1-04: The Business of the Game

I was at home when my phone rang.  It was my agent, David Trent. He was always trying to get me to sign for these endorsement deals.  Having spent the last 4 years of my life devoted to Brindleton Bay Llamacorns, all I wanted to do is just play and go home.  I didn’t want to get into all these endorsements, but the money was too good to pass up. So I answered his call.

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“Serg, I’ve got news for you,” he said excitedly.  “San Myshuno FC just made an offer.”

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“San Myshuno?  I don’t want to leave Brindleton, David….” he cut me off as I started to explain.

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“I’m coming over.  We have to talk about this.

 

About an hour later he arrived and we sat down to talk over this offer from San Myshuno.

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“Look, they’re offering you twice what you’re making here, Serg.  It’s the big leagues, man. No more of this 2nd division crap.” he said.

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“But, I like it here,” I said.

“Yeah, but you have two kids and kids are expensive.  That, plus I can get you a sweet deal on a nice penthouse in the City.  Look, I’m not asking you to make a decision right this minute, but I’ve set up a meeting with Coach Pantusso tomorrow.  Let’s talk to him about it. This is how you find out what you mean to the team. If he shrugs it off or seems to let you walk, then you know.  If he comes back with a counter offer, then you know where you stand as well. No harm, no foul. Just let me handle everything.”

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So I agreed.  

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“Gentlemen,” the coach said.  “Thanks for coming.”

 

“It’s my pleasure,” David said as he shook coach’s hand.  

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“Sergio,” the coach said, “you’ve been here for 4 years and you’re our best player.  I’ll make this simple: we want you to stay. You’re on 45,000 a week. We can offer to boost that to 74,000 a week.  It’s not what San Myshuno is offering, but that’s the best we can do. We are, after all, only in the 2nd division. We don’t have the kind of money they do.”

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“That’s not bad,” I said to David.

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“Well,’ David said, “I will have to talk with Sergio about the salary, but let’s move onto a signing bonus.  As you know, San Myshuno is offering 200,000 signing bonus on a 4-year contract.”

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“I do,” the coach said.  “And the Board has authorized me to offer sergio 100,000 on a 3-year contract.”

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“Less money, fewer years,” David said.  “I understand, though. Loyalty is hard to find in this business.  The Board wants a loyal player and the players want a team loyal to them.  You have been very supporting with Sergio’s young career and I believe Sergio is grateful for all that support.”

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“It is,” the coach replied.  “But the board isn’t prepared to go any higher on the deal.  I’d hate to lose you, Sergio, I really would.”

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I sighed, “But, you did just resigned Kemp on a deal almost exactly like San Myshuno is offering me.  I mean, if we’re talking about loyalty, seems to me that if you offer that kind of a deal to a guy who only plays half the time I do, there should be something else in there for me considering that I play 90 minutes almost every single game.”

 

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“Well, that’s certainly something we considered, but, I mean, Sergio, you’re 22.  You’re not proven at the higher levels. You do a great job, but if we’re being honest here, I’ve seen guys like you before.  You start of strong, get the big deal, then after signing the big deal your production falls off and mistakes dominate your game.  I think I can safely say this is what Brindleton Bay Llamacorns are willing to pay for a player like you.”

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“Like me?” I huffed, “I work my ass off for you.  I am the first guy on the pitch to train and the last to leave.  I’m the guy you call on when you need another goal to tie it up or take the lead.  I mean, I’m only asking to be paid what I’m worth. Hell, other teams like Oasis Springs and Willow Creek are paying more than you are for players like me.”

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“And they’re all mortgaging their future to find a way to gain promotion.  We’re just not prepared to do that.” Coach replied

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“Then I should consider my future,” I said angrily.  “If I’m not good enough for you, if I’m not worth what other players are in my position, then maybe…. Maybe I should sign with San Myshuno.”

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David tried to calm me down, but my mind was made up at that point.  “Look, Serg,” David said, “this isn’t going to solve anything.”

