The Winner by John Holland

Because Michael is lardy the other kids call him Michael Fatley. Or just Fatley. He hates that and won’t hang out with them.

He’s ok. He lives next door, and comes round. Sometimes he cries. Big gobby drips. Like when he trips and falls on the concrete path or a stick goes in his eye.  Then his Scottish granny, who everyone calls Mrs Mac, appears from nowhere, licking her brown tobacco fingers to smooth down his yellow curls, and poking her finger in my chest – one poke for every word – “You! Be! Nice! To! Michael! Laddie!”

He just fell, I say. Michael never says what happened.

Everyday Michael brings a Milky Way that melts on the bench in the sun and we say it’s the FA Cup. We use piles of bricks as goals but Michael trips over them so I pick up the bricks and him. We have the technology, I tell him.

I’m loving winning the matches and the chocolate. Michael’s ok with that. Until I smear the sweet brown stuff on his cheeks and laugh and tell him it’s shit. Then his baby-white hanky’s out and Mrs Mac, with the hearing power of a ferret, is here.

He’s just a messy eater, I say, before the poking starts.

This time it’s nil nil. And Michael catches me with a tackle. It’s a cruncher. I go down and he kicks the ball between the posts, yells ‘One Nil – I Win the Cup’ and grabs the Milky Way, kisses it and holds it above his head like he’s John Terry at Wembley. I’m on the ground, and shout ‘Fuck off Fatley’. He hears the word, stops, stares at me, his face like a fist, pushes the Milky Way in his pocket, walks off down the path. He doesn’t run.

Mrs Mac never appears so I reckon it’s ok. But Michael doesn’t come round again. When I call, the old woman slams the door so hard that the metal knocker bounces in my face.

Now I’m playing footie with Steve Shoe from down the road. He’s older – fifteen – a bony bastard with sideburns and big teeth. He likes to tackle and can shoot. ‘Another bloody brilliant goal by Shoe,’ he yells in my face. Can’t see me winning many. And we never have chocolate. It’s better than with Michael though. No comparison.

Today I saw Michael through the window of his house. Looks like he’s learning ballet. I waved. And he waved back. Or it might have been one of his moves.


John Holland is a multi-prize winning short fiction author from Gloucestershire in the UK. His work is widely published in anthologies and online. John also runs Stroud Short Stories. His website is He’s on twitter @JohnHol88897218