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The Goalie — New World Cup Fiction

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world-cup-trophy

“Take the next right. Get in the left lane for Toulouse.”

He heard Kate speak and he obeyed.

“God, Kurt, do you ever use your signal? I’d hate to be behind you.”

Well, I would love to be behind you, he thought but didn’t say. “Oh well,” he actually muttered. “Yes, Dear,” he added for good measure.
He believed that Yes, Dear was the secret to a good marriage. Always agree she’s right. Then do what you want anyway. For the most part, he had tried pretty hard to follow this philosophy. Yes, Dear. You’re always right, Dear. But it could sound sarcastic and this time he could hear Kate think, I don’t believe this shit!

Neither of them said another word and they drove into the town.

This was a recurring instant replay. It had become the chorus to their love song.

* * *

It was mid-June and Kate and he had taken off for Toulouse, France, to attend the World Cup Game between Argentina and Japan. It was Japan’s first year participating in the World Cup. Japan would host the next one in 2002. They were aware that Argentina was one of the best, favored by many to win it all. They went expecting a blowout, indifferent to who wins, although they had decided to root for Japan because they liked sushi.

Kate had purchased the tickets as his Birthday present way in advance – otherwise, they were almost impossible to come by. They didn’t know much about soccer but they thought they would enjoy watching it. It would be something different from the problems they needed to get away from. This was their first European getaway.

* * *

It was Friday night when they entered Toulouse and the first thing they did was get lost. With Kate navigating, they had made their way off the autopista into the heart of town. The city impressed them as a mini-metropolis. Although it only had a population of about 359,000, it was vibrant and very cosmopolitan, with wide, tree-lined boulevards, beautiful old buildings, parks, plazas with fountains, and even what looked like an Arc de Triomphe. It was clean, appeared to have many fine restaurants and good, inexpensive hotels. Renowned for its high-tech industries, it was home to the Airbus and France’s aerospace industry. Because there were no stone quarries anywhere near Toulouse, all the older buildings in the city center were made of rose-red brick, earning Toulouse the nickname, La Ville Rose, The Pink City.

The Capitol Building in Touloose

The Capitol Building in Toulouse

They had made hotel reservations before coming but finding a hotel had been their first indication that the World Cup was a Significant Event. There had been only two rooms available among all of Toulouse’s many hotels. One was at the 4-Star Sofitel. It offered a suite for $500/night. The other was the one they chose, a 2-Star for only $50. They hoped that the price didn’t mean it was 10 times worse. They could buy a lot of sushi with $450. They would rather eat sushi than look at fancy walls.

Now, pulling away from the curb with their official map in hand, they were still lost and looking for their hotel. Because one-way streets are a given in most European City Centers, combined with streets that meandered into dead-ends rather than following grids, knowing where something is and getting to it are not collaborative problems.

He noticed a rough but friendly looking lady standing on the corner in a very tight black mini-skirt and pulled over to her. She immediately approached the car. “Ask her where our hotel is,” he directed Kate who could speak French.

While Kate was getting directions, he noticed that there were quite a few other single ladies leaning against buildings, which he thought were in the vicinity of their hotel. All stood alone. All wore black mini-skirts. Men in cars were slowing to look at them. They waved back at the men; many even went up to the cars to talk. Perhaps they weren’t the only ones who needed help and this was Toulouse’s welcoming committee.

Yeah, right, he smirked.

La Ville Rose

La Ville Rose

Thanks to the excellent directions of their lady guide of the night in the black miniskirt, they easily made their way to their hotel. It was unpretentious on the outside and only one block away from the more expensive Sofitel. The staff of one was friendly, the rooms bright, clean, and newly decorated. Nice bed. The bed was firm with just the right bounce. The room had a toilet, shower, a bidet. There was no TV but from the balcony they could watch the welcoming committee keeping the streets friendly. What more could they want?

A little lovin, he thought.

“A nap,” said Kate.

“Well, I’m gonna shower. Can I wake you later?”

“No. You know I don’t feel that way.”

He had to back off. He knew he shouldn’t push it. Pushing, seducing, was not an option or, if it was, he hadn’t the foggiest idea how to go about it anymore. If he tried, he was being pushy; if he didn’t he was just proving it was a loveless marriage. He was caught between a rock and a hard place. And you can read that anyway you want.

