Tag Archives: basketball

Ellie and the Hoyas by Chuck Thurston

The oldest cliché in human relationships is that of the contentious mother-in-law. I luckily escaped that dynamic. I truly loved my wife’s mother, and we had wonderful times together. She lived in Denmark, so getting together wasn’t a matter of a neighborhood visit or a short road trip. Consequently, when she came to see us, it was usually a stay of a couple of months. She was an easy houseguest, and one we thoroughly enjoyed.

She didn’t like the hot southern summers, so her visits were invariably in the spring or fall. During one such stay, I introduced her to “March Madness.” In the mid 1980’s, the Georgetown Hoyas had a run of good seasons, and were routinely in the NCAA’s championship tournament. Elinor – Ellie – knew nothing of basketball, adopted them as her team. She was in fact, a soccer fan in Europe, so perhaps the spectacle of men in shorts chasing around a round ball resonated in some way. Maybe it was the blue and grey uniforms, which dated back to the civil war and signified the union of north and south – although she didn’t know much about that conflict, either. Ellie’s adoption of the Hoyas ran counter to popular sentiment. The team was often – perhaps because of its success and the swagger that goes with it – the one that everyone liked to dislike.

Georgetown’s coach, John Thompson –a giant of a man – captured her admiration. Perhaps his display of passion for the game and for his team appealed to her. He prowled the sideline during games with an ever-present towel over his shoulder.

john thompson

In the spring of 1984, the Hoyas took it all. They polished off the Houston Cougars, and Ellie and I watched every game, usually with a beer or two. I didn’t make many attempts to explain the intricacies of the game. I’m not an expert in any case, and the athleticism and competitiveness of the contests spoke for themselves. When the final whistle sounded on the final game of the tournament, we both felt satisfied, but somehow incomplete – there would not be another round of basketball to look forward to. It would have to wait until the next year and the next March Madness. In those days, it was almost a given that Ellie’s Hoyas would be back – and Ellie would be back to cheer them on.

PS – in 1985, the Hoyas were back, and lost in the final game, a 62-64 nail-biter to Villanova.

Chuck Thurston is currently absorbed in the March Madness of 2017. We lost Ellie a few years ago, and the Hoyas are not the powerhouse they once were, but I believe we would have found a suitable replacement.  

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Shape-Changers in “I Don’t Think It’s That Simple” by Nicole Eva Fraser

"I Don't Think It's That Simple" is forthcoming in February 2015 from Second Wind Publishing

“I Don’t Think It’s That Simple” is forthcoming in February 2015 from Second Wind Publishing

“The six worlds are a universe of Shape-Changers. Micmac stories emphasize this over and over…

 

The tricky thing about Shape-Changers
is that not only do they change their forms,
they also change their minds.

 

Thus in stories there are no Good Persons, the Heroes; there are no Bad Persons, eternally Villains…”

 

Ruth Holmes Whitehead, Stories from the Six Worlds: Micmac Legends

 

The most fascinating, relatable, and authentic characters are Shape-Changers: the ones who sometimes are Good Persons and sometimes Bad Persons—just like you and me.

My Micmac Indian ancestors knew this truth about human nature. They populated their myths and legends with Shape-Changers who may flip from Villain to Hero just when you’ve pigeonholed them, when you think you’ve got them figured out. The Micmac stories are mirrors for us all.

In I Don’t Think It’s That Simple, forthcoming from Second Wind in February 2015, the Shape-Changing characters are my deliberate choice, as well as the reflection of my Micmac heritage. See what you think in this sneak peek.

Here’s the book description for I Don’t Think It’s That Simple:

Do you think Evan Leighton is a stalker—or a good guy looking for love in all the wrong places? And how about Julia Atwater—is she an innocent flirt or a shameless manipulator? The one sure thing is that they both love Julia’s teenage son Hunter—then a surreal accident changes the course of all their futures. Evan and Julia may touch your heart, they may frustrate or infuriate you, but you’re guaranteed to recognize someone you care about—even yourself—in their story.

