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Shot For Glory

A Short Tale for the Just A Minute Challenge

By Andrew C McDonaldPublished about a month ago 4 min read
Shot For Glory
Photo by Stephen yu on Unsplash

Grabbing the ball as it passed, Nathan took off down the court. Swinging wide around the tall jersey clad player in front of him, he did a back spin. Dodging under a swipe aimed for the orange ball he so gloriously controlled, he passed it between his legs to himself.

Sweat runneled down his forehead, tracing tracks on his feverish skin. His heartbeat thundered in his chest. Blood pounded in his ears. This was his chance. The final minute of the intramural championship game. The wolverines were down by one point and Nathan Bridgeton had control of the ball.

"Pass it here!" he heard the team center, Tom Clovelle, yell from diagonal forward to the right of the basket. For just a second Nathan considered it but a forward - Jerry Ziegler - from the Tornadoes swerved between them.

Fast dribbling down the court, Nathan's sneakers pounded on the hard wood of the court floor as he sprinted toward the basket. The cheers and screams from the bleachers was a huge cacophony as he weaved and pirouetted through the press of young athletes. The entire gymnasium thrummed with the pounding of feet in the stands. Screams and whistles echoed across the wide open room, hitting the opposite walls and reverberating. In the opposing team bleachers the students of Thompkins High who had come to cheer on the Tornadoes jeered and taunted.

Everybody had laughed when a five foot nine inch white boy had tried out for the team. The star forward - Billy Wright - had clapped Nathan on the shoulder and simply said, "All you can do is your best. So have at it." Coach Worther had shrugged and tossed him the ball ... which Nathan had dropped. Billy had winked, picked it up and tossed it back to him.

Months of hard work - grueling drills running up and down the court - hours of after school time with his buddy Andy - it all came down to this. Nathan's dad had proudly watched him at most of the practices, beaming as he slowly improved; shaking his head when he missed a basket; jumping and shouting when he made one. After every practice his dad would spend the ride home talking about his own high school days. He swore Nathan had more talent than he had ever had.

While his dad may think Nathan had the ability to be in the NBA, Nathan knew better. He would never be more than a decent player and his height disadvantage would forever overshadow him on the court - as would the taller athletes. Still, there was this moment. This ball. This shot. This one penultimate chance.

Ducking around a red jersey he faked a pass to the left, spun on his right foot, and jumped. In slow motion his right arm raised. The bright orange ball cupped in the palm of his hand glowed like a mysterious moonstone. He felt a surge of adrenaline as his feet left the flooring. Nathan felt like he was Superman flying in to rescue the girl and save the day. Flexing his wrist back he cradled the ball in his right hand as he steadied it with his left. All around him players in green jerseys intermingled with those in red like an athletic ballet of bodies in motion.

The basket was right there. Three seconds left on the clock. This was the penultimate of his high school athletic career. If he made this shot he would be the hero of the hour. Julie Deiner might even agree to go to the prom with him.

It seemed a sudden hush fell over the gymnasium as the audience in the stands held their collective breath. The ball left his hand. Nathan could feel the perfect arch of its trajectory. There was a susurrus of wind as the fans exhaled en masse. Suddenly a red flash blocked his vision. A tan hand shot up in front of his face. SMASH! The ball was knocked from the air. The shot to beat all shots was blocked.

As his feet hit the floor, Nathan's heart and stomach did also. Nathan's knees buckled and he fell, kneeling on the hard wood just as the time clock hit zero. Game over. Lost. Nathan's chance for glory shredded like a Watergate report. His life was over. He hung his head in shame.

Nathan felt a hand on his shoulder. Looking up he saw the smiling face of his father in the stands. Phillip Bridgeton was smiling and giving him a thumbs up. Next to him Billy Wright held out a hand to help him up. His teammate, who should have been glaring at him like he was an Auschwitz guard in World War II, was beaming. Taking the boy's hand, Nathan stood.

"You tried your best, Nathan. Great job," Billy said. Another boy tapped him on the shoulder as he passed. "Tough break Nate. Great try man" from Will Esthers, the team forward.

Nathan could hardly believe it. They don't hate me? How could they not? I missed the winning shot. Just then Julie Deiner ran up, her auburn hair in a ponytail, her green eyes shining. "Nathan, I'm proud of you," she said, giving him a peck on the cheek that set his blood racing again.

Billy chuckled as he noted the flush on Nathan's cheeks, noting the way Nathan's gaze followed the lithe girl as she ran off again. "You need to ask that girl out man," Billy said, smiling. "Let's hit the showers. There'll be other games and other days my man."

As Nathan walked off the court in the midst of his teammates he realized Billy Wright was indeed right. He had missed the winning shot, but the world moved on. As he passed through the locker room doors he promised himself he would ask Julie out tomorrow.

familyYoung AdultShort Story

About the Creator

Andrew C McDonald

Andrew McDonald is a 911 dispatcher of 30 yrs with a B.S. in Math (1985). He served as an Army officer 1985 to 1992, honorably exiting a captain.

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  • Dharrsheena Raja Segarranabout a month ago

    Omgggg, all of these people are so nice. They were so kind and supportive of Nathan. Loved your story!

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