The strikerz bring it.., p.2
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       The StrikerZ - Bring it on!, p.2

           Randall James
 
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  “Hello,” returned Fred and Eileen. “I’m Fred, and this is my wife Eileen.” They all shook hands. The twins smiled at Fred and Eileen, who waved back to them.

  “Welcome to the Low Rentals,” announced Colin, gesturing toward the cookie-cutter duplexes where they had just come from. “Otherwise known as the United Nations. Thanks for coming to visit us.” Colin scanned the StrikerZ.

  “Hey, StrikerZ, let’s show Fred and Eileen where your families are from — besides Canada. When I say your name, tell us your family’s country or heritage, just for fun. Okay?” The kids nodded and some said sure. Fred and Eileen gazed at each of the kids’ faces as Colin continued.

  “Diego?”

  “Dad!” Why does he always forget in public! EZ thought.

  “Sorry, Son. I mean EZ.”

  “Scotland and Argentina.”

  “Danny?”

  “First Nations.”

  “Lukas?”

  “Germany.”

  “Milan?”

  “Croatia.”

  “Jose?”

  “Brazil.”

  “Maddie?”

  “China and Scotland.”

  “Mario?”

  “Italia!”

  “Zach?”

  Zach grinned and then chanted, “U-S-A! U-S-A! U-S-A!” Some of the players covered their ears, and the rest of the guys wrestled him to the ground and muzzled him. Everyone laughed.

  Colin continued as the boys returned to their feet. “Tommy?”

  “Australia.”

  “Logan?”

  “England.”

  “Bandit?”

  “Oui? France.”

  “Sandra?”

  “Scotland.”

  Colin laughed. “You see why the kids are so good at football. We’re a true global village.”

  “That’s great,” said Fred.

  Colin then turned to the StrikerZ. “Why don’t you play some more soccer so that Fred and Eileen can watch?”

  “Sure,” replied EZ.

  Sandra asked, “Can I watch the girls for you, Monika?”

  “Thank you, Sandra,” answered Monika, and the girls ran off. Fred and EZ nodded to each other before they parted. The StrikerZ began to kick the ball around while the foursome walked to the side of the field and continued to talk.

  ***

  Fred surveyed the school grounds. The large block of land contained two buildings, both old, red and wooden. Fred’s mind was already spinning. “Most families here are single parent families, like mine and Monika's,” he heard Colin say. “Most are on welfare or disability. Some parents are alcoholics, and some are drug addicts. A lot of families are struggling to make ends meet.” Fred and Eileen nodded.

  “And what do you do to pass the time, Monika?” asked Eileen.

  “I take care of Milan, and the twins, Tara and Katarina, and I work part-time at a restaurant,” she replied cheerfully.

  “So, you’re from Croatia?” Eileen asked. “You have a beautiful accent.”

  “Thank you. Yes. Ten years ago, Milan and I came to Canada from Croatia. Croatia was still rebuilding after the war. I came to this wonderful country and met my Prince Charming in Toronto. We moved to New Waterford a few years later, because he was from here. We had the twins about four years ago. The prince turned into a frog, and now I'm raising the three children on my own.” She pointed to Eileen's bag. “I noticed your sketch,” she said, changing the subject. “Are you an artist?”

  Eileen pulled out her sketchbook and revealed the drawing. “I’m not a professional, but I love to draw. I think we could get some shirts made up with this team logo on it.”

  “That’s a super idea!” Monika exclaimed.

  “How about you, Colin?” asked Fred. “How are you and EZ doing?”

  “Oh, we're getting by,” Colin answered. “EZ’s really a great kid. His mother’s name is Fabiana, and she’s from Argentina. That’s where he gets his soccer skills. We’ve been separated for about five years now. Sadly, she’s addicted to crack cocaine, and it’s been really hard on EZ. And I was sick for a couple of years, and I’m just getting back on my feet.” He looked proudly at his son on the field. “EZ basically took care of himself, and me, for over a year.”

  “I'm glad you’re feeling better,” said Fred, as he patted Colin on the shoulder.

  “What's the story on the school here?” Fred asked, turning again to look at the property.

  “They're going to level it all and build new houses,” Colin replied.