 …and this is the opening scene:

I was standing alone at my kitchen sink with a bottle of Heineken and my thoughts and my view of the Indiana sky, remembering the story, silently, for myself.

The very first thing was Hunter saying, “Here’s my house—yeah, this one. Thanks for the ride, Coach.” Then he jumped out of my silver ’72 Corvette and started walking up the driveway, bouncing his basketball. I watched him go: long seventeen-year-old legs, neck burned brown on summer courts, his confidence unpretentious. Reminds me of me.

Hunter had played basketball for me two years already, starting as a freshman. Now he was a junior and I had him in AP English, too.

I had just turned forty-one. In my years of teaching and coaching I’d met thousands of kids, many of them exceptional, but Hunter was more than just a good kid—he was a missing piece, a missing person, he was history that had long ago slipped through my fingers but was now, somehow, restored.

“Hey, I should meet your mom and dad finally—gotta start talking about college! Tell them we should set something up,” I called from the car, top down for the warm afternoon.

“Okay,” Hunter called back, and disappeared behind the house.

It was late September and sunny. It was Indian summer and a few leaves were falling, some withered brown, some crimson and orange, falling around my car as I drove away, dreams that had fallen from grace, catching the hope of an updraft briefly, then falling back to earth, drifting, sailing, falling back to earth.

The suburban rush-hour roads were humming with traffic. At some point I glanced over my shoulder to change lanes and saw that Hunter had forgotten his book bag behind the seat. Kid’s got basketball on his mind. Nothing wrong with that. I slowed down, turned around on a side street. Hope I can find his house again. I was in no hurry to get home to dinner for one, quiet hanging in the air, English compositions to grade, phone calls and basketball game tapes to fill the empty spaces.

I parked in Hunter’s driveway and reached around for the book bag. Whoa, tonnage here. The bag was half unzipped and I looked inside. Trigonometry, physics, history, the latest Sports Illustrated, a smashed bag of potato chips.

Reminds me of me.

I zipped the book bag shut and carried it up the stone path to Hunter’s front door. Big brick house, lots of flowers in the garden. Heard muffled rock and roll coming from inside.

I rang the doorbell but nobody came. Looking through the window in the front door, I saw flowers in a vase on a table, pictures in frames dotting a tall bookshelf, and a big brown mutt asleep on a rug—not much of a watchdog. So I backtracked along the stone path and headed up the driveway, book bag slung on my shoulder.

Around back, muffled music, louder, was drifting out from a window upstairs. First I thought about knocking on the screen door. Then I took a few steps backward in the driveway and looked up toward the window.

“Hey, Hunter!” I shouted. “Hey, Hunter, it’s Coach Leighton! You left your book bag in my car—here it is!”

I remembered the first time I heard her voice, voice like rain and sunlight: “I don’t think he can hear you,” I heard this voice say. I turned around and saw a tree house in a big old oak. The branches waved and rustled, and the tree house swayed.

“Hello?” I said.

Then the voice of rain and sunlight swung down from the tree.

She was dark blonde hair, dark eyes, ponytail, swimsuit top, tiny cutoffs colored like a piece of sky. She said, “I’m Julia. Hunter’s mom.” That was when I understood everything that had ever happened to me and when almost none of it mattered anymore. Forget bad karma, unanswered prayers, a silent waiting room in a stainless steel clinic. Forget solitude, cold winters, empty promises, empty soul. Forget summa cum laude, teacher of the year, state championship trophies, glory.

“I’m Evan Leighton,” I said, somehow.

“Evan,” Julia said. She lifted one hand to fiddle with her earring, and a ray of sun lit up her wedding band, bounced off the ring and hit my heart like lightning—but even then I knew that wouldn’t stop me.

 

“Reunion: Return to Dar Es Salaam” returns in November with Part 3: Arriving and Exploring.

Nicole Eva Fraser is the author of The Hardest Thing in This World, released by Second Wind Publishing in October 2013, and I Don’t Think It’s That Simple, forthcoming in February 2015. Her current project is Quotable Women

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