Truth Is the Perfect Disguise
Watching aging white men play a young man's game badly is an unlikely spectator sport, but this particular playground had a cachet stretching back to the days before good college basketball players became automatic millionaires merely by dropping out of school. Back then, not yet victim to the mindless arrogance of too much money, pros and would-be pros would participate in amateur leagues during the off season to perfect their games in hopes of more playing time or, more likely, hoping to be able to hang on for one more winter to the best gig they would ever know. Watching summer league games under the lights had become something of a local habit as a result. That time was long past, but the habit persisted and we always drew a decent sized crowd whenever we played. In fact, the audience was often more interesting than the game and my attention gradually shifted from the court to the clumps of onlookers standing or sitting on the lawn around the playground court.
I felt him before I saw him, absurdly out of place in his coat and tie among the weekly regulars. James Francis O'Brian himself--professional Irishman, professional Catholic and all-round pain in the ass--a man who most certainly had not arrived at this less than convenient suburban playground by accident at nine o'clock of a Wednesday night. I wasn't entirely surprised to see him. I definitely wasn't happy to see him.
When O'Brian realized I'd spotted him, he moved slowly around the court and came over to stand beside me. His hand moved tentatively then stopped, as he decided not to offer it. A wise decision. Instead, keeping his eyes on the court rather than meeting mine, he spoke a single sentence out of the corner of his mouth like a gangster in a bad movie. "Father Jack wants to see you."
I recalled the story which had been splashed all over the front pages that morning. "I'll just bet he does," I said.
a novel in progress
I gave a head fake to the right and waited until the guy guarding me, who still hadn't figured out that I was left-handed, leaped awkwardly in that direction, then put up a jump shot over him as he came down. It felt good leaving my hand but rattled wildly off the front of rim. It was my eighth shot and eighth miss of the night. Disgusted, I waved for a substitute and staggered over to the sidelines to join wiser men than I who had already foresworn rumbling up and down the hard asphalt court in the humid August heat. After accepting such condolences as were offered, I wrapped a towel around my neck and settled in to wait for another loss to be put on the books.
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Copyright (c) 2007 Jack Curtin