Vignette 5: Crossing the white line

Twenty-yards from the white line, Gallin snorts a shot of invigorating wintry-fresh air, reviving and stiffening his whole face and covering the walls of his lungs like a frost. He exhales rapidly through pursed lips. His stride becomes more deliberate, injected with a pronounced machismo; long and regular. He wraps the strap of his whistle around the fingers on his left hand and pulls it tight, then pats his breast pocket for the umpteenth time to feel the shape of his cards, notepad, and pencil. A spattering of onlookers line the pitch, laden with winter-ware and chary and censuring glowers.
‘Get your game-face back on,’ Gallin scolds himself. He turns his head and, with an assured smile, meets the eyes of the closest spectator. ‘Afternoon. It’s another cold one,’ he says with a controlled stridence, inviting the spectator to at once break his steely frown. ‘Afternoon, ref. Are we ready?’
Gallin glances at his watch and looks down to the white line brushing the toes of his boots, and with one last constriction of his sphincter he looks up again and steps over onto the pitch. ‘Let’s do it.’

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