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    lurker
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Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental.

Confusion on the Court - 1. Confusion on the Court

"You're hitting the Y tonight again, aren't you?" my friend interrupted my dinner to ask.

"Come on! I want to go with you!"

So much for ignoring him. At least my folks weren't around. They never would have approved of him, and he wouldn't have known just when to keep his mouth shut around them. The easiest way to deal with them was to say as little as possible. When we were eating together, I had two types of answers for them: one-word answers or shoving food in my mouth. How was school? Fine. Who are you taking to Homecoming? Take a big swig of milk. When are you going to get a haircut? Later. Why don’t you ever invite your friends over? Chew. Swallow.

I had the routine down cold, but they never even made it home in time for dinner anyway. I'd see them when I finally made it back from the Y sometime around 10:30 or 11. Then my Dad would act like he was reading the paper on the couch, even though his eyes were mostly closed and the snores were audible from three rooms over. And if I was lucky, my Mom would already have headed to bed, so I wouldn't have to hear her: I can't say I approve that you're out so late alone! You could get mugged! There are a lot of sick people out there!

I can't say I'm surprised that she didn't notice that I was fifteen already, not some little kid, almost 5'10 and about to hit a growth spurt (I hoped). But if she couldn't see the obvious in front of her, I didn't see the use in pointing it out. Silence is golden. I suppose I could have claimed that I wasn't actually ALONE, but who wants to go down that path?

I finished my leftovers, threw the dishes in the sink, laced up the Nikes, and bounded out the door. My friend followed close behind me, and I slammed the door shut.

I wondered, who would show up that night? The regulars, for sure: Pax, Johno, Tim, Gord, maybe Flip too. God, I hoped Flip wouldn't be there. I couldn't decide if it was better to be on his team or not. Flip cried foul if anyone so much as breathed near him. He wasn't better or worse than the average guy, but he was big enough that he should have been. Plus, he was already in college, so he had to be close to twenty if not older. That made him older than me, Pax, who was eighteen, and even Johno, who I think was the same age as Pax. I know they had both graduated in June.

The real players, guys like Pax, went around Flip like he was a pylon and had no problem standing him up in the post. To which he would claim he was fouled. Was it better to play with a cheat or not? If you did, you stood a better chance of winning and holding on to the court if there were too many people around. But you knew it wasn't legit. When Flip would start in again, you'd just have to shrug in apology to the other guys and roll your eyes at the bullshit. Most of all, you had to keep your own damn mouth shut. And then once you took the W, the next team to challenge would be constructed solely to beat down your cheating ass, and you'd have no leg to stand on to complain about it. You had to suffer in silence.

"You think Pax will be there? I hope he plays skins!"

Damnit, I forgot HE was still with me. But my friend, let's call him Joe, just to make things clearer, was matching me stride for stride. While I was busy thinking--no wait, strategizing--about the kind of games I wanted to play at the gym, Joe was bugging me with THIS talk. You know, the stuff that you can't really tell anyone. But he was always telling ME about it, and I didn't know what to say.

I don't remember the first time I knew about Joe. It was a while ago, probably a few years by now. He didn't just come out and say it. No, he started hinting subtly. Don't you think Jordan is really cool? Shut up, Joe. And how about Coach Daniels? He's the coach! Shut up, Joe.I wish I could build my biceps like that! Right. Shut up, Joe. I tried to pretend it wasn't happening, because…I didn't want to believe it about Joe. And why was he telling ME??? Keep it to yourself, damnit!

Then it got more obvious: You should wear your hair longer, JJ. Shut up, Joe.It looks better on you that way. I don't care what you think. Shut up!Coach Daniels let me touch his arms to show me proper lifting technique! La-la-la, I can't hear you, so SHUT UP, ALREADY! And I saw Jordan in the locker room before gym! That's it, Joe. Shut up!

Finally, it got to be too much for me, and I just screamed at him, "What the fuck are you??? Some kind of fag???" I knew he was. He had been trying to tell me for some time, and he kept going, pushing me harder and harder until I would acknowledge it, anything to break that silence. So, I finally did, and then he was crying, and I realized that, fuck it, I had to learn to just keep my damn mouth SHUT.

