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“Nobody would pass me the ball. Even friends who I thought were my friends wouldn’t pass me the ball.” These words from my nine-year-old after another round of recess Darwinism style bounced around in my head like a bright orange basketball stealing my sleep at 2:00 a.m and making me despise a group of four-foot tall 4th graders.

 

“I blame Trump,” I tell my husband (also at 2:00 a.m.). In a mumbled sleep chatter he reminds me that childlike cruelty existed well before Donald Trump became the President. I know if my husband was fully awake he would share yet another tale of the bullying he experienced as a child, which is supposed to make me feel better because look at him now, but I’m a fire sign, I’m a fighter, and even though he has fallen back asleep I continue this fight with the cracked plaster on our ceiling wondering what the world would be like if we all simply believed in passing the ball.

 

It’s not like I’ve ever played in a basketball league before, but as a native Angelino I did grow up in the era of the Showtime Lakers. By default that makes me a Chick Hearns-style sideline expert on the benefits of passing the ball. Of course most of the Lakers back then were known for their dynamic running game and flamboyant offense, but then there were players like Coop. If you called him Michael Cooper you clearly didn’t grow up in Los Angeles. Cooooooooop, heralded for his defense and his beyond belief Coop-a-loops he would slam-dunk on his rivals after retrieving a perfectly timed pass from Magic Johnson or Norm Nixon. Even NBA all-stars of a basketball dynasty recognized to win the game they needed to pass the ball.

 

It seems if you’re not open it makes more sense to pass the ball. It also seems a team would get more open shots the more times they moved the ball. But 4th grade asphalt antics aren’t about the open shot. It’s about taking the shot whether you can make the shot. It’s about ego and arrogance and power. It’s also about a pack mentality where one group of kids endeavors to dominate over the other, especially if the “other” is different from the pack.

 

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My father’s farm in Virginia is called Oak Hill. When he bought it, not long after he divorced my mother, there was in fact a cluster of enormous oak trees that shaded a white clapboard, nineteenth-century house that stood on the hill in the center of the farm, but the house burned down before my father could move into it. Some of the oaks survived the fire, which occurred on a Halloween night, but despite whispers that the previous owner had torched the house, no charges were ever filed. I remember surveying the charred remains and spotting, not charred even slightly, an old board game called Why, the Alfred Hitchock Mystery Game, which, according to the blurb on the box, involved “real thinking, planning, and memory.” I took the game home with me—I lived a twenty-minute drive from the farm with my mother, brother, and sister—but I never played it, and don’t know what became of it. Maybe my memory wouldn’t be so faulty if I had better developed it by playing Why.

History was made twice when the Oklahoma City Thunder defeated the Los Angeles Lakers 106-90 and advanced to the 2012 Western Conference Finals. In the National Basketball Association annals, of course, the game goes down as the one in which, for the first time, the young Thunder were able to get past the Lakers in a playoff series. Perhaps more broadly, the Thunder eliminating the Lakers will be remembered as a changing of the guard between the old NBA—represented by 5-time champion Kobe Bryant—and the New NBA, epitomized by Kevin Durant.

Pistol: The Life of Pete Maravich by Mark KriegelHe was the sad-eyed wizard of the hardwood, wearing floppy socks and scraggly hair upon his head, the prodigy child of his father, Press Maravich. To a generation he was known as Pistol Pete, a soulful magician with a leathery, orange globe ricocheting from the tips of his fingers to the tips of his toes, the all-time leading scorer in NCAA history—a legend.

Neal Pollack changed my life one time; the year was 2002 and I was twenty, by day studying for the second year of an English degree, by night working bar in city clubs. Like most of my peers I was still trying to find my way in life, and the bloated, over-serious study materials and ever-duller blend of vampire fiction and subtextually desperate classroom readouts that flooded my Creative Fiction classes had all but killed my ambition of writing for a living in favour of the idea of moving into hospitalities management (not that I was by any means immune to the lure of inflicting my bad writing onto everyone around me; most of my essays were fanboy attempts at being Chuck Palahniuk and falling leagues short of Chuck Shurley).

And then a friend loaned me a copy of The Neal Pollack Anthology of American Literature, and I, for the first time in my life, found a book I truly couldn’t put down. It was as flawlessly put-together as any of the best works I’d ever read, excruciatingly funny, and it viciously ran a satirical razorblade across the hamstrings of the 20th century’s most puffed-up, pretentious pieces of creative non-fiction and literary journalism. And, most importantly, it was the first time for a long time that reading had provided me with a genuinely good time.

I’ve been going to bed lately on a pile of jagged stones covered only by a thin cotton blanket half-eaten by moths. This is one of the worst possible sleeping arrangements I could imagine. Sometimes I wonder how things got this way, but I have to remember that I am a journalist, novelist, radio producer and poet, and I am here in Albania to find out what life is really like for a family in the poorest country in Europe. I have personally borne witness to much human suffering. People here are beset by unwanted refugees, obscure diseases, and limited opportunities to express themselves through fashion. I must tell you: things are not good.

– The Albania of My Existence, The Neal Pollack Anthology of American Literature

In short, Pollack made me want to be a writer again, and I started to follow his blog (which in turn lead me to the likes of Matt Tobey, Ian Carey, Greg Robillard, and Darci Ratliff. And, regrettably, Wayne Gladstone. And shortly after Pollack followed up the Anthology with Never Mind the Pollacks, a rock and roll novel that featured a(nother) fictitious version of himself as the world’s greatest rock critic, and unwitting instigator of some of the greatest moments of rock history.

The rain came. Pollack opened his mouth, filling it with acidic water. He spat a broad stream of it onto the stage. It caught Dylan between the eyes.

“Judas!” Pollack cried. “Judas!”

Never Mind the Pollacks

From there, Pollack moved into non-fiction territory with his parenting memoir Alternadad, the detailing of his quest to maintain his lifestyle and coolness in the face of becoming a father, and Stretch, the yoga memoir that now sees him carrying out pose requests at readings. Oh, and he’s one of the guys behind the parenting community Offsprung.

And now Pollack has released his newest work, Jewball, a book featuring basketball players, Nazis, punches to the face and knives to the heart, drinking, gambling, sex, love, and standing up against the forces of darkness; not necessarily in that order. In a sign of the time he’s released it himself through Amazon, and now, on TNB, Pollack discusses Jewball, basketball, the realm of noir and the age of the ebook.

SS: In brief, what’s Jewball about?