He went into the bathroom and stripped for the shower. He saw himself in the mirror: a slight pot – okay, maybe a little bit more than slight but he could still see his toes. Still good muscle tone. He was not the player she had married but he still looked good. Some women still noticed him when he walked into a room. Besides, what about her? She was older, too. There were wrinkles, the hips were wider, there were other signs of age, but he didn’t care. He loved her still. Why didn’t it work both ways?

It reminded him of a joke he had heard recently …

Two elderly ladies had been friends for many decades. Over the years they had shared all kinds of activities and adventures. Lately, their activities had been limited to meeting a few times a week to play cards. One day they were playing cards when one looked at the other and said, “Now don’t get mad at me…I know we’ve been friends for a long time…but I just can’t think of your name!  I’ve thought and thought, but I can’t remember it. Please tell me what your name is.”

Her friend glared at her. For at least three minutes she just stared and glared at her.

Finally she said, “How soon do you need to know?

Wasn’t love for better or worse? Weren’t they supposed to grow old together? He couldn’t remember the answer.

He glanced at the terrace, thought of the welcoming committee waiting outside. But he would never do that. He wanted more than just sex. He wanted to hold Kate in his arms and fall asleep that way. He knew she loved him but he wanted to see it, hear it, and feel it. But it wasn’t going to happen, at least not now.

“I don’t love you anymore,” she had added back then, 3 months ago. It had hit him like a kick in the face. He had never seen it coming. It had tore behind him like a player running for the goal and the inevitable, game ending pass:

“Is there someone else?”

“Jesus.”

“Our gardener?”

“I want to be a Nun,” she had finished, crashing his world straight to hell. Kurt knew she was anal retentive about her religion, but this…???! Wouldn’t divorce be better?

“But you’re married,” was all he could think to reply. “You can’t become a nun if you’re married or divorced.”

“I can if I’m a widow,” she said.

How soon do you need to know?

Kurt turned the water to cold and got in.

* * *

To Go to Part 2 of The Goalie, Click Here

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20 Comments - (Leave a comment! »)

  • Niyi - Phillipines said:

    Hi, I read the first part of the story and it made me dived into the second part to really know what finally happened to the couple…There are so many things to learn;first,that it`s not good to give up on any dream and you could see how kurt tried so hard and not giving up on kate,even though she was so difficult to deal with.Secondly,they weren`t so moved on selling their tickets to make a lot of money as they had a desire to see the games and nothing was able to change their plans for that;even lots of money…Thirdly, they were very economical choosing the cheapest place to stay…One thing i didn`t agree with was the picture of the goalkeeper of Argentina with the 2 japanese players heading the ball..That`s not Argentina,but,I think,it`s the picture of cameroonian….So,the picture didn`t match the story very well and apart from that,the story makes you to want to read more and more to get to the final..The First part was more interesting than the second part…

  • Randy – Ohio said:

    I think what you are doing is great! So much of the news and media is negative and focuses on all the bad happening in the world, and there is a definite need in our society for a little up-lifting. Sharing stories of hope, inspiration, and triumph over trials is a great cause for which to fight.

    I read both of the fictional articles about the World Cup, those were quite interesting. I was hoping for a more concrete ending, but I can appreciate the power of implying and interpretation.

  • Nicole – Guam said:

    I liked the story and was wondering if you planned on doing more travel articles?

  • Eric - Vietnam said:

    My favorite part of the site is this Travel section. In this part, I loved how the writer told a story and took us through a sort of first person experience of the trip rather than a summation and/or standard web content dump of information about a place.

  • Sandhya – Singapore said:

    Did not find anything about travel under the category “Travel” that had anything to do with conservative travel writing. These two stories, “Fiction: Goalie, Part 1 & 2″ thankfully had less about football than I expected which is a good thing. Travel,fun and football do not mix in my opinion. I must confess that I started reading the article only after I saw the picture of the Gothic looking mansion. It was a very different and interesting approach to travel writing. While I am not sure if it was entirely engrossing although it had its moments. I liked the first part better than the second from the standpoint of travel information. The writer had also changed his style of writing. It was easygoing, realistic and humorous in the first one and took on a more serious and fictional style in the second, which seemed a bit forced to me. I did enjoy reading it though.

