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Story Cricket? Story of my life...

qpeedore

SOTM Winner - July 2014
Joined
Apr 5, 2009
Location
Trinidad and Tobago
Okay, so first of all, I'd like to say a few things.

- This story will run alongside my current WI story. I don't intend to give up one or the other. They are different styles, and I alternate between writing the two in my free time.

- This is NOT a simulation. This is a story. A flat-out story. Many times, cricket will not be the focus, although it is the general theme. Think of it as more of a novel, where the reader gets into the life of a cricketer both on the field and off.

- Anything that is written here is completely fictional, save for the usage of my real name. I've been on the internet for so many years that I really don't care much if people know my real name anymore, as I have very little to hide. But everything else is totally made up and a byproduct of an overactive imagination.

- I would appreciate any and all feedback. Given the nature of the story, graphics will be nonexistent. No fancy fonts, colours, etc. Just writing.

- I am no professional writer, but I'm going to try to convey my ideas in the best way that I can while still trying to stick to the general rules of writing. There will be a lot of speech, I guarantee you that. But I feel like it's necessary.

- This story is not for all, but give it a read if you can.

- I have deliberately chosen to leave the exact location of the story unknown. But generally, it takes place in a small city and its suburbs somewhere in the USA. More information will be revealed as the story progresses.

- Some updates will be longer than others, some updates may be as short as a few paragraphs. It's all about the story and the scene at the time.

- Let's start!

---

CHAPTER 1 - "Huh?"

“It's gone miles,” I said, craning my neck past the edge of the awning above our team bench to try to spy the ball. It was almost lost against the glare of the clouds overhead, but I managed to spot it after a second. “Miles high, not far. Gonna take some catching.”


The ball reached its peak and began its descent downward, pulled by gravity. A fielder, clad in bright yellow, settled under it. No wind. He did the Aussie-style reverse cup, took a hard blow to the sternum compliments of the ball in the process, but held on in the end. As ten more brightly-clad yellow men surrounded him, one dark blue man walked back, helmet off, head down.


“Bryce was our hope, man,” Scott said. Scott had long since batted and was out to a ball he insisted that he had edged onto his pads. But he was out LBW nonetheless, and he was looking good for his 24 at the time too. “Guess you'll have to save us, Qpee.”


I stood up and grabbed my bat and helmet. A minute before I stepped over the rope I was held back by Wayne, the team captain. He was in full gear as well, and seemed ready to bat. “Qpee, sit this one out for now. The run rate is too high. I'm gonna see what I can do about that.”


Huh?


There was no scoreboard, but over the PA system I heard the disembodied voice say that our team had just lost their fifth wicket with 5.2 overs and 49 runs still to go.


“Wayne, I don't think that's the best call. We need you for the end. We can let things get to even 10, 12 an over now before you come out and take us home. We need to keep things going along. I'm the best guy for that. Then you can be the hero.”


Wayne held up his hand and gave me a half shove backward. I stumbled a bit and dug my bat into the ground to steady myself. He then stepped onto the field of play, just as Bryce, the recently out batsman, reached the boundary and stepped outside. I walked back to the bench, confused. He was the captain, after all, so my confusion perhaps was for nothing. Take one for the team, I guess.


“What just happened?” Scott asked.


“Wish I could tell you,” I replied. “Waynie there seems to think that he's the one for this match.”


“But he's not going to last very long.”


“Tell that to his ego.”


Wayne took guard and swung hard at a straight ball outside off. He missed. He then tried a hook to a short ball. Top edge that thank God the deep fine leg fluffed. With Wayne there wasn't a first gear. Or a second, third or fourth either. He was all out, guns blazing. Glory or go down with the ship. Or crash into a tree at top speed with no seatbelt on. Either way, it was never really pretty when it didn't work out.


Too bad that his moments of glory came few and far between. Now, when he was on his game, nobody could touch him. Big shots and then some. No field could hold him back. But the problem lay in the fact that he hardly ever seemed to be on his game. Just before this match, I had checked the stats on the tournament website. Nine games...only ever passed 15 twice. But those two times, he cracked 53 not out and 37. It kept his average relatively decent. Statistics lie so bloody much.


I had also checked my own stats. Same nine games, only out for LESS than 15 twice. The first time I lost concentration and nicked one behind. The second time I was beaten by a slower one. I hate well-disguised slower ones. Of course, I hadn't actually batted in all nine games. But what those stats showed, to me at least, was that while my strike rate really was only about 110 at best, I could be relied on to score.


We sort of needed me in the middle instead of him. 5.2 overs and 49 runs, well...I'd push the singles and twos, maybe even get a four here and there. Don't ask me to hit a six, please. I'm not that type of player. I'm capable, I just don't like to, what with the risk involved and all. But I'd keep the asking rate within reach, and THEN with like a couple overs to go, I'd try hitting out. If I succeeded, well, great. If I didn't, we had Wayne to come in and smash the ball around to take us home.


A groan from Scott got me back to the real world. Wayne had just played and missed. Again. “Down the effing ground, man,” Scott yelled, “Get a bloody single and stop wasting the strike!”


I had to agree with him. And as we all watched Wayne struggle against good bowling, Scott kept turning to me and letting me have a piece of his mind. “Hold on,” I said, “You should be talking to the guy out in the middle.”


“Oh yeah? Like he'd listen.”


“He wants to be the hero. He wants his name all over the internet tomorrow. Or at least on the front page of the website.”


“Please, that's not going to happen now.”


Wayne's horrific innings ended a few balls later, bowled centre stump as his bat almost flew out of his hands with the power behind his nothing shot. I got up again and looked back at Scott and the guys. Yeah Qpee, their faces seemed to be saying, you're up.


I passed Wayne on the way to the middle. “Just get the ball to the boundary,” he told me in a rough voice, “And the match is ours.”


“You know I'm not a big hitter, Waynie. I'll try, but I need to get myself in first.” I replied.


“Always time to learn something new.”


He turned and walked back to the bench with something akin to a scowl. How wonderful. I now had all the pressure on me. Just get the ball to the boundary. Yeah...right. It would take all my skill to do something like that first up.

I guess I had to try, at least.


I touched gloves with Jaime, my batting partner. “James, my man, tell me what things look like,” I said. When Jaime had first come into the team and introduced himself, I misheard it as Jimmy and assumed his name was James. Since then, it had stuck in my head and I always called him that. It had become a little joke between the two of us.


“It's tough. You can't get these guys away. They're serving it up full and straight. I tried to back away to leg a bit but after this guy here followed me with the ball a couple of times, I realised that wasn't exactly the best idea in the world. I've been standing out of the crease, trying to turn the yorkers fuller, but they just pitch it a bit shorter. You gotta be a dancer to move quickly enough to affect their length.”


“Jeez,” I stared at the pitch, “So much for easy bowling. How's the pitch?”


“Ah, it's not that bad to be honest. Held up well since we bowled. Bounce is still even, but a bit lower than our time in the field. Be careful about that. It's predictable, but you need to get a couple balls in to really get used to it.”


“Thanks, man. Oh, and one thing...”


“Yeah?”


“Run hard once you hear me call. We'll take this one home.”

I touched gloves with him again and walked off to the striker's end.
 

Guesty98

Club Captain
Joined
Mar 15, 2014
Profile Flag
Australia
Great start, excellent writing, heaps of potential.

Extremely keen for this.
 

qpeedore

SOTM Winner - July 2014
Joined
Apr 5, 2009
Location
Trinidad and Tobago
CHAPTER 2 - "Rip my beating heart out"

I took my guard. Leg and middle. I didn't want to go full leg stump with the bowler going straight. If anything, I could glance the ball away to deep square leg or fine leg by stepping forward. I stood just inside the crease, where I straddled the line with one foot behind and one foot in front. Not my usual batting stance, but I was adaptable and I needed to adapt at the moment.


Their wicketkeeper kept yelling in my ear. Ah, the fine art of chirping and sledging.


The voice on the PA system announced my name just as the bowler stood ready to run in.


“The new batsman, in at number eight, Ryon Cupidore. The Detonators require a further 40 runs in 3.3 overs.”


Rip my beating heart out, why don't you. That was quite an ask for anyone. I figured I might as well try. The umpire gave me his call, right arm over, three more balls left. Thanks, ump. The bowler ran in to deliver.


