Desperate Measures: The Ballerbysoflabbwlvr©
Author's note: Desperate Measures is an anthology consisting of stories related by theme, rather than by character, chronology, or storyline. Accordingly, they can be read in any order, as each installment is a stand-alone entry.
* * *
The ball left the shooter's hand at the top of his jump. Spinning backward, it sailed nineteen feet through the air in a perfect arc. The smaller, exhausted defender turned and watched the sphere glide toward the old iron hoop mounted on a heavy-duty steel backboard.
"I own this court!" Russell Johnson bellowed into the sky before the ball had even reached the top of its arc.
Shoof! The ball zipped through the center of the rim, its angled descent barely impeded by the chain netting.
"This is my park, my court, my house! Any of you muthafuckas want to play, you gotta come through me. And Lil' Dick, that'll be twenty-five dollars, cash only."
"Fuck you, asshole," Jamal replied as he reached for his wallet. "Here's your god damned money. I'd stay and win it back, but I have to get my ass to work."
"You do that, Lil' Dick. You go make some more money and then you come back here tomorrow and I'll take it all from you all over again."
"Tell me that when you get home from work tonight and I'm fucking your moms with the condoms I bought using this twenty-five dollars. How many magnums can I buy with twenty-five dollars? Oh, that's right--you wouldn't know, 'cause you're Lil' Dick."
The crowd standing around the court whooped and hollered as Jamal hurried through the gate. He turned one last time to see Russell high-fiving everyone in the vicinity; his rock hard, shirtless body glistening with sweat as he slapped the outstretched hands. It was eighty-five degrees outside--probably ninety-five on the blacktop basketball court--and Jamal didn't have time to go home and shower before work. I am so sick of that motherfucker. I've got to find a way to get even.
Jamal turned the corner, crossed the street, and walked toward his rusty old car. Just as he was inserting the key in the door handle, a late model Mercedes AMG sedan pulled up next to him. An opaque window lowered, revealing a well-dressed white man with black hair, blue eyes, brilliant white teeth, and a golden tan.
"Excuse me," the man called to Jamal in a heavy Spanish accent. "I am lost, I think. Can you help me?"
Jamal walked over to the car and peered through the window at the immaculate white leather interior. There was a gym bag, a towel, and two leather basketballs in the backseat. There wasn't a hint of dirt on the carpeting, and the tinted windows were spotless. Every surface of the vehicle--inside and out--sparkled in the afternoon sun.
"Where are you going?" Jamal asked.
"I am looking for the entrance ramp to the interstate one thousand four hundred ninety-five."
"I-495? Which ramp? You are miles from the interstate. Where are you coming from?"
"I was at the radio station channel mil dos ciento ochenta for interview."
"Excuse me? In English, please?"
"I apologize. Radio station one thousand two hundred eighty."
"Twelve eighty? The Spanish station? That's about ten miles from here. You're lost, my friend."
"I am already certain that you are correct. Now can you help me to get to the interstate one thousand four hundred ninety-five?"
"Yeah, sure, give me a second. OK, you need to take Tenth Avenue to West Thirty-fourth Street, turn right and go about two miles, and then when you get just past Third Avenue start looking for the entrance ramp on the left. I think. You should see signs when you get close."
"Thank you my dark-skinned American friend...."
"Yes, I am sure. Anyway, have a good day to you."
"Wait. Why don't you just punch the destination into the car's GPS? This car has to have GPS."
"Indeed it does. I already tried that. But I could not understand the directions, so I tried to switch to Spanish. I am from Spain, you see. So I tried to switch the voice to Spanish, but it spoke to me in very unfriendly German. My mistake. I cannot understand to speak or listen in German. That is why I am now lost in your ghetto street."
"I see. Well, first of all, be careful who you're talking to when you describe this neighborhood as a ghetto. Not everyone is going to be as understanding of your language barrier as I am. Second, just follow those directions I gave you and good luck. And be careful. This neighborhood isn't particularly friendly to white foreigners such as yourself."
"I am thanking you for your care. You are most helpful. Can I buy you cup of coffee?"
"Coffee? Who drinks coffee at this time of day? Make it a beer, and I'm in."
"Very good. Let us go enjoy a beer, my new blackened American friend."
* * *
Fifteen minutes later, Jamal was seated next to the Spaniard at an ancient wooden bar. He checked his watch while he waited for the bartender to pour his beer. Ten minutes. All I can spare is ten minutes.