NP: It’s a noir comedy centered around a Jewish basketball team in the 1930s. The team’s coach unwittingly incurs a gambling debt to the German-American Bund, and the team has to do battle with American Nazis while also trying to claw its way to another basketball championship.

Do you think it’s a book you need to be knowledgeable about basketball or Judaism to enjoy? It keeps pretty faithfully to those two themes throughout – that being said, I don’t know a point guard from a plate of brisket, and I loved it.

I think having knowledge of or interest in those subjects would certainly help you get interested in starting the book, but once you’re immersed, Jewball is a pretty breezy read, intended for a general audience. It’s more of a noir book than a Jewish one. The Judaism isn’t laid on too thick, and while there are a lot of basketball scenes, most of them don’t get very technical.

What’s a point guard?

Point guard is a position on a basketball team. He (or she) is generally one of the shorter players; their function is to handle the ball efficiently, and to make it easier for other players to score by passing intelligently and reading defenses. They should also be able to score a bit when needed, and it’s important for point guards to make their free throws. They get fouled a lot, particularly at the end of games, because they’re always handling the ball.

What’s brisket?

It’s a cut of beef that’s often served on Jewish holidays. Generally braised, with vegetables and stock.

The characters of Jewball are all drawn from real life – the SPHAs, the Bund, David Berman and William Dudley Pelley; these were all real people. How did you find the process of writing characters that were at once a blend of fact and fiction? How much did the real-world origins of, and events surrounding, these guys color their roles in Jewball?

It depends; for some of the supporting characters like Berman and Pelley, I often turned real-life stories, garnered from nonfiction accounts, into scenes. As for secondary leads like Gottlieb, Litwack, and Kunze, I used their bios as jumping-off points, deploying some true-life stories. But because they had to play a bigger role in the narrative, I inevitably had to fictionalize a lot of their personalities and their actions. Inky Lautman, who technically was a real person, I cut from whole cloth. There’s very little material available describing Inky’s actual character and personality, so while he’s the protagonist, he’s also the least historically accurate of all my major characters. Meanwhile, certain characters, like Natalya and Charlie Shostack, were wholly fictional. That mix and match between the “real” and the “fake” informs most history-based fiction, and I drew upon the writing of historical fiction writers who I admire, like Gore Vidal, Conn Iggulden, and Kevin Baker, to try and achieve historical versimilitude while also spinning a fun story.

Tonight, like after every Saturday SPHA game, several virginities would be lost and seeds of future generations would be sown. Lips would get sucked on until they bled. Everyone was togged to the bricks and ready to stroll down Seduction Avenue. The folks in the crowd had suffered the requisite tight-quartered Shabbat with their toothless bubbes, whose apartments stank of boiled onion, whose stories about the Old Country were growing increasingly maudlin. Yes, yes, the Cossacks killed your cows and burned your synagogue. Your pain is immense. Thank you for sharing. But now it’s Saturday night.

Jewball

I was thinking about a blog piece you wrote some time back about watching Shaolin Soccer and the idea of good and evil meeting across the sports field occurred to me as a motif that both Jewball and Shaolin Soccer share; one of these big, human themes that’s more than just which team gets more points on the board. More than that, though, there’s something of heroism in both of them – and in just about any good sports story you care to name. Add to that the noir ideal of the not-so-good guy fighting the good fight in a not-so-good world and you’re got Inky Lautman, the protagonist of Jewball. These larger ideals of good and evil – were they something you kept in mind throughout the writing process?

Since the novel is about Jews fighting Nazis at the dawn of World War II, those themes inevitably arise. But I also wanted some shades of gray in there. My “Inky” character is a basketball player and also a thug, though the real-life guy wasn’t. The Nazis are evil in the book, but I also wanted to paint them as bumbling and somewhat human. All the good guys have huge character flaws, except Litwack, which is kind of a flaw in itself. I read a lot of novels by Alan Furst, and he’s excellent at creating flawed protagonists who suffer from broken hearts and come from broken homes. He puts those characters against a broader historical backdrop. I tried to do the same thing with Jewball.

Did you find any inherent challenges in writing a sports novel? It’s not that common a field; did you draw any particular inspiration from either other sports works, or from non-fiction sports writing?

I don’t think a sports novel is harder to write than any other kind of novel. You have your subject matter, and your story, and you just have to lay them out with clarity and intelligence. I didn’t read much sportswriting specifically for the book. For inspiration, I mostly turned to the classic noir writers of the 30s and 40s, for mood, dialogue, and sentence structure. The book is well-served by that, I think. I like a good sports magazine feature as much as the next guy, but they’re not a great source of novelistic inspiration.

I agree with you on the noir front and how well it serves Jewball; there’s a certain peculiar enjoyment to the genre itself, and how you can sink your teeth into it – which compliments how enjoyable it always is to watch some Nazis getting their just desserts, in the face, at speed. And I liked how you paid such attention to creating the neighbourhoods and urban scenes; giving them a life of their own apart from the narrative – another noir twist?

A sense of place is very important to me as a reader. The best noirs have great plots, of course, but I rarely end up caring or thinking about the story when it comes to say, Raymond Chandler’s books. In fact, as a noir reader, I often find myself skimming narrative bits so I can get to the parts where the writer describes the vibe of place, or somehow captures the essence of a time. I wanted to do that as much as possible in Jewball.

You’re a big Jim Thompson fan, if I remember correctly – did his work touch on Jewball at all?

Only very indirectly. I turned more to David Goodis, who wrote so beautifully about Philadelphia, for this book, and I’ve also been reading a lot of Donald Westlake lately. For the Harlem chapter, I went back and read some Chester Himes.

You know what? Gottlieb thought. Fuck New York. Try spending a few months in Philadelphia and see how you like your life then. We’ve got all the soot, all the dirt, all the bums, all the corruption, and all the venereal disease that New York has, but we ain’t got DiMaggio or Broadway. Our dames are shorter and maybe not as smart, and lots of them are Catholic. It’s a real shit sandwich without the trimmings. But we still wake up in the morning, or sometimes the afternoon.

Jewball

I’m always curious about how people learn and develop their writing chops and how it shapes their later work – the famous example being Hemingway and his ‘journalistic’ style of prose. In a book like Jewball, as opposed to your last couple of non-fiction offerings, you’re writing a fiction novel, you’re writing a big cast of characters, some action-packed scenes of basketball and fighting, and wrapping it all up in this over-arching storyline – and that’s a combination that I haven’t read in your work before. A lot of that seems counter to your original journalist background – is it something you draw on, nevertheless?