People always ask about what batsmen think of as they see the bowler run in. Truth be told, I think all sorts of things, the last of which is batting. It's after the ball has left the hand that I think of batting again. See, it relaxes me if I don't worry about what he's going to bowl beforehand. As a result, I don't read out of the hand, I read off of the pitch. Which, to me...is always better.


As he made his way closer I kept wondering what sort of product he used in his hair. It was almost Sidebottom-esque in the way it bounced. Like a spring. Bounce. Bounce. Bounce. Delivery stride. Oh, poor guy, he's leaning away a bit. Poor technique. If he fixes that he'll be a better bowler.


And then I snapped back to the matter at hand. Slower ball. Can't see the seam too well, probably a cutter...going to pitch maybe a yard in front of me. Yep, off cutter. No problem. Fine leg.


I ran the single after the glance down to that very fielder and stretched some more at the non-striker's end as Jaime prepared to face. Jaime was the type of guy that will give you big shots, but he needed to settle. And he had not been given enough time to settle just yet. But with the run rate the way it was, we needed him to go big.


The bowler ran in again. And again, funny the things you think of when you're out in the middle. I had just realised that I did not know the bowler's name. It was a small league, but when the teams are made up of guys who actually have jobs and just get together on weekends to play...well, not knowing who everyone is can be forgiven.


As I backed up, preparing for any possible run, I got a glimpse of the text printed on the back of the shirt. Holdings. Hmm...certainly was no Whispering Death Michael Holding. His grunt of effort as he bent his back (and leaned away a bit), was anything but a whisper.


Jaime got a shorter one that he cut hard toward the boundary. I took off and saw a fielder running to the ball. “Yeah!” I called, my spikes digging into the pitch as I turned for the second. As I passed Jaime halfway down, I let out a half shout, half gasp, “Run hard!”


Jaime obliged. He paused for only a moment. The fielder had picked up the ball by this time and we were committed to the third by the time he threw. Oh, God...please not at my end. Please, not at my end. Damn, my end. Push, Qpee, push. Not enough Qpee. Time to get desperate.


I dived. The wicketkeeper took off the bails and appealed. The umpire at square leg took his time. “'Ey dude, I think he's in. Got excited, but don't think I beat him.” said the keeper.


With no TV replay to depend on, it was a bit of an honour system that we worked with. Very often for close calls it was a matter of the umpire asking a fielder, “You saved the four?” or “You caught that clean?” Practically everyone would answer honestly. The whole spirit of the game and whatnot. One or two guys had been known to stretch the truth a few times, but they ended up receiving suspensions and bans and somesuch as a result.


I dusted myself off as I got to my feet. Holdings had one more ball in the over. I managed to get it out to deep midwicket for a couple. Now it stood at 3 overs and 33 runs to go, if my math was correct. Thankfully the PA system man confirmed my suspicions. A good situation...IF we had Wayne padded up ready to come out. But the idiot had gone and ruined things.


Still, I knew I could back myself to find the gaps. As I met Jaime between the overs, I told him as such.


“I'm not a hitter, we all know that, James,” I said, “But what I can do is get the singles and twos.”


“Well if you do that then I'll try to do the same. But we're going to need to hit out at some point.”


“Well I'll be on strike soon. What can you tell me about this bowler?”


“He's skiddy. You'd think with the shine gone and all that he won't get that. But he doesn't turn it much and it almost seems to speed up off the pitch.”


“Hmm. He ever makes mistakes?”


“I've seen him bowl a couple shorter ones, but he's a spinner with the speed of a medium pacer, so it's hard to time it properly.”


“I don't need to time it properly. I'm not hitting the ball in the air, remember?”


Jaime laughed as we touched gloves and I took a leg stump guard to this leg spinner. If by some miracle he did manage to get some turn, I wanted the room to free my arms and hit with the spin. He dusted his hands on the pitch and ran in.


With spinners, I have less time to think, so this time I only had a second to wonder whether or not his bowling action was legal before the ball was bowled. Short. Not very quick. Ooh...googly. Damn, it WAS quick.


Jaime was right. The ball had practically passed me before I played my shot. Looking at his action and the way the ball left his hand, you would never think so. Thank God I didn't edge it. I took a few steps out of my crease to do some gardening, more out of embarrassment and nervousness than anything else.


His second ball was just as skiddy, but the conventional leg spinner. I backed away and cut hard. The man at deep third man ran across but could not stop it as it went for four. Wow, I'd hit a boundary. Well, look at that.


Jaime and me touched gloves again. “We need a lot more of that,” he said. I nodded. “Well, your turn next!” I said.


I played the next ball out to deep cover for a single and then Jaime and me pushed hard for a couple. More of the same followed and by the end of the over we had gotten 8 from it and we needed 25 from 2 overs.


“Jaime...no pressure or anything, but we need runs,” I told him at our mid-pitch meeting.


“No duh,” he replied, tapping my knee with his bat to show his annoyance.


“The love child of Sidebottom and Whispering Death there, you think you can take him?”


“Who?”


I had forgotten that Jaime was at least 5 years younger than me, and not exactly the most West Indian of people. More like West Philadelphia, the home of such places as the Fresh Prince.


“Holdings,” I clarified, “You think you can get him to the rope early on in the over?”


“I'll take him on.”


“Now that's only if it's there to be hit. You back yourself, but if you get a good ball don't go playing superhero on me here. Don't be a Wayne.”


“Gotcha.”


I watched at the non-striker's end. Jaime got a good ball, all right. And to his credit, he didn't try the big shot. He just tried to angle the bat down to third man for a single. But the ball took the edge and flew low to the keeper's right. One tumbling ungainly gloved fielder later, and Jaime looked back.


“You caught it?” he asked. The wicketkeeper nodded. Damn the spirit of the game and this honour system we worked on. Jaime slowly walked up the pitch, passing me along the way.


“Don't sweat it,” I said, trying to cheer him up, “It was a good ball.”


“Yeah...I guess it was.”


I wish I could tell you that I batted with the tail and took the match home. I wish I could tell you that I, contrary to my batting style, suddenly found the boundary with alarming frequency. I wish I could tell you all kinds of things. But I can't.


The reality was that we lost another wicket before the match was up, and while I tried to keep things going, getting another couple of fours...we still lost by 9 runs. Nine runs that flipping Wayne should have come out there to score. But he didn't. He wanted to play superhero.


I shook the hands of the umpires and my opponents and headed off the field. Wayne confronted me before I could go into the locker room.


“What was that?” he demanded to know.


“What was what?” My eyes narrowed and I really did not like his tone.


“You could have won it. What, you forgot how to hit boundaries?”


“Did YOU forget how to score singles?”


“You listen to me. I'm the captain of this team and I decide what the batting order is.”


“And you listen to me. Actually, no, don't listen to what I have to say, since you don't do that anyway. Instead, listen to the sound of me walking the hell out.”


I pushed him aside, collected my bag from the locker room, and headed toward my car. I would drive home, gear on and all, and shower back at my apartment. I had only gone a few steps when I heard a voice behind me.


“Hey, wait up, man. Weren't you supposed to give me a ride home?”


I turned back. Scott was there, no bag in his hand.


“Find a new ride home, then.” I was in no mood to speak to anyone.


“Hey, man, don't let Wayne get to you...he gets like this sometimes. We all know that. Come on, let's just go back. You know a lot of the guys really respect you. For you to leave after something this petty isn't like something they'd want to see you do.”


I looked at the ground, occupying myself with a dozen or so ants carrying a breadcrumb back to wherever their nest was. Suddenly, I felt a bit guilty. Maybe I was wrong after all. “I guess not, maybe I overreacted. Thanks, Scottie.”


“No problem, man. Now come on, let's have some fun.”


I headed back to the field, where both teams were mingling with each other and the small spatter of spectators. There was Whispering Death Jr. talking to Jaime, another fielder gesturing about the sun being in his eyes during a catch. There was Bryce's mom, the poor 32 year old man looked embarrassed as she hugged him. His wife stifled a laugh as she aimed her phone at the scene and took a picture that no doubt would be on the website before the day was over. Even the umpires and scorers joined in after doing whatever official stuff they do. Scott, of course, walked up to one of the umpires and tried to push his whole I-edged-that-ball theory, only to be shot down by the umpire giving his own well-stop-playing-across-the-line theory.