  “It's sad,” Monika added. “Most of our children went to Central Elementary, and the kids sometimes play on the grass field in behind the school.”

  “Looks like construction, or rather levelling, will start soon,” remarked Eileen.

  “It's going to be a lot of commotion,” sighed Colin.

  Fred looked at Colin and Monika. “Would you and the other parents mind if we got involved with uniforms and cleats, and checking with the Soccer Association about the kids playing in the League?”

  “Not at all,” answered Monika. “We welcome your involvement. It was so great to hear how the boys met you up at summer camp!”

  Colin agreed. “Yes, the kids would be pumped!”

  “Great!” exclaimed Fred and Eileen.

  They all turned and watched the StrikerZ play for a while longer.

  “Wow!” blurted Fred, shaking his head. “They’re really amazing. Look how they pass and shoot!”

  Eileen added, “And Bandit is the goal keeper with only one arm?”

  “I think that we’re so used to seeing them play that we don’t really see it anymore,” replied Monika. “But you’re right — they have great talent. And as far as our Bandit goes, isn’t he special? He’s actually the best fisherman in town too. It’s really something to see him sitting at the breakwater, fishing. He doesn’t let anything stop him.”

  Colin nodded in agreement.

  Fred glanced at Eileen. “Well, we should get going. It was so great to meet you two and all the kids. We’ll be in touch. Call us if you need anything — anything at all.”

  “Monika, could I get your phone number, please?” asked Eileen.

  “Of course,” replied Monika. She jotted her number down on a scrap of paper and handed it to Eileen.

  ***

  EZ noticed that Fred and Eileen were getting ready to go.

  “C’mon guys. They’re leaving.” The kids dashed over.

  After a nice good-bye, the Joneses got in their car and drove past the field. The kids stood at the side of the field, waving and smiling, and Fred and Eileen waved back.

  As the Benz disappeared, the StrikerZ walked back and sat down along the fence.

  “Pass the goodies around,” directed EZ.

  “Yes, sir!” replied Zach. The StrikerZ pulled out bottles of pop, bags of chips, chocolate bars and peanuts — which had all been hidden under their coats.

  “Dudes, these peanuts are so good!” exclaimed Lukas.

  “Pass them on,” urged Danny. Lukas washed down the peanuts with a big gulp of pop. Danny did the same, and EZ was munching on barbeque chips. The StrikerZ passed the treats up and down the line, like pirates sharing the booty.

  “Do you think they’re going to buy us uniforms, and get us in the League?” Lukas asked.

  “Looks like it,” answered EZ.

  “Do you think they’re really rich?” asked Danny.

  “Well, they’re not poor, that’s for sure,” replied EZ. “You can tell by their clothes, and they’re driving a sporty Benz.”

  “Why do you think they’re doing this?” Maddie asked.

  “That’s a good question,” EZ replied, and he thought about it for a few minutes.

  He suddenly sat up. “What time’s the game this afternoon?”

  “Three o’clock, I think,” replied Milan. “Liverpool versus Manchester United!”

  “Yes!” A big cheer went up from everyone.
r />
  “That’s the best rivalry in the world!” stated EZ.

  “I don’t know,” countered Jose. “Barcelona and Real Madrid is pretty big too.”

  “Yeah, that’s true,” agreed EZ. “But I love this one best!”

  EZ loved to go to Milan’s house on Saturdays and watch a big match from Europe. Monika would help them find a game, and most times she watched it too. She would explain the formations and tactics of each team, and she always broke out munchies.

  “Suarez versus Rooney! Sweet!” exclaimed Danny.

  “Yeah!” yelled most of the kids.

  “Yeah, but Messi rocks — he’s the best player in the world!” proclaimed EZ.

  “CR7,” countered Jose. “You just like Messi better because he’s from Argentina.”

  “And you like C. Ronaldo better, because he’s Portuguese.” EZ and Jose grinned at each other. EZ would normally have jumped on Jose and started to wrestle, but they were eating.

  Everyone else started naming their favourite players from all over the world.

  As they continued to gulp down snacks — amid big burps and football talk — EZ said, “This is my most fave kind of food — free!” Everyone chuckled.

  “It was a great sale,” added Mario, waving the fingers on his right hand. “Five-finger discount!”

