The end comes on a hot day, trees and cars throwing long shadows, lawns browning, tarmac oozing. Dark then light: Finn moves the ball from shade to sun, barely aware of the crisping grass under his running feet. Barely aware of the house to the north, his mother inside, the street to the south, out of bounds. His eyes are on the three tall pines that guard the goal, the neighbour’s fence. Fullback, Centre back, Sweeper. The sun at their backs, their shadows mark mid-field. Thick-trunked, they are the big-league boys, the ones to beat; but underdog Finn is the crowd’s favourite. He hears their cheer in the rush of passing cars. Hears a radio voice in his head as he drives the ball into shade. Look at those moves – Cryuff turn, elastico, step-over – shoot! Ooh…. Fullback blocks, and Finn is back in sunlight sprinting. Roll heel – that boy can play… aaaaand— Centre back intercepts, the ball rebounds, skitters south, the crowd roars, the radio shouts – out of bounds, out of— no, a brilliant inside touch keeps the ball in play! Back to shade, Finn feints to the north, shoots – twenty seconds on the clock – Sweeper spins the ball away, fast towards baking bright. Finn runs. Can he save it? Six seconds left… The ball drops, feet slap black tarmac, two, three, four. Sweat salts his eyes. He’s got it – turning – The radio shrills: Something’s not— Light then dark, dark. Shade, thick and square, falls fast in the blast of the horn that ends Finn’s game.
Gail Anderson won the 2020 Winchester Writers’ Flash Prize, the 2019 Reflex Fiction winter competition, the 2019 Scottish Arts Trust Story Award and has been shortlisted twice for the Bridport Prize. Recent work is published in The Southampton Review, Mslexia and Popshot. She sails a boat on the Solent. Website: gailanderson.com Twitter: @smallgreenberd.