It was a small league, after all. And none of us were professionals. This post-match thing was the norm.


The only person that was missing was Wayne. I figured we would see him the next day, during our weekly team meeting. Scottie was right. Wayne shouldn't let me miss a good time. I opened a cooler and reached my hand in, grabbing a beer.


Whatever had happened was in the past. For the now, it was to enjoy the post-match proceedings.

---

Out of storyline...NOT to be considered at any time for story of the month, please.
 
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qpeedore

SOTM Winner - July 2014
Joined
Apr 5, 2009
Location
Trinidad and Tobago
CHAPTER 3 - "Wayne?"

The next day, I made my way to the local community centre gym. We had long since made this the venue of our weekly meetings. There was more than enough space to hold all eighteen members of the team, and even better than that, it was free of charge once we called in advance and let them know what we were doing.


Scott climbed out of the passenger side of my car. He was one of my closest friends and after I had joined the team a few years ago, he was the one that really made me fit in. I had joined during my last year of university while working hard (sometimes hardly) on a Biology degree. Looking for something to tie into my West Indian roots while at the same time retaining my individual self, I was elated when I saw that the university actually had a cricket ground and that matches were played there on a regular basis. I often attended them and was part of the mingling that happened after games were over. I had made a few friends, one of the first was Scott of course. And eventually I heard about an opening in one of the teams. I had very low expectations as I prepared myself for the tryouts, but my very American roommate at the time kept encouraging me.


In retrospect, I think he might have been trying to get me to stop talking about cricket so much to him and try to stop dragging him to matches. "It's the perfect chance to hang out with your own kind," he had told me. My own kind. Hmph.


So I checked things out, made a few phone calls and sent some emails, and had myself a tryout. With the sport not as popular as football (soccer), American football, baseball, basketball, hockey, lacrosse, tennis, water polo, gymnastics, swimming etc, etc...well, the tryout was more of knowing which end of the bat to hold than any actual talent I possessed.


And boy, did I possess very little. At the time I was an overweight (think Ranatunga-esque) left arm orthodox spinner of zero repute and a batsman who only knew the swipe to cow corner. But I trained hard, despite the painful protests from my body. Scott had gotten me into his company's gym membership program through some not exactly wholesome means, and we often would train together on an evening. Eventually I dropped the extra weight and put on a bit of muscle too. My agility and stamina improved significantly, and with that I was able to train harder on the field as well. And the results came. I went from playing four games in my first season and barely bowling a ball, to being a certainty in the starting lineup by the third season, and all but guaranteed to bowl my quota of overs. The shedded kilos helped my mobility as a batsman also, and while I was not a power hitter, I realised I had a sort of talent for picking up gaps.


Scott, on the other hand, seemed a natural athlete. He was the wicketkeeper on the team, and you'd be hard-pressed to find a better gloveman anywhere else at our level, and maybe even at some professional levels too. The list of fewest byes conceded at the end of the season was always topped by him, and I swear he could get a batsman out stumped before anyone knew what was going on. He once told me that as a child he was the shortstop for his little league baseball team and that gave him the sort of reflexes and hand speed he needed. When I had asked him why he didn't stick to baseball, he said that he was intrigued by cricket from the minute he first saw it and he knew he had to try it out. It was different, a bit slow, but it seemed fun.


He worked for a software development company. I never really got more out of him than that. He was quite secretive about it. Whenever anyone asked him what he did for a living, he simply replied, “I develop software.” There were rumours that he was a bit more open about what he did, but one of his coworkers had stolen his idea of a new game that was a cross between Snake, Tetris, and Boggle. That person had made themselves a millionaire via online app downloads and had quit the company. To be frank, I had downloaded the game and frequently played it on my phone, to which he always protested with a depressed expression on his face.


But whatever other software he developed, he was still able to get me a gym membership, and I was extremely grateful for that. Sometimes I wondered if he had hacking ability too. A premium gym card didn't just fall into one's hands for free.


I was also grateful that he had paid for the pizza that day. As he fought to get the boxes out of the backseat, he called out to me.


“A little help?”


“Why?” A smile crossed my face as I turned around and began walking backward, facing him, always increasing the distance between the two of us. “You seem like you're just fine on your own.”


“No problem. None for you.”


“Like that's going to kill me. That's all carbs and fat.”


I watched him struggle some more and then went back to help him, being called several names that would make anyone's grandmother smack them upside the head. We made our way inside, past the few people playing table tennis, and to the circle of chairs that was set up in the corner. The rest of the team was already there.


Well, everyone but Wayne, that is. That was unusual. Wayne was the captain, he was usually there first. For all his ego issues, Wayne was a good captain most of the time, and it was strange that he was not there.


“Where's Wayne?” Scott asked.


“Dunno,” Jaime answered, “His car wasn't there when I left this morning.”


Jaime lived in the same apartment building as Wayne. If he wasn't there in the morning, where was he? A few of us muttered amongst ourselves but nobody could really give a definite answer. Bryce, the vice-captain, tried calling him a few times. No response.


“Guess we should get things underway in his absence,” he said, with a hint of concern in his voice. “Who's keeping the minutes today?”


Jaime volunteered to document. Being a team comprised of regular people with lives, who did not play cricket professionally, we were all relatively familiar with the administrative side of things as we all had our turns at being treasurer, secretary, executive board member, and so on. We were not exactly adept at it, but whatever we had to do, we did it adequately, I guess. Bryce and Wayne were the top two, obviously, being vice-captain and captain respectively. But we all had a say in the general running of the team. Ego aside, that is.


We had just finished going through the latest updates to the finances and were about to discuss trying to source a couple pieces of new equipment for training when the door to the gym opened and Wayne limped in. A collective gasp escaped the lips of each one of us as he slowly made his way toward us.


His right arm was in a sling and he had a bandage wrapped around his head. It seemed as if it was hurting him to breathe as we looked down at his bloodstained T-shirt.
 
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qpeedore

SOTM Winner - July 2014
Joined
Apr 5, 2009
Location
Trinidad and Tobago
CHAPTER 4 - "Insubordination"

Bryce asked the burning question first as Jaime got up and positioned an empty chair so that Wayne could sit down, pain plastered to his face.


“Um...what...happened? You look like you've been through hell, back, and then again some more.”


Wayne smiled a bit, then winced and clutched at his ribs with his free left hand. When he spoke, it was almost a whisper, as if speaking any louder than that would hurt too much. It probably did, to be honest.


“It's kinda funny, actually. I was going for a jog this morning and out of nowhere this stray dog came running behind me. Big mutt-looking thing, fur all matted, teeth bared, the works. You guys know I don't really like dogs, if you don't know the story by now...pretty much when I was a kid my grandfather used to keep these massive guard dogs that were bigger than me by some ways. From bulldogs to Great Danes to German Shepherds...he used to run a company that trained guard dogs. Great Danes aren't the best of guard dogs, they're pretty gentle but their sheer size intimidates people. Friendly things they were to him and the family, but when you're three, four years old and you see these creatures two, three times your size come running up to you...you don't care if all they want is a hug or a kiss or to lick your flipping face, you freak out. I haven't liked dogs since then...so when this thing comes up behind me, I flipped. Poor thing was probably cold and scared and hungry, but like I said, all dogs freak me out. I started running faster, tripped over a rock and tumbled down this little hill. By the time I got back to my senses I was lying on the ground with every body part hurting and my cell phone smashed a few yards away. Someone who had seen everything called an ambulance and well...I got a few stitches to the ol' noggin, a dislocated shoulder relocated, some bruised ribs sorted out, and a minor ankle sprain.”


We looked at him in surprise.


“All that for a dog?” Bryce said, “Must have been some dog. Tell us again how big it was?”


“Ha ha, you guys are happy that I love this team enough to even show up after that.” Wayne replied. “And all things considered, if I take it easy I'll be back for our match on Friday.


We all started murmuring to ourselves. What did he just tell us?


“Um, Wayne,” I started, “I don't think you should be anywhere near the starting eleven until you're 100%.”


“Agreed.” This time it was Stuart who spoke. He was the one of us most qualified to talk about such matters, being in his final year of medical school. “I don't think those are exactly the sorts of injuries you can just expect to be better in five days. You won't be even near match fitness.”


