Author: Guede Mazaka
Before Michael sat or stood the pride of the German football world. The best, the most exciting players…and none of them seemed capable of looking him in the eye when, after all, he was asking a very reasonable question. “I’m not assigning blame right now. All I want to know is how. Which one of you gave Bastian and Lukas that DVD of Taxi?”
Long silence. Then everyone slowly raised their hands…and started pointing at each other.
“Oh, my God.” Michael dropped into the nearest chair and pressed his hands against the sides of his head. His mouth and throat were painfully dry from hours of nonstop bullshitting of the coaching staff, the trainers, the doctors…and eventually there would be reporters, too. His head had started hurting just from wondering how two idiots with rollerblades could do that to a twelve-foot street sign, and now the ache was worse than any hangover he’d ever had. Any.
“Honestly, we don’t know. Are you sure they didn’t get it themselves?” Per delicately asked.
An icepick of pain spiked into the back of Michael’s left eye. He moved his hand so he could squint out with his right. “Their video-renting privileges have been revoked since a week ago when they rented that skateboarding movie and tried to do flips over the pool. And it is a DVD. I found the case in their room.”
Somebody walked across the room, and a second later, the left side of the seat cushion sank beside Michael. “At least they’re still fit to play?” Torsten said, settling his arm over Michael’s neck.
But even he couldn’t work up much optimism. The sheer…enormity…of the swathe those two had wrecked. And Michael had been told there’d been some down by the pitch that he really shouldn’t look at, it was so bad. “Only if I don’t kill them.”
His teeth hurt now. Oh, yes, because he was clenching them so hard. Then Torsten started pat-rubbing his shoulder, which helped a little but God. Those morons. Sometimes it was like they’d been put here on earth and given great footballing skills just to drive Michael into early retirement due to insanity.
“What did Jürgen say when he heard?” Miro asked.
“I don’t know. He was on the floor.” Michael pinched the bridge of his nose between his fingers. Then he moved his hands to press against his temples. Then he moved them back to press at his eyes. None of it helped his migraine.
He dimly became aware of a strange silence in the room and made himself look at everyone again. They all were staring at him with very polite, blank expressions on their face, like they weren’t sure if they’d have to call a doctor with a strappy white jacket for him.
“He was. Behind the desk so I couldn’t see his face,” Michael elaborated. “Oliver was slumped down in a chair muttering to himself. I think Joachim was crying. I don’t know—he could’ve been laughing, too. He didn’t look well. They said Andreas went out to get a drink and hasn’t been back in two hours.”
“This is why I was happy to give up the captaincy,” Kahn muttered.
Torsten squeezed Michael’s shoulder again. “Don’t lose it, Micha. It’ll…we’ll…I’ll get you some aspirin and some water, okay?”
“Not really.” Michael wondered how much the team’s contracts would let him do to Podolski and Schweinsteiger, short of actually killing them. “Torsten, Klinsmann was making these weird choked noises.”
“Yeah, well…somebody will check on them. Get them ice, or…a large bottle of whiskey, or something…Philipp? Can you—go and—”
Whatever Philipp’s answer was, Michael didn’t hear it because he was too busy putting his head between his knees. The floor was starting to look pretty attractive, actually.
* * *
Somewhere out of Michael’s sight
“Bastian? I’m not sure we can talk this one away.”
“Eh, yeah, it does look pretty bad. Guess we’d better score a hat trick the next game.”
“…I’m not sure that’ll do it, either.”
Both cock heads, staring down at the vast swathe of chaos they’ve left.
“I don’t know what went wrong! It worked out perfectly when we planned it on the Playstation!”
“Maybe when everyone’s calmed down, we can ask Neuville? Maybe it’s some French thing we missed.”
“Schweini, I hate to say this, but I think we’ll be dead before they’re that calm. Micha’s going to slaughter us.”
“…huh. You’re probably right. In that case, I say we buy each other one last drink while we have the time.”