And up you step, BANG! Toe-poke the fucker Ronald fucking Koeman roof of the fucking net straight past that gobshite cunt of a keeper, GET FUCKIN IN! And yeh they get mards on and yeh there’s argyfuckinbargy net still billowing lads yelling in your face grabbing your head YES BILLY-BOY! Stevie yelling KEEP IT TIGHT KEEP IT FUCKIN TIGHT! as you run back into position but it don’t matter anyway ref blowing up two seconds after they kick off, GET FUCKING IN! COME ON YOU CROOKED SPIREITES!... And back in the bar, it’s big fuckarsed grins all round, first pint necked in one Phil spilling half his down his shirt like a fuckin girl, Pongo slapping Phil on the back as he jips up lager down his trackies, Stevie already getting the next ones in and Eyup, notice them fuckers ant come in for one? Laughs all round, Tubby saying Nah not for me gottabeup in morning, and you grabbing his sack saying Don’t be a FUCKING PUFF GET IT DOWN YER YOU BIG GIRL’S FRONT-BUM, now feeling the phone vibrate in your front pocket… Billy. Have started. Mum taking me to hospital. Get there quick. :) XXX… And of course the lads all cheer and get you a couple in before you get gone, taxi twenty-two fuckin quid but what the fuck you’re going to be a dad again, telling the taxi gadge all about the last-minute winner as you neck a barley, smoke a fag or two.

The nurse at reception is as fit as fuck. She puts her pencil down by her clipboard, says a tight-lipped Can I help you? You tell her you have a pain, Here, as you open your tracky-top, flat-palming the crooked spire badge on your footy shirt. I think it’s a broken heart, you say. Grin. She just stares at you, so you hold your hands up in surrender, tell her your wife’s having a baby. She stares at you for a second longer, sighs, looks down to her clipboard and picks her pencil up… Name? she says… Billy, you say. Grin. The nurse tuts… No. Your wife’s name. Her full name, she says… Miserable cow.

Hospitals make you feel sick. The corridor is hot and there’s no air. The floor squeaks as you walk through bad smells. Somewhere a woman is making a low groaning sound. You look at the nurse as she walks at your side and you start to say something funny about the noise, but you don’t finish it. The nurse stops at a door, knocks, then turns the handle. She turns and walks off leaving you looking through the open door at Grace who is sat-up in bed, right hand on her swollen belly, a big white clip on her forefinger that has a cable attached to it, the cable connected to a machine on wheels. She half smiles at you. Behind her, sat in a high-backed chair, is her fat mother, Joy, who looks at you like you just took a shit in her handbag, her flabby jowls turning little half-circles as she pulls another grape from the half-eaten bunch stood on the little cupboard by the bed… Well, look who it isn’t, says Joy all sarky, spitting a grape seed from her dog-bum gob into a scrunched-up tissue. And yes you spike back, and yes she takes another pop, and yes your wife tells you both to pack it in, and yes you say that you will if she does and Anyway what the fuck is SHE doing here, and yes the fat cow sticks another grape in her fat gob and sputters Well somebody had to, and yes your wife will start crying saying For God’s sake I’m having a baby, please stop it, and yes you’re about to say you will if SHE does when the door opens to that frosty-titted nurse telling you to KEEP IT DOWN THIS IS A MATERNITY WARD NOT A MINER’S BLOODY WELFARE… and yes your fat cow mother-in-law pulls a smuggy-fuck grin as the door closes with a clunk patting your wife’s hand saying It’s alright darlin’ it’s alright he’s just had a few again, and yes you look to your wife who gives you the daggers then starts puffing and blowing saying Here comes another one, and yes you reach over to hold her hand as her mother makes a grab for the other, and yes your wife makes a funny groaning noise and closes her eyes then opens them with a snap pushing your hand away still holding on to her fat mother’s paw, who’s glaring spite at you as your wife calls you A SELFISH BLOODY BASTARD through clenched teeth, and yes that’s about all you can take so you fuck off slamming the door behind you walking quick-foot down the corridor, giving the frosty-titted nurse a CATCHYALATERBAYYYBEEE as you exit stage left, light a fag, find a pub just down the road, and yes you might have a couple.

Easy. Stroll back down the squeaky-floored corridor humming Rainy Night in Soho, not giving a fuck and why should you? You feel good. You feel the power of comfort knowing as you do that this baby is yours, not that spiteful bitch-eyed sow of a mother-in-law’s. And sure Grace is pissed off at you but so what? It’ll not be the last time. What does today matter when tomorrow comes around? The past is past is past and fuck all else matters… You open the door. The room is dim, quiet. No Grace, no fat bitch of a mother-in-law. Quiet. Where the fuck are they? You think about turning back, back up the corridor to find frosty-tits when you realise something is swaddled amongst the blue sheets at the bottom of the bed. You step closer. The baby has a white woolly hat on its head, and is dressed in a pink something that you can’t quite register because you can’t take your eyes from the face, a face with thin little purple lips, a face with blue-root veins running a thousand tiny rivers through thin onion skin, the eyes that have sunk below blue-black eyelids and nothing moves. Quiet. You feel a jag in your gut as you look to the bare arms resting on the little chest, at the thousand little blue rivers under red-blotched grey, the tiny red-blue fingers with their tiny purple nails. Closer, you move your hand towards the baby, this baby that sleeps breathlessly and is so cold to the touch, and the blue-black sunken eyelids are still, and the thousand tiny blue rivers are still, and you take a tiny cold hand in yours as the floor moves and you vomit, and you keep vomiting, down on your knees by the bed, the brown-yellow sick splattering the shiny grey floor as a thin voice behind you says What are you doing?... You turn to see a woman who is not your wife or your mother-in-law or a nurse, and the woman stares at you with red dead eyes and the saddest face you have ever seen as you climb out of your puddle of spew, WHAT are you DOING?... And you push past her out of the door, Sorry, you say, Sorry, all the time knowing that this is not your baby, that your baby isn’t dead like this baby, that your baby isn’t.