“Paulie, honey, your girlfriend is here,” Paul’s mom yelled from the kitchen.
Another shot right through the net. Swish. “Tell her I’m busy.” He lined up another one: nothing but bottom.
“But, Paulie, dear, it’s prom night. You gotta take Sarah to the prom, remember?”
Paul did remember. But prom wasn’t important. Basketball was important. “Tell her that I ain’t feelin’ too well. I think I got tetanus from a rusty nail or somethin’. I’m feelin’ all dizzy.”
“I’ve been watching you for hours and you’ve missed fewer times than I have fingers on my left hand. You certainly ain’t sick, boy.”
Paul forced out a few unconvincing coughs. “Yo, I think we gotta go to the emergency room or somethin’.” Another shot, a turnaround this time, found its mark. He heard the kitchen door slam.
“Paul, you’re gonna take Sarah to the prom, and you will enjoy yourself!” his mom said sternly. She grabbed him by his ear. “Now come on, we gotta put a suit on you.”
“Do you want to dance?” Sarah asked for the seventh time.
“Nah, I’m cool babe,” Paul responded, arms crossed. He had spent the entire time looking at the basketball hoops hanging in the school’s gymnasium, hoops now festooned with ribbon and decorations. He imagined practicing more jumpers on those hoops.
Sarah grabbed his hand roughly. “Wrong answer. We’re dancing.” Paul knew she wouldn’t be able to physically drag him anywhere, given that he was a foot taller than her, but went along with it. Sometimes you had to make sacrifices in the name of basketball.
It was a slow song. Sarah tried to make him dance properly, but Paul just shuffled his feet in a mockery of rhythm. After a minute, Paul noticed that the door to the gym’s supply room was cracked open a hair. He immediately let go of his girlfriend, who glared at him. “Yo babe, I’ma get us some punch.” He walked over to the supply room, which was on the opposite side of the gym from where the punch table was set up.
In the dark, musty room, Paul quickly found what he was looking for. The cart of basketballs. Most of them were flat, but he soon located one that was in playable condition.
He dribbled to the basket which was farthest away from the action. The echoing of ball against hardwood attracted the attention of several prom-goers, but for the most part, he was ignored. Picking a spot several feet behind the three-point lane, he resumed his practice. Swish. Swish. Swish.
The noise was distracting more and more people from the dance. Soon, most of the gym was simply watching Paul hit shot after shot, with nary a miss to be had.
Sarah stormed over to where Paul was pulling off a crossover. He didn’t even glance at her. “Cool, you can rebound for me.”
“No, I am not going to rebound for you! You’ve ruined prom!”
“Babe, I gotta get my shots up!”
“Well, you can get your shots up without me, because we’re through!” Sarah pulled off her corsage and threw it on the ground, then stomped away. A gasp rippled through the assembled crowd, but Paul seemed unfazed by this startling development.
After faking to his right and hitting a lefty leaner, Paul noticed that his classmates were all staring at him, as if they wanted him to say something.
“Who wants to rebound for me?”