Another Scene from “The Churning”

Alas, here’s another chunk from the book which didn’t make the cut. What it lacks tension-wise compared to Arman Hessabi meeting Periconi in the other cut chapter, it makes up for by showing a whole different side of Hessabi. Oh well. Enjoy!


One Thursday night I could’ve been be out with Wilson and Lopez and the boys, not sitting in my apartment. But Mia said she needed to come over, since she was jammed all weekend. A paper or something. I had a game with the Fire, so it was better to have my head in this house-keeping stuff at the moment.

Mia was Joshunda’s friend, recommended because I was new to life on my own. Not knowing how to pay bills and organize a desk and stuff, that’s what I got for living at home while I was in college.

This was the third or fourth time Mia had come over, and I wasn’t sure how much I liked this arrangement. We’d had a big laugh once we found out that our identities were confirmed. She’d remembered my name from grade school in Bellevue, and she said my face hadn’t changed a bit. But then it was a little strange to have her working for me, organizing my life because my soccer-accounting student-café-help lifestyle hadn’t taught me how to do it, yet.

Once again, she wore grey sweatpants and Nikes and her blue hoody, on her way to the gym. She had some size to her—glad she doesn’t wear biker shorts—but it wouldn’t surprise me if she exercised a lot. She said she almost made the basketball team at Illinois.

When she arrived at seven, I asked if she’d gotten dinner. It seemed like the polite thing to do. She’d had a Lean Cuisine and a Clif bar on the way over. Apparently, she didn’t have a lot of free time. She was cheery, but her voice was always a little loud. Like she’d spent a lot of time with senior citizens or kids or something. The way I remembered from Ms. Higgins’ class.

So, Wilson and the boys were down at Micah’s Grille, surrounded by women in heels, and I was stuck in my boring Harlem Ave. flat with Mia.

I dribbled a foam ball around the hallway and juggled it. Mia was sitting at my desk, working on bills.

“So, do you do anything besides soccer?”

“I go out,” I told her.

“I’ll bet you do,” she said, laughter sneaking into her voice.

She kept working and clicking for a few minutes while I did pull-backs.

“Okay,” she started, adjusting her glasses. “All your fan emails are slotted into that folder.”

“You don’t want to answer them for me, do you?”

“Ha,” she said. “Two hundred forty of ’em? No, you can do it.”

I rolled my eyes when she couldn’t see. Kamran would crack up if he knew I had a large, type-A Latina girl running my life. She’d already showed me how to organize the fridge and the pantry—breakfast on the left and top, lunch in the middle, dinner on the right and bottom. That was actually kind of fun, since the way my parents organized supplies at the café made no sense whatsoever. The last time she was here, we assembled a Target-bought desk and organized it the only way it should be done. Now she had my checkbook out. Time for bills.

“Sixteen hundred for rent, yikes! This city. And . . . you’re paying one ninety-five sixty-three for cable and Internet? What the hell for?”

“The extra channels, I guess. I like to watch games from abroad. Premier League and stuff.”

“Way too much money,” she said, disgusted. “Do it on your laptop—you’re paying for it already. But, okay, we write out the check for one ninety-six, sign that, get it ready to mail.” She saw my look. “The cable company doesn’t mind if you overpay your bill by thirty-seven cents, and neither should you. On the ledger, we deduct two hundred from your account for that check. You got four singles?”

I took my wallet from the bowl on the kitchen counter, following orders.

Mia pointed to a desk jar that she’d labeled “Charity.” “Put it in there. You got a church or mosque? Homeless puppies? Favorite charity? You need to contribute. Loose change and some singles in there, try to do it every day. Don’t save ’em for the strippers,” she added.

What was I supposed to say to that?

God, she was like a bossy older sister. Except I was paying her four hundred a month, plus any expenses I needed to cover. For groceries, I’d give her two hundred in cash. She’d bring back the change, but a lot of that went into the charity jar.

“Okay, cable’s done. Power, rent, water bill, Mia’s done. Any big purchases coming up? You’re not going to do something stupid like buy a new car or a boat, right?”

In my second season, with Rookie of the Year and the Golden Boot awards on my resume, Rory had re-negotiated my contract. I was now pulling down $47,000 a month, numbers I liked.

“Well,” I told her, “I was thinking about a car. The Corolla’s not very stylish, you know.”

“It’s a two thousand eight?”

“Two thousand six.”

“And it runs well?”

“Yeah, no problems yet.”

“Then hang on to the car. If you don’t, some dealer is going to spot you a mile away. Before you know it, you’ll be riding around in a seventy-thousand-dollar Audi.”

I gave her a look.

“Trust me, it happens,” she said. “If you want to blow your money, hey, I can help you figure out better ways to do it.”