  CHAPTER 3

  Soccer Fanatic

  On Monday morning, Fred phoned the Mayor of New Waterford and received the name and number of the man who had bought the school property: Mr. Gordon Stickly.

  Fred called him immediately. “Hello Mr. Stickly. My name is Fred Jones, and I’m interested in purchasing the Central School property. I would like to get it for fair market value with a little thrown in on top, for all your troubles.”

  After a short pause, Mr. Stickly replied gruffly, “Mr. Jones, I’ll save you a lot of time and energy. I can make six figures on this project. Unless you’re prepared to talk those kinds of numbers — and I doubt you are — forget it!” The call ended abruptly. Fred just stood there, staring at the phone.

  “Well, that was to the point.”

  “What did he say?” Eileen asked.

  “He wants one hundred thousand dollars profit,” Fred replied. “On top of that, we’d have to purchase the land. It's a lot of money just to buy it, Eileen, and then we'd still have construction costs.”

  Eileen looked at Fred with a little frown. And then she started to smile. “Oh, Fred, you know you want that land, and we have the money to do it.” They gazed at each other.

  Eileen continued, “We’re supposed to meet Monika and the kids after school tomorrow. Why don’t you phone Mr. Stickly back and make an appointment to meet him at the school? You’re most persuasive in person, honey. I know you can get that property if you put your mind to it.

  Remember how you invested in that diamond mine in the Northwest Territories?” Eileen wiggled the fingers on her left hand to show off her sparkly diamond engagement ring.

  Fred’s eyes lit up. He remembered how much he loved the business game and closing deals. He hadn’t experienced that in quite a while, and this was for a good cause.

  ***

  On Tuesday evening, EZ was eagerly waiting at the field with his friends and some parents. Monika had informed the StrikerZ that Fred and Eileen had some vital news.

  EZ observed the Joneses’ Benz pull into the school parking lot and saw Eileen walking toward them, while Fred lingered at the school entrance. A minute later, a long, blue Cadillac arrived, and a short, middle-aged man got out and met Fred. EZ wondered what was up.

  Eileen arrived at the StrikerZ field and spoke briefly with Monika. She then addressed the whole group with Monika by her side.

  “Hi, StrikerZ!”

  “Hi, Eileen!”

  “Well, everyone, the StrikerZ are in the League! We just met with the President, and you’ll have your first game in two weeks! You’re in U-14.”

  EZ couldn’t believe his ears! Wow! That was fast! A real game — against a real team? Whoa!

  All his friends jumped, cheered, slapped high-fives and knocked fists!

  “Sweet!” exclaimed EZ, with his fist pumping.

  “Groovy!” shouted Lukas.

  Eileen continued, “Fred has volunteered to coach for now, but he’ll need an assistant. Our team colour choices are blue or purple, with white trim, and I’ve already been scouting out uniforms and soccer gear. Soccer Fanatic in Sydney seems to be an excellent soccer store. Monika and I are supposed to find out the team colours, numbers and sizes for the uniforms and cleats.”

  The kids hooted and hollered again.

  “Purple for team colours!” shouted EZ, and most of the StrikerZ agreed with him.

  “Purple and white would be totally rad!” yelled Maddie.

  “That was easy,” said Monika. “Now — what numbers do you want?”

  “I want 10,” cried EZ.

  “11,” hollered Lukas.

  “7,” yelled Danny.

  “9,” exclaimed Milan.

  “8,” shouted Maddie.

  “6,” yelled Jose.

  “5,” hollered Mario.

  “I get number 1 as the keeper!” exclaimed Bandit.

  “I’ll take 4!” yelled Zach.

  “2,” shouted Tommy.

  “Cool! That leaves 3 for me!” smiled Logan. “Sold!”

  Monika waved a pen and a piece of paper. “Write your name and number on this piece of paper and the sizes for your uniforms and cleats. If you don’t know your size, ask your parents, or you can ask me, and I’ll make my best guess.”

  ***

  Meanwhile, Fred was in negotiations with Gordon Stickly. They strolled around the school grounds.

  “What do you want this property for anyway?’ asked Mr. Stickly.

