Johnny Tom, Chapter 1: Here
Johnny Tom, Chapter 2: Here
Johnny Tom, Chapter 3
“It’s a good thing I don’t bet, or I’d be out 50 bucks.” Speed changed directions, and walked away from Charlie and his boys. He made his way over to Johnny as Karl obediently passed the ball again to his friend.
“I’m Speed Banks,” he said and a hand, a huge hand came forward towards Johnny. In awe, Johnny shook his hand noticing just how big this superstar was.
“You’re Johnny, right? Ricky’s told me you were good.”
No way! If Johnny was overwhelmed at the thought of even seeing his idol in person, the fact that this ball player actually knew Johnny’s name was enough to send him into orbit.
“You’ve heard of me?” was all Johnny could say.
“Well, Ricky said you had skills, and for once, my cousin may be right. Let’s see what you got. What do you say you go one-on-one with your friend there?”
A panic hit both Johnny and Karl at the same time for the same reason. They were both afraid of embarrassing the other. It was Johnny who tried to prevent that from happening.
“No, how ‘bout I play against Ricky, he’s….”
“Come on,” said Speed. “No, you’re already playing with him.” He pointed to Karl. I mean anyone can learn to shoot, it’s defense that wins games. You...” Speed pointed to Karl. “What’s your name?” Speed spoke like a person who demanded respect.
“Karl,” he said, the lack of power in his voice made the sounds barely audible to the group.
“Yo, Karl. Come up here and try to prevent Mr. Swoosh from scoring.”
With almost painful trepidation Karl walked over to his friend. He did not want to be in this position. Should he just stand there and let Johnny drive past him? That wouldn’t make Johnny look good. If Speed wanted to see what Johnny could do, he needed some competition on the court, even if he was no match for his friend. Karl made up his mind that he was going to try his best to keep Johnny away from the basket...what ever it took.
Johnny watched Karl walk toward him. He casually bounced the ball while he waited. By now everyone from the other court had gathered around the two in anticipation of a showdown. Johnny wondered what Karl would do. He knew Karl wasn’t any good on the court. Maybe he’d just move aside and let him make a quick lay-up. He wasn’t sure. He felt bad for his friend because whatever Karl did, these guys were going to see just how bad he was on the court. The though of embarrassing his friend made Johnny feel sick inside.
Finally Karl stopped five feet in front of his friend. Johnny looked at Karl and the two seemed to know what the other was thinking. While dribbling the ball, Johnny looked up at Karl and began shaking his head--his movements so small as if not to attract attention of anyone watching. Karl saw Johnny say ‘no’ and nodded as if to say, ‘bring it on--I won’t embarrass you.’
Johnny could feel every eye boring into his back like hot irons in a blacksmith’s fire. He had to act. Once again Karl nodded. He was ready.
In a move Johnny had practiced thousands of times, Johnny immediately took a quick step directly at Karl closing the distance between the two. The speed at which Johnny moved surprised everyone, including Karl who had seen the move so many times and knew exactly what Johnny was going to do next. Even with this foreknowledge, Karl instinctively stepped back. Johnny stopped hard on his right foot, at the same time dribbled the ball from his right hand over to his left. As the ball made the transition, Johnny pivoted turning his back to Karl and jumping to the left, his left hand directed the basketball to bounce away from Karl as his body rotated to the right. With his back to Karl, Johnny charged to the right in order to blow by Karl on his way to the hoop.
So, he’s going to go right, Karl thought. I know how to stop him. In a speed faster than Johnny anticipated, Karl darted to his left, knowing exactly what Johnny was going to do having seen him execute that move thousands of times before. The consequence of his familiarity with this move proved costly for Karl. As Johnny swung around expecting Karl to be a step or two behind he smashed into Karl’s body, the two boy’s heads collided and Johnny’s weight advantage and momentum powered over the smaller boy. Karl wilted under the force of the blow, folding to the court, his head aching from the contact. Johnny rolled several times; eventually coming to rest yards away. The ball flew forward and Karl’s glasses bounced across the hard surface of the basketball court.
Johnny first felt embarrassment, but soon this feeling turned to rage as most of the spectators were laughing at the sight of the two boys. Johnny took one look at Karl holding his head with his two hands and his anger disappeared. He was worried about his friend.