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“Coach, I’m sorry, but I can’t accept your offer.” I said.  “I’m going to sign with San Myshuno.”

1-03: Redheaded Angel

I have no idea what I’m doing.  A few months ago, I thought I had my life preplanned and figured out.  Now, one night of passion and I’m suddenly a father of twins. Who the hell knows where Becky went.  Her cell phone is cut off and she could be in New York or LA or fucking Siberia for all I know. Who does this?  Who just leaves their two kids on someone’s doorstep?

 

And why did she pick Diego and Antonio?  I mean, yeah they’re fine names, but they’re the equivalent of calling your children Anthony and James.  I would’ve pushed for something more unique, but here we are, I guess. These two little babies that want nothing to do more than sleep all day and keep me awake all night.  When it feels like it’s getting annoying or I can’t handle it, I look into their eyes and something stirs in the pit of my soul and it stops being a chore and just becomes…. Joy.

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I didn’t know that they’d already have their own personalities so early.  Diego seems to be attracted to anything that’s red while Antonio seems to just stick with blue things.  Diego’s quiet and doesn’t fuss much, Antonio is just a chatterbox who is always wanting attention. So little, so young, and yet so very different already.  

 

I can already see myself in them, but I also see Becky.  They both have her green eyes. They have my skin tone, mostly.  I just hope neither of them have her mentality.  I’m gonna have to teach them to finish what they start, to always make the right decision, to always own up to their responsibilities no matter what.  

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Fuck, it pisses me off she just dumped them and left.  How could she?! I hold them in my arms and it’s….it’s like I’m instantly addicted to them.  They coo and babble and I just melt. I feel their little heartbeats next to mine and I’m blown away by it all.  They’re so little. They’re so gentle. They’re so helpless. And they have me tied around their little fingers already.  

 

But it’s also really taxing, too.  Between work and training, the boys what what they want when they want it… I’m just all over the place and I’m definitely not getting enough sleep.  

 

After hiring a sitter, I went down to the Paw and sat at the bar.  I had a root beer float and started chatting with the bartender. Found out her name is Nina Caliente.  She’s a nice lady. She gave me another float on the house because she said that I looked tired. Then after her early shift, she talked with me outside.

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“What those two boys need is a mother,” Nina said.  “What about their real mother?”

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I just sighed heavily and she nodded.

 

“Some people just ain’t built for it,” she said.  “You look like you could handle it, though.”

 

“I’m trying, but I wasn’t ready for twins,” I said.  “One would’ve been hard enough to raise alone, but two?  They both want something at the same time, but one wants the bottle while the other wants attention and I try to do what I can, but I feel that I’m….. not enough.”

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 Look, you’re going to be enough for those boys, you’ll see, sugar.  You’re never gonna feel like you’re enough. My mama taught me that. But, I can tell you that you will be. You will be their world, Sergio.  And they will love you for it forever…. Even if they seem to give you a hard time about it like me and my sister did to our mama. Boy, I could tell you some stories.”

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I chuckled slightly, “Hey, you wanna see a picture?”

“Sure, sugar,” Nina said.

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I took out my phone and showed her.  Suddenly there came this high-pitched squeal from her that I didn’t think any human could make.

 

“Well I’ll be golldanged, Sergio.  Those are some cute kids you got there?  What’s their names again?”

 

“That’s Diego,” I said.  “And that’s Antonio.” As I said those words, I could feel the smile on my lips pushing as far wide as it could go and still trying to spread further.

 

“I’ll give ya my number and if you need a night off or just want some help, you give me a call, sugar,” Nina said.  “Since my sister got up with Don Lothario, I’m just all kinds of trying to get out of that house. He’s kind of a pig.  Anyway, that’s none of your concern.”

 

“I… I can’t impose like that, Nina,” I said.

