, rolling, flying around at warp speed. The stadium volume climbs with every pass. Our fans gasp as the ball passes each opponent and safely reaches a friendly foot. Everyone, I suppose but me. Just when I should be more focused than ever, I find myself mentally drifting back to the airport and my last moments with her.

    Elsa drove me, one last time, to an airport for a flight to one last tourney. It’s the World Cup. I’m sweeper on our national team. I just had to get on this flight. Elsa scowled at me. The night before, we argued, again. It all boiled down to this: chose either the beautiful girl or the beautiful game. It ripped at my heart. Before there was anything, other than my mother, there was football. I had cleats before I had my first haircut. How could I choose?

    This scene churns in my mind, clouding my vision and blocking the field of play. I shake my head; find my assigned player, who somehow wound up at least 20 meters from where I expected him. My feet move on their own, carrying my exhausted body across the pitch. The exhaustion spreads into my chest, my heart and lungs pound, driving the thoughts of Elsa out of my mind for a moment.

    Garcia sends the ball past me, to Goran. I realize I missed my mark on that play. My head just isn’t in the game. I head in closer to the goal, standing as close to the line as allowed. I vow to be in position for the next pass. Elsa flashes once again but I drive her out. Focus, focus, focus.

    Isovich passes the ball back to Goran who screams my name. My head pivots quicker than a bullet and I sweep the pass toward the goal. Their keeper guesses left, but I send the ball just a bit more right than he moves. Just that fast, the game is over and we move on.

    Once more, into the fray I’ll go, with my team and the haunting memories of Elsa which appear unbidden in the most inconvenient places and times. Next time, the beautiful girl may win. Today, however, my first love struck victory. God help me if I must chose – my beautiful game, my heart – I don’t know if I could.

    • jmcody says:

      Your MC needs to find a girl who likes soccer and isn’t quite so controlling! If he gave up the game for Elsa, he would come to resent her, probably more than he would resent soccer if he gave up Elsa. Or maybe Elsa really is that special that she would be worth the sacrifice? Hmmm… this story could go in so many different directions.

      You wrote convincingly about both the game and your MC’s preoccupation with Elsa. Nicely done.

    • Reaper says:

      Great story. I loved the language choice, the daydreaming distraction was wonderfully depicted. I liked that you focused a bit on the errors caused by those thoughts. I understand a number of athletes go through this kind of thing even in happy relationships. They are on the road with the love of their life back home and they end up wondering, is she faithful? Does she still love me? What is she doing? Because they just don’t know. That added pressure of a faltering relationship is a perfect setup.

    • agnesjack says:

      I don’t really know soccer, but your excellent descriptions and good writing placed me right there in the game. I agree with jm, that with a lifelong passion like that, your MC needs a partner/lover who accepts that integral part of him. It’s not something that can be excised and thrown away. Well done story.

  37. RAGGED HEART

    I know Papi is angry when he closes the door from our house to the alleyway. That way, he can have no questions from the neighbors, even in the sweltering summer temperatures of the Rio slums. But the short, squat man leaves the door open. Today is a good day—our team is ahead in the World Cup and he’s used all his money to buy tickets.

    Mama is singing in her lilting voice, pinning clothes to the line.

    “Don’t run off too far, Pablo,” she cautions. Only one deep, purple bruise is visible, twisting down her neck like a jungle vine. I don’t look back, but run through the crowd of houses and markets to find Simon.

    There’s a certain route I take to avoid the gangs, and at the end of it is the dusty court my friends and I use, converted from a rubble pile laborers didn’t even attempt to clear away. Simon smiles, a dirty ball in his hands.

    “Pablo, you’re late! Mexico has the ball, and you’re in center!”

    I ignore his comment, stepping to the middle with a prideful grin.

    “Look what my papa bought yesterday,” and I take a ticket from my pocket. I’d slipped it off the table when he was at work just to show them. They crowd around, with awed glances.

    “Hey, don’t reach for it! Simon, give them the ball.”

    Simon places the ball on the ground, and my feet found their positions. I look back in the direction of my house. Mama wouldn’t have wanted me to do that. It was then that I knew what troubled me—that new bruise on her neck, that reminded us of how Papi was easily angered. I remember asking her how she could still love him.

    “Perdoar como Deus faz,” she replied. “Forgiveness.”

    “But, Mama, I don’t understand.”

    She had smiled, stroking my cheek. “Don’t worry, Pablo. You will eventually.”

    Simon waves his hand, and the match begins. The sun is hot and many have taken off their loose-fitting shirts. Manuel has the ball and juggles it between his feet. I can tell he’s jealous. In one swift move he swings past, and I fall to the ground. Luckily, our goalie Henry is an expert: he blocks the ball and it hurtles to my feet.

    “Pablo, get down there and score!” my team shouts.

    I see Manuel barreling down on me and panic, so I pass. He still concentrates on me.

    “Where do you think you’re going?” He smiles.

    I slip underneath his arm and run down the field. I can feel him behind me, feet pounding, but I make it into an open position. As my foot connects with the ball, my legs give way suddenly. I can only helplessly watch as it soars, my heart beating in overtime.

    Score! Their goalie hangs his head in defeat. My team leaps up and cheers. Manuel stands up, his face surprisingly calm. He runs off, clutching something in his hands. I suddenly sense that my pocket is empty. Feeling around in it, nothing’s there.

    “What’s wrong, Pablo? You won!” Simon says.

    “Nothing. I’ll see you tomorrow!”

    The air turns colder as I walk back home. Not a tear dresses my cheeks, but an overwhelming disappointment. At least Manuel has it now. Maybe he’ll smile as he watches, his heart slowly changing. Maybe that’s what she was talking about, wishing good for the other person instead of hate.

    I round the bend and with a shiver see that Papa is home. The door is open, but it’s only a matter of time before his eyes shift to the counter and I’m entombed in that darkness again. But, I’ll be fine, I think to myself, and now the tears come. I’ve learned how to forgive. And Mama will block his fists from hitting me—just like she always does.

    (I will get to commenting on all your stories later. GH)

    • ejvonrhein says:

      Wow. This is wonderful. Thanks for the great story.

    • seliz says:

      Oh hell no. He better go get that ticket back! Nicely told story. I was emersed in the vivid details. While I felt bad for the mother, I was also touched by her protective nature.

    • Reaper says:

      Woah. That was intense Mr. Baggins. You have so much in here. You made me love the father even as I despised him. You painted a perfect picture of a man that should be reviled for what he did to his family while at the same time giving him that bit of humanity, that part of him that was providing so I felt pity for him as well. Such conflicting emotions you created. Somehow you made this bleak, stark world with the family, the gangs, and the bully and still managed to suffuse it sunshine and hope. The realization at the end was an amazing transformation, and the love of the mother is unquestionable. I stand in awe of this and you.

    • jmcody says:

      I am in awe of how you so artfully wove in clues to character and foreshadowing of what was to come: the open door to the alleyway, the bruise, the mother’s belief in forgiveness. The second you showed us that ticket in his pocket, I knew that trouble was brewing, but I wasn’t expecting your MC to take it so well! You’ve shown us both the bonds of love and the making of a martyr here, and it was both touching and unsettling. I also wanted Pablo to go fight for that ticket. But instead he is going to get a thrashing. Very upsetting. This is really some high caliber writing, Bilbo.

    • Dennis says:

      The lessons we have to learn as kids, sometimes tragic yet powerful. Great writing about humility and foregiveness.

    • derrdevil says:

      This was amazing! The levels in this short was WOW!! It felt like a Paulo Coelho novel, the way it reads. Beautiful, simple, and powerful. And what Jmcody said was spot on about all the subtle clues dotted throughout. It built up the world in such an effortless and brilliant way. And don’t get me started on the characters! This was genius!!

  38. Artemis4421 says:

    [I can't decide whether I like this one or not...nonetheless, I hope you do!]

    A sign that says USA accompanied with all the players’ numbers; loud rallying blow-horns, people’s faces painted red, white and blue. All are things that people believe will help support the team and lead us to victory. They’re just getting into the spirit, I suppose, but it’s not doing much for my focus.

    This game has been intense so far; no one has scored a goal yet and we’re twenty minutes in. Most of it has been our defense booting it up, and before our forwards (myself included; playing right) can get to it, the other team’s midfield is taking it down. Then our defense will snatch it from them again and…you get the idea. I’ve gotten the ball once, and only to drop it back to our center mid.

    I’m obviously following the game, but no matter how much is at stake, it’s hard to pay attention when you aren’t touching the ball. Your adrenaline fades down a bit until you make contact with the ball, almost as if it gives you a rush of adrenaline that travels up your foot then all through your body. However, either way, you’ve still got to be alert. Trying to get open, covering a player that’s open…whatever needs done.

    Looking up into the crowd, I see a tall man with graying hair, dark eyes and a kind smile. I blink, and the stadium is gone. It’s him and I, in the backyard of my childhood home. My dad and I, with a four-foot soccer goal from the dollar store up the road, and a soccer ball I had gotten for my birthday. I’m eight years old again, and the man beside me is the tallest man I’ve ever known. The strongest man I’ve ever known. He smiles down at me, saying, “Okay, I’ll be right back here, and you run up toward the goal. I’ll pass the ball to you, then you take it up and score, got it?”

    I nod, flashing him a smile that’s missing at least three teeth, and pass the ball to him so he can start. He goes back, then looks up at me. He passes the ball up, and I trap it before dribbling up the sideline. A clear shot at the goal, I shoot, and it falls easily into the corner of the net with a satisfying sound.

    My dad mimics the crowd’s screaming before picking me up on his shoulders and carrying me up to the porch, where my young and beautiful mother is waiting with lemonade and a smile. A perfect memory of a once-perfect family.

    I blink, forcing myself out of the haze of the past, but the sound of my dad’s voice imitating a crowd is still in my ears. It’s louder now, and the team is running toward me with the biggest grins.

    “Great job!” the center forward, Jamie, yells over the crowd, clapping me on the back. Soon the whole team is surrounding me, trying to lift me up. ’Why are they doing this in the middle of a game?’ I wonder uncomprehendingly. But from up on their shoulders, I look up to the scoreboard, which displays no time left, and one goal for us, zero for the other team. I put a hand over my mouth, finally understanding.

    You see, some play from the mind, and others play from the heart. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out what that means. I play from the heart, so most times my mind doesn’t even have to be there; it’s all instinct. I feel tears of joy start to sting my eyes, and I remember the last time I cried. Seeing my tall, strong dad now small and almost brittle, as he lay in a hospital bed, struggling for breath. I cried for him, and I know that even though he raised me to be strong, I think he would be alright if I cried for this. This isn’t only what he wanted, it’s what I wanted too. He transferred his hopes onto me, and I gratefully accepted them without question.

    He taught me to love the game, to feel the game, to be the game. He taught me everything I know about this wonderful sport, and as the reporters ask me if I have anything to say about the game, I just smile and say, “It was for my dad.”

    • sjmca1966 says:

      For me this is one of the most personal stories so far. Well written with great terminology and nice flow in and out of past and present tense. You stuck to the prompt and delivered an easy to read story that took me out onto the pitch. Nice work.

    • Reaper says:

      Wonderful story. I like the stream of consciousness, into dreamlike remembrance, into exposition. It was a risky flow to attempt but you did it so well and it paid off. Just amazing and so touching. The bit at the end about the transformation of the father, the transfer of dreams, and what he would think was also powerful and just very real.

    • jmcody says:

      I agree that this somewhat unusual approach did seem to flow very naturally. It worked for me. I liked your MC’s explanation about playing from the heart.

    • Dennis says:

      I enjoyed this story as well. The MC’s heart carried it

  39. Observer Tim says:

    Simmons blocked the ball with his chest, expertly deflecting it so that it landed right at Gavin Aylford’s feet. Gavin reflexively stopped its sideways roll with his foot, then used a series of light taps to keep it in front of him as he moved downfield. He knew the stakes better than anyone; after all, this game was history to him.

    It was the 2038 World Cup, the final game. There was one minute left on the clock and that was ticking away fast. Neither side had any points on the board. Local pundits said the fate of the United Kingdom rested on this match; Gavin was the only one who knew how literally true that was.

    His jaw had dropped when they told him.

    “A football game, Control? How can one football game have that large an effect on history?”

    “You know better, Agent 141; it’s the ripple effect. You’ve seen what happened since the last change. This football game is our best chance to prevent the rise of the Empire of the Americas and the subjugation of the world.”

    “Can’t I just shoot someone?”

    “Sorry, 141; this battle is being fought for the hearts and minds of people. It has to be the football. You’re being dropped into the mind of Gavin Aylford, wide midfielder…”

    “…and known drunk. A man whose chance of influencing anything is about nil.”

    “He’s all we’ve got. Everyone else is too high profile to drop you in.”

    And so here he was, Agent 141, riding in the mind of Gavin Aylford. Time was running out at a full gallop and both strikers were covered. Gavin started toward Chesterton; 141 had to act now.

    Gavin, take the shot from here! You can do it!

    Gavin, pass to Chesterton! Stick to the plan!

    The other mental voice threw Agent 141 for a moment; an EoA time agent was riding in Aylford too? Things had just gotten complicated.

    Chesterton is covered! You have to take the shot!

    He’ll open up! Do as you’re told!

    Gavin, don’t listen to the other voice! He’s lying!

    Gavin, you know the shot is too hard; pass to Chesterton!

    There’s no time to pass! You have to shoot now!

    Missing here makes you a failure! Chesterton can make the shot! Pass!

    Shoot!

    Pass!

    Faced with two mental voices shouting in his brain, Gavin did the natural thing. He stopped.

    “Shut up, both o’ yers!”

    A Brazilian guard shot past him, surprised by his sudden halt. Gavin ducked back towards his own goal.

    Gavin! Both voices screamed in unison.

    “Oi said shut up ye cheeky bastards! Bugger off, oi know how ta play football!”

    With twelve seconds left in the match Gavin shot wide of the Brazilian goal. Everyone slowed; a shootout was a foregone conclusion now.

    The ball hit the ground and bounced sideways, straight over the astonished head of the goaltender and into the net.

    “Told yers oi know how ta play football.”

    • Kerry Charlton says:

      Great story Tim. Realistic, funny and fun. Loved the accent. A drunk with three minds operating him. Must have been some sight to behold.

    • mskruk says:

      You pulled off the humor well and made me wish the story went on a bit longer. Dialogue can be challenging to write and you did it well in a condensed format.

    • Reaper says:

      The comedic part of this is well done. There are echoes of great stories in here, all of which are darker. Your future is amazingly well conceived and described for so few words. It is also ominous, scary, and believable without further explanation. All around great writing. I really don’t know how you kept this so heavy and so light at the same time.

    • agnesjack says:

      Laughed out loud at this one, Tim, even though it had that scary understory. I thoroughly enjoy your imagination, and I was glad that Gavin told his “minders” where to go.

    • jmcody says:

      This was very funny, but also had so many interesting ideas in it like mind control, the ripple effect and secret agents attempting to thwart world domination by an evil empire… Quite a lot for 500 words but somehow you pulled it off with style and humor. Favorite line: “Can’t I just shoot someone?” I also loved the accent and the dialogue — very entertaining!

    • Dennis says:

      Very entertaining to the end. Liked the sci fi aspect of the story along with the humor.

    • I certainly agree with Reaper on this story. Very well done.

  40. PUSH
    This is it. They had been battling for hours. Carlos hears the words in his head: “PUSH. PUSH.” He does and manages a break away. His legs hammer down on the lush emerald carpet as he propels the ball. The goalie seeing him matches his speed. In his hast he builds momentum that is about to be used against him. Without warning Carlos stops still commanding the ball, but the goalie lurches forward unable to stop. The net is now vulnerable and Carlos’ heart wallops. The stadium, once a deafening thunderstorm, is now ominously silent and empty sits the seat meant for his wife.
    Across the city another heart beat is fluttering as it battles to stay alive. The delivery room of the hospital is awash in organized chaos. Monitors echo the heart of an unborn son. Mother struggling as the doctor calmly demands “PUSH. PUSH.” She does even though she has been battling for hours. Instinctively she knows that something is wrong. She knows the way that she always knows things. Like this morning when her water broke that Carlos could not be with her. He would be on the grass with the world watching, and she would be in the delivery room possibly losing their son. It is the very reason she refused to let him come.
    She persuaded him, “Go! Your team needs you. Your son and I will be waiting after you win the game.”
    She was adamant and he knew there was no way he could change her mind. With a pang of agony she is snapped back into the present and can see it in the doctor’s eyes that they are losing him, but she fights anyway. The doctor tells her staff to ready the OR but looks at her and this time she is less calm.
    “He has one shot but we have to go now.”
    Somewhere else Carlos knows this is his shot. He finds it strange that he has a heightened sense of things. He simultaneously feels the emptiness in his wife’s seat and the electricity searing in his leg as it snaps down. The ball spins like a rifle fired bullet and sails past desperate defenders. A stadium roars to life with primal thunder, and he is enveloped in the arms of his team. All he longs for are the arms of his wife and son.
    Sometime later Carlos has made it to the hospital. He couldn’t escape the world bearing down on him in his victory, despite his every fiber pulling in him to be with his family. He finally finds his wife who is wearied from her own battles. He rushes to her and she is in his arms. She cries as he asks where their son is.
    “I was wrong. I was so wrong,” she laments with eyes looking past Carlos. “And I couldn’t be happier.”
    The nurse wheels into the room with a healthy baby boy as a spent mother and father smile.

  41. rle says:

    Sorry, this doesn’t really fit the prompt all that well. I guess I just used the prompt as a launching pad for something entirely different.

    _____________________________________________

    Mark Sebastian was afraid of God and had been for as long as he could recollect. He’d been raised in a good Christian home by loving parents, but there was always something that nagged in the farthest depths of his mind that made him resist faith. When Mark was twelve, his father was taken in a tragic auto accident and this only bolstered his fear in God. How could a kind and loving God, strip a kind and loving father away from his son? It didn’t add up.

