Do you like watching deleted scenes and outtakes from your favourite movies? Then you might like this scene from Betting Game. For a while, it was the first chapter.
I called it Suicide Sprints, after the drill everyone loves to hate.
Coach blows the whistle and pulls out his stopwatch. “All right. Let’s see what you’ve got left.”
Looks like we’re ending practice with suicides again. Good name for a soccer drill that leaves you half-dead.
“Ten or more. Last man standing. Start at the whistle.”
The team lines up on the goal line. I catch my brother’s eye. “Five bucks says I beat you.”
He shows me the thumbs-up. “Do or die, Jack.”
I dig my toe in the dirt to get a good start. Shake my shoulders out. And—go!
Back and forth. Touch the cone.
That’s eight. Touch the cone.
Someone pukes. Touch the cone.
That’s ten. Touch the cone.
Give up, bro… Touch the cone.
Cheering… for me… Touch the cone.
Five bucks richer… Touch the cone.
Fourteen… Touch…the cone.
Just me and…Jonesy.
I stumble past the cone and fall flat on my face. Second place. I’ll take it. I raise a shaky fist and soak up the cheers and whistles. The cool grass feels too good to get up, so I roll onto my side to watch our team captain finish.
“Is that all you got?” says Alex, sitting in the grass beside me.
“Is that three times in a row I’ve beaten you?” I hold out my hand. “I take cash, Visa or American Express.”
“Just put it on my tab.” He gives me a friendly shove. “When will I ever learn? You’d do anything to win a bet.”
“So what’s Jonesy at?”
“No way!” I lean on one elbow.
He makes it to 19, and staggers around us in a ragged victory lap.
“Round of applause for Khalil! He just broke the Durham Lancers record.”
I elbow Alex. “A record also set by Jonesy.”
Coach blows the whistle. “Now, walk it off, then grab a ball and two partners. Wrap it up with a little three-man drill. Nice and easy.”
My legs are so weak, they won’t carry me to the bag of balls yet. I settle for climbing to my feet. I hold out my hand, and Alex pulls himself up.
“That’s a record for you, too. Right, bro?”
“Yup. Sixteen. But I still didn’t beat Jonesy.”
“No one ever beats Jonesy.”
A soccer ball rolls between us. Jonesy bumps fists with me. “Heard my name. You two cooking up some evil plan? Trying to knock me off the suicide sprint throne?”
“Oh, we thought about it,” I say, passing the ball to Alex. “But we’d have to break your leg.”
“Or handcuff you to the goal post,” adds Alex. He sends the ball to Jonesy.
Jonesy taps the ball my way. “Hmm. I see your dilemma. How would you ever win another match?”
I boot the soccer ball at his head. He grins and ducks. “See what I mean? A foot wide of the target, inside the six yard box.”
As we head for the showers, a familiar car pull up in front of the Lancers Training Centre.
“Hey, Jonesy. Isn’t that your dad?”
“Yeah. He texted me earlier. Says Coach needs to speak with me.”
“You’re not in trouble, are you?”
“Not that I know of. I’ll let you know.”