I think my early journalism work in Chicago prepared me pretty well to write this type of book. In my 20s, I covered some very gritty stories and wore out a lot of shoes walking the beat. This is definitely a new type of book for me, but it’s the type of book I’ve always wanted to, and always intended to, write, and I’m thrilled that I was finally able to make it happen.

As for the release of the book – what informed your decision to self-release it as an ebook as opposed to a traditional hardcopy?

It just seemed that the time was right. The technology has more than arrived, and I’ve always had an entrepreneurial impulse. Also, my agent was very encouraging, so I thought, why the hell not? The process hasn’t been without its drawbacks, and it’s certainly an underdog, but let’s put it this way: Other than the first chapter, which I wrote in 2008, I started this book in February, and as I’m typing this sentence, it’s October and the book is about to come out. If I’d submitted this via the normal publishing process, Jewball might not have appeared officially until 2013.

How are you feeling about the whole ebook revolution in general? Apparently ebooks are now outselling printed by two to one on Amazon, and incredibly, three to one on Barnes and Noble. It’s a far cry from the days when the industry was proclaiming the ebook would never take off and even Stephen King couldn’t make any money from it. How do you think the changing landscape will affect authors?

It’s hard to say. Big publishing is certainly not going away, and it does appear to be finally adapting to the new landscape. It will be hard to do a “quality” launch via ebooks because the industry is so invested in gatekeeping their so-called literary standards. I also think that the biggest-name authors will mostly go through corporate houses because it’s a lot less work for them. In general, though, I think this will be good for most authors, because the options are limitless.

The SPHAs scored three baskets almost before the Rens had their warmups off.

Finally, the other team woke up and got down to business, jostling inside, making long set shots from the perimeter, restoring order. It was 26–21 after Shostack split a couple of free throws, 26–23 a few seconds after that, and then they went back and forth for a while until Inky spotted an opening, swiped the ball from the Ren point guard, and drove down for a six-foot spot-on setter that drained the nylon out of the net and drained the life from the crowd. They’d gone to 36–31 with twenty seconds to go. It looked like the SPHAs were going to (yet again unofficially) claim the title of the best basketball team in the known universe.

Jewball

What was the nuts and bolts process of writing and releasing the Jewball ebook, from start to finish – as a kind of Cliff’s Notes for other readers or writers who may be interested in going down that road but haven’t yet gotten to grips with the process.

I wrote the first chapter in 2008, rewrote it in 2009, showed it to my editor who basically ignored it, and then shelved the idea for a couple of years because I wasn’t quite sure where to take the book. Then my agent approached me with the idea of self-publishing, and I said I had this basketball story I’d been meaning to tell. He encouraged me, and that was all the spark I needed. I started writing Jewball in earnest in February. By Memorial Day weekend I had a first draft. My friend Tom Fassbender, who once ran a nifty noir-themed publishing concern in L.A., agreed to look at the manuscript. He did, gave me a few notes, and by the end of July, I had a manuscript. That was a little over three months ago. Since then, it’s been copy-edited. As I write this, it’s being formatted for the Kindle. From first sentence to first sale in eight months: Big publishing couldn’t begin to dream of that speed. Getting eyeballs to the book will be hard, but it’s hard no matter how you publish.

With the great power of writers these days being able to self-publish so easily to handheld or online platforms comes the great responsiblity of the traditional work of the publishing house – editorial, marketing, design, rights administration (if they get so far as the last one). Do you wonder if, with the gates as open as they now are, we might swing to the other side of the pendulum? A great morass of underdone, unskilled work clogging up the waters of the literary marketplace?

It’s possible, I suppose. But any serious writer is going to make sure that the editorial side of things is taken care of; you need to have pride in your work. I will always work with editors whether I self-publish or not. Designers are readily available for hire; I got a friend to do a brilliant cover for Jewball. Marketing is a ball that big publishers often drop; you can viral market yourself fairly easily, and if things start going well, you can always hire a publicist for a real big push. My agent is taking care of the rights administration.

So Jewball is kind of a hybrid project. I retained my agent, hired a great copyeditor, and worked with publishing professionals all the way down the line. I just did it a lot more quickly than I otherwise would have been able. And while the book may or may not find more success through this method, it’s certainly just as good a product as it would have been if I’d published it through a conventional stream. It’s an experiment, and experiments don’t always succeed. But sometimes they do.

If you had to recommend a noir primer to a reader unfamiliar with the genre, what would be your recommendations, and why?

There are so many choices. I’d start with Raymond Chandler and Patricia Highsmith, and probably Jim Thompson. There’s a nifty collection from the Library Of America that collects noir novels from the 30s and 40s by masters like James M. Cain and David Goodis. That’ll fill your nightstand or your Kindle for months.

How do you think the Phoenix Suns rebuilding program is going?

The Suns don’t have a prayer as long as Robert Sarver is the boss. That guy is the tool of tools. He’s made a tragic mess of a proud franchise that should have won a couple titles in the aughts.

Jewball is now available through Amazon.com. Neal Pollack’s site can be found at www.nealpollack.com.

I grew up in Montana, a state where high school basketball was a thing as strong as family or work, and Jonathan Takes Enemy, a member of the Crow (Apsáalooke) Nation was the best basketball player in the state. He led Hardin High, a school with years of losing tradition, into the state spotlight, carrying the team and the community on his shoulders all the way to the state tournament where he averaged 41 points per game. He created legends that decades later are still spoken of in state basketball circles, and he did so with a fierceness that made me both fear and respect him. On the court, nothing was outside the realm of his skill: the jumpshot, the drive, the sweeping left-handed finger roll, the deep fade-away jumper. He could deliver what we all dreamed of, and with a venom that said don’t get in my way.

Dear Robin Lopez,

Please cut your hair. You look like American Idol Season I runner-up Justin Guarini.

You do.

You really do.


I ask you this with the sincerest of intentions.

Every time I watch a Phoenix Suns game, I think three things:

1. Aaron Brooks could be Chris Rock’s double should Chris Rock ever pull a Martin Lawrence (Rebound, 2005) and make a horrible basketball film;



2. If Steve Nash isn’t the spitting image of cigarette smoking, rebel bad ass Kelly Leak from the original Bad News Bears (1976) with Walter Matthau as Coach Morris Buttermaker then no one is; and



3) How you look like that guy from American Idol.

Justin Guarini.

And I’ve never even seen a full episode of American Idol.

