“Where’s Nick anyway?” Jake asked the assembled group of friends who were sitting in the bleachers, waiting for the pep rally to start. “It’s like he doesn’t even want to see the cheerleaders bounce around and do flips. That’s like the best part.” Jake lecherously eyed the perkily hopping cheer members, who were attempting to engage various sections of the bleachers in school-pride chants.
“I hope he’s not planning to actually do that dunk contest thing,” Dan mused. “Usually I have no empathy for other human beings, but even I would feel a twinge of emotion when the whole student body is laughing at his failure.” Nods of agreement were shared among the group.
“Nah, he’s probably just sitting in the library touching his microdick while looking at the National Geographics,” Jake snorted. “But if he does end up in the contest, at least I’ll be filming it and selling the footage to every fail-centered Facebook page in the universe.” He got out his phone and pointed it at the basketball hoop, checking to make sure that the zoom was set properly.
“You retard, put that thing away before everybody assumes that you’re creepshotting the cheerleaders,” Dan said. “And nobody’s paying a dime for some video of some pimply guy in cargo shorts jumping eight inches off the ground, so I wouldn’t bother.”
Nick waited nervously in the foyer outside the gymnasium with the two other dunk contest participants, who had identified themselves as Blake and Josh. Nick had never met either of them; both were seniors and members of the varsity basketball team. Nick, as a decidedly uncool sophomore, rarely interacted with students of such social stature.
“You think you gonna dunk it, bro?” Josh asked, a mocking grin spread across his face.
“I’ve been doing BoingAlert for the past six months, so I sure hope so,” Nick said nervously, taking a swig from his BoingStuff shake. The drink made his legs feel tingly, yet strangely powerful.
Josh’s grin disappeared and his eyebrows went up. “Whoa. You’re actually serious about it.” Now he was the one who looked nervous as he turned towards his basketball-playing friend. “Have you ever actually dunked, dude?”
“Only like twice,” Blake admitted. “It’s too bad Sasha had to go and break his foot, he’s like six foot six.”
Nick was feeling slightly more at ease now that the two guys he was pitted against were filled with such self-doubt, and he now held his basketball loosely at his side rather than restlessly spinning it in his hands. “Why don’t you guys go first, that way when I screw up, nobody remembers your attempts.” Nick suggested this in an offhand way, and was pleased when the two friends readily agreed to this arrangement.
Nick wondered, not for the first time, but maybe for the last, if Jennifer would be impressed when she saw him dunk.
“I think this guy sucks worse than the last guy,” Dan said as the unknown dunk-attempter repeatedly lobbed bounce passes to himself to try to dunk the ball. “Oh look, Mrs. Clark’s shooing him off the court.”
Jake looked up from his phone. “Good, this thing better be over soo-“. He paused in the middle of his sentence, looking in disbelief at the entrance to the gym “No. No way.” He paused again. “It’s Nick.”
“Dumbass,” Dan said sadly, shaking his head.
“Oh my god Jenny, it’s that dork that you have a crush on!” Amanda squeaked.
“I noticed,” Jennifer replied, following Nick with her eyes and not even bothering to refute the crush claim that her friend had made.
Amanda giggled. “He is looking kinda buff in that tight t-shirt. And look at his calves.”
“I know, I know, I see his calves,” Jennifer said, feeling slightly flustered. She wondered if Nick even realized she was sitting there.
After Blake had tried and failed multiple times to complete a slam dunk, it was Nick’s turn. He took a deep breath, and, to a background of a generic hip-hop beat, entered the gymnasium. There was some confused murmuring in response to his entry, but he was only peripherally aware of it.
The basketball was in his hands. There was no reason to wait and risk losing his nerve. From the far end of the gymnasium, Nick began to jog towards the hoop, then broke into a full run. To his ears, all noise in the room had been replaced by a dull buzzing. His vision narrowed until he could see only the hoop walled by voids of black. Then, he jumped.
He had practice-dunked tens of times before this moment, but this jump was his highest ever, he was sure. Feeling a new burst of confidence, he dared to show off, and brought the ball behind his head with two hands while also arching his legs back.
The ball ripped through the net. Seconds later, his feet hit the floor; immediately, his hearing returned, and he was greeted by a loud roar of approval. Looking out at the jubilant student body in a daze, feeling a sense of achievement swelling inside him, he suddenly noticed that Jennifer, of all people, was running out to greet him.
His fantasy was coming true.