25. A Most Unfortunate Injury

Derelicts 10 Guys Hospital 22

Revenge. A dish best served cold. Or in Tap’s case – lightly chilled on a bed of finely-sliced, slow-matured bitter resentment. Upon reading the previous week’s report of his most unfortunate sending off and subsequent clubhouse humiliation – Tap. Was. Livid. How dare anyone laugh at his barnet. How very bloody dare they. It was nothing less than libel, he fumed, eyes bulging above a firmly-set jawline, as he entertained thoughts of shoving the match reporter’s keyboard roughly up his out-sized bottom.

How he wished he could set his over-worked attorney onto the rotten b*stard and have him issue a writ delivered by hand. And, for good measure, he’d summon Mrs Scrubbit and order her to engage the services of “that man” John-Jo Moon who, he’d heard, claimed Romany gypsy heritage and the largest collection of horse brasses in southern England. His regular specialities, Tap concluded, must therefore include tarmacing anything, half-hearted drive cleaning, arranging cock fight and sherry evenings, wholesaling ‘lucky’ heather, car ringing, casual fraud and the use of unimaginable violence. So, Tap assumed, inflicting curses would surely not be out of the question. And he thought this would be a proper laugh.

“That smart a*se scribe Moz overstepped the mark. Cruel and so inaccurate. Everybody knows the peacocks sh*t in the rose garden, not the croquet lawn,” he remembered with that thin, menacing smile, “but what would he make of Mr Moon’s dark arts”.

Mozza had been, of course, not only deliberately oblivious to the big fella’s dismay, but was positively revelling in his misfortune. A red card followed by a kangaroo court was simply great sport and it just got better and better watching  helpless with mirth as Tap careered naked around the bar late into the night singing a selection of ribald songs.

Well what was Moz supposed to do? He’d actually considered sneaking a quick shot and flogging it to the News Of The World under a heading: Naked Rampage of The Dodgy Developer. But he’d held himself in check a little and contended himself dealing with Tap in the match report which proved to be just as much fun, if rather less lucrative. The litre of Waitrose’s most underrated Cotes du Rhone Villages helped enormously, albeit that it was as much of his downfall these days as French cheese, smoked almonds, doughnuts and hopelessly ambitious trouser waistbands.

But a writ? Oh please… he’d argue “fair comment” and there wouldn’t a jury in the land who’d disagree. Tap was fixated by his barnet. Fact.

Tap, meanwhile, imagined a meeting with Mr Moon would be productive.

“So what can I help yous with, Tap?” said Moon.

“I’d like you to sort out a bit of misfortune for Mozza, Mr Moon. Something quite painful, you know, a bit Old Testament.”

“Hmm, I could do something ‘orrible but it could cost you Tap,” said Moon.

“Money no object Mr Moon. Mozza’s been a thorough irritant for some while now. Do your worst,” said Tap, teasing a stray eyebrow strand into alignment in the mirror. “Oh, and, Mr Moon, please stop dropping your aitches.”

Moon would have his work cut out. Guys Hospital hadn’t put up much of a fight for a few seasons and the chance of the fat bloke getting seriously injured seemed remote. But he’d fire up the cauldron on the Calorgas stove, luzz in a handful of wort, some twigs and the model of a silverback gorilla in rugby boots with pins stuck in it. As the unpleasant brew came to the boil, Moon intoned: “Liar, liar, pants on fire… let Mozza’s pen go as flat as a tyre… er, er…”

“That’s b*ll*cks,” he thought. But undeterred, Moon continued: “When the fat bloke breaks into a run… his game will be well and truly done! Ha ha!” Closer. And then: “If he tries to deliver a pass, send a bolt of lightning up his *rse!”

“Thank you Mr Moon,” said Tap, grinning into his mirror in the parlour, plucking at a stray tuft. And there he waited, in his quilted dressing gown and hairnet, for the outcome.

At Big Field, the haphazardness of getting the boys fired up over a pre-match energy drink or two seemed to be going as well as it ever did.

Onto the pitch and, again, nothing but decent omens. Guys Hospital had inexplicably turned up with a full team of medics for an away fixture at Dorking for the first time since the advent of penicillin and so the game was on. They still had a selection of the more deteriorated variety of Harold Shipman-type senior vets, but were bolstered by some game young flying doctors who were pretty quick to the breakdown.

They also possessed a spinning top of a full back who seemed to have raided the hospital’s amphetamine box and he capitalised early on to run in a score.

Happily, the Derelicts suddenly found themselves exchanging world class passes to set free the spritely new winger Jamie on a run to the line and a certain try. Team mates were already clapping the score when instead the pencil-shaped plonker’s Satnav went awry and he took a sharp left and veered into the cover tackle when on another day he may well have chosen the shortest route and scored the try. Dick, was the general concensus. You utter Dick.

It took a smart pushover try from the pack to reduce arrears, The Challice securing the points.

Sadly, Ludders’ dubious training regime alongside Dwain Chambers had rendered him muscle bound. Or something. It is the only rational conclusion to reach after failing to touch down for a Scrum 5 and instead managing to concede try No2.

Interval chat from Buzz followed, heralding a return to the fray and concession of try No3 before the pack set up a reply as Hairnet plunged over for a plucky try to bring the score to 10-17 and the battle was warming up nicely.

Mozza meanwhile was enjoying a decent afternoon’s toil, stealing the odd ball here, but mostly lurking blatantly offside and breathing heavily. When not in teapot mode, he was, as Oddjob would say, enjoying a frank exchange with the oppo in the darker corners.

Then suddenly he felt a sharp thwack on the calf with nobody around and took even longer to rise from the dirt than normal. He looked around perplexed and thought he saw in the distance a shady figure in a top hat, but dismissed it as being the result of having shed a contact lens. These things happened.

At the next ruck, he greedily spied the ball at the base and very much at odds with his natural fitness, decided ill-advisedly to pick it up. He drove hard at the weedy old Guys hooker, palm primed for a decent hand-off… and an anticipated offload to the support players. But suddenly he was struck down by Moon’s dark incantations and an arrow of fire pierced his lower calf. The struggle of supporting 18 stone on the hoof proved too much for Mozza and he collapsed like a shot wildebeest. Pain shot up his leg from a snapped Achilles tendon and some while later, after much cussing, he limped sadly off.

“That was one f*ck of a lot of squealing there, Moz,” comforted Botty helpfully on the sideline, as the stricken prop winced with pain and tried to work out the logistics of lugging his bulk across the cold, wind-battered plane from pitch 3 with its distinctive slope to the clubhouse. “I think that level of noise incurs a hefty fine, Moz, people will be asking questions,” said Botty. “Come on, lean on me shoulder, you can buy me a pint in the bar and I won’t tell a soul. Not a soul. Honest.” Which Mozza knew from weary experience to be a fat lie.

In his crimson parlour a few miles down the road, Tap put the phone down, stifled a snort of laughter and reached for a jar of hair mousse which he stroked through his greying mane with love and tenderness. “That’ll teach you to disrespect the barnet,” he said, gazing into the mirror, “that’ll teach you my rotund chum.”

Squad: Moz, Farmer Dave, Scud, Bouncy, Skip, Buzz, Hairnet, Pomf, Broomy, Wingnut, The Challice, Handy, Rob Newman, Gazza, SatNav Jamie, Lord Greed, Fast Graham, Ludders, Raymondo, The Juggler

Next: 26. Nurse… The Morphine!  Previous: 24. The Ferociously Groomed