Nikola Jokic exited the Whataburger with a bag of fast-food cheeseburgers in his left hand and a large coke in the other hand. In general, fast food didn’t compare to his favorite burger joints in Denver, but it was a suitable substitute. His brain briefly registered a pang of guilt as it occurred to him that the team trainers wouldn’t appreciate his enjoyment of unhealthy food during a tight playoff series, but that feeling was easily pushed to the side. He played well with a bit of extra flab on him, so what was another three cheeseburgers going to hurt?
So lost in his thoughts was Nikola that he didn’t notice the tall man lurking in the alley between two buildings until it was too late: the man was on top of him, sending burgers and soda flying to the sidewalk.
“You ruinings my career Nikola!” growled a familiar voice. When their scuffle took them briefly under the glow of a streetlight, the man’s identity was made certain.
“Jusuf, your career is just fine!” Nikola said in exasperation. Despite Jusuf Nurkic’s historical inability to inflict any real harm on Nikola, Nikola was still slightly worried. The postseason was the worst time to get injured; even missing one game could mean the loss of the series.
Jusuf didn’t seem to be making any attempt to hurt Nikola, however. He wasn’t throwing any punches or brandishing any weapons. It seemed that his goal had merely been to subdue his rival so that his disjointed ramblings would have a captive audience. “Is not true!” Jusuf said. “Leg is brokening now, thanks to VLACH MAGIC CURSE CASTED ON ME BY DIRTY SERB NIKOLA!!!”
Nikola didn’t immediately have a response to this outlandish accusation. He was aware that certain remote parts of his country still held on to superstitious beliefs regarding magic and witchcraft, but he had no idea how the Bosnian Jusuf would have been drawn into those superstitions. “Jusuf, nobody cast a magic spell on you. Your injury, though unfortunate, was entirely random.” He made an effort to push Jusuf off of him, but couldn’t budge the weighty Bosnian from his disadvantageous position.
“Now the table is the turning,” Jusuf continued, not addressing and maybe not even cognizing Nikola’s words. “Because now, smelly Nikola, I is casting the curse Vlach magics upon YOU!” Here he paused, evidently expecting Nikola to start begging for leniency. When Nikola didn’t object in any way to Jusuf’s stated plan of spell-casting, Jusuf went on, “Be afraids, Nikola! I makings pact with real Vlach witch! She tellings me the words to bringing misfortunes and bad lucks to life of Nikola.”
Jusuf then started speaking in mangled, mispronounced Serbian, but what phrases Nikola could make out didn’t sound anything like a magic curse. He wondered what sort of “Vlach witch” Jusuf had sought the counsel of, and how much she had charged for her poor advice. It didn’t seem smart to interrupt Jusuf while he clearly thought he was inflicting great harm upon his foe, so Nikola just lay there and let Jusuf yell his garbled Serbian and wiggle his fingers in an approximation of “spell-casting”.
Finally, Jusuf seemed to finish. He got up and, seemingly extremely pleased with his own ability to afflict his nemesis with a lifelong curse of bad luck, actually helped Nikola to his feet. “Bye bye, dumb Nikola,” he said happily. “Now your career is the ruinings.” Before Nikola could rebut this in any way, Jusuf disappeared back down the alley as fast as his broken leg would let him.
Nikola looked sadly at the Whataburger order that was strewn about the sidewalk. At some point, the bag had split, sending cheeseburgers and french fries everywhere. The Coca Cola was spread in a sad puddle. “Damn it Jusuf,” he muttered, turning back towards Whataburger to place another order.