Seriously, I haven’t.

No, I’m serious.

And it’s because of the hair.

Not mine. That’s not why I have never seen a full episode of American Idol.

It’s because of your hair that you look like Justin Guarini.

It’s not like you’re suffering from what Andrew Bynum suffers from or Brian Scalabrine. Bynum looks like Tracy Morgan because of the face.



The same as Scalabrine being Michael Rapaport’s doppelganger because of the similarity in facial features.



Although, I take back the latter in some regard. It doesn’t help Scals that he and Rapaport both sport the red do and that Rapaport takes part in the NBA Celebrity Game during each year’s All-Star break.

But Robin, don’t get me wrong. It’s not just you. Anderson Verajao looks like Justin Guarini too, which is why I’m making a carbon copy of this letter and replacing your name with his at every occasion.

I know, I know — the hair is your good luck charm and you can’t just go and chop it off like Iverson did with his trademark cornrows. (Look where that got ole AI: a roster slot with Beşiktaş in the Turkish Basketball League) Your hair is what helps you bring in those mind-shattering statistics you do night in and night out as the Phoenix Suns big man: .1 apg, 2.2 bpg, 3.3 rpg, and 7.0 ppg. Averaging 3.3 rpg as a 7’0″ center is some feat. Very Rodman-esque.

But this letter is the least I can do. I’m only looking out for you.

And hey, at least I didn’t say you looked like Sideshow Bob.

Because although you do somewhat, Varejao has totally got you beat on that one.



Sincerely,

A concerned NBA fan

Jeffrey Pillow


My friend James and I played basketball every Thursday afternoon when we lived together in Madrid. He was always exceedingly happy to play, although he would bitch, ad nauseum, about the Spaniards’ “bullshit” game.

“They can’t fucking dribble, T. And the fouls, fuck! This isn’t soccer, you hookers…I’m legitimately mad. Aren’t you? They hack you to pieces. You need to stop taking charges if you’re not going to call a foul.“ Hearing these tirades made me relax sometimes. He still had conviction.

On one particular afternoon, there was no Spanish bullshit. On this afternoon, four Americans ran court—a beleaguered cement court in Parque Oeste, a little west of the Arco de la Victoria, Generalissimo Franco’s pretty little door. James and I were engaged in a warm-up game of M-I-E-R-D-A, when we heard the thud of a basketball on the cement behind us. Mormons.

You can spot a Mormon on a mission from a mile away: Athletic, suspiciously Teutonic, clad in white starched, button-down short sleeves and a tie. Mormons especially stick out in Spain, so they’re usually easy to dodge. But sometimes the Latter-Day Saints come marching in from nowhere.

 

“Oh, hell no. It’s the tie guys,” James said, a little too loudly. I couldn’t help but snort. It was curious: James was raised a Baptist, but had for the most part abandoned whatever faith people had pumped through him during his youth. However, and I’ve found this to be the case with most people who have ostensibly forsaken their religion, he had a kind of “Hey, you can’t beat up my asshole little brother—only I can beat up my asshole little brother” mentality about the Church.

The two strapping LDSers came strolling up.

“Soy Moylen,” said Moylen, jamming his hand out. “Muchos gustos a conocerty.”

“I speak English,” said James.

“Hey, how about that!” said Moylen. “Where are you from? “

“Texas.”

“Cool!”

“Hi, I’m Xarek,” said Xarek, pumping his hand into mine.

“Hi, there.”

Proselytizers are like pistachios—intriguing, but seldom worth the trouble after it’s all said and done. I had a perfunctory talk with Xarek about my relationship with Jesus Christ, giving him just enough of a carrot to hunger after, while James practiced layups to avoid talking with Moylen. The two men, boys really, changed out of their “work” gear and into shorts and basketball shoes, but they left their shirts off.

“I guess we’ll be skins,” announced Moylen. Of course they would.

“You can shoot for outs,” said Xarek. I shot for James and me, missing. Xarek drained it. Mormon ball. Aside from being sculpted and in shape, these Mormons were good at basketball, executing passes with surgical accuracy between our legs, around our defending arms, above our overzealous heads. Have you ever seen two members of a religious sect execute a perfect alley-oop? I have.

“Cover him, Smith!” James roared. He called me by my last name when I frustrated him.

“Smith, get big.” James always used that expression when we’d be in line at some hallowed European tourist sight. James hated that nobody had any sense of decorum in the queue. “Getting big” entails swinging your arms out like a marionette on amphetamines and spreading your legs as wide as they’ll go to ensure nobody cuts around you in line. So, when James told me to “get big” against these mammoth lambs of God, I assumed it was a metaphor for defense. The only problem with playing defense at this moment was that Xarek and I were both covered in blood.

“Whoa, whoa. Somebody’s cut,” I said. I had blood smeared all across my shirt. I could taste the acrid syrup. Maybe I’d been hit in the lip. I felt nothing. “Hey, you okay?” I asked Xarek.

“Oh, yes. I’m fine.” Xarek had apparently taken the brunt of this mysterious injury. His face was covered in blood. The crown of thorns. “I feel nothing. Maybe I’m just sweating blood,” he giggled. I’m sure I fouled the shit out of him. I always do.

“Luke 22:43-44. Christ’s agony at Gethsemane,“ said Moylen.

“That’s right, Moylen,” Xarek grinned with smug approval.

“What the fuck?,” James whispered to me in passing. “These dudes aren’t right.” In an effort to reverse the throttling, James ordered me to switch up, so now I’d be covering Moylen who wasn’t covered in blood (yet), and who, James assured me, “wasn’t respecting my outside bombs.” “Tyler,” James went on, “I’m going to mix it up with that bitch-ass gory motherfucker down low and you drain threes on the other hooker. Word?”

“Word,” I said, with feigned confidence.

Down low soon began to look like a hematic sprinkler. A number of Spaniards descended onto the blacktop to watch this peculiar spectacle. In the paint, James and Xarek elbowed, shoved, shin-kicked, crab-blocked and generally banged away at each other like two deities in combat—a modern day Titanomachia. The Mormons continued to dominate and won the first game 21-6. My allegedly devastating three-point shot would not fall. “The fucking ball is covered in blood, James!”

“Don’t you make fucking excuses, T. FIGHT!” he screamed in my face, his teeth covered with a gruesome patina. “Do you understand, T?”

