Summary: Barbara can never quite understand her husband and son's preoccupation with football.
Notes: I now know more about football than I ever needed to. So I can tell you that Arsenal beat Sunderland at Arsenal's home in 1982-3, and Sunderland beat Arsenal at Arsenal's home the following year. However, I have chosen to set this story in the 1970s, when they were mostly in different leagues. So I have used some poetic license.
It was a nice afternoon: warm without being hot, with no wind. Before it rained again, Barbara spent an hour weeding. Usually gardening meant ending up with a football in the flower beds or holes being dug far deeper than she needed - somehow 'shallow' meant 'as deep as possible' if you were a man. Since Ian and John were at the football she could work uninterrupted.
However, she didn't intend to spend all afternoon working. Once she could enjoy the garden without being annoyed by the sight of the weeds, she got a deckchair out and made herself comfortable with a book.
Whenever Arsenal played at home, Ian took John to the match, just as Ian's father had taken him to all the Sunderland home matches when Ian had been a boy. Not having much interest in football, Barbara left all that to her husband and son. She settled for occasionally indulging them for such things as a red scarf they had to have, even on unseasonably warm autumnal days like this one.
It was John's shouts that woke her from an impromptu nap. She could guess Arsenal won from the amount of noise he made. Although it was unusual not to be able to hear Ian celebrating too.
When she headed into the house, John caught up with her to regale her with tales of the goals scored, saved and near misses, whether she wanted to know or not. She made the right noises in the right places, but looked over at her husband. Ian had flopped on the sofa, looking mournful. Usually he'd be just as excited about an Arsenal win, but today they'd played Sunderland. Barbara smiled sympathetically at him and leaned down to kiss him.
"Daddy's team lost." John informed her, breaking away from his tale of the goalkeeper diving for the ball and saving a goal.
"It was terrible." Ian gave her puppy dog eyes, but honestly, it was only football.
"You should just support Arsenal." John sat half on Ian's leg, until Ian moved it. It didn't stop John from bouncing on the sofa in his enthusiasm.
"I do," Ian protested, giving in and sitting up. "I always support the home team. Who just happen to be Sunderland, if they're playing."
John shrugged. "Then you'll lose." He bounced back onto his feet and tugged at Ian's hand. "Come and play football with me."
Ian groaned and put an hand to his face. "No, I'm too sad for football."
Barbara rolled her eyes at him. "Let's both pull," she said to John, taking Ian's hand.
Ian didn't have much choice about standing up after that, and then Barbara gave him a little push towards the back door. Ian went reluctantly, but Barbara knew that after he'd managed a few miraculous saves in their home-made goal, he'd feel better.
The weather was typical of an English spring: it was cold, with the rain blowing about in the wind. Barbara was only too glad to stay inside. For one thing, with Ian and John out, it was a good time to get her marking done. She'd just finished the last essay and was thinking about making a cup of tea, when she heard the key in the lock of the front door.
When she went to meet her husband and son she found they were both soaked. John got a few steps down the hall before Barbara caught him. "Don't tread mud through the house, go and take your shoes off on the mat." She gave him a push back towards the door. Where he'd picked up the mud from, when their journey was on pavements, she didn't know. Somehow John seemed to attract dirt. "How was the match?" It was hard to guess from their expressions, but it could have been the rain that dampened their spirits.
"We lost." John sighed as he took his coat off. He was about to drop it on the floor when he caught her eye and hung it up instead. "I shouted as loud as I could, but we never scored a single goal."
"But we did." Ian took his socks off. She could see the wet patches when they lay on the mat. "Only one, but it was right at the start."
"That's good," Barbara said, uncertainly. She hadn't missed the fact that Arsenal were playing Sunderland today, but was surprised Ian wasn't happier about the win. "Go and get washed and changed," she said to John, who was trying to escape again. "You'll feel better when you're warm and dry." John trudged dutifully upstairs, knowing there was no use in arguing.
She turned back to Ian. "I thought you'd be happier about your win."
He sighed heavily. "I would be, but I couldn't celebrate, stuck in the middle of all those Arsenal supporters." All those Arsenal supporters he went to matches with nearly every weekend.
"Never mind." Barbara waited until Ian stepped closer, so she could kiss him. "The important thing is that you had fun."
He shook his head. "I didn't."
She rolled her eyes. "Go and get changed. And take your socks with you."
Ian did as he was told and she went to the kitchen to put the kettle on. A hot drink would revive their spirits. It was just as well Arsenal and Sunderland didn't play each other too often.
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