the true stories
I came late to soccer worship. It was Italia 90 when the game really caught my attention. I used to take my son to a little pizza joint near my route and it turned out the Argentine owner was an ex-pro player. Under his tutelage and utilizing his restaurant TV screen, I was converted quite easily. I had no favourite team nor any loyalty to one side. I cheered any individual with obvious skill and any team who refused to throw a game. It was bliss.
During the World Cups, it was imperative to block my ears in the course of my day so I could watch the still warm VHS of the days games when I got home at night. The neighborhood of my route was great for soccer knowledge and etiquette. It was usually on the bus that some s.o.b. would spill the beans on the days results with a twisted joy.
One of the men I had been watching was Georghe Hagi. He was number 10 for the Romanian national side. He was known as the Maradona of the Carpathians. In a group stage match with Colombia, I had seen him score a forty yard goal. He didn't have the lanky limbs of Beckham or Klinsman and I had been very impressed. My boys and I started target shooting against any walls we could find.
On the Trail, every house had a flag displayed from whatever old country they were from. It was a good time to be alive. One street had been having a rough time, however. A house on a corner of this street had suffered a crime of passion. I used to cut through the alley from the next street down and into the yard of the house in question. One morning I came around and saw a car parked right in the middle of the alley.
There was a big pool of blood on the dirty asphalt. The blood was very fresh and puddled a few feet away from the vehicle. There was a large kitchen knife laying nearby. I recognized the car as belonging to the Vietnamese family who occupied that house. There were no cops, no ambulance sirens and no people around. I knocked on the door.
A tearful woman answered and told me that her son and her husband had just had a big fight over the boy's desire to use the father's car. The father had firmly refused and the boy had later taken the keys and attempted to leave with the car. He had been discovered and sent back inside. As the father was moving the car from the back to the front, so he could monitor it, the boy returned with the knife and pulled the door open and stabbed his father.
The elder daughter had just taken the man to the hospital in her own car and the fifteen year old boy had run away. This information was only ten minutes old when I got it. Half an hour later, I heard the sirens. They must have been sent after the wounded man was taken to hospital as his wife was adamant not to involve the police in a family matter. I found out next day that the man had died.
Three blocks down on the other side of this street was another house of interest. It was noteworthy firstly because of a home-made set of steps that wound all the way to the second story landing. They were narrow, treacherous and the longest on the route. The house was an old one and had been dug into the side of a hill when it was built. The yard sat fifteen feet above street level.
A family lived there consisting of a few boys and their parents. The father was a quirky man. He liked to talk soccer, but other than that, he had not much to say. He was usually found with in a block or two of his home walking and going through the motions of filling, lighting and puffing on an imaginary pipe. His other distinction was that when walking, he would suddenly stop and then veer across the street to circle a random object three times. If viewed from the air, he may have been tracing the trajectories of pi mesons or drawing mandalas. I am not one to judge. From street level he appeared to be one pickle short of a jar.
His boys (I never was sure of their number) were usually found out in the yard with a gaggle of friends showing off a new hot car or motorcycle. They were friendly, cheerful and very good to me at Christmas with packages of Bourbon-filled chocolates and such. I learned from the local nightly news that some of these boys were in a war with some other boys across town. Several young men on both sides of the feud had already died. One night I saw the house on TV before going to bed. The front window, door and wall had been strafed with slugs in a drive-by shooting.
The next morning there it was! Bullet holes running in a wavy line a bit too close to the mailbox for my liking. No one inside had been hit. This street now became an adrenaline rush to deliver. My ears, eyes and sixth sense were necessarily on full when delivering to that block on that side. The war was far from over and one day on the bus returning to my station for lunch, I saw the aftermath of a retaliatory hit.
My bus was crawling along to cozy up to a red light at a busy intersection when we all heard firecrackers, a crash and a scraping sound somewhere near ahead at the intersection. Within three minutes of the event our bus pulled level to a red pickup truck sitting on top of a bent flagpole in a traffic island to our left.
Steam gushed from the perforated radiator and the driver slumped lifeless over the wheel. The car had literally been sprayed with bullets. Some stray shots went through a jewelery-shop window fifty yards away. By the time I got to the station, the news had spread. I started to consider getting a vest.
The drama did not involve me personally, but a mailman is like the stitching on a pair of jeans. He runs through the whole garment, which is his route. It is a matter of timing at best. At worst, it is a matter of initiation in some bad boy clubs to kill someone. In some places mailmen are preferred targets because of being reliable, visible, predictable and providing the sport of being a moving target. I felt as relaxed as a wolf sneaking through a dog-pound once a day.
The other side of the street was fine. In fact, directly across from the house of many holes lived the nicest old lady. I guess she would have been grandmother age to me at the time. She was sweet, honest and her passion was her well-kept yard and her precious flower beds. She was always ready with an offer of water, tea or cookies.
One morning I had run the gauntlet and was doubling back on her side of the street. Not a vehicle moved within two blocks that I didn't take great interest in. Not a person escaped my notice. When I got to the old lady's house and started up the steps, I grimaced. With all the badness going on, I saw one thing that was my last straw!
Some thoughtless ape had dumped a large bag of garbage right onto the poor woman's flower beds. The beds were along a retaining wall three feet above the sidewalk. Broken stalks of flowers protruded from the bottom of the ugly thick black-green plastic. There were big boot prints all over the trampled mess. I was livid.
I delivered her mail and then it came to me. I sized up the sack. It was about three feet high, irregularly bulgy like a sack of paper trash and other high-volume light weight refuse. Probably Styrofoam from a new stereo system or whatnot. I had been working on my corner kicks with the boys and here was a chance to put them to community service. I decided to send this sack of crap all the way out into the street as a message to the person who dumped it.
I approached like Hagi and sized up exactly where to apply the English to get my curl. I needed to send it about six feet ahead and four feet laterally to avoid a parked car. I flexed a few times and cranked my leg back to the maximum. I had jungle boots on, light canvas tops and heavy black leather bottoms with waffle soles. I reached the end of the wind-up and delivered a cracking blow near the bottom right-hand side.
My boot sunk in about as much as it would have on a heavy punching bag in a gym. The sack moved not an inch forward. Rather, it shot straight up and then flew off to the left. I distinctly heard it say,”Fuck!” There before my eyes was a young man about my age but capable of bench-pressing my weight. He had his right hand on his holster, but hadn't undone the strap. He had similar boots to mine.
“Don't shoot,” I said.
“Why in the hell did you do that?” he asked and began rubbing his backside.
“I thought you were a sack of garbage,” I answered truthfully, betraying my annoyance.
It is a habit of mine to say the truth since I discovered when I was very young that it is a loathsome burden to remember all the lies from day to day. There was nothing else to say.
“We have the house across the street under surveillance,” the policeman informed me, adding, “We obtained Mrs. B's permission first.”
He winced as he bent over to gather up his hiking binoculars and even showed me the eye holes in the bag. Operations being over for that day, we talked a bit about the World Cup. He was staunch Argentina fan. Before he left for the chiropractor while we were shaking hands I tried out a line I had heard in a movie once, “I'm a guy,” I said, “Sometimes guys step on their dicks.”
Copyright © 2019 by Michael A. Hawes. All Rights Reserved.
Michael Hawes was born in Texas, raised in Louisiana and lives in British Columbia.