This story is a sequel to my stories , Fast Break and Footsteps (Ghost Towning) . You may want to read the preceding stories before reading this one. Fast Break and Footsteps (Ghost Towning) can be found on my on my website – mickeyminner.com
Beyond frustrated, Pat watched another shot bounce off the rim and away from the basket. She blew a loud blast on her whistle and waited impatiently for the players to stop and focus on her. Filling her lungs with air, she held it for a moment then released it slowing. “I thought that the reason you rookies are still in camp is because you have shown an aptitude for the game of basketball,” she started in a calm voice that gave the players a false sense of their coach's mood. “However, it seems that I was wrong in that assumption,” she continued walking toward the ball rack at the side of the court. “By what you have shown today, it is apparent that I have failed to provide you a precise explanation of why we are here. So, let's go back to the basics at their absolute primary level,” she said plucking a ball off the mobile rack.
“The game that we are attempting to play is called basketball ,” Pat told the players. “This,” she held the ball out in front of her, “is called the ball . And that,” she pointed at the rim, “is called the basket . And the intent of this game… basketball … is to put this ,” she again held the ball out, “into that . Ball,” she pointed at the ball in her right hand. “Basket,” she pointed at the basket. “Intent… put the ball into the basket. Shall I demonstrate?” Without taking aim, Pat flipped the ball toward the backboard then watched as it dropped cleanly through the rim. “Any questions?” Pat asked as her eyes roamed from one rookie's embarrassed face to the next.
“Kelley, take the roster players to the other end of the court and run them through the new plays. Gallagher, go with them. I'll stay here and see if I can get this group to understand the basic points of basketball by the end of the day.” Pat waited until only the rookies were left facing her before continuing. “Okay, we are going to start running through the plays again. If you want to be here tomorrow, I strongly suggest you start showing me the skills I thought you had. Got it?”
“Got it, Coach,” several of the rookies shouted back.
Pat made a mental note that Jackson had not been one of them.
“Oh, boy,” Kelley said. She and Sherry were standing at the side of the court watching the roster players run plays. “I wonder if any of those rookies realize just how mad Coach is?”
Sherry sighed. “I doubt it. I sure hope they start to play better or I may have to go home with you tonight.”
“I thought you gals left the game at the office.”
“That's easier said than done some days.”
“I bet it is. Do you want to go in for Pete?”
For an answer, Sherry trotted onto the court. “My turn, Pete.”
“Good, I can use a breather,” the veteran player panted as she headed off the court.
Standing at mid court, Sherry waited for Killen to pass her the ball. She started to dribble in place and lifted her left hand in the air flexing the fingers into a fist then straightening them again. Slowly, she started dribbling down the court as Wendy moved out to guard her.
Tonie and Ashley, the post players on her team, were jockeying for positions near the sides of the key while Aimee and Sara, her other two teammates, moved further out. The play was designed for Tonie and Ashley to plug the center of the key, as Sara and Aimee made crossing cuts under the basket in hopes of losing at least one of their defenders.
The play required perfect timing and it was Sherry's job to make that happen. Seeing her teammates in position, she closed her left hand into a fist then raised it into the air.
Tonie and Ashley spread their arms and legs as wide as possible, momentarily, confusing their defenders. Sara bolted for the bottom of the key with Val chasing her.
Aimee made an identical move from the opposite side of the court but she ran her defender, Jade, close to the jumble of bodies in the small area.
To avoid the trap, Jade diverted her steps to take her clear of the other players.
Seeing Jade's adjustment, Sara stepped into her path forcing the forward to pull up short.
Momentarily, free of her defender, Aimee charged out from under the basket and turned toward Sherry. An instant later, the ball was in her hands and she spun around to shoot.
The ball bounced on the rim then dropped into the net.
“Nice job,” Kelley told the players.
“I hate that play,” Pete told the assistant coach. “Too many damn bodies in the key.”
“Coach likes it,” Kelley replied.
“Coach likes broccoli,” Pete countered. “Doesn't mean I'll ever eat it.
Kelley laughed. “Let's run it again,” she told the players on the court.
It was late afternoon and the coaches were seated in the stands making notes on the day's activities. The players were still on the court taking their mandatory free throw practice.
“That was some shot you made today,” Kelley told the head coach.
Preoccupied with her note writing, Pat asked, “Which one?”
“Oh, the little ‘this is a ball and that is a basket' flip of the wrist shot.”
Pat glanced up at her assistant. “You mean the ‘what the hell did I just do' shot?” she asked grinning.