After that outburst, I treated him like I always did, the friend I seemed to have had forever. You can count on one hand the number of people you can count on in this world, and Joe was one of them. What was I supposed to do? Cut him off? Since I was the only one who really knew about him, those types of comments kept resurfacing. I guess he had no one else to share them with. But it's not like I knew what to say in response. And I really didn't need him lusting after the guys at the Y. Sheesh. Get over it, Joe and shut up! This was about the game.

Pax was not some object like that. He was one of the best players on the court! He was tough on the boards--at a solid 6'3 he was damn impossible to box out--and he was deadly from 3. Sure, he was also a guy, and one of THOSE guys. You know, the one who was always surrounded by girls when he left the gym, worshipping him and that same damn tall, toned frame that gave him such an advantage on the court. Wearing shorts that hung just low enough to confirm that he was wearing boxers. Dunking only when there was a clear line to the hoop and people around to impress. One of those guys. To me, though, he was just Pax. God Joe, don't be such a fag. You better keep your mouth shut about shirts and skins when we get there.

When I got to the Y and headed to the gym, some guys were already shooting around, but no game had started yet. Gord was already there. Tim too. And Flip as well. Lucky us. No sign of Pax yet. I grabbed a ball and started my normal warm-up routine. Seven shots around the key. Ten free throws. Seven shots around the 3 point arc. Joe left me alone to my shooting, and I was money from the field, which is both good and bad. No one wants to run hottest during warm-ups.

By the time I finished the standard warm-up shoot around, we had quite a few more guys around, one or two of them I didn't even remember seeing before, so you had to sink the shot to get the ball back. I drained four 3s in a row, before clanging one off the rim, and heading to rebound one for myself.

"Nice shooting out there!" one of the new guys said to me. He was wearing a solid black tank top and black shorts, no team logo or anything to identify him to me.

I just nodded, keeping quiet. New Guy in Black took that to mean I probably hadn't heard him, so he repeated himself, "I said, NICE SHOOTING!"

"Yep," I muttered. There was no food on the court, so I went for monosyllabic. I suppose the polite thing would have been to thank him for the compliment, but this was just warm-ups. At pickups. At open gym. At the Y. Sinking a bunch of 3s? Not so impressive. Save it for the game, New Guy, I thought. I knew I was being a prick.

Gord heaved up an airball that was heading straight for me and New Guy. I jumped and tipped the ball to myself, grabbing the board even though New Guy had to be two inches taller than me. Plus, he had long, tight calves. He had some muscle to his build, and his legs were a little thinner than I thought they'd be. He had to have hops. I think I surprised him, though.

Then I surprised myself by flipping the ball over to him, instead of keeping the ball to shoot. "Let's see what you got," I told him. I didn't know why I was breaking the silence.

He smirked at me, started to dribble out to the top of the circle, and shook his head. Then he proceeded to bury his shot. I passed the ball back out to him. Shot. Swish. Pass. Shot. Swish. Pass. Repeat. I think he nailed five or six of those before yelling out to me, "Should I keep going?"

I didn't answer. Better to let my game do the talking. Instead, a voice behind me called out, "Save it for the game, hot shot."

I jerked my head back to see Pax, who I guess walked in during that display. Lucky Joe hadn't yelled out to let me know about that. Good. I was hoping Joe would have a quiet night. I glanced around and saw that we had exactly ten. Perfect. Now, we just needed someone to get the ball rolling.

"First five to hit are a team," Flip shouted, immediately moving to the top of the circle to shoot. Of course, Flip would do that. Take the first shot, give yourself an earlier chance to hit and wind up with the other people who happen to hit, which is likely to be the better team. I wasn't all that worried. I was a lot better at hitting for teams than with a defender on me anyway.

Flip hit. Gord missed. Pax hit. I hit. Tim missed. New Guy missed. Johno hit. So did some other guy I didn't know, who I now realized was a friend that Johno had brought with him. That was it. We had our five. We weren't too small, and we were pretty quick. It wasn't a bad five at all, especially if Johno's friend could run with us. Still, I felt a little uneasy about New Guy being with them.

