- BEND IT LIKE STEELE --part 1
Date: Thursday, 11 September, 2003
- From: "Ade" <email@example.com>
- Following the talk about David Beckam
last month,and in the midst of a very interesting discussion
on character and dialogue, here's another bit of fic.
- Thanks to Lauryn for the edits and
for providing the title.
Nancy, you may archive.
- Usual Desclaimers apply. This story
is a sort of prequel to All Steele at Dawn. It is split only
not to make the posts too lengthy, and its best read in HTML
- BEND IT LIKE STEELE
- By Adriana
- His chest heaving with exertion,
Fleco took a moment's rest tying up his shoelaces, undoing them,
and tying them up again. He needed a break badly and it was beginning
to show. But his team was down 1-2, and it was no time to let
his body get the better of him. Patting his brow dry with his
sleeve, Fleco took a couple of deep breaths, cleaning his lungs,
and chased after the ball.
- It was Sunday afternoon in Barracas,
South-east Buenos Aires, and the air smelled of football. And
of barbecue, even in the afternoon when the coals had turned
to ashes on the hundreds of half-oil barrel grills grills that
populated street corners, alleys and parks. The mesmerizing scent
of food still lingered, and more than few were tempted by yet
another choripan on their way to the stadium. And, why not, another
glass of wine to tune up the senses and sharpen the wit that
nurtured rhymes and songs.
- The finals were two weeks away,
with River Plate and Independiente sharing first place on the
table at thirty-three points each, and Boca Juniors one point
below that. Boca and River would clash the following week in
a superclasico that promised an exuberant match. Sadly, the derby
was nearly always a guarantee of trouble, Fleco knew, and these
days trouble was not exactly regarded with tolerance.
- Finishing up his right boot for
the second time, he sighed and looked around briefly. This was
nice. His friends were here, and yet none of that tense atmosphere
that seemed to surround them at college these days was present.
Universities, the military government claimed, were only a breeding
ground for montoneros, Marxists, and anarchists. Knowledge was
a dangerous thing, indeed, to those who flaunted their ideals
a bit too loudly. Fleco shut his eyes tight, clearing his mind
and shaking away the image of the two empty desks they had now
in his classroom. He stood up and focused on the match, because
none of that nonsense existed here. It was Sunday, he told himself
decisively. And there was nothing but the ball, the skill, and
the goal line.
- "Ojo a la derecha!" Fleco
heard someone say and raised his eyes to the sky. When the ball
landed by his left foot, he looked up. He analysed the field
in a millisecond, and with seemingly all the time in the world
and made a long pass. The ball reached his centre forward with
the precision of a guided missile, but the man's first touch
kick went wide on the right goal post. He'd been heavy on the
- "Shit!" Fleco muttered
to himself, heading back to the centre-circle.
- Another chance was lost and it was
getting dark fast. With his ID papers at home, he couldn't stay
out. They'd have to score soon if they wanted to win this match.
But it was late July and freezing cold, and between runny noses
and stiff toes the game was not much to look at, at least judging
by their one and only spectator.
- He was there again. And again he
stood, with his canvas bag and his thin sweater, with his thin
scarf around his neck, and his boxing gloves hanging over his
right shoulder. Again he remained silent and uninvolved, his
lean frame against the sun, as if the antics of the players in
front of him were invisible and inaudible. Why was he here?
- El Irlandés seemed to have
sensed the scrutiny and, if possible, withdrew even further behind
his scarf. He pressed his small transistor radio to his ear and
kept watching the game.
- Fleco cantered past him moments
later: "¿Cómo va?" - what's the score?
- "Uno- cero, gana Central,"
replied El Irlandés slowly. - Central wins, one- nil.
- Fleco frowned at the foreign accent,
nodded in thanks and ran off. Boca was loosing. Damn, and double
damn! Down in the midfield, Rolo and Nando, both on his team,
were ferociously fighting for possession of the ball with three
of the opposite side. They were dancing around them in tight
little circles, threading and weaving the ball between and around
their legs. Fleco flanked one of their midfielders, levelling
the numbers. Nando used the distraction to make a long pass to
the sweeper, who was just coming up on the right wing. But his
cross was too narrow, and sweeper not fast enough. The ball went
- "Boca scored on the counter-strike.
