It was the year Holland won the World Cup, the year a volcano from Iceland stopped the air traffic in the entire continent of Europe, the year two devastating earthquakes hit, one in Haiti and another in Chile and it was also the year Dennis Hopper died. It was a bad year for me.
I think I read On the Road by Kerouac that year and Kraken by a guy named China, I can’t remember his last name. It started well enough for me, I got my first novel published and later I met an outstanding woman in Amsterdam who called herself Starbucks. She introduced me to things I had always been too afraid to try, some of which I later regretted.
But what’s life without regret, right?
I remember the summer as being very warm. I spent it watching football, drinking cold beer (Nuns’ Delight I heard they called it) and writing my second novel on an old, orange iBook that I hated. It was the book about the death of the girl with the diamond eyes, one of my best if you ask me but I haven’t found anyone yet who agrees with me.
Right before the semi-finals my writing came to a sudden halt. It was like hitting a stone wall. I guess my brother’s decision to sleep with my girlfriend had something to do with it. But I’d had writing blocks before and had found no good remedy for it. All I could do was get up in the morning and hustle through the motions. So I told my brother I forgave him, I kicked my girlfriend out of the apartment, I bought more beer and gleefully anticipated every football game as I sat in front of that mollusk-like machine and squeezed out words that seemed to be coming out of my rear end.
When I was in bad shape I called a friend, or my brother, hoping to be saved from my dilemma and lead towards something else for a while, to forget the ice-cold, gargoylic novel I was working on. And when I had thoughts of abandoning the project altogether or start from scratch I stopped what I was doing and dug up a few travel brochures I had lying around. I sometimes went as far as to choose a trip online and stopped short of clicking the button to confirm the transaction.
Sometimes I chose a Greek Island, sometimes a major city like Paris, New York, Tokyo or Amsterdam. I had the money for such expenses but I couldn’t very well afford the time so I struggled on.
Those were the days, easy and somewhat delightful but I always felt like something was lacking, like a part of me was waiting to burst and as much as I wanted it to I was terrified of it as well. I never told anyone about it, these were just silly ideas I put in connection with my macabre writing and usually I got over such ideas when I finished a project.
Then I was drinking my morning coffee, which was particularly strong, when a headline changed my life. I was wearing dirty boxers that had seen better days and hadn’t shaved in a few days. The beard itched and I was scratching it when I read the headline on the orange wonder:
“Paul the squid predicts Germany will lose the semi-finals against Spain”.
The squid had predicted all the German matches correctly thus far, even the loss against Serbia. I remember thinking who names a squid Paul? I didn’t think much about it but started my word-struggle which ended up in a pub with my brother were we had a few ales and watched the game.
I don’t know what it was. I drank carefully, aware that I needed to get up and continue with my word count and hangovers never help with anything. I’ve never been able to understand writers who claim wine helps them to be creative but for me it’s only destructive, it mutilates any hope of structure and although it sometimes gives new inspiring ideas I’ve rarely been able to execute an idea that sprung to mind via alcoholic philosophizing.
It was humid and the pub was rather rowdy, a group of Germans were loud from the start of the game and became increasingly worse. Still we managed to hold a conversation and I told my brother about the squid, and that it had predicted the outcome of the game.
My brother, who had heard of the animal, laughed and after a bit of discussion which I can’t for the life of me remember we decided that Paul the squid should decide the outcome of my book. If the squid would be right about the game I was going to keep the novel as it was and get on with it but if it was wrong I was to scrap it and start a new, perhaps with a new project.
The squid was right. Germany lost the game sending Spain to the final.
It was silly but as good as any other idea so when I woke the morning after I decided it was going to shape my life. And so with only a two games left for the squid to predict I decided that if it was wrong about the game for the bronze I was going to commit suicide.
Don’t ask me to explain my reasons. I cannot but the idea haunted me and instead of mulling over it I decided. That would be that. There would be no going back. I would finish the novel and then I would do it. It all hung on that game.
On a sunny Friday Cthulhu’s little brother predicted the outcome of the two games. Germany was going to win third place and Spain would take the cake.
The game about the third place was on a Saturday evening. I watched it alone drinking a cold beer, shouting at the television. Nothing works better than a wager to get the blood boiling. It had been a warm day, humid and uncomfortable and when the evening rolled in it started to thunder violently. The streaks of light lit up the city, boasting thunders sounding louder than the buzzing of the Vuzuvelas coming from the television.
The squid had predicted a positive outcome for Germany, so in my infinite wisdom I cheered the Uruguayan team on. I shouted as the offside rulings came, I shouted louder when the penalty ruling came and I screamed when Germany won the game 2 to 1.
So on Sunday morning I woke up as I always did. I had my coffee and I sat down in front of my computer browsing the headlines, decided that if the squid was wrong about the final I would kill my brother and then I went on with my work.
And it was as if a dam had been broken. Instead of writing thousand words only to delete them all again I wrote the entire day without a hitch. I wrote until I realized that the game was about to start.
And I wasn’t even remotely nervous.
The weather was splendid, it had been warm during the day so the cooling breeze that came with the evening was welcomed. I opened the balcony doors, made pasta salad for dinner and readied the potato chips and the cool beer I had stacked up. I called my brother and invited him to join me and he told me he would be right over.
It was Spain against Holland. My brother cheered for Holland.
I watched the game with quiet calmness. Reluctant to take sides as it became more and more intense. I watched with anticipation but couldn’t decide one way or the other what I wanted the outcome to be. As the game evolved I came to certain realizations about my future, about my life and when the 90 minutes were up I was almost hoping Spain would win.
In the last minutes the score was even, both teams had scored a goal. Spain was on the offensive, shooting at the Dutch goal relentlessly but nothing seemed to get passed the goalie. And somewhere deep down inside I was glad that I would be finishing my last novel soon and life could go on as normally.
And then Sneijder ran across the entire field with three Spaniards on his track, they weren’t able to stop him and neither was the formidable goalkeeper.
With only seconds left of regular time Holland had scored and then the whistle sounded. Holland won the World Cup. The English squid, the expat in Germany named Paul had been wrong.
by Eygló Daða