“Best two out of three?” asked Moylen. Any communication from the Mormons was now directed to me, as James refused to acknowledge them as anything but objects to beat the mortal shit out of. James had killing in him today. You don’t want to have killing in you too much of the time. I don’t know if I’ve ever had killing in me.

Game two became increasingly violent. Moylen threw an elbow that splashed into my nose, an extra avenue of blood flow, this time unattributable to divine magic on the Mount of Olives. I recoiled, but managed to drive the slick ball around him, and found James under the basket for a layup. I raced back to the outs line, received the ball back from James, checked and passed it back to him on the perimeter.

James intoned, “But with the precious blood of Christ…you cocksuckers. Bucket.” Ball in. James and Xarek, battling low for a rebound, slipped on the court, making obscene blood angels on the concrete. James roared up from the mess and lay the ball in. “Son of man coming with power and great glory….Bucket.” The Mormons kept silent during the second game, which we won, 21-12, James quoting scripture throughout.

I’ve always been impressed by people who can recite scripture, or poetry, or anything. I can barely remember “Fire and Ice,” the Frost poem that everybody learns in “Reciting Things 101.”

Game three began in heightened reality and ended in gauzy fog. We, the aging camels, the yellow camels, the angry, moving divine camels, started with too much intensity. I shot three errant bloodballs in a row, throwing James into a rage.

“Focus, T. Focus. Focus. Hit me low if it’s not falling. Fuck, Smith.” It wasn’t falling. But how can you stop? It feels right coming out of the hand, but when the shots don’t fall, the shots don’t fall. It would have to be James down low, outmatched, bloodied beyond recognition and snarling like the rat-faced man in the corner of Hieronymus Bosch’s “Christ Carrying the Cross.”

The basketball court was a ghastly sight. The backboard looked like a wall behind which executions took place. Blast radii of mammoth blobs of coagulating bloodsputum littered the court. Xarek and Moylen screamed at each other to play defense, to get open, to focus. They invoked scripture. They seemed rattled. Their ball.

Moylen drove to James’s left. I moved over a little to try and cut off his lane, but was waylaid by Xarek with a crushing pick. As I lay in a heap, Xarek stepped on my head and popped to the outside, behind the two-point line. James made a valiant effort to get a hand on Moylen’s outlet pass, but slipped and collapsed next to me on the wet concrete.

Xarek spoke before he shot: “Behold, I will give you the victory.” Bucket.

Final score:

Latter Day Saints: 21
Heretics: 19

Xarek and Moylen high-fived, their bloodstained bodies glistening in the Madrid sunlight. James began to weep. I’d only seen him cry once, when he talked about his mother. He was just a boy and thought she’d written the note after she’d done it. The poor kid. From that day on, his eyes were too wise for a child. They still were.

The crowd swarmed all over the Mormons, cheering, clapping, and slapping them on the back. Everyone was given a Book of Mormon and Moylen and Xarek went about their mission, their church, their victory.

I did my best to console James. “Let’s get a drink,” I suggested.

“We should have won that game, T,” he said, then went supervoid.

I, along with five other friends served as pallbearers for James. Outside the church, there was a long discussion about carrying the casket. We all naturally thought pallbearers had to carry the thing.

“Don’t worry, it rolls,” said some church official. Then there we were in a line, taking communion. Everything in a line. The priest had to get more wine. We raided the church stash—the blood of Christ was much more appealing than his body. “So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth.” Nice try, Revelations. But we’re thirsty.

I walked around during James’s wake, carrying his basketball for three hours like a goddamned fool. What else do you do? You play basketball. So the pallbearers played a game of three-on-three with James’ basketball at his parent’s house while people looked sad, the way you’re supposed to look at these functions. Strange glances were thrown. It wasn’t the same. We should have won that game.

But if it had to perish twice, I think I know enough of hate…

I could start off by saying I was a shy kid and I liked books more than people and my dad was a rough oilfield man and blah blah blah, woe is me, and now I’m a writer and everything is all better.

The reality is I was shy and I’m not sure why, because inside I felt I could soar as high as the sky if only someone would pay attention to me.

Like in the sixth grade I could stand in my back yard and make fifty straight free throws, but I was barely five feet tall and my feet were already bigger than my dad’s and I didn’t move around very well. Which is why on the playground no one passed the basketball to me and when they finally did I was so surprised I didn’t know what to do with it. Six years later I would make fifteen three-pointers in a single game on the way to 51 total points, but obviously in the sixth grade no one knew that.

On many sunset evenings I would run pass patterns in the front yard and my dad would throw the football to me over and over until I never let it hit the ground. “If you can touch it you can catch it,” he would say. But at school I was short and slow on my clown feet and no one would throw me the ball. The only time they did I scored a touchdown, but somehow no one ever remembered that.

If I had known it was possible I would have sold my soul to be Keith. Keith was the fastest human in our school and possibly the entire city of elementary schools, and like Superman he could score a touchdown every time he touched the ball. He could pour shots into the hoop like Magic Johnson. He could destroy you in kickball, in foursquare, in anything. All I wanted in the world was to be like him.

The situation was different in the classroom. In there I was dominant, or rather co-dominant along with my friend Kevin. It didn’t matter what subject it was, the two of us always finished projects first and tests first and read the assigned chapter first and then sat around wondering what was taking everyone else so long. If there had been teams to pick, we would have been captains, and if there had been a ball to hog, it would have been ours. If you scored lower than the 99th percentile in any subject on the CAT test, you melted from the scorching shame.

I wanted to believe I had a leg up on Kevin because we made the same grades but I was more social than him. Or not so much social as wanted to be social. I was shy but I didn’t want to be shy. Kevin was a vastly different animal. He didn’t listen to music. He didn’t like girls. I had a huge crush on this girl named Gigi ever since I saw her on the cafeteria stage dancing to Billy Joel. She had brown hair and green eyes and put her hands on her side-thrust hips when she talked to you. She had attitude. I knew she wanted to go around with me but that attitude was intimidating so I never asked her. Still, I talked to her every day while Kevin read the extra credit chapter. When I asked him why didn’t he listen to music or talk to girls, he would say, “A Jedi craves not these things.”

As much as I wanted it, I knew I didn’t really have a leg up on Kevin. He was just as smart as me. For that matter, Keith’s grades were almost as good as ours. And even though we were all close friends, along with Jason and Butch and plenty of others in the neighborhood, there was an unspoken pecking order. Keith, being both smart and athletic, was unquestionably at the top. Jason lived in Country Club so he had votes for second place, as did Butch, who was friends with all the girls and whose parents were cool enough to own a Datsun 280ZX. Kevin and I were a bit lower, but to be honest everything below Keith was kind of hazy, and one big victory could propel any of us skyward. And finally in the middle of the sixth grade I found my chance: the Spelling Bee.