Game's even," El Iralndés informed Fleco in Spanish
as he retrieved the ball.
- "Yeah?" he asked, smiling
from ear to ear.
- Fleco threw in and gave the other
man a quick glance. He stood a bit taller than he, and was lanky
and thin. He didn't look like a boxer. Around Fleco's own age,
he had the same dark blue eyes and jet-black hair, but his skin
was milky white and not tanned like Fleco's from countless summers
spent at the beach. "Yanqui?" Fleco asked him.
- "No," El Irlandés
- Fleco nodded, waiting for more.
"You don't talk much, do you?" he asked at last.
- El Irlandés raised his eyebrows,
as if the thought had never occurred to him. "I don't know
that many words, yet" he said.
- And Fleco went back to the pitch.
- The following Sunday Fleco saw the
foreigner before the other man saw him. Canvas bag, gloves, and
radio by his ear, he was walking briskly down the park lane.
Fleco hung his clothes on the 'Do not step on the grass' sign
under which all grass had long ago been trampled into oblivion,
and stared at the man out of the corner of his eye. El Irlandés
slowed down, feeling eyes on him, and looked up at the intruder.
Fleco grimaced at the sight of a nasty black eye and a swollen,
cracked lower lip, and nodded a greeting. El Irlandés
mimicked the gesture and promptly resumed his former pace.
- Boca and River, the two giants of
Argentine football, born of the same seed but bitterly opposed
by history, would not start playing for another three hours.
A full hour went by before El Irlandés returned. It was
half time in the potrero at the park and Fleco's team was getting
a nice, all around beating. At Four-nil and showing no signs
of recovering, morale was low.
- Sitting on the ground, Fleco slapped
the dust off of his legs, a futile task that helped relieve some
of the frustration. He grabbed a bottle of water and rinsed his
hands and face before drinking. A pair of boxing gloves landed
beside him in the dirt, then a long fingered hand placed a radio
carefully on the ground.
- "You a boxer, then?" asked
Fleco, glancing up at El Irlandés.
- "You could say that."
- "How's that?" Fleco wanted
- "Are you a football player?"
- "Hell, no," Fleco replied,
laughing. "No, no, no," another short laugh, "But,
yes, I suppose I am."
- The foreigner shrugged, resting
- "I see what you mean,"
- A chilly squall blew on the trees
and from up there it spiralled down, making funny little swirls
with dry leaves and dust. Fleco closed his eyes to avoid getting
dirt in them, and pulled a thick woollen pullover over his head.
Clutching his knees to his chest, he chanced another look at
- "Aren't you cold?"
- El Irlandés looked down with
his good eye and said, "I'm used to it."
- "If you say so," Fleco
replied dubiously, and hugged his knees tighter for good measure.
Used to it. What was he, a polar bear?
- When another gust of wind hit him
on the back making his sweated skin turn to ice, Fleco turned
once more towards the foreigner to verify the man's words. Face
to the wind, his eyes shut and his hair combed back by the freezing
breeze, he almost seemed to be enjoying it. Crazy, Fleco thought.
But then again, he had always liked crazy. "We're going
to La Lucerna to watch the game later. They have a big television
set," he offered with a smile, "You want to come?"
- The eyes of El Irlandés flickered
with distrust. "I'll think about it."
- But El Irlandés did not come.
And Fleco knew he wouldn't because on his way over to the bar
he had seen him practicing a few moves in the park, shadow boxing
in the afternoon sun. He had jumped, ducked, evaded and punched
like a man possessed. And Fleco had noticed his feet were fast
and his waist clever. Even if he didn't know the first thing
about boxing, it had seemed to Fleco that after that day nobody
would be able to connect a punch with the foreigner again. And
not get what was coming to them.
- It was sometime later that Fleco
left a bar that still swelled with pride. Inside, dozens of throats
still sang somewhat atonally, of Boca's victory over its archrival.
The glow that escaped from the windows nearly made up for the
lack of public lighting on the street, but no one saw Fleco's
shadow disappear beyond a shut down flower kiosk. Nor did they
see him walk, with legs he wished were steadier, towards the
- His body clad in the blue and gold
of Boca Juniors, Fleco tightened his grip on a box of half cold,
leftover pizza and ploughed on. The silent park stared back him.
