Nikola Jokic checked his phone for perhaps the twentieth time that day, and was again disappointed that there were no new voicemails for him. Despite the expensive device not having left his side for even one second during the past two weeks, he was paranoid that he had somehow missed an incoming call, a call which was very important to him. Hence, the compulsive checking for voicemails.
To distract himself from the unbearable wait, Nikola got up from his couch and walked over to his large double-wide bookshelf. Before him was an astounding array of horse-related literature, both fiction and nonfiction, that was likely unrivaled by any similar collections in the Denver area. His eyes were immediately drawn to the section of the shelf that he considered his “dirty pleasure” section, not because the contents of the books were necessarily “dirty”, but because it was a whole shelf full of young adult equestrian fiction. The kind of stuff that only preteen girls had any interest in reading. Preteen girls and seven-foot Serbian basketball players.
The titles of these thin, simply-written books were mysterious in a juvenile way: “The Black Stallion Rides”, “A Horse for Ashleigh”, “Thundering Hooves”, “Thoroughbred Meadow”, and, most embarrassing of all, “My Horsie is my Bestie”, were among the works found on his shelf of shame. All of them had been read several times over, only in the privacy of his home, of course. These books didn’t come with him on road trips. His “serious” books about equine care and equine psychology, those he could take out in front of his teammates without causing too much merriment, but these…nobody could ever know about them.
He checked his phone again. Still nothing.
He had just removed a particularly romantic and angsty title called “Restless Spirit” from its place on the shelf, with the intent to relax himself with a few chapters, when his doorbell rang. He froze. Who would be visiting? Eventually, it dawned on him that he had, a few hours prior, invited his teammate Mason Plumlee over to his apartment in another bid to distract himself from the phone call that still hadn’t come. And now Mason was here. Even worse, Mason was a close enough friend that he would let himself in if Nikola took too long getting to the door.
Nikola hurriedly tried to stuff his embarrassing reading material back on the shelf, but his overlarge hands instead knocked many of the books to the floor. He frantically scrambled to get them into some kind of order, but his hasty attempts to do this only resulted in his personal horse-themed library getting thrown into further disarray. His thoughts flooded with dread when he heard the door open.
“I thought those books were just for show,” Mason joked from behind him. “You know, to make you look intellectual.”
Nikola tried to rearrange his face into a neutral expression before turning to face his teammate. “Yeah, I don’t actually read any of them. I just walked into the used bookstore and paid five hundred bucks for like ten boxes of random books. So it’s not really worth looking at the titles. At all.” He winced as he realized he had provided too much detail to be readily believable.
Mason grabbed one of the fallen-over books. His smile widened as he looked at the illustration on the cover (of a teenager brushing her horse’s mane while a hunky-looking guy’s face faded in from the sky), and when he started reading the blurb on the back, he burst into laughter. “Yeah right. I know you have horses back at home. These are totally yours!”
“No way,” Nikola insisted. “They’re my sister’s.”
“You don’t have a sister.”
“Well they’re not mine. I don’t know how they got here,” Nikola said, contradicting his previous explanation for the second time. “Hey, stop reading that!” He grabbed the book roughly out of Mason’s hand just as Mason had turned to a random page to read whatever fluff he would find.
Mason was about to make more wisecracks when an alert buzzed on his phone. He looked at it and then showed Nikola. “They finally announced the dunk contest participants! Not a bad lineup but better with me in it…hey, why do you look so sad?”
Nikola left his books in their haphazard pile on the floor and flumped back down on his couch. “I thought they were gonna invite me to the dunk contest for sure,” he mumbled.
“What was that?”
“I SAID, I THOUGH THEY WERE GONNA INVITE ME TO THE DUNK CONTEST!” Nikola yelled. Then, his voice became sorrowful again. “I was really dunking it a lot this year.”
“At least you’ve still got your horsie books,” Mason pointed out.
Nikola affixed his teammate with an icy glare. “Mason, shut the hell up.”