    After losing his father, Mark decided he wouldn’t believe in that kind of a God. This strained the relationship between he and his mother. She still dragged him to church on Sunday mornings and Wednesday evenings, but Mark didn’t pay much attention. He spent most of his time during the sermons thinking about soccer, which after his fathers death, had become a passion. It served him well too, because now, at the age of twenty-nine, he’d become one of the top ten men’s soccer players on the planet.

    Today, Mark’s body was in Brazil playing in the World Cup, his mind however, sat in a hospital room in Miami, where his eight year old son, Adam, was dying of Leukemia.

    As Mark paced up and down the field in a grueling match with the French team, he thought back to when his father died and it still didn’t compute. This time though, he couldn’t figure out why God would threaten to take a young innocent son from his loving parents. He remembered the promise he’d made to Adam just that morning by phone that he would score the winning goal for his son. Mark’s wife Shelley, had scolded him outside of Adam’s door for making promises he might not be able to fulfill.

    Mark hadn’t stopped to consider this. He just felt so painfully helpless to do anything for Adam. This might be something he could do to, if only for a moment, ease the misery of his son’s plight and put a smile on his face. Adam’s prognosis was gravely poor. He might not have many smiles left.

    The game was nearing it’s end with the score tied at zero. Mark’s opportunities to make good on his promise were becoming fewer. Even though his mind and body were both fatigued, he knew it was now or never. He looked at the scoreboard; 00:19 remaining. One of Mark’s fellow forwards gained control of the ball and cautiously dribbled it up the right sideline. Mark sprinted up the left sideline and did a stutter step to break free from a defender who had shadowed him all afternoon. The ball rocketed across the field but it looked to Mark like it was moving in slow motion. He realized the purpose for his whole life rested on this one shot; 00:04 remaining. The instant his foot collided with the ball and drove it toward the goal, time stood still. Mark closed his eyes.

    GOAL!

    JUBILATION!

    Mark nearly collapsed as a wave of emotions swept over him. As his teammates hoisted him onto their shoulders he turned his attention to the jumbo tron. There on the screen was Adam from his hospital room, laughing and pumping his fists in victory. He was perfect. This was a perfect moment. How could Mark have ever denied God his heart? How could he continue to do so?

    * * * *

    Five weeks later, Adam Sebastian lost his fight with Leukemia. Shortly thereafter, Mark and his wife started the Adam Sebastian Foundation. In the following years the foundation provided free accommodations for families of children who were receiving treatments for terminal illnesses.

    Mark Sebastian was afraid of God, but fortunately, God wasn’t afraid of Mark Sebastian.

    • rle I must disagree with you. This fits the prompt very well. I am pleased to have read this. It is a meaningful story. I look forward to more of your writing.

      • Kerry Charlton says:

        rle, a beautiful, emotional, inspiritual story in all it’s finess and glory. You’re . hitting the glass ceiling on this one. Wonderful prose, easy flow, no wasted words. A pure example of good writing, well done.

    • agnesjack says:

      Very well done story about doubt and faith, rle. It is so hard to believe in a loving God when such tragedy occurs, but death is part of life, and you’ve shown that God’s grace exists in us when we honor and remember with love those we’ve lost.

    • Reaper says:

      Your first line hooked me. I had to keep reading just because of that. Fits the prompt very well in my opinion. Beautifully written, intense, and inspirational. As wonderful a story of faith and finding it as I have ever seen. The only suggestion I might offer, and it doesn’t need it but, the last line or the paragraph above it feels like it could use some statement about Adam’s charity making him understand why these things are allowed to happen.

    • jmcody says:

      What I loved about this story was how your MC found his faith despite the fact that his son did ultimately die anyway. This nicely sums up the Christian belief that death is not a defeat. Someone told me something recently — a line from a movie (paraphrasing) — about how the evil one loves a soft, easy life because unchallenged lives make it harder to see God. It is in the midst of our hardships and struggles that we become aware of His presence.

      This story also got to me because when I was six years old my beloved cousin died of Leukemia, and I still think of her and miss her.

      Your writing always has an inherent undercurrent of goodness in it. Thanks for putting this out into the world.

    • Dennis says:

      A great story about faith. Too bad the MC fears God, but unfortunately that is what a lot of churches preach. Glad to see though that the MC found faith even after losing his son and used that to give back to the world.

    • Critique says:

      A great beginning sentence that pulled me in right away. Mark’s inner angst and turmoil were expressed well in your writing. I enjoyed the storyline about Mark’s faith journey.
      How wonderful to turn a grievous experience into something that makes the world a better place.

  42. seliz says:

    One Kick
    ————–

    The sound of the crowd thunders in my ears. Sweat pores down my face as I take aim at the goal—it’s open. One kick will end it.

    As I whip my leg back, a voice stands out from the crowd.

    “Think about what you’re doing.”

    My heart pounds against my chest as I absorb the words.

    Think about it, echos in my head like a mantra.

    One kick will end it.

    I need to act. The timer on the scoreboard is clicking and I’m acutely aware that time is running out. I pull my leg back a second time, suddenly determined. Everything is dependent on me.

    “Please.”

    The voice is shaking now—shaking with tears. It’s as if the voice is pulling me back to a different place.

    I can’t let that happen.

    I need to get my head in the game.

    Other players are barreling down the field towards me, sweat drenched and determined. The closer they get the faster my heart beats. I have to act, before it’s too late. I kick the ball with the strength of built up momentum. The ball spins forward, pushing against the netting of the goal.

    I did it.

    The taste of victory is sweet. The crowd is going wild. They’re jumping and chanting my name.

    “Natalie.”

    It’s the voice again, pulling me out of my victory rush.

    I need to focus. This is my moment.

    “You have to hurry. He’ll kill you.”

    The words are followed by a harsh slap that leaves me blinking. The crowd disappears and the sun melts into a light bulb suspended in a dank basement. Blood is winding down the concrete floor towards me. My heart quickens at the sight.

    It takes me a moment to realize it’s not mine.

    It’s his.

    Our captors.

    He’s laying in a puddle of blood—his blood. Next to him is a thick chunk of brick. The piece that split off after he smashed my head against the wall, I remember with a start. My head is pounding and my vision blurry, pain searing through me at the memory.

    A gaunt looking girl is kneeling in front of me. Her hair is a matted mess, her body a patchwork of bruises. Her nose has a swollen bump across the bridge, blood trickling down her face. It’s her nose that snaps me out of it—sends reality tumbling back into my confused mind.

    Laura.

    He finished with me and moved to Laura. He was so angry. He would have killed her. I had to stop him.

    One kick to end it.

    Tears burn in my eyes as I let myself be pulled up the stairs. The twang of the metal latch is like a gunshot, as Laura yanks open the thick wooden door. We tumble out of the hell house, adrenaline pushing our broken bodies forward.

    The sun is blinding as summer air wraps around me like a coat.

    We’re free.

    It’s the sweetest victory rush I’ve ever tasted.

    • Kerry Charlton says:

      Wow, that was an intense story. First person gives it a great wallop! It reads as if you’re inside the Mc’s brain. Never mess with a woman, I say, especially a soccer star. Their feet are deadly as you point out so well in your story. The two sentences that open your tale are real grabbers. What else can I say? It’s great.

    • jmcody says:

      This was another harrowing tale from you. Your stories are always so mesmerizing and so tightly written. This was especially horrific because of so many stories in the news lately about women being held captive, hidden for years in hell houses by deranged men. Gripping and masterfully told, Seliz.

    • agnesjack says:

      Wow. That took a turn that I didn’t expect, seliz. Tight writing with a nice accelerating flow. Glad they found freedom, but horrified by what they must have endured.

    • Reaper says:

      Very nice. I felt a strong lurch when the MC was pulled back into reality. Love the way you built the companionship between the two. Without saying it the one being willing to attack for the other, and then the second making sure she had the first instead of running as soon as she was able spoke to a bond strong enough to overcome terror. I’m not sure if your MC really was a soccer star, or if that was just her mind free associating. Either way I loved it and it leaves me wanting more in all the right ways.

    • Dennis says:

      Great writing, kept me guessing as to what was really happening until the MC cam back to reality. Harrowing story that made my heart ache at the circumstances but felt relieved they were able to escape.

    • Critique says:

      You have a wonderful style to your writing that captures my attention. This was an intense story that thankfully ends on a sweet note. Well done seliz.

    • seliz says:

      Thanks for all the kind words everyone. I really appreciate you all taking the time to read my writing. I can honestly say that each week I respond to a prompt, my confidence with my writing grows. It’s nice to be able to correspond with such a talented, kind group of people. :)

  43. jmcody says:

    Disclaimers:

    1. Everything I know about soccer I learned from the preschool bumblebee league. It’s not the same.
    2. I went all mushy again. Get your barf bags out.
    3. I really hope I didn’t screw up the italics again, and you’re not looking at a sea of squiggly line.
    :)
    ____________________________________________________________________________________

    This is it, thought Matteo. The moment you’ve trained for all your life.

    The Spanish sun cast its golden benediction over Matteo, over Madrid and over everything. Matteo fixed his eyes on the goal and crossed himself. Nel nome del Padre e del Figlio e dello Spirito Santo, Amen. The roar of the crowd mingled with the rush of his life’s blood in his ears and the hammering in his chest.

    Tha-thump-tha-thump-tha-thump-tha-thump

    It had not been an easy tournament, rife with setbacks and upsets, and the final game had been long and arduous. But he was one kick away from victory, and it would be sweet indeed.

    Tha-thump-tha-thump-tha-tha-thump

    Past, present and future merged, and in the expansiveness of the moment Matteo saw and felt and savored everything: The spongy turf beneath his cleats. The blue enveloping sky and the vastness of stars and planets and galaxies beyond. The woman waiting just beyond the goal. The sweetness and the sorrow and the lurching incoherence of his own heart.

    Tha-thump-tha-tha-thump-thump

    The stadium fell into hushed stillness. Time slowed, and then ceased altogether.

    Thump.

    As he had done all the days of his life since his first flutterings in his mother’s womb, Matteo kicked with all his being.

    Thwack.

    The ball’s trajectory was straight and true and infinite, and Matteo was aloft.

    Clear!

    Something was wrong. The air seemed charged with electricity. Both Matteo and the ball hung suspended in a haze of static.

    “Matteo.” The voice was soft and familiar. Through the static, the face of the woman came into focus.

    Celestina.

    Memories of their life together crashed through the static and the pain, and with them came the return of gravity. Where have you been, Il Mio Amore? Matteo thought as he collided with the turf and the ball resumed its flight.

    Clear!

    Another lightning bolt of pain shot through Matteo. Don’t go, Celestina!

    Keep your eyes on the goal, Matteo.

    Matteo looked to the goal as the ball disappeared into the net and the world crumbled to dust – the stadium, the crowds, the turf beneath his feet, his teammates – all gone. All that remained was Matteo, Celestina, the subsuming brilliance of the sun and the infinite peace of the crystal-dusted universe.

    * * *
    “Clear” yelled the paramedic named Paolo as he applied the paddles one last time. Again there was no response. Paolo knew it was time to call it. “Time of death?”

    “2:53 p.m., Sunday, July 13, 2014” said the paramedic named Rocco. They bowed their heads in silence and gazed down at the legend who lay staring blankly up at the heavens.

    “He was my hero when I was a kid,” said Paolo after a moment. “I remember when he scored the winning goal in the 1982 World Cup in Madrid.”

    “He was the hero of all of Italy,” said Rocco. “It was a shame what happened to him. They say he never got over the death of his wife. Never played il calico again.”

    Rocco and Paolo closed the doors of the ambulance and drove off without sirens or lights. Somewhere in Rio de Janeiro, the final game of the 2014 World Cup was just beginning.

    • jmcody says:

      Argghhh… That’s CALCIO, not CALICO. Calcio is Italian for soccer. Calico is… a cat, or a fabric, I think. Dang it. :)

    • Amyithist says:

      Regardless of the typo on calcio, your take on this jmcody is fantastic. So touching and beautiful and sad. You are a wonderful writer; romantic and sensual. Nothing wrong with that. No barf bag needed. LOL GREAT job!

    • Jay says:

      Gorgeous imagery, jmcody. Sad, too. It’s been proved that you can die from a broken heart. Nicely done. :)

    • seliz says:

      First your disclaimer cracked me up. Then your story pulled my heartstrings. What are you trying to do to me?! That being said, I really enjoyed this. The second half of the story really put the puzzle pieces together. The last line was the perfect finishing touch.

      • Kerry Charlton says:

        A romantic and sad tale it is, but with death comes life and Celestino. The good and the bad. Your writing is so mystical, even though it’s a story about lost love and heartbreak, all my mind rushed to Camelot. “For once there was a Camelot.” I feel so much privilege to read your writing. Thank you, jm.

      • jmcody says:

        Sorry about the mood swings, Seliz! :)

    • derrdevil says:

      I loved your take on the prompt, your eloquent writing and it’s beautiful prose. As if it were a hazy dream. I loved how you built up the first half. Extremely beautiful and amazingly powerful. Love! Love! Love!!! Thanks for sharing it

    • sjmca1966 says:

      You have a lovely style of writing. Everything just flows so nicely. Another great take on the prompt.
      Magnifico!

    • vaderize03 says:

      Love love love this!

      I’ve always been fascinated by near-death/out-of-body experiences, and this totally drew me in. We don’t know whether or not his vision fades, or he really goes to Heaven with his wife. Regardless, it’s an amazing piece of writing.

      Thank you for this.

      • jmcody says:

        I like to think he went to heaven with his wife…

        You got my meaning exactly. I have always been fascinated by the NDEs also. Thanks for the encouraging feedback, and I’m glad you enjoyed it!

    • mskruk says:

      Easy to read, compressed heartbreak. Excellent writing.

    • agnesjack says:

      Your descriptions are so gorgeous: “The sweetness and the sorrow and the lurching incoherence of his own heart” and “the infinite peace of the crystal-dusted universe”. The intermittent sounds expressed in italics led perfectly to the sad reveal at the end. A melancholy story, but I have to say that I felt happy for him, too, at the end, because he would now be forever with his beloved Celestina.

    • Reaper says:

      Amazing. Something was nagging at me with the second heartbeat sound, I realized it was off, intentionally, and then dismissed it as nerves. I only came back to that at the first Clear! when I started to realize where you were going. You pulled my heartstrings with this one.

      There is so much going on in this story. There are many stories about the fanaticism and the intensity of soccer. Without knowing much about it you joined the few that spoke to the pure love of the game, the passion for it that keeps the players going. Your love story was amazing. Your commentary on the national pride was beautiful. The idea you slipped in about heroes and how they are seen and being bigger than life for their fans while they have their own troubles was subtle and perfect. I also love that you made your MC Italian when going for the love story focus. I always think that is a perfect touch unless the story calls for another nationality. Here it was a perfect touch.

      Even I did not need a barf bag. This was a sweet, well told love story, not the saccharine force we have shoved down our throats so often. People that write romantic books and movies could take a lesson from you.

      • lionetravail says:

        I completely agree with the wonderful accolade above. Brilliant writing, with the heartbeat an even more visceral and intense sensation to draw the reader in.

      • jmcody says:

        Wow, thanks Reaper. I started writing the mushy stuff a few prompts back, and it seems to have stuck. I didn’t know I had it in me!

        Nothing perfect here, but thanks for saying so anyway. :)

    • Dennis says:

      As others have said, a true touching story without the sugar. It was a testament to love and to a great player and hero. Great transition from Matteo’s vision back to reality, using the heartbeat as the connection. Great writing.

    • jmcody says:

      Thank you to everyone who took the time to read and comment!

    • Critique says:

      Jmcody, the only thing that could make me barf here, is envy. This is beautiful descriptive writing. I loved the story.

    • Great story. You’ve artfully portrayed the death of a hero. The resuscitation efforts were nicely woven in. I wasn’t sure if I followed the clues until later in the story–well done.

  44. yaxomoxay says:

    I have not reviewed it… so here it goes!!

    —–

    Being visited by an alien the night before the most important game of my life is weird. Being visited by two, is irrational.
    You see, as much as soccer is important in my country, we had never reached the final game of the World Cup before. The morning of the game sport journalists made my team’s feat sound as important as winning World War Three. They did not save any adjective, bombing the audience with a full-out attack of “outstanding”, “amazing”, “incredible”, “historic”, and even a nonsensical “supercalifragilisticous”. Before the game, they broadcasted over and over the images of us beating the two most titled teams, Brazil in the quarterfinals, and Italy in the semifinals. Brazil was the hardest, since we played 12-11 as the referee was on their side, and whistled two fictional penalties in their favor.
    During the final, running toward the golie and at the last minute, I had the goal for myself. I felt a tickling on my back as the world’s eyes were on me. I could score, end the tie, and bring home the cup. But – there’s a but – as I said I was recently visited by two aliens.
    The first one approached me in my room at seven.
    “You see,” he said. “Io brazileiro alien-oh”. Now that’s a hit approach, especially as he appeared out of nothing Trekkie style with his green egg-shaped head,.
    It took me a lot of listening and patience to figure out that he wasn’t a Brazilian alien, but an alien that had a large bet against the other team. He told me to call him Carioca, and that our win was important because he bet Earth. Yes, Earth. Carioca kindly explained that he owned Earth – and humans – but since he’s a nice guy he doesn’t enslave his planets as long as local politicians do what he says. But he was also a gambling addict, so here it goes Earth. If he lost the bet, Earth would be given to a different owner and humans would be enslaved within the end of the year. Now, of course I already wanted my team to win, so this was a big boost for me, an incredibly important reason.
    As strange as the situation was, I felt confident and relaxed until Kvlaz’navnjek;lahas, the alien with an Ikea name, came inside the bathroom while I was showering. He went straight to the core of the discussion. He was a mobster, one of the richest of the galaxy and he, as the other alien, was deeply involved in betting. He could buy the solar system, but he loved challenges too much, so he offered me a choice. If my team won, since he bet against us he would delete my bank account and modify any good part of my history, leaving me a miserable life. If my team lost, he would send me and my family to an Earth-like planet, with better air and population. To sweeten the offer, he would made me the richest man of that solar system. He even showed me some video (on youtube…) of what I could get. It was behind words.
    So here I was, an all sweaty man, chasing a stupid ball and with human’s future in his hands (or feet). Running, I glanced at the assistant ref and saw that the offside flag was down, which meant I had to make a decision. Quick. Richness and human slavery or peace but an awful life for me and my family?
    I won’t describe the details of what happened, it was on the news for quite a while. I am sorry humans, but I just wanted to let you know why last week you ended up like that. You deserve at least to know the truth. Goodbye, I will send you postcards.

