Monday, June 23, 2008

A Tolka Romance by Bill Zunmoon

Part 9


Reunited, and it feels so good, warbled legendary singing duo Peaches and Herb over the tannoy and, as Lionel and Karen’s relationship blossomed, it seemed that the only thing that could spoil the party was a downturn in fortune for Shels. Lionel had won her heart – and the other 22 stone of her – but since that balmy evening when Wexford Youths had been despatched to the corner of the classroom, the team had experienced a wobble not seen since Karen had dashed down the New Stand at half time to get to Burdocks before the crowd.
The mauling at home in the Cup by Dundalk had been an aberration, Karen said, as she nibbled his ear at the end of the match, leaving it like a shredded beefburger. Besides, she continued, the Cup was only a distraction. “Would you rather make love to me once on a white beach in Mauritius or regularly in my flat in Fairview?” she asked by way of an analogy and Lionel agreed that the latter was entirely preferable, as she might be mistaken for a beached whale in the Indian Ocean.
The break came. Not between Lionel and Karen whose love was as strong as that of Leonardo di Caprio and Kate Winslett in “Titanic,” but in the League season. Lionel spent the evenings in Karen’s apartment and they made glorious love on the floor all during the group stages of Euro 2008, pausing only to urge on their respective teams to further efforts.
Lionel had gone for the Croats because, as he explained, it was hard not to feel a great warmth towards them for their mauling of England in the qualifying stages. Karen had adopted the Italians because she “liked their food.”
One night, after debating van Nistlerooy’s offside goal for nearly an hour, Karen rolled on top of Lionel and said, with deadly seriousness, “I think we should get married.”
Lionel said nothing. It was as though the thought had struck him dumb and that he was grappling with his thoughts and emotions. Karen searched his face for the answer, even checking behind his ears, but Lionel made no reply. It was only by his frantic gestures towards his throat that Karen realised the problem and rolled back off him.
“Oh darling,” he gasped at last, as Eamonn explained how it was possible for a player lying four yards off the field to play the Dutch striker onside. “Do you think we can really make it together in this harsh and cruel world that we live in? What if Shels go on a losing streak and Dundalk surge past us, holding their thumbs to their noses and shouting “Na, na, na-na na?” Can our love survive the pain of losing out on promotion?”
Karen placed a tender finger on his lips, chipping a tooth. “If Bisto should get transferred back to Rovers during the transfer window,” she said. “If Roddy Collins should take over from Dermo and signs Robbie Doyle and Trevor Molloy. If Shels get demoted to the AUL and leave Tolka and ground share with St. Francis. If Shels become a feeder club for Bohs,” – here Lionel turned away and was violently sick into a discarded fried rice container – “If all of these things happen, will you still follow them?”
As Liam explained to a confused Bill that Pirlo had not technically left the field of play with the referee’s permission and was therefore lying on the touchline, playing everybody onside, Lionel could feel the tears welling up in his eyes and, curiously, in his nose. “That’s the most beautiful speech I have ever heard, since Gerry Collins made an impassioned plea for reform of agricultural policy in the Daíl twenty years ago,” he said. “Darling, do you think it can really work? You and me, alone in this mad, mad world? Just the two of us, building castles in the sky?”
Her lips sought his. They roamed over the settee and across the Chinese rug until at last they found them on his face just below his nose. As John explained that Don Revie had always said that the offside law should be dictated by common sense, they locked in a deep embrace. Lionel could feel his life force slowly ebbing away as he melted into a liquid world of warmth and contentment. What adventures lay ahead, he wondered, as he slipped slowly into unconsciousness?
What indeed?

Just a little wobble

Before the break we seemed to take
Each game with such conviction.
“We’ll win by four,” “A cricket score,”
Was often the prediction.
Then came the Cup, we messed it up,
The ball began to bobble.
Was this malaise a passing phase,
A temporary wobble?
Going down to Longford Town
Has altered our perspective.
Things aren’t as sweet since that defeat –
It’s made us more reflective.
Our surging run, once full of fun,
Has turned into a hobble.
Oh, has our dream run out of steam,
Or is this just a wobble?

Those two losses ran across us,
Striking without warning.
Unprepared, we’re now quite scared
We might end up in mourning.
To lose again would inflict pain,
Cause team and fans to squabble.
Oh will we start to fall apart?
Or is this just a wobble?

So we, as fans, must make our plans
To roar the team to glory.
No more slips or little blips
Must mar this rampant story.
A good win then, ‘gainst Bucko’s men,
Is what we need to cobble,
To fan the flames and show those games
Were just a little wobble.