"You guys are skins," Gord called out. Gord always wanted to keep his own shirt on, and it's not like any of us objected. Just thinking about having to put my hands on his sweaty, hairy back while he posted up made me want to take a shower. Anyway, I was happy that Joe hadn't been the one to make that call. I chucked my t-shirt and watched my teammates do the same. Joe caught my attention to flash a smirk and nodded over to Pax. I turned away and caught New Guy's eyes on Pax too, sizing him up. That's right, hot shot, I thought. Can't wait to see him reject that pretty shot of yours. Then, who'll be talking?

When they started out, New Guy was taking Pax, and Tim was manned up on me, which worked all too well for us. Tim didn't have the speed to keep up with me on the break, and when they did slow it down, Pax was destroying New Guy down low. Even Flip contributed with a few offensive boards, and while he didn't bury every lay-in that left him with, he was at least fouled on most of the misses. Or so he said. I just kept my mouth shut, shrugged, and asked for the check at the top of the key when that happened.

After we jumped out to a 7-1 start, they switched it up, and New Guy came over to guard me, leaving a tag-team double effort on Pax. Suddenly, we couldn't buy a basket, and our defensive adjustment left me guarding New Guy, who quickly discovered that while he couldn't outrun me, he could threaten to post up, then swing outside to shoot over me. Before we knew it, our lead was cut in half. Lucky, Johno and his friend took advantage of all the attention Pax was getting, and they started hitting their shots and moving the ball around well. We won that game.

We won the next two games too, even though the new teams wound up being slightly tougher to beat, since they were able to recycle the better players and add any new ones who showed up. Joe was content to sit back and watch, while my skins team got sweatier and more tired each game. Though our opponents were a revolving door of players, New Guy was always chosen for the other team, most always guarding me.

I was starting to get annoyed at that. He wasn't that much better or anything. Just a little bit taller. A little bit better shot. Maybe even a little quicker. Better defensively--it seemed that he always had at least one hand on me.

He was most certainly friendlier. I guess you would be too if you knew you were winning the individual match-up. He was scoring more than me. Making more of a contribution to his team, even if they weren't able to beat the Pax machine. And he was so damn complimentary about every half decent play I made. "Nice shot!" "Nice pass!" He kept chirping at me, patting me on the back or shoulder. God, I wanted him to shut up already. Joe shot me a smile when no one was looking, and I scowled back at him. Normally, Joe faded into oblivion when he was on the court, and I was counting on things staying that way.

New Guy's talents were peaking by the fourth game, as was my sucking. We won that game mostly due to Flip's whining and insistence that anytime Pax was blocked, it had to be a foul. If I didn't know him any better, I'd have thought even Pax was embarrassed by Flip, since his face was turning redder than it should have been from exertion. Once I caught him checking out some girls watching from the sidelines, though, I realized that Pax didn't WANT us to win. He wasn't embarrassed. He was pissed. HeHe wanted to take a break, chat up some chicks, and then maybe wind up on a better team. Pax could afford to lose and voluntarily sit out a game, cause he would be picked for any new team anyway.

Me? I needed us to win or I had to get nexts. Otherwise, there was no guarantee of anything. The competitor in me was willing to forgive Flip and just wanted to scream at Pax, "Come on, damnit, we NEED you to win!" So I was glad when we won, even if it took Flip being…well, Flip. Only one of the other guys on the losing team didn't take so well to Flip. Some minor shoving and the usual "You're an asshole!" "No, YOU'RE an asshole!" debate got underway before the next game could start, while Pax snuck away to the girls on the sideline, and Joe sauntered over toward me.

"How about we agree that they're both assholes and start from there?" New Guy said in a voice loud enough that only I could hear. I snickered.

"Yeah, sorry about that," I told New Guy, and I really meant it. He had been playing awesome and didn't deserve to lose on Flip. Even if it helped me.

