Let’s Keep This Brief is a selection of short stories from one of my NaNoWriMo projects. Here is a peek at one of the stories.
Ben faked left, spun and shot the ball. “And it’s Howell with another three pointer!” Ben narrated his actions in his best sportscaster voice to the otherwise empty community basketball court, then made cheering sounds. His imaginary audience couldn’t get enough.
He jogged under the basket and retrieved the ball, faked a throw-in to an invisible teammate and kept the game going. It wouldn’t be long before the other guys showed up. His house was in just the right spot—he could ride his bike to school and the neighborhood sports park. But Ricky, Aiden and Lucas lived farther out and they had to take the school bus. It put them about thirty minutes behind Ben. They hated it, but during the first week of the school year their parents insisted they ride to claim their seats. Just in case weather or a busted bike chain forced alternate transportation to school.
Once dropped off, Ricky and Aiden would dump their backpacks at home and ride out to the courts. Aiden said he’d bring snacks. If he brought something good they’d all stay out longer, ignoring texts about dinner and homework. When someone finally got a phone call—phone calls meant serious parents—they’d all bike home, trash talking each other’s balling skills.
Lucas completely screwed up their usual two-on-two. He’d set the middle school record for being sent to the principal’s office four times in a three day week. Apparently teachers were not cool with obscene stick figures drawings, lizard infestations in class, or repeated sales of dirty camera phone pics. Ben thought that last one was brilliant.
Regardless, Lucas had to spend the afternoon working off his crimes. That meant Ben, Ricky and Aiden had to rotate playing two-on-one, or just shoot baskets. If Aiden and Ricky ever showed up.
Dribble, dribble, shoot, swoosh! Nothing but net. Ben strutted to retrieve the ball.
Dribble, dribble, run across the court, hop, shoot, bang against the backboard.
Dribble down the court, turn, run and jump to dunk and… the world left his feet. Not in the same way as when he jumped, or soared on a swing. This was different. It was almost as though gravity had let go of him.
Shock and surprise quickly became wonder at his flight until bam! His shoulder crashed into the hoop and he fell, landing on the court in a mess of knees and elbows.
Rubbing his sore joints, Ben stood and looked for the ball. That had been weird. Fun, but weird. He shook his head and collected the ball. No need to get all worked up over some good air. Determined to make his slam dunk, he ran back down the court.
Dribble down the center, big leap, and… airborne. Again.
Ben knew he could jump high, but this was no mistake. Momentum wasn’t pushing him anymore. He was weightless, flexible as a feather. He dropped the ball and the wind pushed his legs up as though he floated in the current of air.
Ben marveled as the court drifted farther away. The basketball hoop had sunk below his fingertips when gravity grabbed him again.
The sudden landing knocked the wind from him. After a moment Ben pushed himself up and looked around, hoping no one had seen his fall. It hurt, a lot, but the embarrassment of having an audience would sting more. Rubbing his side and checking for scrapes, he walked to the edge of the basketball court, shielded his eyes from the sun and checked the nearby soccer field. It was empty, so he jogged over and bounced into the net of one of the goals, letting the nylon catch and hug him. He took a deep breath, ran a few paces and made the biggest leap he could.
Ben allowed himself one second to savor it. He straightened his legs behind him and was swept higher. He spread out his fingers and let the air filter through them. This was real. He pointed himself toward the center of the opposite goal and flew a few feet in that direction, then veered right in a wide arc. He looked toward the horizon, thrilled that he continued to gain altitude. He refocused on the goal and promptly fell out of the sky.
He rolled onto his back and rubbed his chest. At least it had hurt less than falling on the concrete court. He took in the bright blue sky and grinned. He could fly. The guys would be so freaking jealous.
He could have gone back to the basketball court to wait for Ricky and Aiden, but decided to take off instead. It didn’t matter that he couldn’t control how long he flew, or what direction he went in. Becoming part of the wind gave Ben a sense of possibility he’d never experienced before. He stood, ran halfway down the soccer field and took a great leap, excited to see where his flight would take him.
Thank you for reading!