Buns of Steel, Chapter 4: Ball So Hard


      ‘I don’t know what’s going on.

This kid is making me crazy,’


     Charlie said to himself. His behavior, Charlie’s behavior, their interactions over the past couple days; Charles couldn’t get any of it out of his mind. Everything kept playing over and over in his head like a bad song on repeat. From his bench, Charles continued observing parents play with their kids in the park. ‘God I miss her,’ Charles said aloud.

     “Who is she? Who do you miss?” asked Charlie. Surprised by the sudden noise, Charles nearly jumped off the bench. “Geez kid, we have to stop meeting like this. Don’t you know how to just say hello? Or what’s up? Isn’t that the phrase you kids use nowadays?” “I nodded at you across the grass over there. You waved, I thought you saw me coming,” Charlie answered. “I can’t see a damn thing. I’ve been trying to keep the sun out of my eyes,” Charles replied. Charlie squinted at Charles, “I see what you mean. Your personality is just as blinding.” “Why are you such a hard head?” asked Charles. “I have to keep my ass soft. That way, when I take charges on the court it don’t hurt so bad,” answered Charlie. “You gonna show me that thing you were hollering at me about or what? I finished picking up yesterday too. Now it’s your responsibility to help me.” “It’s social responsibility, smart guy. What makes you think I need to help you anyhow?” Charles replied. “Simple,” Charlie answered. “I’m the future.”

     The two chuckled at one another and headed to the basketball court. “Hand me that ball Buck.” “You going to keep calling me that Mr. Charles? The name’s Charlie, remember?” “

     “Boy I know what your name is. It’s almost mine. I just don’t feel like calling you that. I thought about it, but changed my mind real quick. See, when I say Charlie to you it makes me think I’m talking to a little me, and we ain’t that close. Plus you’re a hard headed little rascal so Buckwheat fits you just fine,” Charles explained.

     Charlie rolled his eyes and made a circling motion with his pointer, “well whoopee. You sure ain’t a people person Mr. Charles that’s for sure. You need to get off that bench more often.” “You know what? I could say the same thing about you, but I know how to keep my mouth shut about things that don’t concern me. You see where I’m going with this Buck?”

     Charlie just gave a blank stare so Charles continued. “People have to learn in this life some things are better left unsaid. Kenny Rogers used to sing this song folks thought was just about gambling. He said you gotta know when to hold ‘em, know when to fold ‘em, know when to walk away, and know when to run. He was telling about life. Sometimes you just gotta be quiet. Sometimes you need to think before you speak. Sometimes you need to walk away from idiots who hold no purpose. Sometimes you need to stand up for yourself and fight. Not with your fists either. You show people you’re a man with your life, your mind, and your good intended actions.” Charlie slowly nodded in comprehension.

     “I get it. My bad about what I said before. You probably need to sit down sometimes,” Charlie replied. “No need to apologize. Part of being a man is owning what you say and do; even if it’s wrong. You apologize when you know you have to; not because you think you need to. You got a pop Buck? You know; a dad, a father, that sort of thing,” Charles asked.

     Charlie gestured for the ball from Charles. He began to toss it back and forth in his hands before he took a deep breath and answered. “My mom was eight weeks pregnant with me before she even told him. When he would stay around he was the best friend I could ever have. He gave me my first basketball. It was the one he got for scoring a thousand in high school. One day I came home from school and the ball was gone. I don’t know what happened to it, it was just gone. He got so mad. He never treated us right since that day, and I took that blame for a long time. I came home another day from school and he was there. I was real happy to see him you know? He was my daddy. He took me for ice cream and told me he was sorry. Told me he was sorry; said he’d just been real sad for a long time. Told me I was gonna be a strong man, and he was gonna teach me how to get stronger that day. I got excited. I was a kid. Every kid wants muscles right? We went back to the house; he said we had to go tell Mama we were gonna go get strong. Soon as we walked in the house I was running to the living room to tell her. She was nothing but bloody before I even made it to her. I turned around to look for my daddy, but he was nothing but bloody before I could even tell him Mama needed help. I lost both my parents that day. Eight weeks before my eighth birthday.” Charlie stopped tossing the ball in his hands and looked up at Charles.

“So who do you have now?” Charles asked. “Well,” Charlie answered, “I have my family. I have my friends, I have this ball, and now I have you.” Charles gave Charlie half a Hulk face. “You telling me the indeed truth?” “Indeed,” Charlie replied. “That’s why I ball so hard. It’s all I have to cope with. You know; it’s all I have that gets me through.” “I know what coping is,” Charles stated. “Look, I got to go Buck. I’ll see you later. Sad story. Real sad.”

     “Hold up,” Charlie insisted. “I thought you were gonna show me that thing?” Charles grabbed the ball from Charlie. “This ball is your only power. Watch and learn.” Charles took a power dribble to the basket; only taking two steps before laying the ball through the hoop. Charles handed the ball back to Charlie. “1,2 step. Left, right, and up with your left. You’re a soldier. You remember that.”

     What a day of social learning it had been. Charles understood Charlie a whole lot better. As he drove home he hoped they’d both remember the lessons they’d taught each other.

For Charles this would be a day he could never forget.


Why do you think Charles left Charlie; again?

Why do you think this day became so significant to Charles? 

Charlie copes with his life’s losses through basketball. Charles copes with his life’s losses by sitting on a park bench every day. How do you cope with yours? 


Buns of Steel.

You don’t want to miss what happens next!