Monday June 7

Adam finished chewing as his father waited at the head of the old oak dining table. There was a view from his father’s chair into the garden, a biscuit tin image maintained by his mother, whose own seating position framed her against the windows. Adam was on his father’s right, and his two brothers Michael and Gregory shared the other side. Everyone had their place.

Adam swallowed his food and was able to reply. ‘Uh, yeah. We did win again on Friday.’
‘Oh, well done,’ Mrs Curtis said. ‘That must have cheered you all up again.’
Mr Curtis frowned. ‘Good work. Did you score many goals?’
‘Um. A few points.’
‘With your height, they’ll be glad to have you, I’m sure,’ Mr Curtis said. Then he took a mouthful of each meat and vegetable on his plate. The others were eating as well. Gregory squirmed in his seat, twisting runner beans around his fork. Mr Curtis prepared another forkload as he continued. ‘I’m sure there aren’t many other people as tall as you.’
‘It’s not just about being tall,’ Michael said scornfully. ‘Skill is much more important.’
‘Hey Adam!’ Gregory broke in. ‘Did you jam it?’
Adam shook his head. ‘No.’
‘But that’d be cool! Have you seen Michael Jordan jam it? He’s in the NBA finals, did you hear? He’s in Chicago and they’re gonna play Phoenix!’
‘Going to,’ Mrs Curtis said.
‘They’re going to play Phoenix! He’s so cool, he can fly almost.’
Michael shook his head disparagingly. ‘Don’t be stupid, Greg, he can’t almost fly. Basketball’s a stupid game anyway.’
Greg made a face and waved his beans at his brother. ‘Is not! It’s cool! It’s better than stupid soccer!’
Michael snorted and turned to his father. ‘Soccer is the world’s most popular sport, isn’t it Dad?’
Mr Curtis’ mouth was full and he seemed to be chewing for longer than usual.
Greg wasn’t satisfied by this. ‘Basketball’s what’s in movies!’
‘That’s just because it’s American,’ Michael continued.
‘Well, see?’ Greg cried, triumphant. ‘If soccer was any good it’d be the biggest in America too!’
Mrs Curtis coughed gently, and Mr Curtis gave her his attention. ‘Adam, your father and I, well, we were we wondering about your training schedule?’
‘What about it?’
Mr Curtis took up the theme. ‘Yes, that’s right. We want to make sure you’re confident that you can manage. Two nights of practice, and then the games on top of that. It is a heavy load. It hasn’t interfered with your schoolwork?’
Adam shook his head. ‘No.’
‘It is a lot of time you lose there,’ Mr Curtis persisted. ‘This is your most important year and you can’t afford to let things slide.’
‘I’m keeping up.’
‘Well, keeping up is one thing, but you really need to push yourself a little bit further than that. This one year you have to make sacrifices, you understand. Law school only takes the best qualified and you do want to keep that door open.’
Adam thought of how he’d also been advised to make sacrifices in each of the last few years. He concentrated on chewing his potato.
‘Yes,’ Mrs Curtis said. ‘With your new job, dear, we were just wondering how you were managing, that’s all.’
‘Is that all right then?’ Mr Curtis asked. ‘It’ll be good for you to get a taste for what real life is like! Ha ha.’ He smiled at his joke.
‘Do you feel you’re getting the hang of it?’ Mrs Curtis said.
Adam nodded.
‘Good fundamental work, that’s what it is. The basis of society is industry. You should give Jerry a call, tell him how much you appreciate the opportunity.’
‘Yes, that would be polite, wouldn’t it? It’s a great opportunity,’ Mrs Curtis said softly. ‘And you can start saving some money for your University expenses.’
Adam nodded slowly. ‘It’s good.’
His mother frowned. ‘Do be grateful, Adam. Your father’s found you a real opportunity to do something worthwhile with your weekends. You will make the most of it, won’t you?’
‘Any jobs for me, Dad?’ asked Michael eagerly. He was trying to save money for a mountain bike.
‘Well, Michael, I think your paper run is enough for you right now.’
‘I’ve never had a job,’ Greg announced happily. ‘Never gonna have one either!’
‘Going to,’ Mrs Curtis said.
‘Stupid,’ Michael said. ‘How are you going to live without a job?’
‘I’ll win Lotto!’ Greg said. ‘Then I won’t ever need a job!’
‘I wouldn’t make plans assuming you’re going to win Lotto, Greg,’ Mr Curtis said, pointing a fork of broccoli at his children for emphasis. ‘Life isn’t really a lottery, is it? If you work hard you’ll get everywhere you need to go. If you’re prepared to put your head down and work you’ll go further than Lotto could ever take you.’
‘Yeah but I’ll still win it!’
‘Not with your mouth full you won’t,’ Mrs Curtis said with something approaching sharpness. Gregory instantly bowed his head, but slid around to catch Michael’s eye. Mrs Curtis cleared her throat very gently.
Adam sat back in his seat, unsure what had happened to his appetite. Outside, in the garden, his mother’s hydrangeas dug roots into the soil and searched for water.