“You didn't think you'd make it?” Sherry asked surprised.
Pat laughed. “As soon as it left my hand, I thought I was a complete idiot. All I could think was how foolish I was going to look after making that speech about the basics of basketball.”
“Good thing it went in,” Kelley snickered.
“Damn, good thing,” Pat agreed.
“I never had any doubt,” Sherry commented.
“Really?” Pat asked.
“Never crossed my mind… I've seen you make all kinds of impossible shots.”
Pat thought for a moment. “Maybe so; but that was a stupid one to attempt after I just reamed out the rookies for missing shots. I'm just glad it went in.”
“Me, too,” Sherry said with a smile. Her expression hardening as she noticed Jackson watching her.
“You want to tell me what's going on?” Pat asked Sherry.
“What do you mean?” Sherry asked returning her gaze to the note she had been writing on one of the rookies.
“You've been giving the snake eye to Jackson all day.”
Sherry flipped through the pages of her notebook until she found another rookie's page. “You noticed, huh?” she commented then made a notation on the page.
“Yep,” Pat answered, “I noticed. So, what gives?”
“I've been wondering that myself,” Kelley added.
“She pissed me off.”
Pat closed her notebook then dropped it into the seat beside her. “That I already know. What I don't know is what she did… care to fill me in?”
“Can we talk about this at home?”
“I think this involves all of us,” Kelley said, her disapproval of Sherry's question evident in her voice.
Pat considered the question and her lover's unease. Then she shook her head. “Kelley's right. Whatever is going on is affecting your play whenever you two are on the court. And it's affecting Jackson's. I think we all need to know what the hell is going on.”
“Damn,” Sherry muttered before closing the notebook spread out on her lap. “I was really hoping for a season without any drama.”
“That isn't possible in this league,” Kelley stated.
“Sherry,” Pat snapped.
“Alright… alright… alright.” Sherry shifted so she could face the head coach. “But you have to promise not to over react. I can handle this.”
“Handle what?” Pat asked impatiently.
“Jackson, um… she came into the office last night and asked me out—”
“Pat, calm down,” Sherry hissed, “the players will hear.”
The angry woman glared at Sherry then she turned her attention to the rookie at the far end of the court.
“When the hell did she do that?” Kelley asked.
“After you left and Pat had gone up to talk to Mac. I was finishing up some work at my desk.”
“I'll—” Pat started.
“ You won't do anything,” Sherry interrupted.
“She's off the team,” Pat said forcefully.
“No.” Sherry placed her hand on Pat's arm then waited until her lover turned toward her. “I told her she was way out of line. And I told her it better never happen again.”
“She can't be that stupid,” Pat spat out the words.
“Obviously, she can,” Kelley grumbled.
“I can't have her on the team… I won't have her on the team,” Pat insisted.
“Pat, please…” Sherry implored her enraged partner. “If you cut her because of this… Dammit, who knows what that might lead to—”
“Lead to what?”
“She could go to the press,” Kelley offered.
“And say what?” Pat snapped.
“She could say you cut her because she made a pass at your girlfriend,” Kelley snapped back.”
“Oh, damn,” Sherry exclaimed slumping down in her seat.
Kelley stood and blew her whistle. “You cutting anyone today, Coach?” she demanded of the head coach.
Pat glared at her assistant, then at the players; then turned to her upset lover who looked back pleadingly. After several minutes, she finally answered dourly, “Much as I want to… no.”
“Hit the showers,” Kelley shouted. “Another fun day in paradise,” she mumbled as she headed toward the corridor at the end of the arena.
Pat reached for Sherry's hand. “As long as Jackson is on this team, you are not to be alone in this building.”
“I love you but you know that's not practical.”
“I'm not saying that for practicality. I saying it because I think we need to protect from any… shall we say rumors being started.”
“Rumors? What do you mean?”
“You're the one who said it... Who knows what this might lead to.”
“Oh, shit. You don't seriously think she'd try to start that sort of thing?”
“I don't know what to think right now. I know she's a jerk. And I know I should have followed my first instinct and cut before now. But she's here and we're going to have to deal with whatever crap she pulls. And, for now, I think its best for you not to be in a position to have to deal with her one-on-one. Okay?”
“I better go talk to Kelley,” Pat said acquiescently. “I don't think she's too happy with us right now.”
“If I were her, I wouldn't be either,” Sherry said pushing herself up from the seat. “Let me talk to her. We need to figure out a way to handle Jackson between us.”
“Alright, but keep me in the loop.”
To Be Continued...
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