In which Mase misses hits, Popovich skips sips, Finley nips and flips, and Tony takes, hobbles and rolls.Roger Mason Jr. -- Mase to his many friends -- searched every cubic inch of his duffle twice. Was the gold gun ever there? Did it exist at all?
Mase unfurled the paper target he kept folded between the pages of travel Bible. Those bullet holes were REAL -- one dead in the center with a ring of twelve surrounding, skimming the margins. Mase could shoot given lots of shots. He fingered the rim of the bulls' eye hole.
Needing something to hold, Mase found his old Smith & Wesson .22 LR. Mase thought he would always love his first piece and kept it wrapped in his high school jersey. But the old charm felt too light in his hand.
Mase did not know his role anymore. Was he ever assigned one? Was it something that you just are or you aren't...
* * * * *
Gregg Popovich shuffled the tarot and dealt another eight card spread. Another starting combination but again chemical facts trumped his alchemical suppositions. Swap the cards, a trade? Something ...
"Winning helps," Pop deadpanned, deflating the air.
Could three still become four? The coach rummaged for his playbook -- the mythical Silver Book -- and one of the Swiss pencils he carried with him everywhere. He dimmed all the lights but the desk lamp built into the hotel dresser and reclined on the overstuffed chair -- only San Pelegrino tonight.
Outside his hotel room a case of wine staked Pop out with "Condolences, Phil" signed on Los Angeles Lakers stationary.
* * * * *
Michael Finley pushed back an empty dish and sipped his black coffee. The Original Cheesecake is still the best thing on the menu. He loved the Cheesecake Factory after last call -- so peaceful.
Findog leaned in a back booth with Jung's Man and His Symbols. Page 227:
Nowadays more and more people suffer from a terrible emptiness and boredom, as if they are waiting for something that never arrives. Movies, television, spectator sports and political excitements divert them for a while, but again and again, exhausted and disenchanted they have to return to the wasteland of their own lives.
Fin looked up from the book to see Richard Jefferson and Luke Walton seated at the bar, the only other two left in the restaurant. They both looked dazed and blank, drooling as they mechanically sucked ketchup off a generous plates of french fries. Finley jumped from his seat, grabbed an errant popcorn shrimp to chuck, target: RJ. The shrimp shot bounced dead off RJ's forehead banking perfectly into the ketchup. RJ did not notice. Mechanically the small forward picked the prawn out of the dip. After sucking every drop of red from the shrimp, he dropped it into a pile of slobbery, uneaten fries.
The Findog flipped his shooting hand in the air. Silences -- like sounds -- have qualities. This one reminded him of a pickup game on a court across town in Bellwood -- 1987? He eased back to the booth and his book.
"How far back can one lean?" Finley thought shuffling the pages of his book as if preparing a card trick. Eyes closed he stuck a finger on an underlined passage:
One sometimes feels that the unconscious is leading the way in accordance to a secret design. It is as if something were looking at me, something that I do not see but that sees me --
Finley nodded absently, hearing his grandmother mmm-mmm an assent as if she were reading over his shoulder.
* * * * *
Each time Tony Parker walked past Pop's suite to the hotel elevator he noticed the untouched crate a little bit more, as if the wine insinuated itself into Tony's consciousness.
Four a.m., and the the Denver game was not until tomorrow night. Tony cupped an ear to Pop's door. Hearing snores, he gingerly opened the crate with box cutter he always kept in his pocket -- a souvenir from rugged playing days with Paris Basket Racing. He pulled out a single bottle and examined the label, as his grandfather would.
Pop could spare one ...
"Tony, catch me!" Eva grabbed the bottle from Tony's hands. She sprinted down the hall leaving giggles and good smells in her wake.
"Oui, Jolis Pieds!" -- his pet name for her.
Tony followed hopping on his good foot. He caught her as she swiped the hotel key. They rolled in together imitating the bottle of wine.