I’d Like to Thank God and My Agent…

Carlos looked at the leather ball that lay at his feet. He looked at the goalkeeper in front of him. He looked to the heavens and mumbled a hasty prayer. Finally, he looked into the furthest corner of the net and visualized the ball’s path from here to there.

Stefan looked at the midfielder. He looked at the tiniest movements of Carlos’s feet and of his eyes. He looked skyward and offered his own prayer.

Carlos struck the ball. Stefan leapt.

St. Sebastian looked over the scene beneath him. He looked at his report on each supplicant. He looked at the contents of their pleas. He slammed a hand down on the big red button. The game stopped.

The universe stopped around it.

St. Sebastian did not look at God. Instead, he looked at the files in his hands. He looked at the other servants. He looked at his own feet.

“Both of them?” came the thundering reply to his petition.

“Yes, my Lord. Both of them. Baptized and confirmed, paperwork in order. Both altar boys in their youth and up to date with their tithing. Both confessed Sunday last and while each has been moderately boastful in interviews since, it’s nothing that approaches pridefulness. Both are in a state of grace, my Lord, and both have asked us to intercede.”

“Well, this is a holy pickle, then. Is there any precedent for this?”

“No, my Lord. Professional athletes rarely maintain a state of grace. They drink a lot, cheat on their wives, and they rarely admit to anything, never mind confess it. But these two are different.”

“Well, if there’s nothing to decide between them, we’ll have to leave the humans to sort it out amongst themselves.”

The referee looked at the ball. He looked at the restless, expectant crowd. He looked at the ball again.

The striker had hit it with the force of God and the keeper had needed a miracle to deflect.

And now, here it was, impaled upon a loose bolt in the net supports and slowly deflating. It was neither in the net nor out of the net, and the referee had never seen anything like it.

He looked at the crowd again, both sides having grown dangerously quiet. He looked up and crossed himself as he mouthed a silent prayer.

I find short stories difficult. They’re so short and I am so long-winded. But I wrote this one for a long ago writing workshop and I’ve always been kinda proud of it. I decided to throw it up here on my basically unused website so I could force my friends to read it and politely tell me they like it.