One of my mom’s favorite stories is how I took to reading at an early age. I was prone to picking up books and trying to figure out what they meant and learned my ABCs when I was three. By the time I started kindergarten I was already reading, or so the story goes, and my mom always gets a twinkle in her eye when she tells that part.

So it was understood by everyone in our class that I would win the school Spelling Bee. It wasn’t in doubt. The bigger question was if I would win the city and regional competitions and go onto the national finals. I was that good.

Every afternoon, in the days leading up to the Bee, my mom picked up Words of the Champions and grilled me for hours. We spent little time with the first round words because I could spell those in my sleep. The grunt work was in the second round words, and third round words were for heavy lifters. School Bees, we understood, rarely made it to the third round words, but we studied them anyway. The word we loved the most was dirigisme, which I’ve never forgotten how to spell, though I never knew what it meant until just this year.

On the day of the school Spelling Bee, everyone congratulated me ahead of time. Keith especially had little doubt. “You got this, man,” he would say. He knew what a star looked like because he was always that guy on the field. But today was my day and that cafeteria stage was my field, my court, my 18th hole green.

My mom and I suffered through a mostly contentious relationship back then. It was rare to see her smile, but this day was different. She knew how much work we had put in and was ready to see it pay off. There were maybe thirty of us kids who filed on stage and found our chairs. I looked out at the crowd, seventy-five parents and teachers, and found my mom among them. She smiled. I knew this time, finally, I would make her proud. I couldn’t wait for the Bee to begin.

Especially when the emcee of the event announced that this year’s competition would consist of only first round words. I never found out why. But as murmurs and whispers passed over the crowd, I became even more confident. First round words were for babies.

As I said I was a shy kid, so when it was my turn to approach the microphone my heart was galloping in my chest. But the training paid off. I easily knew how to spell that first word and plenty of words after, and gradually the number of kids on the stage dwindled. Every time someone made a mistake, the emcee would ring a bell, like the kind you touch when you’re waiting at a counter.

Ding!

That tinny ring was the sound of death.

Eventually there were only four or five of us left. I was one. Kevin was one. Keith was one. Every time I answered another word correctly, Keith would give a knowing nod, silently cheering me on. Upon each visit to the microphone I had become more emboldened and was beginning to enjoy the home stretch. My victory lap. This is what it feels like to not be scared all the time, I thought. Finally. Because even though I had always been too shy to ever tell anyone, I knew one day I would overcome my fear and show my real self to the world. This day was the first step. The next could be the city Spelling Bee, and who knew what might happen after that?

I approached the microphone. I could see my mom in the audience. My heart was no longer galloping. The emcee read a word and I knew it immediately, another baby word. She read the word to me and somehow I thought of green stalks reaching toward the sky, of cobs spilling forth from them, I thought of that darkish yellow color you see in the 64-pack of crayons, the one with the sharpener in the back. The word rhymed with haze and blaze and faze and raze, but I wasn’t about to be fooled, because no word in the Bee could possibly be that easy. After all those hours of studying there was no way I would be presented with a word of only four letters, so rather than be outsmarted I confidently spelled the word I saw in my head, a word with five letters, a word like this:

D-A-I-Z-E

I was already walking back to my seat when I heard the sound, the death sound.

Ding!

I looked into the crowd and found my mother and the look of anguish was almost too much to take. I left the stage and lurched toward a seat below, my head swimming, fuzzy, barely able to see anything because I was in a daze.

Daze.

Daze.

Daze.

It only occurred to me later that I could have asked for a definition because “daze” is a homophone that shares its sound with the word “days.” Had I asked for a definition I would have immediately known how to spell it, because of course I knew what “daze” meant. I don’t know what the hell I thought “daize” was. All I know is I was too confident and too proud, I was looking to run before I first caught the ball, so I heard “daze” and I thought “maize” and I did not win the Spelling Bee.

My mom was gracious and consoled me even though I didn’t win. My friends were kind enough about it. Everyone was kind. But I knew, like they all knew, that I had blown my chance to win, had blown my chance to climb higher in the pecking order, and it was a bitter pill I could not swallow for a long time afterward.

I don’t remember what the winning word was, or how he fared in the city Bee, but I do remember Keith looking at me with a half grin on his face, almost embarrassed to be the last man standing in this long walk, the winner again, and me barely able to see him, my head lost in a white, shapeless daze.

* * *

P.S. Here’s a school photo of us. This is from second grade, not sixth, so we’re all a bit younger and shorter and perhaps more awkward. But at least you get the idea.

Prior to being expelled from the team and subsequently the school for stealing Coach’s cell phone, deleting all of his contacts to conceal the stolen item, then turning around and selling said stolen phone to another player, Delonta was a college basketball teammate of mine.

Delonta was no taller than 5’6″ with shoes. He was, by all means, an unlikely candidate for the sport, particularly on a roster of towering trees on the hardwood. However, Delonta had freakish athletic ability evident in his lateral quickness, vertical jump, and uncanny ability to create sufficient space between him and the defender, which allowed him ample time to get off the open shot. He was a sharp shooter who lived mostly behind the 3-point arc, but once inside the paint lived predominantly above the rim gliding by and above defenders over a foot taller.

He had a shiny head that he shaved regularly, a bright smile, and hands the size of our starting center, Stanford, who was well aware of Delonta’s pilfering past and prior misdemeanor convictions.

“Keep a close eye,” Stanford had said when Delonta appeared through the double-doors on the first day of tryouts.

After Delonta made the roster and our first away game scheduled, I was in Coach’s office shooting the breeze about our potential for the season when Stanford moseyed in through the door. He folded his giant body into the lone chair beside me in Coach’s office. He slouched a bit, positioned his elbow on his knee, and propped his face in his hand.

“Coach,” Stanford said, “I don’t care if the locker room door is bolted shut with a logging chain and a 5-inch thick padlock, I’m not leaving my shit in the open for sticky fingers to snatch. I’m telling you Coach, your golden boy is a thief and will pick the pocket of more than just the opposing player.”

