Ginobili vs. Dracula, Chapter 23

In which Muerto walks la playa, and a player consulates the cards.

Spurs were down seven in Detroit with little over two minutes to play. Dracula smiled and leaned closer to the flatscreen ...


Ginobili's fourth quarter heroics -- the assist, the 25-foot jump shot, the free throws, the 26-foot jump shot, the driving layup -- amounted to nothing. Ginobili tied the game only to lose an overtime, Pistons 109, Spurs 101.

Dracula licked the last from the neck of the pliant Laker Girl and clicked the remote. At the door the Dark Lord waived off the driver. He would walk his estate as he had for so many centuries. The Pacific stilled when its Prince passed, a frigid imitation of the dead Sargasso. Sand crunched into the dust of bones under a heavy shadow.

The Laker Girl stretched from the floor and crawled toward the tv. She caressed a persistent glow on the darkened screen, tracing Ginobili's path of play.

* * * * *

“I just wanted to win. We’re not making shots. We’re not getting stops. We’re very inconsistent. I just wanted to win.” Ginobili's words echoed in the visitor's locker room.

Popovich straddled the bench and poured the remainder of the wine into the paper gatorade cup. He looked like he was listening.

"We’ve got to take care of business when we have the opportunity.” Ginobili spat words in English, Italian, Spanish, and Latin. Angry gibberish rang with jarring notes, amplified by the concrete reverb.

Popovich finally spoke, calm, “I think we’re all frustrated because we feel we made really good moves with good people, and so far it hasn’t all come together. They did a great job of bringing their athleticism, their pressure and their aggressiveness, and we folded to that.”

Rote words, Pop had just said them to an Express News reporter at the post game interview.

“We melted down,” Ginobili's eyes drilled his coach.

Pop acknowledged nothing. He dealt card after card sipping the Malbec, the only wine the once curious afficinado seemed to drink anymore.

 “We folded..." Manu continued, if just to keep the hum of conversation going. Popovich passed into some sort of trance. He flipped over a card. Ten of Swords: a man stabbed in the back.

Ginobili gaped.

Pop turned over another card. Eight of Cups: an old man walking into a moonlit forest.

Faster, in a military rhythm... Five of Cups: a shrouded man. Three of Cups: three women -- brides -- raising goblets of red? Two of Swords: blind justice holding two swords on a still beach. 

10-8-5-3-2 ... a downward pattern?

Pop held a card and began to shake, as if he were fighting not to turn it over... Death.

"We ... disappeared...” Manu trailed off...

Pop stared straight ahead, pupils wide as if grappling for light in a dim room.

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