Another winter has come (and almost gone), and it's time to start thinking ahead to spring.
This year, we've had a bit more snow than last winter, and this poem almost touches what we used to think of as "normal" winters.
Come spring, we’ll think back proudly on the snow
that fell last night, the inches piling up,
the broken plows, the power lines brought down.
The pride comes later, though — the way we rose
to shovel walks, the crews that plowed the roads
and fixed the power lines, the candle light
that cheered us in our houses, shivering.
Right now, it’s bitter cold at snowy dawn
with drifting wind and hypothermia,
numb fingers, toes. Too soon for us to gloat
that we survived. Now bent to shoveling,
heads down, we don’t look up to see the sun
break through the clouds, the future lighted there,
the time to tell heroic tales to come.
Yet another new chapter from McKenna's Game —
Rachel Atkins was watching the teams warm up, making the mental notes she knew McBride wanted to know about the other team — not how this girl shot layups (although that mattered) or whether that girl dribbled better with her left or her right (which mattered, too, of course), but more how the girls held themselves, whether they seemed stiff or loose, their attitude, their demeanor, their poise.
“21’s shy,” she would tell McBride when she noticed how one girl flinched just a fraction when a missed shot came off the rim too hard in her direction or when one of her teammates brushed by her too close. Or “15’s cocky,” she would report when she saw another girl with a little swagger, a little strut in her step.
It wasn’t their weaknesses, exactly, that she was looking for, but more like little hints about them, almost random qualities that McBride could plug into his equations, his advanced placement coaching calculus. And then — .
“Intimidating, aren’t they?” a voice beside her said — one of the other team’s assistant coaches, which would have made him her counterpart, although the other teams’ having five assistants, all tricked out in silver and black warmups it was hard to tell which one, exactly, was the counterpart to her, McBride’s only assistant.
“Well, they are,” he said. “But your girls can learn a lot, playing a team like ours. If they’re careful, that is, and don’t get get in our way and get hurt.”
“We’ve been nationally ranked,” he said. “Not this year, but — .”
He shrugged modestly and turned away, leaving Rachel there to make another mental note for McBride.
Who said, “Really?” when Coach Atkins told him what the assistant had said.
“Well, talk to the girls,” he said. “Tell Katie and Becky and McKenna what he said.”
Which she did, right before the lineups were announced and the National Anthem played, and when the tip off came and the Silver Belles — yes, that was really their name — got the ball and their girl started downcourt it was Becky Shea who was right there beside her, crowding her toward the sideline, pushing her down into the corner where she had to make a bad pass to one of her girls inside who was occupied at the moment by Katie Rothfuss, elbows out, backing into her, butt bumping.
The Silver Belle caught the pass but bobbled it, and when she tried to get control Katie fought her for it.
Which Becky inbounded to Katie, who took off downcourt straight as an arrow, head down, not slowing down or breaking stride until she crashed into the Silver Belle who was set up to defend the lane.
And Katie, jogging back on defense while the Belles inbounded the ball, caught Coach Atkins’ eye and gave her a little tight-lipped grin.
McKenna, backpedalling in front of the Belles’ guard who was coming downcourt with the ball, suddenly stopped dead and the Belle stopped, too, just short of drawing her own offensive foul. McKenna stepped in toward her until their chests were almost touching, remembering in practice when she was guarding Coach Atkins and Coach kept yelling “I can’t smell your breath!”
Which meant McKenna wasn’t close enough.
She was close enough now, though.
The Belle managed to pass off, but McKenna had seen the little flicker in her eyes as she looked for someone coming out to get the ball, and even though the Belles took the ball in and made the shot, took a two-nothing lead, she knew the girl she’d been guarding had smelled her breath, knew she was doing her job.
Katie was doing her job, too, and Becky.
Every loose ball, they dove for it.
Every Belle who had the ball had one of them in her face, crowding her.
And sometimes they fouled, so by the end of the first quarter all three of them had two fouls each.
But none had a foul like Beth Ann Baldwin’s, who had grabbed a rebound and, when she was swinging her elbows to clear some space, had caught a Belle with an elbow right in the chin, knocking her down.
The Belles’ coaches were all screaming about that, their head coach demanding that the officials eject Baby or have her arrested for assault or shot or something, but McBride had called time out, and when both teams were off their benches, huddled around their head coaches, Rachel Atkins had found the Belles’ assistant who’d been been talking to her before.
“Our girls don’t intimidate for shit,” she had told him. “Just so you know.”
And, as it turned out, when the Silver Belles couldn’t intimidate you, they couldn’t win.
If they knew you’d bang bodies until you fouled out — or died! — they didn’t want to bang bodies anymore, and when they took a shot and missed, they might as well have just given the ball to Beth Ann Baldwin because who wanted to catch a Baby Baldwin elbow that looked more and more like the iron tip of some ancient warrior’s spear? And when Katie Rothfuss drove in for layups, who wanted to get in the way of what you could mistake for a locomotive bearing down on you?
By halftime, the Latins led by two.
In the locker room, when Coach Atkins was sure everyone was decent and gave him the o.k. to come in, McBride walked in, looked at them, said, “I don’t have enough subs if you all foul out” and went back out to sit on the bench and watch the rest of the game.
Which they won by ten, nobody fouling out except Beth Ann Baldwin, who was just a baby, after all, and prone to do something stupid once in a while, like trying to block a Belle’s shot by swinging one of her long arms like an ax and almost amputating the Belle’s hand.
“We’ll work on that,” Coach Atkins told McBride when he shot her a look after that and all he had to replace Beth Ann with was one of the sophomores, the one who wore glasses that kept fogging up.
If you've enjoyed reading It Was Heavenly, Break their Hearts, Pretty, Sound Effects, Car Wash, Replaceable, Good Game, and Intimidation — the latest — drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org and tell me what you think. If enough readers like what I'm doing, more chapters will appear as they're ready.