With a blinking, red traffic light it encouraged him onwards.
Further up, by the pitch black trees where he had seen him last,
Fleco found El Irlandés dozing on a bench. His head cradled
in the nook of his arm, protecting his face from the wind, he
did not look happy to be disturbed. Fleco sat on the opposite
side of the bench and placed the pizza in between them. Neither
man moved for a couple of minutes.
- "¿Quien ganó?"
the foreigner asked at last.
- "Boca, 2-1."
- "And Independiente drew,"
Fleco was fast to add, a smile creeping uninvited to his face.
- El Irlandés didn't say anything
and Fleco wondered if he understood, or rather, if he was at
all interested. He glanced quickly to the side but couldn't see
the eyes behind the curtain of black hair. El Irlandés
had rested his chin on his chest and crossed his arms around
- Taking the hint, Fleco stood up.
"I'd better go, I have class tomorrow."
- El Irlandés nodded in understanding
and Fleco walked away, leaving his pizza behind. As he walked
the remaining distance towards the traffic lights, the wind picked
up. To the east, over the river, there was a crack of thunder.
Fleco scanned the sky, frowning at the stars. It was clear now,
but there would be rain before the night was over. He knew it
from the way the earth smelled, and the way the birds were quiet
but the crickets restless. He could sense the rain on his skin
long before it fell, and two red lights came and went as Fleco
stood undecided under the streetlight.
- The pizza was all but gone when
Fleco got to the solitary park bench.
- His long legs stretched in front
of him and his arms still hugging his chest for warmth, El Irlandés
looked up with questioning eyes. "You didn't want it back,
did you?" he asked with his mouth half full.
- Fleco shook his head, grateful for
the darkness. He was blushing. Embarrassment quickly gave way
to annoyance as he reminded himself he was not intruding. Fleco
frowned. He was, after all, only doing the man a favour, wasn't
he? He wasn't meddling, he was-
- "What?" El Irlandés
asked through his cracked lip.
- Fleco took a deep breath and counted
to ten. It was the way he had said it. That quiet, self-assured
manner that seemed to say the man had all the right to eating
his pizza, listening to his favourite team, resting in his park-
- "What?" El Irlandés
repeated in an icy tone, sitting up and fixing his blue eyes
on the mirroring blue that were so evidently fighting for control.
- Fleco finally looked away. "Listen,"
he began before he could think about it enough to regret it,
"My parents will probably kill me for this, but you can
stay on the living room sofa tonight, if you want to. It'll rain,
- El Irlandés looked at him
for what it seemed an eternity. Fleco couldn't decide whether
he was surprised, offended, or pleased. The man's face was unreadable.
- "I'm waiting for someone,"
El Irlandés said at last. "But, thank you."
- Fleco silently sighed in relief
and quickly replied, "Yeah, well, no problem." He was
turning around when El Irlandés stood up and after cleaning
his hand on his trouser leg, offered it to him.
- "Mick," he said.
- Fleco took the hand and they shook
firmly. "Ignacio. Ignacio Fernandez O'Donnell. My friends
call me Fleco," he said.
- There was a bemused spark in the
foreigner's eyes. "Good to meet you."
- They sized each other up for a second,
Fleco smiling insecurely, the foreigner stern. When El Irlandés
finally sat back on his bench Fleco took it as his cue to leave.
Digging his hands in his pockets, he said, "See you on Sunday.
- "You know what they say,"
replied El Irlandés without looking up, "If you want
to make God laugh, tell him about your plans."
- Not altogether sure of what make
of that, Felco muttered a soft "Buenas noches," and
turned to go. Waiting for the traffic lights, he looked back
towards the trees and saw the lanky figure of El Irlandés
standing up to join the much smaller, slender, and feminine one
that had arrived from the opposite end of the park. Fleco saw
how El Irlandés meekly accepted the coat she wrapped around
him, and did not protest her tight embrace, nor her kiss. The
traffic light turned green and he smiled. His new friend would
not be caught in the rain tonight.
- to be cont....
- To Part 2