The Neal James Website

Subtitle

Short Stories Volume One

 ISBN 9781905809608

How would YOU write to God for clarification on matters of the utmost urgency? Find out how Moses might have done it.


Dry your eyes after the tragic story of Liz when she finds the father she never knew, and hold your breath as an almost perfect insurance scam comes disastrously unstuck in the most unexpected way.


Shake your head at Mike's naiveté in dealing with a stranger in black, and share with Dave his hidden guilt when Tommy Watkinson returns to talk to his son Paul.


Fly into the realms of fantasy with James Taylor as he gets lost in a place that he knows only too well, and try to sympathise with Ray when the old couple ask him to save humanity.


Follow Dennis Marks in a trilogy which brings the book to its close as he searches for the truth about his grandfather.


This collection of unique little gems will expose every emotion on the rollercoaster which you are about to ride.

A Deal of Trouble

Mike knew as soon as he’d made the tackle that something was terribly wrong. He’d heard the ‘snap’ but there was a momentary delay until the agonising pain hit him, and when he looked down at his mangled right leg he realised that his football career was over. He was 20 years old, and one of the best players in the club’s academy with a great future in prospect – all that was gone now. Three years down the line he was part way through an accountancy qualification in a job that he hated, but at least the pay wasn’t too bad. He’d been out with friends for a drink one evening and was walking home when this guy stepped out of the shadows and blocked his way. At first he thought it was an attempted mugging and set himself to counter an attack with his walking stick, but none came.


     “You can play again” the figure said. Mike couldn’t make out his features and started to get an uneasy feeling.

      “What?”

      “You want to play again, don’t you?”

      “Well, yes…but…”

      “OK, how much do you want to play?”

      “I’d sell my soul to make it in the League, it’s always been my dream.”

      “Done, I’ll be in touch.”

      He stepped back into the shadows and disappeared into the night. Mike stood for a while trying to make sense of what he had just seen, but then went home and thought no more about it. The following morning when he got up he found that he was able to stand unaided and that walking was no longer a problem. He had his breakfast, phoned in sick and took a football out to the park instead. He started very carefully with some gentle jogging at first, but soon realised that the leg was as good as new. The nets around the goalposts had been left out so he tried a variety of shots from different angles. Not only could he hit the target every time, but was now able to dip and swerve the ball – he couldn’t do that before.

      He managed to get a game in the local Sunday League team run by his older brother at the weekend and ran the midfield, setting up a host of chances for the forwards. The team won 7-0 and he scored twice. As he was coming off at the end he was approached by a scout for one of the local league teams. He was invited for a trial the following week. The club was languishing in the lower divisions but he had no hesitation in accepting the offer – this could be his big chance.

      The trial went very well and the club offered him a twelve month contract subject to him becoming match fit. Over the next six weeks, and following a strict regime of diet and training, he was back to his level of fitness before the accident. They put him in the reserves at first but it quickly became apparent that he was far too good and he made his first team debut against Port Vale on November 17th. The day couldn’t have gone better and a 3-0 victory was followed by rave reviews in the local papers. The team hit the top of the league at the end of February but had to settle for a play-off place for promotion. By the end of the season he had scored 19 goals from midfield out of a team total of 82. They hadn’t lost a single game since he joined.

      The post season matches saw them beat Swansea in a two leg semi final giving them a trip to Wembley where they would play Oldham. He was untouchable and the opposition didn’t know how to deal with him. This was the showcase for his newly found skills and his free kicks from around the penalty area caused havoc in the Oldham defence. The game was over by half time with the team leading 4-0 and they ran out winners 6-2. The post match celebrations were all about him and even the extended climb up to the new royal box for medals presented no problem. He wasn’t tired and hadn’t even broken sweat.

      It wasn’t until he was coming back down the steps that he noticed the figure. It appeared anonymously in black amidst a bright spring afternoon and no-one else seemed to notice. Mike shivered and a cold feeling permeated his whole body. He stepped past the guy, vaguely recognising him, but heard him speak as he did so.

      “Well done, Mike”

      He looked round but the figure had gone, and he wondered if he had imagined the whole thing. It took the shine off the day and he couldn’t summon up the enthusiasm for the lap of honour but the manager made him go anyway. He couldn’t hear the cheering and the chanting of his name and several of his team mates took exception to his aloofness. The figure appeared again at a post season training session the following week and again no-one else seemed to notice him, but Mike could hear a voice calling his name from the side of the pitch.

      “I gave it, and I can take it away” it said. “I’ll be coming for you, Mike – a deal is a deal”

He panicked and recalled the conversation after his night out earlier in the year. What had he said? ‘I’d sell my soul to make it in the League’. What was this guy? Had he come for Mike’s soul? Surely not – things like this just didn’t happen. He tried to shake the experience off but it knocked his confidence and he started making mistakes. He went through the summer break without seeing the apparition again but it reappeared on the first day of the new season in a home game against Coventry. He was terrible – his passing was off target, his positioning was all over the place  and he even missed a penalty. A 0-0 draw was enough to keep the fans off his back for the day, but whether it would last long he didn’t know. The figure was in the crowd as the team came off and beckoned to him. He walked over, drawn to it and unable to resist.

      “It won’t be long Mike, a deal’s a deal”

      “No, I’m not ready” he whispered, afraid that someone might hear. “It’s too soon”

      He recovered his confidence and his form returned to normal. The team did well and the season closed with the team once more at Wembley in a play-off final, and a pulsating game against Sheffield United saw them promoted after a 3-2 win, with Mike scoring the opening goal direct from a free kick. The climb to the royal box didn’t bring any memories until he had collected his medal and was turning to go down the steps. The dark figure stepped forward from the crowd, and for the first time Mike saw his face. He had never seen anything so hideous before, and as a bony hand reached out towards him he stepped back involuntarily. Arms reached out to try to catch him as he went over the rail but he slipped through them like a bar of soap. The fall was over thirty feet and he was aware of twisting and turning in the air as he tried to grab hold of anything to slow down the rate of descent.

      Mike hit the bedroom floor with a dull thud, and awoke bathed in sweat. His mother was at the door knocking to see if he was alright and he groggily told her he was OK, explaining that he probably had one too many the night before. So it was all a dream, and an immense feeling of relief swept over him – perhaps working in an office was not so bad after all. Having showered and dressed he headed downstairs for breakfast. Looking at the clock he realised that he had overslept, and he’d miss his bus if he didn’t hurry. Grabbing a piece of toast, he picked up his briefcase and hurried out of the door. The bus was just pulling up at the stop when he turned the corner of the street and he had to run to catch it.

      He had sat down in the empty upper section of the bus and was reading his newspaper when he realised to his annoyance that in the rush to get out he had forgotten his walking stick. An uneasy feeling crept over him as he became aware that he had run for the bus and moreover that he had caught it without the slightest effort. He suddenly knew that he was no longer alone and, turning around with a sense of foreboding his gaze was met by the same face from his Wembley dream

      “It’s time, Mike, it’s time…”