"Papi" by Luis Ochoaby Tony Diaz on 08/05/14
NP New Voices: This is Luis's first publication.
"Papi" by Luis Ochoa
“5, 4, 3, 2, 1” the shot goes up before I recreate the sound of a buzzer, the shot falls, and I revel in the cheers only I can hear. Ever since I could remember I had been into sports, an interest no doubt instilled by my grandpa. His favorite sport is Soccer and occasionally he would take me out to the front yard and kick the ball around. Although he had shown me to ride a bicycle without training wheels when I was six, I was a bit clumsy when it came to using my feet. I would trip, slip, or fall at every collision my foot had with the ball, quickly prompting a “con ganas!!!” from my grandpa or as I refer to him, Papi. He would eventually grow impatient, and give up trying to make me into a Futbolista. Although he could not ignite the passion he had for soccer, in me, he catered to the flame I had for another sport, something more hands on-basketball! In our last house, Papi had a basketball goal on the street curb where he and my uncle would play with others from around our neighborhood. At my young age it was a spectacle, eight to ten guys crowded in a two way street, hooping.
Papi stands at only 5’4 and twice the age of most opponents, but through unconventional ways he was able to win, usually causing frustration to the other team. He would pass the ball through the legs of his taller counterparts, and would put a spin on it, so that its direction deceived its intention and the defender. He would frequently be accused of cheating, but his maneuvers were well within the rules of the game.
By the time we moved to our new neighborhood I was old enough to play alongside him. He stressed ball movement, not settling for jump shots, and tough defense. And he had his famous running hook shot: he would start at the baseline, run a loop from right to left crossing what would be the paint on an official court, then when he was directly in front of the goal he would jump off his right foot pivoting in the air, hooking his arm over his head, shooting with his left hand. This shot-no matter the opponent, no matter the situation was automatic.
So I mirrored his every move until I too could hone that mighty weapon. It was not long until our driveway became the meeting place for all the kids in the neighborhood. Everyone we played would initially look at us, and see an old, short Hispanic man who spoke broken English, and his not much taller but much fatter grandson, and think their victory was assured. Much to their surprise we won most of the time, and the few times we lost, we still gained the respect of our opponents. Word spread of my Papi like legend. My friends would tell other kids at school how good he was and rumors spread of him being a former globetrotter and that he had played professionally in Mexico, both untrue, but I found them amusing, and I was proud others thought as highly of him as I did.
All respected Papi, but one. Occasionally the neighborhood bully Demarcus would make an appearance, and would not be denied the opportunity to play. He was not very skilled but large and brutish, forcing his way into the paint and fouling on every defensive position, blatantly but would argue if any calls were made. On one of Demarcus’s visits Papi and I had just won when he came in forcibly taking the spot of next up, and so Papi and I were to face Demarcus and his younger brother Petey. The game began as usual, me and Papi moving the ball around a lot and getting good shots. Despite being pounded by Demarcus, we held the lead.
In a scramble Papi and I get switched on our assignments and now he his guarding Demarcus. He charges the lane against the smaller defender and happens to elbow Papi on the chin, no harm is done physically, but Papi is angry, and he tells Demarcus to play clean. He shrugs off the warning and continues his ways. The game is close. We’re tied and need to win by two. At this point Papi had seen or felt all the dirty tricks Demarcus had sent our way, and so he decided to give him a taste of his own.
Demarcus posts up Papi and the two bump and push for position. Right at the climax of one of the collisions Papi slides out of the way. Demarcus, met only by air, falls to the ground.
All those watching laugh as Papi gets the loose ball and scores. Demarcus is infuriated. He gets up in Papi’s face and unloads a series of cuss words, before I can even react to try and stop anything from happening Papi lets loose in some fiery language of his own.
Petey and I separate them before anything happens, but the deed is done, and there is now bad blood. I go over to Papi and tell him let’s get this game over with as soon as possible. I was worried Demarcus would foul Papi to the point of injuring him. My grandpa then calmly says to me, Ok just pass me the ball.
I inbound the ball to Papi, he then drives past Petey but is met by Demarcus at the baseline near the goal.
Papi then dribbles away from the goal, across the lane with Demarcus chasing closely behind. He rises off his right foot pivoting in the air, his left arm swinging over his head like a sickle, the ball leaves his hand just over the outstretched reach of Demarcus, and with deadly accuracy hits the backboard and falls into the net. The game was won, and a separate victory was also had, by shaming Demarcus in front of the neighborhood, Papi made sure that he never visited our drive way again.
So now I daydream of our past conquests, dribbling the ball up and down the street, to the stop sign and back, waiting for Papi to come home, so we can carve a new story to later daydream about. Maybe this time I will have the winning moment.