Acknowledging John (Updike)
This used to be a good town, Harry “Rabbit” Angstrom thinks, as he walks back from the foreclosure sign, his ears alert to the pounding rhythm of the bouncing ball.
Coming around the corner, he spies the pick-up game, six dark-skinned skywalkers tossing the basketball up in the air, one by one, working on their ESPN moves, catching, snagging and dunking, reverse jamming, plunking the ball off the metal backboard with one-hand and then with the other, like Dr. J, like MJ, powering the ball through the wire-mesh net, jive-talking, trash talkers.
Rabbit loosens his tie, slips out of his sports coat, rolls up his sleeve when the ball caroms off one of six, rolls towards him. Bending down, he feels that light spryness in his hips, that feeling of liftoff, of separation from the earth, his white skin, blue eyes and soft, tussled hair ready to leap, to bounce, the reason Rabbit entered the womb and came out six feet three inches.
With a single motion, he scoops up the ball, uncoiling upwards, like a musical instrument raising a note to heaven, and before one of the six can blink, before any of them can say something, can shout, he releases the ball with his right wrist bent backward, the soft cradle, his fingertips hushing, kissing the round leather, all in singular adoration, flicking three points into the warm, sunny sky.
So concentrated his effort, so effortlessly beautiful, so the way a good town was, he blocks out the sound of the rough-engined car, muffler spewing dirty smoke, spitting sin, idling.
How he wants to know the boys, to get close to them, to be part of their lives, to share his with them, believing in his heart that unspoken bridges connect them, link their souls to one another in a cacophony of deep summer nights, asphalt courts and endless pick-up games when he hears the first shot and the bullet ricochets off the metal backboard and he hears the heavy, running food stomps and the voice screaming, “This is my territory, gangbangers!”
~ Stephen J. Bergstrom
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