The following scene was cut (from Ch. 13) of “The Churning.” I really enjoyed working on it, I thought I set it up well and got the character interactions right…but my editor said it slowed the story down. Rats!
Here, hero Arman Hessabi finally (after months) gets grilled by his Italian manager (a Serie A star) and gets to play a game for his (fictional) EPL squad, Culverhouse Crossing. His trainer/nemesis is Scott Durocher, who goes by Drosh. Andrews and Julian are teammates, Hessabi’s chums. Pierre Anstow is an alternate name for a one-time soccer star I will not identify.
Hessabi is Persian-American, having been raised in Tehran and Seattle, so there’s a little Farsi (Persian) in here. Warning: foul language.
“Take your time, Wiz,” Drosh said one night as I followed Mourinho and Bromley into the locker room after practice. There wasn’t much chit-chat. Everyone was tired—drills, drills, drills. Probably five miles’ worth of gassers, long balls, feint-and-cuts. I was pair of legs with a head attached to keep them going. That one drill, though, where we lofted thirty-yard passes into goal-side barrels—that was fun. Drosh said he had fifty quid for whoever got the most in. Andrews, the bastard. Already rich.
The others left, so I was alone, sitting in my locker and putting on socks, when he walked in—Periconi. Like always, he was in a suit and looked more like a corporate lawyer than football coach. Maybe it was the short hair, the intentional lack of flair. Like always, he looked steamed. The man was never happy. For some reason, I wasn’t making it any better.
What was this all about?
He came and stood over me for a bit, with his foot up on the neighboring locker. He leaned forwards and fixed his gaze on one of Julian’s photos, but not on me.
I paused and waited.
“Do you see these shoes, Wizard?”
They were refined, black leather loafers, shiny and rigid.
“They are Cucinelli. Eight hundred euros. They are not even that comfortable. I hate them.” He paused. “I wear them because I’m Italian. I am a Premier League coach. Manager. When I’m not managing you boys, I have to meet with Lloyds of London and go to lunch at the mayor’s place. Or step in front of the press cameras. Again.”
“Oh, okay.” Tired as hell, I wasn’t sure what else to say.
He cracked a little smile. “Sarcasm, good.” He still hadn’t looked at me. “This was Rob’s decision, not mine. His doing. I wanted to send you to Risabbi. Let him deal with you. Understand?”
Rob Smythe was the team owner, a real-estate magnate. I’d heard of Risabbi—a Pakistani-born assistant coach at Newcastle. From stories I’d heard, he and I would’ve gotten on like oil and water, worse than me and Drosh. Periconi knew it—I could tell.
I nodded, gritting my teeth.
“No, I don’t think you do.”
“I was on the eighty-eight and ninety-two squads,” he said. “One hundred fifteen goals for Inter Milan. This is my stop. Sheffield and Toulouse wanted me, too. I chose a rising star. Do you know why it is that I tell you these things? No, of course not.”
Where the hell was he going with this?
“You are a mystery and I don’t like mystery.” He looked down at me finally. Those intense eyes found me like a disappointment in his soup.
“What I’d like to know is if I have made a mistake. Are you a product that is going to wash up? Flunk? Another Pierre Anstow? All hype and flashbulbs, nothing to show for it? That’s what I think. You are a mistake. Until I see otherwise, that’s what you are. A big gamble that’s going to bite us all in the ass. Is this the case?”
His tie—scarlet and silver—was just inches from my shoulder. I could’ve grabbed it and yanked it, sent him face-first into the wood backing of Julian’s locker. Right there—I could’ve done it!
My father’s face and voice burst into my head. “Nah nah nah, Pesaram!”
I slid my right hand under my leg, fighting temptation. My father’s voice said it was all a test, that Periconi was just trying to piss me off.
‘Do I deserve this? Constantly being tested by assholes,’ I wondered.
“I am not a mistake,” I said. “You’ll see.”
He looked hard at me. “Will I?”
He stood up straight and put his hands on his hips. His man-in-charge stance. Seen that before. “No Muslim bullshit. Absolutely none! I don’t want even a whiff of it. Is that clear?”
Where did that come from?
I’m Persian, from that area, but . . .
I fought a smile. His bigotry wasn’t amusing—certainly not from a Catholic—but he apparently hadn’t done his homework. We had friends and family who were practicing Muslims, but it wasn’t for the Hessabis.
“Sir. I am secular. I haven’t prayed on a carpet since I was fourteen, I promise you.”
He looked at me with skepticism. I returned to straightening my sock.
“Tomorrow, we have Cardiff. They are nothing. Schoolchildren. You sub in for Felix at halftime. You will be a fireball out there, capiche?”
My eyes flew wide. I was going in at left wing for a half. I was getting in.
“If I don’t see some of the real Wizard, you will spend your career in a dry uniform on the bench. That is it.”
He walked out.
My chest prickled with heat in the silence. A long time passed before I moved again, my right toes entering a stark-white cotton tube. My hands trembled.
On my way out, Drosh met me in the hallway. Knower of everything. He put a hand on my chest—not hard, but serious.
“Get a haircut tomorrow. Be invisible. Talk with your feet, eh?”
Outside, getting into my car, I got in the left side, the passenger side. Nobody was around to pick up my blunder. The security guard was playing on his phone. Still, I looked in the rear-view mirror. My hair wasn’t even that long. A bit stylish, I thought.
The next day, I got my haircut—and paced my flat, counting the minutes until eleven-thirty departure.
Could I be a fireball out there?
Obviously, Hessabi would wear some pricier boots than these, but you get the gist.
copyright 2015 by Justin Edison