Andrew remembers it as a splendid October day, a Sunday – his father’s day of rest. The sky is blue. The sun is bright. The air is crisp and still. The world feels clean and sharp. October, his birthday month, is when all is possible with nothing to prevent him from conquering his evolving world. The white lines of the rugby pitch are almost three dimensional against the close-cropped verdant grass, while the stark white rugby posts stand to attention.
Father and son have come to the pitch to play with the new rugby ball his parents have given Andrew for his twelfth birthday. Andrew is properly togged out in rugby kit but his father, Arthur, is dressed in a white shirt, trousers with turn-ups and brown leather brogues; he always wears black or brown brogues, not favouring any other type of shoe.
They begin slowly (at Arthur’s request) by passing the ball back and forth as they run across the pitch from touchline to touchline. They are happy as they go at a gentle trot, easily passing the ball back and forth: their fingers easing tight on the catch and easing off as the ball sails away.
This is great, Dad.
Arthur, short of breath, nods and asks, Shall we have a rest?
Then do some kicking? Andrew suggests.
Arthur sits on the grass while Andrew runs up and down throwing the ball in the air and catching it until Arthur gets to his feet, and says, You kick and I’ll catch.
Andrew waits as his father gently trots away.
Further than that, Dad, Andrew shouts.
This far enough?
Bit further, Dad.
This had better be a good kick, Andrew thinks. His heartbeat rises. I need to show him what I can do. Keep my eye on the ball; that’s the rule. Andrew composes himself and the punt rises high in the sky, spiralling, higher than he has ever kicked before.
The ball soars into the bright light of the sun as Arthur runs, arms out-stretched, hands wide, towards the descending ball. As he lunges forward, the slick soles of his brogues slip on the grass. The ball evades his hands and bounces off the grass as he falls, crashing to the ground with a thud, the ball crunches into his stomach.
Andrew runs to his father. Dad, Dad, are you okay?
Are you okay, Dad?
Winded, son, winded.
Andrew kneels. Are you crying?
Arthur rolls over, kneels, gasping for breath as he struggles to his feet.
It doesn’t matter, Dad.
Of course it matters.
Are you badly hurt?
Just my pride. I’m sorry, son. So sorry. I wouldn’t always have missed it.
It was then I realised Dad was mortal and I was afraid.
Andrew, now a man in his seventies, stands on the same field and sees his father afraid to look back, fleeing his humiliation. Andrew wonders why, back then, he didn’t understand how pride meant so much. Yes, Andrew says, he’s still missed.
I hope you enjoyed this story. Remember, I publish a new story every Sunday.
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© Phil Cosker 2022
Phil Cosker has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs & Patents Act 1988 to be identified as the author of this work. All rights reserved; no part of this work may be reproduced or transmitted by any mean, electronic, mechanical, photocopying or otherwise without the prior permission of the author.