Headers and Volleys by Emily Harrison

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Headers and Volleys needs three people. One for goal, two to pass the ball back and forth, before flicking it up to spin and shoot. Score a goal? Knock one point off the keeper. Kick it wide? Get between goal posts. Who made the rules? You don’t know, but you’ve followed them since primary school days where Wembley was a playground.

Three people? The Three Musketeers – you, D and T – sticking together from Year One and on into teen years where playgrounds became parks with bigger lads from the comprehensive shouting ‘give us a shot’ which you never did – they’d only nick the ball and boot it. Before that though, you’d stroll to T’s house, ties loose and shirts shaggy, grabbing crisps, cokes, chocolate – circling back to bicker about who’s in goal first. Fallouts were friendly, never lasted long, though T could sometimes take the jokes to heart.

Later, college meant Headers and Volleys were reserved for odd weeknights and half-term freedom. You were of age so sipping a Smirnoff Ice while attempting an overhead kick was common park practice. Back then, time together fell from each day to ‘you free this Sunday?’ to packing belongings for university halls where Headers and Volleys were jigsaw pieces of the past and the future was The Three Musketeers on separate journeys.

And yet the promise of perfect days punctuated by the beat of the park and round one, two, three, of Headers and Volleys, was irresistible. It became The Three Musketeers back together again, catching up and carving out moments of candour. Things had been tough for T (dabbles in drugs and low-wage work). D was struggling to see beyond the rent they hadn’t paid. You felt like graduation success was transitory.

The final game came on the first bank holiday in May, blue skies and spring smooth sailing. You’d bagged a job just in time for June. D and T were planning to travel, touring beach parties in Thailand, sweaty trips through Vietnam. Beers were handed out and the park was same old, same old, (such was the beauty). The alcohol was swimming and together you decided The Three Musketeers will reconvene the next day – another game of Headers and Volleys? A chorus: ‘Yeah, for sure.’ Except the next day arrived and you don’t know any easier way to say T tried to take his life in the small hours of the night and if it wasn’t for his Mum and a rush of blue lights, well…

Nothing is ever the same. How could it be? T usually said when things were hard, but this time T cut too much oxygen to his brain – wasn’t going to recover. Together, you and D visited the hospital room – sat sad by his side on plastic chairs, said: ‘Headers and volleys?’ but T couldn’t speak (or walk or say why he’d done it). Eventually he slipped away.

Headers and volleys needs three people. You pass to his ghost, sometimes.


Emily Harrison

Emily uses writing as an escape from reality and doesn’t drink enough water. She has had work published with X-R-A-Y Literary Magazine, Ellipsis Zine, Barren Magazine, STORGY Magazine, The Molotov Cocktail, Coffin Bell, Retreat West, Nymphs, Tiny Molecules and Gone Lawn to name a few. She reviews books for STORGY Magazine when she has a moment, has been shortlisted a couple of times and more often than not, can be found on Twitter at @emily__harrison tweeting/retweeting nonsense. Her website is: emilyharrisonwrites.com.

Photo credit – AnnRos


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