I drained the glass, and gestured to Angel to bring me another. She stopped scratching the flaky rash that spread across her thighs, pulled her skirt down, and waddled toward me. She was all I had! Jesus, I thought I’d hit the bottom, but the truth was I had only broken the crust on the surface.
Slobodan Zecevic was after me because his wife had been out whoring while he was in Finland; as if I was to blame for that. I only did what anyone in Novi Sad would do with a scab-free hooker, and had ridden her relentlessly. Vasa was trying to put the squeeze on me, and now he knew I was trying to stab him in the back. Boris seemed to be growing distant as he mistakenly considered himself to be a good football manager. The local anglers were after me for filling the river up with unsold programmes. The club was in debt to the tune of nearly £1 million. Chairman Milan Labus had stated that he feared for the long term financial future of the club. A shoddy draw had knocked us off the top of the table. I didn’t have enough money to pay for the drinks I was ordering. However, worst of all was the scabby peasants had started singing that song again.
“Sister, the cold winds blow and the rain is falling; put lipstick on, and wipe away your tears, I have some powder that will stop the itching”.
We had just returned from the match at Mladost Lux, where I had spent my last few coins in a back street bar, and had my teeth loosened by a priest! I should have felt better about life, but it wasn’t easy to put a more positive spin on things.
The away game at Mladost Lux held a special significance. At the start of the season some of us held out a slim hope of walking away with the title. Novi Sad were drawing too often, but the visit of Mladost Lux brought us back to earth as they beat us for the first time that season. Travelling to Lukicevo was not ideal, especially as Bezaija and Veternik were both at home. The mood was downbeat; I think everyone had the same thought. If we could hold them, and hope one of the other teams did us a favour, it might not be a disaster. It was too early to be thinking like this.
Boris dropped Boggy the Younger and Krusty got his first start.
When we arrived at the stadium I left them to it and walked the streets for a while. The local supporters were in good spirits. I went into a bar and ordered a beer. On a pile of coca cola crates in one corner a washed out teenage girl with dark rings around here eyes slowly peeled off her clothes to the sound of Santana playing on a portable tape recorder. No one else in the bar was watching.
A few lads in Mladost Lux shirts leant on a wall, staring at me. It wasn’t so much uncomfortable as inevitable. I had all my teeth, my clothes – although creased – were clean and not torn, my hair was cut rather than matted and falling out, and there were no visible scabs. I finished the beer and gestured for another. It seemed the further Novi Sad went, the more depressed everyone involved got. It was like waiting for the inevitable fall. I realised that I was actually starting to become Serbian in thinking; gloomy, pessimistic, and unwilling to even feel the slightest happiness when things did go well. I lifted my glass to the Mladost supporters, and shouted: “To pain. It will not let us down. It will creep up when we least expect it.” They raised their glasses, except one, who glared at me. It was his birthday and he was certainly not going to ruin it by cheering up.
As I got up to leave, the stripper – dressed again – pushed past and walked into the street. I followed her, watching as her arse cheeks bounced up and down like two ferrets in a sack. She turned into an alley; I nipped up behind her and grabbed her round floppy buttocks. She screamed – not a violent one, more in surprise – and as she did an elderly priest appeared from a doorway and punched me full in the mouth. Stars appeared. He had one hell of a punch. I sagged to the ground, my ears ringing. As I tried to get up, I caught sight of him walking away, his gnarled old hand up her skirt as she trotted alongside him.
NB. As I said before, this is not my own work. It is Vic Flange’s. The original work can be found on TheDugout, right here. TheDugout is dying, so I’m rescuing the story and giving it the attention it deserves.