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Swear She'd Be a Better Man

Swear She'd Be a Better Man

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Published by Jude Ellery
Nigel Interlude #7 -- originally appearing in Man and Ball Issue One
Nigel Interlude #7 -- originally appearing in Man and Ball Issue One

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Published by: Jude Ellery on Oct 08, 2011
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10/08/2011

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Swear She’d Be A Better Man

Now, this was a bit more like English weather. Nigel had coalesced on the edge of a grassy park during a light drizzle. The sky was cloudy but not too overcast and sunlight was breaking through the shower in spots. The air was cool and the temperature mild. Not far off, the Cascades were holding the rain clouds between themselves and the mighty Pacific Puget’s Sound was a far cry from the sweaty rainforest of Colombia. A shrill sound caught his attention. There was a pitch marked off with bright orange cones in the center of the park, with a goal set up at either end. The American goddess was standing to one side of the pitch, now dressed in navy sweatpants and a white long-sleeved kit, trimmed

Illustration: CHRISTOPHER LEE >

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with navy and gold. It was her whistle which had startled him. Now, she was shouting encouragement to a gaggle of young girls, probably eleven or twelve years of age, who were attempting to dribble through a series of smaller cones laid out on the grass. Where was hubby? Nigel looked around and saw a man reclining in a folding chair under a large willow tree. He was gently rocking a perambulator and cooing to the infant apparently inside. Nigel strolled over. The man looked up and smiled disingenuously. He was wearing a lime green kit with an ‘X’ emblazoned across his breast. ‘Sounders FC’, the crest read.

“Hello, friend.” Nigel nodded and smiled back. Friend? With someone who had dealings with Manco? Not bloody likely. “Boy or girl?” he asked, trying to keep his rising temper in check. The man laughed. “Girl,” he replied. “She’ll be seven in January.” Seven? In a pram? He moved around to the other side, curious but careful to peer into the carriage while simultaneously keeping an eye on this lunatic. When he focused on the tiny passenger, a hairy little face, all brown, black and white, with beady little eyes stared back at him. Then it snarled, showed its tiny

fangs and began yapping at him in a high pitched squeak. By the Dragon! It was a bleedin’ dog. What the bloody hell was it doing in a pram? He backed off and tried to get out of its line of site but the little bugger wouldn’t shut up. The man cooed at it urgently and rocked the dog house faster. That only made it yip louder. He heard footsteps behind and turned to find the missus hurrying over. “What’s going on?” she asked, a touch of concern in her voice. Behind her, the young girls were going through their paces as though she still had her eye on them.

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“It’s okay, sweetie,” the man answered over the increasingly insistent barking of the miniature hound from hell, “Toto was just startled by this gentleman. Nothing to worry about.” The woman looked back and forth between her husband and Nigel, before sighing and reaching into the pram and removing ‘Toto’. The scrabbly little thing fit right in her hand. It immediately stopped barking and embarked on a serious quest to lick its mistress’ face. The woman tolerated it for a moment, then kissed it on top of its scruffy head and placed it back into the pram. Straightening, she put her hands on her hips, fixing Nigel with a stern gaze.

“And just what do you want?” “Honey, that’s no way to talk to the gentleman. He didn’t mean to startle Toto. You know she’s just high strung.” “Oh, do shut up, Todd.” The scorn was dripping from her voice. “I swear you don’t pay attention to anything. Don’t you recognise him?” Nigel tensed. Todd gave him a good once over, with a bemused look on his face. “No Tail, I don’t. Should I?”

you not to call me that in front of other people?!” Todd’s face went red. “Sorry, honey.” He turned towards Nigel, holding out a hand. “I’m sorry if I don’t remember you, buddy, although I can’t think why I should. The name’s Todd and this is my wife, Taylor. And you are?” Nigel was confused. Was this fellow that dense or just trying to throw him off? Taylor’s exasperated voice cut through the haze. “His name is Nigel.”