Wayne's eyes narrowed as he spoke, in a firmer and louder tone this time. “You guys listen to me. I'm the captain here, and I know my body. I'll be fine. Trust me.”


I stood up. A good guy most of the time, Wayne unfortunately always had that massive ego issue and the sort of attitude that he was the guy for the job, regardless of what that job was. I looked him right in the eye as I talked to him. Loud enough for everyone to hear, but it was aimed at him alone.


“Fine? Fine for what? At full fitness you can't even captain the team properly. At full fitness you were lucky to get off the mark yesterday. Yeah, it's just a game, and winning isn't everything, but yesterday we would have had the match in the bag if you didn't decide to muck around with our plan. Now you're telling me and these guys here,” I waved my arm around to gesture at my teammates, “You're telling all of us that you're going to PLAY in five days? What, that bump on the head sent you crazy too or something? Maybe you need a brain scan or something.”


Scott gave a quiet sound of approval. Wayne darted his eyes away from me for just a moment to glance at him before he gave me his full stare again. With some effort, he got to his feet and half-limped, half-shuffled over to me.


“Are you trying to tell me what I can and cannot do, Qpee?”


I stood up to my full height. Even slouched over slightly due to pain and me standing tall, Wayne was a good four inches taller than me. He probably stood at six foot three, at least. But I was not about to back down.


“Yes, I am. And I don't think that anyone here will disagree with me. You shouldn't be playing on Friday. For your sake. You want to get a bouncer in your already bruised ribs? You want to try to power the ball over the rope with a shoulder that you just dislocated? You want to pop it out again or something? Run a quick single and break your ankle? Stop rubbing your damn ego for a change and sit this one out. We'll decide on a couple tentative replacements today, and on match day we'll get a full strength starting eleven.”


Wayne pointed his index finger into my chest. “No. You'll be the one sitting the match out.”


“ME? You're the injured one and I'M going to sit the match out? You gotta be kidding me. Guys, he's gotta be kidding, right?”


I looked around. Bryce had risen out of his chair and was standing next to us. He put his arms between us and pushed me away gently. “Guys, guys...back to your seats. We're adults here. Waynie, I gotta admit, Qpee's right. You need to sit the match out. As a matter of fact, just so that it doesn't seem as if one or two people's opinions make the decisions, we'll vote on it.”


“Yeah, vote on it,” Wayne said, “I'll sit out if you guys want me to. But there's no voting when it comes to my decision that Qpee's dropped until further notice.”


I stepped forward again, and Bryce had some difficulty in holding me back. Scott jumped forward and I could feel his arm wrapped around my torso, pulling me away.


“On what grounds are you dropping me?” I demanded my answers from the injured Wayne. “What effing right do you have to drop me?”


Wayne's voice cut through the gym very clearly. It had grown strangely silent. I then realised that the group of people playing table tennis had stopped and everyone was looking at our small group. “I don't need right or reason to drop you, I'm the one who makes the final call in this team. Remember, I'm not just captain, I technically am head coach and team president. Of course, you wouldn't know that, because you're just a simple player.” he said in a matter-of-fact manner, “But if you insist on a reason, I'll say a blatant lack of respect. Insubordination, if you will. And until you learn some manners, you can warm the bench.”


I broke free of Scott's grasp and punched Wayne right in his bruised ribs. I put all my weight behind it, and while I was no martial artist, I had a lot of force behind it. He doubled over in pain with a grunt and a cough. Both Scott and Bryce jumped on me and smothered me, while Jaime and Stuart went to Wayne. I felt myself being pushed away from Wayne, Scott's voice hissing in my ear. “...The hell, Qpee?”


Some distance away from the injured captain, I could see that his now he had both bruised ribs and a bruised ego to match. The two men holding me back let themselves relax a bit. I shook them off and turned around.


“That's your insubordination right there. Good luck on Friday.”


I walked out into the sunlight and jumped into my car. Enough was enough with him and that inflated ego.
 

qpeedore

SOTM Winner - July 2014
Joined
Apr 5, 2009
Location
Trinidad and Tobago
Chapter 5 - "Guilt"

Scott came over to my apartment later that evening. He had tried calling me a few times, but I just silenced my cell phone and threw it under the sofa cushions. When he knocked, I knew it was him, but I was in no mood to answer the door. Just a few hours ago, I had been dropped from my team. And I had refused to take that decision lightly, assaulting my captain and then walking out. Not the best of things, and not something that I was proud of in retrospect. Once I had calmed down, I realised that I was just...jeez...did I just punch my captain?

I really just wanted to be alone.

Scott would not understand that. He persisted with his knocking, even calling my phone again. I could hear it vibrating in its spot beneath the cushion.

“Qpee, open the damn door!” He was almost yelling. “You don't open the door, I'm going down to your landlady and telling her I think you're dead. That you've been depressed lately and texted me saying you were gonna kill yourself. How I was right there with you in WalMart when you bought rope, telling me how you had a big project you were working on. She'll give me the spare key in an instant, you know.”

He was creating a scene. Jeez.

I opened the door and he squeezed himself inside before I had a chance to formally tell him to go the hell away. He smiled at me as if to say, too late, buddy. I wanted to wipe that smirk off of his face, but there had already been way too much violence for one day. For a whole year, actually.

“The heck you want?” I snapped.

“Just to let you know that you got your wish. Stuart examined Wayne after you left and suggested he head back to the hospital. After a couple of X-rays, turns out you cracked one of his ribs. So Wayne's gonna be out for a while. He's not playing this week.”

“Well go tell the president and broadcast it to the nation. Hip, hip, hooray.”

“Wayne's kicked you out of the team, you know that, right?”

“He didn't kick me out. I quit. Something about insubordination.”

Scott sat on the sofa, then leaned over to one side, dug his hand under himself, and pulled out my phone. “You shouldn't leave these things where they can't get ventilation. They can overheat. A client's house almost got burned down by that.”

I shot him a sneer and then went over to my little kitchen area. It was literally three steps away from the sofa. I didn't particularly live in a big apartment, but it was enough. “Go on,” I said, “I know you're here to tell me about the rest of the meeting. Probably gonna say that everyone thinks I'm a crazy person, that I'm disrespectful, that I was so damn wrong to hit Wayne, and so on and so on.”

Scott shook his head. “Actually...the meeting sort of ended after the little...um...incident. Stuart took Wayne to the hospital. I kinda hung around talking to the guys and well...you were my ride, so I sort of needed a lift home. The general consensus seems to be that Wayne might have had something like that coming for some time now. You know how he is, whatever he says has to go. Anyone who says otherwise suddenly finds themselves dropped. We just wanna play, so we don't really take it to the extreme. As far as the hitting him part goes...well...maybe that was taking it too much to the extreme, but I can guarantee you that a few of us were thinking finally he had it coming to him. Not a lot of people will be losing sleep tonight over it.”

“Beer?” I asked. Scott looked at me, confused. I might have broken his train of thought. Good, I thought. That should shut him up.

“Uh, sure.” he replied as I handed him one of the two cans I was carrying. Since he was on my sofa, I grabbed a stool from under the kitchen counter and sat. Again, not a big apartment.

“You were saying, Scottie?”

“Uh...yeah...um...where was I? Oh, right. Well Jaime offered me a ride home, on the way we popped into the hospital. Stuart knew the resident in the emergency department, so Wayne got sorted out quickly. Well, that and it was the second time he'd been there in a couple hours. Wayne was livid. He couldn't believe that you'd hit him. Even after they gave him sedatives...they said it was for pain, Stuart told us afterward it was probably because he was behaving aggressively. He said a bunch of horrible things about you. You'd think he was a sailor with the words he said. Or a prostitute.”

“...and that affects my life how? I quit the team, remember?”

“Well, by this time he was all taped up again and was ready to go home. They did this sort of half torso cast for him. He kept up his tirade about you, and it was getting to be a bit much. I started to defend you man. I mean, he was saying some pretty horrible stuff. Jaime told him to take it easy, but he wouldn't. Eventually I had to stand up for you, man.”

“And that was by...?”

“Let's just say that I'm also no longer part of the team.”

