If you don't have the time to read, you don't have the time or the tools to write - Stephen King, On Writing, p. 147
I watch the football flirt with the wheels of passing cars, courting danger in the draught of their passing. A stray blast from a speeding vehicle deals it a stunning blow. It rebounds off of a hedge and cowers against the kerb, rocking slightly. Terrorized. Gathering its courage.
What was it doing in the middle of a busy street? How did it get there? Dirt encrusted, once orange, now mud brown. Well loved, well used. Abandoned? Lost? Is some child crying for it even as I watch it begin to roll with the road camber? Where do old footballs go to die? Beneath the green ooze of the local lake, cradled by abandoned shopping carts? Buried in the undergrowth to lay moss grown and forgotten? Ravaged by the playful teeth of a delighted dog?
A thousand possibilities from a thousand alternate universes flood my mind as the ball picks up speed. I get my feet moving, following but we part company at the corner. I wish it luck as it continues on its new adventure.
Returning later I walk the same pavement. In the gutter there is a ball. A blue and white rugby ball which draws a double take from me. Is this some ploy to confuse me? Did I see some private ritual unknown to humans? Has this ball turned up to ensure that I do not attempt to follow the old football on its final voyage?
A small child leans over a gate and eyes me suspiciously. Wondering if I count as a stranger. He decides I am safe and calls. “Get the ball please” I lift it and it is surprisingly dry despite the rain that sleets steadily over us. “Yours?” I ask as I pass it over the gate. “Yes. Thank you” I smile and walk on, amused by my fantasies of the life of footballs.
As I head for home a mother berates her child on the edge of my hearing. “It isn’t yours. You can’t keep it. Some kid will want it back.” As I turn the corner the rugby ball flips a joyful arc through the grey air and bounces down the road.