Part 3 Chapter 10 My father didn't make it to even one of my games, but he did read the box scores in the paper. "You're really racking up the points," he said at breakfast on Saturday morning
|Part 3 -- Chapter 10
My father didn't make it to even one of my games,
but he did read the box scores in the paper. "You're
really racking up the points," he said at breakfast
on Saturday morning. I nodded, and then he started
talking about the Lasker Award and the plans for
the trip to Boston. They were leaving December 17
and returning the twenty-second.
"If you have any friends you want to visit, write
them and tell them you're coming," my father said
as he poured sugar on top of his Grape-Nuts. "You
must have buddies you're anxious to see."
It was a shock, right out of the blue. It had
never occurred to me that I would go to the award
ceremony. He was always winning awards, and I'd
never gone before. I'd never even been asked. Now,
right at the beginning of my senior year of basket-
ball, he expected me to miss my games.
"What about school?" I said. "What about bas-
"You'll only miss a few games, and you can bring
your books. We'll have a great time."
"I've never been to any of your other meetings,"
I blurted out.
My father looked away, hurt.
"Joe," my mother said, "I don't think you un-
derstand what the Lasker Award is. It is one of the
highest awards a scientist can receive. It's like win-
ning the N.B.A. title. Your father has done that. He's
won. You don't want to miss that, do you? You
may not think you want to go, but when you get
older you'll be glad you did."
They both stood up in that way of theirs that
means the conversation is over, that everything has
"Thanks a lot," I said. "why don't you just come
right out and say that nothing I do is important?"
I stared right at my father. "You haven't bothered
to come to one game all year, but you'll drag me
three thousand miles to some little hall and make
me stand and clap for you."
I stopped, but for once he didn't say anything,
so for once I was able to finish. "Let me tell you
something, Father," I said in a shaky voice. "You
should watch me play basketball. Basketball is the
only thing I do really well. If you saw me play,
you'd be proud of me. I know I'm not what you
had in mind, but I'm the only son you've got."
With that I left the kitchen. I was so angry my
whole body was shaking. I went up to my room
and fought down the choking feeling in my throat.
I thought I would just stay in all day and think.
But I got bored sitting up there, so around noon I
slipped down the stairs. I figured I'd go over to
Loyal High and blow off steam by shooting some
baskets. I didn't make a sound, but my mother must
have been watching for me. She stopped me on the
porch and told me she'd canceled my reservation.
"You can still change your mind. Talk to your
teachers, talk to the coach. See what they say."
I nodded, but I wasn't going to talk to anybody.
"I'm going to go shoot some hoops, now. I'll be
I should have been ecstatic. I'd won a victory at
home over my father -- and that was a rarity. But
I didn't feel much like celebrating.
I hadn't lied. Everything I'd said to my father was
true. But I still felt awful, maybe because he could
have said the exact same things to me. I never paid
attention to what he did. That was partly because
it was so hard to understand what he was doing.
But occasionally there'd be articles in the news-
paper that I could have read. My mother always cut
them out for me. I'd stuff them in my pocket, and
sometimes I'd even read the first paragraph. But
most of the time I'd forget about them and then
trash them when I emptied my pockets.
I was practicing free throws when I heard the
ball bounce. I turned around and saw Ross. I didn't
know what to do or how to act, whether to ignore
him or take a punch at him. He gave me a vague
nod and dribbled by me for a lay-in. He could have
at least gone to another hoop to shoot, but he didn't.
It was certain. I wasn't moving.
"I never expected to see you here," he said as he
retrieved his ball.
"Why not? It's a free country."
Ross shrugged his shoulders. We shot in silence
for a few minutes. He was making everything; I
couldn't hit a thing.
"Why did you do it?" I finally asked.
"Don't play dumb with me. You know what I'm
Ross stopped shooting. "You make me laugh.
You act like I killed somebody -- a few bushes, a
couple of burning sticks. I'll admit the rock through
the window was too much, but that wasn't my idea.
Where was the harm?"
"Where was the harm!" I yelled. "The harm was
in what it did to my parents. You made them so
nervous they jumped every time they heard a sound --
they still do. That's where the harm is."
Ross swished a jumper and ran down the ball.
"Come off it, Joe. I read that article. I saw the way
you looked at your old man when I ate lunch at
your place. I did you a favor. You hate your old
"That's not true."
"Oh, isn't it?"
"No, it isn't!"
"Fine, have it your way. I don't care."
I was seething inside. If his ball came in my di-
rection I let it go and made him chase it down. He
did the same thing to me. At twelve-thirty Ross
netted a final shot and disappeared into the Loyal
I practiced for another thirty minutes. Once I
calmed down I started to wonder if Ross could be
right. Did I really hate my father? Maybe that was
why I felt a little off whenever I saw his name in
the paper, why I couldn't stand the idea of going
back to Boston with him. A lot of things had gone
wrong between us, and I hadn't knocked myself out
trying to make them go right.
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