Jimmy Rides the Pine by Todd Mercer
Who is luckier: the last person cut
from the team, or the leading bench-warmer?
Jimmy’s basketball career centered on pep talks
by him, for star players, those who could already dunk
in the ninth grade. His outside jump shot,
the golden high arc, was the next thing to automatic,
but only when no one guarded him. Various defenders
stripped him of the ball at will during the few minutes
he was in the game when his team was far ahead
or hopelessly behind. Room to grow in athletics.
Meanwhile the kid who failed tryouts
doesn’t have to eat what Coach says,
or make daily practice after school.
He’s consoled by friends, drinking wine coolers
in the park across from school. He’s cruising the mall
with his girlfriend, Esperanza Sanchez,
clearly living his best life. From the bench
it looks like a nice consolation prize. It’s enough
to incline a guy toward skipping the next year’s tryouts.
Jimmy rides the pine, informally cheerleads
those out scoring all the points. In the end
he wins the team’s Sportsmanship Award.
He calls it good, hangs up the shoes,
and joins the Quiz Bowl team.
Todd Mercer’s short collection, Ingenue, won the Celery City contest. His digital chapbook, Life-wish Maintenance, was edited by Laura M. Kaminski and is available for free at Right Hand Pointing. Recent work appears in Blink Ink, Fictive Dream, and Six Sentences.