'Soccer Mom' by Liz Milne

I was walking to the shop, just, to get some bread for our tea. This woman was packing her three kids into the car, out for the day it looked like. She was holding a scooter in one hand – the foot-stand swinging and threatening to kneecap her; an inflatable footie goal in the other. Her smaller kids were already in, fighting with their seat-belts and swearing at each other (oh my god, move over, you prick; no dickhead, you move); the older lad was waiting, holding two footballs.

I’d slowed up to let a car pass before I crossed, so I saw it all.

The older lad was spinning one of the balls on the end of his finger but he dropped it. He tried to come forward to catch it, but it bounced slow and high twice. Once on the pavement, once on the road behind the mom. You could see the thoughts going through her head: little prat, told him to hold ‘em, oh that car, smash coming, it’ll be my fault – all in a split nanosecond. Then she twirled, flicked the other foot out, neat as you like, and booted the ball onto the back seat in between her other two kids as the vehicle passed by.

She looked up and I saw it as I stepped off the pavement. The pride in her eyes. Visions of Wembley, hoisting the trophy high, while the crowds whooped and cheered.

Then I was past, around the corner and at the shop, choosing between thick white toastie and medium sliced wholemeal.

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