The Second Season

The Second Season

K.D. Richardson

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Sonny's best friend, Russell, shares the life and times of a young man from a severely dysfunctional Maysville, Kentucky home. A mixture of actual people and historic venues, coupled with literary suspense, spins The Second Season into an irresistible, intense drama of a man against himself as Sonny tries to find his place in life.

 
PUBLISHED BY: Vanilla Heart Publishing
ISBN: 978-0-976545-5-8
PUBLICATION DATE: 2008
WORD COUNT: 76000
SEXUAL CONTENT RATING: 1
EBOOK READER RATING:
CATEGORIES: Contemporary, Action/Adventure, Mystery/Suspense
KEYWORDS: K.D. Richardson, baseball, All-Star, dysfunctional family, Maysville, Kentucky, suspense, Vanilla Heart Publishing
 

EBOOKS BY Vanilla Heart Publishing

EBOOKS BY K.D. Richardson

 
EXCERPT
COPYRIGHT K.D. Richardson/2008

CHAPTER ONE
Laying the Ground Rules

I’m not sure that God always knows who are his great men: he
is so very careless of what happens to them while they live.
— Mary Hunter Austin

He lost his virginity at the age of twenty-one in Chicago. At least, that’s what I could gather from what Sonny Wilson told me during his last years. While I initially thought that affair might have been the beginning of his troubles, I later realized that it was merely another symptom of his otherwise troubled journey through life. Up to that point in his voyage, Sonny had lived anything but an innocent life.
I spent four years during the mid ’60s in Viet Nam as a war correspondent attached to the Marines’ M Company, traipsing through rice paddies in places such as the Bo Ban area of the Hieu Duc district. I did a little photographic work there as well. It was quite a learning experience, but awful nevertheless. However, as terrible as those events were, I don’t think they were as personally damaging to me as when I lost the close friendship I had with Sonny. And I lost it twice. The casualties in Southeast Asia weren’t people I ever knew or got to know. They were just a collection of nameless individuals I happened to cross paths with, sometimes literally. Collateral damage, I think they were referred to by those in charge.
Sonny was another matter altogether. I knew him, grew up with him. So I found myself in this predicament; do I betray a friendship by telling his story, or do I use this forum in an attempt to clear the air.
Sonny and I were the best of friends, like the brothers we each never had. Actually I did have a brother, but he was much older and left home just before I entered high school, but that’s another story.
Sonny stayed with our family for a while because of problems at home. True friends stick together no matter what, they say, and that rule applied to no one more than Sonny and me. We played ball together, laughed together; we were simply cut from the same cloth. At least I thought so at the time.
Sonny’s gone now, and despite a legendary season in Major League Baseball, the memory of his accomplishments in the sports world has all but faded. The prison where he spent the last six years of his life has been mothballed as well.
It was five years into his sentence before I was finally able to get him to open up about what had happened. Perhaps he wanted to unload his spirit. His health wasn’t that good, and while Sonny never was completely forthcoming with many of the whys and wherefores, I’m guessing there are details in everyone’s lives that they will take to their graves. Perhaps the loss was due to the fact that he never completely healed from his injury, but where Sonny’s memory failed him, I was able to fill in many of the factual details.
I don’t know how else to explain what became of him other than to say that the writer in me would attempt to describe it thusly: in each person’s life, the living winds move through our souls, and push us in one direction, then back in another. Life does this to strengthen us, just as the winds of nature do to the tree. While causing mild damage to the plant, this natural event also brings about a more robust root system and a tougher outer rind so that the tree might withstand the harsh punishment that nature brings as the days pass by.
In Sonny Wilson’s life, the evil winds grew too strong, too early, and snapped this poor sapling’s soul at the base leaving it to grow at an uneven and somewhat ugly angle. Spiritualist Ram Dass could have described Sonny’s situation best when he stated, “Something dies when you bear the unbearable.”
