Ex High School Basketball Star
  • You were a pure shooter, a long shot. You were a star.

    Just another nobody boy, half-black, half-white, raised in a nowhere town, in a fractured home in middle America: a drunk father who worked twenty-five years for Clayton County, and a mother who loved you but was always too passive, it seemed, to truly care.

    Yet you were inherently happy. Your smile burst across your face like a star-shell. Happiness was in your bones, your blood, your ectomorphic body, not tall, but a natural-born athlete from head to toe.

    The college coaches all went crazy for you, but your test scores were poor. You  never quite made the grade. Your brilliance was too calibrated, too extreme for tests. You served instead as an infantry solider in the first desert war: a gunner, a sniper, a dead-eye.

    When you shook the high-school rafters that late-autumn night, scoring seventy-eight points and shooting twenty-two for twenty-two in the second half, both sides of the bleachers erupting for your grace, the purity of your touch, your style and joy, the achievement of it — the mastery of the thing — you were beautiful.

    When you won the 100 meters and then the 200 against all the big-city boys, edging out by fractions, in both races, two future Olympians, your heart as big as the ocean — you were beautiful.

    When, at thirty-three, you lied about your age and landed a tryout with the Denver Nuggets and made it all the way down to the final cut, still going strong, a shoe-in for the pros, still a gunner, a dead-eye, with ice-water in your veins, your untouchable happiness like star-shine draped all around you, love of sport, love of body-in-motion, still a sniper from the three-point line, but busted your ankle in a fall — you were beautiful.

    And are you beautiful still in your oil-stained clothes, turning wrenches at the garage, your thin black fingers spiderlike among the parts? Do you still have that delicate touch?

    Are you beautiful with your scuffed-up knuckles and your immutable smile, your snaggly teeth and skeletal face, your elegant hands that lift the tumbler of whiskey at my Sunday night bar, a calm and generous guest, unfailingly polite to me and to everyone, your eyes closed in concentration while you listen to the jazz piano — contemplating those notes with pure precision played, the virtuosity you fully recognize and admire?

    Are you beautiful in your worn-out hightop sneakers and your jumpsuit mechanic’s uniform, your chocolate slab of forelock hanging lank across your cheek?

    Are you beautiful in your small hometown, moving into middle-age, still so thin and graceful, so at ease with your body, so familiar with it, filling in part-time at the cowboy hat store? Is your uncanny coordination fading with disuse? Your unbelievable speed and agility, your infallible sense of direction and time?

    I saw you once, not long ago. You were standing five-stories high along the topmost rung of the fire-escape outside your apartment building. You sipped coffee from a paper cup. It was mid-August, peak of the Perseids. You stood at the rail. You were dressed in a white tanktop and pleated black slacks. You looked aristocratic, handsome — flat-stomached and lean, and an unassailable healthiness about your body. The day was dying. The trees beyond stood iron-black against the sky. The staircases along the outer buildings lay duplicated in isometric shadows across the orange brick walls. I was visiting a woman who lived across the street, and I watched you from her kitchen window. Soon you sat down and looked at the sky. You sipped your coffee. You sat for a long time upon the top metal step. The sky flared burgundy, blood-red. Then it drained into a reef of green. You watched. Darkness came. The first stars appeared. Still you sat and stared above. You sat and sat, and you watched and watched, and after a while stars began streaming across the sky: stars everywhere and more stars, stars rocketing down the slope of the firmament, corridors of molten matter now come alive in a physical radiance so pure and energetic that it seemed to contain the essence of brightness itself — brightness and splendor, and a wild cosmic beauty illuminating the heavens and all the earth below with its rare and shooting light.

    June 20th, 2024 | journalpulp | No Comments | Tags: , , ,

About The Author

Ray Harvey

I was born and raised in the San Juan Mountains of southwestern Colorado. I've worked as a short-order cook, construction laborer, crab fisherman, janitor, bartender, pedi-cab driver, copyeditor, and more. I've written and ghostwritten several published books and articles, but no matter where I've gone or what I've done to earn my living, there's always been literature and learning at the core of my life.

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