He looked me up and down, and then shot back, "Nah, I'm used to dealing with assholes." He winked, then headed cross-court to find out who the next team would be. It took me a second to decide that I had been insulted and rendered speechless. I couldn't have that at all.

So, I followed New Guy, glad that he had walked in the opposite direction of Joe. I tried to make it seem like I was just heading over to grab a ball near New Guy, and said, "What do you mean by that?" Not much of a comeback, I guess. Maybe silence does suit me well.

"Nothing," he replied.

"Really? Cause I thought you were calling me an asshole." I aimed for accusing, but I think I sounded more indignant.

He smirked. "Why, JJ? Do you actually care what I think of you?"

I shook my head, wondering how he even knew my name. I took the ball with me and went to rejoin my team. Lucky, Flip had calmed down, and Pax had scored three phone numbers during the downtime, so he seemed ready to try on the court again. Johno and his friend warned us that this was their last game, win or lose, so we should make it a good one. I think they added that for Pax's benefit.

We did win. Not that New Guy didn't embarrass me enough that they switched me off him defensively. But whatever. Who cared if he was better and thought I was an asshole? Or if I didn't know which part of that distracted me more? We were winning. We had Pax. Just keep your mouth shut and play, JJ.

After that, Johno and his friend had to leave, even though there really was time for one more game before open gym ended. Quite a few people headed out, and we were left with only 8. I thought Joe was starting to fade as well. Flip asked New Guy to join us to make up our four. He hesitated for a moment, before agreeing to that devil's deal.

"I'm Pax, our team ref is Flip, and you've probably gotten to know the shrimp all night -that's JJ," Pax told him, even though New Guy seemed to have figured it all out already.

"Cool," he responded, "I'm Kevin." I guess he did have a name. Then he peeled off the sweat soaked tank top he had on, revealing some cut abs that I never realized he was hiding. Instinctively, I knew that Joe's eyes were on him.

 

When it was all over, I was undefeated on the night. I went over to the sidelines to put my shirt back on and grab some water before I had to head home to shower and go to bed. The good thing about playing skins is that your shirt stays nice and dry in the meantime. Pax made a show of toweling his torso off before putting his shirt back on, no doubt thrilling all of his admirers, Joe included.

"So that's what it's like to win," Kevin slapped my back, and I jumped. I hadn't realized he was there. He laughed.

"Yep! Winning can be fun," I smiled at him, then continued, "If you can stomach playing with assholes."

That wiped the smile off his face.

"Why are you trying so hard to be one?" he asked me.

I shrugged. Just then Joe rejoined us.

Kevin pointed to my teammates for the night, "Flip - he's not trying to be an asshole. He really BELIEVES that he's a victim here, even though I got bruises on bruises from that hack job tonight. And Pax…Pax… I don't think he tries to do anything other than make you THINK he's the coolest thing ever, whatever that takes."

I nodded. He had nailed Flip dead-on, but I didn't think I needed to tell him that whatever Pax was doing was working, cause he WAS that cool. And I was mostly afraid Joe would say something about Pax, but lucky, he kept his mouth shut too.

"But you…damnit, JJ," Kevin continued, "you ARE a decent guy. So why are you trying to hide it by acting like an asshole?"

I had nothing to say, but Joe chimed in for me, "Aww, lay off. It's hard sometimes when you want someone to be impressed with you, and you just don't know how to act about it."

Kevin smirked at Joe. "So you think someone wanted to impress me?"

Joe smiled and nodded. Kevin stared at him, and their eyes met. It was like I was invisible. Goddamnit, Joe. Don't do this here and now. I have to come back and play here tomorrow night. And the rest of the summer.

Kevin pulled Joe out into the hallway. I stumbled along after, wondering when I had lost control of the situation to become the silent partner. This was MY 'Y.' My nightly routine. Not Joe's.

Then Kevin took a copy of the open gym schedule and ripped it in half. He grabbed a pen that was lying nearby the front desk and wrote on the back of half of the schedule: Kevin. 347-743-4923.