"What is your hurry?" the Spaniard asked Jamal. "We have all afternoon. I missed my luncheon appointment, and my next meeting is not until 6:00."
"I don't have all day. I have to get to work, amigo."
The bartender set two mugs of beer in front of Jamal and the Spaniard. The Spaniard opened his wallet and placed a $100 bill on top of the bar. Jamal's eyes widened.
"To my new African friend!" the Spaniard said as he lifted his mug in the air. "Salud!"
"Shhhh! Keep your voice down. My name is Jamal Walker, by the way. And thank you for the beer."
"You are very welcome, Jamal Walker. You can call me Sergio--Sergio de la Cruz."
"Nice to meet you, Sergio."
"Tell me, Jamal, why must I keep my voice down? We are the only ones in here."
"It's not going to stay that way--especially with you flashing hundred dollar bills around. I'm just trying to keep your ass in one piece. A big white foreigner driving a brand new AMG and throwing hundred dollar bills away like sheets of toilet paper is just asking for trouble."
"You are a wise man, Jamal. I have been to this country many times, but this is the first time I have ever been lost in one of your ghettos. I am thank you for your concern."
"Don't mention it. I'm sure you would do the same for me if our situations were reversed."
"What is your situation, Jamal?"
"My situation? I ball in the morning and then work second shift at the dry cleaning factory. I go home after work, drink a few beers, and then go to bed. I get up in the morning and do it all over again."
"Are you on a professional team? Your NBA players are the best in the world."
"No, nothing like that. I play at the park for $25 a game. Lately, I barely make enough money to cover my losses to that fucking asshole Russell."
"Who is this Russell?"
"Russell Montgomery is the mother fucker who thinks he owns the god damned park. He played two years at St. Johns, then declared himself available for the draft. Nobody picked him, but he signed a free agent contract with the Lakers. He got cut right before the season started and came back here. That was four years ago. He's been at the park ever since."
"Is he good?"
"Best baller on this side of town. He makes his living hustling niggas that don't recognize him--and fools like me who do."
"How much have you lost to him?"
"I couldn't tell you. I stopped counting at $5000, and that was over a year ago."
"Are you good player?"
"I was All-State my senior year of high school. I started four years at CCNY. I can ball."
"But you can't beat Russell?"
"I can beat him once in a while, but he wins about nine out of every ten from me. That's why I'm down over five grand."
"What does this Russell look like?"
"Just go to the park and ask for a game. He'll find you."
"I have the afternoon free. Maybe I will go and play Mr. Russell."
"Leave your money in your car, and park out of sight. If he sees you're loaded, he'll take every cent you're carrying."
"Thank's for the warning, Jamal. I will place it in the front of my brain. Stop by the park after you finish to work, and see how I am doing. Maybe I am winning some of your money back for you."
"That would be great, but don't worry about it. I don't want to see you go into debt for me."
"I think I can handle Mr. Russell."
"In that case, good luck, and I'll try to stop by and see how you're doing."
"Thank you, my friend Jamal."
* * * *
Sergio parked his car two blocks from the park. He reached into the backseat, opened his bag, and removed a pair of shorts, a tank top, a pair of athletic socks, and shoes. The windows of his AMG were tinted so dark that they were nearly opaque; he was not worried about being watched while he changed his clothes. Rather, his concern was that the passenger compartment was rather tight for his six-foot, five-inch frame. Sergio twisted and squirmed in the front seat, banging his head against the glass, his knees against the steering wheel, and his hands against the ceiling. Eventually, he emerged from his car dressed to play. He grabbed his bag and a basketball, locked the vehicle, and dribbled along the sidewalk as he walked the two blocks to the park.
Once inside the fence, Sergio had no problem locating Russell. There were games in progress on several different courts, but the biggest crowd was watching a one-on-one contest between two tall, dark-skinned men in flawless physical shape. At least forty people were crowded around the court as the two players hustled back and forth. The crowd kept score, hooting and hollering every time Russell made a shot. The contest ended a few minutes later, with Russell winning fifteen-three.
"Those three points were a gift," Russell barked at his taller opponent. "I would have shut you out, but I was feeling generous today."
"Bullshit," the other man sneered. "I just wasn't right. Come back tomorrow, and I'll whip your ass good."