    • Jay says:

      First of all, I really liked the story. Kept me reading. “Ikea name” didn’t really make sense to me, but I knew exactly what you were going for, and for that reason, I love the line! I especially like the end “I will send you post card.” I guess deciding the fate of millions (and giving up a win) for a small family says a lot about his character.

    • seliz says:

      What a funny and interesting take on the prompt. I really enjoyed it. It had me chuckling the whole time. Is it terrible to say I don’t really blame him for the choice he made? I mean “modify any good part of my history” is a pretty intense threat. Either way, nicely done :)

    • sjmca1966 says:

      I know ‘lol’ gets used out of context these days, but I was literally laughing out loud at parts of this story. Really enjoyed your perspective.

    • Reaper says:

      I haven’t seen anything from you in a while. This was amazingly funny all they way through with some serious undercurrents. It might also say something about me that I can get behind his choice. But that my be in part that I doubt the power of these aliens. Some great lines, including the Ikea name. Oh. I missread the line that made me doubt. I thought it said he doesn’t enslave the planets as long as the local politicians do what they say. So I figured we were doomed anyway. I really like this one.

      • yaxomoxay says:

        thank you for your comment. Yeah, I missed the past few weeks, going through some depression. I wasn’t in the mood to write, or do anything to tell you the truth. However, I am back!

    • jmcody says:

      This was quirky and funny, and I loved the offhanded tone with which your MC told this fantastical tale. The fact that you figured out how to add an extra syllable to supercalifragilistic-ous made me laugh, as did the Ikea name. Amusing story!

    • Dennis says:

      That’s taking one of the bigger themes of this prompt to a whole new level. The weight of the world on his shoulders. Not sure I blame the MC for his choice. Nice job.

  45. Amyithist says:

    NOTE: I hate soccer. I know nothing of it. So forgive my meager attempts. :(

    A lifetime of training; years and years of listening to my father tell me I could be better; that I had to be better. “For me, Alexander. For your mother. But most of all, for you country.” I could still hear his angry voice as he planted me in front of the soccer ball and ordered me to play. Every missed goal was 10 lashings. And it all led to this moment.
    Around me, the crowd roared with excitement. This was it. Russia was tied with US, 0-0. We’d played well against one another; me heading off against Zusi, both of us yearning to prove ourselves. But I had so much more to lose.
    My eyes scrolled up to the box seats where my 82 year old father sat with Putin’s detail. The men were all glaring down at me; urging me to succeed and daring me to fail. Keep your mind in the game, I thought, pulling my attention back to the field. Zusi was already halfway down the midfield line. Panicked, I set off after him, my arms pumping, my legs tearing over the field. I felt as if I was going to come apart I was running so fast and hard. I had to buy myself some time. I gained on Zusi and pivoted in front of him, purposefully dropping into a slide and clipping his shins. It was dirty, but I had to do it. Whistles from the sidelines rose up over the crowd. I looked over, realizing the ref had issued a yellowcard against me. I had anticipated that.
    Winded and nearly out of gas, I hobbled over to the sidelines where coach was waiting. “What are you doing over there,” he hissed. The Russian language sounds terrifying under good circumstances; but it’s even worse when it is spoken by an angry soccer coach.
    “I’m doing my best,” I replied, sucking in a mouthful of air.
    “You’re too busy daydreaming and lollygagging. Remember, Alexander; it’s my ass, too.” He grabbed me by the collar of my shirt and yanked me close to him. His breath smelled like cigar and vodka. “It’s my life, too.”
    It was no secret that those who let the country down in any way rarely lived to tell of it. I’d been approached six months ago by a group of rough looking suits. They’d warned me then; win the World Cup or die. I swallowed and pulled away from coach’s grasp. “I understand,” I said lowly.
    I turned back to the field. Zusi was being checked by medics. After a few moments, he was deemed fit to play and we took our positions on the field again. Zusi took over the ball, using his patented thigh-trap to control the ball. He then dropped it back to the green, kicking and blocking his way back toward the goal. I was right behind him, fighting for the chance to steal the ball away. I only had five minutes to block this kick and make a beeline back down the field and make the winning goal. All I had to do was block this shot…
    Unfortunately, Zusi proved why he is who he is by slamming the ball into the goal. My heart nearly fell to my toes. Okay. No problem, I thought. I got this.
    Two minutes later and I was nearing the goal. I’d made this shot a million times…no way I would miss it now…right? I had control of the ball. I could tie it right here…I could save my own life as well as my coaches if I could just get the ball past Zusi.
    I kicked. The ball flew through the air, toward the goal. But somehow I’d over compensated my angle and the ball hit the goal post, bouncing away from the net. It landed on the green with a sickening thud. That was the sound of my life ending.
    I sunk to my knees, tears immediately stinging my eyes. It was over. Everything was over. I slowly stood, watching as the Americans jumped and screamed. It was the first time they’d ever won a World Cup; and now, thanks to me, Russia didn’t have one win to boast.
    Two hours later I was taken a warehouse. The cold cement bit into my bare feet as the suits dragged me toward the killing room. I’d heard of this place; it was a place mentioned only in whisper; fail Russia and this is where you will meet your demise. Beside me, my coach sniveled and cried and begged for his life. I stayed quiet. I knew what was coming and I knew, in some regards, I deserved it.
    My father hadn’t given me so much as a glance as the men gathered me at the end of the game. His disappointment had been enough for me to accept my fate without any opposition. I entered the room. Men stood in front of me; guns drawn, faces grim. At least I would get to look my killers in their eyes. As the triggers were pulled my last thought, oddly enough, was a Tolstoy quote: The greater the state, the more wrong and cruel its patriotism, and the greater is the sum of suffering upon which its power is founded. How fitting…

    • Marie Therese Knepper says:

      You had me riveted from beginning to end, rooting for your MC to win the game.
      Amyithist – Score! So good.

    • resullewlar says:

      Smart. Funny too. Everyone hated the narrator.

    • seliz says:

      This was suspense filled from beginning to end. I could really feel the pressure Alexander felt throughout the story. I kept hoping for a surprise happy ending, but the quote was a nice alternative.

      • Kerry Charlton says:

        I was pulled into the story realizing the ending would be deadly. I kept hoping as I always hope but the finality and realism did their take on life. I only wondered why in the world didn’t the father intevene? The coldness of him was frightening to read. A real gripper of a story, well done.

    • sjmca1966 says:

      Why do I now feel compelled to watch Rocky IV.
      Really enjoyed reading this. Especially liked, “His breath smelled like cigar and vodka.”
      For a soccer hater, you still captured the moment.

    • moscoboy says:

      What a killer story. It was very compelling to the end. Nice read.

    • jmcody says:

      For someone who doesn’t know anything about soccer, you sure did a good job of faking it! This was intriguing and suspenseful, and left me wanting to know more. Why was the MC singled out for this kind of treatment? Were the other Russian players also threatened? This makes me think there was more to the story than the 500 words would allow.

      As always, you sure know how to tell a story!

    • Reaper says:

      Perfectly told Amyithist. The lack of knowledge of the sport didn’t show because you deftly made this about something else, something much more powerful. Keeping soccer as the stage worked well into the fanaticism of both the father and the government. This was genius and sucked me in from the first word to the last.

    • Dennis says:

      You kept great tension throughout with this gritty tale. I like the final touch of the MC keeping his composure at the end and able to quote Tolstoy.

  46. resullewlar says:

    I haven’t eaten in three days.
    This religious fast is getting out of hand.
    I’m using my last bit of strength running on this field. I feel faint and in a daze. I look at the field and at the players and at the soccer ball with indifference. I almost don’t see them, but muscle memory and practice has me able to still play decently. I feel like I’m dying. I smell the grass and sense the dampness of the field. I just want to eat it. I finally find myself near the goal, and realize I am wide open and in a perfect spot for scoring a goal. I panic. I know I am not ready for this. The next think i know I see one of my teammates looking straight at my eyes with excitement. He has possession of the ball. He kicks it with speed straight at my head. I find myself unable to move, and too weak to jump. But I’m able to move my head a little to aim for the goal. The soccer ball hits my head and I black out.

    I wake up in heaven. There is someone standing next to me and smiling. I asked him, “did we win the game?” He answered, “Yeah, you won the game. You made the goal and the ending score was 1-0.”

  47. Augie says:

    Hey everyone! I’m out-n-about. This had to be done!
    (First time using an Apple thingy! Hope it comes out right!)

    Will she kiss me?

    My heart races as the team strafes across the field. How awesome it is to find a girl that likes this game! I look up at her; her eyes fixate in anticipation as I line up for a pure shot. Teammates intelligently cover my every move.

    Will she kiss me?

    Her brother Chuck is the captain of the opposing team. While he towers over me, I am not afraid. He attempts to intimidate me with lunges and yells, but it doesn’t work. I know she cheers for me!

    Will she kiss me?

    Chuck smiles as his team sets up a defensive stance; I calculate the geometric challenge, X-Y-Left Strike!

    The ball sails down the field. Chuck lunges at me again and shouts as he directs his team in response to my long drive. I look up at Jenny and smile.

    She will kiss me!

    I met Chuck through the global scouting network and was surprised that he lives just a few blocks away. We both worked our way up to captain on our teams and never met until we were facing off for the title.

    Even more surprising is the beauty of his sister! She comes to every game that our teams compete in. It has been a long year and this game determines who wins the World Cup. After year full of bullying and threats, I attempt to lead my team to victory!

    Will she kiss me then?

    Chuck makes a few quick maneuvers. He is definitely controlling the ball the way a 7th generation can.

    She won’t kiss me!

    I quickly bump to the left dominating the mid field, which dictates the tempo for my team.

    Chuck shifts left, then right. His body steers violently with each controlled move.

    I’m not intimidated by his vicious thrashing.

    SHE WILL KISS ME!

    I sneak in with a rapid combination of moves I have mastered.

    The ball sails into the net! ‘SCORE!’
    Chuck jumps up and down screaming, “Nooooo!”

    I try to calm him, but it’s too late. My mother shouts from down stairs:

    “Michael, I thought you are doing homework! Are you kids playing video games again? Put the X-BOX away!”

    I struck two goals today. First, I beat the neighborhood bully. But most important, is the kiss on the cheek from his sister Jenny!

    I shout, “EA-SPORTS! It’s in the game!”

    • Marie Therese Knepper says:

      I have not been posting here for very long. In my opinion, this is the best work I’ve read from you, Augie. I loved every word. The thrill of youth. Even a peck on the cheek from our crush gives us a thrill.

    • Dennis says:

      Great take on this prompt. You had me the hold time and was less interested if he scored then whether she kissed him. :)

      • Kerry Charlton says:

        You’re right on top, Augie. I remember the first time, Sandy kissed me. I think it was in ’52 maybe. I even know the movie we went to that night, ‘Wuthering Heights’.
        Your display of first kiss is so accurate, I’m amazed by it. A real switch in style for you and I cheer you on to more.

    • Amyithist says:

      I liked this. NEVER thought about having it be a video game take. Well done! Action was fantastic.

    • agnesjack says:

      Love the “will she kiss me” as the distraction. Finding out that it was a video game just added to the overall fun of this piece, Augie.

      • Augie says:

        agnesjack, I’ve missed you the last two weeks! The guys and I received the book you recommended. Sad, but inspiring. This book is real! I stay away from movies and books that claim to capture the true experience of our fighting forces. It’s easy to identify the writers who understand Honor, Courage, and Commitment from BS writers who build an imaginary battle. It inspired me to continue my own writing. I am tightening it up and will send you a copy when it’s done. Thank you for inspiring me! Auguila

        • agnesjack says:

          Thanks, Augie. I hated missing the prompts. I’ve been participating since last August and love the community.

          The book is sad, but definitely authentic because Tim O’Brien was an infantryman in Vietnam. I’m so glad it inspired you. I thought his concept of understanding the soldiers by what they carried and held dear, was very profound. I haven’t read it in a long time, but I remember one section where a soldier is contemplating his boots. I may just pick it up and read it again. Tim O’Brien is an excellent writer and you might enjoy his other books, too.

    • Augie says:

      agnesjack, I sent you he prologue. Hope you like it!

    • Critique says:

      I read this quickly because I HAD to find out if she kissed him! A great idea to use a video game in the prompt. Thanks for a fun read augie :)

  48. derrdevil says:

    The Sao Paolo air was electric in the dying minutes of extra time. The multitudes of fans chorused the chant ‘England ’til I die’ as Wayne Rodney stepped up to take the free kick. He breathed in deeply as his stocky frame stood above the ball with assertive confidence. He looked on towards the goal line, sweat dripped off the furrows of his brow, as he watched with hawk eyes for any weakness in the line. He witnessed the Uruguayan goalkeeper martial the wall to his orders as he bellowed out to his teammates. The referee blew the whistle one last time for play to continue.

    Every notable football pundit from the land across the pond had hedged their bets on the Three Lions to take home the glory at this term’s highest honor – the World Cup. On paper, England’s statistics seemed to assert a cocky confidence, but their recent lack-luster string of performances in the build up games did all but inspire the nation.

    One man stood apart – Wayne Rodney. The indomitable front man of one of the most lauded teams in club football. Currently at the peak of his career after recently challenging Uruguay’s own front man for the coverted Ballon d’Or, Rodney could unsettle just about any defensive partnership. If anyone could carry a team, he would be the man that stepped up to the challenge.

    But after their latest game in the group stages against the tactful Italy, the Lions looked out of depth and came up short by a goal. The newspapers read ‘Blues turn Lions to cubs’, ‘Lions rue attacking frailties’, ‘Titto teaches Wazza a lesson’.

    Naturally, the critics gravitated towards Rodney, heaping the sole blame on the world class striker’s broad shoulders. His very own former team mate, Paul Scholar, wrote on his blog, mentioning that Wazza might have already peaked and would have to step up his game to finally prove himself on the world stage.

    Now was the moment to silence those critics as Wayne towered over the ball, the nation chanting his name throughout the stadium. If he could net this ball in the old onion bag from thirty yards out, England could draw the match at 2-2 and move on into the knockout rounds. If not, then their hopes lay in the hands of Costa Rica, the weakest team in the group, to beat the impregnable Azzurri.
     
    It wouldn’t have mattered one bit to Wayne. He was the man for all seasons. A grizzled hero carved out of the annals of sweat and iron-willed determination. He bled for club and country, season after season. But on this occasion, it bothered him.

    What if the critics were true? What if he really did already peak? He knew his legs were gone. They were not as powerful as they used to be. He remembered when he could go ninty minutes flat out without losing a breath, but now his attacking prowess had to be fine tuned for those rare moments when he could break the offside trap and beat the goalie one in one with his deft finesse shot.

    The criticism would have hurt a lot less if Paul Scholar wasn’t one of his teammates. It would have hurt a hell of a lot less if Paul Scholar wasn’t one of the Three Lion’s greatest ever midfield generals. That negativity hung in his head like a fortune teller’s gloomy cloud that could predict his fall from glory. 

    But regardless of Wayne’s form, and the critics’ debate against him, the ball lay before him in his free kick territory – one of his many specialty traits. Wazza eyed out the goalkeeper, sizing up his position and the men behind him. He noticed a break in the wall just above the third man. If he could add a hint of curve with enough power then he could easily slot it into the top left hand corner. The goallie would have no chance stopping it.

    The ref blew his whistle for play to continue as Wayne breathed out and focused on the ball. The chanting of the crowds drowned out as his mind locked onto his target. He took his trademark run up to the ball and powered home a beauty of a right foot that flew with vicious pace towards the third man of the wall. The Uruguain defender jumped in predictive instinct, his face grimaced against the prospect of the ball smashing into him. But as Wayne had hoped, the ball whipped inches over his head and curved wickedly to the left.

    Wayne was already in celebratory mode as he burst forward with his fists in the air. The ref blew his whistle to signal full time as he broke through the wall. But what he saw froze him dead in his tracks. His heart stopped as he fell to his knees. The goallie had caught the ball in an amazing reflex save.

    England’s hopes had been dashed in an instant. The Three Lions and their supporters drowned out into silence by Uruguay’s win and a cacophony of distorted noise. A noise of immense joy and pride as their team progress through to the next stage.

    On the edge of the Uruguain penalty box, Wayne had no tears. He was lost in a heartfelt moment as he saw a young boy, not much older than his own, tug off his Number 10 England shirt and throw it aside in disgust.

    • jhowe says:

      That was in your face edgy with a lot of know-how woven in. Great job. I was so much rooting for Wayne but this was a great ending.

    • Dennis says:

      I watched the England Uruguay match. Quite a game it was. Enjoyed all of your detail about the game the emotions behind it.

    • Amyithist says:

      This read like a high-action, play by play account that one would expect to read in a sports magazine or even an autobiography of a star. You did a very nice, solid job. You obviously know your soccer! Very well written!

    • derrdevil says:

      Everyone was writing about deaths and briberies an all other aspects associated with the game. I just wanted to write about the game itself. I didn’t need your acknowledgement to know that I’m nuts about my footie… But, nonetheless, thanks guys! I’m loving it.
      Btw, so amazed by Costa Rica finishing top of the group. An amazing feat!!

      • Kerry Charlton says:

        This is perfection in the realm of a true sports story. I remember the days of listening to the radio in my grandfather’s study to Army playing Navy and hearing the sports announcer roll the description of the game over the airwavs. You caught that beautifully here. Took me back to ’45. Thank you. In case you think ’45 is a typo, it’s not!

