Jacob sat down outside the natural food store cum cafe, stirred some brown sugar into his organic, fair trade mocha and sighed. He was dying for something unhealthy to eat but he'd promised his wife that the days of guzzling saturated fats and grease were over. Beside him, in her pram, Jessica clenched and unclenched her tiny fists. She was the reason for many of the lifestyle choices imposed upon him in the past eighteen months. Jessica struggled as she reached for the fabric giraffe that adorned the front of her pram.
She was four months old and content. Jacob and Jessica had gone for a walk go escape the house they shared with their wife / mother. Post natal depression had taken a toll on the relationship between them all. Mummy needed time alone to have a bubble bath and knock back a bottle of Lidl's finest wine. Jacob stared into his coffee and absentmindedly put another sugar in, feeling guilty as he did so.
"You look bored, mate." opined a voice from an adjacent table.
"Sorry?" asked Jacob.
"I'll bet you are." responded the bald man seated nearby. "Bet you've always been sorry, usually about the things that are beyond your control."
"I've no idea what you mean."
"Sure you do. Wife's not giving you any attention. Told you to get that kid out of the house before she had a nervous breakdown I’d guess. Boss ignores your ideas; you haven't made a single friend since you moved to this town."
"Greystones is fine." Jacob protested. "There's some good cafes..."
The bald man looked down the street and noted the dozens of cafes, each providing broadly the same menu to the denizens of Greystones.
"There is, but it's missing something isn't it? It's too safe, too normal, a bit dull. People come here to raise their kids, not live their lives. Am I right?" The bald man finished.
A lot of what the man said rang true. Jacob had secretly thought much the same thing. Moving there wasn't his decision, like most of the life choices made in the past eight years. Angela had decided where they were going to buy the house because it was near some reasonable schools. She'd rejected his plans for a home cinema and an exercise room because they wouldn't have time for those things with the baby coming. Jacob realised with a start that nothing had turned out the way he wanted it to. Jacob took a sip of his ethically sound overpriced coffee and nodded to the bald man.
The man smiled and then spoke.
"Course I'm right. Tell you what; I'm starting a club for people like us, calling it Greystones F.C. You're welcome to join. We're meeting in Reynolds' field near the windgates. We have matches every Tuesday at 8. See you there."
The bald man got up and left, heading down Church road to do some more recruiting. Jacob finished his coffee. He and baby Jessica went home.
On Tuesday, Jacob showed up in the right place at the right time to join in on the match. He'd come kitted out for a soccer game, a decent run around the pitch would help him blow off some steam he had reasoned. Angela had protested his leaving her alone with the baby but he told her he needed some time alone as well.
Jacob looked around the field. It wasn't really suitable for a soccer pitch, there were rocks strewn around and the grass was too long. Six other men were there, standing around in a small circle. The bald man was one of them. Most were around Jacob's age, mid-thirties, and they all had the look of the sort who crunched numbers or pushed paper all day.
A couple of the men nodded greetings as he approached.
"Right lads, we playing soccer or what?" Jacob asked.
The others laughed nervously.
The bald man spoke: "Running around kicking a ball isn't what we need. I've planned something a little more exciting. Take off your rings and jewellery if you've got them lads." The bald man pointed to a tall, thin man on Jacob's left. "Trevor's your opponent for tonight."
With that, Trevor, an estate agent originally from Malahide, stepped forward and punched Jacob in the face. Jacob fell flat on his back.
"What the fuck?" Jacob said, feeling the anger burn inside him.
"This isn’t football mate; it’s a lot more primal than that. What did you think “F.C.” stood for? The anger your feeling is how we’re supposed to feel. That's good, use it and hit Trevor back." The bald man said.
Jacob got to his feet and charged at Trevor. They collided and tumbled to the ground. Jacob ended up on top and commenced pummelling Trevor. He hadn't felt this alive in ages. With every blow he felt his power, so long neutered in this clean and boring town, return. Trevor walloped him on the side of his face with a quick jab; Jacob smiled and continued to punch. He kept going until the bald man pulled him away.
"That's enough, there's another round coming up. Take five."
One of the other men handed Jacob a bottle of water. Jacob took a drink, sloshed it around his mouth and spat it out. The water had turned brown from the blood in his mouth.
"Right." The bald man said. "Ready to go again?"
Jacob and Trevor faced each other. Jacob felt the bloodlust rise in his chest and stormed in towards Trevor, flailing his arms about like a madman.
Four minutes later, it was over. Jacob and Trevor sat down beside one another and slapped each other on the back. Both of them were nursing bruises and split lips but were ecstatic at having felt like men again, even if only for a moment. As they watched two more competitors circled each other, fighting their cares away. Jacob smiled and relaxed for the first time since he had moved to the town. He finally felt like he was at home.