281: Penalty Shot

281: Penalty Shot

281: Penalty Shot

Penalty Shot
by Ishion Hutchinson

Then there was this boy who rafted to school,
his dad a dark profile in cold morning air,
lean and curved, as we gathered on the peninsula
for early devotions, the punctual light crossing
the battlement; we answered “present” or “absent”
to names shouted, fidgeting in our class lines.

Quiet boy, khaki pants rolled up, smelling of fish
scales and lime. Christ, he could strike the football
like a killer, but we were all animals on the playfield,
and when we ran out of nicknames for him,
he became No Name Boy, because he didn’t
talk much, and never challenged the names we gave.

When the sea swallowed going-home bells,
we rushed hell-loose to the bus stop, firing insults
and next-day’s war threats, but he walked slowly,
turning at the cliff’s gate, stopping to roll up his pants.
I shouted to him one evening as he got down
on his knee: “School tomorrow?” He looked through

the right angles of his leg, certain I didn’t know
his name. A strange thing passed between us,
a bent ball, skidding towards the two open posts,
and there I was in the clearing, no defenders,
but I stalled at the shot, until now I recall
his real name, in the jerk of memory’s net: Eusebius Titus.

"Penalty Shot" by Ishion Hutchinson, from FAR DISTRICT, copyright © 2010 Peepal Tree Press. Used by permission of the Peepal Tree Press.

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