Ginobili vs. Dracula, Chapter 20

In which Tony pounds a rock, RJ disappears, and the game continues even if you leave early.

The hammer felt heavy in Tony Parker's hand, the sound of it striking the chisel became louder, unbearable.

The hammer inflated into an orange globe. Tony could just make out that he was at center court -- so dark. Tony closed his eyes, remembering light gave him something to see. Tony's arms cramped, but he would not pick up his dribble.

Tony did not so much run as push the court free with his legs. Tony felt still, the court moved below him as if sheet of ice on water. Ajar, the court gained speed. Changes of direction were tough carrying the momentum of the whole building. He would go straight for the hoop.

Tony felt a plodding pretense behind him, Derek Fisher? Swipes of air scabbed the dark film surrounding him: Luke Walton, Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom? He broke the defense: at least three Lakers followed him to the basket. The corner would be open. Was RJ there, ready?

Tony threw the ball to the spot where tired muscles remembered Bruce Bowen spotting up so many times. Lightening flashed from a five-sided jumbotron illuminating faces smeared with blood. The strobe's decay revealed a ball gliding across the baseline out-of-bounds. Then black again. Tony felt a wet, hot breath on his neck.

Tony climbed the air above the bed, desperately trying to swim to recover the white bichon frise he had hurled to the corner before it ....


The dog hit the wall tail-first and growled.

"Tony!" Eva his wife shrieked from the suite. She threw down the script she was reading -- Gigli 2 -- and jumped to soothe her pet. "You scared Terry!"

"Je regrette, ma chérie ... another nightmare ... "

"Oh, Tony, oh sweetie ... " Eva rushed to cradle Tony Parker's head, rub his shoulders. Tony forgot the dream, but a chill tightened the muscles of his back. He breathed deep.

Doggie Terry nestled Tony's leg. The offense more forgotten than forgiven, she offered him slobbery comfort. Tony laughed.

"Let's go shopping!" Eva pinched Tony's side and purred, "I want to look cute for the Lakers game tonight ..."

* * * * *

Near the end of the second quarter Richard Jefferson noticed a tall figure saunter the seat where Jack Nicholson always used to sit. Running back and forth, Jefferson snuck glances at the details: black English tailored slacks, black italian shirt open at the collar. On his feet were the nicest shoes RJ had ever seen: clean quarter-tops, white as a Nagel girl.

A wane Laker dancer nestled in his lap. Sitting on the bench after a timeout RJ watched the man slowly peel back the purple "spirit band-aid" the Laker girl wore on her neck.

Richard "RJ" Jefferson felt water logged. His neck itched like a mother. That man kept staring at Manu. He looked like a metal rod, but also sort of like Manu. RJ's legs lost another modicum of support each time he crossed the man's line of sight. RJ wanted to scratch his neck so bad!

What was RJ doing again? Running back and forth and all those people watching him? Someone kept screaming at him. His mouth felt so dry ...

Spurs 89 Lakers 101.

Black grout on white tile spun a gray cocoon about RJ's head. Still, finally, RJ recognized the visitor's locker at Staples. The last shower nozel choked back with a squeak. RJ drooled, blank. A towel bounced off his head. RJ did not hear DeJuan Blair's chuckle nor did he notice George Hill behind him, ruffling through Roger Mason Jr's bag, looking for something ...

Bzzzzzz.... Bonk! A buzzing iphone at bounced off RJ's head. He finally stirred. Hill and Blair giggled and left RJ alone with the gadget -- a text from Luke Walton:

Mt @ CCF ?

Luke's an old friend from Arizona. It would be a relief to see him and RJ needed a drink -- a Strawberry Creamsicle, this time? Then the Cheesecake Factory's Steak Diane, extra rare. Mmmmm.... RJ drooled a bit more.

* * * * *

Dreams continue on after we wake, just as games continue after we leave the stands. Tony Parker left his dream just in time.

Had Tony stayed on the court he would have felt something pierce his neck. The whole black scene would punch to focus, bathing in a red glow. His teammates would look like frosted glass filled with twined filaments -- veins and arteries glowing red and blue. Tony's eyes would fix on the sidelines, and one last last tear would abandon duct.

But, before Tony could pull his jersey up over his face, an accident of mercy would allow him one last flash of joy: Manu Ginobili! He catches the ball before it could go out of play. His arms pump a desperate shot, his body hovering three feet above the floor, parallel to the ground.

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