The Pick Up Game excerpt

“Hey!” A voice pulled me out of my concentration, tearing me away from the basket and the free throw I was lining up. Wiping sweat from my forehead, I shaded my eyes against the afternoon sun. Jerry Gresham stood on the grass, holding a ball on his hip. The low sun cast an aura around him, pouring golden light over his bronze body.

My lungs stopped working.

“You wanna play?” His voice, rough and deep, rumbled across me. He released the ball and began to dribble as it rebounded.

I forced my lungs to work, dragging air into them. “I . . . I’m not very good.”

“Bullshit! I’ve been watching you.”

“You . . . you have?” All my saliva went away; it was hard to swallow.

“For a while.” The fraternity boy dribbled closer, circling me. “I’m Jerry.”

I turned, following his movements. His emerald green eyes drew me in as he bounced the ball from hand to hand. I was in a trance—everything seemed hyper-real, yet distant from me. I felt like a spectator in my own body.

“I . . . I’m Noah.”

“Yeah, I know.” He passed the ball behind his back. “Come on! We’ll even use your ball; it’s better than mine anyway.” He tossed his ball over his shoulder; it rolled away into the lengthening shadows. “Let’s play!”

Jerry made a grab for the ball, but my brain and body reconnected in time for me to turn and dribble down court. Jerry shadowed me—he guarded well. We danced around the court, feinting and dodging, until I caught him with his weight wrong and drove around him to the basket. Two points! The game was on!

Jerry recovered the ball and headed down court. I guarded him, gauging his movement with the ball and looking for any offensive weakness. Skillful, he handled the ball comfortably with either hand. I watched his eyes, reading what they could tell me. Honestly, I just wanted to fall into their green depths.

Jerry glanced to the right, breaking my concentration just enough to move around me and head for the board. Damn! He was good! I ran after him, trying to get ahead in order to block him. Jerry drove in for a lay-up and smoothly delivered the ball through the hoop. The score was tied.

I snagged the ball and dribbled to half-court. Jerry stayed with me, keeping tight to my position. This time his weight was better distributed and I was hard pressed to catch him off balance. Unable to get past him, I went for a jump shot. The ball arced gracefully toward the basket only to bounce off the rim and careen back towards us. Jerry intercepted the rebound and dodged past me.

I caught up and kept with him, not letting myself get distracted. We wove around each other, moving more as a unit than as competing parts. Jerry would quickly change directions, never losing control of the ball, but I shadowed him, managing to stay tight as he shifted and dodged. Jerry went for the jumper. Unable to block his shot, I watched as the ball sailed cleanly through the hoop. Jerry four, Noah two.

Jerry signed a T with his hands. “Time out,” he panted. Letting the ball roll, he paused, bent over with his hands on his knees. As he straightened up, he grasped his tee-shirt and pulled it off over his head.

I stared.

Hard and tan, Jerry’s torso glowed in the afternoon light. His chest was wide, flat planes of muscle dotted with dark nipples. A dusting of fine golden hair covered his chest and drifted across his six-pack abs. The light fur narrowed to a thin line that trailed over his navel and down into his board shorts, which hung from his narrow hips. I wanted to follow that trail with my tongue.

Seemingly unaware of my lustful scrutiny, Jerry mopped sweat from his face and neck with the balled-up cloth. Tossing the tee-shirt aside, Jerry loped after the ball.

“Damn! You are good!” He passed me the ball and grinned. Framed by two dimples, his perfect teeth flashed white. “How come you’re not on the team?”

Dribbling, I slowly circled him and shrugged. “I’ve never tried out.”

“You should.” He shuffled sideways, staying between me and the basket. “You’d see some game time.”

“Not really my scene.” I feinted left. “I like one-on-one better.” I darted right and made for the goal, Jerry hot on my heels.

The fraternity boy bore down on me as I neared the basket. I went for the lay-up. Jerry stretched to block the shot. My feet left the ground. His momentum carried him into me, knocking me sideways. Arms tangled, we fell, tumbling, to the ground and rolled to a stop, chest to chest, behind the basket. Jerry’s weight pressed me into the grass.

— © 2012 C.C. Williams

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