  • Alex the Editor said:

    Peter,

    your idea of having someone read article/stories/poems in this e-zine is a good one. I’m going to be doing a significant redesign in the coming months as soon as I find the right webmaster and audio is definitely something I want to introduce. Thank you for your suggestion.

  • Peter – Minnesota said:

    I had found your site to be interesting to create inspiration for people in a dark and dreary world. I know myself I look to God and people of faith who have shown themselves to be great people as a inspiration in my life. When I first visited your site I had expected it to be about real people and not to contain fiction stories. But I read this story and found the story to be interesting, having pictures of places the person would visit and the hang ending of how the woman wanted to become a nun. The thing that struck me was that she was going to kill this man to become a nun, wouldn’t that be opposite of what becoming a nun would be about? But I guess the world is full of strange people isn’t it. I found the story to remind me of a older form of story, like one you might find on radio. Have you ever thought of having the articles read by their authors and have that posted by each story?

  • nico -- California said:

    Allow me to first say that I am very impressed with your magazine. The ideology behind the magazine principle is great. The Winner within each of us. Every person in this world has an obstacle to over come and too often we do not celebrate those small daily victories in everyday John’s and Jane’s. I enjoyed the this story. As a die hard sports fan,especially soccer, I was drawn to the title. This article was good, but with the awesome idea should have been great. The story was much to slow for an ereader. Nowadays tons of people read on the internet, and these people like myself want concise and from this magazine specifically inspirational stories. I found the story to push a bit too much of the American capitalistic mentality, with all the “they aren’t taking advantage of money making opportunities” comments. I was also unhappy with how the title was incorporated in the article. He could have really spent time drawing the relations between the goalie and Kurt. Both standing on the line battling for the things and people they love. I feel that idea is what this magazine stands for. Showing individuals that overcome anything for what and who they love. All this said i did enjoy the article and the broken love story side of it. I just felt those points could have made it even that much better.
    Your magazine to me is something that i feel i could really care about. Showing the stories of everyday citizens that do extraordinary things. Finding people that display extraordinary amounts of love and truly make the small things count.

  • Reggie Johnson said:

    Tyler and Alexandra, I don’t mind critical feedback; I encourage it. Because I am the magazines’s marketing director, without it, I am in danger of being like the emperor in Hans Christian Anderson’s story, “The Emperor’s New Clothes.”. At the same time, valid criticism must offer substance and reason to be of value. Hence, I questioned Harriet’s anger.

  • Alexandra said:

    I’d like to respond to a previous comment, I completely agree with Reggie’s remark that the scathing critique regarding the spelling of Toulouse was a little extreme. Since I am not a fan of Fox News, the post made me laugh out loud….

    I felt like the story got off to a slow start, but once I read to the end I was hooked. I think the twist of his wife wanting to be a nun intriguing, and I wonder how serious she is.

    I think the story may start slowly because of the use of the past tense…they “had been” or “was getting.” I think it slows the story down, but I am not sure of the answer.

    The article is timely, with the world cup this summer. I find myself wondering how the title “the goalie” will be tied into the story. I also think the topic of the crumbling love of a married couple is both heartbreaking and enlightening. I can’t wait to read the second part.

  • Alex Scandalios said:

    Daniel, Reggie’s wanting you to think she would murder him is intentional. However, you do need to read Part 2 which will be published later today before you can give your final opinion. I look forward to it …

  • Tyler said:

    I like the story, obviously Reggie is a very good writer. I wouldn’t take the critiques of his work too seriously.

    That being said, I think perhaps the writing should not be posted on the Winners Within Us Website, as the themes are very different from one another. I do think the editor should think about that, as hard hitting fictional realism might not parallel with the Winners theme, which is to be inspired and always hopeful for the best.

    That being said, the story is great. I do think the one lady (who was probably a spurned writer of yours lol) had a point, the title is misleading (or maybe I don’t have the correct understanding of its meaning). The title presents it as a descriptive story of the current world cup. Maybe even a France 2002 reference would do it. Also, I find myself wanting to know more about the characters. I know it is a style to develop the characters slowly and through first hand experiences, and maybe wanting to know more about the characters keeps people reading, but since it is in the short story format now, maybe it would be good to describe the characters a bit more towards the middle/end (again I could be wrong about this).

