People stared but didn’t recognize him behind his thick beard and sun glasses. His daughter, Margaret, dribbled the ball towards the goal on a breakaway. He jubilantly jumped and shook the fence at the prospect of witnessing her first goal. The goalie converged and slide tackled her to the ground. A defender cleared the ball and the normal game play resumed. He sighed, feeling tremendously disappointed.
More and more people looked at him queerly and he started getting bad vibes. It would have been smart to leave, but he couldn’t part from Margaret and her wavy goldenrod hair blowing in the wind as she ran after the ball. He wondered if she knew what he did. If his ex-wife didn’t tell her, she definitely heard the rumors at school and he felt terrible for that. A police cruiser pulled into the parking lot. He stayed calm as the officer, a portly older male, approached him.
“Is there are a reason why you’re watching little girls play soccer from behind a fence. A couple of parents have called with their concerns.”
“Sorry, my daughter is playing.”
“Why don’t you watch from the field like the other parents?” The officer scratched his Teddy Roosevelt style moustache, not realizing that he was talking to an escaped convict.
“I’m divorced and my wife is there, it was real messy.”
“I’m divorced myself. When I first saw my wife back in high school, I thought she was the only girl I needed, guess I was wrong.”
“Life never turns out the way you envision it. You just got to survive day by day, that’s how I do it.”
“Thanks for the advice.” The cop’s walkie-talkie buzzes with an indistinguishable voice that only he understands. “Well duty calls. It was nice talking to you sir, if any more parents call about you, I’ll inform the emergency receptionist to say there’s not a problem.”
“I appreciate that.”
They shook hands and exchanged sad smiles of what the officer thought was mutual heartbreak. He could have never known that attempted murder was the reason why Buddy’s wife divorced him. The officer drove away and Buddy could only smile at outsmarting him.
Margaret ran gracefully across the field, aggressively attacking the ball. As the other girls played passively, she was relentless, channeling her energy to gain a competitive advantage. The referee’s whistle blew, signaling the end of regulation and the start of the five minute sudden death overtime. Prison life was a monotonous quiescent bore where something as simple as the rustle of leaves would entertain him. This was almost too much.
The overtime period began. Margaret tried to steal the ball, but was whistled for a foul, giving the other team a free kick. The free kick didn’t go far and was controlled by Margaret’s team. He noticed that young girls soccer was turnover after turnover with a lucky goal shoved in between. Margaret intercepted a pass and dribbled expediently, weaving around the other team. She faked out the last defender, leaving her one on one with the goalie. The goalie was undecided whether to attack or stay behind in net. When Margaret entered the penalty box, the goalie attacked and Margaret dribbled around her diving body and scored the game winning goal. The small crowd cheered and her team embraced her in celebration. He jumped against the fence screaming as prideful tears dripped down his face.
His heart pulsated and his insides tingled, never before had felt such happiness. He climbed the rickety fence like he had done in his prison escape and ran across the field. The strong winds pushed him back as if they were begging him not to do what he was about to do. He couldn’t resist the temptation of celebrating with his daughter, even if it meant going back to prison. Terrified parents realized who he was and ran after him, fearing for the safety of their daughters. He grabbed Margaret in massive bear-hug. She didn’t recognize him at first and when she did, she screamed like she was being held by the devil. She struggled to get away but he held onto her with all the strength in his body.
“It’s me, daddy!”
“Get away from me!” she screamed with her eyes filled with fear. He could only imagine the lies she heard about him through the gossip mills to warrant this reaction.
The referee tried pulling her away and someone repeatedly punched him in the head until his surroundings became fuzzy. His arms lost grip of Margaret and she was brought to her mother. His head pounded in pain and he drifted into unconsciousness. He regretted his lapse in judgment. Holding his daughter again sedated the agony of going back to cell where he would spend the remainder of his life.
Elliot Andreopoulos has lived in New Mexico for all of his life where he currently raises various foul on his family's farm. He enjoys reading, writing and film-making.