I sighed and returned to my juggling.

“Good! You have, wow, almost forty-one thousand in your checking account, where it’s not doing you any good. Time to send some money to your lady, Penelope.”

“Sure, sure.”

“This is her? Penelope Minor, three eighty-seven West Galer Street, Seattle?”

“Yeah. An old friend of the family. She’s got a little office upstairs from a doughnut place.”

“Cool. So, how about thirty thousand? What do you need more than ten in your checking account for?”

I threw up my hands. “Going out money?”

“Ten thousand? To go out? Come on, think like a student!”

I wasn’t a student. I didn’t have to think like one, finally! I could splurge. The money was rolling in. I went from the league-minimum forty-two thousand my first year to a sweet five hundred sixty thousand my second year. Monthly direct deposit: Forty-seven grand. My parents were thrilled, but they wouldn’t retire. Penelope Minor, the family accountant and financial planner, was also very happy, as this could be the vehicle for buying commercial property (Dad’s idea).

At the moment, the idea of our family’s financial planner (who’d done it for almost nothing for years) walking into the café and sharing the good savings news with my mother was suddenly appealing. Little Arman’s not blowing his (hard-earned) money on nothing. So I didn’t argue with Mia.

“Okay, so? I can send Penelope an email and let her know it’s coming? Good. Your mother will be impressed, too. I get the feeling she’s very good at saving money. My dad used to bury jam jars of cash in the backyard.”

“You’re fucking with me.”

“No, no,” she laughed. “I’m serious. He still doesn’t trust banks. Of course, with all that bullshit in oh-eight, who can blame him?”

She typed in a couple more things while I watched her. She was very efficient. Attractive, too, in her own way. A soft but pretty face and nice skin, almost caramel-colored. Too much sun, she said. Her hair was that great copper-brownish blonde that I’d seen on a lot of hot women in Chicago. Something Persians are simply incapable of. It was straight and she had it pulled back.

Now, in the light of the desk lamp, she seemed strangely beautiful to me.

She put away my checkbook and ledger book—good practice for me—and tidied up the desk.

“You’re pretty good,” I told her.

“Thanks. It’s what you’re paying me for. Besides, I have to be. With school and work, I’ve got to have everything in order. No time for disarray.”

Was she working full-time outside of my time? I couldn’t remember.

“Are you good on groceries?”

“Yeah, I think so.”

She leaned back and monkeyed with her ponytail. “I watched your game last night, by the way. You played pretty well.”

“Yeah, thanks. But I didn’t score, and we lost.”

“Can’t win ’em all,” she said. “Of course, my boyfriend was happy. He’s a DC United fan.”

“Oh.” I felt deflated suddenly. It wasn’t because we lost the game, or that her boyfriend was rooting for the other guys.


“Look at this,” she said, quickly scrolling through her phone. She showed me a picture of colorful mosaic art. It was impressive.


“Yeah, isn’t that cool? Kenichi did that for me! I couldn’t believe it. Isn’t that nice of him? It must’ve taken a long time. He’s only going to deliver it by hand, he won’t send it.” She monkeyed with her hair some more. “Speaking of,” she said, “he’s coming out to see me next month. If his new boss cooperates. Even though he doesn’t follow the Fire, I’m sure he’d die to meet you, a hotshot professional and all. What do you think about that? He’s really nice.”

“Uh, yeah, no sweat,” I told her. “We can, uh, go get a beer.”


Mia stood up and tidied the CD cases and magazines on the coffee table.

Briefly, I wondered what it would be like if we were seated on my couch, f—–g. How would her face look, taking off her sweatshirt and bra? Did she smile when she was aroused?

She said goodnight and was out the door, leaving my apartment empty and silent.

For a while, I sat staring at a magazine-page image of myself taking a shot. We were in wild uniforms that night – red-orange swirls on a silver background, socks with logos to match. It was a charity thing. I scored two, though neither was from this particular image. In the picture, coming across a Dallas defender, my face was almost distorted with speed. The cameraman didn’t use the right exposure speed, as they say. The most in-focus part of me was my leg, about to crush the ball. No, mouth open and lips puckered, the face didn’t really look like mine.

The red-orange was what Mom would call a garish color. (Eighteen months later, my Culverhouse kits would have almost the same orange hue.) The breast number was wrinkled with action, but I could still tell it was a black ‘10’.

I don’t know how long I stared at the image. I didn’t feel like going out then. I figured I’d just find some Premier League highlights. Goofing off with the Xbox and watching a how-to on mosaics on YouTube, I started to wonder why I was jealous of a guy named Kenichi.


Orange CC Sentries jersey with black 10.

Arman Hessabi’s jersey would be similar. Go Sentries!

The updated Booktrope version of “The Churning” will be available soon.

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