Sam looked on with resignation as the ball veered away from the makeshift goal of two piles of school bags. In his haste to capitalise on the open goal due to Cavan’s slip, he’d rushed his shot, his standing foot too far away from the ball when he struck it.
Ignoring the catcalls and pisstakes, he ran to recover the ball. Its resting place was the perimeter fence separating Cardinal Heenan Catholic High School and St Urbans Catholic Primary School.
He slowed as he approached the fence so as not to scare the Robin Redbreast he’d glimpsed through the fence. A bystander observing what was unfolding on the Primary School side.
Just by the unadulterated shrieks of laughter, Sam sensed it was an altogether more carefree environment than the Cardinal Heenan playground. The younger children yet to be weighed down by the combined burden of exams, puberty, social media and being in or out of the ‘in crowd’.
Sam picked up the ball tucking it under his arm pausing and breathing in the air from the other side of the fence seeing if it could infect him and take him back to times when he was free of spots and blackheads, when he had a bum fluff free top lip, his armpits didn’t exude an odour of old tea bags and his hair didn’t need washing daily.
A ruddy faced boy flushed with joyous excitement in hot pursuit of a smaller pig tailed girl giggling uncontrollably. Neither likely to be subject to a Spanish inquisition from their friends at the end of play time of why they were playing together. Not having to run the gauntlet of questions, feeling your acne pock marked cheeks colouring and the burn of your neck reddening – “what were you doing with her? Are you seeing her or summat?”. The minefield of teenage boys, an age when it wasn’t sick to have friends who were girls.
Sam’s bubble of innocent musing was punctured by Jordan’s bawling – “ere, there’s only 5 minutes of break time left, you fetching the ball back or gonna stay standing there staring into space with your gob open catching flies”. “Shut up nobhead” responded Sam launching the ball at Jordan, re-joining the fray.