Johnny Tom, Chapter 1: Here
Johnny Tom, Chapter 2: Here
Johnny Tom, Chapter 3: Here
Johnny Tom, The Final Chapter
The teenagers continued laughing as they walked back to their court. Johnny began moving. He wanted to pick up Karl’s eyeglasses before he made his way to where Karl lay. As he started to get up, he saw Speed walking toward him.
“Man,” Speed said. “If it weren’t for him, that would have been a nice move.” Speed looked down at Karl as he walked right by him to reach Johnny. “Here, brother,” Speed said as he offered Johnny his hand to help him up.
Johnny took his hand and accepted the help. This time Speed’s hand didn’t seem so big. “Come on,” Speed said. “Why don’t you come over and we’ll get a game going with those guys..." Speed pointed to the group already on the other court. Johnny stopped, looked at the teenagers and then walked over to where the glasses came to rest on the warming blacktop court. Johnny picked up the glasses and looked at Karl. The moment seemed to last a while as he saw his friend, still sitting on the court gently rubbing his head with the palm of his hand, a small tear rolled silently down his cheek. “No thanks,” Johnny said as he walked past Speed to check on his friend. “I need to check on Karl; I think he’s hurt.”
Johnny knelt and handed the glasses to Karl. “You okay?”
“Yeah, just bonked my head. You okay?” Karl took the glasses and put them on.
“Oh, yeah. I’m fine--scraped my elbow a bit.” He lifted his right arm to show where the skin around his elbow was missing. It was red, but the blood was already clotting.
“Nice,” Karl said as he was helped up in a similar fashion to Speed’s gesture. “I would have thought you’d be screaming home to your mommy right about now.” A familiar spark returned to Karl's eyes as he spoke. His comment told Johnny no permanent damage had occurred. Karl was always razzing his friend.
The two boys started walking to where the ball came to rest below the basketball standard, each giving their own version of the great crash between the two. They were oblivious to the fact that Speed stood at the place Johnny had fallen. He obviously wanted something.
“Hey, kid,” Speed’s tone was less than friendly. “I asked you if you wanted to play with me, instead of hanging around this loser.”
The two boys stopped and turned to look at Speed, shocked at what Speed just said. Johnny was still concerned about Karl’s head. He chose to ignore the future multi-millionaire and continued walking with Karl to a bench at courtside.
“Man," Speed said. "Ricky said you were cool." Speed began walking toward the group of teenagers who watched the scene play out. “You’re nothing, man. You'll be seeing me at the Staples Center,” Speed said as he entered a circle of admiration on the other court. Once Speed arrived, a pick up game quickly began. Soon the premiere athlete took the opportunity to show off to his adoring fans. Speed's spectacular dunks and jams thrilled everyone, everyone, that is, except two friends sitting quietly on a bench.
“You sure you’re okay?” Johnny asked for the fourth time.
“I’m fine,” came the reply, Karl still rubbing his head. “You should have gone to play with him. I don’t care if he thinks I’m a loser--most people do.”
“Nah, he’s the loser,” Johnny said with a smile. “I mean, he’s a Laker’s fan. Come on, let’s go to my house and get patched up.”
As the two wounded players hobbled from the bench to Johnny’s house, the morning sun reached higher in the summer sky, warming the air. Johnny and Karl laughed as they walked, completely ignoring the crowd of boys still enthralled with the athletic ability of Billy “Speed” Banks. It had already been a really good day.