"Testimonial," a story 922 words in length, was started as another attempt at the Writer's Digest contest. I do not feel this is as strong as "Visitation," but it is my attempt at not sugarcoating reality. I have had a few more ideas for stories, but they always strike me as contrived. I don't feel this is contrived, but I really don't feel it would win any contests.
The game is a stupid one. Pretend, for a few minutes, that something manifest in your mind is real. A basketball. Imagine a basketball. Somebody is bouncing that basketball. Who is easier to picture: yourself or Michael Jordan? Fine, yourself. You are bouncing a basketball in your mind. But why are you playing basketball? Are you a basketball player? Do you hope to play in the NBA? Or only at the junior varsity level in your high school? There are many talented basketball players, but only the best will get paid to play the game. Nevertheless, let us remove all doubt. You are bouncing a basketball in your mind.
For the sake of atmosphere, let us place you in an empty outdoor basketball court. Let us pretend that you live in Los Angeles and that you are playing at the Silver Lake reservoir and there is no one else there except yourself. You are bouncing the ball, now dribbling as you begin to run, and you perform a lay up successfully. You shoot around for a while. What are you doing? Are you trying to get exercise or are you showing off or is it simply pleasurable to make the ball go in the hoop?
For the sake of drama, let us place a scout for the Los Angeles Lakers in his car, returning to his home in Glendale. He is driving around Silver Lake and he sees you, the lone basketball player, on the court there. He parks his car on the side of the road and walks up to the court. He grabs onto the chain-link fence surrounding the court. He watches silently. You are shooting from beyond the three-point arc now, and you are not missing. You have not missed a single shot. It is the kind of streak that only happens when no one else is watching.
The scout finally draws attention to himself. He starts clapping. He walks over to the court.
“Have you ever considered playing ball professionally?” he asks.
You do not say anything back because the scout is not real. He is just a manifestation in your mind.
The scout says, “I’m a scout for the Los Angeles Lakers, and with the way you shoot, you could make it professionally. You don’t miss a single shot.”
There are no other players on the court with you and so you have no idea how you would work within the context of a team. Neither does the scout, and he does not exist. The scout disappears because you no longer want to harbor false illusions about playing in the NBA. Now you are just on the court again by yourself, shooting more hoops.
In order to truly be recruited by an athletic scout, you must show that you can play with others, and that you are better than all the others. It’s all about context, you realize. An empty playing field does not provide context. It is only through dominance that talent is expressed.
Forget about basketball. You are not a basketball player. You wouldn’t be wasting your time with this silly mental exercise if you were a basketball player. You would be out in a gym, organizing an impromptu game, with other real people, not sitting or laying down, imagining fake ones.
Let’s start over, so the game isn’t quite as stupid this time. Imagine the roof of a house. Are you inside that house, underneath the roof, or on top of it? Are you a roofer yourself? Have you ever come into contact with someone in supply of roofies? That was a digression, sorry. You are not a roofer, and you are content with the present condition of your roof. If you are not content you cannot afford to fix your roof and so shabby it will stay until some miracle occurs. So, it turns out that you have a shabby roof, doesn’t it? You have a roof that you can’t afford to fix because you have more important things to spend your money on. Like gas. Food. Drink. It is possible to get by solely on water but variable drink flavors are quite a necessity of modern living. Water is plain and is predictable. It is the best thing in the world when you are finished with a long exercise, but you must be allowed more than one type of beverage. You are stuck paying a cell phone bill every month. It’s a necessity. You are also stuck with a cable and internet bill. One of them is a necessity and the other is a good deal bundled together, so why not? This does not even take into consideration whatever you must pay to live in the place you live and it is best if that is not explored at the moment.
So you need a miracle to fix your roof. You need money to fall out of the sky. You need to win the lottery, even though you don’t play the lottery because you don’t harbor false illusions about the nature of luck. What is going to happen? What is your job? If you had a higher-paying job, you wouldn’t have to worry about your shabby roof now would you? It would be fixed. You would be able to afford it.
Okay, that’s all. The stupid game is over. Stop imagining things now. No more basketballs or roofs. Go turn on the TV instead. Make sure you use a DVR so you can fast-forward through all those commercials. That’s much better.