    • jmcody says:

      Derr, you’re back! Wow, you actually wrote about soccer. How refreshing! No one got killed or kidnapped or molested or beat up or imprisoned or saw dead people…

      In all seriousness, this was some very crisp and lively sports writing. You have a flair for this — As Amyithist said, I could see you writing professionally about sports. There were some wonderful phrases and dramatic moments. Your opening line was as electric as the air in Sao Paolo, and made me want to read on, even though I am not a soccer fan, so that’s really saying something!

      Wonderful, Derrdevil, and I’m glad you’re back!

      • derrdevil says:

        Ha!! Thanks jm. I guess I can write more than just blood and gore, haha. I blame all those heroic fantasy novels I devour.

        I’m glad to be back. I’ve been reading on the site, just haven’t had the time to write. Busy busy!! But so glad to be back in wonderful company.

    • derrdevil says:

      For whoever is reading, my name is Derryn but my handle, Derrdevil, is a play on my name and the club I support: the Red Devils – Manchester United’s nickname. Perhaps that is a hint as to how nuts I am about soccer :)

    • Critique says:

      I could have been reading a sport magazine or the sports page of a major newspaper. It’s clear you know what you’re writing about. This was excellent.

  49. moscoboy says:

    I know nothing about soccer, but I would like to thank WikiHow and Youtube for giving me pointers on the game.

    Fútbol Mundial

    My life is soccer in the U.S. and fútbol to the rest of the world. I practiced 24/7 on my moves. Manchester United wooed me at the end of my contract, but I stayed and played for Miami with a multi million-dollar contract. I was forced to stay, the climate was warm, and everyone loved me.

    I was on the USA team playing in the FIFA World Cup Finals and I ran into a well-dressed man in our hotel lobby that recognized me. “Hector Palma, it is my pleasure to make your acquaintance,” said the man with an Argentinean accent. “Let’s sit and take a café.” He came right to the point. “I’m afraid our meeting is not coincidental. I represent a consortium of businessmen who would appreciate your cooperation in tomorrow’s game against Cuba.”

    “Listen Mr. I Don’t Know Your Name. You bunch of gangster’s want me to play a bad game so your friends can score big, am I correct?”

    “Si, but your arrogance is nauseating,” he lingered to make sure there was no one near our table and passed me a white hotel envelope. “Go ahead and touch it, there’s no money. It’s just a nice photo of you instructing a very young boy in the fine art of, how should I say this delicately, taking it in the culo?”

    I was unable to move my hand and take the envelope. My head was spinning; I motioned for the waiter, “Agua por favor.”

    “If you don’t score, the picture and video will be deleted from our files and we will never meet again. If you play as expected señor Palma you will lose all.” He put on his shades and donned his Panama hat and left me to think.

    The Cubans were fast and determined to win. I tried my best dribble moves and passed the ball around to Miguel the other striker, the score was 0-0. We had a throw in with two seconds to go. Bob Chapman threw the ball in and Miguel was there to pass me the ball. I feinted and focused on the outside corner of the net and gave the ball a left spin that I knew from my younger days was a recipe for a miss. The ball was low and spinning outside the net until a tall Cuban midfielder backed up; the ball bounced off his curly hair into the net for the winning goal.

    The team went wild. Guys were taking victory laps and around the net using their shirts as banners. I fell to my knees and cried. Miguel knelt next to me as I wept and said, “Tears of joy for the victor. I thought it was going to go over the corner of the net, but Dios was with you Hector, you will be a saint forever.”

  50. Jay says:

    I never work from someone else’s prose, and I hope Reaper will forgive me. >.< Read his gripping and amazing story before you start this one!

    My Participation Trophy II
    (AGAIN: Read Reaper’s story first!)

    People never think to take me seriously.

    I thought that as I kneeled next to the man who had one of his own rancid socks gagging his already filthy mouth.

    The bitter scent of gasoline twisted my stomach as it had when I was a child. The sweltering summer made the shed a boiler room, which caused the air to be thick as though I could’ve been breathing motor oil. The concrete flooring felt cold under my bare feet, an almost clinical sensation that seemed completely out of place in a dingy garage.

    The man sitting in front of me slammed his eyes shut as I ran the sharp edge of my knife along his left cheek. His skin parted with ease, and he winced as his salty sweat entered the new wound. His bottom lip quivered with a pathetic weep of agony that arrested his manliness. I wondered if he was finally ready to take me seriously.

    I took a deep breath and looked down at the two-by-two photograph pinched between my thumb and index finger. In it my daughter opened a partially toothless and lovingly brilliant smile at the photographer, her mother. My muscles tensed, and I gripped the hilt of the knife until all that energy drove me to flip it and slam the blade into the meat of the man’s thigh. He tried to scream but was muffled by his gag.

    Four months after this man and several others tried to extort a thrown game at the World Cup, my wife committed suicide. She wasn’t able to deal with it as well as I could, but my strength was only measured by her need for it. Once she was gone and without my daughter, I lost all semblance of good-natured humanity. Nothing held me back from finding justice in any way I could.

    “She was so cold,” I whispered. He opened his eyes and those hazel pools were surrounded by a pink ring of fears and tears. “I’m gonna take that nasty shit out of your mouth, and you’re gonna tell me who did this to my family.”

    He shook his head enthusiastically, and I pulled the sock out. It was mottled with the dinge of brown sweat and the fresh crimson blood from his broken nose. He smacked his tongue in his dry mouth for a moment.

    He whimpered and said as though he choked on cobwebs, “Saner. Sammy Saner.”

    The world around me fell into silence as my ears clogged with a thick fog of countless emotions. I knew that man. It was then that I realized it had nothing to do with winning or losing the World Cup. It had nothing to do with my daughter. It was all my fault.

    I pulled the knife from his leg and drove it into his neck. I stood as he gagged for his life, and while I left the garage I could only think one thing: my wife didn’t commit suicide.

    • margi33 says:

      Intriguing and well written, Jay. A nice addition to Reaper’s also well told story.

    • Marie Therese Knepper says:

      Holy frijoli’s! I still haven’t commented on Reaper’s yet, trying to find the right words to express the emotional roller coaster he took me on. And now this.
      Bravo!

    • Dennis says:

      Nice crisp writing with a bit of a cliff hanger. You really captured the moment and emotion, especially of what could cause something to go over the edge.
      Wait till Reaper finds out he has been fan-fictioned :)

      • Kerry Charlton says:

        Jay, when you read my response to Reaper’s story, how well you might imagine, I’m into your MC. As gritty and powerful as a story can get. Blind revenge and insatiable anger brilliantly written here.

    • Amyithist says:

      Oh my gosh. You captured the MC perfectly; this is exactly how I would imagine Reaper’s story continuing… and yet, there is that lovely little twist at the end. I’m almost inclined to write a continuation myself, but I will refrain. LOL I think if anyone takes that honor, it should be Reaper.
      Wish that being said…Your writing is superb. Absolutely flawless in execution. No wonder you’re a published author, Jay! And a FANTASTIC one at that! Teach me, Yoda! ;)

    • Reaper says:

      Nothing to forgive. In some way I think I know how Peter Straub must have felt every time he turned the pages of Black House back over to Stephen King. Very intense. I think Amyithist should have written a continuation like she wanted to, but now I suppose I will have to. Though I doubt it will be tonight. Thank you for this, it makes me smile that you felt the urge to continue off of something I wrote when it is not something you do.

    • sjmca1966 says:

      After Reapers great effort. We really are spoiled by your continuation, Jay.
      It’s only my first week, but I doubt I’d ever have the nads to take on what you did.
      Bravo!

    • vaderize03 says:

      Love this, it’s a great sequel to Reaper’s story.

      “….a pathetic weep of agony that arrested his manliness…”–can I use this line if you haven’t copyrighted it? It’s awesomely evocative.

      You really left me wanting to know more. Who’s Sammy Saner, and what’s his beef with the MC?

      Overall, I’m sorry I waited so long to join this community; it’s been an incredible learning experience.

    • jmcody says:

      Okay, Jay, you have vindicated me. I just came from Reaper’s response thinking that there had to be more going on in his story than a soccer game, or even the World Cup. I also believed it had to be something much more personal.

      I love the way your opening line riffed off of Reaper’s opening line, and how the rancid sock-in-the-mouth echoed the fishy-smelling gym bag over the head. I was curious about your reference to the smell of gasoline bringing up an apparently bad childhood memory for the MC, but maybe Reaper can pick that clue up and continue the story… :)

      You horror boys are killing me… I feel woozy. Need some rom-com, stat!

    • It would appear this former soccer star has taken his own descent into darkness. This makes Taken look like a feel good romantic comedy. I truly enjoyed it!

  51. Kerry Charlton says:

    A MATTER OF HONOR’

    On a late afternon in June, last rays of a cold,winter sun, streamed through a small window of an ICU unit at Mercy Hospital in Belem. Sergio sat beside his terminally ill Father, watching the soft sun illuminate his best friend in the world, last days.

    During a moment of awareness earlier that day, Francisco had rallied and pleaded with his son,

    “You have to go Sergio. Brazil is counting on you to win the cup.”

    “I know Dad, but you’re so ………………”

    “Don’t worry about that. I promise not to leave this earth until I see you score in the finals. You have my word.”

    And Sergio had minded him and caught the plane to Sardinia, Spain for the elimination match. Guilt and shame flew by his side as the miles widened from his father. His final words repeated in Sergio’s head,

    “It’s not if you win or lose,son. It’s a matter of honor. I’ll pray for you until I see you again.”

    And all these thoughts streamed Sergio’s mind in a furious spurt. The clock ticked another three seconds away. The massive score sign read,

    ‘Argentina 0 , Brazil 0. Time remaining, twenty seven seconds.’

    Sergio moved the ball quickly by two men, making his way toward the goal. Out his peripheral vision to his left, his teammate Angelo, moved with him in unison fifteen yards away. Sergio knew his position well and had made goals from the same slot and as he drew closer toward the goal, his heart pounded like a slege hammer. A swarm of Argentines ran toward him as he poised for a kick.

    He looked quickly at Angelo, and saw his head nod to try the shot but doubt arrived at the last split second as Sergio made the kick. The ball went to the left, laterally across the field toward Angelo. Sergio saw the shocked look of the Argentines. He had done his job well and instantaneously he heard his father’s voice,

    “It’s a matter of honor, son.”

    Angelo did not fail his team, he spiked the ball through the goalie, who had set up for Sergio. Two seconds the clock read. Final score, Brazil 1 Argentina 0. The stands exploded on the field and lifted Angelo above their shoulders and paraded around the stadium.

    Sergio joined in the celebration as Angelo looked down upon him,

    “Why didn’t you take the shot? You had a good position.”

    “Perhaps I thought you had a better slot.”

    “I just don’t understand but thank you.”

    “It’s easy,” Sergio said, “It’s just a matter of honor.”

    In the locker room, Champagne flowed. Sergio sat away from the celebration and looked at the telegram he had received an hour before the game,

    ‘I’m sorry Sergio, your father passed peacefully this morning before he was able to watch you. I grieve for the distance between us.’

    Thrugh his tears, Sergio held his glass high as he reread his reply to his mother,

    ‘Dad will be watching me Mom. Rest in peace my Father. I understand, it’s just a matter of honor.”

    • jhowe says:

      Very well done KC. That was powerful and enjoyable. Nice writing.

    • Jay says:

      I enjoyed this a lot, Kerry.

      • Kerry Charlton says:

        Thanks Jay. I need to get you and Reaper in the same room with me. Drive bamboo slivers under my finger nails and have both of you teach me to write tales of horror.

    • derrdevil says:

      This was deep, Kerry. I liked the difference in your story (as in different from the others). Very moving.

    • margi33 says:

      Great story, Kerry. I liked the brief set up at the beginning. It was concise and well done. Repeating his father’s words was also a nice touch. Overall it was a well written and engaging read.

    • Dennis says:

      Very well written and very moving story. One can’t deny the power of the father/son relationship as I know you know. I much enjoyed how Sergio was able to give the glory to his teammate without any sense of loss in himself. He understood honor very well.

      • Kerry Charlton says:

        Thanks Dennis. I’m not sure myself why Sergio passed on the kick, my fingers just typed it that way. From Reaper’s comments below, I may have sub- consciously tried to delay the father’s death by kicking the ball to Angelo. An interesting idea that would certainly make the story stronger and a little more complex by expanding it.

    • Amyithist says:

      Kerry, as always, your writing is beautiful, deep, and poignant. You always leave me in awe. Thank you for being such a wonderful writer. :) You inspire me.

      • Kerry Charlton says:

        Thank you Amyithist, you are an entire cheering section for me. I’m always happy you like my stories, for sometimes I’m not sure myself. However I liked this considering what I know about soccer would fit the ear of a sparrow and still have room to rattle around.

    • seliz says:

      What an emotion filled piece. At the end, I didn’t know whether to cry or smile. Nicely done.

    • Reaper says:

      Excellent and emotional as you do so well Kerry. Every comment is spot on. The words, the dedication to honor, all of it. There is something here that is very subtle and beautiful. I assume this was intentional but if not you still get credit for writing in a way that put it in my mind. While I believe honor was a part of it there are a few lines that make me think he passed in part because of his father’s promise. While he doesn’t slight his father for passing there seemed to be a feeling from him that his dad would not die until he saw the son score because of the promise. By not taking the shot himself he seemed to be clinging to a way he hoped to keep his father alive. That was the dept of emotion and commitment I read there.

      • Kerry Charlton says:

        I love this thought Reaper. Perhaps by changing the arrival of the telegram, placing it after the game, will leave the reader to wonder why he passed the kick. As I mentioned above, I had no idea I would have Sergio pass the ball. It just came out. Maybe subconsciously I wanted him to think just as you described.

        I always plan the opening set and then run with the flow. Sometimes I’m more surprised then the reader about the outcome. Thanks as always for your kind thoughts.

    • agnesjack says:

      Lovely, story, Kerry. I feel, perhaps, that the father knew he wouldn’t make it to see the shot, but he wanted his son to have the chance anyway. Often, those who are dying wait until their loved ones have left to do so. This story had so much love in it. Beautiful.

      • Kerry Charlton says:

        This is so true about death Nancy. Maybe the ill think it’s too hard on their loved ones to watch. If I were about to pass, I would want to spare my loved ones the extra trama about being there. Thank you for all your wonderful thoughts. Ir’s these type of comments that keeps the old engine fired.up.

    • jmcody says:

      The greatest tribute this son could have given to his father was to play forward the lesson he had been taught about honor, and he did that in magnificent, heart-wrenching fashion. This was an emotionally satisfying and beautifully written tale. Thank you, Kerry!

      • Kerry Charlton says:

        Thank you jm. I think you hit the real core of my story. Even I was puzzled when Sergio passed the kick. Was he afraid? Did he think about missing the shot? I don’t think so. It was not a complex thought. Simply, a better idea to bring on a victory. A totally sefless thought based on his father’s teachings. Thank you for figuring out what I was writing about. Now figure out how to stop the aging process!

    • Critique says:

      I liked the emphasis on ‘it’s a matter of honor’. Sergio’s father left a powerful legacy in teaching his son the importance of honor. This was a refreshing moving story.

    • Nice story. I’m glad I got a chance to read it. Whether one likes sports or not, likes soccer/football or not, this prompt has generated some emotional tales. Romance abounds in the world of sport. Marc Ellis

      • Kerry Charlton says:

        Thank you Marc. By the time you get to my age, you can see romance in the castles in the sky, the song of a cardinal, wing rustling through the leaves of an elm on a quiet early dawn. Or in the look of young love, it’s everywhere.

  52. Reaper says:

    My Participation Trophy

    People take soccer too seriously.

    I thought that as I dribbled towards the goal. It was a perfect moments only an athlete can understand. I broke away from the pack. In front of me, nothing but open field terminating at a quaking goalie.

    The din rising from the crowd faded to whispers at the edge of my audible range. The sweet scent of grass wafted into my nose. A perfect bouquet I never grew tired of. Turf and soil churned under my feet in the eternal ballet that is the World Cup. My field of vision narrowed until the world consisted of only two posts, a net, and a man I could beat in my sleep.

    Time slowed. The defenders coming from all sides would be too late, always too late. I had dreamed of this moment. The final game on the line, tied at naught all at the end of overtime. The goal was mine. My joy was marred. This was not the perfect moment because I could not get the consequences off my mind.

    The night before I had been hauled unceremoniously from my bed by three rough men approximately the size of trucks. They could have used the pillowcase the hotel thoughtfully provided to blindfold me but instead they went with a gym bag. It was not a new one either, instead it belong to one of the goons and still had his used socks, and from the smell three week old dead fish inside.

    I was carry-dragged none too gently down to a car. I guess when you are forcefully rigging a game you do not get a bonus for being gentle. Long story short after a gut turning ride around town I was deposited in a meeting. A man with a rough voice and deep accent explained the situation to me.

    They had Amy, my six year old daughter. If my team won she would be executed and left in our locker room. I was assured she would be begging for death by the end. I was also left with a picture of her bound and gagged so I would know they were serious.

    I had to make it look good. I kicked so the subpar goalie would just block my shot. Even after my gift he missed. Horror filled my body. He had just killed my daughter.

    As the team began to celebrate I broke from the field, racing to the locker room. They had to know it was not intentional. Amy would be okay, she had to be okay. Her daddy was always supposed to save her.

    The crimson painting the lockers was worse than I imagined. One look let me see they had taken their time with fists, knives, and worse. My sob of unconditional loss echoed through the stadium as hot salt water blurred the image to something almost tolerable.

    Cradling the corpse of the one girl I ever loved unconditionally another thought finally entered my mind. Her body was cold.

    • jhowe says:

      Gripping tale Reaper. Good setup with well written prose. I wonder if the goalie was threatened by someone as well since he missed that easy shot.

      • Kerry Charlton says:

        I was riveted by your story, hoping against hope, the threat was not real. Good Lord, this ia a tough read. magnificant in it’s final,chilling descriptions Makes me want to jump into the page you wrote and try to save his daughter. That not being the case, tracking the kidnappers and ending their lives, not in an easy way, then hanging their bodies to rot into hell.