"I'll be here. You can find me here every day of the week. This is my mother fuckin' house, motherfucker. Now lay down the $250 you owe me, and come back when you got some game, you lame-ass pussy."
"Fuck you, nigga. Take yo damn money."
The taller man pulled a wad of bills out of his shorts, peeled off $250, and threw the money at Russell.
"I'm not finished with you. I'll be back."
"Please, do. You can be my personal ATM. If I see your ass here tomorrow, I'll have a shirt for you that says 'Russell's ATM.' Now who's got next? Anybody?"
Sergio stood at the back of the crowd and watched. No one had noticed him, despite his height and the fact that he was the lightest person in a park that was otherwise filled with African-Americans and Hispanics.
"I'm gonna go get my drink on if no one else steps up."
Sergio had intended to watch Russell play another game or two before taking the court; but with no other challengers in sight, it appeared that he was in danger of missing his opportunity. I have meetings all day tomorrow, and possibly throughout the rest of the week. This might be my only chance.
"I will play with you!" Sergio called to Russell over the heads of the crowd. "I play next!"
The crowd turned in Sergio's direction and gasped.
"Excuse me," he said as the crowd parted and he stepped toward Russell.
"Who the fuck are you?" Russell bellowed. "Who let this white bread cracker in the park?"
A chorus of jeers arose in opposition to Sergio. Undeterred, he walked to Russell and handed him the ball.
"I am play next. Let's go."
"You got money, mother fucker? You don't play on my court for free."
"Yes! Twenty-five dollars! Right here. Let's go."
"Unh-uh. It's a hundred dollars for you."
"It's a hundred dollars, or you don't play. And I'm keeping this ball just because you're wasting my time."
"A hundred dollars? OK. Let's run."
Russell reached for Sergio's money before he had a chance to put it back in his shorts.
"C'mere, baby," Russell called. "Hold my beer money. I'm gonna be ready to cool off in about ten minutes."
An Hispanic woman wearing cut-off shorts and a too small bikini top stepped forward to take the bills from Russell. She tucked the money between her grapefruit-sized breasts, already slick with sweat in the afternoon sun. Her thick, dark nipples were clearly visible through the thin nylon and polyester triangles straining to contain her jiggling orbs. An inch of round ass cheek protruded from the bottom of her cut-offs. A roll of bills bulged in the back pocket of her skin tight shorts, held in place by the flesh of her well-rounded ass. When she walked, the upper edge of her G-string was visible from the back of her shorts.
"Do it, baby," she said. "Send this foreign fuck back to where ever the hell he came from."
The crowd whooped and hollered as the two men walked toward the three-point line. Not one person in the crowd thought that Sergio stood a chance against Russell. Nonetheless, bets were quickly placed on both players.
"OK, bitch, you know the rules," Russell jeered. "Game's to fifteen, win by two. All shots are one point. Make it--take it. Defensive rebounds come back to the line. Any questions?"
"Just one," Sergio answered. "Is she holding your money, too?"
"You're funny, cracker. Everyone knows I never lose."
"Let me see your money."
"You wanna see my money, bitch? Alright. Yesenia, show this mother fucker my money."
The woman reached into her back pocket and pulled out a wad of bills. She held it in the air, flipped through it, and then stuffed the stack back into her pocket.
"I had to make sure that you are not filled up with shit."
"Let's do this, pussy face."
Russell walked to the three-point line, his dark skin glistening in the bright sunlight. He was six-feet, seven-inches of lean, rippling muscle. Standing shirtless with the ball tucked under one arm, he appeared to have zero percent body fat. His sculpted back formed a perfect 'V'; his long arms and longer legs tensed like tightly coiled steel springs.
"My ball," Russell announced.
Sergio held out the ball. Russell snatched it from his hands, and then as Sergio was settling into a defensive crouch, Russell stepped past him, bounced the ball once, leapt into the air and shot the ball through the hoop. The crowd erupted in cheers.
"One, zip," Russell spat.
Sergio retrieved the ball and walked back to the three-point line. This time, he settled into position before tossing the ball to Russell.
Russell caught the ball, head-faked right, and then cut to his left, dribbling the ball between his legs as he passed Sergio. Sergio crumpled to the ground as he tried to twist in both directions. Russell stopped at the left elbow, jumped into the air, and sank another uncontested jump shot. The crowd roared.
"Break your ankles, bitch?" Russell taunted.
