The Game

Sam Thompson removed his jar of coffee and ‘Mr Grumpy’ Mr Men mug, placing it on the cabinet above him then emptied his pockets, placing his phone, wallet and keys into his small locker.

Zombie-like he trudged through to the clinically white small kitchen area and filled his mug with boiling water from the communal urn. Slamming the fridge shut he spun round and filled his large mug up to the top with milk.

It was 8 weeks since Sam’s wife had given birth to their first child, Harry. The period of paternity leave had been dream-like as Sam and his wife Holly had existed in their own little bubble, changing nappies, sharing feeding responsibilities and making lots of tea and coffee for excited visitors. The little guy had quickly become the centre of their world and at times Sam couldn’t remember what life had been like before Harry had come along.

One thing he could remember, however, and had been fantasising about since Harry’s Moses basket had replaced his bedside table, was how good it had felt to wake up naturally after a sleep longer than 4 hours. He was happy to split the baby responsibilities with Holly, he wouldn’t have had it any other way, but he missed his bed. He missed a decent sleep.

“Hey Sammy boy!!! how goes it?”

Jack Fennel flew into the kitchen area like a cyclone, slamming cupboard doors, throwing his tupperware lunch into the fridge and spinning to look at his workmate.

“Aye, not bad Jacko, how’s you” muttered Sam. It was as auto-pilot a response as you could get. All over their office-space you heard variations of the same conversation. Pleasant morning greetings followed by hollow small talk as people started their days. One of these days someone will answer that question truthfully, thought Sam, and the person asking the question probably won’t like the answer.

“Excellenttyyyyy” Jack replied enthusiastically in a faux Spanish accent. He was a morning person, everyone in the office commented on it. As sure as it was likely to rain in Scotland’s capital city where they worked, you could guarantee Jack would be bright eyed and bushy tailed first thing in the morning.

“Well?” Jack prodded at Sam’s shoulders as he trudged from the kitchen to his desk. “Well??” he repeated. Sam, concentrating on the task of not spilling his coffee during the walk, ignored him and slumped down into his chair. He unlocked his computer and turned to look at Jack. “What are you saying pal?” he asked.

“Wellllll???” asked Jack, a giant smile on his face and jazz hands shaking directly in front of Sam’s tired eyes. “Did you watch the game last night? It was amazing! What a masterclass from Messi eh?”

Football had been Jack and Sam’s common interest when they’d both started together at the company on the same day. It was an easy conversation piece to break the ice and as much as Sam enjoyed watching games when he was younger, in recent years he’d fallen out of love with football.

The outrageous sums of money shelled out by British clubs who were predominantly owned by Russian oil barons and Saudi Prince’s to kick a ball about had left him soured. In a world where his newborn child’s children may not even have a planet to live on, he couldn’t swallow watching talentless athletes being paid £100k a week to flop and roll about on the floor feigning injury in an attempt to con their way to a victory.

If Sam had a fiver for every time he had been asked this question by Jack – “did you watch the game last night?” – he’d have been able to pay to take Harry and Holly to Disneyland for his 1st birthday.

Whenever he was asked about the game which had been on the previous night, Sam had politely feigned interest with enough vague knowledge of some of the players Jack was enthusing about to hold a convincing conversation. After 10 minutes of an expletive filled rant from Jack about the influence of Italian defending on the Chelsea back line, Sam would nod, shrug his shoulders and turn back to his computer. This, he had learned, would signal to Jack that the conversation was over and he’d bound across the office starting up the same conversation with whatever poor soul was stupid enough to make eye contact with him. He was like an energetic puppy. But even the cutest of puppies urinate on carpets and tear apart your brand new sofa.

They had been going through the motions of this conversation about ‘the game’ for 18 months now.

“I’m saying” replied Jack in a mocking tone “did you see the game? You must have surely?”

“Do you know me and Holly had a kid 8 weeks ago mate?” replied Sam.

Jack looked at him blankly. “Uh, yeah. Enough about babies though! That’s women’s chat!” he laughed. “Did you watch the footy last night?” He shrugged off Sams question and pursued his opportunity to wax lyrical about Argentina’s greatest gift to the beautiful game since Diego Maradona.

“No mate. I was in my bed by 8 o clock. Holly stayed up to do the late feed and then I was up again at 2am to feed Harry. I didn’t get back to bed until 5am so I’m really quite knackered. Do you mind if I just crack on here? I’ve got things to do and I really need this coffee.”

“You didn’t watch the game?” Jack said, his face contorted in disgust. “It was the Champions League semi finals, how could you not have watched it?” he was incredulous. It was as if Sam had said he’d went into town and beaten up a few homeless people then burned down an old folks home for good measure. Jack took a minute to let this information sink into his hyperactive brain.

“Sam” asked Jack sheepishly. “Yes, mate” Sam replied without looking up from his computer. “Did you really watch the game or are you having me on?”

Sam’s heart thumped in his chest as his blood bubbled to boiling point . His sleep deprived brain sent adrenaline flushing throughout his body. Jacks mouth gaped wide open as Sam’s mouse disintegrated in his bright red hand. He flopped back in his chair before Sam grabbed him by the badge-covered lapels of his jacket and screamed in his terrified face. “I. DIDN’T. WATCH. THE GAME. YOU. IMBECILE” he raged. “I’M TIRED AND JUST WANT SOME PEACE. PLEASE JUST SHUT YOUR MOUTH!!”

He threw Jack back down into his seat and stormed off to the kitchen area. Breathing hard, he filled his coffee cup, slowly coming to the realisation of what he’d just done. Four of his colleagues popped their head round the kitchen door to ask if he was OK and to congratulate him on finally shutting Jack up. He assured them he was fine and just needed five minutes. He wasn’t proud of himself for losing his cool and felt bad for Jack, who just wanted someone to chat to. He shuffled back round to his desk with the intention of apologising.

“Listen Jack” started Sam in a low voice, his head dipped in regret “I’m really sorry about that, I’m not sleeping well since..”

“It’s fine!” interrupted Jack, puppy-like excitement had returned to his face and he was smiling erratically at Sam. “Did you watch the game though? You must have!”

By the time the twinkling shards of glass from the 3rd floor window had stopped raining down around Jack’s lifeless body which lay contorted, leaking pools of scarlet on the car park below, Sam was in his car and already out of the office car park. He opened his window and flicked on the radio, allowing the breeze to cool his adrenaline sapped face.

“This is BBC Radio 5 Live.” said the soothing voice of the radio presenter. “So, Maureen, before I ask you about what weather we’ve got coming this weekend, I have to ask you…” “NO!” screamed Sam. “DON’T YOU DARE!!” he shrieked.

“….did you watch the game last night?”

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