William Snyder Day 2

Part 1

Half-court…00:05 no time…drive…PLUNK…can’t… stayin’ zone…00:03…pretty far…PLUNK…                 gotta take it…slow down…everybody yellin’…don’t listen…shut everything
                  blinded me can’t see…wanted more time…felt right…nice spin

                                                               …Johnny B. Goode!

The shooter’s yellow-flecked feline blue eyes widened as the ball slithered through the net and the
scoreboard read:

                          VISITOR 55                                                            HOME 56

The referee signaled the game was over and the Annunciation High School team sprang from the bench.

“Great shot.”
“Way to go.”
“I dig it, I dig it.”

   Clad in royal blue trimmed with white they ran from the court champions of the Philadelphia High School Holiday Basketball Festival. ‘Cool’ was king of the masquerade in 1959 and ‘cool’ was the raiment Jim Collins wore running off the court. In the locker room the team gathered in a tribal circle as Coach Chandler beckoned him to the center of the circle. Rubbing his close-cropped black hair, the coach shouted, “One helluva clutch shot, Jim. Big time play!”
   The team clapped their way into an open shower room where the hero of the moment suffered through the soapy blur of a hot shower as they doused him with cold water. Afterwards supine on the locker room bench, he remembered practicing game-winning shots in darkening playgrounds, unlit gyms, or under the streetlight outside his house. Nights and days putting it up-and-in for the feeling of making the numbers change with no time left. Minus Wallace Stevens’ peignoir, complacency wrapped him in reverie. Luxuriated in peacefulness he changed into khakis, a navy blue turtleneck, and a red Jim Stark jacket. Exiting the locker room, Chuck Berry’s Johnny B. Goode drifted from a car radio into the cold night air.
   A cream-and-sky-blue bullet-nosed Ford waited at the curb. The air in the car was warm and heavy, laden with the smell of burnt tobacco. His father, a big broad-shouldered man, hunched over the wheel and flicked a cigarette butt out the window.
   “I’m glad ya made that last one. When ya missed those fouls earlier I was sure ya were goin’ to be the goat. Ya had that number 7 in your hip pocket. Ya coulda done all night what ya did at the end.”
   Gerry Collins didn’t look at his son adopting a matter-of-fact tone that brooked no disagreement. He had played semi-pro basketball in church halls in the 30’s where the game was played in a cage to stop fans from fighting with players. At five years old he had Jim dribbling and shooting at a peach basket hung on the side of the cellar stairs. Gerry had no doubts his son would be the player he never was.
   “Yeah, I know. I should’na had to make that shot. We shoulda been way ahead by then.” He wanted a cigarette to soothe the nervousness that came on him whenever he talked to his father about what happened in the games he played.
   “Well, I’m glad you did make it. Won’t hurt for the Big 5 coaches to see it in the paper tomorrow.”
    “Hadn’t thought about that.” Jim didn’t hear the pride that resonated in his father’s voice and slid further down in his seat pleased with what Diane would read about the game.
   “Yer gonna save me a lotta money when ya get that scholarship. I never had the chance yer gonna have. They’ll be offerin’ more than tuition too. Maybe somethin’ like Chamberlain got for goin’ to Kansas. Everybody figured he was goin’ to Temple. But ya can never tell what a nigger’s gonna do. He just took the money and ran like all the other coons workin’ in the Catskills.”
“Nobody’s in his class. Never seen anybody like him. He just goes over everybody.” ‘Nigger’ and ‘coon’ felt like sandpaper rubbing an open wound. Jim turned to the empty street wishing his father hadn’t come to the game.

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