“Spurs v Liverpool?”
“Do it.” – “Wait. Versus or co-op?”
“Online or against the computer?”
“Good call. Er… Shall we take the good fight online?”
Frank picked up the xbox controller and started flicking through the game’s menu screen.
“Sure, dude, help yourself whilst I get us set up”.
Ash climbed out of the faded brown leather beanbag with a loud “ooof”, accompanied by the now far too familiar sound of cracking knees.
“was that your back?”
“Knees. Seriously, Franky, when are you going to spring for some fucking furniture?”
“I have furniture”, Frank replied not looking away from the TV.
“You have a chair. YOUR chair”.
“It’s a good chair.”
“It is, but as I point out, it’s YOUR chair. Your only chair. It’s the only seat in the house”.
“There’s one upstairs”.
As Ash walked to the kitchen he called back, “That’s a toilet. It really doesn’t count”.
The dark oak floor creaked in sympathy with Ash’s knees as he padded through to the kitchen. Cookery books stood with unbroken spines on the worktop, book ended by an open, empty bread bin and an open, empty bottle of dark rum. On one wall a CD cover and disc, floating in an oversized rustic wooden frame took pride of place.
The album, entitled Windmills was by Sweet FA. A younger, thinner Frank stood side by side with 3 other long haired, fully bearded musicians against the backdrop of a beach at dusk. It always annoyed Ash that no windmills could be seen on the front cover; a point he always mentioned to Frank every time he saw it.
“We’re all set. I chose Liverpool in the end.” Frank said, as Ash crept back into the room.
“You have chosen wisely” Ash handed over the opened beer as if to reward. “Have you…”
“Yes, you spent so long out there I’ve already tinkered”.
“Good man. What are you waiting for? Punch it, Chewy!”
Frank selected ‘Find a Game’ and took a sip from his cold beer as the FIFA menus went about finding an opponent. Soon the loading screen made way for the big match reveal. Liverpool versus…. Tottenham Hotspur.
“ha ha ha, nice one” Ash picked up his pad as Frank begrudgingly selected OK.
“Shit it. I hate playing against my own team.”
“ha! No one likes it. Suck it up. Let’s gas these Jew bastards!”
“It’s like… every single time.”
“The chanelling of Adolf every time you play against Spurs. Do you not think it’s slightly racist? In fact, can you even be slightly racist?” Frank stopped to think about what he was saying.
“I… Christ, mate, I was only having a laugh..”
Frank turned to look at Ash, a look somewhere between confusion and resentment embedding itself within the furrows of his brow.
“Look, mate, I’m not saying you are a racist but you do sometimes come out with comments that could tumble straight from the mouths of Jeff, Cecil and ‘arry the Viking.”
“The dominos players from the Working Man’s Club? Do you know, Jeff once swallowed a pool ball as a bet. Legend.”
“Well yeah he is, they are, but they’re from a different time. Their views of the world are somewhat colourful at best.”
Ash cocked his head slightly to one side, “or not, as the case maybe”, he added.
A chorus of cheers erupted. At first Ash assumed he’d somehow been warped into a sit-com of his life, his witty line being met with rapturous applause before realising the TV was showing the animated Spurs players all dancing around the scorer. 1 nil.
“Bollocks! When did this kick-off?” Frank grabbed the pad.
“So you think I’m slightly racist?” asked Ash as he slid a pass into the feet of the stampeding, Frank. Frank continued his run down the right wing, “Great pass.” he said as he jinked past one, then another, his shoulders dipping subtly first to the left, then to the right.
“No. I don’t know. That’s my point I guess. Can you even be “slightly racist”?” He crossed the ball high into the air as Ash rose from his seat, craning his neck as his head came to meet it. A thundering header into the bottom left corner of the goal played out in front of him.
“and that’s how you…” Ash’s victory swagger was interrupted by a whistle. OFFSIDE flashed across the screen, cutting the celebrations short.
Frank held a hand up to the screen as the replay showed the decision in slow motion, “Ah come on, that was so definitely ON.”
“hmm, slightly offside I guess”, Ash offered reluctantly.
Frank turned to face the man-child sinking in the beanbag. “You can’t be slightly offside, you either are, or you aren’t. It’s black or white. Onside. Offside. There are no shades of grey here.”
“I dunno, remember that streaker we saw a few years back? There was definitely a touch of Shades of Grey about that. What were those marks on his back?” Ash digressed.
“So are we saying,” Ash thought for a moment before finishing his sentence, “that being offside is a bit like being a racist?”
Frank pondered this for a moment. He took a glug of the cold beer and wiped the remains from his hobo beard on to the back of his hand. “I think we are, yes.” Ash took a swig from his bottle and nodded in agreement as he let Frank continue.
“in so much that they are both black or white things. And before you say it, don’t.” Ash was already halfway through raising an eyebrow. “You either are, or you’re not.” Frank concluded.
“A bit like missing a train?” offered Ash. “Exactly!” Frank nodded, “it doesn’t matter if you’ve missed it by 5 minutes or 5 seconds. You’ve missed it. Everything in-between is just incidental.”
The fact that this debate was suddenly turning into somewhat of a character assassination was starting to bother Ash, “That’s all well and good, but I’m really not a racialist. Some of my best friends know someone that knew somebody that met this girl that once shared a kebab with a, you know, a coloured chap.” he said with a cheeky smile.
Frank laughed, “yeah, ok I know you’re not but the things you say are, and I guess therein lies the difference. You’re a smart dude, dude. I know you. You don’t harbour desires to see anyone suffer, and as far as I know you don’t say anything with venom, which leaves only one other reason…”
“Go on” urged, Ash.
“Well as far as I can see, you can certainly live your life without having to say those sort of things for what appears to be nothing more than a cheap laugh.”
Ash feigned a hurt look, “ahh, cheap laughs? Low blow, man. Low blow. Sammy thinks I’m the funniest bastard this side of Staines.”
Frank looked Ash square in the eyes. His stare was unblinking and delivered with all the emotion of an unfolded ironing board. “Sammy supports Arsenal.”
“That,” replied Frank, “is a fair point.”