My eyes widened as I stopped, mid-gulp. The cold beer filled my mouth and overflowed, running down my neck and onto the front of my T-shirt. I knew Scott. He had once smacked a frat-boy streaker right in the butt cheeks so hard the poor guy almost went for six. I eventually spoke. “Scottie...what did you do?”

He laughed, and seemingly could not stop. Through guffaws he managed to tell me the story. “It was really funny, to be honest. There he was, all high off of these medications and cursing you and your momma and grandma out...every female in your family for the past four generations, actually. Jaime tried to get him to stop, didn't work. I told him that he really shouldn't speak that way about you and your family, but I think he was just too high. The doctor said that it's the meds, how he doesn't know a thing. How at least it kept the pain away. So I...kinda tested that out. I slapped him.”

Now it was my turn to laugh. “You slapped him, Scottie? I punched the guy for goodness' sake. All you could offer was a slap? What, are you a woman? You a WWE Diva?”

Scottie stopped laughing and threw his empty can of beer at me. “Not a palm slap, smart guy. A backhand. I could feel my knuckles hit his nose. I may or may not have broken it. I'm not sure. I just told him that I quit the team too. Insubordination, as it were. And I left. Thing is, I think he was too high to notice the blood flowing out of his nostrils. Jaime was coming too, but then Wayne called out behind him that if he left, he was out of the team too. That's when I knew he wasn't really high.

“Jaime hung back a bit...said he would rather the violence just stopped, and he thinks it was best that both me and you were out of the team.”

“Damn. I liked Jaime too. Didn't think he would be such a coward, given the situation and all.”

“Well, Qpee...I dunno. I think we overreacted. I mean, we don't exactly do this for a living, but what becomes of us now? For so many seasons we've gone out there almost every weekend and played cricket. We've won, yeah. We've lost, yeah. But it was about the game. And now that the game isn't exactly part of our routine anymore after quitting...well, I have to admit, I feel a bit empty. I feel like I should call Wayne tonight and apologise and see if I can get back on the team.”

“It's easier for you,” I told him, “See, you're a specialist. You're the keeper. You call Wayne and apologise and he'll take you back in an instant. Even if he doesn't, Bryce will talk him into it. Me, on the other hand, I can easily be replaced. See, I'm what you call...dispensable. And after what I did, I don't think we're exactly on speaking terms either way.”

Scott sighed. I could tell that he was thinking over his options in his mind. He had given up his spot on the team to stand up for me after I had basically assaulted Wayne with very little provocation. While the strength of his friendship was in no question, I could not help but feel guilty for what he had done. That guilt was very difficult to deal with at that time.

(Give me a few more chapters to get actual cricket in. This is still all backstory here.)
 

qpeedore

SOTM Winner - July 2014
Joined
Apr 5, 2009
Location
Trinidad and Tobago
Chapter 6 - "Oh"

I had gotten caught up in the moment. I had no right to hit Wayne. I was angry, yes, but that was no excuse for punching him. My goodness, the man had already been through a terrible morning, what with his canine fear and all, and then I came in and made life worse for him. And to top it off, Scottie then did something to lose his own spot in the team. I wondered why he did, but I didn't press the issue. Too many other variables to think of at that time.

For a brief moment, I contemplated actually doing as Scott suggested, calling Wayne and apologising. There was probably no hope of me getting back in the squad, but if there was even the smallest chance, I was willing to warm the bench for as long as it took. The league had a rule that all named members of the team must play at least once every five games, so once my name was back on the team sheet, I would get a match. Guaranteed. Well, not for the rest of the season, as it only had four games to go. But for the next season perhaps.

Maybe I could call Bryce or Stuart or Jaime and get them to argue for me. I mean..I wasn't SO horrible on the field. I'd take wickets now and then. My economy rate was six point something, not bad for a T20 league. And my batting average wasn't horrible for someone coming in down the order. Yeah, I had a chance. Didn't I? My contributions to the team should outweigh my personal nonsense, shouldn't it?

It was at that time I noticed that I had my phone in my hand. “I should call him...” I said to Scott, “To see how he's doing.”

Scott nodded as I searched my contacts list and dialed. I had him stored as "El Capitan Waynos". Wayne was of Hispanic descent, it seemed funny to me at that time. Now, I just felt disgusted by it. I had been racial to him too?

The line on the other end rang a few times before a female voice answered. A familiar voice, one of pure sweetness and love. Wayne's girlfriend.

“Jessie, um...Qpee here. How's Wayne?”

Jessie assumed a spiteful tone of voice. “Qpee, Wayne would rather not talk to you right now.”

“Oh, come on. What are we, like seven years old? He's not talking to me?”

“You broke his ribs. It hurts him to breathe. Talking is torture. So he'd rather not talk to anyone, at all.”

“Oh.”

“Yeah.”

“Well look, I just wanted to apologise for my irrational behaviour earlier today. Tell him I sort of got a bit too worked up and...well...things happen.”

“Qpee?”

“Yeah?”

“We've talked to a lawyer. Expect a summons in the mail. That's all I'm going to say.”

“Oh.”

Jessie ended the call on her side, but I still had the phone held to my ear. I suppose I was not surprised. But, despite all our differences, I didn't actually expect that. Then again, Wayne didn't expect to be punched in the ribs.

Scott looked at me, my mouth hanging open in shock. Lawyer?

“Hey man, you should probably close your mouth. Your breath isn't exactly minty fresh. Stale beer and all, you know? What happened with Wayne?”

“Don't think either of us will be back on the team anytime soon. He's suing us.”

Scott almost jumped out of his clothes as he leapt to his feet. “WHAT?” I nodded, and finally let my phone drop into my lap.

“Well, he's suing me. Dunno about you. Jessie told me.”

Scott wiped his brow with his sleeve. A sigh escaped him. “Oh, thank goodness. I mean...well...that's rough on you, but you know...okay, I think I'll just shut up now.” He made an exaggerated motion of clamping his hands to his mouth in an attempt to make the moment a bit lighter. It wasn't working.

Great. So in the span of a few hours, I had not only lost my spot on the team, I had hit an already injured man and sent him back to the hospital, gotten my friend to lose his spot on the same team, and to top it all off, I was being sued. I felt embarrassed. I felt horrible.

Actually, for the first time in years, I felt like crying.

I sat on the stool, elbows on my knees, head in my hands, tears ready to come out. Maybe Wayne's ego hadn't been the problem. Maybe mine was. Maybe in a few days, when everything had settled somewhat, I could offer to pay for Wayne's hospital treatment. Or something. Of course, that would only settle one thing. I genuinely doubted that any of the other teams would take on a guy who had hit his own captain. It was definitely easier for Scott. Teams would line up to get the best wicketkeeper in the league. But that still left me hanging on the clothesline and blowing in the wind. Alone. Who would take on a guy who had been sued for assault, despite all his statistics?

“Look man,” Scott said, “I don't think Wayne will be ridiculous with things. He won't see it through. It's probably all just a threat.”

“I appreciate you trying to make me feel better here, but it's really not working.”

“I can talk to Jeff from work. His sister is in law school. She might be able to help us out.”

“Being a law student doesn't make you a lawyer. Honestly I don't care about that. I'll get the money to pay whatever Wayne's asking for. That doesn't exactly get me onto a team.”

“Well...”

“Well what?”

“You remember we used to talk about what we'd do if we were in charge? Why can't we form our own team?”

Scott had to be crazy.

“In case you didn't realise, cricket isn't exactly popular here. Plus I'm sure there's a whole lot of official nonsense you need to go through. It's not like you can just put an ad in the newspaper or online saying 'Hey, you, we need cricketers'.”

“Isn't that how YOU joined the team?”

“True.”

“Let's at least look into it.”

“Fine. It won't work, but thanks for trying to make me feel better.”

(And now...the backstory starts to become the true story!)
 
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Guesty98

Club Captain
Joined
Mar 15, 2014
Profile Flag
Australia
This really is a great read

Qpee really is quite an aggressive character, very much like us Aussie's in the late 90s early 2000s except he immediately regrets his actions ;)

That being said this Wayne bloke sounds like a real tosser, can really see a bitter rivalry being built up here

Be interesting to see if Qpee and Scott decide to create a new team, if they manage to pull anyone don their old team over, or if they go and recruit 11-12 brand new blokes

Overall just loving the story, this really deserves more recognition and maybe just not on the forum...

