Tony Caw is back with part 2 of the Tabula Rasa story – you can read part 1 here in case you missed last week’s explosive start.
As he stood on the bombed, crumbling, dilapidated terrace of the run-down premise he’d chosen to be the Apostles’ Arena watching his new charges train for the first time, Father Pietro Sicily was an individual not to be questioned.
With silver prosthetic metal arms and hands (a result of The War), jet black hair brushed to the side, black thick rimmed glasses, a black shirt and black trousers offset by the white dog collar which signified his religious calling, this tall man of God was a very intimidating and daunting figure for one to bear witness to.
AMDG FC was based in Los Magdalaneos in the North of Tabula Rasa. The city, inhabited mostly by Catholics, sat at high altitude in amongst the once snow covered mountains. (Since The War and since The Bomb, the snow had stopped coming. Tabula Rasa was now always hot and was now always dusk. The light of day like a magician there once, was now gone forever.)
The inhabitants of Tabula Rasa put a lot down to The War: the weather change was down to The War; the country’s sizeable population decrease was of course down to The War; and the thing which stood next to Father Pietro Sicily was also down to The War. It must have been. There could be no other explanation.
Of Pug breed, he had all the attributes you would expect of a Pug dog – all except one. Because in between his small, cute, Pug-like ears, one bore witness to the face of a human. Acting as Father Pietro’s assistant, his name was Dogsbody.
Dogsbody had a brown moustache, big rosy cheeks, was bald on top and like Father Sicily, wore glasses, but unlike his Master, his were red.
“Well, what do you make of them Father?” asked Dogsbody, licking himself, as he stood obediently next to the Chairman/Manager of AMDG FC.
“They’re not bad Dogsbody; they’re not bad at all,” Father Sicily answered as he looked on at the sixteen players who would come to make up the very first AMDG FC squad.
Whether they were good enough to win the first ever Greenback Bank’s Tabula Rasa Premier League remained to be seen, but he’d found what he thought were the best sixteen Catholic players in Los Magdalaneos. (Only Catholics were allowed to play for AMDG FC.)
With the sponsorship money he’d received from Greenback Bank, Father Pietro Sicily had spent a little on club strips and suits, a little on the necessary training equipment, a little on wages, a little on marketing and most he had spent on a solid gold, sixty foot cross of Jesus which was perched atop the small, structurally reinforced yet still rickety, shed-like stand which was opposite where he and Dogsbody currently stood.
There were no other stands at the Apostles Arena, only barriers to lean on, so those unfortunate enough not to be underneath the Saviour’s South Stand were exposed to the elements. It didn’t snow anymore in Tabula Rasa, but it still rained occasionally, and when the rain did come, it was torrential, and of Biblical, plague like proportions.
Father Pietro Sicily was indeed happy with the squad he had assembled: there, playing in defence in the eight-a-side drill on the bobbly, less than pristine pitch was Michael Banucci, a rapid, six foot ten centre-half with pink perm and pristine white teeth who he had plucked from the slums of Los Magdalaenos; and there, in central midfield was the most energetic black man he’d ever seen – Eric Endurancio. He never seemed to take a breath, and once a game of football started, he didn’t stop until the full time whistle was blown.
And there…there up front was both Father Sicily’s solution and problem; Chrisy Chalmers. With his floppy, surf-like, styled high hair and multi-coloured studs for earrings, this flamboyant, crazy, half-wit of a man scored goals as often as he swallowed stimulants. That is, often.
Father Sicily knew that when the work of the day was done and when reconnaissance received from the five enemy headquarters had been poured over that Chrisy headed straight for Sin Alley – where Prop Pizzeria was merely a front for the Magic it sold under the counter; where brothels were aplenty and where the alcoholics, philanderers and drug addicts of Los Magdalaneos gathered to party the night away and drink away the fears and terrors which The War had brought.
Chrisy had been seen staggering down Sin Alley more than once by Father Pietro Sicily’s spies.
But as his profile was bound to increase as the season progressed, it would become very important that he was seen in Sin Alley no more, less the club’s reputation and in turn The Faith be brought into disrepute.
Just as important was that he didn’t lead the conscientious members of the squad like Banucci and Endurancio astray; otherwise the club’s chances of success in this the inaugural football season would evaporate like so many of the victims of The Bomb which signalled the end of The War in Tabula Rasa…