Coach was The Redeemer in a way. He was all about second chances. No one was flawed in his opinion, only misguided, and could be put back on the straight and narrow with the proper mentor—someone who could identify the struggles of the individual and help them overcome it. One way of doing that was to be part of a team, an interconnected group of individuals whose success depended on the whole of the team and not on one individual. It was a way for a kid turned sour to turn good again. He could play basketball as well as earn his degree, and with an education came a better future and more open doors.

“I’ll pay close attention,” Coach responded, trying to appease Stanford. “But give him a chance, will you? People change.”

Stanford rose, sort of shook his head a little and unwillingly agreed to give Delonta the benefit of the doubt—for Coach’s sake.

For the short time I knew Delonta, he was a likeable guy and could tell a story with the best of them. On our third road trip that season, Stanford sat in the back of the bus with his headphones in, nodding along to the music in his ears. His left leg was stretched out and straightened in the aisle.

The entirety of the team went through their pre-game road rituals.

Jerel began freestyling.

“I like that,” Chris said in response to Jerel’s freestyle before beginning his own.

Then Buck jumped in.

Then Juan.

Keshawn Pickens sat beside me and Bird Owen and Palmer to the right of us.

My ritual consisted of reading Larry Bird’s autobiography, Drive, every road trip—a habit that, more than anything, grew out of superstition.

“I think you’d appreciate this,” Coach had said to me, handing me the book prior to one of our away games.

That night I went out and scored 19 points, grabbed 17 rebounds, and dished out eight assists in a win. Therefore, as a rule of superstition, it became a necessity to read Drive every trip while twiddling a crumpled Dennis Rodman trading card between my fingers for hours on end as I read.

Delonta initiated his road ritual that day, a ritual that would only last approximately two more games before being banished from the basketball team for good.

“I have a story,” Delonta began. He licked his lips and rubbed his thumb against his heavy eyebrow, a habit of his that accompanied the onset of a brief narrative.

“When I was in first grade, I was a good speller,” he started. “So I’m standing up there in front of the school in the auditorium. The year-end Spelling Bee. The Big Finale. It’s just me and another kid. We’re the only two left. Everybody else has been knocked out. Kids sitting down, still crying ’cause they missed a word ten minutes ago. One boy had to be picked up and carried offstage by two people because he was so upset he lost. Me and this other kid are going back and forth; the judges trying to make one of us slip up. My moms is in the front row, smiling. Proud of me.”

“‘Bicycle,’ the judge says.”

“‘B-I-C-Y-C-L-E,’ I respond. My moms gives a big thumbs up.”

“‘Hydrant,’ another judge follows.”

“‘H-Y-D-R-A-N-T,’ the other boy spells.”

“We’re neck and neck. It goes on like this for a solid two-three minutes. Neither of us falters.”

Delonta pauses. Jerel has stopped freestlying, as have Chris and Buck. All eyes are on Delonta except Stanford. He’s still in the back of the bus. Sleeping. Leg stretched out.

“Then the judge says, ‘Crayon.’ My smile gets this big.”

Delonta smiles from ear to ear.

“You stupid,” Bird says to him, laughing.

“So I’m thinking, ‘I got this Bee.’ This kid doesn’t have a chance. I’m taking home the gold today. ‘Crayon,’ I respond. ‘C-R-A-,'”

Delonta pauses again.

“‘C-R-A-Y-O-‘”

“I’m picturing my crayons in my hand, coloring. My favorite color green. I’m smiling. I’m gonna win the Spelling Bee. My moms is smiling. Everybody in the auditorium has their attention focused on me. The principal is looking at me. My teacher.”

“‘C-R-A-Y-O-L-A, Crayon.'”

“‘I’m sorry, Delonta,’ the judge says. ‘That is incorrect.'”

“‘C-R-A-Y-O-L-A,’ I spell out again.”

“‘I’m sorry, Delonta.’ He looks at the other kid as if to give him a chance to spell it.”

“‘Crayon. C-R-A-Y-O-L-A. Crayon,’ I say, crying. My moms is up from her seat, walking hurriedly toward the steps to the stage. The principal is nodding his head at the assistant principal. The auditorium is in complete silence. The kid who had been crying for ten minutes because he spelled a word wrong ten minutes ago has stopped crying. He’s looking at me.”

“‘That’s how they spell it on the box,’ I say to the judge.’That’s how they spell it on the box!'”

“At this point, my mom has whisked me from the stage and taken me behind the curtain. Her hand is over my mouth. My feet are dragging the ground.”

“‘Crayon,’ I hear the other kid say, ‘C-R-A-Y-O-N, Crayon.'”

“I’m throwing a temper tantrum, protesting to my mom and telling her they are cheating. My mom is whipping my ass behind the curtain. And everybody’s clapping for the other kid who just won the spelling bee.”

Less than a month after telling this story, Delonta was expelled from the team after Coach’s cell phone went missing and was traced to another player on the team who it had been sold to. Whether or not Delonta’s failed attempt at winning the coveted Spelling Bee championship in 1st grade after being robbed of the crown on account of corporate branding and product monopolization was the result of his descent into a life of crime and kleptomania is anyone’s guess.

Nevertheless, his theft did result in his banishment from the basketball team for good; and though Delonta may have been a kleptomaniac, it was never suspected he was a pathological liar and had made up the Spelling Bee story. Stanford would later transfer on scholarship to an apprentice school in Norfolk and be zapped by a high voltage of electricity while working as an apprentice in the shipyard. He would be okay.

Fin.


“Fact check, Tyler! Was gorgonzola even invented in 1970? It (gorgonzola) seems like a more recent development (You should really check this out yourself, but I’ll ask your mother—you know how she loves cheese.).”

“Have you considered the implications your bank heist might have had if placed in the historical context of the Taiping Rebellion [1850-1864] rather than gangland Chicago?”

“I think you’d like to reconsider the line ‘The derelict howls that issued from under the subway platform brought his thoughts inexorably back to Vietnam.’ Ho Chi Minh City (previously Saigon, and before that Prey Nokor before being annexed by the Vietnamese from the Khmer in the 17th century) doesn’t have a subway and won’t have one until 2014, I think. Or is your narrator in New York now? Are we supposed to believe he was also in Vietnam? I thought that was another character with the same name…What’s going on here, son? Are you on pot?”

“Once again, I’m afraid, you confuse correlation with causation (didn’t I suggest a reading of Hume’s A Treatise of Human Nature some time ago?) when your narrator says, ‘My father, I saw as if through a kind of gauze. He was there, but ephemeral, his head always in some arcane history book and his temper—if interrupted from his study—was legion.’ What a shit thing to say about one’s father, eh? Your narrator is an ingrate. Did you know that in China, if a child didn’t show sufficient filial piety he could be EXECUTED? Your narrator should think about that. Just saying.”

