The Significance of Being Named Kurt

My family did not overtly celebrate any sort of German heritage. I’m not even sure what my family heritage actually is. When I asked my family about my family tree for a school project, they seemed pretty clueless. My grandfather on my father’s side had some theory about how we were Pennsylvania Dutch, and our original surname was Gristman, and we were all millers or something. As far as I know, this theory has no basis in fact.

My sister did do one of those through-the-mail DNA thingies, which was a 40/40 German/English split and 20% of other stuff.

At any rate, my parents and uncles and whatnot on my mother’s side seemed to have a bit of a German fetish. They all studied German in high school and college. My parents watched Soccer Made in Germany on PBS in the 70s and 80s.

And I ended up with the name Kurt. Auf Deutsch spelling. Not Curt or Curtis or anything like that. And as a result, I developed a bit of a German fetish. Rooting for the Deutschland World Cup soccer team. Studying German myself as my language elective.

But I must be more English. I’d take an imperial stout or porter over a German pilsner or lager every day. And I play rugby for fuck’s sake.


50 Euros? Was that right? He fumbled for the correct handbook. He was more of a pen and paper guy, which is why he didn’t have the handbooks on his phone. For him, printed hard copies were the way to go.   

Oh shit, this wasn’t the right one. This was the handbook for Trying to be Friends with Someone You Are Still in Love With. He’d been reading it from cover to cover, over and over, while killing time and drinking at Mata Hari earlier today. 

“Should you come back when you have your handbooks in order?” She had an Eastern European accent.  

“Just a second” OK, was this the book he was looking for?  

“I can save you the trouble. 50 Euros for a ten-minute of me using my hand. Another 300 for a full hour, and I'll be naked and you can go inside me.” 

“Yes, 300.”  

As she pulled her spandex uniform over her head and off, he read through the Fucking a Hooker handbook.  

If it is your team’s ball, you are most likely throwing in, so you want to call out your play and throw it through the 'tunnel'” 

Oh dammit, this was the Playing the Hooker Position in Rugby handbook.  

“So sorry, just a moment.” Ah, here it was.  

No kissing, of course, he already knew that. But also, no driving in and up to push into the clit. No nipple pinching or suckling. He kept pinching her nipples though, and she kept telling him to stop it.  

He thumbed through pages, trying to find out exactly what he could do. Jesus, why didn’t he read this before? Why was this even a good idea? Oh right, drinking and reading Trying to be Friends again and again.  

Dirty talk would have been OK, but he never acquired that handbook. Good God, so many rules. Basically, all he could do was straight in and out.  

50 minutes of his limpish, pseudo-hardness, just enough to go through the motions of fucking. It likely didn’t help that he’d been drinking, but he’d lost the Drinking Responsibly handbook a long time ago. 

They tried Missionary. They tried from behind.  She probably needed to revisit the Pretending I’m Really Enjoying this and It’s Hot for Your Benefit, When I Just Lost another Bit of My Soul handbook. He could tell. 

10 minutes left when they quit. And while they lay naked together, chatting, he thought he should read Disposing of that Emotional Corpse, yet again. This had not worked at all. Or maybe, he should order a copy of That Emotional Corpse is Getting Awfully Ripe, Time to Bury It and Move On.   

In an unguarded moment, she casually ran her fingers through his chest hair and mentioned that she’d wanted to go skydiving someday. Straight out of the Mayfly Moments of Happiness handbook.

The Desperate Foolishness of One Particular Rugby Winger

So here you are running around on a rugby pitch. No forward passes. No downs. No helmets. One of the positions is hooker. That weird throw-in shit when the big players get lifted in the air. The scrums with players jammed up against each other like ... like what? Mutant Siamese twin beetles joined at the head?

Is it OK to talk about Siamese twins? Should it be conjoined twins? You can't really say. Since you started drinking again and went on the prowl for the younger ones half your age, your moral compass doesn't know North from South. (The fact that there haven't been any younger ones probably makes you feel a little cheated. You feel you've gotten a second rate midlife crisis, don't you?)

You might have thought blood and booze would have made a string of casual encounters easy pickings, but you underestimated your psychological disorder, sexual inassertiveness syndrome, and your bad grammar, which btw is often an online dating dealbreaker. And the drama and messiness from the breakdown of your nuclear family sure don't help much.

And what seemed like a good idea when you got divorced in your forties? Playing Rugby. Why? So you could hit people without worrying about assault charges? Keep your mind off whether your emotionally challenging daughter will get pregnant?

Look, your team just won the ball from a turnover on a counter ruck. Quick, get into position near the sideline. Run, dammit.