I never had any problem with him, but a number of people said that Sonny, in their words, never was quite right. Some said that it was because his father, Bill Wilson, was a heavy drinker before and after Sonny’s conception. I suppose, even back then, they were thinking of some form of what we now call fetal alcohol syndrome. Others theorized that it was Sonny’s difficult delivery as he made his way into the world. I personally feel that it was a case of the nut not falling far from the tree.
You have to remember, it was a far different time back in the mid fifties. The interstate highway system was in its infancy, segregation was still in place, and President Kennedy had yet to be assassinated.
Statesman Benjamin Franklin once observed, “The things which hurt, instruct.” Obviously Mr. Franklin never met Sonny Wilson’s father. He was a tough old man.
William Wilson, Sr., was from an earlier era, and given the time and place where we grew up, Senior’s idea of ‘becoming a man’ wasn’t much different from many other men’s notion of that rite of passage. Drinking, wars, and fist fighting seemed to fall into Bill Wilson’s mix of becoming a forthright male.
I never liked Sonny’s dad, to be honest. Not many people did, least amongst them his son. I noted the first indication of trouble in Sonny’s home life when he entered his teenage years. Senior felt that Sonny had been coddled by his mother, Gladys, long enough, and now it was time for Sonny to grow up and become a man. As in many dysfunctional homes, Sonny had been able to cover for his abusive father for some time, but things have a way of catching up with a person.
I remember an incident Sonny mentioned when we were in our freshman year of high school or thereabouts. It was four A.M on a cold October morning when his father hobbled into his bedroom.
“Come on, get up. You were supposed to wake me, remember? We have to get going if we want to get over to the Ellis farm and bag your first squirrel.”
“I’m up, I’m up,” Sonny grumbled. “Why do we have to get there so early? Them squirrels ain’t going nowhere.”
“You’re fifteen years old and haven’t even killed a damn squirrel yet. Hell, I shot my first deer when I was twelve.”
“I know I know, I’ve heard that story about a million times,” Sonny said as he righted himself on the edge of the bed. “It was a twelve-pointer---right through the heart. Why do we have to do this anyway? You know that I don’t give a damn about hunting.”
“Watch your mouth, boy,” Bill said in a hushed voice. “What the hell do you want to do today, stay home with your little friends and play all day? It’s about time you grew up and became a man.”
“Oh, and I do that by blowing away a little squirrel?”
Bill stood and looked at his son with ire in his eyes and replied tersely, “Just get your clothes on and meet me downstairs. Dumb ass.”
Sonny, still in a sleepy funk, pulled his pants from the back of the chair and stabbed one leg at the opening, missing the first time, then succeeding the second. He belted them over his pajama bottoms and grabbed a flannel shirt from the arm of the chair. Taking the shirt with him, he made his way down the stairs and met his father, who was tying his hunting boots at the bottom of the stairs. Sonny stepped around him and went into the kitchen.
“You ain’t got time for no brains and eggs for breakfast, although God knows you could use both.”
Sonny grabbed a loaf of bread from the box. After rummaging around in the refrigerator, he retrieved a stick of butter from the Crosley and made a butter sandwich.
“Take that with you. Grab the ammo, and you’d better wear your heavy jacket. There’s frost out there this morning,” he said after glancing out of the kitchen window.
Sonny went into the living room and took his tattered winter coat from the hook. He put the sandwich in his mouth while pulling his coat over his untucked flannel shirt. When he neared the kitchen door, he picked up the Army surplus cartridge box from the counter.
Sonny met his dad out at the car. The .22 rifles were already in the backseat, and Bill was trying to start the vehicle. The starter wouldn’t catch, resulting in a loud humming noise each time he turned the key.
“Dammit!” Mr. Wilson shouted after each turn of the key. Sonny just stood next to the car, watching his frozen breath as it fogged his view of the Ohio River. The smell of gasoline drifted upward as Bill continued to try to start the twenty-year-old Auburn.
Bill got out of the car and cursed under his breath. “I think I’ve got the damn thing flooded now.” He popped the hood and unscrewed the air filter.
“Here, be useful, for once in your life. Hold this rag over the carburetor. Keep it there until it catches.”
Bill got back in the car and continued trying to start the car. After the fourth malfunction, the starter caught hold and began to crank the engine. The starter continued its revolutions until the engine fired up. Sonny jumped back. Mr. Wilson, even at that early hour, punched the accelerator to the floor, causing the car to emit a huge cloud of smoke and an even louder roar.