‘Tail’ nearly screamed in her frustration. “How many times do I have to tell

Todd’s face still didn’t register any recognition but Nigel spared a glance at the woman. She was wait-

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ing for him to make the first move. “Nigel?” “Oh, for Heaven’s sake, Todd, get with the program. He’s the one who followed us in Colombia.” Finally, some concern crept into the dim reaches of Todd’s brain. Reflexively, he moved to position himself between Nigel and the pram. Taylor rolled her eyes and let loose with a string of invectives, some of which Nigel made an impressed note to remember. “He’s not after Toto, you moron! He’s here to find out about us.” “He is? Oh. Well, that’s alright, then.”

The hand came back out again. “Nice to meet you, Nigel.” Nigel shook the proffered hand. No one could be that devious. Todd definitely had a few thunderbolts missing from the quiver. Nigel took the measure of Taylor now that he re-

alised there was no immediate danger. She was definitely tanned and fit. The badge on her kit registered with him. LA Galaxy. So that was the way of it between them, was it? It didn’t quite add up, however, for instance how did she know who he was? He opened his mouth to ask but Taylor beat him to it. “Relax. I asked around when I made you in Medellin. You want to know what we’re doing with a piece of shit like Manco, don’t you?” Well, she certainly didn’t mince words. He nodded. “I’ve got to get back to the girls.

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Walk with me and I’ll explain.” Nigel fell in step, after glancing at Todd. He was in the process of getting a facial from a frantic Toto. “Look, we can’t stand him, either, but he isn’t exactly easy to be rid of. And he’s got plenty of friends, too. Some of them carry a lot of weight in the community, if you know what I mean.” Nigel nodded. He knew. “Fair enough but I don’t understand why he’s saying you’re in business with him.” “We are, sort of.” Taylor’s face looked uncomfortable. She barked out some instructions to the girls and

then turned her attention back to him. “Look, we haven’t been at this god thing very long. Basically we answered an ad in our college paper, looking for eager go-getters with an interest in soccer.” “Todd’s interested in football? I was in Colombia, remember.” She laughed. “I played in school. He was a cheerleader. It reverses the stereotype, I know, but he’s pretty handy once you get him pointed in the right direction. Plus, he gives a really good back rub.” “I’ll take your word for that.” Taylor laughed again. She was attractive when she didn’t look like she was about to try to rip your

throat out. “Anyway, we’d love to be rid of Manco and his friends but we don’t have much power. The other football rules the roost here and there’s three or four others between us and him. None of them really care about their charges. They’re true American Gods; in it for the power. “So, we’ve had to get creative. We’ve made ourselves available to the authorities.” Nigel’s eyes bugged out of his head but before he could get his own litany of invectives out, Taylor gripped his arm and reassured him. “No, no. They don’t know who or what we actually are. They think

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they’ve recruited us to run an undercover sting on him.” She lifted up the side of her kit. Hooked on the waistband of her tracksuit was a gold star mounted on a black leather case. Nigel laughed. “You’re going to try to put him in jail? No human prison will ever hold him. I doubt a godly one could.” “I realise that. What we’re trying to do is map out his business and, one by one, remove his contacts. Then, when he’s forced to run, we’ll hunt him down and finish it.” “On your own?” Nigel snorted at the thought.

“No, not alone. We’ve made a few friends of our own in the community.” Nigel’s eyes narrowed. “Who?”

Well, you’re coming to the Game, right?” “The Game?” Taylor rolled her eyes again.

“Wouldn’t you like to know!” Taylor smiled deviously. “I’d love to know. In fact, I’d be more than happy to lend a hand.” “Really? Well, I’ll talk to the rest and let you know what they say. You’re not exactly thought of as a boy scout yourself, you know.” Nigel sighed. It was true; he was not the best at making friends. “When will you be in touch?”

“You really have been out of touch, haven’t you?” ■ This is an extract from Issue One of Man and Ball magazine: Let Sleeping Gods Lie. This issue introduces Nigel and features  stories  on  German  football since  reunification,  African  Arsenal fans, an unsung Dutch legend, and seven other intriguing articles. It can be downloaded in its entirety HERE >

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