The Last Confession of Roy Hodgson

July 7, 2012

The Last Confession of Roy Hodgson

by DW

The men had formed a circle, and in the middle of the circle sat the effigy, its neck crooked and its head sunk against its chest. The first of the men stepped forward and threw the back of his hand sharply across the cheek of the effigy; its whole head snapped to the left, accompanied by the hollowed-out rustling sound of papier-mâché. The man struck again, this time with the open palm of his hand, and the head fell limp to the other side.

“That’s enough.” Their leader had spoken; the man retreated. The voice spoke again, this time addressing the effigy directly.

“We divvnae want this, Roy. Believe us when I say that. I’m sure you’re a lovely fella an’ that, but you’ve given us nae choice.”

This man, the leader, swept his left arm out in a semi-circle then mirrored the action with his right, silently introducing the ring of eleven men, each striking a near-identical pose with arms folded high across their chests. Each was of an indeterminable age somewhere between forty and sixty. Each had a face composed of red and purple hues and a belly that hung, to varying proportions, beyond the rim of their waistlines; each was dressed in the identical clothing of loose-fitting blue jeans and the Newscatle United football shirt. “These are all good lads, Roy. Salt of the earth, each and everyone of ‘em.”

The man picked up a can of Carling Black Label, cracked it open, took a hearty swig and then held it out in offering to the effigy. Seconds passed; a gentle wind picked up and carried a low whistling sound across the beer garden. The effigy was still, its head slung to the side where the second blow had left it.

“Suit yerself, Roy. I’ll not blame you for being upset with us. But you see, you’ve got to understand where my lads are coming from. You’ve to look at it from our perspective.”

From the pocket of his jeans the man pulled a folded piece of paper and a ballpoint pen. “We’ve written your confession for you, Roy. It’s missing a signature, but I’m happy to do that on your behalf, unless you’ve any objections like? Okay then.” As he went to sign the paper the man seemed pleasantly surprised (as if he had forgotten) to find the body of the biro decorated with the picture of a curvaceous, bikini-clad lady. He clicked the button on the biro’s top, causing the bikini to fall away and his eyes to open wide in delight.

“You seen this Roy?” He held the biro out in front of the effigy and clicked its lid several times, his grin growing larger with each press of the thumb. The effigy did not raise its head; soon the man’s smile narrowed until it was little more than a flat line gently upturned at the corners. With hurt in his eyes he turned his concentration back to the task at hand, of signing the confession, but not before he had allowed the lady one last performance of her entrancing striptease. “There’s still some beauty left in this world, Roy. Remember that.” It had been a long time since he had called the lady into service; a long time since the last confession.

*

It must have been nearly eighteen months now, when the twelve had gathered by the banks of the Tyne on a cold February morning. It had taken them more than an hour to assemble the scaled-down plywood ducking stool, and the icy mists that bled from the river had chilled their naked hands to the bone. But in their hearts the men remained warm, steeled by the noble pursuit of justice and the bottles of Smirnoff Ice that were passed around. Aloft on its seat, the swarthy puppet had rocked on the current of the easterly wind, but it did not tremble; as sentence was read aloud it merely gazed out across the mighty river, as if willing for the fog to rise so that its eyes might behold once more the place from whence it came, from whence its cruel heart sprang. But the fog had not lifted, had instead lain like a merciful and godly curtain dividing both shores of the Tyne, and for this the men were grateful: for none that day had wanted to look upon the Badlands.

“Ashley Cole, also known as C’Ashley –” their leader’s voice had skimmed and bounced across the black surface of the river, “if you will not openly confess to crimes committed against Our Cheryl, then we must take it as our duty to extract confession from you.” There had followed a momentary silence, the click of a lever; and then the creak of plywood as the ducking stool plunged its godless charge into the water.

*

It had been winter then and now it was summer, but in the hearts of the men an arctic chill had taken hold. None felt this more than their leader, who had lived too long now and seen too much. He drew heavily on his cigarette and regarded the effigy with a weary contempt, but the look was not without pity.

“He could’ve been European Champions, Roy. Kings of Europe. All of us together.”

The cheap thread of the fabric from which Roy’s miniature suit was cut hung loosely about his frame; few would agree that this was a fair representation of a man who, in spite of all his faults, was rarely less than sharply turned out. But there had simply not been enough time for details.

Two men stepped forward and lifted the effigy up by the underside of its arms. They carried it over to the centre of the beer garden, where an assortment of broken chairs and axe-hewn tables had been leant together in the crude pyramid structure of a bonfire. A scent of lighter fluid filled the nostrils of the men.

“You’ve got time for a few last words, Roy. You’ve got time to repent. For what you’ve done to us, like. And for what you’ve done to Him. You shouldn’t have done it, Roy.” The man’s voice was beginning to break, emotion pushing through the cracked surface like daisies in a long-abandoned car park. From the corner of his eye a solitary tear shaped itself into the outline of a perfectly formed pear, and caught within that pear was each and every colour of the rainbow, refracted from the light of the quickening fire.

It needn’t have been like this. First Wellbeck, then Carroll, and then Rooney. Insult piled upon injury and salt rubbed in for good measure. And if that wasn’t enough, he even brought on Walcott and Oxelade-Chamberlain to piss in the open wound. And all the while, the greatest striker England ever had wasn’t even sat on the bench; he didn’t even make Hodgson’s reserve list.

“Just tell us that, Roy. Tell us that one thing. Why didn’t you play Him? Why didn’t you play Shearer?”

Instinctively and in unison, each of the men drummed his right fist against his heart, raised his left in salute and cried the name aloud twice: ‘SHEARER! SHEARER!’

Soon the pyre was raging. Hodgson’s suit was first to catch, followed quickly by the grey-painted straw of his hair. The effigy began to crumple, folding and collapsing into itself. But then, with a slow puffing sound almost unheard, a wave of warm air rolled up from the centre of the fire and into the hollow cavity of the body, billowing through its limbs and making bulbous once more its chest and head. Run-through with the heat, its neck became uncrooked and its face unslumped – now it gazed straight ahead. The blackening head began to jerk in the heat, rolled by the flames in a hideous slow motion. The bottom half of the jaw snapped loose and detached itself from the top; the mouth fell open. A low rasping sound escaped from its dying carcass as the air within broke free, rushed upwards into the night. The men looked at one another aghast. After all he had done. After all he had put them through. Now Hodgson was laughing at them.

***

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