        • Reaper says:

          Thank you Kerry. Sorry it was a tough read. I knew I was going that direction, but did not expect the reaction it got. I wanted to do the same thing as I wrote it because this one flowed out, it actually started as a much different story that involved the MC having a bomb strapped to his chest and people actually just taking the game too seriously. That just didn’t feel personal enough though.

      • Reaper says:

        Thanks jhowe, I hadn’t thought of that but now that this story has been on my mind it is an interesting question.

    • Jay says:

      Jeez, well done, Reaper.

      • Reaper says:

        Thanks Jay. You started something in me on this one. I like the collabrative way it took off and have not been able to get this story out of my head.

    • margi33 says:

      Nice job, Reaper. A horrifying and well written response. The MC’s voice was believable and you used some nice descriptive elements to pull the reader on the field with him. I certainly wished the goalie had been better. If I were the MC I would have made sure to wing it over the cross bar since that’s what usually happens anyway ;) .

    • Marie Therese Knepper says:

      I’m still at a loss for words. Somehow “great job” and “I loved it” aren’t enough.

    • Dennis says:

      As always, well written. I like your style of prose, just enough to make everything flow well and tell a great story. I almost went with your premise of the MC needing to miss the goal but makes it anyway, but chose a different premise instead. And with last week’s bathroom prompt which I didn’t end up doing, I was thinking of a way to make it dark and I swear I had the same premise as yours for that as well. Some sort of mind meld has being going on lately.

      • Reaper says:

        Thank you Dennis. So you’re the other voice in my head. The doctors all said I was insane but I kept telling them it was where all the great ideas came from. Now I know who to thank. :)

    • Amyithist says:

      Oh man. This is so sad and so well written, I’m trying to hold it together while sitting here at work. So, so beautifully sad. I’ve come to thoroughly enjoy your writing style, Reaper, but this take is simply above and beyond. VERY well done. :)

      • Reaper says:

        Thank you Amyithist. I think you understand how much that means to me by now. Hearing above and beyond from you when you are always so complimentary makes my day.

    • seliz says:

      Oh, wow. What a creepy, dark tale. I was not expecting that when I read the first line. The last line had me thinking that it was a hopeless endeavor to save his daughter from the beginning. I’m hoping part two is his revenge.

    • sjmca1966 says:

      The fact that she was dead long before your MC took his shot blew me away (you can’t even trust contract killers nowadays. Jeez!).
      I really enjoyed this.

    • vaderize03 says:

      I have to echo the above poster: the fact that she was dead long before he took the shot totally blew me away. I was hoping against hope that she’d still be alive, but the fact that the goalie didn’t block the shot–which made me realize the girl would be dead–still didn’t prepare me for the last line.

      What a reveal.

      Awesome story!

      • Reaper says:

        Thank you for these wonderful words. You have this power in your comments that boosts my confidence. Thank you again. I was worried that line might be too subtle, so I am glad to find it was not.

    • agnesjack says:

      Great, fabulous, remarkable last line, Reaper. Oh my God. You have an amazing ability at writing a roller-coaster ride of a story. Swift and frightening. I loved the description of the scents associated with the field, too. Now I really hate soccer.

      • Reaper says:

        You make me blush agnesjack. Thank you for those wonderful compliments and I will attempt to keep living up to them. I have been working on the scents because I realized from reading here they pulled me deeper into a story. Previously I used them rarely but I find the power of them compelling now. Making people hate soccer a little more, doing my part for Team America!

    • jmcody says:

      Well, no need to talk about how utterly, devastatingly horrific this is. That has been made abundantly clear in the other comments. So I’ll limit my comments to two things that stood out to me:

      Your vivid descriptions, as always, lead the reader’s mind exactly where you want it to go. You really know how to create a mood and a scene. The second paragraph, in particular, stands out for me in how it places the reader right there in the MCs mind as he dribbles the ball down the field… the narrowing field of vision, the fading of the crowd’s roar, his awareness and strange delight in the scent of grass amidst the horror of the moment.

      The other thing is more of a question. The goalie was clearly nervous and flubbed an easy shot, suggesting that he had been threatened too. Was he threatened by the same group of thugs, and if so, why? Or was it some other group that was betting on the other team? Man, rough sport…

      Also, I naturally want to know why they killed the girl, and in such a gruesome fashion, before knowing the outcome of the match? It seems like there is a lot more going on here. Am I being a dunderhead, or are you purposely creating a mystery?

      Either way, your conclusion was an effectively executed (no pun intended) shocker, and your story is intriguing and challenging. Well done, as always, Reaper.

      • Reaper says:

        Thank you jmcody, as always you build me up, and your comments here as they often do brought elements to the story I had ignored. I was particularly proud of the descriptions on this one so I am smiling at the comments on them. Strange delight, what a wonderful way to put it.

        Mostly it was my lack of knowledge that caused that, but if I keep obsessing over this story it does merit a look back on that. Hmmm, now you have me wondering who and why.

        Initially I was just going for the way too fanatical fans, but with an even darker twist of removing him from the game permanently with his grief, though I did want to leave the idea open that there was some deeper reason. Mostly it was the former but I like the endings that leave some questions for the reader so the intentional mystery was there on some level. I didn’t think much about it until seeing your comment, so I think I’m the dunderhead here. Jay’s addition added a depth to this that played out in that direction and it was wonderful.

    • Oh where to begin with this? Truth be told I read your posts in reverse order. It gave it quite the extra smack to my senses when I finally read “Her body was cold.” Honestly Bravo!

      • Reaper says:

        Thank you! Interesting, I am trying to imagine reading Jay’s post first, because with the she was so cold line I can only imagine how it would do that with the ending line to this. Interesting. You have me thinking so thank you again.

    • Very suspenseful. The details of the game play were fantastic. Kind of reminds me of some coworkers who had their wallets stolen and tossed out of a bar by a couple of Nigerian thugs on a business trip. No kidnapping, but some ID theft. Unfortunately, there is probably a significant amount of organized crime activity around the World Cup to include human trafficking…not unlike the Super Bowl. Tragic and terrible.

    • Critique says:

      A dark story with a tragic end. The last sentence added another chilling dimension and left me wondering if the goalie on the other team hadn’t been given an ultimatum as well.

  53. JeanetteNaidoo says:

    JeanetteNaidoo says:
    June 20, 2014 at 4:51 am
    Two substitutes. Two time World Footballer of the year, Xavier is first – out with a twisted ankle at sixty six minutes. Next to go is Alonso – captain and currently Barca’s top goal scorer. Seventy nine goals in the 2013-2014 Spanish La Liga and worshipped by half the world. They call him Thunder. With Xavier, Barca’s number 10, they’re called Lightning and Thunder… when Lightning strikes, the crowd must roar because they know… The thunder is coming. And it’s the most magical thing to watch – when Alonso moves into the penalty area, he doesn’t just run. He thunders toward the goalkeeper. And when the ball finds the back of the net, it’s as if lightning had struck and thunder had followed with an explosive BOOM. You see the lightning when the ball is crossed. But it’s the sound of thunder that the crowd hushes for when the ball leave Alonso’s boot.

    Today, though, both have limped off the field. Fresh crocodile tears streaming down their faces. Alonso has made a theatrical exit equal to the fall on the field, as he hobbles toward the sideline and into the waiting arms of our coach Peter Humbil. I turn away and drop my head because I can feel exactly four pairs of searching eyes trying to make eye contact with me. I dig the spikes of my boots into the wet earth, angry and helpless. I jog sideways to the left where I know I would find more yellow shirts than red ones. More yellow fans than red ones. I half turn and for a moment I glance up and gaze at the sea of red shirts. They are going wild. They are so sure that we will bring the golden cup home to them. Their faith in their national team is stunning and humbling.
    They don’t know.
    I glance up at the score board. Three minutes and sixteen seconds.
    Petit rushes onto the field. He is buzzing with adrenalin, his face contorted in fierce determination, and running across the field like someone had just called his mother a whore. He’s certain that he’s going to be the one to put one in and save us from a penalty shoot out and become a national hero. I resist the urge to shake my head in pity.
    The ball is back in play and we’re into extra time – two minutes. I run right, touch it away easily from the three yellow shirts surrounding me. One minute and seventeen seconds. I need to hold on for one minute and seventeen seconds and my part is done. The ball travels to the other side of the field and cleared by Petit. Forty five seconds. Then it is as if the world has faded away. The roar of the crowd dulls in my ear. Ten seconds. I look for a red shirt and spot Donni. I cannot cross. Donni knows what Petit doesn’t know. I cannot cross. Yellow shirts come at me from every direction. I see nothing. I hear nothing. Nothing but the sound of the blades of grass scraping the ball. I see nothing but the tiny space between a yellow number 28 and the keeper. Five seconds.
    And I make up my mind. I slam the ball into the net and just as I’d seen it half a second earlier, the keeper dives to the left. The ball flies past him on the right. And red erupts across the stadium like blood exploding out of a punctured artery. In the boxes and on the benches, four people sit, stunned and boiling with fury. I bring the front of my shirt to my lips in a kiss of bitter-sweet victory. Then I salute the fans.

    This is the beautiful game and money cannot buy glory.

    • JeanetteNaidoo says:

      Sorry, fellow readers – this is a second entry (without errors:) ). I’m new at this and cant seem to find the delete button.

    • jhowe says:

      This is a very nicely written soccer (football) story with lots of great detail. I loved the line, “running across the field like someone had just called his mother a whore.” I don’t know why, but I liked it. Good job. You either know a lot about the game or you did a lot of research.

    • derrdevil says:

      I could sense your passion for the game in this piece. You’ve shown something a bit more than the other reads here. There’s a feeling in your writing about your knowledge of the game…. Your passion for it. You say you’re new to this, I say well done.

      • JeanetteNaidoo says:

        Derrdevil- I’m so pleased to read your response. Your validation of the piece makes me feel a little less terrified of putting my stuff on a public forum like this.

        Jay, thank you, and I think you might be right. :D

        Jhowe- I am a mom to a ten your old boy so I think I got sucked into it at some point (we’re still getting over Spain’s exit, but confident in a Nederland-Germany final come 13 July). And I liked that line too:)

    • Dennis says:

      Wow, I really felt as if I was there. As mentioned, a lot of great detail about the game and how fans react. I can’t imagine what it must feel like for either team being on the field, but you gave me a glimpse.

      • Kerry Charlton says:

        jhowe, my grandfather had a favorite saying,” Save the best for last.” That’s what I’ve done. Saved you for last read and you didn’t disappoint. You really can write the heart of a piece, I know. After the final game between the Spurs and the Heat, did you notice the hugs and hand shakes between the two teams and the coaches?

        There was genuine affection between the athletes. Miami ripped the championship out of the hands of the Spurs last year, This year, the Spurs took it back. I can hardky wait for next year. Can you imagine?

        Yes, you can imagine, you wrote it. Marvelous!

    • Critique says:

      This was a colorful well written sports story JeanetteNaidoo. Please keep sending in your stories :)
      I agree with Jay about the delete button – puts productive pressure on all of us to work out the kinks before posting. On the other hand don’t be too hard on yourself. We’re a forgiving understanding bunch here :)
      I am a little perplexed as to who the four pairs of eyes are? Is it Alonso, Xavier, Peter Humbil and ?

  54. JeanetteNaidoo says:

    Two substitutes. Two time World Footballer of the year, Xavier is first – out with a twisted ankle at sixty six minutes. Next to go is Alonso – captain and currently Barca’s top goal scorer. Seventy nine goals in the 2013-2014 Spanish La Liga and worshipped by half the world. They call him Thunder. With Xavier, Barca’s number 10, they’re called Lightning and Thunder… when Lightning strikes, the crowd must roar because they know… The thunder is coming. And it’s the most magical thing to watch – when Alonso moves into the penalty area, he doesn’t just run. He thunders toward the goalkeeper. And when the ball finds the back of the net, it’s as if lightning had struck and thunder had followed with an explosive BOOM. You see the lightning when the ball is crossed. But it’s the sound of thunder that the crowd hushes for when the ball leave Alonso’s boot.

    Today, though, both have limped off the field. Fresh crocodile tears streaming down their faces. Alonso has made a theatrical exit equal to the fall on the field, as he hobbles toward the sideline and into the waiting arms of our coach Peter Humbil. I turn away and drop my head because I can feel exactly four pairs of searching eyes trying to make eye contact with me. I dig the spikes of my boots into the wet earth and jog sideways to the left where I know I would find more yellow shirts than red ones. More yellow fans than red ones. I half turn and for a moment I glance up and gaze at the sea of red shirts. They are going wild. They know that we will bring the golden cup home to them. Their faith in their national team is stunning and humbling.
    They don’t know.
    I glance up at the score board. Three minutes and sixteen seconds.
    Petit rushes onto the field. He is buzzing with adrenalin, his face contorted in fierce determination, and running across the field like someone had just called his mother a whore. He’s certain that he’s going to be the one to put one in and save us from a penalty shoot out and become a national hero. I resist the urge to shake my head in pity.
    The ball is back in play and we’re into extra time – two minutes. I run right, touch it away easily from the three yellow shirts surrounding me. One minute and seventeen seconds. I need to hold on for one minute and seventeen seconds and my part is done. The ball travels to the other side of the field and cleared by Petit. Forty five seconds. Then it is as if the world has faded away. The roar of the crowd dulls in my ear. Ten seconds. I look for a red shirt and spot Donni. I cannot cross. Donni knows what Petit doesn’t know. I cannot cross. Yellow shirts come at me from every direction. I see nothing. I hear nothing. Nothing but the sound of the blades of grass scraping the ball. I see nothing but the tiny space between a yellow number 28 and the keeper. Five seconds.
    And I make up my mind. I slam the ball into the net and just as I’d seen it half a second earlier, the keeper dives to the left. The ball flies past him on the right. And red erupts across the stadium like blood exploding out of a punctured artery. In the boxes and on the benches, four people sit, stunned and boiling with fury.
    This is the beautiful game and money cannot buy glory.

  55. jenrosecox24 says:

    Before I was walking my plush soccer ball was my favorite toy. My Mom had to sneak it away while I was asleep to wash it. I started playing soccer at five and watched my first World Cup when I was 8. I was glued to the TV taking in every play and adding them to the long list of soccer moves in my memory. I knew that I would play in the World Cup someday. It wasn’t a dream, it was a matter of when. My junior year of college my life focus turned slightly away from college when I met Beth. Unsurprisingly the first time I seen her she was dribbling a soccer ball out behind the dorms. I had to go and introduce myself. Our connection was instant. Receiving a degree was nice to have but my biggest accomplishment was when I was accepted on the United States Soccer Team. My goal of playing in the World Cup finally had a date. On June 14, 2014 I would be playing soccer in Brazil. Beth was my number one fan from the day we started dating. My love for Beth has grown and I finally realize there is more to life than soccer. You see, we found out nine months ago that Beth is due to have our baby on June 15, 2014. Beth really didn’t give me a choice. She insisted that I come here to play in this game. It’s June 14, 2014 and I need to be concentrating on this game. I’ve tried for a goal and missed, but I have also done a great job assisting my team in keeping the ball away from our end of the field. Perspiration is everywhere on my body, but most of it has formed from the nervousness of the images of Beth in labor back in Chicago. It’s down to the final few moments of the game, the ball is setting up for me to make a goal, muscle memory is taking over, my left foot is colliding with the ball and now its flying at mock speed through the goalies legs and into the net. The clock has counted down to zero. I’ve never felt this on top of the world in my life. The adrenaline rushing through me is overwhelming and I need to sit down. I pick up and cell phone on the bench just as a phone call comes in from Beth.
    “Your son is here” she tells me with a mix of pride and humbleness I have never heard in her voice. My team mates pick up the water cooler and throw it over me. They didn’t need me to tell them what I had just learned, they could hear it in my voice and see it in the tears of happiness that were forming in the corner of my eyes. I can’t wait to get home and show my boy his first soccer ball.

    • Dennis says:

      Very nice touching story. After reading some of these prompts, I can’t imagine all the things the players must have to tune out of their lives to be focused on the game. Especially if it is something like your MC’s, wanting to be in both places at once.
      I would only suggest to maybe break the story down into a few paragraphs.

    • Reaper says:

      Very sweet story. The format could use some cleaning up. There are some words that seem off or too close together but if it were broken into paragraphs that might change honestly. The switch in tenses is jarring but again if that were formatted I think it would flow perfectly. Overall the writing is good.

    • agnesjack says:

      This is a sweet story. You touched on a lifelong obsession very well. There are some tense changes and a few grammatical mistakes, as Reaper pointed out, but those are easily corrected with several re-reads and with practice. Nice story.

  56. jhowe says:

    The moment has arrived; the moment you have trained for, the task you were recruited for, the moment you have dreamed of; one you have visualized in your mind’s eye many times. You choose your target, raise your weapon, take aim and prepare to squeeze the trigger.

    In your sights, you see the eyes of your enemy. You see an enemy who is like you, only different. You see an enemy who sweats in a colorful uniform similar to yours but different. You see an enemy who is about to become a hero or a goat; to become reveled or abhorred; to dance with the victors or weep with the defeated.

    The moment to act is now but you hesitate for only a split second. You adjust your sights to compensate for your inaction and you see the eyes of your enemy’s mother who like the eyes of your mother are poised to express sorrow or joy. You wish you could see joy in all eyes but the time to act is now.

    You squeeze the trigger just before you are hit by another unseen enemy. You roll to the ground not knowing the result of your effort. There is a roar from the crowd; a roar that sounds the same in any language. You feel hands upon you, hands of your teammates lifting you into the air.

    Over the melee you see your enemy with head in hands, the ball resting at the back of the net. You wriggle free and go to him and offer your hand. Your offer is accepted and at that moment you realize you have been mistaken. These eyes you stare into are not those of an enemy. You feel tears on your cheeks; tears of joy from your mother, tears of sorrow from the mother of one who is no longer an enemy, tears that mingle and sting and fall to the turf. You release the hand of your newfound friend and run to join the celebration. You look back one last time and see head hung low as your former enemy wallows with his teammates who offer condolence. You wonder how they will be received in their country. Not well you fear. This game, as it is called, is so much more.