One question, do you write this up just before you post it or a couple of days before or do you have the whole thing written up?

Anyway keep up the great work
 

qpeedore

SOTM Winner - July 2014
Joined
Apr 5, 2009
Location
Trinidad and Tobago
I have the next few chapters already fully written up. Some days I write more than others, so I try to write well in advance of what I actually post. When I do post updates, I edit. Take out stuff, insert stuff, etc. I have short term goals for the story and long term goals as well. Just keep reading and you'll see. ;)

The pressure of "damn, I have nothing to post again" does get to me, and I will write like crazy. But this story is just so much fun that I find myself writing anyway...things just flow out of me. Before I know it, 5,000 words are written and...it's just awesome.

Thanks a million for the feedback, man. Not very easy to do this sort of story.

EDIT - If you can recruit people to give this forum some life...please do!
 
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qpeedore

SOTM Winner - July 2014
Joined
Apr 5, 2009
Location
Trinidad and Tobago
Chapter 7 - "Let's talk about cricket"

Scott and I got out of the car and made our way inside the small two-storey building that stood in front of us. Six weeks had passed since...the incident...and I had to give credit to Scott's co-worker Jeff's sister. She talked me through things so that when I stood in civil court against Wayne, I was able to show that I was provoked by his words and reacted. The judge called the reaction a bit excessive, however. She didn't give Wayne the extra few thousand dollars he was asking for, but she ordered me to pay his medical bills and also do an anger management course. I had two more sessions to go, and while I thought it was a load of bull at the start, I actually did feel a lot less stressed and things just did not seem to bother me as much anymore. Wayne had also reported me to the organisers of the league, and I had been banned for the rest of the season. Not to mention the restraining order.

Scott had been fielding calls almost constantly from teams who wanted him to play for them. Again, being a small league, nobody was paid to play, but there was talk that next season there may be a sponsor who would give teams some cash for each match that they won. These teams promised Scott a hefty percentage of that cash should he play with them. He kept refusing, saying that unless I was getting a spot too, then he was not coming. Offers were then withdrawn.

All of it depressed me. I loved cricket, I really did. I looked forward to the weekend and playing. I had my differences with Wayne, yes...but win or lose, good decisions or bad...just being on the field was something that made me happy. To know that I could not play until the next year all but killed me. But then again, I doubted if anyone would even want me, given my new reputation for violent behaviour.

Scott passed an arrangement of flowers set up in a large vase next to an open doorway. He sniffled a bit. “Damn allergies.” This, of course, coming from a man who frequently rolled around on grass covered fields, chasing behind stray deliveries. I reminded him of the fact and he pushed me away slightly, citing his antihistamines as the things that keep him going during the season. When you're marginally high from antihistamines, he said, it's a bit easier to throw yourself around the field. The pain doesn't affect you as much. I nodded, certain that there must have been some rule somewhere about being marginally high on the field of play.

“Can you explain to me,” he then said, “Why the chairman of the league organisers works out of a funeral home?”

I shrugged. I had no clue. But we walked down the corridor of the creepily-quiet building, following the signs and arrows until we came to the desk. A sprightly young woman sat behind it, typing away on her computer. She looked up as we approached. “Welcome to Browne's Funeral Services, may I help you?”

It was more than a bit weird. Scott and I looked at each other for a moment. Eventually I cleared my throat and spoke. “Yeah, um...we had an appointment with Mr. Browne?”

She pulled out a notebook and flipped a few pages, raising her eyebrow. “Cupidore and Ross?” We nodded. She got up and went across to a closed door, motioning for us to follow. After opening, she showed us in.

A tastefully but sparsely decorated office lay within. Two large pictures hung on opposite walls, one showing what embalming equipment looked like in the nineteenth century, thankfully no cadaver in the picture. Lots of Frankenstein-ish stuff there. The other wall contained a picture of what I assumed was the original Mr. Browne, with the date under the picture reading '1914'. Apart from that and an indoor plant, the only other things in the office were a couple of chairs for clients (which the young lady motioned for us to sit on), a desk, and the current Mr. Browne's chair behind it. But it was empty.

The entire office was dimly lit, just dim enough to be creepy but not dim enough that we wanted to get up and run the hell away.

“Mr. Browne will be in with you soon. He's just ensuring that a few final touches are put in place for a client.” the secretary flipped her hair as she turned and left us alone in the office. I nervously shifted my weight in my chair and I saw that Scott was doing the same.

“Not exactly what I expected,” I muttered, “Kinda unnerving, to be honest.”

Scott nodded. “At least the staff isn't that bad looking.” he said with a wink.

I gave a chuckle and was about to say something else when the door opened and in stepped a man, who I only assumed was Mr. Browne himself. He appeared to be in his fifties, maybe even sixties, hair going silver in places but neatly combed with a side part. He wore a dark suit, the colour of which I could not be sure due to the dim light. In his had he held a small black box, which he put on his desk before offering his hand to each of us. The general impression of him was of warmth and friendliness, not exactly what I expected from a funeral home director.

We stood and shook his hand in turn before the three of us all sat down.

“You'll have to forgive me,” he began, “I had a couple of things to see about. I pride myself on making things just perfect for my clients. Stephanie outside paged me and told me that I had a couple young men in my office to see me. I must apologise if we have fallen short of your expectations of our services in this trying time and I am genuinely sorry for your loss. Please, let me know how I can address any concerns which you may have and then you need not worry any longer. We aim to make this time of passing as unstressful for you and yours as possible.”

Scott and I looked at each other again.

“I'm sorry, I think you misunderstand. Nobody's dead.” I said.

Browne's face lightened even further. “Oh my,” he said, “Well legally I can't do a funeral without a death certificate. But we do offer memorial services, say for someone who is missing and presumed dead for example-”

“No, no,” I held up my hand to cut him off, “What I mean is that I'm the guy you spoke to on the phone earlier this week concerning organising a team for the league next season. You remember? I'm Ryon Cupidore, and this is my friend Scott Ross.”

“Ah, yes...Mr. Cupidore. How silly of me. Accept my apologies again. I did set this meeting up on Tuesday after our telephone conversation. You spend enough time inhaling the fumes from the embalming liquids and you tend to go a bit daft in the head from time to time.”

The three of us smiled as Browne opened the top drawer of his desk and pulled out a small remote. “Let's get some light in here, why don't we?” he said as he pressed a button and the entire room became brighter. “You see,” he explained, “When people come here after losing a loved one, the bright lights make them uncomfortable. The dimmer lights make them feel more at ease. I see this profession as more than just a job. To many people, you're doing them such a great service in their time of grief, and it's so easy to forget those little things sometimes. It helps them. But you two aren't here to talk about that. Let's talk about cricket!”
 

qpeedore

SOTM Winner - July 2014
Joined
Apr 5, 2009
Location
Trinidad and Tobago
Chapter 8 - "But...we're talking about cricket!"

We settled into a long conversation. The obvious question, and the one that Scott blurted out almost before he could control himself was what in the world would a funeral home director be doing organising a cricket league.

Browne explained that his grandfather, William Browne Sr., (the man in the picture) was an Englishman who migrated to the United States in the early part of the 1900s. His son, William Browne Jr. grew up hearing about the stories of the fight for the Ashes, and in fact the eldest William would have his contacts in England send him telegrams daily whenever England played Test cricket. Getting any other news of cricket in the US at the time was difficult, but there was a relatively strong English community at the time, and the youngest William (our William) would be a spectator and then a participant in many a village match. As time progressed and our Browne, this one William the third, came into existence and went through his childhood, his father would tell him the same stories he had heard from his own father.


As the years passed, cricket became less popular in the States and baseball and then football (the lame American type) took over. There were still a few people around who played, and our William kept in touch with them. He had also gotten in touch with people in Florida and New York, both places with strong Caribbean and subcontinental communities and who played cricket on a larger scale.

In time, he had been able to arrange for the state cricket board to be formed, and then they in turn oversaw all cricket in the area. Through them, he had pitched the idea for the league and after some tweaking, everything was as it was in the present day.

“But you'd never really know it was me behind it,” he said, “It would turn people away if we made it known that Browne's Funeral Services was the main sponsor. A bit morbid, won't you say? I can't just put banners up. Imagine if you just got hit in the chest with a bouncer, you're walking away to square leg, you swear your heart is going to stop beating at any moment...then you see an ad for a funeral home. Not what you'll want, is it?”

