The Second Quarter

I had a an uncle named Rawley. Well, I have an uncle named Rawley but he lives in California. He used to come over on Saturday mornings and take me to get groceries. He was terrible at groceries. My mom gave him lists but he liked going up and down every aisle instead. It took forever.

The basketball says Rawlings. I prefer Spalding because that’s what they use in the NBA, but still this is a nice basketball. I like to feel the dimples, like an orange. A huge orange.

I bet Rawlings and Spalding were cousins. Spalding Evinrude and Tom Rawlings.

I look at the game clock, and note that I have been holding the ball for twenty-seven seconds.

If my name was Spalding and my cousin’s name was Tom, I’d be pissed too. I bet they were buddies until high school, when Tom got picked for varsity and Spalding got made fun of and no one asked him to prom. Then Rawlings went to a D-I school and Evinrude had an apprenticeship in a shoe factory.

It’s the second quarter. In the first quarter we scored 17 points. I scored 14 points. Arnault hit a three from the corner. I got the assist.

There are six minutes and forty-two seconds left before halftime. I look at coach.

If I had to guess, I would guess coach is fifty-two. He wears braces on both knees even though he never runs with us in practice. He alternates between two shiny wind-breakers and a navy blazer with gold buttons he wears for games. The buttons have anchors on them. Like, for ships.

Fortunately, I don’t have to guess. I know he’s forty-one, because he told us last year when he turned forty. He went to Vegas for a week, and Dolores, our assistant coach, took over for him. When he told us he was turning forty, I think most of the guys were kind of disappointed. It meant there was absolutely no chance of him retiring before any of us graduated.

I look at Dolores. It’s been about two minutes. I have the ball cradled under my armpit and I’m pulling the drawstring on my shorts. She makes a pushing motion with her arms like ‘get rid of something hot!’ or ‘here take this baby!’ but I realize she means I should pass the ball to Arnault. I hate to do this, but I do it.

Now Arnault is holding the ball. The other team is confused. The big white kid who plays center for them is standing under the hoop with his arms up, trying too hard. I want to tell him he’s going to get a three-second, but why would I tell him that? Anyway I don’t think he’s going to get one. The refs are talking and they have their arms crossed.

Did you know there’s no shot clock in high school basketball?

Arnault has been holding the ball for a minute. I smile, thinking “Here Arnault, can you hold this basketball for a minute?” I hate to let him touch the ball. But it’s true he hits that three from the corner almost every time.

I look at coach now, and he hugs his belly with both his arms and looks at me and frowns. Arnault throws the ball back to me.

Here is the thing I don’t like about him: when my mom was home sick last year in the spring and she said I could drive the car, I told Arnault I could pick him up, but he said no, he’d rather take the bus. That’s bullshit. We live on the same damn block.

Rawley used to tell me, when we were going up and down the aisles, not to let anyone think they’re better than you. I already didn’t think anyone was better than me, but the point was not to let anyone else think it either. I think that’s what Arnault thinks. He thinks he could score fourteen points in the first quarter if all the plays weren’t designed to get me the ball.

There’s a minute left on the clock. Coach told us before the game if he made an X with his two forearms that we should just hold the ball.

– Like call a timeout? I asked.

– No, just hold it. Pick up your dribble. Just hold it.

– Can we doing that? This is Diego asking that. Diego speaks very little English. He moved here from Barcelona when his dad got a job teaching philosophy at the college. I think things were pretty different in Barcelona.

– Yes, Diego, we can do that.

Coach says Diego like “Deego”.

– Or you can pass it, if you want. But just you two. Ok?

Arnault is dancing around and clapping at me. He wants the ball. There are thirty-six seconds left on the clock. Yeah like I’m going to give you the ball after all that.

Coach calls a play. He holds his fist up and then a two, which is a pick and roll for me to the left. I cross over twice, and kid in front of me pulls his shorts up over his knees. I cut to the right, then Arnault slides over and sets the pick. I cut back left and go behind my back to my left hand, and now I’m clear all the way to the hoop.

In two more years I’ll be out of here. Out of high school and out of New Hampshire and I’ll go to USC and live with Rawley and they’ll have Spaldings.

I go up for the layup with my left. And out of nowhere that giant white kid is there, behind me, like a clown, and he swats my shot away. He hits the ball clean and doesn’t make contact and just the shock of it knocks me off balance and I go twirling down to the hardwood.

The ball flies, arc-less, as if drawn by a powerful magnet, to the corner, where Arnault has set up, and is completely undefended. He checks his feet, brings his elbows up, sticks his tongue out one side of his mouth, and nails the three.

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