Trawling through the phone boxes
of central London, Jasper picked up card after card, his hands quivering,
his breath shallow and his chest tight. He couldn't help it - it was
sordid and depraved but he could not resist the compulsion to pocket
He has already rehearsed his speech in
case he was spotted by a policeman; he would adopt a tone of moral outrage
and explain that he was removing the cards because they were filth and
were lowering the tone of the plush Bloomsbury location..
One particular card caught his eye.
He could feel his T-shirt cling sweatily
to his back. He looked around to check that he wasn't noticed and pretended
that he had dropped something - then he daintily plucked the blu-tacked
card from the glass.
This card was different. Mostly, they
showed young black footballers from the first or second divisions, anonymous
youngsters with bulging thighs. The cards would talk of their prowess
at headers, how they were deadly finishers in the box. Jasper had met
these young men in bedsits and rented rooms: often they were nothing
like the photos, they were lanky mulattos with no ball control and studs
missing from their boots.
This card was different. He recognised
the player. He had put on weight and his hair - once so celebrated in
adverts and talk-shows - was thinning. He was kitted out in the lurid
colours of a first division side. But he recognised the player: it was