Scott and I smiled. “So,” he continued, “I've spoken enough. You told me that you were thinking of forming a team for next season?”

I nodded.

“Not an easy arrangement to facilitate,” he said, “Lots of things to work out before then.”

“Things like?” Scott asked.

“Well...first of all, you've got to come up with a team name. Then I have to get the league's lawyer in to check to make sure you aren't using someone else's trademarked name. Or logo, for that matter. We made that mistake in the first year with a name, and almost got sued for the money we didn't even have. I will provide the lawyer, but you'll provide the funding for that process. Then of course, you have to come up with a team structure. You need a named team President, chairman, coach. Whether or not the entire team helps in the day to day running is irrelevant, you must name these things to me for legal purposes. See, it's all about taxes. Then you need transparent accounting, available for audit at any time, because we do random audits of teams throughout the on and the off season. You'd need to appoint a representative to be in the usual monthly meetings with the league's board, and also any emergency meetings we may hold. You'd need to get your own uniforms, equipment, because we don't provide that for you. I've been trying to get someone to sponsor that for us, but as you can probably tell, until the sport becomes way more popular nowadays, nobody is going to give us much money. It is easier, however, to get sponsors for individual teams, and we will help with finding interested parties...for a fee of course. You need a home ground, which can be shared with up to five other teams. That ground needs to be maintained. Meaning you need rollers for the pitch, mowers, all sorts of things. A groundsman helps, unless you plan to water the pitch at midnight two days before every match. Then of course, there's the usual no betting on results, no predetermined fixing of outcomes, the spirit of the game to be upheld at all times...basically it's all right here in this book.”

He opened a drawer in his desk and pulled out a thick book and dropped it onto the flat top. The thud it made was impressive. I could swear I saw a puff of dust. Scott reached for it and thumbed through the pages, frowning.

“This is Volume Nine of the Encyclopaedia Britannica.” he said.

Browne blushed slightly. “So it is,” he said, reaching across his desk to take it back from Scott and pulling out another thick book. “That's the volume with the word 'funeral', you know."

Awkward silence persisted.

"This...is the book you'll need to read. I recommend going through it with someone familiar with legal jargon. I wanted it to be written so everyone would understand, but our lawyer said this way is better.”

I turned to Scott. “Tell your pal Jeff that we've got another job for his sister.”

Scott nodded and took the book. “This ours?” he asked.

“Why of course,” Browne replied, “But you'll have to pay me for the cost of copying it and getting it bound so nicely for you. Money makes the world go round, you know. And there's a on other thing I forgot to mention...”

“What's that?” I asked.

“You, Mr. Cupidore, are still banned for the rest of the season, and had your little incident happened anywhere near the field of play you'd be facing a lifetime ban from the state cricket board. It's going to be extremely difficult for you in particular to get approval for a new team. Personally I'm voting against approving it, because I think the only reason you're doing this is to get yourself back playing. We don't like underhanded tactics, so be forewarned.”

His words seemed innocuous but my heart was in my throat, beating so loudly I think even William Sr. could hear it in his painted image. I tried swallowing, but ended up coughing loudly. I was choking. My hands started sweating and suddenly I felt cold. Scott was the one who spoke up.

“If we meet all of your criteria, is there any reason why we shouldn't get approved?”

“Theoretically no. But these are people. And every single person has had news of the events that have transpired. Don't think that we don't know of your own moment of rage as well, Mr. Ross. We have eyes everywhere. But let's not frighten you, huh? There's already about 13 dead bodies in this building at present...but we're talking about cricket!”

“Oh.”

Several moments of awkward silence followed. What had started off as a friendly exchange had suddenly turned into sheer terror for me, and perhaps the same for Scott. I shakily rose to my feet, held out a sweaty hand to Browne which he shook with a vise grip, and pulled Scott out of his chair. Once outside of the office, we almost ran back to the car.

Being out in the open was wonderful. I no longer felt stifled, and I was literally sucking in and gulping down the fresh air. William Browne the third genuinely scared me now.

“We can't form our own team,” I told Scott. “They'd never approve.”

Scott was leaning against the side of the car, head tilted back against its roof.

“Can we talk about this later? I really don't want to discuss it now. I need air. I'm out in the open and I feel as if I can't flipping breathe. What the hell?”

"Allergies," I said, hoping that it would give him the excuse he needed to think straight.

Somehow we made it into the car and went back to Scott's apartment. I don't remember driving there. I don't remember doing anything except getting out of the car in the parking lot behind Scott's apartment complex.

I had only ever been over at Scott's a few times, but he definitely lived it up. Far from the cramped quarters of my abode, Scott lived in a palace as far as I was concerned. As he opened the door and showed me in, my breath was taken away once more, but this time in a pleasant way. I had to ask.

“Remind me what it is you do again?”

“I develop software.”

“Right.”
 
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qpeedore

SOTM Winner - July 2014
Joined
Apr 5, 2009
Location
Trinidad and Tobago
Scott and I sat at his dinner table, poring through the tome that was the official rules, regulations, and other assorted minutiae of the league. There was a lot to go through. For one, Mr. Browne had felt it necessary to include a copy of the Laws of the Game, verbatim from the MCC itself. We skipped that after I told Scott I had read every word of the Laws ten times over by the age of twelve. Once into the more applicable things, we quickly realised that every single requirement or bylaw seemed all but impossible to obey.

“We need a designated home ground,” Scott said, “We can share it with up to five other teams.”

“Well considering that there are only two grounds in the entire league that eight teams use, that shouldn't be too hard.” I was somewhat sarcastic in my reply, but hastily added, “We'll just have to meet with the other teams and agree to help pay maintenance and whatnot. That saves us from having to find someone else in this city who knows how to prepare a pitch. I think the university pitch is a good idea. It's a good ground, a good pitch.”

This entire thing just kept sounding crazier and crazier by the moment. The ground was one thing, I suppose with enough convincing, we might be able to get people to allow us to share with them. Maybe indeed the university ground. The "money" train of thought needed to be focused on. People love money, yet people hate to spend money. Funny thing, money was.

With half an idea behind the ground, we moved onto some of the other, harder things. Mr. Browne had summed it up well in his little speech to us. We needed uniforms, equipment. We needed a transparent financial structure. The deeper we got into the book, the less this seemed like a good idea.

Scott sighed. “Well...maybe...maybe next season we'll just find an established team we can join. Or two teams. Right now, I don't think I'm really willing to be choosing too much. I'll take what I get.”

I shook my head. “Yeah...it seemed like a good idea but now – uh, hang on a moment.”

My phone was buzzing and I reached into my pocket to pull it out. It was an automated text about a faculty meeting before school started the next day. All staff members were required to attend.

I worked as the science lab technician for a private high school. I really wanted to teach Biology, hence the degree, but without actual teaching qualifications along with that and also not enough funds to pursue those qualifications, being a tech was about all I could have done at the time (well, to me). Still though, I enjoyed being around the students, many of whom asked me questions about the experiments or equipment. The teachers themselves also gave me a lot of respect and generally got along great with me. Often, they would divide the classes into two groups for labs, and I would take one group and they would take the other. So I did get my chance to teach, albeit unofficially.

That sort of environment was not ideal, but I liked it. Just after graduating, I had gotten a job at the university itself, working in their research lab. But I hated it and left after only a few months. There just was not the kind of human to human interaction I wanted. I liked talking to people, seeing people. I was a social sort of person. I craved company. So when the school put out ads for a new lab technician, I applied, and impressed the school board enough to be hired.

Of course, being the single lab tech meant that Biology alone was not my jurisdiction. I had to sort out Chemistry and Physics stuff as well. But generally it was not that hard. Science is science, after all. The most difficult thing to remember was to wash your hands constantly. I remembered a situation where I went to use the washroom and almost burnt a certain something off due to me not using gloves to handle a particularly caustic chemical a few minutes before. Gentle on skin, tough on...um...other things.