"My ankles are unbroken," Sergio replied as he stood up. "You are very quick, yes?"
"I'm still warming up, cunt. When I shift it into high gear, all you'll be seeing is the bottom of my shoes."
"Hurry up, Russell," Yesenia called. "We've got to go pick up mama, you know."
"Just hold tight. I'll be done here before this mother fucker even takes a shot."
Sergio tossed the ball to Russell, who immediately went up and launched a twenty-three foot jumper. The ball clanged off the rim and bounced in Sergio's direction. Sergio snagged the rebound out of the air, dribbled to the three-point line, turned, and then streaked for the rim. He bounced the ball twice before leaping, the ball held high in the air as he approached the rim. Just as Sergio was about to slam the ball through the hole, Russell appeared out of nowhere and swatted it away.
"Nobody dunks in my house!" Russell bellowed. "No niggas, no crackers, and especially no Euro-trash Spanish-speaking foreigners!"
The crowd roared. Russell grabbed his crotch and leered at Yesenia, who was jumping up and down so much that her breasts threatened to escape the confines of her bikini top. Her nipples jutted through the thin fabric, which was doing all it could to keep them covered.
Sergio retrieved the ball and walked to the three-point line. He tossed the ball to Russell, who slapped it back. Sergio put the ball on the floor, turned, and backed into Russell. He faked right and then left, but continued to back Russell into the paint. Once he was at the foul line, Sergio spun and lofted a fade-away jump shot that caromed off the backboard and fell through the hole.
"Two, one," Sergio grunted.
Sergio made his next three shots before missing. Russell made the next shot, and then the two men exchanged baskets for ten minutes.
"Fourteen, thirteen," Sergio said. "Game point."
Russell launched a jumper from the corner. The ball bounced back and forth between the rim and the backboard, then rolled off the rim. Sergio scooped the rebound, dribbled to the line, and shot a twenty-one footer. The ball sailed through the rim, touching only the chain netting.
Sergio turned and walked toward the crowd. He spotted Yesenia and approached her.
"I will be collecting my money from your bikini," he said as he extended his hand.
"Don't touch me!" Yesenia snapped as she swatted Sergio's hand away. "Here's your damn chump change."
Yesenia reached for the money in her bikini top, pulled some bills out of her pants pocket, and tossed the wad at Sergio.
"Wait!" Russell shouted. "You can't just walk away. You have to give me a chance to win my money back. Don't they teach you Euros any manners before you leave the Fatherland?"
"Of course, of course," Sergio answered. "We play one more time."
Once again sides were drawn and bets were placed between the spectators. Sergio picked the $200 off the ground and stuffed it between Yesenia's breasts.
"I like it when my money sleeps between your breasts," he said. "It makes me play harder."
"You better watch yourself, trick. My man's gonna run you down, beat you up, and leave you broker than a two-dollar whore on Easter Sunday."
"I play better when you talk dirty to me. Here, rub my ball for luck."
Sergio held the basketball in front of her.
"Get that shit out of my face!" she answered, slapping the ball away.
"My ball!" Sergio called to Russell.
Sergio walked to three-point line, tossed the ball to Russell, who in turn tossed it back to Sergio.
Sergio dribbled right, cut left, spun, and then dashed toward the hoop. He found his path blocked by Russell, who stole the ball and laid it in for the first bucket.
Russell fired off five straight buckets before Sergio touched the ball again. Five minutes later the score was twelve - five, and Russell had the ball.
"Three more, baby," Yesenia shouted. "Three more."
Russell faked to the right, then stepped back and sank a shot from behind the three-point line.
"Thirteen, five," Russell said.
"Come on, baby, come on!" Yesenia yelled. "Do it, baby!"
Sergio tossed the ball to Russell. Russell put the ball on the ground, turned, and backed into Sergio. He feinted left, then right, and flipped a floater at the rim. The ball circled the rim twice and then rolled off. The crowd groaned.
Sergio grabbed the rebound and dribbled to the line. He took a hard step forward, then pulled up and shot. The ball sailed through the hoop.
"Thirteen, six," Sergio said.
Sergio drove past Russell and laid the ball into the hole. On his next six possessions he backed Russell into the paint over and over, flipping a variety of shots through the rim almost every time. On the two occasions he missed, he beat Russell to the rebound and made short jumpers. In less than five minutes he cut the lead to thirteen - twelve.