Dark Side of the Soul - Short Story Inspired by Sandi Thom Lyrics
Dark Side of the Soul
A young man stood in the middle of a Rugby League pitch, in a large park, holding a Rugby League ball. There was no one else around, until a jogging came up from behind him.
‘Find me, I’m open,’ the jogger yelled as he got within about thirty yards of the other man.
The man smiled, then fizzed the ball into the outstretched hands of the jogger, with a perfectly executed spin pass.
‘You’ve still got it,’ the jogger said just after he caught the ball that hit his hands with a reassuring thud. ‘Contrary to what I was reading on a fan forum last night,’ he added as he walked up close to the man who had flung him the ball.
‘I’m glad they’re talking about something else other than my switch to Rugby Union.’
‘Oh that rumour is still dominating the forums, that what you’re out here contemplating?’
‘Nothing left to contemplate, I’ve made up my mind, I’m going.’
‘A man is out in the middle of a park on his own at seven o’clock on a Sunday morning, then he is contemplating something.’
‘Just taking one last look at the place where it all started.’
‘You signed anything yet?’
‘Then do me and every other Warrington fan a favour and do some serious contemplating.’
‘I don’t owe anybody anything.’
The jogger shook his head. ‘If you believe that then all your press over the years really has gone to your head.’
‘You telling me if you got a job offer that would nearly treble your wages, that you wouldn’t take it?’
‘It would depend on the job, for instance if it was to be a drug dealer, then no I definitely wouldn’t take it.’
The Rugby player laughed. ‘I know you have a low opinion of Rugby Union, but comparing them to a drug dealer?’
‘As kids we used to say a lot of equally disparaging remarks about Union.’
‘We sure did, we weren’t too keen on foreigners back then either, or gays, religious types or old people.’
‘We definitely were morons when we were younger,’ the jogger acknowledged. ‘But we still had a few redeeming features, loyalty for one thing.’
‘I’ve played this game professionally for ten years, I’d say I’ve been loyal enough. It’s time I start thinking about myself.’
‘Are you actually saying these words? You’re playing for Warrington and England, that’s all we ever dreamed of.’
‘Have your dreams not changed over the years?’
‘Not changed, they just didn’t come true.’
‘Last time I we bumped into each other you were telling me how much you love working at the youth club.’
‘And I still do, but I’d swap places with you in a heartbeat. You should come down to the youth club one night, see the hero’s reception you’ll get from the kids and maybe it will remind you of when we were that young.’
‘I’ve got a chance to be a household name across the country, you know my fame will go through the roof if I switch to Union. You’re already jealous of my existence, the fame, the money and the pop star girl friend.’
‘First of all, finishing eleventh on X-Factor doesn’t make her a pop star,’ the jogger said with a smile. ‘Secondly, damn right I’m jealous, but not because of the extra stuff that goes with playing, I’m jealous that you’re living the dream. Not only do you still play the greatest game in the world, the one you’ve loved since you were a kid, but you get to represent your home town team and your country, have you any idea how much so many of us would give just to put the Warrington shirt on once and go out there and play? On top of all that, somebody actually pays you to do all that, so you don’t even have to have a job.’
‘It’s time to challenge myself again.’
‘Don’t give me that, if you go, you’ll be going for the money and nothing else. Playing Rugby Union won’t be a challenge for you, you’ll do less tackles, less passes and far less running with the ball, and if you think they are going to let an ex-Rugby League star play number ten for England then you’re even more stupid than I thought. They’ll shunt you out to inside centre and let some pretty boy from Eton take your glory.’
‘Rugby League has done nothing to raise my profile, like it or not, there’s a limit to what I can achieve in the game.’
‘You must have an agent now, because they’re definitely not your words. Don’t pretend you don’t owe this game a heck of a lot, I was there when you were growing up. Both of us know that if it wasn’t for this game then there’s a great chance that by now you’d either be in prison or dead.’
The Rugby player gently nodded his head.
‘Not only did they give you a way to earn a living,’ the jogger continued. ‘They educated you, informally by stopping you going off the rails and stopping you ruining your life with alcohol and drugs, they even got you in to University and gave you the chance to get a degree, a chance which you took. Both of us know there was no chance of you getting to Uni any other way.’
‘That’s true. Remember that last minute try you scored to win that under15 semi final, right in that corner,’ the Rugby player said as he pointed to the spot of the memory.
‘Of course I do, still one of the highlights of my life, sliding over the line and not having time to get back up to my feet before being jumped on by you lot.’
‘Yeah that was typical, I do all the hard work, suck three defenders in and flick out the perfect pass to you, glory hunting on the wing as always, all you have to do is scamper over the line and you get all the glory.’
‘I made try scoring an art form! Remember that under12 game when you got sent off for punching the other teams coach in the face,’ the jogger said and couldn’t help laughing as he finished recalling the memory.
‘Yeah, he really shouldn’t have been on the pitch. Remember that interception try you scored late on in that under16 game, from on your own line to under the posts at the other end?’
‘I remember none of you lot following me to support, I was left with virtually their whole team chasing me on my own.’
‘You were by far the fastest in that league, they had more chance of catching syphilis right at that moment than they did of catching you.’
‘Great times,’ the jogger nodded.
‘Maybe it’s time for me to make some new memories.’
‘You can do that without switching to the dark side. Not only do you owe the game of Rugby League but you owe people like me who would’ve loved to have been in your position right now, but didn’t get their through either injury or lack of ability. I’d never have even thought about switching to Union.’
‘No matter how much we hate the fact, we have to acknowledge that Union is a far bigger, better and more popular than League.’
‘The Sun is more popular than The Times doesn’t make it better, a lot of people watch Eastenders, doesn’t make it the best TV programme, in 1997 more people watch Titanic at the cinema than watch Good Will Hunting, and anybody who says Titanic is the better of those two films is fully deserving of one of your particularly vicious high tackles. League always will remain the smaller game if it’s stars keep jumping ship to Union at the wave of a cheque book. You have to believe that you are so good that you can be part of the process that changes the public perception, part of a generation of League stars who are so brilliant that they become household names. The marketing guys at the RFL struggle enough as it is, sometimes I think they couldn’t sell a prostitute on a submarine, without people like you making their job virtually impossible by going to play another game.’
‘I want to win things with club and country.’
‘If you’re as good as you and the experts maintain you are, then you should be able to make that happen. Warrington are looking like having a great chance of winning their first title since 1955 soon enough, don’t tell me you wouldn’t love to be part of the team that ended that wait. We haven’t beaten the Aussies in a match that really mattered since the 1973 World Cup Final, if we stop trying to beat them at their own game and start believing we can beat them by playing our style then you could be the star player that ends that drought. Are you really going to give up on all of that for a few extra quid?’
The Rugby player looked at the jogger, making direct eye contact for a few seconds.
‘That Leicester kit wouldn’t have suited me anyway,’ he said then broke out into a huge smile and hugged the jogger. ‘So when do you want me to come down to this youth club?’
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