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“Impose?” She said, “Well, I wouldn’t have offered if I didn’t wanna.  Now you just take my number down and give me a call and I’ll come over and help ya if you need it.  Nina Caliente is on the case, sugar!”

 

She sure was in a hurry to meet the boys.  She called me the next day asking to see the kids.  I kept them in my room, so I showed her upstairs and the first thing she did was take Antonio and give him a bottle, then did the same for Diego.  She even changed dirty diapers. She was a red-headed angel helping me out. I guess from her own experience, she was familiar with the stress a single parent can have and just felt sorry for this poor guy who was in way over his head.

“Like I said, sugar, anytime!” Nina said.

 

As the days went on, she came over a few times to help out while I needed to train for the team or go to the store.  She didn’t seem to mind at all. In fact, it was kind of nice having her around helping. I watched her with the boys and she seemed just like a natural.  And, I don’t know how or why I began to think about this, but I got the feeling like I should ask her out. There was just something about watching her with Diego and Antonio that became a real turn on for me.  Like if I had met her first, these’d be her kids and not, well, Becky’s.

 

I built up the courage to ask her out, but I balked a couple of times until she stopped me after feeding the kids and sat me down on the bed.

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“Sergio,” Nina said, “you look like you wanna ask me something, so go ahead.  Just ask me.”

 

I gulped.  I was nervous.  I couldn’t even find the right words, so I just kind of blurted it out, “Nina, I watch you with the boys and I see you all the time and I was wondering if, maybe, you’d like to, I don’t know….but, you know…”

“Are you asking me out, sugar?” Nina said.

 

“Um… yeah,” I said sheepishly.

 

“I never thought you’d ask.  Sure, we’ll give it a try.” Nina said.

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I wasn’t sure about the words “give it a try,” but I guess that’s better than a no.  So we went out. And it went well. Very well, actually.

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Chapter 1-02: A New Reality

Becky came over to spend the night again.  We fooled around and wound up back in the bedroom rehashing old times.  It was in the morning during breakfast that she hit me with the news that she was pregnant.  I was pretty upset in that moment and I just reacted.

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“What do you mean you’re pregnant,” I said.

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“Well, what do you think I mean,” she said.  “Apparently, it happened.  Now what?”

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“Now what?  Now what?  I’ll tell you what, Becky, you tried to make this happen in high school, but I didn’t fall for it.  Now, you just appear out of nowhere, come back into my life, and now you’re pregnant.  It’s what you’ve been trying to do forever, Becky.  Trying to lock down a guy by getting pregnant.  I swear to Christ!  You told me you were taking birth control!!”

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“I am taking birth control.  But, why is this my fault?  You were there too, right?  I don’t remember you worrying about this when you took me upstairs to your room.  It takes two people to make a kid.  And I haven’t been trying to “lock down” anyone.  You’re an ass, you know that?  I don’t why I ever thought it would be a good idea to come back and see you again,” Becky said in a huff.

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“Neither do I!” I said as I walked out of the room.

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Later that day, I sat her down in the reading room and tried to apologize for flying off the handle.  I was wrong.  I was completely wrong.  Whatever happens from here on out, I have to just man up and be the best father I can to the kid.

But the conversation didn’t go too well.  In fact, she went off.

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“You think I want to be pregnant?  Hell no, Sergio.  I don’t even know what to do!  I’m not ready for this” She screamed.

“I didn’t plan on this either, Becky,” I said.

“And I thought you, of all people, would actually fucking care,” she said.

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“I do care!  What the hell are you on about?  I care a lot!  It’s my kid, too, you know.  You’re not in this alone,” I said trying to calm the argument down.

She seemed to get happier after that.  At least she stopped arguing at any rate.  Then she left.  And I didn’t see her again.  No phone calls…

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…no texts, no emails.  Just me wandering around home and work worried about her and the child.

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Everything I did reminded me of the fact she was carrying my child.  Our child.  A child that I helped make.  Whatever it should be called.

