The rain fell faintly, yet deliberately–afraid to make its presence known, but nevertheless determined to reach its destination. The soccer pitch around them sagged under the collective weight of these dogged minions, resigning itself to the fact that hibernation under several feet of snow was sure to soon relieve it of its decorative function. Though it was late October, the grass shone with a certain rich viridity that only a blanket of wetness could provide.
The pitch was beaten and bruised from the repeated blows of soccer cleats over the past two hours. Mud was flung about haphazardly, staining the green in erratic patterns. The penalty boxes had it harder than most, as they had suffered under the concentrated strain of dozens of feet at once—jostling, bumping, stomping, sliding, time and time again. Perhaps if it was August, there would be time to heal. But it was October, and the wounds would be masked by ice, then snow, only to finally mend with new life in the spring.
The air was quiet, apparently undisturbed by the persistent rain. Not balmy, but not cold. The ever-so-slight wind gently, regally stroked the skin of its subjects, its tendrils whispering that cold was coming. Not here presently, but not far away.
Trails of sweat made their way down the players’ foreheads, down the ridgelines of noses, and finally to cheeks before careening off the precipice of the jaw to join the chorus of raindrops on the way to the ground. Exposed skin tingled with a peculiar sensation as it tried unsuccessfully to make sense of the pitched battle being waged on its surface—waves of cool rain slamming into lines of heat radiating from an overtaxed organism. The only evidence of this struggle was the wisps of steam emanating from bodies, visible to the naked eye with intense concentration.
No matter the fabric, shirts clung desperately to their owners, hanging on by on a thread—or I should say threads—for dear life. Some were abused, if not by the wetness, then by the mud, the yanking, the grabbing, and the pulling. They needed a wash—heavy cycle at the minimum—but even that might be useless to restore.
Some players talked, or joked. Some laughed. Others resigned to breathe heavily. Collectively, the sounds rose as a muffled cacophony from the herd as it walked off the pitch toward the row of pines on the north side. One of the coaches had promised the team something special today after practice. Somehow, he had managed to wrangle an overflowing box of perfectly fresh Bartlett pears from a nearby orchard. As the box was uncovered on the grass, conversations dwindled to a stop. A moment of reprieve, and then the long-awaited words, “Dig in, guys. You’ve earned it today.”
The first bite is always the best, and an utterly ripe Bartlett is sublime. Luscious, buttery, and superb. Juices ran freely down the players’ chins, mingling with the rain and the sweat, and fully satisfying thirst and hunger alike. The players fell into a satisfied silence—chewing, munching, enjoying. Each one looked around as they ate, fully aware of each other, but not needing to acknowledge that by saying so. A few smiles, a few aimless words of tribute.
And then it ended as quickly as it had begun. The rain still fell. The grass still sagged as the now-cabalistic sun fell behind the distant hills. Players dispersed to nearby cars or bikes. Some left on foot. The perfect end to an utterly average day.