A Tolka Romance by Bill Zunmoon

Part 8
All the way home from Lissywoolen, Lionel and Karen talked about revitalising their relationship, the concept of true, unselfish love and whether Philly Hughes would ever be fully fit. Lionel could scarcely believe his luck. He thought he had lost Karen forever, though at 22 stone, she was not a girl who you could lose easily. Yet here she was sitting demurely in the passenger seat, the rolls of fat from her thighs making the gear stick difficult to move.
The smell of her aftershave mingled with her underarm sweat and Lionel had to pinch himself to make sure he hadn’t died and gone to heaven. Boy meets girl, boy loses girl, girl puts boy in a neck-brace, boy finds girl – it was the classic love story.
In his minds eye, Lionel could see himself and Karen queuing up outside Tolka with lots of little Lionels and Karens, waiting to go in and see Real Madrid getting thumped in the quarter final of the Champions League. He could see them living happily in a whitewashed cottage with pictures of all the Shelbourne greats – Gannon, Sheridan, Trebble – adorning the walls.
For her part, Karen admitted that putting Lionel in hospital had caused her many minutes of anguish. If only he could find it in his heart, or even in his pancreas, to forgive her, she knew that they could start to build a relationship that could stand the test of time. Impulsively, Lionel leant over and kissed her tenderly on the cheek and the magical moment only came to an end when Karen screamed “Watch out!” and grabbed the steering wheel forcefully from his grasp.
They arranged to meet the following week at the Wexford Youths game and all through the week, Lionel could hardly contain his excitement. He was so nervous that three times he put his fork through his cheek at mealtimes and got seriously wet when he tried to take a short cut home over the canal on his way home from the chicken factory.
It seemed to Lionel that Friday would never come. He tried crossing the days off two at a time on the calendar but that didn’t work. He had butterflies in his stomach and a ferret in his bowels, excitedly anticipating Friday. Every tree with low hanging branches that he passed he would jump up and head the leaves until somebody fired a warning shot at him.
Love, as Annie Lennox had once told him, is a stranger in an open car, though Pat Benataur had argued that it was a battlefield. Foreigner, remembered Lionel, just wanted to know what it is and John Lennon said it was all you need. According to John Paul Young it is in the air anytime he looks around, though Lionel found scant evidence of this.
Whatever that many splendour’d thing actually was, Lionel knew he felt it as Karen eased herself into two bucket seats beside him and squeezed his hand tightly, fracturing two fingers. All that is needed now was three points, he thought, and I know my life is complete.
Shelbourne pressed hard and Lionel’s hand wandered towards Karen’s thigh like a distracted crab. Problem was, once there, he didn’t know what to do next and played incey-wincey-spider up and down her leg until she told him to cut it out.
Bisto went close, Freeman went close but Wexford Youths belied their tender years and held firm against wave after wave of red pressure. Lionel slid his arm around Karen’s shoulder but could only reach halfway across her back and withdrew it when he found he had nothing to hang on to. Yells for a penalty went ignored and Lionel nibbled Karen’s fingertips until she reminded him where they had been recently.
Scoreless at half time, Lionel could feel the old frustration welling in his loins. One point wouldn’t be good enough to leapfrog Dundalk who had clawed their way passed Lokomotiv Fingal the night before. He hoped Dermot’s team talk would be an encouraging one, accentuating the positive and garnering hope.
Shels continued to press in the second half and Lionel resumed his explanation of Karen’s anatomy. Bisto went close again and Lionel stroked Karen’s cheek and she bit his hand. The Wexford keeper fumbled but the ball was cleared and Lionel, in Section D, sympathised with him. And then it happened!
A cross ball and Bisto was in the clear to stroke the ball home. The place erupted, with rivulets of molten lava flowing down from the back of the stand. Celine Dion in a nearby stadium, paused in the middle of “My heart will go on,” to declare to an ecstatic crowd that “I guess Shels must have scored.”
And Lionel and Karen, locked in a passionate embrace that nearly asphyxiated the former, entwined in a love clench that would have left Bob Marley in no doubt, celebrated the goal in the best way possible.

Superstitious Cedric

Managers in general are quite blunt and down to earth,
But Cedric, the exception, had been spiritual from birth.
He didn’t have that nous that made, say Fidel Castro logical,
But rather he was driven by events more astrological.

He consulted every horoscope before he made decisions,
His matchday routine was a constant stream of superstitions.
He always wore his lucky rabbit’s foot, through force of habit,
[Lucky, maybe, for himself, but hardly for the rabbit.]

One time, when things weren’t going well, he sought a fortune teller,
With great big bushy eyebrows, like a female Uri Geller.
He sat down in her kitchen and he crossed her palm with gold,
For nothing rhymes with “silver,” or so I have been told.

She took his mutton hand in hers, examining the lines,
Which told, she said, a lot regarding discipline and fines.
And then she got the tarot cards and shuffled them up well,
Imparting that their title charge would soon be shot to hell.

And then they had a séance and they held hands round the table,
When suddenly appeared the ghost of Cedric’s Auntie Mabel.
They asked about the tactics that his charges should adopt,
But Mabel burst out crying and the apparition stopped.

Mrs. Fortune-Teller then brewed up a cup of tea,
And offered it to Cedric, who did sip it gratefully.
“No, no, you ass!” she scolded him, “Just swirl the cup around.
Throw out the tea, the leaves will form a pattern most profound.”

Sheepishly, the manager did just as he was bade,
And placed the cup upon the table, terribly afraid,
When suddenly her cat jumped up, and with a wayward paw,
It smashed the cup to smithereens upon the linoed floor.

Tea-leaves, tea-leaves everywhere, and not a drop of drink.
The fortune-teller whispered it was worse than she dared think.
“What does it mean?” poor Cedric wailed, not daring to look up.
“Obvious,” she muttered. “You’ll get knocked out of the Cup.”