Published in Overland Issue 240.5: a special digital fiction edition · Fiction The game Yumna Kassab For Rodrigo The war of forty-four was the final straw. Why that one tipped the countries over the edge, your guess is as good as mine. It wasn’t the bloodiest nor did it claim the most lives. Consider this: the million homes destroyed in thirty-nine and all the children that disappeared in the lead-up to that time. No one keeps these numbers because they’re an indictment and everyone ends up looking bad. But forty-four, we hoped it heralded the beginning of a new age. The prevailing mood was of tiredness – haven’t we been here before – that you can only push that boulder so far up the hill before you concede enough’s enough. We knew this block. We had been on it that many times. Words such as fortitude, endurance, patience, they’re the country’s backbone … or crime, depending on who you ask. The day the announcement came, you could say we were ripe for a change. So many disagreements settled with fists, with guns, with bulldozing homes, we thought why not give a game a try? Those in power, those who make the world move and shake, suggested a game, let us fill the stadium Thursday night. Neutral territory, of course, neither our land nor theirs, so that no one cries it was an unfair fight. The stadium was at capacity and thousands more were smuggled in to see history being made but I accepted I could not be there and that I could witness the change in my country just as well in the street. I had never seen the streets filled as they were that night, not at the declaration of a war, nor the broadcast announcing its anti-climatic end. It was a festival and both sides believed that for once humanity the world over could be proud. I will not bore you with the kicking of a ball back and forth, the screams, the sighs, the swearing at the screen, the way strangers sat shoulder to shoulder, thigh to thigh, no one separated so that in the mass I could not distinguish a single face. When the game ended, we talked about the game, we considered it justice done. For once, we had seen how our fate had been arranged and we believed that the game was the fairest fight. There are many theories about who did it, who locked the doors and set the stadium alight. You have your theories and I have mine but I can tell you this: they did not like the war of a century being settled with a ball and a game. If they are so stupid as to believe a game is more important than a military and a country’s history, then they don’t deserve to be alive. Those were the President’s words, leaked but unverified, but no matter because we now understand that a conflict that has killed so many is important enough to keep the ball rolling over a million more lives. Yumna Kassab Yumna Kassab is a writer from Western Sydney. She studied medical science and neuroscience at university. Her first book of short stories, The House of Youssef, has been listed for prizes including the Victorian Premier’s Literary Award, Queensland Literary Award and The Stella Prize. Her writing can be found online at Kill Your Darlings, Sydney Review of Books, Peril Magazine, Meanjin, The Sydney Morning Herald and Mascara Literary Review. More by Yumna Kassab › Overland is a not-for-profit magazine with a proud history of supporting writers, and publishing ideas and voices often excluded from other places. If you like this piece, or support Overland’s work in general, please subscribe or donate. Related articles & Essays 1 First published in Overland Issue 228 11 August 202322 August 2023 · Fiction Fiction | Alison Katelin Farnsworth The things I want to say aren’t the sort of things you’re allowed to say out loud. You’re not even meant to think the things I think. But sometimes I think them anyway and sometimes I want to say them, so badly, that my chest fills with this irredeemable rage and I don’t know which way to look. First published in Overland Issue 228 14 July 202318 July 2023 · Fiction Fiction | A Quiet Man Barry Revill I’m a quiet man. I don’t talk much. I like a quiet drink. Sometimes a bit more, sometimes too much. I have this quiet spot at the Royal pub. Just a little spot around from the bar near the corner. They always serve me a beer as soon as I walk in. A bit of a nod, a bit of a wink, and then I slide on to the stool and rest my elbow on the bar. This is what I do. I watch people. They think I’m looking straight into my beer glass. Well, I am, sort of. But most of the time I am looking at people.