He gave it to Joe, along with the other half of the schedule and the pen. Joe copied his actions, writing out that number that I, of course, had committed to memory years beforehand: Joe. 347-769-2034.

Kevin continued, "Anyway, Joe, I play a lot at the park near my house, though I may start coming here more. Let me know when you're gonna be around. Or we could meet up just to shoot around or play 1-on-1 too. It's all cool."

Joe smiled and nodded, before I dragged him out of there and muttered, "Good. Now I can finally get out of here. See ya later, Kevin."

I couldn't tell if the eyes I felt boring through me on the way out were Kevin's or Joe's. The whole way home, Joe couldn't stop talking about Kevin this and Kevin that. He has a great smile, doesn't he? Shut up, Joe. Did you see how high he could jump with those legs? No. Shut up, Joe. I wouldn't mind getting to touch those calves, those thighs…SHUT UP! Geez, I know you're…like that…but just SHUT UP. I don't want to hear it. Yeah, I silenced him, and then I felt guilty about it. I guess Kevin was wrong. Maybe I really am an asshole.

When we finally got back to my house, Mom had already headed to sleep, and my Dad was snoring on the couch. I went to grab a shower before bed, stopping to crank the A/C up high to cool the room for the night. Lucky, I was too tired to think of anything but laying my head on that pillow, so I didn't have to think about Flip or Pax, Joe or Kevin, or the shitty night I had on the court. Joe had slinked off for the night, but when I fell into bed, I couldn't help noticing that he had left that stupid ripped up gym schedule on my desk before he headed out without making a sound. On my desk. Where anyone in my family could have found it. Goddamn you, Joe, I thought.

Just as I was about to crawl into bed, the phone rang. I grabbed the receiver, hoping I snagged it before my folks woke up.

"I didn't get a chance to say goodnight," I heard Kevin say.

Copyright © 2010 lurker; All Rights Reserved.
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Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental.
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Chapter Comments

What the hell!!!

Lol. That was actually pretty damn cleverly written. No real answers, yet you just know there is so much more to the story than meets the eye.

I love that there is an angst in the central character, a hype. He's just as aware as Joe or Kevin or anyone else for that matter, but he pretends he's not. In a way it gave a humour, a kind of cheeky denial to the character of JJ that I really found quite cute.

I have never been a fan of basketball, but I got a sense of the game through the way it was presented, and knew what was going on. That I really appreciated. Too often the reader has to play catch up or rely on what they understand of something as detail fall between the gaps. You covered this well.

But I still wonder how the hell Kevin got JJ's number! :P

Thanks for sharing.

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Something must happen in a story.

The writer has used his craft well in this story. He has arranged incidents in such a way that they appear to start at a beginning and proceed inevitably to an end. However, it only appears that way. I believe that lurker chose a random point and seemed to be heading nowhere with this story.

That is, until the very last line. A moment of genius.

Lurker does not seek to give the reader a solution, because in real life there more struggling and searching than finding and solving.

This short story reveals only the "tip of the iceberg". It is a brilliant concept not to state the obvious. But it has only one fault and that may not be a fault at all: Does the writer lead the reader to an accurate understanding of what is hidden beneath? Perhaps that should have been the title: Hidden Beneath.

With a little fine tuning, this story could be not just good, but GREAT!

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Loved this story! I loved Joe; I actually thought he was pretty cute with all his boy watching. Kevin I kinda figured out but then that twist at the end made me realize I didn't figure it out. lol

 

And yeah, I ditto Yettie: how did Kevin get JJ's number? And how did he know his name? Oh wow, maybe he's been hanging out there and just watching, biding his time. lol Yeah, ok, too creepy/stalkerish, I know.

 

But why did Joe leave Kevin's number at JJ's? Was it by accident?

 

Damn, I wish there was more! :)

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  • Site Administrator

For everyone who wondered how Kevin got JJ's number, I thought it was obvious that Joe and JJ are the same person. JJ didn't like admitting that he likes guys, but Joe was the part of him that does.

 

A really enjoyable story even though I figured out JJ/Joe early. In fact, that was part of the enjoyment, admiring how the author handled that situation.

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