John Vane: Roy’s Summer of Sport (Tuesday 12 June 2012). Who’s Kevin?

John Vane: Roy’s Summer of Sport (Tuesday 12 June 2012). Who’s Kevin?

Roy sat at his office desk, re-positioning pencils, watching his clock.

He had an appointment at half past eleven with someone called Kevin Branley. Kristie had made the date. Kevin Branley had told her, “I think Roy might remember me.”

The buzzer went. “Roy Paine,” said Roy into the entry phone.

The crackly reply: “Hello, Roy. Kevin Branley here.” Chirpy, like they were old pals.

“Come on up, Mr Branley.” Roy straightened his tie, straightened his mouth and sat upright at his desk. Nothing chummy going on here.

Footsteps rose on the creaky stairs and a florid bald man came through the door.

“Greetings, Roy!” He held his hand out, offering a smile that said, mate it’s been too long! You haven’t changed!

Roy half stood, showing teeth, while his eyes scanned his visitor’s face for memory handholds. Nothing doing. Kevin wore an Adidas tracksuit over a small real ale paunch. He was the same sort of age as Roy, same sort of look, same sort of build, same sort of man. Roy wished he’d go away, wished he could go away himself, but every exit was blocked by the expectation in Kevin’s grin.

“We’ve met before, haven’t we?” said Roy, taking a social cue that he could not refuse.

“We have! Hoyland Hill School – well, that’s what it was called back then.”

Roy remembered that, of course. But Kevin Branley? He feigned a slow dawn of recognition.

“The year below you,” Kevin said, eyes alive.

Roy nodded his head with ostentatious slowness – yes, something was coming back. “Kevin – yes, I think I do remember a Kevin.”

“Do you remember Mr Phibbs? He’s still around, you know – in his eighties.”

“Is he, really?”

“I saw him last week. He remembers you. He said you went on to work in the City.”

“That’s right, I did,” said Roy, brightly, seized by sudden nerves about what Kevin might drag up next, and mentally picking a stock defence: keen young graduates from India were cheaper; it had been time to move on anyway.

“I’ve retired, actually,” said Kevin, beaming, and Roy sensed with relief that this might be the solipsistic revelation towards which Kevin steered every conversation.

“Lucky you,” he said.

“Yes, well, I packed it in. Thirty-five years in retail management, never known it so bad.”

“Yes, well, it’s a struggle all round these days. How did you locate me, then, ah, Kevin?”

“Through Facebook. Not too many Roy Paines studied at Hoyland Hill school. It had to be you.”

Kristie had set up the Facebook page for Roy. It had always frightened him.

“So this is Croydon,” Kevin went on. “Had some trouble here last summer, with the riots…”

“Yes, we did. But we seem to have got over it.”

“Terrible business. Must have been terrifying.”

This time, Roy ignored Kevin’s guileless stage direction.

“It’s nice to see you, Kevin, but is there anything I can do for you?”

Kevin guffawed. “Ha ha, get to the point! I’m organising a sort of reunion in September. It’s for charity actually. I’ve tracked all sorts of people down.”

He left 20 minutes later, leaving a geyser cloud of reminiscence. Roy still couldn’t remember him. He locked his door from the inside and lay down for on the floor for half an hour. Heading home, he heard news on the car radio of stand-offs between Poland and Russia fans in advance of the evening’s game in Warsaw. They should have seen that coming, are they daft, had they forgotten the Soviet empire?

In the kitchen, Roy picked up the box he’d peeked inside before, carried it through to the living room, put it on the floor and ignored it as the Czechs went two up in nine minutes against Greece.

At half time he’d edged towards it as though it were a deadly lucky dip. He pulled out the envelope marked “Roy” and placed it beside him on the sofa where it stayed as the Greeks pulled a goal back and a text came through from Kristie: “Will call you tomorrow around five.”

The envelope stayed on the sofa as the Poles battled thrillingly back against Russia’s one-nil half-time lead, a player called Jakub Blaszczykowski equalising with a gorgeous missile of a left-foot shot from just inside the box.

And then, at last, Roy tipped the contents of the envelope marked “Roy” on to the carpet by his feet: photographs, curling snapshots, lost versions of himself shining into his eyes like burning meteors arriving from different, far-off points in time and space.

All previous instalments of Roy’s Summer of Sport are HERE.

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Categories: Culture, Roy's Summer of Sport

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