“Have you considered writing under a pseudonym? I know there are a lot of Smiths out there, and Tyler is not a common name. But it’s not an uncommon one either, and when you throw in your middle name (pretentious), people are going to know who you are and, more importantly, who I am. And that will embarrass the hell out of your mother. Which is not to say that this book will ever be published. Most books aren’t. I mean, the ones that are published obviously are, but works like this are tough, almost impossible, to get into print. Especially if you’re going to stick with the three names thing (pretentious).”

“Here’s a bit of something, son: Your narrator is a maudlin inebriate (like Churchill—but you didn’t hear that from me), so I naturally wouldn’t expect him to give great speeches on love. But Jesucristo: “We never knew if we were falling in love or just getting scared.” I mean REALLY. Have you forgotten my casual remarks at the dinner table on Plato’s Symposium when Aristophanes speaks so eloquently on the subject of love, and where Socrates gives one of the most compelling explanations of love’s origin ever recorded?  The Symposium did have a variety of dilettante drunks hanging about to enjoy the conversation, though, a role your narrator could conceivably fill, as he is both drunk and unskilled. Socrates’ speeches in the Symposium and in the dialogue of the Phaedrus are sublime, and infinitely more resonant than your generation’s post-modern formulas for love—you know, the ones that spring forth from our endless stream of capitalist infomercials and pseudo-intellectual brain candy, like “Men Are From It’s Okay To Cry/ Women Are From Attend My Seminar And Pay Me Money.” 

“Socrates on a scooter, Ty. It seems someone isn’t familiar with the expression “Barba non facit philosophum. Just because you spent some time doing acid and looking at Monarch butterflies at Esalen with your African-American girlfriend, doesn’t mean you’re Franz fucking Fanon. Then again, nothing ventured, nothing gained, I suppose. Speaking of ventures, how did you manage to spend $10,000 living in a “tent” in Palo Alto for three months? Were you building a superconductor? I guess when you were small and we’d say to you, “Son, you can do anything you want in life,” we didn’t really anticipate that you’d interpret “anything” as synonymous with “nothing.” I’m not trying to browbeat you, you understand. I just want you to recognize that a.) We love you very much no matter what and no your mother didn’t make me say that; b.) If you don’t tear up that credit card, I’ll tear you a new one (and I don’t mean another card), and c.) I think we’re doomed. How are the Rockets supposed to make the playoffs with this bunch of assholes? I have to question Tracy McGrady’s dedication. Call to discuss.”

“Fact-checked gorgonzola for you. It seems you’re off the hook, as my junior colleague Dr. Munz, who teaches HIST 351, Europe 4th Century C.E to The Crusades, says that gorgonzola was invented sometime after the sack of Argentia by the Huns, but before the wars between the Guelphs and Ghibelines. (I know, I know. There’s a 500 year window of opportunity between those dates. Pretty damned imprecise. That’s why Dr. Munz isn’t getting tenure, but you didn’t hear that from me).”

“Your mother says you should write a children’s book.”

 

                                                             

 

 

 

 

So, the plane touched down. I sat in between some dude that had a little too much of Vegas and some chick with large pretty brown eyes.

He smelled like he was broke.

She smelled good.

I like girls that smell good.

She kept looking over my shoulder trying to read the book I was chewing into.

“Whatcha reading?” she finally asked.

“William Kittredge. He kicks some major ass,” I said, jumping my eyebrows. “You should give him a stab. I’d give you this copy, but I don’t know you that well so you’ll have to shell out your own duckies.” 

She laughed.

I like making girls laugh.

Especially ones with large pretty eyes and that smell good.

I love women, period.

Anyhow.

I had a running joke with a friend that when I arrived we’d get a game of basketball going when our schedules allowed. She’s an ol’ pal and back in our high school days we played hoops.

Varsity.

Jackets and all.

She was a point guard.

So was I.

She had a passion for the sport back then (still does) and even went to college to play. I had a passion for weed and music and doing anything that would keep me out of the house. So, in essence, I sucked. But I was a three-year letterman, so I guess I had a little something going.

“We gonna get this fucker going or what?” I said, lacing up my sneakers.

“Really?” she said, flashing her fabulous blue eyes. “You want some?”

“Shit…”

I hadn’t played basketball in years. This broad runs a thousand miles a week and looks like an eighteen-year old. She’s around twice that age and has heads snapping everywhere she goes. She’s stunning.

But I’m a dude and will do anything to mix things up. Even if that means I’ll be on the shit-end of the deal.

I’m playful that way.

Or a jerk-off.

Being the gentleman that I can sometimes be, I gave her the ball first.

“Ball in.”

It took us a bit to get things going. We were playing on a home court so we had to make the needed adjustments.

I scored first.

Nailed a ten-foot jumper. All net. All Reno. I shot my arms in the air like I was Bono sucking up all that good rock and roll light.

“Oh, lord. Someone’s in deep trouble.”

Then it quickly went downhill from there.

She was, and still is, a great defensive player and had me locked in. She still had solid technique, eyes on the center of my gut, feet shuffling, and the only option I had (other than barreling over her Man-Style) was to try my luck in getting her on her heels, getting a good look, and going for the jumper.

It worked a few times but the jumpers weren’t jumping.

Uh-oh.

Then she started driving on Reno. I forgot my technique and watched her zip by me.

One point.

Two points.

I hit another jumper. And then another.

I was feeling good.

Sweat fell off my ugly face.

The sun was high and casting white light over the valley.

But in the end, oh yes, she got me. Came flying by me like Michael Jordan and dropped in the final point.

5 to 3.

“Home court advantage!” I screamed, sweating like a pig, out of breath, but smiling big because I found some pleasure in her taking me out. ”You cheated! You suck!”

“Kiss my ass, Romero.”

It was a blast. A cool time indeed.

Forrest Gump said that life was like a box of chocolates.

And you know, I think he was right. 

I like chocolate. Especially the ones that See’s Candy cooks up. The ones with the sprinkles.

But maybe life is also like a game of basketball.

A strong lay-up.

Boxing out.

A jumper that needs to be hit.

Being a team player.

Making the pass.

Playing good D and making sure nothing gets by your ass.

Nothing.

Ball in.

Ball in.

Ball in.

I don’t know.

You tell me.

(Anyhow, here’s to girl victory. You fuckers.)