Growing Up and Norming Out
Coach Dawson called me Jeff even though my name is Josh. Basketball spoke to me. Its flow and rules against contact. Movement and bounce. The team was good that year. Vance Dalmation, our new starting power forward, was an exchange student. Rumors were that he was in his early thirties. All the female teachers wanted him in their classes, whispering basketball-themed jokes about the handling of balls. I wanted to be the backup point guard, but I set my goals in achievable increments. I was late on puberty. The rest of the team was hairy in ways I wasn’t. I couldn’t compete. I became the manager. Vance liked me. I helped him with geometry, history, and theater homework. The theater director, Mr. Jeffries, was nice to me because I knew Vance and he wanted Vance to star as Julius Caesar. Never mind that Vance could barely read. Whatever. I took the power I could. Pretty girls talked to me, said they wanted to be friends. I wanted more but was afraid, because I wanted to feel like a man but wasn’t. I practiced basketball. Dribbling with my left hand. Fadeaway bank shots. Free throws. Vance came over one night for a sleepover. He made me sleep on the floor. In the morning I found him standing close to my stepmom as she flipped pancakes. A smell hovered in the air that was not blueberries. Today I am an accountant. Vance and I are still friends on Facebook. He’s bald.
We were free that afternoon. A half-day declared on technical grounds we didn’t care about. Virus sweeps and data boosters. The sweaty tech workers who scoffed at our downloads were working under the desks all afternoon. “Down on your hands and knees,” I said to the one with the terrible B.O., loud enough so Sheila could hear. She pinged me back, “Make ‘em fix yo ‘puter doggy style,” not thinking about how the tech guy might look at my screen. That laugh I have that I can’t control and is too loud started. I said, “Guess I better start my weekend now.” We decided on the tackiest drinks from the lamest bar-restaurant-cantina-nightspot within a four-expressway radius. Sheila said I want something with blue rum in it “by the end of business hours” in our manager’s voice. Taco Murphy’s had outdoor seating. We kept telling the waiter, a community college student with huge hands and pokey badger hair, that we needed things “ASAP!” We were intentionally loud. The parking lot filled up. Men in loose suits poured in. I said, “How many drinks would it take to sleep with attorneys?” Sheila said, “They’ll make you sign something first.” I ordered another pitcher, saying “pronto.” We played the hypothetical game where we’re trapped on an office-shaped island and forced to repopulate. I hated my job so much, but I never wanted to quit, because I never wanted to risk not having Sheila to hate something with.
About the Author
Jason Porter writes fiction. His first novel, Why Are You So Sad?, was published by Plume. He is currently hard at work on a collection of 250 stories all precisely 250 words in length. To document this endeavor he has started a podcast, Grownups Are Lucky, where you can hear him read these small constructions, including the two stories featured here in The Commuter. To subscribe visit www.thejasonporter.com/grownups or any of your reputable podcast wholesalers.
About the Illustrator
Sara Lautman is a cartoonist, illustrator, and editor in Baltimore. Her work has been published in The New Yorker, Playboy, Mad, Jezebel, The Paris Review, The Pitchfork Review and The Awl, and more can be found on her blog, saralautman.com.
“Bounce” and “Order” are published here by permission of the author, Jason Porter. Copyright © Jason Porter 2018. All rights reserved.