INT. USED BOOK STORE NEAR UCB - NIGHT
SUSSY wants to pop in to look for some Xmas gifts for her family. I browse around and come across a VHS copy of Dark Shadows’ Scariest Moments— apparently a best-of compilation of the ’70s Gothic soap. I bring it to her.
ME: Hey, you should get this for your dad.
SUSSY: Huh? Does he like Dark Shadows?
ME: Yeah, remember? Didn’t he spend a long car ride with us where he told us all about how crappy a show it was and how awful the set design was and even so he still got obsessed with it?
SUSSY (beat): That was a This American Life.
ME (now remembering that my father-in-law is not in fact Ira Glass): Oh, right…
Adam Riemersma was a kid my age who grew up one town over from me. He had Downs syndrome. Adam was sort of a student manager for all the sports teams of his high school. He’d hand out water, gather up the balls, that sort of stuff. Fans loved him. During basketball season, he was always the first one off the bench to high-five his teammates— didn’t matter whether they’d just made a highlight play or turned it over, he always had a smile for them.
The last basketball game of his senior year was against my school. We had a mediocre team that season, would finish in the bottom half of our conference. Our power forward would go on to play in Division III, but that was about it for talent. I was just a reserve guard, a classic “energy” guy— tried to make up for my lack of size and skills with hustle. I had no chance of playing in college, so this game against Adam’s school was the last time I’d ever put on a uniform. Same as it would be for Adam. You see, in this his final game, Adam’s coach had let him dress with the team - he got to wear the same gold uniform, the same black adidas sneakers. He sat on the bench not as a manager but as a teammate.
In a rare-for-us display of hot shooting, my team led from the tip and never trailed. Up 20 for most of the second half. The starters came out to standing cheers from the home crowd with about five minutes left and I finally got in the game. My last five minutes of burn. I didn’t care that it was garbage time, I was gonna savor it. I bricked my first shot, but later I’d get a layup on a fast break and a short baseline jumper. It felt amazing.
With just over a minute left, the small contingent of visiting fans who’d traveled to our gym started chanting Adam’s name. The other guys on his bench picked up the chanting. Adam just smiled. A smile he’d wear right onto the court when his coach subbed him into a game for the first time in his life. The whole crowd - theirs, ours, everyone - went wild. Adam joined his team on D, got into his crouch and slapped the floor like he was starring at Duke. The guys on his bench went nuts; I saw his coach, a stern gray Dutchman, wiping away a tear. It was a true moment.
And then Adam came up with the steal.
Just picked a guy’s pocket like it was nothing, like he’d slowed down time. Adam came away with the ball a few feet past the circle. He gathered it up and took off (with a damned smooth dribble!), smiling the whole time. The crowd urging him on, he crossed half-court with a lane to the basket and nothing in his way.
Nothing, that is, except me.
A little note about me as a basketball player: I’d never taken a play off in my life. Not in games, in practice, in one-on-one or driveway HORSE with my little brother. I couldn’t - I wasn’t good enough to. The only edge I had was effort. I ran every suicide like it was just that. I did the bleachers until I puked, and then I’d make a contest of seeing how many times I would puke. I never quit. I didn’t know HOW.
But here was Adam, in the biggest moment of his challenged life, racing toward the goal. I’d closed the gap, taken the angle, I could see half his face. I could see— his smile. Oh, man. As I watched Adam bring the ball up toward the rim I realized I was smiling, too. I knew how this had to end.
I blocked his shot. Just SPIKED it into the bleachers. My momentum carried me right into Adam. Bam! Sent him sprawling to the ground. I stepped over him and screamed, “Get that shit OUTTA HERE!” Adam’s smile was gone.
The ref hit me with a technical for trash-talking. “Oh, yeah?!” I spat. “Well what about DEEZ?” Grabbed my crotch. He whistled me for another tech, ejected me. The visiting fans were booing me, so I let them have a little. Threw up both birds. Smacked my ass and blew ‘em a kiss. Even the home fans were booing now. I tore off my jersey, whipped it ‘round and threw it at my parents in the bleachers. Did a Crip Walk right out the gym.
I haven’t seen Adam since that day. But whenever I hear a story about someone overcoming great odds, I’ll stop and think about that play. And I’ll wonder if maybe, just maybe… I could have kept the block inbounds.
Clams casino poisoning
Early onset durrrrr
Human deficit disorder
Keystone Light retardation
Minor cuts and bruises and AIDS
No Lungs Syndrome
Rectum fever (as in, you just cannot get enough of that rectum)
Upper body liquification
Victor fucked you UP!
White devil possession
X-Treme Cancer, sponsored by ROCKST☆R Energy Drink
Cryogenics home installer
Gheorghe Muresan hunter
Jazz club demolitionist
Kite leasing agent
Latrobe, PA Chamber of Tourism co-director
Massive erection watercolorist
Nitrous oxide mall kiosk owner
Porky’s-Con panel moderator
Rap instructor for seniors
Vasectomy coupon distributor
Wig developer for NASA
Xylophonists union rep
Zoot suit riot cop
UPDATE: I totally forgot Q! Obviously that would be “Queef sales.”