Long Lost Page 2

Effete wear.

’’When Terese was on TV,’’ Win said, his snooty prep-school accent sounding as though he were explaining the obvious to a somewhat slow child, ’’you couldn\'t tell the quality. She was sitting behind the anchor desk.’’

’’Uh-huh.’’

’’But then I saw her in that bikini’’ for those keeping score, that would be the Class-B-felony one I told you about earlier ’’well, it is a wonderful asset. Wasted as an anchorwoman. It\'s a tragedy when you think about it.’’

’’Like the Hindenburg,’’ I said.

’’Hilarious reference,’’ Win said. ’’And oh so timely.’’

Win\'s expression was permanently set on haughty. People looked at Win and would see elitist, snobby, Old-World money. For the most part, they\'d be right. But the part where they\'d be wrong . . . that could get a man seriously maimed.

’’Go on,’’ Win said. ’’Finish your story.’’

’’That\'s it.’’

Win frowned. ’’So when do you leave for Paris?’’

’’I\'m not going.’’

On the basketball court, the second quarter began. This was fifth-grade boys\' basketball. My girlfriend the term seems rather lame but I\'m not sure ’’lady love,’’ ’’significant other,’’ or ’’love monkey’’ really apply Ali Wilder has two children, the younger of whom played on this team. His name is Jack, and he wasn\'t very good. I say that not to judge or predict future success Michael Jordan didn\'t start for his high school team until his junior year but as an observation. Jack is big for his age, husky and tall, and with that often comes lack of speed and coordination. There was a plodding quality to his athleticism.

But Jack loved the game, and that meant the world to me. Jack was a sweet kid, deeply geeky in the absolute best way, and needy, as befit a boy who lost his father so tragically and prematurely.

Ali couldn\'t get here until halftime and I am, if nothing else, supportive.

Win was still frowning. ’’Let me get this straight: You turned down spending a weekend with the delectable Ms. Collins and her world-class derriere in a boutique hotel in Paris?’’

It was always a mistake talking relationships with Win.

’’That\'s right,’’ I said.

’’Why?’’ Win turned toward me. He looked genuinely perplexed. Then his face relaxed. ’’Oh, wait.’’

’’What?’’

’’She\'s put on weight, hasn\'t she?’’

Win.

’’I have no idea.’’

’’So?’’

’’You know, so. I\'m involved, remember?’’

Win stared at me as if I were defecating on the court.

’’What?’’ I said.

He sat back. ’’You\'re such a very big girl.’’

The game horn sounded, and Jack pulled on his goggles and lumbered toward the scorer\'s table with that wonderfully goofy half-smile. The Livingston fifth-grade boys were playing their archrivals from Kasselton. I tried not to smirk at the intensity not so much the kids\' as the parents\' in the stands. I try not to generalize but the mothers usually broke down into two groups: the Gabbers, who used the occasion to socialize, and the Harried, who lived and died each time their offspring touched the ball.

The fathers were often more troublesome. Some managed to keep their anxiety under wraps, muttering under their breaths, biting nails. Other fathers screamed out loud. They rode refs, coaches, and kids.

One father, sitting two rows in front of us, had what Win and I had nicknamed ’’Spectator Tourette\'s,’’ spending the entire game seemingly unable to stop himself from berating everyone around him out loud.

My perspective on this is clearer than most. I had been that rare commodity the truly gifted athlete. This came as a shock to my entire family since the greatest Bolitar athletic accomplishment before I came around was my uncle Saul winning a shuffleboard tournament on a Princess Cruise in 1974. I graduated from Livingston High School as a Parade All-American. I was a star guard for Duke, where I captained two NCAA championship teams. I had been a first-round draft pick of the Boston Celtics.

And then, kaboom, it was all gone.

Someone yelled, ’’Substitution.’’

Jack adjusted his goggles and ran onto the court.

The coach of the opposing team pointed at Jack and shouted, ’’Yo, Connor! You got the new man. He\'s big and slow. Drive around him.’’

Tourette\'s Dad bemoaned, ’’It\'s a close game. Why are they putting him in now?’’

Big and slow? Had I heard right?

I stared at the Kasselton head coach. He had highlight-filled, mousse-spiked hair and a dark goatee neatly trimmed so that he resembled an aging boy-band bass. He was tall I\'m six four and this guy had two inches on me, plus, I would guess, twenty to thirty pounds.

’’ \' He\'s big and slow\'?’’ I repeated to Win. ’’Can you believe the coach just yelled that out loud?’’

Win shrugged.

I tried to shake it off too. Heat of the game. Let it go.

The score was tied at twenty-four when disaster struck. It was right after a time-out and Jack\'s team was inbounding the ball under the opposing team\'s hoop. Kasselton decided to throw a surprise press at them. Jack was free. The ball was passed to him, but for a moment, with the defense on him, Jack got confused. It happens.

Jack looked for help. He turned toward the Kasselton bench, the one closest to him, and Big Spiky-Haired Coach yelled, ’’Shoot! Shoot!’’ and pointed to the basket.

The wrong basket.

’’Shoot!’’ the coach yelled again.

And Jack, who naturally liked to please and who trusted adults, did.

The ball went in. To the wrong hoop. Two points for Kasselton.

The Kasselton parents whooped with cheers and even laughter. The Livingston parents threw up their hands and moaned over a fifth grader\'s mistake. And then the Kasselton coach, the guy with the spiky hair and boy-band goatee, high-fived his assistant coach, pointed at Jack, and shouted, ’’Hey, kid, do that again!’’

Jack may have been the biggest kid on the court, but right now he looked as if he were trying very hard to be as small as possible. The goofy half-smile fled. His lip twitched. His eyes blinked. Every part of the boy cringed and so did my heart.

A father from Kasselton was whooping it up. He laughed, cupped his hands into a flesh megaphone, and shouted, ’’Pass it to the big kid on the other team! He\'s our best weapon!’’

Win tapped the man on the shoulder. ’’You will shut up right now.’’

The father turned to Win, saw the effete wear and the blond hair and the porcelain features. He was about to smirk and snap a comeback, but something probably something survival basic and reptilian brained made him think better of it. His eyes met Win\'s ice blues and then he lowered them and said, ’’Yeah, sorry, that was out of line.’’


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