    As the victor, you have delivered much more than numbers on a scoreboard. You have delivered a cloak of futility that your former enemy will wear for months, perhaps years. Your only hope is that it will be worn with dignity.

    • Dennis says:

      A great bit of prose there. Well written that tells so much. I like the analogy of a battlefield and just like in battle, that enemy is just a person like yourself. So much for the glory of sports.

    • agnesjack says:

      I’m so glad you wrote this, jhowe. Loved the empathy and humanity. It truly is more difficult to “kill” an enemy when looking straight into his eyes. Excellently done.

      • agnesjack says:

        p.s. The second person seemed perfectly natural to me, and served to heighten the awareness of the story because it put us into the shoes of the MC. Well done.

    • Jay says:

      I’m not a fan of 2nd person, but you did such a good job with it I made it all the way through! :D Well done, jhowe!

      • jhowe says:

        So that was second person? It kind of sucked after a while writing in that style. I think I’ll stick with other people as my narrator in the future. I’m glad this one turned out though. Thanks.

    • derrdevil says:

      So impressed with this, Jhowe. I can’t even begin to write in the 2nd person. I find it really difficult. And you hardly ever see anything around in that format. And if you do, it’s never any good. But you, you even managed to incorporate a message in this. Was amazing!

    • peetaweet says:

      That was different, in a great day. Well done!

    • seliz says:

      It’s not very often that I read a piece in second person narrative. (In fact, it’s so rare, that my family doesn’t believe me that second person narrative exists :P) The tone and the pace were perfect and captured the essence of the game. Nicely done.

    • Reaper says:

      This was amazing in many ways. The combat metaphors and styling were spot on. The ending with the sportsmanship was nice. Happy or sad ending that is something that I think you are the first to do. You do not see much second person and there is a reason for it. Normally it is awful, but then there are stories like this where it is amazing and perfect. Attempting to match up to this is difficult so no wonder most people don’t try. The present tense was a perfect match for that. The thing I liked most, and part of the reason the second person worked so well is your first two paragraphs. Until you started the action I felt like this could have been the MC looking into a mirror and sizing himself up, seeing things the way no one else can and realizing he is the enemy and the same as any other opponent. Then you faded into the action and everything changed. Brilliantly done.

      • Kerry Charlton says:

        jhowe, somehow my response ended under Jeanette’s story above yours. Go figure, Murphy’s running wild this morning. Be sure and read it. Kerry

    • vaderize03 says:

      Gorgeously written, especially considering how difficult 2nd person can be.

      That last paragraph nails it: the MC is aware not only of his victory, but of the agony of defeat, and not only empathizes with the losers, but hopes the damage won’t be permanent. It really makes me like your MC.

      Great job!

    • jmcody says:

      I honestly can’t imagine this in anything but the second person. I think the form chose you, or maybe the story chose the form… or something like that. it flows naturally and eloquently. This piece is incredibly polished, and a fine depiction of a rare moment of humanity in the heat of battle. LOVED it!

    • Critique says:

      jhowe you expressed very well the dichotomy of celebration and defeat that are inevitable at the end of a game like this. I enjoyed this :)

  57. peetaweet says:

    When I was a little boy I dreamed of bringing home the World Cup. Playing in the streets day and night, I watched as the shops closed and the gangs surged. I watched as the neighborhood became a war tarnished battleground, and when I kicked my ball flat, I kicked pieces of wood, cans, trash along the curb. I was kicking an empty box outside Mr. Ronaldo’s garage when he was shot dead. I watched in horror as he was dragged out into the street. And then I ran. I ran and I kicked and I never looked back.

    And now I am here, with the world watching.

    The crowd is hungry, and a surly buzz hangs in the air. A goal either way will spark the rioting. The ball finds me and I clear it again, just as I have all match. The voices are angry, threatening, and I can feel the ire directed at me and my play this afternoon. I cannot blame them.

    A win and we advance time to the finals for the first time in over fifty years, a drought that isn’t lost on the proud faces in the stands. Despite all of my training my steps are staggered with thought. Early on, Coach Munoz pulled me to the side and done everything short of punch me in the face. My eyes pleaded with him to bench me, but I can’t take that chance. I have to do the unthinkable.

    My mind flashes back to the two men that stormed my home. The taller one, grayer and weary, with deep groves etched behind his stubble. I’d shoved him away before the younger one nodded to his waist. He had death in his eyes, without shine or color, just like the men I’d seen before. He didn’t flinch when I lunged for him, or when I screamed in agony as he laughed, tracing a finger down my daughter’s cheek.

    The crowd roars as the ball finds me. My heart flinches just thinking about my daughter and I cannot waste any more time. I fake left, right, and then spin around and tear towards my own goal. The clock edges towards penalty shots, I keep my eyes on the blue jerseys and not the shocked faces of my frantically waving teammates. I know their sacrifice. To them, this game means the world, but for me, it means more.

    The Uruguay players are confused. Instinct compels them to come after me, but I’m streaking towards Diaz, our goalie, at the speed of a motorcycle. The last thing I see is a wrinkle of confusion above his eyes before I plant down and drill the shot of my life.

    The ball blast off of my foot—a white comet—five feet off the pitch and hurling for the goal. When it brushes past Diaz’s outstretched arms, I fall to my knees in tears, torn between family and sport. I have time for one quick prayer.

    The first kick crushes my ribs. Another foot hits my temple as I hit the ground and tuck into a ball. With each blow I drift, my bones crushing and cracking under the attack. I’m food for the hungry crowd, pummeled as my blood soaks into the grass. I think of my wife and child, hoping they will know that I did what I had to do.

  58. chartman07 says:

    UNDER A BRAZILIAN MOON
    The sound of the crowd is omnipresent. The Amazonian jungle venue of Manaus, Brazil has tested our skill and energy like no other place. The stadium itself is an amazing facility. I try not to think of the millions of eyes looking at me this very second. I let my training take over – I concentrate. What is Portugal’s devil goalkeeper Carvalho Eduardo thinking? He is the greatest goalkeeper I have ever gone up against in these climatic games. Our last game against Ghana left us ecstatic but dehydrated. Euphoric but totally dinged and battered. Our coach gave us Wednesday off and only fielded the reserve players. Never has my team been so ready for success. Never have I been so ready for success. Then, why am I dying? Not another soul knows – not even my love, my wife Nicole, looking at me from her seat above. I am only twenty eight! So much to do. Concentrate Marco I hear from inside.

    Concentrate I tell myself again and again. My dad always told me that quitters never win and winners never quit! I am a winner. Right?

    My team is set. The referee is taking his position. I take mine. I am exactly twelve yards from Eduardo. I feel the goalkeeper’s stare – penetrating – as he reads my every movement. Does he really see me? Does he sense my foreboding thoughts that this may be my last penalty kick, the last minute of the game for me?

    I raise my hand. The crowd roars and stands.

    I take the shot. Eduardo instinctively lunges up. Score! 3-2 By just millimeters the ball shoots past the talented goal keeper.

    After the game I took my time leaving the locker room. The excitement of the game is dampening, somewhat, however, the nostalgia is taking over. I don’t want to leave. Somehow, I have to have courage to tell Nicole. As I left the room I flipped off the switch and walked out into the daunting humidity. Nicole saw me coming and lit up her best smile. As I kissed her lips and held her in my arms – it was as exciting as the first time in high school. “Nicole, dear there is something I need to tell you.” I said.
    “Something I need to tell you too…” She replied.
    “You first!” I insisted
    “We’re going to have a baby Marco!” She cried
    “You’re serious?” I queried.
    “Yes, doctor said the little guy will be here just about on your birthday” She continued “What is your news?” She asked wiping away my tears.
    ” I will tell you tomorrow…let’s just enjoy tonight….” We walked hand-in-hand the way she likes to do on the way back to our hotel. When we arrived the hotel clerk said we had an urgent message from my doctor. I did not want Nicole to see my concern but I tore open the envelope. I began to laugh. I threw the letter and envelope parts into the air like confetti!
    “What’s going on?” Nicole asked in amazement.
    “It was all a “terrible mistake” the doctor said that they had mixed up my records with someone else!”

    • lionetravail says:

      Yay! A happy ending- in fact, several happy endings! Very much enjoyed the story, the ups and downs, and the distractions. I was glad to celebrate with your main character, who was brave, heroic, and likable… and all before he scored the winning goal.

      The doctor should be kicked in the knee, however. :)

    • Dennis says:

      Wow, really great story with a lot of heart. Great keeping me in it till the very end.

    • agnesjack says:

      There are a fair amount of wonderful, but dark stories here, so it was nice to read one that made me smile.

    • Loved this! Good flow, nice plot, but I’m afraid I’m biased. You won me from the moment you wrote Manaus. I live here, in Manaus, Amazonas, and am proud of being so, also of our stadium so I’m glad you mentioned it. But all that aside, I’m glad for the happy ending. I’ll keep this prediction of the outcome in mind while I watch the game ;) (not in the Arena, though, tickets were sold out). Now there’s only Germany to beat….

    • Reaper says:

      Nicely written. I loved the emotion in here. Your descriptions on that were spot on. Made me actually forget the game being played.

  59. NoMonsterHere says:

    It’s been seven years. There is no need to worry.

    But she is there. I can see her from here. And is it my imagination, or is she…only watching me?

    Stop thinking about this. You’re just paranoid. If someone suspected something, they would have made their move by now.

    I shake myself awake and turn to see the ball flying across the field, right towards my waiting foot. I jut out my neon yellow shoe to meet the ball and take off across the illuminated field, uprooting fake grass in the process. And for a second, football is the only thing on my mind. The only thing in the world is this field, the screaming hordes of people in the stands, the dirt flying up to meet my calves, the air charged with adrenaline and sweat, the pounding of my heart in my ears.

    This is the only thing I live for.

    But then I see her again. And she is definitely watching me.

    No, stop it. It is only because you have the ball. She’s just enjoying the game. She IS Brazilian, after all. It makes sense that she would want to watch the game.

    But what if she knows? She was one of the main investigators seven years ago, I know that for a fact.

    It was too close seven years ago. They almost found out. Football was just such an air-tight alibi, but it wasn’t perfect.

    She has no proof. As long as you act natural, there is nothing to worry about.

    My mind snaps back to the game. That’s right. Just play the game. She’ll never find out.

    I see the shot and take it. I watch as the ball lifts off the ground, flies toward the goal, brushes the goalie’s gloved fingertips, slams into the loose netting. The crowd looses itself. My smile spreads all the way to my ears. My fist flies into the air, and a victorious shout escapes my lips.

    That’s right. There are no secrets. There is only football.

    But as I jog back to the bench to get some water, I see her watching me again.

    I don’t watch where I’m going, and I walk directly over the spot. My heart stops beating, my eyes widen ever so slightly. But I keep walking. Because she is watching.

    I glance back at the spot. Green trampled grass, some wires and equipment. Looks just like the rest of the field. But I know what is underneath that grass.

    A dead man with empty blue eyes. Mouth hanging open limply, the scream dying on his lips. A decomposing body with a single hole in his chest.

    I had fired only one shot. One shot that killed my best friend.

    • chartman07 says:

      Whoa ~ that will leave a mark huh? Shooting your friend because he stole your girl or just because the gun went off leaves your buddy just as dead – even with one shot. Hmm, will that former investigator show up later at the victory party? Will she dismiss it and go on home? Great job – I like your use of illustrating things.

    • lionetravail says:

      Great story! What a rich lead-up and a slick and startling reveal. This is a great intro to what could be a much longer story format- wow, I hope you take on the challenge!

    • Dennis says:

      Great build up to a shocking ending. Many unanswered questions. You should finish the story.

    • sjmca1966 says:

      Always leave the audience wanting more. You certainly achieved this.
      Nice tight style that complimented the story perfectly.

    • agnesjack says:

      Agreed. This is a fascinating tease of a much longer story. Great build to the intriguing reveal at the end.

    • Reaper says:

      I saw no mistakes here. So many strings woven together so tightly. I agree with others that this is a fascinating beginning to something that could be longer and well worth the read. You have to potential for powerful flashbacks explaining the murder and what led up to it as well as a cat and mouse game in the future. Very well done.

    • jmcody says:

      The way you interwove vivid physical descriptions that immersed me in the scene with the growing awareness of the underlying horror was masterful This was like a bad dream — chilling and disturbing. Great job!

  60. sjmca1966 says:

    My first attempt at this.

    Redemption

    It’s been four tortuous years of bad dreams and sweat covered bed-sheets, since I missed the penalty that cost my country the last World Cup. Here I am with a chance for redemption, a chance to put an end to all the hate mail, all the jeers, and all the chants of, “Franklin’s a choker!”

    The crowd is on our side tonight, after all, the Germans sent the home team crashing out of the cup only a matter of days ago and who doesn’t love to see the underdog win when you’re a neutral fan.

    If I can just get around Geisz, I’ll only have the keeper to beat to break the nil all deadlock. But I can feel all the work done over the preceding years spent with Dr Losenberg, about to go flying out the window. It’s all up to my years of training, hundreds of hours of playing time and most of all instinct to see me through.

    I fake right, but send the ball left, leaving my opponent grasping at air. I’m through. Nothing can stop me, I’ve scored ninety-nine times out of a hundred from this position before.

    No, no, no! Not know. She’s there again. The woman in the black Victorian gown is standing between me and my destiny. I thought she’d gone for good, hell, even Dr Losenberg told me it was unlikely she’d be back. “Treat her like another player,” he’d said, “if she appears on the field again.”

    All very well, but she’s never spoken, until now, “Franklin’s a choker!” she screams, over and over in a high-pitch shrill that stops me in my tracks. The paralysis is setting in, the dreaded yips are trying to get me.

    Over the years, I’ve learned to cope with the crowd, but why have they gone completely silent. Why has the German goalkeeper stopped in his tracks, and why is there a security guard rushing towards my apparition?

    I’m glued to the spot as she rushes to me and steals the ball from my feet. She heads back up field towards our goal, jinking left and right around all-in-sundry, who are standing with mouths wide open.

    “Treat her like another player.”

    I head off after her, a weight has just been lifted of my shoulders. Everyone can see her, I’m not insane. As I reach the cumbersome wench, I slide in for a regulation tackle. I head back towards the German goal fending off her clumsy attempts to dispossess me of the ball. I shoot and sink the ball in the back of the net. I turn and she’s gone.

    The referee blows his whistle to indicate a goal, then again to indicate the match is over.

    • lionetravail says:

      Wow, intriguing! Nicely written, and leaves a lot to the imagination. Was she real, or was the delusion of the delusion in his head? I want to think of her as real, but everyone lets her get down the field with the ball? Cumbersome wench! Heh.

      • sjmca1966 says:

        Thanks for your kind words lionetravail.

        As an exercise I’d like to explain my thought processes while writing. This should answer the question – Was she real?

        As a constant sufferer of The Yips (or stage-fright) growing up, I have always been fascinated by what makes elite sportspeople tick. Having read many autobiographies from these people, it is clear that they suffer from the same anxieties as us mere-mortals.

        For me, time stopped when my MC beat the last defender and didn’t restart until he took his shot at goal. What happened in the interim was his defense mechanism kicking in (possibly a result of countless hours spent with his psychologist). The imaginary security guard was the ultimate catalyst, that gave the MC the confidence to beat his demons.

        Why a Victorian ghost as the manifestation of his fears? Well I was paying a bit of homage to the game of soccer as we know it, of which the modern rules were drawn up in Cambridge, England in the Victorian era, not to mention the fact that David Beckham (one of the most gifted players of his generation) has famously missed a number of penalties in crucial matches and is married to Victoria (Posh Spice). Seemed a nice fit.

        I really enjoyed writing this story and trying to stay under 500 words (498) and thanks once again for been my first ever critic.

    • Dennis says:

      Great story. To have something haunt you like that for four years has to be tough. But I want to know if she was real this time too.

    • agnesjack says:

      I liked this very much. I was also curious about whether she was real or not, but your explanation below made perfect sense, and I liked your historical references. Very nice.

    • Reaper says:

      Your first attempt is a winner. Hope to see more from you, and welcome to doing them. Your explanation added depth and made this more interesting. Even without it this was a fascinating story. I came to the conclusion he really was insane but his mind was coping with it, so I was with you on what you were going for there. The rest with the history and the name was amazing. Never would have put that together. It is always nice to see the thought process of another writer, especially one as deep as yours.

    • jmcody says:

      This is kind of like Dickens at the World Cup. I love that you had a Victorian ghost in this! And now I am picturing her as Victoria Beckham, who actually is a little scary.

      As written, this definitely does leave the door open to lots of different interpretations, although your explanation made it clear that this was something that was going on in your MC’s imagination. I liked that his delusion took a positive turn in that he finally tackled and conquered the cumbersome wench!

      I loved the psychiatrist’s name, Dr. Losenberg. For a moment I thought that maybe he was a shill for the other team, and was taking advantage of his knowledge of the MC’s psychological state to freak him out! Stranger things have happened, according to the responses to this prompt! :)

      I enjoyed this very unique and entertaining approach.

      • sjmca1966 says:

        Thanks. I kinda ran out of words to expand on The Dr’s name and I like your take on it better than mine to be honest :).
        I figured the MC had suffered enough after four years of hell so I gave him a break. Not saying that will always happen in my future posts though.
        Really appreciate the time you took to critique. Thoughtful and honest.

  61. agnesjack says:

    Missed the last two prompts, so I didn’t want to miss this one.
    __________

    Ferdinand was adeptly keeping the soccer ball in front with his left foot while racing toward the goal. He felt oddly outside of himself as he observed the frenzied fans rising in slow motion to their feet. The green shirts of the opposing team flew in and out of his vision. He had to get a grip on what was happening, so when he saw Lopez, his best friend since grade school, he passed him the ball. Lopez looked horrified when the ball came his way and awkwardly kicked it right back.

    Something is not right here, Ferdinand thought as he deftly zigged and zagged between the opposing players.

