I continued playing basketball for several weeks. Every Saturday morning we would practice as a team for about 30 minutes, and then we would play a game against one of the other teams in the gymnasium. I would spend most of the game sitting on the bench. Whenever I asked the coach when I got to play, he would tell me that he’s saving me as his secret weapon. .
By secret weapon, Coach Packer meant the only thing I was good for was to foul our opponents. Our last game arrived, and we were definitely outmatched. The boys on the other team all seemed at least one year older and six inches taller. They were more coordinated and were able to run and dribble the ball at the same time without any trouble. My teammates couldn’t.
Of course, for most of the game I was sitting on the bench watching my team getting humiliated by the more talented crew. Yet, for some reason I didn’t really care. I let my short, bare legs swing under the bench as I sang a song I heard my sisters play over and over. I may have had the lyrics wrong, but I didn’t care about that, either.
“Don’t go breaking my heart. Don’t, don’t, go breaking your heart!”
Finally, Coach Packer had heard enough of my singing and interrupted.
“I need you to do me a favor, buddy,” he said. “You see that boy over there? Number 12?”
He pointed to the tall, tan boy with dark brown hair dribbling the ball. Number 12 ran past three of the boys on my team, stopped, and shot the ball. He scored two points. His light brown eyes seemed to smile when he slapped hands with his teammate.
“He’s good,” I said.
“He’s too good,” my coach replied. “I need you to take him out. Next time he gets the ball, you foul him. Got it?”
I nodded my head. I couldn’t believe it. I was going to finally play in one of our games, and I was supposed to stop that cool player on the other team from scoring another basket. I replaced Danny in the lineup—he wasn’t much better a ball player, but at least he knew how to pass the ball—and the game resumed.
Nick received the ball and started dribbling to our basket. A blond boy with freckles on his arms almost stole the ball, so Nick tried to pass it to Brock. The tan boy with dark hair stepped forward and grabbed the ball. It was my turn; coach had told me to take him out.
I ran to the boy, but he moved fast and stepped around me. If I didn’t do something fast, he would make another basket. I did the only thing I could think of to stop him. I ran as fast as I could, lowered my shoulders, wrapped my arms around his waist, and knocked him to the floor.
Boys circled around us, and started encouraging us to fight. I didn’t want to fight, and it didn’t look like the other boy did either. We just stood up and looked at each other. Our coaches came onto the floor, and they both looked a little bit disappointed that they didn’t have a fight to break up.
“We can’t have that happening,” a referee yelled at my coach. “He’s out of the game.”
“He’s right, buddy,” Coach Packer said. He turned away from the referee, winked, and whispered, “but good job.”
We returned to the bench to watch the remaining 11 of the game. I started singing again, but that didn’t hold my interest for very long.
“Can I go wait for my dad with my sisters?” I asked my coach.
“Yeah, go ahead.”
The dancers were lined up in front of a long mirror in the back of the room. There were eleven dancers total—ten girls and one boy. The dance teacher was bent over a record player. She carefully placed the needle on the rotating turntable, stood up, counted backwards from five, and then faced the dancers.
“Do The Hustle,” the dancers all shouted as the music started.
The dancers moved to the right and left in unison. They stepped forward and then back, and they spun all at the right time. I could tell they were all having fun—especially the boy in the middle because I could see his big smile reflected in the mirror.
I wanted to do that. I wanted to dance. Until I saw the boy in that \class, I thought dancing was just for girls. When my dad came to pick us up, I told him I wanted to take a class like my sisters. He frowned a little but told me he would see what he could do.
I’m not going to go into a lot of detail about my experience in dance classes, but let me say I was a little bit disappointed. Dad found the most masculine dance class there was and enrolled me. I think it was actually a martial arts class disguised as dance. We had three clumsy boys, and we learned a few moves and poses choreographed to the “Kung Fu” theme song.
It wasn’t nearly as fun as the dance class my sisters were in, and I soon lost interest.