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Apr262012

Gooner Karma

BY RASHEED CLARKE / @rasheedclarke

December 27th, 2010

            I line up three Asacol tablets and two rows of five tiny, white prednisone pills on the breakfast table. I fill a glass with cranberry juice and gulp the prednisone pills two at a time, then the Asacol tablets one-by-one. Three slices of white bread brown in the toaster while I chew a banana and slurp a cup of applesauce. I drizzle honey onto the toast slices and munch them while trying to hold back another urge to shit. I wipe the sticky crumbs from my mouth, swig the rest of the cranberry juice and take my dishes to the sink. I scrub the dishes, lay them on the drying rack beside the sink and run up the stairs, two steps at a time, to the bathroom. My stomach rumbles, my body aches, my third shit of the morning.

            I slip into a pair of dark blue jeans, button up a green shirt and wrap a red and white Arsenal scarf around my neck. My favourite football club, London’s Arsenal F.C. host their city rivals Chelsea later this afternoon at the Emirates Stadium. I’ll have to watch my beloved Gunners in between traffic reports at work. I feel like crap and I have to go to work. Arsenal’s gonna win today.

Christmas fell on a Saturday this year, so Torontonians had their statutory day off pushed to today. I work stat holidays, and I’ll be the only one in the studio from noon to six, guiding the city’s drivers around the quieter-than-normal highways.

~ ~ ~

            “Hey Elle.” I wipe my slushy shoes on the mat at the studios’ entrance.

            “Hiya,” Elle replies.

            “How was your morning?”

            “Uuuuuuuugh.”

            “Busy?”

            “No! Nothing happened! All day!”

            “Well that’s kinda good isn’t it?”

            “I guess so. It was an easy morning. It’ll probably be the same for you.”

            “I hope so.” I unzip my parka, unravel my Arsenal scarf and hang both on the coat rack. I scan the traffic camera feeds on the computer monitor and check websites for construction and travel information. “Yeah, it’s fine, everywhere.”

            Elle unplugs her headphones from the mixing board in her studio and wraps the cord around the headband. “’k, I’m gonna go home and take a nap.”

            “Sounds like a fun afternoon,” I say.

            “Oh, it will be. Have a good shift.”

            “Thanks. See ya.”

            I plug my headphones into the mixing board, turn up the microphone level and record my first report:

            “Good afternoon, well it’s a pretty quiet drive on the major routes around the GTA. The 401, 404-Parkway and the Gardiner are all moving along nicely. Just a tiny bit of volume filling in on the westbound QEW from Appleby to Guelph Line. And if you’re heading to the U.S., right now there’s a 45-minute wait at the Queenston-Lewiston Bridge heading into the States. A 40-minute wait at the Rainbow Bridge, and a half-an-hour delay at the Peace Bridge. I’m Rasheed Clarke, more traffic in minutes.”

            I save the recording as an mp3 and send it to a client station. I record two more reports for two more stations. I open a new tab in the web browser and enter “arsenal.com” in the address bar. Three hours until kickoff.

~ ~ ~

            I scan the second half of my afternoon schedule. Only four reports an hour from 3-6 p.m. Good, I won’t be too distracted from the Arsenal match. I open a new web browser tab and find a website streaming the Arsenal-Chelsea clash.

            I turn down the microphone and turn up my headphones. “Let’s go fellas!”

            The referee blows his whistle to get the game underway. The Arsenal supporters, “Gooners” like me, sing as the ball whizzes around the slick grass:

            “And it’s Ar-se-nal. Ar-se-nal eff cee! We’re by far the greatest team, the world has ever seen!”

Chelsea fashion the game’s first chance. Didier Drogba fires a shot wide of the Arsenal net. The Gunners respond through Alex Song, who chips a ball into the box towards Robin Van Persie. Van Persie volleys his shot wide of the mark.

I mute the stream, scan the cameras and record two traffic reports. I click on the stream and watch Samir Nasri sting the hands of Chelsea’s goalkeeper Petr Cech with a free kick. A minute before half-time, Song plays a one-two with Jack Wilshere, receives the return pass and clips the ball past Cech.

“Yeah! Yes! Yes!” I throw my headphones off and jump up from my chair. I clap in front of the computer monitor as the men in red and white pile on top of Song. One-nil to the Arsenal at half-time.
            I check off another two reports on my schedule and return to the stream. Five minutes into the second half, Theo Walcott picks off a loose pass from Chelsea’s Michael Essien. Walcott runs through on goal, draws Cech from his net and taps a square pass for Cesc Fabregas to slot home.

“Yes! Yes! Yeah!” I jump and clap. “That’s it Cesc, that’s it!” My applause reverberates around the studio’s glass walls. I pump my fist as play resumes. Three minutes later, Walcott nicks the ball off Florent Malouda, slides it over to Fabregas and races forward. Fabregas slips a pass back to Walcott, who lets the ball roll onto his right foot before firing it into the bottom corner of the net. The crowd at the Emirates Stadium erupts.

“Yeah! Yeah! Atta boy Theo! What a fucking finish!” Tears pool in my eyes.  “Brilliant finish. Clinical.” I pump my fist and pace around the studio. “Come on boys, defend now, defend. Don’t get lazy.”

Four minutes later, Chelsea pull one back. Branislav Ivanovic heads home from a Drogba free kick and the Chelsea fans crammed into the southeast corner of Emirates Stadium burst into cheers and wave their blue and white flags and scarves.

            “Fuck! I just said don’t get lazy. Fuck. Defend!” I peek at my schedule, mute and minimize the stream and record more reports.

            “Just one trouble spot right now and that’s on the eastbound 401, in the collectors past Leslie, a collision blocking the right lane. Volume though remains pretty light so no real backup as a result. Elsewhere the 404-DVP and the Gardiner are still in good shape, and no problems to get in the way on the QEW through Mississauga, Oakville and Burlington.”

            I open the stream again. Still Arsenal three, Chelsea one, fifteen minutes to go. I turn up my headphones, sit erect in my chair and fold my arms.

            “Good stop Lukasz!”

            “C’mon Diaby, get back.”

            “Great tackle Johan, great tackle!”

            “Nice pass Samir. That’s it fellas, move the ball.”

            The referee blows the full-time whistle. I clap as the Arsenal faithful at the Emirates Stadium let out a unified, “Yeah!” The Gunners win 3-1 and move above Chelsea into second place in the Premier League table, trailing only Manchester United. I grab my Arsenal scarf and kiss the gold cannon embroidered above the tassels. I lean back in my chair, close my eyes and take a deep breath. One hour remains on my shift, another four reports. I smile as the Arsenal players applaud the fans around the stadium as they walk off the pitch. The stream cuts out.

            “Whatever. I got what I needed.”

            I click through construction and travel information websites. My stomach feels full. I lean to my right and let out a fart.

Oh yeah, the UC. I’m sick. And I still have to take potent pills, and my body is still achy and I’m still slogging my way through a flare-up. But Arsenal won. The universe is in balance.

--

This story appears as chapter 11 of my book, “Three Tablets Twice Daily”, a collection of short stories about living with ulcerative colitis. The book is available from Life Rattle Press at http://liferattle.ca/publishing/threetabletstwicedaily.html

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