When Eteocles and his family move to Athens to live in the suburb of Peristeri, each Sunday afternoon they attend the local football team’s games against other minor league teams from the city. It’s a very different experience for the boys to watch a football game from the sidelines and cheer for their favored team, named Spitha, meaning “spark.” Eteocles of course idolizes Spitha’s goalkeeper.
Today is a gloomy, cloudy day, though very warm for September, as they stand on the sidelines and wait for the game to start. There are plenty of fans today as well as the usual vendors offering the sweets and cheese pies the boys crave but never have enough money to enjoy. The sun struggles to appear between the small gaps in the clouds that race across the top of the firmament, driven by the strong gusts of wind. Their haste doesn’t allow them to pause and watch the football game down where Eteocles and Nicolas are standing.
“Do you have any money?” Nicolas asks his brother, but Eteocles only shrugs his shoulders. Eteocles usually saves a bit of his Sunday allowance, but today he has spent it all on candy at the local store.
Soon after the game gets going, Eteocles’ favorite goalkeeper makes a very good save, diving to grab the ball in a penalty kick. It’s a great reaction to a shot from very close distance and makes the local fans cheer at the top of their lungs.
At that moment, Eteocles catches sight of a vendor who is selling his favorite treats, pastry cones with cream on the top and cakes with a soft, sweet cream between two layers of sponge that make him salivate just seeing them. Like most of the vendors, this one also sells tickets for only a drachma each that give the buyers a chance to win a dozen sweets of their choice. Like all the other boys, Eteocles and Nicolas always hope they will be the boy that is called on to pull the lucky number, because it’s customary for the draw winner to treat the boy who pulls his number with at least one sweet of the dozen he wins.
Today Eteocles is chosen at last. His eyes shine with anticipation as he glances at Nicolas standing next to him, who knows his brother will share whatever sweet he is given. The he puts his arm into the small bag that holds all the paper tickets inside. His small fingers rummage around and select one ticket, which he pulls out and hands to the vendor. The number is shouted out, and a short, skinny man in a hat rushes over and shows the vendor his matching ticket and then points out the dozen sweets he prefers. One by one, the vendor puts the twelve sweets on a cornet and then hands the selection over to the skinny man.
Eteocles and Nicolas stand there waiting to see what the short man will do. Finally, he smiles and looks at Eteocles.
“Which one would you like?”
Eteocles says nothing. All the appropriate words are already written on his happy smiling face, in his gleaming eyes, and trembling legs. He points to two cones in the cornet the skinny man is holding. The man laughs and gives one of them to him. Then a miracle happens. The man notices Nicolas next to his brother and asks, “Is he your brother?”
“Yes” Eteocles mumbles, and the man takes the other cone and gives it to Nicolas. The two boys relish their cones down to the last shred and then lick the syrup off their fingers.
Then, as suddenly as it’s unexpected, the sun peeks through a gap in the clouds to warm the faces of the spectators for a few fleeting moments while at the same time some flies begin to circle as if they want some of the cones Eteocles and Nicolas have been enjoying, sugar attracting them as surely as it does the young boys who follow the vendor around, craving the sweets of the man with the cart who is there with them every Sunday, with them like the sun above, like the flies circling around them, like the gusts of the wind that sometimes turn even more violent and abrupt. Sudden and abrupt like the attacks of one team against the other until the end of the match is whistled and Spitha, the local team, has beaten the team from Argyroupolis two to one.