April 29, 2012
Gary Neville rubbed his bony hands together in anticipation and let his mouth fall into its customary rodent smile. Big game tonight. Massive. He couldn’t wait to get started.
Now dinner, a pair of microwave Chicken Kievs (Iceland’s finest, no less), was out of the way, everything was in place. The phone was off the hook, his new rat, the extravagantly named ‘Nev’, had been fed, and his bright red t-shirt was draped caringly across the ironing board, crisper than the day he’d bought it.
He pulled on the top, closed his eyes and took a deep breath, allowing his mind to momentarily scan over various past glories. Snapping back to the present, he picked up the shirt and bow tie that lay in a crumpled heap in the middle of his laundry room floor. Reluctantly, he buttoned the shirt and tried his best to get the tie to look straight. He looked in the mirror: that bit of hair was standing up at the back again. He spat on the palm of his hand and tried to slick it down. It sprung straight back up. That would have to do.
Glancing at his wristwatch, Gary scurried downstairs and into the living room. It was a richly furnished affair, littered with low sofas and ebony trestles. A blank canvas hung on the wall; avant-garde, the art dealer had said. Gary thought it made him look ever so tasteful.
Despite the presence of such awe-inspiring artwork, the room’s dominating feature was without doubt its monstrous television. An entire wall it took up, filling the room with brooding HD, and there, underneath, nestled in a tangle of wires and blinking lights, was Gary’s pride and joy: his
It was a glorious creature, he thought, switching it with a delicate prod. Yes, a real mechanical Adonis of smooth, shiny plastic and limitless entertainment. Eyes fixed unwaveringly on his beloved console, Gary shuffled backwards until he met with his specially designed gaming chair, into which he fell with a blissful sigh. He glanced at the time again. Perfect.
An eager paw reached for the controller, another for the remote. The goliath TV set hummed into life. The FIFA logo blazed across the screen, bathing the dark room in its garish red glow. Jaunty europop blared from the surround sound. Gary blinked back tears of joy.
Manipulating the controller with familiar ease, game menus flashed before his eyes as various settings were tweaked. In a matter of moments he would be ready to begin. Just one last change to make, though.
With barely suppressed glee, Gary opened up the formations menu for his the team in blue. He selected a young defender and, with an evil leer, fiddled with a few advanced settings; mentality, positioning and the like. His sweaty fingers almost slipped as he navigated into the formation settings, and he even let out a small yelp of delight as he made a few careful adjustments to their back line. With one hand continuing to make tactical changes, the other brushed his crooked fringe out of his eyes and then smoothed his shadowy moustache. Another glance at his watch. That would have to do. It was time.
Right on cue, the customised doorbell chimed out. “Glory, glory Man United.. Glory, glory…”
Cutting off the tune before it reached the second line, Gary opened the door as wide as his grin, and was greeted by the friendly faces of David and Victoria Beckham. David’s hair was smoothed back and to the side, his moustache and sideburns neatly trimmed, and he was sporting a glistening silver suit. Victoria was showcasing one of her own designs no doubt: a black figure-hugging number that, along with her new, short haircut, made her look even thinner than usual. Together they looked every part the Hollywood stars.
Gary shuffled nervously in the doorway, murmured a couple of pleasantries, and looked down to smooth his creased shirt. A sliver of red was showing through between two button holes. His guests pretended not to notice. Victoria enquired about the blank canvas hanging in the hallway. Gary was chuffed to discover neither of his cultured guests had heard of the artist.
Polite as ever but starting to freeze, David asked whether they might come inside.
“Have you brought him?” Gary fired back.
In answer, David stepped aside to reveal his second son, a sheepish looking Romeo.
“He’s only eight, not ten. Is that OK? What did you need him for, anyway? He’s had to miss training for this.”
Gary was deaf to the question, he’d already lead the youngster through to the living room and plopped him into the gaming chair.
“Now listen our kid, I’ve set up a game for you, special realistic settings. You don’t mind playing as Chelsea, do you?”
The youngster shook his head.
“And you know who David Luiz is, right? Big mop haircut, common sense of a lemon?”
“Excellent. Well, it’s all yours then. Just play your natural game!”