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Nuwe skryfwerk | New writing > Fiksie | Fiction > English > Published authors

Chockie


Richard de Nooy - 2010-06-09

I’m jammed between your saddle and carrier. Behind me, the sheep skull is snapping ferociously with its three remaining teeth. The rest have been rammed out against your brother’s handlebars. The wire runs in one eye socket and out the other. That was your idea – the wire. Your brother wanted to use string. “Don’t be stupid. It’ll snap.” It was his skull. He’d seen it first, the little prick. Always quickest at Easter, too. The Hell’s Angels had skulls under the headlights of their choppers. Probably not sheep, though. Dogs maybe. Human even. You’d seen photos. Pretty heavy stuff. But a sheep skull leering on your handlebars was pretty groovy too, dude. Quite an ominous sound – hollow bone and tooth on steel – a staccato death rattle to raise your spirits as you shuddered down the sand road to the soccer pitch. Racing to watch Chockie play.

You thought his team was called Roman Young Stars. But you were wrong. They were Roman Youngsters and they had an official kit – claret and lime, with white shorts. The socks were left to chance, apparently, because no two players wore the same colour.

The Romans were warming up frantically under the three blue gums beside the pitch. It was about 30 degrees. The opponents were on their way. Or not. One never knew.

Chockie’s three younger brothers were sitting in the sharp grass. The powder dust off the road stuck to their bare feet, as if they were wearing beige bobby socks. You greeted each other cool as can be. As if it was an everyday occurrence – two white teenagers attending an all-black soccer match.

“Where’s Chockie?” you asked.

“Fetching long socks,” said Ishmael, the middle younger brother.

“Where?”

“Aloe Ridge.”

“Fok that’s far. When’s the kick-off?”

“When the enemy arrives,” said Pule, the eldest younger brother.

“Wanna play?” you asked

“Sure,” chorused the three brothers, scrambling to their feet.

“Not you,” said Pule to Stanley, the youngest younger brother. “Sit down. And don’t cry. You just get in the way.”

“Ach man, let him play,” you said.

“Okay,” said Pule. “It’s your ball.”

And he was right: I was your ball, but you were not my master. That was Chockie. You and your brother played a good game, make no mistake, but you lacked the ambition, the passion, the drive. And Chockie mostly played barefoot, which meant I could feel him better as he whirled and caressed, dribbled and shot. I knew what he wanted, felt him transferring his dreams and ambitions to me, constantly perfecting his technique so that he would be ready when the scout from Kaizer Chiefs, Moroka Swallows or Orlando Pirates showed up at the pitch.

“He drives a red Land Rover,” said Chockie.

“Kak, man! How do you know?” you asked.

“I heard it on the radio,” said Chockie.

“Yeah right. But why would he wanna watch you okes!”

“The coach said he’d come.”

“What exactly did he say?”

“That the scouts come to see the Young Stars.”

“Bullshit, man! You okes mean less than nothing to them.”

“Hau,” said Chockie. “Come and watch us then.”

“Where? In the location, I suppose? We can’t go there.”

“Not in the location. On the field by Aloe Ridge.”

That was how we had ended up on the edge of that rectangular desert, with its roaming clumps of grass, its shaky lines drawn in the dust, and its tree-trunk goalposts, rammed together with nine-inch nails, their rusty points protruding.

Hubbub erupted as the rival team pulled up in a minibus. Meyerton United – 13 players, a coach and two assistants, who later proved to be drunk.

The ref had also arrived. A short, stout man who seemed to have anointed his entire body with Vaseline. He shimmered in the sun. He had clearly donned his referee’s kit at the age of twelve and had kept it on ever after. But somehow he exuded Mussolinian authority. He blew a shrill blast on his whistle and haughtily waved away Meyerton United’s plea to be allowed a warm-up.

The Roman Youngsters’ coach also asked him to wait because his star striker had yet to return. That was Chockie. After a quick confab, you and your brother hopped on your bikes to fetch him, with Ishmael riding shotgun to show the way. You pedalled uphill like maniacs and had just hopped off to run the last stretch to the rise, when Chockie appeared over the horizon. He had your tattered North Stars in one hand and ball of long socks in the other. Without saying a word, he hopped on the back of your bike and you flew downhill, as if you wanted to rattle the last teeth out of the sheep skull.

When you arrived at the pitch, panting, the game had yet to start. In fact, everyone was awaiting your return. They had three balls, but they were all flat. There was a murmur of disappointment when they saw that neither of you had a bicycle pump. But then they spotted me.

“Can we borrow your ball please, kleinbaas?” asked the ref.

“Sure. But we have to be home by five,” you said.

“Baie dankie, kleinbaas,” chorused the men.

Within a couple minutes, the match was hidden behind a thick veil of dust. This did not improve the quality of play. I was blindly hoofed in all directions and had lost all hope of finding the familiar feet of the Master, when he suddenly appeared. He cradled me gently on his instep, chipped me over an incoming tackle, coaxed me nimbly through a forest of flesh, and then struck me with pure force. My sublime trajectory ended against the bottom of the bar, from whence I bounced into the goal and rolled into the long grass, deeply satisfied.

Chockie scored three more goals in the space of ten minutes. By then, the men from Meyerton had had enough. Somewhere in the darkest heart of the dust cloud, the Master was rudely kicked to the ground. The ensuing exchange of words soon became a bumping quarrel and then a full-on fistfight, accompanied by the shrill whistle of the referee, who darted around in the dust like a runaway train, thrusting himself between fighting players.

I did not see the end of this tragic opera from nearby, because I caught a wild kick from an angry boot that sent my high into the clear air above the whirling dust. I enjoyed a brief moment of blissful inertia before gravity’s suck kicked in.

I bounced only once before you caught me. You gazed in silent awe as the whirlwind moved back and forth over the field, whistling. You squinted through the dust, shading your eyes from the low sun.

You checked your watch in horror. Quarter to five! You showed your brother the time. He got the message. Side by side you sprinted to your bikes. I was roughly jammed between your saddle and carrier once more. Within seconds, the sheep skull was chattering like a Flamenco dancer on speed. Standing on the pedals, hanging low over the handlebars, you raced home, eyes like slits against the dust and setting sun, blinded by the need to get home quick.

Neither of you saw the oncoming car that passed on down the road. I watched as it drove hesitantly, searching. A red Land Rover.