Sonny stepped back to the engine compartment, reattached the air cleaner, then slammed the car’s hood. He threw the cartridge boxes into the back with the rifles, then crawled in on the passenger side.
“Damn piece of junk. I’m going to have to take it down to Likins Service Station Tuesday to have Jimmy see what he can do with it. Auction day’s Monday so it’ll have to last until then. I can’t keep monkeying with this damn thing to get to work every day. You’ll have to do without lunch next week if it turns out to be anything extensive. Jimmy’s good but expensive.”
“Yes, sir,” Sonny answered.
The Wilsons were of meager means and generally lived from hand to mouth. Bill Wilson worked at the Maysville Stock Yards in town as a livestock handler, but was limited in his activity because of a bullet wound to the hip he received during WWI. He had to swing and drag his right leg when walking.
Gladys Wilson, Sonny’s mother, was a housewife and frequently ill. It was suspected that her chronic tiredness was due to heart problems, but the family never had the money to have her hospitalized to find the true cause.
Bill put the car into gear and drove slowly down East Sixth Street, trying to avoid the icy patches that had formed over night. East Sixth Street was one of the highest points in Maysville, Kentucky, and the only way to town was down. They didn’t want to hurry the process any more than necessary.
Because of the extent of his war injury, during his younger years with the ladies, Bill had fallen from favorable status as a ‘prize catch.’ He met and married Gladys Baker, ten years his junior, in 1936 when he was thirty-eight years old. Due to their imperfections, they were a matched but sympathetic couple. During their nuptials a year after their first meeting, Bill had to drag himself down the aisle of the Trinity Methodist Church to the altar where Gladys, due to her poor health, was seated.
Mrs. Wilson had her good days and her bad days. Stress seemed to be a trigger for her weariness, and a wedding produces enough tension for any person. Never a very active person in her youth, Gladys rarely dated but accepted an invitation from Bill one day to join him for a soda at Kilgus Pharmacy. Perhaps in each other they found refuge from an unsympathetic world. They were together from then on. Time took its toll on their relationship, however, as Bill’s pent-up bitterness, coupled with Gladys’ timidity, made for anything but a happy union.
Due to Bill’s overindulgence of alcohol and his aggressive tendencies while in such a state, a son, William Orville Wilson, Jr., was born two days after his father’s forty-first birthday. Gladys had a miscarriage one year into her marriage, and Sonny was the sole survivor from a set of twins. His complicated birth only aggravated her failing health. The Wilsons decided Sonny would be their one and only child.
The trip to the Ellis farm took twenty minutes, giving Sonny enough time to finish off his sandwich and wipe the gasoline and exhaust odor from his hands on one of the many red shop towels on the car’s floor. When they turned down the lane leading toward the Ellis house, it was just before sunrise. The brightest light visible was in the window of the Ellis house. It was now approaching six A.M.
Sonny and Bill got out of the car and looked about. Bill Wilson had come to know Mr. Ellis as a frequent customer at the stock yards. Clyde Ellis, better known as ‘Bull’ Ellis because of his bucolic endeavors, stuck his head out of the side door.
“You fellers go ahead and take as many of them hairy-tailed rats as you want. Just keep the lead away from the house. Tommy is going to sleep the day away, I’m guessing.” Tommy Ellis was a school acquaintance of Sonny’s and was expected to go hunting with the Wilsons.
“Thanks, Bull,” answered Bill. Turning to his son, he ordered, “Get them guns and ammo out of the back, and let’s get going.”
Sonny gathered their equipment from the backseat and joined his father, as Bill senior already had a hobbling head start.
“Here’s your rifle and a couple of bullets, Dad.” Bill just took the weapon and grunted a response.
Before they hit the woods, Bill observed, “Hey look, there’s Ellis’s barn. See if you can hit the broadside of it this time.” He cackled a laugh as a follow-up. He was referring to the hunting trip last fall when Sonny had been a reluctant hunter and an even worse shot.
