Kid gets hit with a basketball ( (Emily Costa)

He’s sitting on the porch drinking a Mountain Dew Slurpee and messing with the camera while he waits for Kenny. Kenny’s going to throw a basketball at his head as hard as he can over and over until they get a good shot.

Slurpees are a dollar now, the small ones. When he was little he called them herpes, which made his parents laugh. The laughing made him feel really bad at first, but the more they asked him to repeat it, and the more people were around, these friends of his parents, these big gaping mouths laughing and laughing, towering over him, it started to make him feel good.

When Kenny gets there they’re going to try to recreate it exact. It’s been ten years since they did the original. The driveway’s the same but maybe worse. Hoop’s gone. His dad was out there weeding yesterday, yanking green from the cracks, kneeling in shorts. He smoked on the porch, trying not to look as his dad groaned his way up off the ground, hand on knee. Sun blinking off his bald spot.

Every time someone finds out who he is, which mostly happens at parties, he feels warmth spread down from his chest. Not a sexual thing, no, but close. Holy fucking shit dude, they say. Shots of tequila. Phones out. New friends.

But real friends? Just Kenny. Kenny, who’s heading to grad school early for some math thing in the fall. He’s not sure he could explain exactly what kind of math thing. Kenny’s already explained it to him many times. He can’t ask him again without seeming like a total asshole.

It’s the same ball, even. He found it in the garage, behind the Rubbermaids still packed from when he tried to dorm last year. Spider-webbed hand pump beside it, all ready for him, waiting. He cradled the ball, stuck the needle in the hole. It expanded into his hug.

He will steel his body as he waits for Kenny to press record. Kenny will say the line. Kenny will chuck the ball. 

He’ll brace for impact, neck muscles tight, tensed, rock-hard. He tries to imagine the hollow bounce, the sound, how good it will feel. That’s what Kenny doesn’t understand: the good. For a second, sure, there’s the buzzing pain. But then the daze like a high, and everything feels like pure possibility.


Emily Costa is the author of Until it Feels Right (Autofocus Books). Her work can be found in X-R-A-Y, Hobart, Barrelhouse, Wigleaf, and elsewhere. You can follow her on Twitter @emilylauracosta.


image: Jade Hawk is a meat popsicle.