  “Well, I’ve got a couple of ideas for it, Gordon,” answered Fred, who didn’t want to give away his purpose. “What would it take for you to walk away from this project?”

  “Where did you make your money?” Stickly enquired.

  Fred just laughed. “Now, now, Gordon. What has that to do with anything?” He fixed his business eyes on Stickly. They stopped walking and stood toe to toe, like two prize-fighters.

  “I'll give you $100,000, right now,” offered Fred. “You haven’t even broken ground.”

  “You want it too badly,” returned Stickly, with a shrewd look. “You’re in a weak bargaining position.” Fred knew that was true, but he didn’t care. He just had to get it.

  “$200,000,” countered Stickly.

  “$125,000,” responded Fred. “Be reasonable, Gordon.”

  Stickly chuckled. “$175,000.”

  “Okay. $150,000 Gordon. Cut to the chase.”

  “Alright, $150,000, plus my expenses.”

  “Deal,” proclaimed Fred, sticking out his hand.

  Stickly narrowed his eyes. “What are you going to build — condos?” Fred wouldn’t bite and kept his hand extended.

  Stickly finally cracked a smile, reached out his hand and made the deal.

  “Is your handshake good?” asked Fred.

  “You bet, Fred. I won’t go back on a deal that I’ve shook on. Have your people call my people as soon as you want to complete the paperwork.” Mr. Stickly handed Fred his business card.

  “Thanks, Gordon, pleasure doing business with you. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m late for another meeting.” Fred left and headed over to the field. He looked back and saw Mr. Stickly getting into his oversized car, chuckling and shaking his head.

  ***

  Even though EZ was totally stoked about all the great news from Eileen, he kept an eye on Fred and the man over at the school. What was all that about? They were having a huge talk. He then noticed Fred shake the man’s hand, get his card, and stride toward the field.

  EZ really liked Fred. He was what his dad would call a ‘go-getter’ and a ‘straight-shooter.’ There was nothing phony about Fred. You could tell by the way he i
nteracted with people.

  “Hi, everyone!” Fred called out.

  Everyone gave Fred a big hello.

  “Did I miss anything?” he asked.

  “Everything,” answered Eileen. “But you already knew the good news I shared with them. I think it’s safe to say that the kids are happy to be in the League and to be getting uniforms.”

  “Yeah!” screamed the StrikerZ again, just to let Fred know how they felt.

  “Okay, that’s it,” announced Eileen. “I just have to finish the logo and email the info to the store. As soon as they tell me the gear is in, we’ll arrange a bus trip to Soccer Fanatic. We have to get everything done as soon as we can.”

  “Okay, StrikerZ, what do you say?” urged Monika.

  “Thank you!” the kids screamed from the bottom of their toes. The adults all shook hands, and then Fred and Eileen said good-bye. Fred gave an extra smile and nod to EZ, as usual, and EZ returned the same. What’s he up to?

  ***

  EZ was pumped during the twenty minute bus ride into Sydney. He tried to think about the team in purple and white uniforms and cool cleats, but it was really hard to imagine. He needed to see it to believe it.

  As EZ listened to all his friends buzzing about Soccer Fanatic, he gazed out the right side window at the blue ocean and various houses. He loved this view. His dad didn’t own a car, so he didn’t get to travel into Sydney that often. He looked to his left and took in the lush, green rolling hills and trees. Cape Breton was spectacular at this time of the year. Soon, they passed Whitney Pier and arrived at the store.

  The bus pulled into the store parking lot, and he could see Fred and Eileen waiting at the entrance. In fact, they both held the doors open. The hyper kids poured off the bus, yelled Hi, and burst into Soccer Fanatic like they had been shot out of a cannon!

  EZ, Danny, Lukas and Milan raced to the giant shoe wall.

  “Dudes, look at these cleats!” exclaimed EZ. “They’re like metallic and neon! Where’s purple?” All the guys scanned the wall for their favourite colour combos.

  “I want gold!” shouted Lukas.

  “White!” exclaimed Milan.

  “I want blue!” yelled Danny. “But I better get purple to match the uniform.”

  “Look Maddie, a girl’s section!” called out Sandra, and the two friends checked out jackets and track pants. “Cool!” exclaimed Maddie. “Check out the styles!”

 
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