This is the 17th in a series of 365 Flash Fiction stories I’m writing from 2nd December 2012 until the 1st December 2013. It’s intent is to keep me writing throughout the year, and not just in November. you can find out more about the challenge here.
Stitched Up, by Jonathan L. Lawrence, 18th December 2012
Word count: 1,000
Theme: sport, the one, hero, rugby league, dreams
“You’re in the big leagues now son,” coach Gilbert was saying.
“Thank you, thank you, I won’t let you down!” replied the young man by the name of Lee Brignall gushed. He’d just been told he was going to be in the starting line up for this Saturday’s match against the Warriors. It was a dream come true for the young Leeds Rhino.
Prop forward in a Super League XXV game, against the defending champions. He knew this was his big break, so he trained solidly for two days, before Gregory Matthews, current Captain of the Rhinos pulled him to one side.
“You need to take it easy. You’ve got a great work ethic, but save some for the game. We don’t want you injured or exhausted do we?”
Lee Bruce took it to heart and reigned himself in, he followed his training schedule and socialised better with the team.
“Sure the kid’s going to be alright?” Matthews asked away from prying ears.
“He’s got talent, just needs discipline,” Gilbert said. “He’s got something the crowd will love, an eagerness. He’ll help us win back the crowds again, and we need them.”
“The plan is simple,” coach Gilbert said, “Tie up the forwards, go for the breaks. Watch out for a bum rush at the restarts.”
Then it was all a blur to Lee, he was on the pitch suddenly, the referee blew the whistle, and Matthews kicked the ball far and forward and the chase was on.
Lee raced as fast as his legs could carry him. Right in front of him a Wigan Warrior had just scooped up the ball. Lee, launched himself forward, barrelling the Warrior to the ground, as team mates piled in to help hold the big full back.
“First!” called the referee, and it was time to climb off and let the Warrior to shake off the impact as he played the ball.
The first half flashed by, it was a fast moving game, but neither side’s defence was willing to leak those vital points. By half time, the scores were five for the Warriors and four for the Rhinos, all from penalties and a drop goal.
Lee had tried his hardest, and tackled well he felt. He’d also felt the bone jarring force of tackles himself when he had the ball. Training was hard, but this was harder by far.
“We’re holding our own, and that’s good,” the coach was saying suddenly breaking the young forwards reflection. “But do we want to play safe and lose by a point? Do we want to be known as lucky for winning by a point?”
No one moved, no one dared say anything.
“Now is the time I’m going to need your best, rally the crowd, move the ball, give them reason to wake up, then beat them.”
Everyone cheered briefly.
Coach Gilbert seemed almost General Gilbert now to Lee, he had plans, and positions, everyone knew their orders. Everyone was encouraged to go for glory, the fans wanted the Rhinos to score.
He sent everyone but Lee out, “You’re playing a good game out there, and the crowd love your enthusiasm. I need you to play on it?”
Lee asked how.
“When you go out there, let them see how excited you are, thank the crowd, it’s because of them we’re all here. Win them over again, and when the time comes don’t hesitate, go for it. Trust me there’s no feeling like it. Understood?”
“Yes, sir,” Lee tried for enthusiasm.
“Good. I’m envious of the opportunity you have, so go and enjoy it.”
Lee didn’t plan what he did next, but the affect was significant. The crowd quieted for a second after, then went wild. Lee on pure impulse had cartwheeled onto the pitch, it wasn’t perfect but it was clear to everyone watching. Then the crowd erupted into cheers, and laughter even the Warrior’s home fans. Lee, could only think to bow and wave to the visiting Rhinos fans, and then bowed his head to the home fans. The cheers washed over him.
“Well that won them over,” Matthews said putting his arm round the young man’s shoulders, we’d best get you a try, or there might be riots.”
Lee’s face flushed. “I got carried away, coach said to show them how excited I was.”
“Well you’ve achieved that, come on get in position.”
The second half started like the first from Lee’s position, only this time they had the ball first. He received it on the third pass, and surged forward on tired legs but was nearly immediately floored by a high tackle.
Boos, and moans rang around the stadium.
Lee shook off the injury, and got in position for the penalty. Matthews opted to tap instead of kicking, they were on the half way mark. The ball was suddenly on its way back to Lee, he grabbed it out of the air, and ran like his life depended on it.
If there was a God of Rugby League he was with Lee and the Rhino’s.
A forward missed a challenge on Lee, leaving him to run twenty yards, sensing an incoming tackle Lee offloaded to the first Rhino’s shirt he saw. Lee kept up, and just as Matthews was getting ready to dive for the line, a Warrior reefed the ball out, and it landed on the floor invitingly.
This was the moment the coach mentioned, Lee would later realise. He didn’t let the coach down, he reached down and grabbed the ball, avoided the arms of the Warrior long enough to fall to the ground, clear over the line and under the sticks.
The crowd went wild. In that one instant, Lee was a hero.
Though the Rhino’s only won by three points in the end, it was the start of something great. Lee’s fifteen minutes of fame quietened for a while, but in time he won a regular place on the squad, in his second season earned his first Super League winners ring.
I’ll post my comments later, it deserves it, but I’m on a deadline – and I have to sleep at some point.