Sonny ignored the remark. He was used to it. His father had such high expectations for him, yet was quick to doubt his abilities. That probably stemmed from the fact that Bill had had so much taken from him because of his disability. He had lost the athletic ability that once held him in the highest esteem of his classmates, had been forced to take a menial job at the stock yards due to his limited abilities, and had watched his pool of available young women to marry drop to nearly zero. Mr. Wilson also resented the fact that he had to be a part-time caretaker to his wife because of her poor health. Those issues, to say the least, contributed to his soured outlook on life.
The two tromped through the thicket until they found a partial clearing.
“Here, this will do. We’re far enough from the houses now.”
Sonny and Bill stood with their backs to their respective trees and waited for a squirrel to come along. Neither said much to the other during their almost half-hour wait. Bill took out a fresh pint bottle of Echo Springs Kentucky bourbon, cracked the seal on the cap, and put away two large swallows.
“This is stupid,” said Sonny, frustrated. “I didn’t want to come out here anyway.”
“Just shut the hell up and keep your eyes open, boy. Don’t know how many chances we’ll get today.”
Finally, they heard the delicate crunching of leaves in the near distance just as the sun was breaking through the branches. Bill began to scour the treetops for any signs of life.
“There, over there, boy. He’s all yours. Just don’t blow it this time,” Bill remarked in a rough whisper as he pointed out a squirrel making its way up the trunk of an oak tree.
“Dad . . .”
“Shut up and pop him so you can get your kill and we can get the hell out of here.”
Sonny wasn’t a fan of hunting but went along to please his father. Sonny had been trying for years to get his father to be proud of him—with little success. Sonny figured this couldn’t hurt.
He raised his gun, steadied it against a tree, and drew a bead on the one-pound marvel. Seeing the creature in his sight gave Sonny second thoughts. The squirrel had done nothing against Sonny’s favor, and it wouldn’t produce enough meat for even one person.
“Do it, dammit, before he gets away.”
Sonny took aim even though his heart wasn’t in it. He aimed high and slowly pressed the trigger. The gun went off, shattering the silence of the countryside. The squirrel leaped from its branch and scurried through the treetops to safety.
“Aw dammit, I was right, wasn’t I? You can’t hit the side of a barn. You’re not going to get a better shot at one than you had there. Je-sus Christ,” Bill Wilson said in exasperation.
“I’m sorry, Dad, you know I’m no good at this stuff.”
“You’re no good at anything, that’s your problem.”
The two stood around for another half an hour before footing it over to another spot about a hundred yards deeper into the woods. While they played the waiting game again, Bill Wilson pulled out the pint of whiskey and took an extra-large swallow. After twenty minutes, Bill spotted another squirrel climbing out on the branch of a maple to collect the helicopter seeds from a weak branch.
“There, right there. This time make it count.”
Sonny took aim once again, this time in an attempt to pacify his father. Sonny centered the sight on the animal and gently squeezed the trigger, felling the squirrel in a flash.
“Yee haw, nailed him right through the head. Finally! Good clean kill, son.”
They walked over to retrieve the bounty at the base of the maple. Sonny looked at the eyeless animal as blood oozed from its head. He was filled with remorse as he watched his dad poke the squirrel with the barrel of his gun.
“Yes, sir, dead as a door nail,” Mr. Wilson commented.
He looked over at his son, expecting him to be filled with pride only to see his eyes filled with tears.
“Oh now, God dammit, you’re not going to cry on me now, are you? You come all of the way out here and finally get a hit, and you can’t even be proud of your efforts? Why do I even spend my time trying to teach you anything? When the hell are you going to grow up, for Christ’s sake?”
After Mr. Wilson, with hands on hips, stared at his son for a moment, he finally said, “Come on, let’s go. I’ve had about enough of your crap for one day. Your mother always says that you and I never do anything together. I take you out one day and look what happens. You go to pieces on me. You’re a loser—always were and always will be. You can go back home and play nursemaid to your mother. You both have a lot in common. You’re both doing your damndest to aggravate the hell out of me!” he shouted.
As the two turned to leave, Bill Wilson glanced back over his shoulder at his son.
“Hey, pick up your kill, God dammit. God knows it’ll be the only one you’ll ever get.”
Sonny went over and picked up the dead animal and cradled it in his hands as he stared at it. He could still feel the animal’s warmth in his cold hands.
