Bryan’s Song

My two nieces and nephew challenged my brother and I to a basketball game the other day.

I looked out the hotel window and saw that it was cold and windy.

And getting dark.

Plus, we didn’t have a basketball.

I politely declined.

Spencer, the sharp-witted eighth-grader, made like a chicken and clucked. The other two jumped in and did the chicken walk.

They said it was a new dance. But I knew what they were doing. I looked over at my brother and shrugged my shoulders. He smiled and nodded.

“We accept … if we can get a ball,” I said.

I was halfway hoping my sister would nix the idea by vetoing the plan to buy a basketball. But like a loving sister, she said, “You guys are in for it.”

And off they went to buy a basketball.

My body was screaming at me. It still had nightmares of what I put it through last summer when I joined a summer softball team.

“You idiot,” my hamstrings said.

“Don’t you ever learn,” my feet bellowed.

My shoulder said some choice four-letter words I can’t repeat.

“When are you ever going to learn?” my wrist said.

I told them all to put a sock in it. We were going to play.

Memories of my long-bombing high school days came rushing back. I remember shooting the “3” before there was a “3”. And the no-look, behind-the-back passes.

My brother rolled his eyes, sayinbg that’s not how he remembered it.

“Are you kidding? They used to call me ‘The Giant of Girault Hall,’” I said with a beam of pride.

“What do they call you now?” asked Helen, my pixie-sized niece with a decent set shot and a killer smile.

“They call him, ‘No Good,’” my brother said as he bellowed with that deep laugh that I liked, but not so much right now.

“I’ll show you guys,” I promised.

I took a warm-up shot. Swish – just like Jimmy Chitwood.

I took another. Banked it in, just like Lamar Mundane.

“I’m ready,” I announced.

But deep down, I heard a voice. It said: “You can think about it, but don’t do it.”

I didn’t pay attention.

The kids got the ball first, and they missed. My bro pulled down the rebound, but it was a poor example of basketball talent. He jumped for the ball, mistimed his jump and it hit him on top of the head.

Bring out the clowns.

He passed the ball to me and I immediately drew a double team. I took a couple of dribbles and hit my teammate with a perfect bounce pass that should’ve resulted in an easy layup. He clanked it off  the bottom of the rim.

Another circus act.

Michael pulled down the rebound. He tried to pass to Spencer, but I stepped in front and intercepted it. Again, I pulled a double team. But I had the step on Helen and Michael was a little out of position.

I smiled, because I had a clear lane for an easy left-handed layup. I took two steps and my feet stumbled, next thing I know the ground is rushing at me.

“This can’t be good,” I remember saying.

Moments later, I’m face first on the asphalt.

My body parts are screaming at me.

My brother is rolling on the ground. Spencer is running away with her hand over her mouth. My sister leaning up against the car, her face buried in a towel.

Michael just stared at me. And Helen, well, she said “How you doing ‘Mr. Giant,’ or is the ‘Mr. No Good.’”

Yeah, well, I was fouled.    

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