“His definition of the short story is quite simple: it is the recounting of an event that is unusual”
(Isaac Babel quoting Goethe during a discussion at the USSR Writers Union.)
Most likely, countless observers must have remarked the same thing at the same moment in a variety of conditions, or in the same conditions at various moments, yet in only two or three days the totality of the phenomenon was to become a subject of astonishment, alarm, then pure terror. As far as Loewen was concerned, the first sign of the phenomenon manifested itself to him as he sat calmly watching the France-Hungary soccer final on his television. The stakes were high : which country would represent Europe in the all new Intercontinental Soccer Cup. With the score tied at zero, there were now a series of penalty kicks. Hardly a cheerleader himself, but ever interested by talent in all its forms, Loewen had noticed that in the last few years this once exceptional postlude was finally becoming the rule, and the moment of truth in a game where it seemed there were no longer any teams capable of establishing their superiority during regulation time. The federations had even managed to agree on a limited number of these kicks : a total of twelve, six chances given to each team, and up to now this had sufficed to break the deadlock at one or other moment, allowing that subtle cocktail of chance, tension, angst and will to produce an exhilarating goal and with it, victory.
But on this particular night, the time limit was drawing to a close.