by Miriam N. Kotzin
Miriam N. Kotzin

Miriam N. Kotzin has published a collection of Flash Fiction, Just Desserts, (Star Cloud Press, 2010) and two collections of poetry, with a third, Taking Stock, to be published by Star Cloud in 2011. Her work has received five nominations for a Pushcart Prize and has appeared in many print and online publications such as The Pedestal, Boulevard, Confrontation, Eclectica, and Southern Humanities Reivew. She teaches creative writing and literature at Drexel University, where she also co-directs the Certificate Program in Writing and Publishing. She is a contributing editor for Boulevard and a Founding Editor of Per Contra. This is her fourth appearance in Amarillo Bay.

We'd driven past miles of wild rose hedges on the way, each a tumble of pink bloom—I'd stopped exclaiming when I realized they weren't supposed to be anything special. We passed dozens of brown cedar shake cottages like the one in the photo on Jake's desk before he slowed to a stop. Four identical white SUV's sat along the road like a row of ducks. His became number five.

Jake's dad owned a dealership.

We left the luggage in the car and headed towards the voices and rhythmic thuds that came from the driveway where a basketball game was underway. Jake's twin brother, Todd, had the ball, and, when he saw Jake, called out, "Bro'!" and tossed the ball to him.

Jake bounced the ball, first with his right hand and then his left.

On the sideline with my retro purse still over my arm, I felt like an awkward shrimp.

Jake's two steps, dribbling, took him almost halfway to the basket. He pushed the ball up in a high curve to the rim where it bounced, rolled, and then, to a chorus of cheers, fell through the tattered net into Todd's hands.

Were they following rules? Todd looked around to pass the ball, and Jake stood, hands raised, not to receive, but to block Todd's throw. Who was on whose team?

Todd pivoted, facing me. Nobody stood between us.

I was still wearing sunglasses, but we might as well have locked gazes.

No one moved. Was Todd going to fake a pass to me and then make a break around Jake to the basket—or pass to someone near the basket?

"Marla!" Jake's sister, Jessie, who was standing across the drive called my name. What did she want? "Mar-la!" she said, this time making it a chant.

Once when she came to dinner, I found her in front of the open medicine chest. She said she was looking for aspirin.

"Second shelf," I said. "Next to the Tylenol."

"Does Jake still use a neti pot?" she'd asked, closing the mirrored door.

"Not really," I said. I offered her water even though she stood there empty handed.

"Mar-la!" Again, she made my name a chant. The others took it up, "Mar-la, Mar-la, Mar-la!"

I let my purse slip to the ground and hoped nobody would step on it.

I couldn't play worth shit, but I caught the ball. Not a scuff on it, and heavier than I remembered. The summer I was twelve my parents rented a cabin on a lake. It was as though some virus had eliminated every kid between the age of eight and seventeen but me. I read. I swam. I lay on the dock. And I spent hours doing free throws with an old basketball and a hoop with chipped orange paint and no net.

As I nudged through puberty's gate into adolescence, basketball brought back the misery of that summer; other than the required hours in gym class, which I tolerated, I had nothing to do with it.

"Mar-la!" They were clapping in rhythm now. All of them, Jake, too.

I wasn't that far from the basket. I bounced the ball once and held it at my waist. I stared at the hoop. I could smell the lake, the pines around the cabin, the sun-warmed dusty earth, the lemony Jean-Naté I doused myself with after every shower that summer. I bounced the ball again.

"Mar-la! Mar-la!"

I took a deep breath. If the body has memory for motion, my body's memory would send the ball up in a perfect arc. Instead I threw the ball high and hard to put it way up on the sloping garage roof. The ball rolled down, striking snow guards, zigzagging away from the basket. None of the others moved to pick up the ball when it landed or when it stopped near my feet.

It was mine.

As soon as the ball left my fingertips, I understood the connection between trajectory and destiny, where I was and how I got here, the purpose of hoops.

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