“Well, put it in the bag and let’s go. You didn’t want to be here in the first place. We’ll take it home, skin it, and see what we’ve got.” Bill Wilson staggered off into the undergrowth.
Sonny gingerly placed the rodent in the bag and just stared at it. As he stroked the animal’s pelt with his finger, Sonny’s eyes once again welled up. He wiped the tears from his eyes with his sleeve, closed the green canvas bag, and went to catch up with his father.
They exited the woods and walked down the path leading to Ellis’ driveway and their car. Mr. Ellis saw them coming and stuck his head out the door once again.
“Any luck?”
“Naw, just one today,” Bill answered.
“Just one? Hell, that won’t even fill a frying pan.”
“Tried to tell the kid that, but he’s too weak-hearted for this kind of thing, you know what I mean.”
“Oh well, tell Gladys I said hi,” Mr. Ellis shouted to the duo as they loaded their equipment in the car.
There was very little conversation during the drive home. Mr. Wilson was disappointed in his son, and Sonny knew it. They drove up the steep grade to their home on the bluff overlooking the downtown area. Bill pulled the car over and got out.
“Go ahead and take that mangy critter out back and skin him up. If your mom’s up to it, I’ll have her fry it up for you for supper.”
“You do it.”
“I ain’t going to do it. It’s yours. You have to complete the task you started.”
“I only went there because you said I had to. If you want the squirrel skinned, he’s yours. His blood will be on your hands, not mine. I did your dirty work.”
Sonny turned and stomped away, leaving his father standing there. Mr. Wilson took out his bottle and took another draw from it. “Retard.”
Sonny continued on down East Sixth Street until he came to our house. Just as he was going up to knock on the door, I happened to come around the side of the house.
“Hey, Sonny, how are you doing?”
“Hey, Rusty. I’m doing O.K. I guess. You going fishing?”
“Yeah. It’s starting to warm up enough that I thought I’d try my luck. Want to come?”
“Sure. Got an extra rod for me?”
“You can use mine. I’ll use my dad’s.”
“Won’t he get ticked?”
“Not as long as I don’t destroy it.”
“Damn, my dad would kill me if I touched his things.”
“Yeah, your dad is a little wound, isn’t he?”
“Well, he has things on his mind, you know. With my mom’s problems and his job, he has enough to worry about, you know.”
“Yeah, I guess so. I hope I never get that old.”
We began walking down to the banks of the Ohio River.
“Let’s stop at the grocery before we hit the river. I want to pick up a pack of smokes,” Sonny added.
“Yeah, O.K. You really getting hooked on them things, aren’t you?”
“No, I only hit them on the weekends or when somebody has them at school.”
“You had better hope Coach Henry doesn’t catch you doing that. He’ll kick your ass for that. With our first game coming up in three weeks, you don’t want to piss him off.”
“Yeah, I don’t think he likes me too much anyway. You see how little he lets me shoot the ball in practice games. All he wants me to do is dribble and pass. Big deal.”
“Yeah, I don’t know why he treats you like that. Hell, you’re as good a shot as any of us. Just because you’re a forward . . . Guess you’ve just gotten on his bad side.”
“He ain’t got a good side.”
“Probably. Well, go ahead and get your cigs. I’m going to get a box of Wheaties for fish bait. They make great dough balls if you wet them.”
“Good, and we’ll eat the rest. I haven’t had much of a breakfast yet today.”
“Sure, take whatever you need. Them fish don’t eat much.” I was aware of Sonny’s home problems. I knew they lived on a thin budget and helped out any way I could.
We marched down to the river, fished, and talked much of the day away. When Sonny arrived home in late afternoon, he could sense something cooking. It was a bit early for supper, but it smelled delicious. He walked in to the kitchen find his dad, a bit inebriated, frying the lone squirrel in the family’s cast iron skillet. Mr. Wilson was sprinkling a little garlic salt on the small feast to enrich the taste.
“You didn’t want this tasty critter so I’m going to have it all for myself,” Bill Wilson said matter-of-factly.
Sonny looked in the pan only to see much more in the way of fare than he expected. “All of that meat came off that little squirrel?”
“Naw,” replied Mr. Wilson as he used a fork and paring knife to cut a slice in the pan, shake the grease from it, then sample his meal. “You were right, there wasn’t enough there to satisfy my taste so I threw in a couple of your mangy birds.”
