OLD FIRM

OLD FIRM

A Story by alanwgraham
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The Old Firm, Rangers versus Celtic football match, is world famous for the passion it arouses in its supporters. A humerous take on this famous fixture.

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Old Firm

 

In the part of the city south of the river, the nineteenth century sandstone terraced houses stretch rank on rank like a diagram of regiments in close battle order. They had once housed proud and hardworking shipbuilders and machine workers, along with their large families, and the city was famous worldwide for it's shipbuilding and heavy engineering. Now, sadly, the houses are crumbling, along with many of the inhabitants who often subsist on benefits or part time work.

 

But today was a special day in the life of the city - a day eagerly awaited by some and abhorred by others. There is no doubt that the two families living next door to each other in Madras Street fell into the former category, the Hendersons in number 56 and the McNeills at 58.

 

At precisely the same moment, 12.30 pm on Saturday the 5th of May, the blue painted door of the Hendersons and the emerald green door of the McNeills swung open and Jim and Bertie stepped outside. They both sniffed the air as if searching for an omen. Bertie looked across at Jim reflectively.

‘Tak care whit ye wish fur Jim!’

Jim looked across to his neighbour and laughed.

‘Up yours Bertie - it disnae matter whit I wish fur, it’s no me that’s playin’ this efternoon!'

Their respective teams, Rangers and Celtic, were neck and neck and there was every likelihood that this game would decide the season. As the Liverpool manager Bill Shankley famously said,                                                             

‘Some people believe football is a matter of life and death. I can assure you it is much, much more important than that.’
          

‘Good day for the match Bertie!’ Jim pulled his blue door shut.

‘It’ll no be good for the baith of us Jim.’ Bertie replied, as he shut his green door.

‘Aye, that’s true, Bertie.’

‘We’ll walk down to Calcutta Street and then we’ll put on the scarves.’

‘Aye, we’ll be enemies then.’

 

The two neighbours exhibited the split personalities that afflicted many throughout the city and beyond. They could move from being the best of neighbours to the worst of enemies on the first few notes of one of their tribal songs.

 

The two neighbours walked down the street chatting amicably, wisely avoiding the tricky subject of the impending old firm match. As they passed the building site where a non-denominational school was being built, a dark shadow seemed to pass over the two men. Little did they know that a large crane was in the process of lifting the final concrete wall section into position. Like a sword of Damocles, it dangled above them. Jim had just asked Bertie what he thought the score would be. Bertie looked up puzzled, for there was not a cloud in the sky. Just at that instant the braking mechanism of the crane suffered a catastrophic failure and the large concrete block hurtled downwards. Of course Jim and Bertie hadn’t time to read the inscription that had been carved into the panel

 

‘Putting an end to sectarian rivalry’

 

A bit like a decapitated head that can still utter a few words, Bertie managed to utter a strangled ‘three nil’ before the block hit the men squarely. There was a thunderous concussion of sound which mercifully hid the squelch as the two football fans suffered the same fate as a ball of dough being rolled flat for scones. Any vestiges of green and blue completely disappeared and the two men might well have been mistaken for Aberdeen supporters. (red strips!)

 

For Jim and Bertie, something very peculiar happened as they were well and truly ‘sconed’. It felt a bit like an out of body experience that some claim to have felt when they seem to be looking down on their own body.

‘I feel a bit strange Bertie! It’s like I’m floating.’ Jim remarked as they continued past the building site.

‘I’m feelin a bit weird masel Jim - how many cans have you had?’

‘Just a half dozen, but ah feel half pissed!’

‘Me too! Hey Bertie - look behind. What the f**** happened? Whit the f**** that concrete block doin’ in the road? Ah never even f****** saw it.’

‘Naw, me neither. Come oan Jim, we’ll just get doon tae Calcutta Street and then ye better stop speakin’ a’ that sh*te.

 

Jim and Bertie’s journey continued but they both had the same feeling of discombobulation. The two parted company at the junction with Calcutta Street and attempted to join their respective stream of supporters but none of their pals seemed to respond to their greetings. It wis almost as if they were lookin right through them.


The two men progressed along the road by a kind of dream-like glide just above the pavement. Jim spotted his drinking pal from the Ibrox bar.

'Whit's the matter wi you Geordie - dae ye think ahm wearin a f****** Celtic strip?' There was no reaction!

 

Eventually after a period when the normal passage of time seemed a bit fluid Jim and Bertie arrived at the ground and strangely found themselves at the same turnstile. Both were surprised to find that the normal drab entrance had been adorned by an ornate arch decorated with pearls.

 

‘Whit the hell’s this?’ said Jim.

‘Whit in heaven’s name's goin on?’ Bertie exclaimed.

‘You’re new here pal?’  They both asked the man behind the grill.

‘I’m Pete. I have all your details and I’m afraid you’re both down for the ‘hot ticket’.

Peter started to read out a lifetime’s list of transgressions - wife beating, drunkenness, lewdness, fighting, religious hatred, bigotry - the list went on and on.

‘In you go lads, I’ll give you your mark first. Put your hands on the shelf please.’ The two unsuspecting fans put out their hands and in a sizzle of burnt flesh Pete lifted an iron from a small brazier and branded their hands 666.

‘For f**** sake - whit’s this? Is it our seat number?’

 

Then something extraordinary happened - even stranger than when Jim had spent a liquid weekend celebrating the famous 5-1 cup win and woke up on a Thursday with two black eyes, wearing high heels and a Celtic strip.


