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  You could have a big dipper   

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.

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