Sonny kept three white doves in a cage on the side of the house. Upon hearing his father, Sonny ran outside and checked his cage only to find a single bird remaining. There were feathers all around, not to mention the birds’ wings and heads, and the squirrel’s pelt on a stump nearby. Sonny just stared at the near-empty coop and began to tear up. He was crushed. Even though he still had one solitary remaining bird, he knew it was best for it to be set free. A dove by itself just wouldn’t thrive. He removed the lone white dove from its confines, gazed at it with heavy eyes, kissed it on the head, then let it go to the heavens. Upon completing the task, he ran back in the house, slammed the kitchen door, and retreated to his room.
Sonny and I had been friends since our family moved up on the hill when I was three years old. We had gone to school together since kindergarten, and we were now both on the freshman basketball team. Sonny saw his share of action during that season but was never a starter. Yet at five foot ten, he was a little above the average height for most of the players at his grade level.
As we rolled into February, our team was in first place and was favored to win the area-wide tournament. With eight teams in the conference, a three-game tournament crowned the champs. Maysville easily beat Bracken County in the opener but only managed a 48-43 victory over Lewis County. The championship game was that Saturday night.
The morning following the semi-final victory, Sonny strolled into the kitchen just as his father was preparing to ingest a heaping plate of country ham and eggs.
“Hey, Dad, are you coming to the game tonight? It’s for all the marbles.”
“You going to play?”
“Well, that’s up to Coach Henry.”
“Um, depends how your mother feels,” he said in between bites. “Maybe. If you ain’t going to play, what’s the point? Ain’t you good enough?”
“I think I am. I played ten minutes in the semi.”
“Hmm, we’ll see. If there ain’t nothing else going on, we’ll see.”
The consolation game began at five P.M. on that Saturday. Sonny and most of the team showed up to catch that contest. We’d go into the locker room to begin getting ready just after the preliminary game began its third quarter.
Around half-time of the consolation game, Sonny leaned over to me and said, “Damn, I need a butt break. Come on outside with me.”
“You do live dangerously, don’t you? All right.”
We left the bleachers and exited through the front doors. It was a bitter cold evening, and some frozen snow remained in clumps from the last snow fall. Sonny lit up next to the nearby bushes. I acted as his lookout. When Sonny was almost finished, the door burst open and out walked Coach Henry.
“. . . I’ll be back in . . . what are the two doing out here? You’re supposed to be inside with the rest of the team. Wilson, what’s that by your feet?”
Sonny had dropped the cigarette when the door opened.
“You were out here smoking. Oh that’s great, that’s just beautiful! The night of the biggest game and you’re out here puffing your brains out. You know what I said about that. I’ll be damned if you two are going to play tonight.”
Sonny tried to explain. “Coach, Rusty didn’t have anything to do with this. If you want to punish me, go ahead but leave Rusty out of it. He didn’t do nothing.”
The coach looked over at me and said, “O.K. Henning, get inside.”
I slipped past the coach and went back in to the warmth of the gym.
There’s one thing I liked about Coach Henry; he always let you know where you stood. “Sonny, you know with only nine players on the team we’re going to be short, so I can’t really suspend you from the game. But let you know here and now that you’ll be used only, and I mean only, if we get in foul trouble. Now get your ass inside with the rest of the team.”
Sonny, his head low, went directly into the locker room. He didn’t talk with many of the other players while dressing. There were rumblings that something had occurred between Sonny and the coach, but no one was real sure. Sonny did slide over to me and get in a few words. “Coach says I probably won’t play tonight.”
“Damn, that hurts. Is he going to turn you in for that?”
“He didn’t say, but I don’t think so. I’m hoping he’ll consider this punishment enough. I just hope my folks don’t show up tonight.”
“They hardly ever do. You’ll make it.”
“Yeah, but dammit, I’m going to miss playing against Nicholas County. What the hell good is it to even be on the floor?”
“Well, you never know. Coach may have to put you in.”
“Yeah, we’ll see. See you on the court.”
Sonny finished dressing, and when the runners-up game concluded, our team made its way up the steps and on to the floor. About that same time, the Nicholas County team did the same from the other end of the court. Both schools’ bands struck up their respective fight songs concurrently, creating a mass of competing musical notes, each trying to outdo the other. The teams did their shoot-around until the horn went off, then the referee signaled for both teams to take the floor for the tip-off.