It was a bit akin to the big bang at the beginning of the universe when time was elastic, galaxies were formed, life came into being and culminated in the creation of Rangers and Celtic football teams. Now that Jim and Bertie’s earthly span had been extinguished their universe was now deflating back the sum of their limited imaginations - an old firm match!

 

The two men thought that they had become separated as they made their way to their seats but in fact they now existed in parallel universes of their own making. As Jim sat down a clutching anxiety seized him as he realised he was immersed in an ocean of green scarves and hooped tops. The sound of tens of thousands of fans shouting, chanting and singing the Celtic favourites added up to a visceral mugging.

And of course Bertie was meanwhile immersed in his own parallel blue hell.

 

Jim forced himself to watch the match. All the Rangers greats were playing but the Celtic select were toying with them.

 

 ----- Simpson made a sensational fingertip save of a thunderous McCoist strike into the top left corner. He rolled the ball out to McGrain who ran on twenty yards, stroked it past Durant to the feet of Johnstone. In the blink of an eye Johnstone jinked past two Rangers defenders and made a perfectly weighted pass to the head of Larsson who directed the ball past the outstretched Goram into the top left corner ---

IT'S A GOOOOOOOOOOAAAAAAAAAAL!

 

When the thunderous cheer subsided a little Jim shouted to his neighbour.

‘When’s half time pal?’

‘Half time? There’s no half time in this match mate.

‘What’s the score then?’

‘Score?’ He looked puzzled. Since I came it must be about a million to nil for the Celts.’  Jim's jaw dropped.

 

‘Heaven isn’t it!’

© 2017 alanwgraham


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Featured Review

This is class - the lingo the scene setting the story and the punch line and the lesson in it - all class, Alan. Magic!!

My mates are all Celtic mad and love going to the Old Firm matches. They come back with stories... (all of which I have no doubt are true).

Posted 3 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

alanwgraham

3 Years Ago

Thanks Tony. I really enjoy writing these fun stories with a bit of a moral in between the more seri.. read more



Reviews

This is class - the lingo the scene setting the story and the punch line and the lesson in it - all class, Alan. Magic!!

My mates are all Celtic mad and love going to the Old Firm matches. They come back with stories... (all of which I have no doubt are true).

Posted 3 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

alanwgraham

3 Years Ago

Thanks Tony. I really enjoy writing these fun stories with a bit of a moral in between the more seri.. read more
My new friend, you have penned a tragically hilarious tale of the bond of comradery that makes two men friends, though they are adamantly rivals when it comes to their sports ... Your story majestically declares to the world that, despite differences debated heatedly many times in their lives, true friendship cannot be destroyed or ended, even in death, as that friendly, yet, gouging rivalry continues on well into the afterlife with death unable to separate true friends who live, not only for the sport of football (soccer) but, for that very moment (even in death) when one or the other can find a way to best his best buddy in whole of the world and the very life they knew together as friends ... A very special story of friendship here that speaks volumes ... Humorously macho in every aspect of the term, yet, brilliantly done ... Excellent writing ...

Marvin Thomas Cox-Flynn

Posted 3 Years Ago


Nice. I enjoyed the punch line there. The simple fact that one persons heaven is another persons hell is very clever. Also the fact that the two main characters weren't nice people was an interesting idea as it made them more realistic and complex. Good job.

Posted 3 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

alanwgraham

3 Years Ago

Thanks William. I had fun writing this although it does portray quite a serious sectarian problem in.. read more
Hailing from the East end of Glasgow I so relate to this and have the advantage of understanding every word. Very droll and entertaining but with a parable like feel to it. So............... Celtic or Rangers?

Posted 3 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

alanwgraham

3 Years Ago

Thanks John. I really appreciate getting a read from someone in the know. I did have fun with this b.. read more
What a fun read that was..no discombobulation at all of your story weaving :) love that word.. so enjoyed the visuals..poor fellows ..

Posted 4 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

alanwgraham

4 Years Ago

Thanks. It was just some fun but these football fans do take it seriously. Thanks for reading this. .. read more
This is truly one of your best stories that I've read so far! I mean it. You nailed it on so many levels. First, the accent for the dialogue is so well-done, I could hear the lilt as I read it. Second, the idea of combining sports rivalry with the idea of unknowingly being in hell is mind-blowing in imagination. Third, the description of the guys being "sconed" is truly brilliant & vivid. Finally, the ending is too good . . . I mean, just the idea that they don't realize they're in hell & one takes the winning ballgame as a sign of heaven. I envy you the ability to expertly thread all these needles at the same time, leaving us with a well-sewn cloak of nonsense! Excellent job!

Posted 4 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

alanwgraham

4 Years Ago

Great BG and thanks - you have cheered me up no end! I had been a bit worried that the subject migh.. read more
alanwgraham,
Your imagination is impressive I must say. I read it through and found myself mystified by this eternal tale of fate. There is so much we do not know about the future when death knocks. I do not see hope in this for what I am hoping for as Christ is my hope. Bless you in your craft it is impressive. Kathy

Posted 4 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

alanwgraham

4 Years Ago

Thanks for making the effort Kathy. It's not meant to be taken too seriously! I have fun writing thi.. read more
Kathy Van Kurin

4 Years Ago

Alan,
It is good to understand you position and maybe even style. Thanks for the help on tha.. read more

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Added on January 14, 2017
Last Updated on May 2, 2017

Author

alanwgraham
alanwgraham

Scotland, United Kingdom



About
Married with three kids, I retired early from teaching physics but have always enjoyed mountains. In my forties I experienced a manic episode which kick-started a creative urge. I've written a novel .. more..

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