    So, all that aside, I look forward to the next installment.

  • Daniel said:

    So, it seems to me that this is an ordinary story in a semi-interesting place. I find it hard to imagine that this kind of couple would plan a trip to europe to watch a game of soccer that neither of them really know anything about. It is a stretch in my opinion that the setting of this story is even justified by the relationship dynamics between these two, so immediately I have trouble finding myself interested. Why would the woman have to go all the way to France to murder her husband if she wanted to be a widow? Why not just axe him in his sleep and cut him up into 6 pieces…? All in all, I suppose that the storyline itself of her wanting to be a widow, and telling him that she’s planning on it is interesting.

  • Kathyrn Fallon said:

    I just went and read The Goalie again. I liked it, I like writing and reading fiction. However, the comments not friendly in my opinion. I wonder when the last time Harriett Swift picked up a newspaper and saw all the typos or when William actually sat down and read a book, which had less than 3,000 words.

    I loved your response to both and especially the line about Harriett sounding like she should or is a member of the Fox team.

    The magazine is great and has a variery of different articles to hold the readers interest.

  • Kathy Fallon said:

    I enjoyed reading this piece of fiction and look forward to the next installment.

    This new genre to the magazine is/was a good idea, it allows the writers to do something different and gives the readers something new to look forward to. Writing the story in installments is also a very good idea, I don’t feel this installment was too long, nor do I feel the readers interest will wane.

    If a story is well written it will hold a persons interest regardless of the lenght.

    Keep up the good work.

  • Alex Scandalios said:

    Harriet,thank you for your editing critique. You are spot on. I did commit the typo on 2 of the 6 times I wrote the name. So much for perfection … The corrections have been made.

    However, I am concerned about your anger over such a trivial matter. To say that 2 typos “mar” this magazine’s purpose of celebrating the winner within each of us and to suggest that my mistake “calls this whole enterprise into question” indicates that your understanding of the magazine’s purpose and your priorities are wrong, wrong, wrong. You come across like a member of the Fox News team.

    This magazine is not about winning vs losing (as in typos). It is about the process, about trying to make a difference. Thanks for your help,

    Alex Scandalios, Editor

  • Harriet Swift said:

    TOULOUSE TOULOUSE TOULOUSE

    The name of the French city is spelled only one way, in English and in French:
    Toulouse

    You have managed to spell it incorrectly TWICE in a caption and the lead-in from the home page. This kind of carelessness mars your work and calls your whole enterprise into question. Hire a good copy editor.

  • William W said:

    This issue – fiction online – has been a topic of widespread discussion since Stephen King tried it as a voluntary ‘pay for read’ decades ago. King has since returned to the idea but the marketplace has changed considerabley.The tablet and the e-reader has emerged.

    The lesson we became painfully aware of in the news service was ‘brevity’ with online readers. The same story, the same news, the same reader – will demonstrate different attention spans in print and cyber. A story that might command 1,500 -2, 000 words in ROP newspaper work (2,500 in Sunday magazine and supplements) is only viable to 750 words online. The exception, of course, is the e-reader.

    But the e-reader has user limitations. It is an urban product therefore demanding a higher level of reader sophistication. In this arena the psychographic is far more important than the demographic.

    This is the reason that one cannot successfully ‘flip’ a format from print to cyber or vice versa. .In short, The Goalie is too long in the present format – you’ll never hold the reader. It’s not the fiction – it’s the 3,000 words. Here’s an observation – I’m not a sports guy. The title is misleading – it’s anything but a sports story. It is well-written – has good character development and interaction and it leads well on the bridges. The close however is anti-climactic.

    If I was promoting this story I’d spin it off to dedicated blogs and syndication. Understanding the history of syndication is important as it has morphed at an unparalleled pace in the 21st Century. Simply stated, it is no longer about content – it is ‘platform.’ And I think you get that considering the magazine’s handling of its readers.

    Best regards.

    William

  • Leena said:

    Reading a fiction work was a nice change, as usually I only browse through knowledge and information articles. I think having a repository of fiction articles would find a good number of followers.

  • Ivan said:

    No estб seguro de que esto es verdad:), pero gracias a un cargo.
    Have a nice day

    Ivan

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