Friday, June 17, 2011

Johnny Tom, Chapter 1

I saw this story I wrote years ago and blew off the digital dust to include it here. It will probably take a few blog posts to complete the little story. I hope it's worth your time.
Johnny Tom, Chapter 1
The piercing noise of the alarm clock shattered the dry cool summer air in Johnny Tom’s darkened bedroom. The 10-year old quickly sprang from his bed as if shot from a gun. He dressed as quickly and quietly as possible so as to not wake his little brother or anyone else in the house. Johnny grabbed his prized basketball, and silently left the room. It was going to be a great day. Most kids on summer vacation would never wake up at 5:30 a.m. to go shoot hoops. But Johnny was not your average kid, and this was not your average day. Today Johnny had the chance to meet his hero, Billy “Speed” Banks, the best prep basketball player Johnny had ever seen.
It took only a few minutes for Johnny to get ready (sleeping in his basketball clothes helped). He crept downstairs, went outside, and closed the front door behind him. No one inside heard or saw the child slink into the crisp dry desert air of Mesa, Arizona.
On this particular morning, Johnny found the prospect of what could happen later that day very exciting. In fact, Johnny had been looking forward to this specific day for several weeks, ever since he heard that Speed Banks, his neighbor’s cousin, would be coming to stay with his family for a few days.
Every kid who followed Arizona high school basketball knew about Speed Banks. Most adults sport addicts in the area followed the spectacular career of the prep star as well, and thanks to extensive coverage from local and national sports media, Speed was quickly becoming a household name among sports enthusiasts across the country. According to Speed’s cousin, Ricky, letters from every major college program in the country arrived at the Banks’ household daily. The family unofficially ‘hired’ a ‘consultant’ to make sure their son’s interests were considered, and this young superstar would--in a matter of a few short hours--be playing ball on the same court where Johnny and his friends played every day.
Johnny made his way across the street and noticed the shape of an old 10-speed bicycle and the growing white morning sky in the east outlined a child sitting cross-legged at the far end of the basketball court. Johnny's best friend Karl beat him to the court.
Karl Simpson lived at the other end of the planned community known as Shade Glen, a development barely four years old and located southwest of downtown Mesa. Newer homes dotted the labyrinth of roads where Johnny and Karl’s homes rested. Saplings of oak trees, still braced with wooden supports, gave precious little shade to Shade Glen.
“Hey,” Johnny said to the form sitting on the court. He knew Karl had clicked off the music on his IPod just as Johnny’s foot touched the rectangle where the kids played ball. Karl loved music as much as Johnny loved hoops, and it was only fitting each boy excelled at what they loved most. Karl was an excellent musician, but took time from his music to shoot baskets with Johnny. It was obvious Karl lacked the physical ability to keep up with his talented friend. Sometimes the two would have a game of one-on-one, and at those times Johnny would intentionally go easy on his friend. On those occasions Karl knew Johnny wasn’t really trying, but neither child would say anything about the soft treatment. They were too good of friends for that to ever happen.
The friends were inseparable. Their summer mornings were filled with shooting hoops and if there happened to be a Phoenix Suns game on at night, that night was blocked out on both the young men’s schedules. For these two, there was nothing better than to spend an evening sitting in Johnny’s basement, sprawled out in front of the biggest television Karl had ever seen as the Sun’s reduced another team to middle-of-the-league mediocrity. Of course (although neither boy would admit it) the really close games proved even more enjoyable just as long as Steve Nash hit a game-winning three-pointer from the top of the arch. At which time the boys (and anyone else who happened to be in the basement at the time) would jump as high as they could and scream long and loud as they watched the giant men clad in purple and gold walk off the court victorious--it was how life was meant to be.
But today...things were going to be different today. Ricky Banks said his cousin would be visiting from Tucson for three days. Both Ricky and Johnny talked at length of having Speed come by and shoot some hoops on this very morning. Johnny even had trouble thinking about the inevitable meeting, telling anyone that this event would be bigger than Christmas, because Christmas comes around every year. Speed Banks’ appearance was a once-in-a-lifetime event. No doubt the teenage phenom would never set foot in this tiny park in the middle of Shade Glen again. If some predictions held true, Speed was destined for greatness by way of Duke University, then early entry to the NBA lottery. After that, the only time Johnny would ever get to see his idol again would be either on TV when Speed’s team would play the Suns. Yes, this was going to be a very special day, indeed.

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