Academic journal article Aethlon: The Journal of Sport Literature

Fourteen Types of Belief

Academic journal article Aethlon: The Journal of Sport Literature

Fourteen Types of Belief

Article excerpt

1

The halls are set with grey-white tile that shines a dull light, the walls built of hard red brick. As the boy walks, the other students look at him funny. Everett Highwalker is a freshman in high school. Pocked face. Shock of black hair. He holds his head down. Slender, he carries his basketball wherever he goes, places the ball under the chair during class, cups it like a loved one everywhere else. He is five feet seven inches tall and barely weighs one hundred pounds. He thinks of his mother, her face in her hands at the kitchen table, the slant of her shoulders brokenhearted.

From his own sorrow over the loss of his father, he too is sorely burdened but he gets taller and as he does, he works and the school seems to grow smaller as he grows larger. Sophomore. Junior. He studies, plays, puts time in the gym, runs, shoots, lifts weights, gains strength. He grows to six feet four, weighs 195 pounds, and starts at forward for one of the top teams in the state. His mother works long hours, holds two jobs. A velocity breathes in him and he sees how the other athletes seem to look at him as they might a lion that paces and peers. He lives in Portland, Oregon where the mouth of the Columbia opens wide and wounds the body of the ocean.

2

His senior year he walks more upright but still he keeps his head down. When teachers ask him about last night's game, he says how well his teammates played. When they ask him about his vertical, his jumper, his defense, how he won the game on a last second shot, he replies, "Still working. Gotta work hard."

"Where did you learn to work like that?" asks the Vice Principal who overhears the boy in the hall and loves to talk hoops. Sandy-haired man of slight build, he played shooting guard at Duquesne in the late '80s. The boy holds the ball in his hands, shuffles his feet.

"My father," the boy answers, and the VP says, "How about getting some lunch?" and the boy says, "Sure," and they walk together to the cafeteria.

They find a place near the far wall.

The boy's father was half-Cheyenne and big.

DelVon Highwalker. Husband to Maria. Father of Everett.

He loved basketball like he loved family.

"He taught you what it takes to be great, didn't he?" says the VP who looks the boy in the face. The boy says, "He did," and puts his head down and clenches his jaw to keep the tears from his eyes. "Him, and my mother." They sit at a table with benches attached by metal to the under works of tabletop. The boy cups the ball, turns it, rolls it, considers the curve and the channels, the leather, the feel of heat in his hands.

3

When he was young his father cupped his face and said, "Focus on a target within a target. If your shot slips in and out, it's always the eyes. Lock in the eyes and that won't happen. Got it?"

"Got it," the boy repeated.

"And I got you," his father said and pulled him hard to his chest, and held him tight.

A month before his father's death.

He's gone now, the boy thinks, and the thought eats at the edge of his mind and only stops when he works on his game. Ball fake, drive left, pull up, nothing but net. Shot fake, drive right, pull up, bank off the glass. The movements and the rhythm seem his only sense of calm.

4

The VP played against the boy's dad in city league, knows the boy's dad worked at the mill. He worked heavy machinery and died when the boom of a crane broke loose and crushed the man's chest.

A giant of a man, bold in the world.

Another lunch. More talk of hoops.

The VP reaches, touches the boy's shoulder. "Your father could shoot the J," he said, "and defend like no other."

"Serious bailer," the boy says, and looks down.

"A thing of beauty, watching him play." The VP holds his own follow through in the air and smiles. "How about lunch every Wednesday? …

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