By Jeff Baker
It was late afternoon in the club and somehow the talk had become nostalgic and had therefore turned to football. Delmar and Aubrey-Smith were recounting their (largely exaggerated) days of glory on the pitch in their youth, and even Old Man Plunkett had chimed in, when someone said that the best part of this was that McGuffin wasn’t here to brag about some exploit of his.
“Ahem,” came the familiar voice from a darkened corner of the room.
We looked up. We hadn’t seen McGuffin come in and he was not in his usual seat.
“Ah, the fond memories of my school days, playing for University,” McGuffin said. (He never said which university.) “We were up for a cup at least once during my time there, but my most memorable match was an exhibition game played in, oh, nineteen…nineteen…nineteen something.”
I grabbed a full glass from a passing waiter as McGuffin rambled on.
I was a young man (McGuffin said.) young and strong and played with energy and enthusiasm for our squad, proudly wearing our colors of…well, that’s not important. Our exhibition game that weekend was between us and a team from Bandilugia, a new country formed after the war. They were as good as we were but that wasn’t quite the reason we were both at zero as the game headed towards full-time. The Bandilugian Goalkeeper was a young man named Arturo. Lean, muscular, with a head of dark, curly hair and with three legs! Yes, three! He could run like the wind and effectively blocked every shot, including mine! He kicked with any of his legs and didn’t even have to use his hands!
We had run through three goalkeepers on our squad, and Arturo wasn’t even winded!
I looked at the clock; time was running out and even though it was only an exhibition game, our honour was at stake. I looked over at the stands and saw members or our school band that had performed during the opening ceremonies, seated in the front row with their instruments. With a series of gestures, I indicated that they should play. They realized what I meant and they played, and a moment later I scored the winning goal, in fact the only goal just as time expired. And in the uproar we were declared the winners.
McGuffin signaled for another drink and sat back in his chair. I stood up and started demanding explanations.
“Wait just a minute!” I said. “How could you possibly have scored a goal just because the band started playing?”
“It wasn’t that the band started playing,” McGuffin said, “it was what they started playing. They realized I wanted them to play the Bandilugian National Anthem. The Bandilugian players, including Arturo, immediately stood at attention and began singing along. And that was when I kicked the winning goal.”