    First of all, I’m right-footed. Second, I’ve never played soccer in my life, and third, Lopez died of an overdose when we were teenagers.

    But the crowd was cheering and he was getting closer and closer to the goal.

    Ferdinand looked down at his perfectly formed abs and enormous, rippling calves, and wondered how his body could be in such good shape after the recent years of drunkenness and neglect. His contemplation was interrupted when a green shirt came racing into his peripheral vision. The player was gigantic and looked like the monster of a neighbor who had abused him when he was ten. He feinted left and when the monster leaned in that direction, he shifted gears to his right. Off balance, the monster fell with a thud.

    The sweat was pouring out of Ferdinand’s skin. He was beginning to feel winded and his legs were aching, but the goal was in reach.

    Above the din of the crowd, came a small voice that he hadn’t heard in several years. He looked over and there she was, waving and smiling with her head cocked to one side in that playful way that she had. She looked so well, so healthy. He had forgotten that part. He had forgotten about the precious years before the leukemia. She had been his child of light.

    “Papa,” she shouted. “I love you Papa!”

    His legs felt like lead, but he knew he had to try. So, when he was in range he raised his right foot instead of his left to confuse the defenders, and swept it into the ball. The clock ticked down the last seconds as the ball floated slowly over the waving arms of the goalie and nestled softly into the corner of the net.

    The crowd exploded onto the field. He was raised high into the air. He felt dizzy and the roar of the voices began to fade into the background until all was silent, except for the tick tick tick of a clock.

    Someone took his hand. Lina’s face came into focus. She was crying.

    “No more, Nando. No more,” she said holding his hand to her face.

    He realized he was lying on the floor. He smelled something sour and saw the spilled bottle of tequila nearby. He sat up and looked at Lina — sweet, patient Lina, who had lost as much as he.

    “No more, mi vida,” he said, and for the first time, he meant it.

    • jhowe says:

      You came back after your two week abscence with a vengence. That was powerful and superbly written. Thank you for letting me read it.

      • agnesjack says:

        Thanks so much, jhowe. I hated missing the last two prompts. I was busy and not particularly inspired, so I was glad when inspiration returned for this one.

    • lionetravail says:

      Nicely done! The picture of dissolution, and the internal pressures manifesting in a dream, and the echoes of his subconscious playing out in the ticking clock, the dead friend, the semi-awareness of something being off. Beautiful, and heartfelt, with a great ending.

      • agnesjack says:

        Thanks, lionetravail. I’m glad the clock references worked metaphorically. I know next to nothing about soccer (although I love most other sports), so I felt I had to hit the subject from a different angle.

    • Dennis says:

      Powerful is the word I think of also. Very moving tale. Lots of sadness with a glimpse of hope.

      • agnesjack says:

        Thank you, Dennis. I’m glad the hope came through. I’ve always been fascinated by characters who are capable of redemption, no matter how low they go.

    • derrdevil says:

      Wow! This was so deep. Thanks for the positive ending. I was predicting something much worse :/

    • jmcody says:

      Yours was the first story this week to actually bring a tear to my eye. I love this sort of tale of redemption. Nando was a sympathetic character — he had such a tragic and difficult life. The only way he was going to get out of the pit that he was in was through some extraordinary intervention or inspiration, which the dream gave him. Or was it a dream…? I like how you worked soccer into this, even though it could have been anything.

      Glad you are back, and in fine form, agnesjack!

      (I missed last week too, but I want you to know that two weeks ago I used the word “schwarmerei” in a story, just for you… :) )

      • agnesjack says:

        First, let me say that using “schwarmerei” in the zombie prompt is not only hysterical but brilliant, so I will have to go back and read your story.

        Second, thank you for your kind assessment of my story. As I said to lionetravail, I really know nothing about soccer, so using soccer metaphorically was the only way for me to go. During his drunken stupor, his hallucinations force him to face and navigate past his demons.

      • agnesjack says:

        jm – I went back and read your zombie (Combie ;-)) schwarmerei piece. That was absolutely hysterical and brilliant. Loved the names, etc. What a totally unique idea for that prompt. My sister is a middle school teacher. I think I’ll send it to her. Bravo and thanks for the shout out.

    • seliz says:

      You stopped me mid chuckle when I got to the third point of why Ferdinand playing soccer didn’t make sense. From that point on, it was a heart wrenching read. I felt so bad for him and all he endured in his life. But then, the last line left me with a feeling of hope for Ferdinand. Nicely done.

      • agnesjack says:

        I’m very pleased, seliz, that the humor in the first part of that paragraph did not seem out of place in the story. I wanted it to add to the surreal quality of his stupor.

    • Reaper says:

      Never in my life have I seen a better written and empowering description of hitting bottom. They say it is the only way to get over addiction and you did a wonderful job of giving a reason and the feeling of there was nowhere left to go but up. The daughter was heart breaking in just the perfect way.

      • Kerry Charlton says:

        I’m in complete agreement with Reaper on this. I’ve been worried about you, Nancy. Now you’re back in full regalia, wonderful story, beautifully written with every bit of your class in full view. Thank you for the emotional ride.

        • agnesjack says:

          Thanks, Kerry. Didn’t mean to worry you. I was busy and not particularly inspired by the last two prompts. Although I toyed with the idea of writing one last week about a male pirate who goes into a bathroom and has to confront two female zombies (those where the three prompts I’ve missed so far).

          This story came to me in the magical way that stories do, sometimes. It just was there and simply had to be put on paper. I love when that happens.

      • agnesjack says:

        Thank you very much, Reaper, for the wonderful compliment. Sadly, when some people finally hit rock bottom, it is too late for redemption because it is fatal. As I said to jmcody, soccer just seemed like the perfect sport to metaphorically express the challenge of getting past the demons responsible for the need to numb all feeling with alcohol or other substance.

    • Critique says:

      A heartbreaking story that ends with hope. Beautiful agnesjack.

    • Entertaining story–interesting how the tequila and the dream only offered foux promises and satisfaction yet left him and Lina empty and incomplete.

  62. Dennis says:

    Casualties of War

    As Hector stared down the goalie, he reflected on waking up this morning without the thought that today he might die. Win, definitely. Get laid, hopefully. But not die, although he knew it was always a possibility.

    Being on a championship soccer team meant doing whatever it took to win, to help take the team to the World Cup. Not just for the team, but also for the fans and one’s country. Pride meant everything, but it came with consequences.

    Now Hector was just a penalty kick away from moving his team on and eliminating the Brazilian team. Moments before, Brazilian team member Marcelo Teixeira, told Hector in so many words, “Make that kick and you die.” Just like that. Hector’s team members said it was just empty threats to psych him out, but Hector wondered.

    “Screw him and his team,” Hector thought. “Today we move on.”

    The whistle blew and Hector made his move to the ball. He began to kick one way but at the last moment switched feet and sent the ball the other way. The goalie anticipated the first kick and dove to his right as the ball sailed past him on the left into the back of the net.

    Half the stadium roared while the rest were in a deep silence, devastated by their team’s elimination. Hector went down on a bent knee, said a quick prayer and crossed himself. He did what he needed to do. In the next moment his team members had lifted him off the ground and were bouncing him up in the air.

    With the celebration over, the two teams formed lines to pass each other and shake hands. Hector’s eyes met Marcelo’s. He saw deep, serene pools that seemed to calm Hector’s anxious heart. But as their hands met Hector felt the smallest of pin pricks and his eyes widened. Marcelo gave a devilish half smile and moved on.

    Muscles stiffening and breathing becoming more forced, Hector staggered to make it off the field. But it was not to be…….

    ************************

    Marcelo walked off the field towards the locker room knowing he did what he needed to do.

    • jhowe says:

      Man, there are some good ones this week, and yours is no exception. Excellent work.

    • lionetravail says:

      Nasty nasty! This is a nicely written story- great character portrayal in the short piece. Lord knows, I hope Marcelo gets his though…!

      • Dennis says:

        All for the love of the game, right? I was slightly inspired by an article of how back in 1994 Chile did this stunt that almost kept Brazil out going to the World Cup and they were hosting then as well. Crazy stuff.

    • sjmca1966 says:

      Over the next couple of weeks I’ll be watching the players handshakes in the WC a little closer than normal.
      Well done.

    • agnesjack says:

      Well, that explains why I’m not a soccer fan. That was excellent, Dennis, in a very dark way. Great character development.

    • Jay says:

      Man, I like how Marcelo believes he needed to do it. I suppose it would’ve made more sense for Marcelo to do it before the game because there’s no guarantee he’ll be able to face-off against Hector again (let alone in the World Cup). At that point, Marcelo was only driven by his desire to kill. What a bastard, lol. Well written, Dennis!

    • I liked it, the story was compelling and so was the writing. But why did it have to be Marcelo? Poor guy, he already got enough flack after making the off-sides goal for Croatia. Still, that aside (and also the fact that they wouldn’t win against Brasil anyway ;), it was a great story.

    • jmcody says:

      Dennis, you did it… you went dark! :) Who knew soccer could be so treacherous?

      This piece is sleek and refined like a well-tailored garment, with precisely placed seams and artfully trimmed. Not a word was wasted, and you conveyed such subtle nuance of character in so few words. Incredibly good writing, Dennis! Maybe you should do dark more often.

      • Dennis says:

        Thanks JM. I almost did it last week with the bathroom prompt but decided not to. And then Reaper almost wrote the story I would have. Still not easy to do but thanks for the compliments. I’ll definitely try it again.

    • jmcody says:

      Dennis, you did it… you went dark! :) Who knew soccer could be so treacherous?

      This piece is sleek and refined like a well-tailored garment, with precisely placed seams and artfully trimmed. Not a word was wasted, and you conveyed such subtle nuance of character in so few words. Incredibly good writing, Dennis! Maybe you should do dark more often.

    • Reaper says:

      This is amazing. In part because with the fanaticism of soccer I can almost believe this would really happen. Your writing changed almost to did believe. Great characters and tension. Thank you for the compliment about rubbing off on you. Though I am not completely sure that is a good thing. :) Amazing writing all around here.

    • vaderize03 says:

      Oh wow, what balls Hector has. The internal struggle over whether or not to believe Marcelo–and the MC’s grim determination to risk death to ensure victory for his team–was riveting.

      Your MC’s devotion to his teammates and the sport was believable and inspiring. Great “Godfather-like” take on the prompt!

  63. lionetravail says:

    “500 Exactly”

    It’s go time.

    I look around as I try to remember how to breathe. I’m sweating, and my shin hurts from where that egomaniac Felipez kicked me. The crowd is roaring, one continuous wave of sound which only varies in its intensity.

    The scoreboard reads 2-2 and time’s run out. It’s one of the rarest opportunities, a penalty kick after regulation play has ended. I hold the ball, and the referee is standing where I’m to take the kick as he and his colleagues try to quiet the crowd.

    I’ll have to get the ball past Ordonez, maybe the greatest goalkeeper in the game today. He takes his position, psyching himself up. I wonder just what he’s thinking now.

    And then I remember what I’m thinking. It’s about that little boy, Josef Acker, whom I visited early this morning before game time: he’s in the hospital with failed kidneys. I saw him this morning before he was to get dialysis, and his dull black eyes lit up when I came in. I’d had to kick the media circus out because they kept interrupting us from actually talking.

    I look up, and the sun is just past noon in a clear sky. I breathe easily as I wait. One of my teammates, Anders, the jokester, makes some kind of gesture I barely catch in my peripheral vision, and the crowd, almost quieted, surges again. The referees’ whistles are lost in the wall of sound blanketing us.

    I’d promised Josef that we would win the game for him, and though I’ve taken dozens of penalty kicks in my career, I’m uneasy. I try to think why.

    I can’t get the picture of Josef, skin grey and tucked under the sheets in his hospital bed, and I realize what’s bothering me.

    Win this game for him? Not only is it cliche, it’s a sad, cheap way to try to make myself feel good about myself How would I feel if some idiot told me he was going to win a game for me, when I was nearly at death’s door?

    The crowd quiets finally, and the referee calls me forward, so I take a lonely walk in front of more than 60,000 fans. I place the ball down under the hot sun, take a glance at Ordonez, and walk to my starting position for the kick. As I turn back around, I realize that I can do far more for Josef than win this game.

    I can give him a kidney.

    The ball is a blurred black and white spot in front of me until I rub my eyes.

    The referee blows his whistle.

    It’s go time, and suddenly I’m not uneasy at all. I hardly care if I make the kick or not, and I feel freer than I’ve felt in years.

    I smile as I raise my right arm, and I see that Ordonez has seen it, and doesn’t know what to make of it. I start towards the ball…

    • jhowe says:

      That was great. I loved it.

    • chartman07 says:

      Whoa – I am intrigued. So much could unfold in the next few seconds. He makes it. Or, Ordonez easily defends his goal. Or, he makes it and goes on to find a kidney for the boy – finds one just in time! Or…..? Good job – I am sitting on the edge of my proverbial seat! Hope your shins heal quickly lionetravail :-)

    • sjmca1966 says:

      Sometimes in situations of the highest pressure, we come to understand where our priorities should lie.
      Great read.

    • Dennis says:

      I really liked this. Great how the MC was able to find his priorities with life, which then freed him.

    • Reaper says:

      Nicely written. Love the end of the game being untold. You put forward in a powerful way that win or lose didn’t matter here because the big issue had already been resolved.

    • agnesjack says:

      Wonderful, lionetravail. When he lets go of the need to “win” he wins, because he grasps what is really important in life. Very nice.

    • jmcody says:

      This was a very inspired and inspiring take on the prompt. We Americans love our heroes of sports and entertainment so much, and get so caught up in the battle being fought on the field or the screen that we forget about the real battles being fought in every day life. So much better to be a real hero to a little boy than a symbolic hero of entertainment to millions. Insightful, moving and beautifully written, Lionetravail. And congrats on the perfect “500!” :)

      • Kerry Charlton says:

        What a spell binder, David. I felt like I was dropped off a cliff at the last moment. One of the most powerful endings on a short story I’ve ever read. Sneak an email to me and tell me what happened!

    • vaderize03 says:

      Wow….I love the epiphany here and how you played it out (no pun intended).

      The open ending leaves me screaming for more….I hope he gets Josef the kidney, and makes the ball.

      Amazing job!

    • Critique says:

      Heart warming story!

  64. Cceynowa says:

    The crowd’s voice mingled into a collective and tangible tornado that ripped across the playing field. Amidst the turbulence, one phase was clear: “Alex the Great!” This mantra was gaining volume, as the fans willed me to claim victory.

    Though my jersey matched my team’s with stains of sweat, grass, dirt, and blood, of all of us I was the strongest. My legs did not feel the ache of a full game played hard. My breath came easy, and my eyes did not sting with salty sweat.

    It was an all or nothing moment, I would make the goal, or we would go into a shoot-out. The pressure was nearly unbearable. The players to either side of me nodded, I knew their faces, but could not recall their names. I nodded back, the picture of confidence. They had to believe in me, or else we were all busted. I glanced to the sidelines, where moments earlier the team had stood in a tight group while I emerged from the room cleverly hidden under the water cooler.

    Alex was in bad shape. He had taken a hit directly to the left temple. I was surprised he was able to walk off the field on his own power. Of course, him staggering like he was made it easier to have his concerned team huddling closely around him, blocking all curious or suspicious eyes.

    This game was too important to risk the team’s most valuable player being incapacitated. We thought we had this all figured out, and by God, we were going to make it happen. We had to make it happen. Our government had made it clear what would happen to our families if we lost the World Cup.

    A deep breath steadied my nerves. I needed to focus. No thoughts of families, no thoughts of Alex. I needed to be in the moment. The official survived the playing field one last time, and then blew the whistle.

    The other team’s players were marking me tightly. I knew they would, but I needed a clear shot! I had to keep us from going to a shoot out. With a tremendous burst of speed, surely to be recorded as super-human after the injury Alex had sustained, I broke free of my coverage. Nothing but open field and the goal in sight.

    Slowing just a bit, I performed Alex’s signature move, a flawlessly executed bicycle kick. The ball stayed low and sped towards the goal. For a heartbeat, I held my breath along with the thousands of silent fans. The ball slowed in my vision, as did the goalie’s movements. He jumped, my insides clenched, and the ball hit the back of the net with satisfying speed and accuracy.

    I had done it. I had won the world cup.

    My team smothered me as we moved towards the guidelines. They thumped my back and screamed incoherently. I was on a high no one could match. My senses were overwhelmed with the teams’ shouts and bodies.

    The ground gave way under my feet and I dropped into darkness. My jersey was yanked off. Through the open door above me, I could see the team still jumping and celebrating, providing a cover for the switch.

    When the real Alex had exited, and the door was securely fastened again, my handler, Big Mike, said, “You did good kid. Looks like all those surgeries, hours of practice, and lies paid off, huh?”

    “Guess so, Mike. Now what?”

    “Well kid, I’ve got orders you see…”

    I nodded, knowing the sounds of the crowd’s celebrating would cover the gunshot.

    • Cceynowa says:

      I’m over this week (599), sorry. I also apologize for all inaccuracies about the game. Google provided any and all soccer terms. :-) Thanks Mr. Klems for giving me opportunity to research outside my normal hobbies.

    • jhowe says:

      That was well done and well written. Nice job with the intrigue.

    • lionetravail says:

      Great story! Well-executed (pun intended)… but so abrupt an ending! Might they not need the ‘kid’ again? I definitely want to know more about the set up to the game; the threat from the government is intriguing, especially since there’s so many teams from countries with less-than-friendly governments. Nice job.

      • Cceynowa says:

        Hmmm…. I’m thinking Alex’s injury was so great (though it seemed superficial at first) it will cause an early retirement. As far as government goes, maybe the team is safe for four years, and then the plot to win the World Cup will begin again? Possibly “the kid’s” teenage son will be picked for the next team and unravel the mystery of his father’s sudden disappearance?

        • lionetravail says:

          So many choices, right? Maybe Alex’s injury wasn’t so bad, but he feels so guilty about what happened to the kid… and maybe the gunshot the kid’s expecting never happens, or misses? Woot! This could make a much longer piece if you save some of those thoughts in reserve.

