August 12, 1997


John said that he heard this digusted-with-myself ooof and then there was this huge cloud of dust, out of which a player took two steps, then looked back and the ball he had just rolled out the end line. I got up off the ground, caked in dust and sweat, billowing up more thick dust and, hacking and coughing, I said in surly tones, "I hate this field." On being asked if I was okay by the ref, I just shrugged and said, "I just tripped on the field." and ran to the play.

It was a really awful field down in Renton, way south of our home. The soccer pitch was narrow and short with lights only along one side of the field. It was so narrow that the goalie's box was a bare yard from the sidelines. The surface underneath was cintrex, the hi-tech name for crushed brick, and over that cintrex surface was about two or three inches of dust. Just pure dust. And in the unusually hot and sunny and dry weather we've been having for weeks, it was billowy, thick, cake your lungs kinda dust that you can't even see the opposite side of the field through.

Doug took one look at me and said, "You look like you don't want to be here." I grinned wryly and nodded.

I didn't really say I'd much rather be in Portland in an airconditioned luxury suite of a hotel room looking forward to Dungeness Crab for dinner. Or that my belly was hungry because while the pasta salad had been good for lunch, it wasn't something that was going to last until 8:15 at night, no matter how good it was, but eating before a game was always a disaterous mistake for me. Or that I was exhausted from my allergies hounding me in the morning. I think he got a lot of it anyway in my look. Wishful thinking.

What was even worse was that when we started, we only had eight players. Yeah. Eleven is normal. But the good thing was that the field was narrow and short, now. Different situations bring different value judgements, and the smallness of the field became a godsend. We played three-three-one, three fullbacks, three halfbacks and only one person up front. Roselind, Doug and I were the fullbacks. Maria played the center halfback, with John and Paul to the sides and David in the front. The other team looked like they had twice as many people as we did, and they were all crowded together.

The oddest thing, about the whole first half was that eventhough they had so many, many people, none of them covered Maria. We never really figured out why, though Doug and I shared the thought that since they never passed to their own women, they probably just never thought Maria was worth covering, or something. She took advantage of the fact they didn't put anyone on her and assisted on all three of our first three goals. There was one goal where everyone on our team touched it before it went in, because we were passing it around a lot, and backpassing when they sent too many people in on our front folks.

It was a very odd game. Very energetic on our side, very frustrating on theirs, I think.

Then, at half time, Maria had to leave because of an old injury. She only plays half a game, now, to keep herself from getting hurt worse. So we had only seven people. It made for a hard scramble for the first half of the second half, and they managed to score one goal by one of their guys just powering it past four of our folks. Their second goal was from a penalty kick because Doug pushed someone a little as he took the ball away from them. Then there was a very odd fracas when Fish, our goalie, sprinted for the side, to kick a ball out to the sideline and one of their players got in his way and was sent flying. Fish, unfortunately, had taken an aerial route to take both the player and the ball out, so was carded.

Thing is, you have to have seven players to play. If you don't have seven players you forfeit the game, and eventhough we were ahead three to two, if Fish had to go out due to the card then we would forfeit the game. The other team and John and Fish worked out a compromise. They'd lend us a player for the drop kick... they wouldn't contest the drop kick, but we'd kick it out of our own endline, giving them a free corner kick. Fish could come back in at the stop of play implied by the corner kick and the lent player would go back to them.

Aren't rules fun?

The player that got knocked out of the game was not happy to see Fish still playing. He was very upset and very, very vocal about it. It was... funny, I think, in that he was quite physically fit enough to yell at the ref, at the game, at the teams, but was talking about how he might not make it to the hospital emergancy room. I dunno, maybe that's just me being mean, but when I got knocked out by members of that very team, I didn't complain, and I couldn't even talk for a while afterwards, much less rant at full-lung at everyone.

That was about the time when I went ooof and got completely covered, head to toe in thick grainy dust. Got three patches of cintrex induced road rash and was so black from head to toe their fullback laughed pretty hard on seeing me when we did the handshakes at the end of the game... "Cool hair, man. And, man, are you dirty!"

Anyway. David moved back after that, and Doug and Paul connected for another goal. Then their fullback, for some reason, cleared a ball straight up the center of the field, where none of their people were. I moved up, secured the ball and saw John just inside his defender. The other defenders on their side were all pulled up, so I kicked a hard, long ball that went half the field (I told you it was a small field), just to the inside of John, where he neatly trapped it, turned with it and scored!

Afterwards, as we were riding home, tired, sore, completely dust and mud caked, John said that that was the best anniversary present he'd ever had or would want to have, being able to connect up with me for a goal.

Showering was quite the adventure. The water turned completely brown, and the dust was so thick it went places I don't even want to think about. Had really keen dreams because of it, though... dreamed I was a cyborg/robot type that did some really impressive infiltration, but then suddenly realized that I was filled with dust. The front and back of me was clean and sharp and clear, but all my sides and innards were only seething roiling dust...

Gotta do laundry today. Really, really gotta do laundry today.

© 1997 by Liralen Li

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