Being a private school, the student body was small. Perhaps 400 students or so, with about a third doing business-oriented study, a third doing science and math stuff, and the final third doing the all-encompassing category of other. Generally, class size was small, perhaps 25-30 students per actual classroom. Practically every period involved one of the big three between Chemistry, Physics or Biology, so I was busy all the time, although I had worked out a schedule with the teachers so that there would not be actual laboratory teaching every period. It afforded me time to clean up the previous equipment and then set up for the next one. I asked them for teaching plans on a regular basis, which would involve demonstrations and experiments that they wished to do, but it also gave me the opportunity to offer my own suggestions on practical work.

The actual students were from all categories of life. The school was not super-prestigious. What it did was offer an alternative to the public system where there would be smaller class sizes and the promise of better resources. And the school property itself was nothing short of impressive, being built on some twenty acres of land, most of which was just empty field.

Of course, having to pay for your education meant that there were certain social classes that probably would not or could not attend such an institution, but then again one of the best students I knew was there because his parents took a loan from the bank to send him there. The school also offered scholarships to two students annually, where their entire education would be sponsored and then half their university fees would be paid, as long as they kept up a 3.0 GPA or higher.

Generally though, the student body was made up of the middle and upper middle class, with a small but significant percentage of them having come from another country or at least having roots there.

But back to reality.

“Scott,” I said, “I can't exactly stay here until the wee hours of the morning trying to sort this out. I've got a meeting to go to in the morning and I can only see us spinning top in mud here.”

Scott looked at me, a confused expression behind his grey eyes. “Huh?”

As Americanised as I had become, there were still times when my Trinidadian heritage showed.

“It's a saying we have back home,” I explained, “Imagine trying to spin one of those old-timey tops, you know, the wooden ones with the string, in a puddle of mud. You won't succeed, no matter how hard you try. That's the basic idea behind the saying.”

“Oh.”

“Exactly. We're not getting any...” My voice trailed off and my jaw hung loosely open. Scott must have tried to get me back to earth for some time before I was aware of his voice calling to me, almost in the distance.

“Hey, Qpee...QPEE!”

“I'm here. Scott, I solved all our problems. Well, the major ones.”

“What are you talking about? You have this look on your face and then you go unresponsive for God knows how long...you didn't have a stroke on me or anything, did you? Can you move your arms and legs?”

“No, Scott,” I said, “Here. Look at this message.”

I showed him the text about the faculty meeting. He frowned and then almost threw the phone back at me. I caught it right next to my head. Thank God for my cricket training and the experience of fielding at cover point. He looked at my childish grin before reaching out for the phone again.

“No, as a matter of fact, you give me that again,” he said, “I think I'll call an ambulance. You got this weird look on your face. I think you really are having a stroke.”

“Shut up and listen to me. Look, I have a meeting tomorrow, right. The principal, in the last meeting a couple of weeks ago, wasn't so happy. Apparently some smart person on the school board thought that there wasn't enough extracurricular activity going on. So the principal, she told us about it, and she asked us to think of any ideas that we might have in terms of that. I'm going to assume that tomorrow's meeting might be her begging us again about that 'cuz they've been pressing her hard about it. I've never met the members of the board except in my job interview, but I know they can press you hard sometimes.”

“Not sure I'm following you there. Go home, no need to stay here any later if you think you need to be there at the crack of dawn.”

“I said shut up and listen. When she told us that at the last meeting, one of the English teachers suggested the school start a swimming club. He swims in his spare time, I think he used to do it competitively. Like a week later, I hear word that the board gave funding for it.”

“...and...?”

“And the school doesn't own a pool, you idiot. They're either thinking of renting time at the YMCA or at this other place they had in mind. They're talking about swim and dive teams. And about digging a pool next summer. As in, if they're willing to throw money behind that when they have zero facilities for it...why not cricket?”

Scott's eyes opened wide and then he too, began smiling.

“You think it will work?”

“It couldn't hurt to try. And it would sort out our player situation too, if we get a decent response from the students. I definitely know a few of them who come out to watch some of the games, they always talk about it to me outside of class.”

“Yeah, but these are kids. We compete in an adult league.”

I pointed at the league rulebook. “Nothing in there about a minimum age. Remember, by the time he was 25, Tendulkar had been playing Tests for something close to 10 years. Still like the fourth or fifth youngest Test debut ever. He had his first Test century at, like, 17. Pakistan has a long history of playing teenagers at the top level. And just to get out of the subcontinent, one of the greatest players to ever play the game, Garry Sobers, was just 17 when he had his first Test. 21 or something like that when he made that 365. Want me to go on? I've studied Cricinfo thoroughly, you know.”

“Those were few and far between. And just by the way, so have I. Sobers only scored his 365 because most of the bowlers were either ill or injured. I love the idea, I really do, but...kids?”

“And Lara scored his 400 when Matty Hoggard was struggling with diarrhoea back at the team hotel and one of the other guys was banned for running on the danger zone. Does anyone else remember that? Nope...it really couldn't hurt to at least ask, Scott. Come on, you want this or not? Think of it...it's a couple small school buildings surrounded by a hell of a lot of grass. We'll have a field, our own home ground that we won't have to share with anyone. We won't even have to maintain it. I'm sure I can get one of the lawn mower slash gardener guys to learn about preparing a pitch too. And if the school board likes the idea enough...maybe we can get them to shell out for equipment without having to pay Browne to look for a sponsor.”

Scott nodded. “Make it work, Qpee.”
 

qpeedore

SOTM Winner - July 2014
Joined
Apr 5, 2009
Location
Trinidad and Tobago
Chapter 10 - "See you at six"

Scott called me so often during the next day that I wondered if he was actually doing any work “developing software.” I could not answer him until lunchtime. Not having enough time after the meeting to prepare a new batch of reagents for a first period chemistry lab and then a full morning of other demonstrations, I frequently kept breaking my number one rule of the lab: no running. Even when the students were all in for their various sessions, I was too busy either teaching or helping with equipment. It didn't help that one of the students broke a bloody burette in his hands, which then themselves literally became bloody from broken glass. Good thing I had taken a First Aid course in my second year of university. I barely had time to breathe by the time everything was over.

Not that I was breathing that hard anyway. I actually held my breath more often than not. My idea, while not initially going over with much praise and adulation, was eventually accepted with some reluctance by Mrs. Pride, the principal. In the absence of other ideas from the rest of the staff, except for one about a drama club, she promised to inform the school board about it.

She had many questions for me after the meeting was over, as would anyone who only thought of cricket as the sport where people play only in bright light for five days, just for it to be called a draw. I tried to answer them as best as I can. Some of the other teachers had their own questions, a couple of which I really fumbled through. But at the end of it all, I had gotten my point across. Mrs. Pride told me that she would get back to me by the end of the day, as the deadline for ideas was that very day, and the board had all sorts of other nonsense ideas in their minds, like a marching band for our non-existent (American) football team and a choir. Even a glee club.

A glee club...someone had been watching way too much television in the early part of the decade.

I was finally able to update Scott on everything around midday. He was overjoyed, but still expressed some doubts about the whole kids thing. I reassured him that everything should turn out fine. In reality, I had no clue what the hell would happen.

Mrs. Pride summoned me to her office just before school ended for the day to tell me that the school board was willing to meet with me to discuss everything. Great. More meetings. But it was a start, at least. The meeting would be on Friday evening at 6pm, the monthly school board meeting where the topic would be raised.

“Mrs. Pride,” I started.

“Ryon, I've told you more than once, we're all colleagues and friends here. We're a close-knit team. Please, Allison is my name. Are you trying to make an old woman feel even older?”

She raised a single eyebrow at me behind her wire-framed glasses. She was in her late forties at most, certainly no old woman. Certainly not a bad looking one. I shook my head, slightly out of embarrassment. Nope. Not gonna happen. Keep your mind out of the gutter, Qpee.

“Um...no, just that you're the principal. I think that deserves a bit of respect.” I managed a nervous laugh.

“Oh, shut it. You call me Mrs. Pride like I'm an old lady again and I'll call the chairman of the board myself and tell him to squash this cricket idea.” Her laugh was more on the do-as-I-say type, not the flirty type. All business, she was.

“Sure thing, uh...Allison...I was going to ask you, um, my friend also plays cricket and well...he'd be sort of helping me coach the team if we get the kids on board with it. So I wanted to know if he was invited to attend too.”

“Would the school have to pay him for coaching?”

“No.”

“Then he's welcome to be as big a part of the meeting as he wants. See you at six.”
 

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