    • Dennis says:

      Great set up. This seems like something not so far fetched. Nice how you kept the tension going, and not revealing till the very end.

    • Reaper says:

      Nicely written. I am conflicted on the character at the end. Part of that is there is a natural arrogance to him that doesn’t seem like the type to easily accept and execution, but the feel of blind patriotism is right. I might suggest removing the I am the strongest because that is what leads to the conflict. Though I also like that I can’t decide how I feel about that.

      For a second I thought you were going back to the Iraqi team that got executed after losing. Then you took this in an even darker direction.

    • agnesjack says:

      This was very intriguing. The idea of a government using plastic surgery to create an “understudy,” who waits in the wings, just in case the star can’t perform, is really creepy. And then, did they kill their creation after that? It’s just so sick, but then soccer is a fanatical sport.

    • Cceynowa says:

      Addressing Reaper and agnesjack:

      I agree. I started this one in reverse, with the MC knowing he was going to die. I knew nothing else about him when I started, only that he was doomed to die because of soccer. At first, I thought maybe he was a fan, but that did not feel right. He felt too … brave? loyal? good at what he did? noble? He was complex (I feel I did not do him justice), and he has left me feeling complicated.

      I do not feel he was arrogant, though I certainly can read that now that I take a second look, and thank you Reaper for pointing out where a conflict can arise. I was hoping that his stating “of all of us I was the strongest,” would convey his factual outlook on life. Just as he eventually accepts his death as fact. A man doing what needs to be done. [I am oh-so-open to suggestions on how to convey this idea better. <<< Writer wanting to learn!]

      Honestly, I feel a sadness from this story. He had accomplished something soccer players around the world dream of doing: winning the World Cup with a solo shot, and no one will ever know.

      • Reaper says:

        I see what you mean. Knowing the end I go back and it doesn’t look as arrogant as it did in the moment. My suggestion would be a little foreshadowing with a slightly softer wording. Please forgive that I am going to directly rewrite and please remember this is just a suggestion not me trying to become a dreaded editor. I would change this…

        Though my jersey matched my team’s with stains of sweat, grass, dirt, and blood, of all of us I was the strongest. My legs did not feel the ache of a full game played hard. My breath came easy, and my eyes did not sting with salty sweat.

        To something like but not exactly this…

        Though my jersey matched my team’s, stained with with sweat, grass dirt, and and blood everything else was different. My legs lacked the ache of a full game played hard. My breath came easy. My eyes did not sting with salty sweat. We all knew this was what I was made for.

        • Cceynowa says:

          Wow, what a difference adding the last line (“We all knew this was what I was made for”) would make to the flow of the story. You are abosolutely right in the foreshadow aspect. As I re-read the story, I could easily see how it appeared the MC was arrogant and does give a mixed feeling to why he is so accepting at the end. As I am so fond of telling my husband, “It all makes sense in my head.” I need to remember that, thank goodness, readers are not in my head.

          I appreciate and thank you for the comments. Constructive advice and criticism is more than welcome. How else am I to learn?

    • jmcody says:

      This was exciting and intriguing, as so many others have said, and I also have a need to know more. I’m not sure why the understudy was such a willing participant knowing that he was going to be used and then executed. I’m not sure what would be his motivation for his highly cooperative attitude. I am also curious about what kind of the pressure the other players were under, since they were all in on it.

      Wow, you certainly have written an engaging and mysterious tale!

  65. undiscoveredWA says:

    The sweat collecting above my brow and the shirt stuck to my back kept me in the moment. The sounds of so many fans yelling until their voices were hoarse and their jaws hurt from being open for so long.
    I look up. I look at the crowds sporting the colors of their favorite teams. I look to the bench of the other team, their concentration just as intense as ours. I look to my coach who seems to be sweating more than all of us combined, if that can even be possible. This perspective gives me that out-of-body experience which makes me realize why I do what I do. It makes me realize why I love soccer so much. It swallows your mind and body whole. It consumes you so it is only you, the teams, and the ball.
    But not today. My body was committed. Whole-heartedly. But not my mind.
    TWEET goes the whistle that sends us rushing back into the game. Damn, why was it so hard for me to stay in the moment instead of thinking about everything else?
    I shake myself back to the game, looking to my team for the next play. This is the day I have been waiting for my whole career and I can’t keep my head in the goddamn game. The game which has been tied 0-0, down to this moment.
    I look over to Bret show him that I’m not prepared. His confusion is clear.
    The whistle blows again and we are off, charging down the field. I see the ball. It’s mine. Chasing, chasing, finally I catch it. My foot sends it tumbling down the field closer the goal which is actually the goal in more ways than one. The goal: to win the game. To win the game, you must make a goal.
    I look up and see my opponent, trying to steal my ball. I maneuver, left, right. Spin. I’m free. I scream that I am open when I see Bret pass the ball to me. His concern is written all over his face. He realizes he passed the game winning ball to the teammate who had told him only seconds ago that he was not ready. I look down. Then up to the goal. I press closer. Pull my leg back to kick, that nagging thought still in the back of my mind and as if it were in slow motion, I release my foot toward the ball.
    Not quick enough. My opponent was quicker and he knocks me to the ground before my foot had ever reached the ball. The whistle blew. Damn. Shoot out.
    That’s when it hit me. My shoelace had broken this morning. That lace I had used since my professional career had started. My lucky shoelace. That being the seed of doubt that had been nagging at me.
    How would I ever win this shoot out with that much doubt? Because even a speck of it is catastrophic.

  66. Marie Therese Knepper says:

    I believe Spock said it best: “You may find that having is not so pleasing a thing as wanting.” And I had wanted to be the most famous soccer player in the world. Yet my feet feel leaden as I walk with my teammates away from the sidelines and onto the field. It sounds like every one of our loyal fans in the stadium is chanting my name. MY NAME. Just for fun I thrust my fist in the air and watch as the crowd goes wild. That should buy me a little more time. Let them have their fun.
    I used to love this sport. Hours upon hours learning the kicks, memorizing the plays; every goal a brick in my yellow road to FIFA. And here I am, about to make my mark in soccer history.
    Spinning the ball lightly in both hands, I scan the field. All eyes are on me, and I hate it. What’s happened to me? As I shake out each leg, I admit the unease came after our first round against the Brits. It was all too easy.
    As the ref’s worked frantically for quiet, my thoughts returned to my early years. A panorama of bruises, cuts, and sprains kindled a fire in my soul. You chose to make this easy, I pointed an imaginary finger in my face. You’ve been playing checkers instead of chess.
    That’s when I saw it, the checkmate move. The fuel for my fire was not in the winning, or as Spock said, the having. It was the challenge that ignited my being. The want of it all. And I wanted the World Cup real bad.
    Taking charge, I rose each hand in the air and made a flourishing bow; my finger pressed to my lips, hushing the four corners. The King held sway. Kissing the ball, I turned my back on the goal and waited for the ref to blow his whistle. I swear I could hear his inhale like he was next to my ear. In a split second I had bicycle kicked us to the finals.
    Easy? Who was I kidding ;)

    • undiscoveredWA says:

      Giving the perspective through the players mind really lets you feel like you are in the moment. It left me wanting more of an explanation of how the win went or what happened afterwards. Like the crowd chanting more wildly or something.
      Also, the characters smugness comes across very strongly so that you get a sense of who they are without having known them. Good read.

      • Marie Therese Knepper says:

        I’m glad you enjoyed my take on the prompt. I found this difficult. I’m not a soccer fan.
        I began with the idea that my MC would decide to quit soccer. As he developed, I realized that this guy really loves the sport and just needed a wake up call. I debated having him intentionally miss the goal to send them into a shootout. His ego would not allow the slightest possibility of his team losing, and so he went for the win.
        I would have liked to been more detailed. I grew to like my MC. Did he take the easy way, or did he realize that what looked easy was really a challenge? That’s where I left the reader to wonder.

    • Dennis says:

      Nice taking us through the mind of a seasoned player and what it takes to win the cup.

    • lionetravail says:

      I think it’s so cool you brought Spock into another prompt- I applaud you just for that! And then, nice tight writing throughout, with the crystal image of “spinning the ball lightly in both hands”, and later kissing it, which put me right there on the field because they’re such concrete, iconic images of the game. Amazing what you got into such a short piece!

      • Marie Therese Knepper says:

        I had an idea to try my hand at fan fiction with last week’s prompt, having Kirk materialize in a woman’s bathroom, but someone named lionetravail posted first!

        The quote from Spock is one of my all-time favorite quotes. I was struggling to come up with a plot for this prompt. When I decided to have the MC express reticence about his rise to fame, the quote from Spock popped in to my head.

        Thank you :)

    • Reaper says:

      Well written. If you had not mentioned it in a reply I would never know you were not a soccer fan. Normally I would suggest not using all caps, but the my name seemed to fit with them perfectly.

      • Marie Therese Knepper says:

        Thank you, Reaper. I hesitated briefly before using the caps, deciding to write it like my MC would say it in his head. My name, as if that thought alone would propel him out of his funk. I believe in his journey he realized that adulation from fans was not enough to satisfy his soul.

    • agnesjack says:

      This was a very interesting way to approach the prompt. I don’t know much about soccer, either, but I know some fanatical fans of it. It’s a beast unto itself, and I think your inner dialogue depicted the near addiction to the “wanting” as you so well put it. Well done, in few words.

      Just a side note: when you paste from Word into HTML the para. spacing gets lost, so if you want spacing between (which helps the read), you have to manually hit enter twice after each paragraph.

    • jmcody says:

      This had a lot of psychological insight and depth. I think that’s a peculiar but real hazard — being so good at something that you begin to take it for granted and lose your drive for it. (Not that I would know… :) ) This was a fascinating little character study. I particularly enjoyed the physicality of your writing; I could easily picture the scene, the fist in the air, etc. Nice, Marie Therese.

      • Marie Therese Knepper says:

        I’m so glad you enjoyed it. I found myself tempted to go off into other details, but decided to keep the focus solely on the MC. He came into his own on that field. A journey of self discovery.

  67. vaderize03 says:

    FYI, the subject matter, while mostly implied, is a little rough. Ultimately, the point of the story is about finding inner strength in a moment when one least expects it. Hope everyone enjoys the read.

    A Different Kind of Goal

    The roar of the crowd should have been energizing. I could feel the weight of the world’s stare, not just from the stadium’s fans, but the fidgeting mass of humanity that sat glued to glowing screens across the globe. Their power was like the waves on the shore, the stillness before a storm, the first rays of light at the crack of dawn. I had spent my entire life training for this moment–I had sacrificed nights, weekends, my childhood, yet now that it was here, I felt totally out of tune.

    It wasn’t the game itself. No, that I had fought to the best of my ability, and now we were tied, 2-2. The clock had run out, and it was time for sudden death. I stared at the rival goalie, hands on my hips, and frowned. She was tall, much more than my five-foot-six, and her face was as blank as a concrete wall. On any other day, I’d know what to do. Tall goalies tended to be overconfident, secure in their ability to block any shot, yet also easy to fake-out. On any other day, I’d come up with a plan.

    But not today.

    I bounced up-and-down on the tips of my toes, preparing for the kick. As I took a deep breath, the voice of the announcer sounded yet again, pressing into my ears with uninvited fingers. I had to act: the world was watching.

    Bending my knees, I felt the soreness, the ache between my legs that had slowed me down all game. Would it cost us the title, this pain in my groin? It was miniscule compared to the one in my heart, yet it had consumed every waking moment for the past fourteen hours.

    How could he do this to me, especially now? I know I’d made him wait for far too long, but the World Cup was not the place to lose your virginity, certainly not right before the championship game. It had been such a surprise, finding him in my room last night, waiting on the bed with a half-dozen roses. The make-out session which had followed was nice, but it had quickly escalated, then spiraled out of control. I shuddered at the memory of my cries and his moans, of his hand over my mouth as he took what he wanted. When he finished, he kissed me on the forehead and whispered “Good luck,” as if that would make what he’d just done okay. Without another word, he’d turned and left, leaving me bleeding and naked on the bed. I sat in the shower for hours before dozing off, finally jumping awake at the sound of the alarm. I didn’t think I’d be able to play, but my shame at what had happened was far stronger than my ability to come up with a believable excuse….and so here I was. To my surprise, I’d not only taken the field, I’d carried the team, scoring both of the game’s goals. And now, with the title in the balance, it had all down to me.

    My scowl became a smile. Inside the spidery web of the goal, my rival tensed, and a tiny furrow cut across her brow like an accidental canyon. Ah, the shadow of doubt. Coach had spent nearly as much time teaching us how to recognize weakness as how to kick a ball, and I finally knew why. It was all in our minds: fear, doubt, self-worth. Last night, I’d thought my world shattered, but now I knew it would only be if I let it. This moment, this task, was real. If I believed in myself, then nothing–not fear, nor the goalie, nor my-soon-to-be-in-jail rapist ex–could stop me. There was only the ball, the goal, and the moment of victory.

    My legs were coiled springs, my heart an unstoppable engine. With a roar that drowned out the crowd, I wound up, stepped back, and let fly.

    Take that, you bastard.

    • Dennis says:

      Well written story with a lot of good emotion. Nice to see the MC take charge of her life, even after her sleaseball ex.

    • lionetravail says:

      Fantastic story! Next chapter is hopefully that she finds the guy who ravaged her and kicks him 12 yards into a goal. Or maybe the goal post. Very believable, and not at all rough, as far as I’m concerned. Great take on the prompt.

    • vaderize03 says:

      Thanks guys….I was aiming for something powerful, but different. I also wasn’t sure whether or not I could pull off an entire piece in internal narrative, but it seems to fit.

    • Reaper says:

      Breath taking and just well done. You tackled a lot of powerful subjects to create a very empowering story.

    • vaderize03 says:

      Thanks, Reaper.

      Since I know absolutely nothing about soccer, I had to try a different track.

      Glad you liked it.

    • jmcody says:

      This was a portrait of a true champion, and of what it really means to be brave: “It was all in our minds: fear, doubt, self-worth.” This line summed it up for me.

      I agree that it was gritty and unpleasant to read, but the ending made it worthwhile. Your last line was perfect — I could feel her power surging.

      Your writing is remarkably fluid and evocative. Excellent, Vaderize!

    • vaderize03 says:

      Aw, shucks jmcody! *blushes profusely*

      Thanks.

    • Critique says:

      A riveting read with a satisfying ending.

  68. Augie says:

    I know absolutely nothing about soccer, so excuse my attempt.

    The average person wouldn’t understand the importance of this sport. Most would laugh and mock the players in this modified football game. Family, friends and fans have traveled to many home fields with their loved ones for every kick off. Today’s game determines who takes the world title to their home.

    The Gaffer’s team dance on the field to an upbeat song by The White Kids U Know. Definitely not what Steven Foster intended. The crowd goes wild, singing the lyrics. “lets go, da a da a da, lets go, da a da a da!”

    These players and fans are serious about this sport! The two famous home teams are here to ‘kick it out’ and take trophy home!

    The Gaffer’s rely on Bart this game. Even though he is overweight and definitely pushing his prime, Bart always finds a way to free his team from the humiliation of defeat! He definitely left the walker on the sidelines today and has outmaneuvered the opposing team each time.

    The game has gone into overtime. A typical scene for the fans.

    Bart takes one last suck on his inhaler as the countdown starts.

    5-4-3-2-1! The offense charges, “I see you Bart! Your mine!”

    Bart panics, he has to make it half way across the field to score. If he doesn’t he will share the same fate as his teammates, and hear the fans booooo’s.

    He tries to focus, the goal seems so far away! He worries about his trousers falling down as he extends his legs across the field. Bart can handle any joke about his oversized ears and nose, but he would never live it down if he stood in the center of the field with his pants around his ankles! What would Marge think of him?

    Like the bionic man, Bart’s high-speed run is captured in slow motion as the crowd goes wild! His body aches and his joints pop, but Bart continues towards his goal. Suddenly, Bart stumbles and falls to the ground. Paramedics rush the field, but Bart waves them off, “I’m fine!”

    He can see the goal, one leg length away! Bart rolls three times on the grass moaning as the raging opponent inches towards him shouting, “Your mine Bart!”

    Yes, it only took fifteen minutes, but Bart managed to travel the twenty feet and kick the can. Bart proudly shouts, “Free my team!”

    The crowd goes wild! Bart’s nursing home finally won the title!

    Marge brings Bart his walker, “come on handsome, lets dance!”

    The announcer blast The White Kids U Know as players, family and fans dance and sing.

    —Lets go, to the old folks home, Lets go, to the old folks home…..

    • agnesjack says:

      Old age kick the can, sweet and very funny. (I don’t know much about soccer, either).

    • Dennis says:

      Nice one. You had me going there for a little bit. Great fun imaging what that would actually look like.

    • lionetravail says:

      Very cute take, Augie! (A bit on the rough side, but that’s the price sometimes for being first poster!) I love the concept of the nursing home patients active and enjoying life, along with the reveal that this wasn’t a pro game. Nice!

    • Reaper says:

      Nice Augie. I am with you on not knowing soccer. I actually had to cut the line since I’m too small for football I was relegated to playing football from mine. I know us American’s are heathens for just not getting it but soccer is almost as boring to watch as basketball. This is a nice take, and at the end reminded me at the end of the Twilight Zone episode, Kick the Can. I am confused by the one line Free my team, but that may be not knowing much about kick the can also?

    • Jay says:

      Well done, Augie! I loved playing kick the can when I was a pup, well, before Nintendo and computers and writing took over haha! Thanks for the feel-good read. :D

    • jmcody says:

      Cute story, Augie, but somebody’s going to break a hip.

      I also was reminded of the “Kick the Can” episode of the Twilight Zone — one of my favorites! (After the one with Aunt Bea and the swimming pool.)

      Liked it!

    • seliz says:

      What a funny piece with great descriptions. I could just see Bart leaving his walker and using his inhaler before kicking the can. Nicely done :)

    • Critique says:

      Like the determination of Bart…. “his body aches and his joints pop but Bart continues..”
      A fun read :)

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