On offense your passing is bad, and on defense you can't tackle. And you're new so you’re playing wing, running up and down the sideline and maybe getting the ball. If you do get that ball, just run and keep running.

If only you'd started playing Rugby sooner. What a player you could have been. Now, it's a race to some decent play before your body gives out. Still, your midlife crisis did yield a badass leg sleeve tattoo that anyone would have to admit looks great with the kilt you bought from the Renaissance Fair. An awesome swirl of whale and squid locked into a yin-yang embrace of tentacles and maw that are both dealing mortal blows and a gentle embrace that represent the relationship with your ex.

Unlucky, knocked up. Unlucky as a knock-on when a loose ball’s been bouncing around the pitch.


While waxing metaphorically about your maritime tattoo, there was a penalty against your team. The other side opted to kick, and the ball is now sailing way behind you to the spot where you should be now. Chase after that ball--run as fast as those old legs can take you.

You manage to scoop the  ball up and turn around to see controlled chaos converging. Kick it. You need to kick it into touch without fucking it up.

Don't fuck it up.

The 8 Man

The 8 man lies on his back with coaches and players gathered around. The scrum half says stay down. The coach laughs in relief when the 8 man gives him the thumbs up and cracks a joke. What do you call kids born in a whorehouse? Brothel sprouts. It's a common joke. Someone helps the 8 man to the sidelines.

"You'll be out for a month they say. And no drinking for 24 hours."

Terrible, he thinks. The idea of abstaining from drink for a while is a bit of a slap, like a counter-ruck after a tackle. (The 8 man relates everything in life through rugby metaphors.) He tries to remember if he's been taking the medication prescribed for his low grade depression. He's nearly certain that he's paid the electric and water bills.

The last time the 8 man sees his kid: downtown. She is 19. The white masonry of buildings rise, the sidewalks are paved with red brick, and the tracks for the light rail run up and down the road. His kid pauses a moment in the dimming light of dusk, before heading down Lexington and then the intersection is empty.

His team mates support him with pats on the shoulders and the back of his head.

The kid develops a topsyturvy religion based on an inverted reincarnation scheme. When you die, you become your favorite animal. (The kid is going to be a kitten.) What happens after the kitten dies, then you  become a plant, and then a thing. These scissors (presented as evidence). They’re a slave.

The 8 man stands on the sidelines holding an ice pack to the back of his head. He thinks he's lucid, even though he's confused about now and before and later. His team is ahead  by 2 points as the game winds to a close, but the other team has possession and is moving the ball down the field. Their fly half, tall and lanky, gets the ball and drop kicks it from 30 meters out. Dammit, the 8 man thinks as the ball hurtles through the uprights, that's a beautiful kick.

Each night the kid asks him if he will brush her teeth for her. She claims that she doesn't know how to brush her teeth. The kid puts toothpaste on the toothbrush and then waves the toothbrush around until the lump of toothpaste, perched precariously on her brush, falls off. Two years pass, and she still hasn’t brushed her teeth.

At the ER, the 8 man gets everything scanned and properly checked out. No headache. No nausea. No blurry vision. He is a tough guy with a hard head, apparently. It's all good, but even so, the attending physician advises no practice and games for a month. And walking is OK, but not running. Sloshes the brain around too much. Also, he musn't think too hard.

He looks for weaknesses in the opponents defense and runs hard through a gap, hit low, but the tackler doesn't wrap. The 8 man spins and skitters across the try line, then runs behind the goal posts and centers the ball.

The 8 man laments the fact that he did not take a piss between those two fucks, especially since the first did occur in a washroom. But hindsight is 20/20, and on the second go-around, there's enough residual sperm from the first go in that pre-cum foreplay fluid that he ends up with the kid and married for awhile.

The 8 man thinks he's had a vasectomy; he doesn't want children, but the result of that semi-casual fuck in the washroom raises a question. 1 in 1000 is the answer. There's enough sperm struggling through that post-operative semen spurt that he ends up with the kid and married for awhile.  

Too far away to make a leaping tackle, the 8 man still chases. Another teammate is able to haul the runner down, and the 8 man is there to poach the ball, stealing back control, if only for a moment.

When she is 9, his kid loves to hear him read "Call of the Wild". It's their favorite story. They laugh at Mercedes, who screams at every little thing, right up until the moment when her imbecile brothers lead them to their demise, falling through the thin ice, at which point she actually has something to scream about. But Buck, the dog, lingers on.

The 8 man sails down the field in ungainly grace, a tattered rag, worn out, running a hard line, and it's all good, this ballet of blood and broken hands, black eyes and lacerations, that chip away at the narrow slice of time that’s left, until just short of the try line; the back of his head slams into the ground, and the ball is out.