Their Last Game, Chapter Three

friendship photo

Friendship Playground where the fight takes place.

Before his parents and Anna went to his Uncle Finn’s for the Fourth of July, Bobby sneaked out of the house. He picked up his basketball and went out the garage and hopped on his bike and rode to Friendship.

This was Bobby’s first time back there since he punched Harrison. Bobby entered the basketball courts and shot jumpers. His thin lowcut black Chuck’s weren’t much protection against the blacktop’s heat, and the sun stung his eyes, and sweat flicked off his forehead.

After maybe ten minutes, Bobby saw Harrison Bentley, his friend Rick Jenkins and two other, bigger kids advancing toward the courts. Bobby didn’t take Harrison seriously, but respected Rick. He was small and wiry, but didn’t run from a fight. But Bobby wasn’t sure about the big kids.

He bent to shoot again, and felt a hand slap the ball out of his hands and push his back, and Bobby turned and saw Rick Jenkins. Grabbing Rick’s arm, Bobby spun him around, and said, “What’s your problem?” Bobby applied more pressure and said, “Had enough?”

“Yeah,” Rick said, and Bobby let him go. Bobby bent to retrieve the ball, and one big guy slugged him in the jaw and the other big guy came from behind and knocked Bobby to his knees and pinned him to the blacktop with his right knee. Bobby endured Rick stomping and stomping and stomping on his chest.

Everyone except Harrison kicked him in the ribs from both sides, and Bobby prayed they would let up. But he endured one final indignity. Harrison spat in his face and in his little girl’s voice said, “Had enough?”

They started away, and Bobby heard them laugh and say, “That was great.” He lay there oblivious to the scorching blacktop. The greasy sweat stung his eyes, and his face throbbed and his head buzzed.

Bobby winced and stood, and blood dripped off the back of his head and hit the blacktop creating a smudge resembling a child’s crayon shading. Bobby felt the the back of his head. It was warm and sticky, but he couldn’t tell how just how bad it was.

Bobby took off his sweaty shirt and tied it twice around his head. He got on his bike and rested the ball on his lap and pressed the ball against the bike’s frame. Queasy, Bobby rode slowly home.

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Their Last Game, Chapter One

Editor’s Note: In the tradition of the old serials, I’m releasing the first chapter of my short story, “Their Last Game.” Look for more chapters in subsequent days.

TLG Blog 1

Where our story begins.

The first day of summer in 1971, Bobby Gallagher rode his bike to the corner of 46th and Van Ness Streets and met his best friends Mario and Vince Donatello, and the boys rode down Van Ness the short block into Friendship playground.

Bobby lived in Spring Valley with his parents Mike and Liz, older brother JP and sister Anna, but the brothers lived in Tenleytown above their family bakery.

Bobby’s parents said the Donatello’s bread was the best in town, but his mom’s warning not to hang around the brothers from the wrong side of the tracks was lost on him.

Bobby and Mario were 11 and going into the sixth grade at Annunciation Catholic School, but Vince was going into the eighth, but should have been going into ninth.

Bobby was tall and thick- chested while Mario, of average height, was muscular and quick. And already shaving a face dotted with acne, Vince lumbered after the others when they got off their bikes at the basketball courts.

Bobby went to the clubhouse and came out with a basketball, and they entered the courts, passing a three-on-three game between Jesuit and DeLasalle High School boys. Bobby observed Chuck Alfoghinis playing with the DeLasalle boys and knew not to mess with him.

A glistening, snorting bull of a man-child, who came from a large, tough family, a menacing brown crew cut revealed his skull’s veins. Two brothers had been thrown out of DeLasalle, and their old man allegedly slapped around their mom.

Everyone at Friendship knew Bobby was JP Gallagher’s brother. Something of a local legend, JP seemed destined for a college basketball career before he blew out his knee his senior year at Jesuit. Bobby dribbled to a basket opposite the court where the three-on-three game was played.

Wanting others to see JP in him, he rose to shoot and made three shots in a row. When he missed, he retrieved the ball near the chain link fence surrounding the court and saw Harrison Bentley outside it. A geeky, sissified, rich mama’s boy, he came around periodically and became annoying when the others didn’t let him join them.

Bobby believed some of Harrison’s behavior wasn’t completely his fault; he had two last names and went to St. Dunstan’s where they made kids dress like old men in blue blazers with elbow patches and grey trousers.

Bobby observed Harrison giggling, trying to hide his braces, and he said to Bobby, “My sister can shoot better than you.” Bobby collected the ball and tossed it to Vince, and glanced again at Harrison.

“Who’s that snot?” Mario said to Bobby.

“Some kid from my neighborhood: Harrison Bentley,” Bobby said, clenching his teeth, imitating Thurston Howell III from “Gilligan’s Island.” He observed the Donatellos laugh and glance at Harrison.

“Hey, little Gallagher,” Alfoghinis, from across the playground, said, “It’s your game.” The DeLasalle boys were bigger and stronger, but not quicker than Bobby and Mario. The DeLasalle boys also couldn’t fight through Vince’s picks, and Bobby and Mario had ample time to shoot.

With each basket Bobby and Mario made, the DeLasalle boys grew rougher. Then Alfoghinis knocked Vince into Mario as he shot. Vince called, foul, and the brothers reeled backward, but Bobby stepped in and said to Vince, “Be cool, man. Just one more hoop and this game is ours. They’re not worth it.”

Bobby saw one of the DeLasalle boys pick up the ball and go in for a layup. Annoyance quickly replaced Bobby’s disbelief when he heard Harrison, still safely behind the fence, giggling like a schoolgirl again. Bobby said to the kid who made the layup, “Didn’t you hear him?”

“That big goon,” the kid said, “has been moving on those screens all game.”

“What do you mean? He’s just standing there.”

“Oh, for Christ’s sake, little Gallagher, he can’t extend his arms like that,” Alfoghinis said.

His voice quivering, Bobby said, “You’re just hacked because you’re losing to kids.”

Alfoghinis said, “It’s our ball.”

“Alfoghinis,” Bobby said, “you’re a bully and a cheat and if you’re that desperate, we’re going to go.” He wanted to add his old man was a drunk and wife beater and his brothers thugs.

Leaving the court, Bobby heard Harrison laughing, and he said, “So, the little baby is going home.” Bobby slugged Harrison in his mouth, cutting his hand on Harrison’s braces.

“Are you alright?” Mario, not even looking at Harrison, said to Bobby.

“Yeah, but what about my mom? She’ll want to know how I cut my hand.”

“Just tell her,” Mario said, “you hit it against the fence or something. She’ll believe anything.”

Bobby laughed and smiled at Mario, and the three of them got on their bikes and rode away and left Harrison – his hand on his bloody mouth and whimpering and sniffling – not sure what hit him.

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