Sonny sat on the bench and happened to glance over his shoulder to say something to a fellow player when he spotted his parents in the stands about thirty feet from the bench. Mr. Wilson was staring at his son with his arms crossed and a stern look on his face. Sonny averted his eyes and continued his conversation with the player.
Damn, he thought, of all the times for them to show up.
The game was close, as had been expected. Nicholas County led by two at the half. When the teams took the floor for second half warm-ups, Mr. Wilson called Sonny over to the stands.
“When you getting in, boy? I didn’t come all of the way down here for nothing, did I?”
“I don’t know Dad. It’s up to the coach.”
“Well, call him over here. I want to chew on his ass for a while. I’ll get you in.”
“No, Dad, please. Just let it be. He’ll put me in when he’s ready. Don’t get me in trouble.”
“Suit yourself then. Be a loser.” As he turned to rejoin his wife, he muttered, “Come all of the way down here and for what? Brilliant idea, Gladys.”
The rest of the game was close, with Maysville taking a one-point advantage at the end of the third quarter. Nicholas County would never get any closer as Maysville posted a 53-48 victory.
When the final buzzer sounded, the players piled on to the floor jumping up and down in celebration of their freshman league victory. Sonny just hovered around the bench, acting as if he was busy tying his shoes or cleaning up. He picked up a few towels and a stray basketball. He wasn’t in much of a celebrating mood for he felt as if he really hadn’t contributed to the team’s victory.
We all assembled on the floor in a semi-circle to have our photo taken with the first-place trophy to the cheers of the fifty or so parents and loyal fans that remained. Shortly thereafter, the janitor, who was there to clean up our mess once we evacuated the premises, hauled out a ladder and unfolded it underneath one of the baskets so we could cut down the nets for our trophy case. While we lined up to take our cuts, Sonny wandered off in the direction of the locker room. At the corner of the bleachers, he ran into his parents as they were assisting each other down from the stands.
“You sure played a great game, boy. How many points did you score?”
“Knock it off, Dad.”
“Yes, Bill, please. Can’t you see he feels bad enough as it is? This is supposed to be a celebration.”
“Oh yeah, that’s right. Why aren’t you out there with your friends cutting down the net, huh? What the hell am I going to tell the guys down at work? What, that I have a five-foot-ten-inch son who can’t even get in a junior game? Hell, you ought to be playing varsity ball, but I guess not, huh?”
Sonny pushed past his parents and headed toward the locker room. Things didn’t get any easier for Sonny as the rest of the team was filing into the locker room whooping and hollering in celebration. Sonny was nearly dressed when the rest of them came in. He was on his way to the lobby when Coach Henry stopped him.
“Missed you at the net-cutting ceremony. Why weren’t you there? You contributed a lot this season to get us to this point. I saved you something,” he said as he reached into his pocket and produced a cutting from the net.
“I would have been there, but you put a halt to that tonight. So you can keep it as a reminder. I’ll take it when I earn it.”
“No, you put an end to that tonight. We have rules on this team, and you knew what would happen if you violated them. You decided your own fate, not me.”
Sonny walked by the coach and waited outside for me to finish up. As my dad drove us back home, Sonny lamented the night’s activities.
“You know, I guess hoops just ain’t my game. I only averaged six points a game all year. I’m almost done growing so it’s not like I could compete with the big guys once I was a senior, or even college if I was lucky enough.”
“Why don’t you go back to playing baseball this spring? You always did so good in Little League. You were a natural.”
“Yeah, but I hate baseball.”
“But it’s something you’re good at. You know you’d be a starter right off the bat. They always have trouble finding enough guys to fill the team. You’d be a varsity guy right from the start.”
“Well, maybe. Are you going out?”
“I will if you will. Hey how about it, revive the old double play combo, second to first, Henning to Wilson?”
“I’ll think about it. Maybe it’ll show that son-of-a-bitch dad of mine that I can do something right.”

 

 

 

 

 

 
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