A few months later I came home from work and found this….

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What the hell?  There was a note pinned to the crib.

I can’t do this.  I’m not ready for kids.  I’m moving back to New York.  Meet your sons Diego and Antonio. Take care of them – Becky.

There’s two?  Oh shit, now what?

What the hell am I going to do with two kids?

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Mom?  Dad?  If you can hear me from wherever you’re at, tell me how to do this.

The Old Flame

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I bought a house in Brindleton Bay.  It was a big house.  The kind of house I’d have bought for mom and dad to come live with me.  Maybe it’s a bit much with its five bedrooms, but you never know where life’ll take you, I guess.

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I spent the first few days just doing my normal routine.  Working out…

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…doing chores…

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…and watching B movies.  It wasn’t the most exciting life, but sometimes the best thing you can hope for is simple and quiet.  Things get very complicated the more noise you have going on around you.  Better to just relax and take a load off.

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Major-league relaxing.  After graduating and moving and all the emotions that were swarming over me having finally moved to Brindleton Bay, I just needed to get myself into a zone; some place where I was at peace and relaxed.  And I tried everything…

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…everything.

It was hard to relax, though.  Winter was in full swing and before I even felt at home in the new place, Winterfest and rolled in and I was not prepared for it.  I woke up Winterfest morning and all the memories of mom and dad and opening presents and big dinners just filled my thoughts.

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So I decided to dedicate my time to decorating for the holiday.  Though, to be honest, I should have decorated the day before.  A blizzard was moving in and man was it cold outside.  Still, the house looks nice.  Dad would’ve been proud.  He would’ve been standing at the edge of the drive way says, “Ah, sonny boy.  You made the house look good.  No doubt learned it after watchin’ your old man all these years.”

I decided to cook a grand meal….

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…and I ate it alone…

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I decided to hit up the Salty Paw to get out of the house and try to get some holiday cheer.  Cooking a big meal for only yourself was not what Winterfest should be about.

While down at the Salty Paw, I ran into none other than Father Winter himself….

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…we talked about the blizzard that was raging outside, then he started singing some Winterfest songs and we all joined in.  It was amazing.  It was just what I needed to bring my happiness up to a level I hadn’t had in a long time.  Then he called me over to the side…

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“Sergio,” he said in his cheery voice, “a little something from me to you.  Just a little present to wish you a very happy day.”

“Thanks!” I said with excitement as I opened it.  “A Crystal Clear Camera!  Aww YIBS!”

Then I decided it was time to go.  The weather was getting bad.  I didn’t want to get caught at a bar all night long with Father Winter and a ghost.

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The next day, I had a surprise visitor…

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…Becky Radnor.  She was the girl I lost my virginity to in high school.  She was a cheerleader and I was on the soccer team.  One day after the Homecoming Game, we had a little too much to drink and, well, let me just say that a little WooHoo in a bush is uncomfortable but exciting.

We’d lost touch after we graduated.  She went off to New York to study art while I hung around here.  I heard she was dating some businessman from Manhattan, but that ended after he decided that he preferred foreign brides to local ones.  She left New York and last I heard she had moved out to the West Coast.  I never expected to see her again, let alone knocking at my front door at 8 in the morning.

We went down to the Salty Paw to hang out and we talked about old time and how she’d decided to come back home because she needed to get back to her roots.  She told me that she needed to be able to find herself again.  I have no idea what she was looking to find by coming back to this part of the world, but I hope she finds it.  She’s a good girl even though she’s also been a little flighty.

After the Paw, we went back to my place.  And I don’t know what happened.  Maybe it was the drinks….

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…but it felt like old times again.  There was a connection.  Like two people who were supposed to be in each other’s lives in this moment.  No idea why I got that feeling….

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….but to say that we hit it off didn’t, in the least, begin to describe what was happening…

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… and it happened quickly.  It was intense.  It was overpowering….

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…it was amazing….

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..and… oh shit.