For generations my family has been soccer-mad. For starters we’re Italian; wogs as they
used to call us. For another thing, I have three brothers, so it was inevitable that I joined the
local girls’ soccer team.
Even as a toddler I attended all the soccer matches in town. At that age I couldn’t
understand the rules, but I enjoyed the half-time entertainment: bands, dances and manic
routines performed by Boris. I think I was about four years old when I developed a secret
crush on Boris.
The object of my innocent passion appeared to be tall, muscular and athletic. He seemed to
share my childish sense of humour and I just loved his uniform. Boris the Boar was, of
course, the mascot of my brother Marco’s team; the Wild Boars. He was resplendent in his
glossy, black wild boar outfit. Best of all, Boris had huge furry ears and dramatically curved,
apparently razor-sharp, tusks.
By the age of eight I was satisfied with my command of written English. It was inevitable,
therefore, that I wrote my first ever love letter:
Your the best maskot in the hole world. I love you.
Im in Year 3.
The following Saturday before breakfast I rode my bike to the Wild Boars’ Clubhouse and
slipped my love letter under the door. I waited patiently for an answer. At the end of Year
Four, I decided that Boris wasn’t going to reply.
By high school I was valuable as a Defender on the Sunbirds. Despite a hit and miss sort of
dating history, I still loved Boris, in a manner of speaking. I loved his costume, routines,
athleticism and cheery waves to the children.
In Year Twelve I was selected as the Best and Fairest Sunbird. All the girls’ clubs were
celebrating the end of the season on the same evening. The whole family, even my
grandparents, aunties, and uncles attended to cheer and applaud in an embarrassing display of
After all the speeches and a rehash of the season’s highlights, they eventually got to the
awards. Each medallion or plaque was presented by a different local dignitary: the school
principals, police sergeant, president of the Lions Club, town librarian, and so on. Finally
they’d rambled through the junior clubs and my turn was rapidly approaching. In a haze of
pride and nerves, I crossed the stage, gazing at my parents while reminding myself to accept
my award with my left hand, ready to shake with my right hand.
Suddenly it occurred to me to look where I was going. My mouth flapped open comically
as my eyes bugged out. There was Boris, striding toward me with my award in his big, furry
paws. It was all I could do to accept my plaque without dropping it, and babble, “Thank you,
Boris.” Contrary to protocol, Boris gave me a hug instead of a handshake. The audience
erupted in delighted applause.
As soon as the ceremony was at an end, I rushed backstage and found Boris, seated casually
in a sling back chair, in full costume, drinking lemon cordial through a straw. As a virtual
adult, of course, I’d lost my girlish timidity. It was easy to tell Boris that he’d been my first
crush back when I was a four-year-old. Boris replied with a loud, boarish laugh.
‘You were in love with my granddad!’ Boris announced gleefully.
Speechless, I just stared. Finally, I uttered, ‘But…’
‘No buts, Emily. Dad took over when Granddad showed the first signs of angina. When
Dad got his promotion at work, I took over for him. It’s been my secret after school job. Like
hangmen in the old days, mascots are strictly forbidden to reveal their identity.’
‘Your voice is familiar, though…’
‘Obviously. If you swear to keep quiet, I’ll reveal my identity. A sort of high school
graduation present for you.’
‘I promise, Boris. It’ll go to the grave with me.’
Boris waved me closer with a hairy paw. ‘Donny Cahill,’ he whispered through his boar’s
‘It’ll be strange to see you in school on Monday. Unmasked, I mean.’
‘Not a word!’ I nodded complicitly.
Boris got up to leave. I stared, still in shock. Then he turned back. ‘You know it was your
dad who asked me to hand you your award.’
My eyebrows rose in surprise. ‘But…’
‘Well, he knew about Granddad. He was chairman of the committee back then. Any idiot
could see you were crazy about Boris.’
‘By the way, will you go to the formal with me?’
Boris started to leave again, hesitated, and returned to me. ‘Granddad always treasured that
letter you wrote. He kept it his whole life, but your dad agreed that little girls shouldn’t
correspond with grown men.’