Buns of Steel, Chapter 7: This Old Man

     “Hey boy! 1,2 step!”

     ‘Is he talking to me?’ Charlie thought. A feeling of eeriness suddenly overwhelmed him. “Hey! I said 1,2 step boy!” ‘Does this man have a problem?’ Charlie wondered. He then realized why he felt so strange. This was the same man who had been lurking outside the court’s fences; watching him the day before! “Yo, who you hollering for old man?” Charlie asked before he took another shot. “Ain’t you the only boy on this court? So I must be talking to you!” the old man called out. “Nah you ain’t talking to me. I don’t take no advice from homeless strangers,” Charlie snarled back.

     Charlie figured that was how he could shake the man off, but instead the old man was walking toward him. He snatched the basketball from Charlie, and made the smoothest left handed lay up Charlie had ever seen. The old man chucked the ball back at him. “Now 1,2 step like I told ya.” Charlie gave the man a side eye and curled his upper lip. Then he took a few steps to the right to sink another shot from the foul line.

     “Didn’t I tell you? I don’t take no advice from no homeless strangers. Glad you got your exercise in today. Now be gone old man.” But the old man wouldn’t budge. He suddenly grew a look on his face the Hulk himself would be afraid of. The old man walked over to Charlie. Somehow Charlie just knew he was about to get popped like he’d done to Allen. As he got closer Charlie felt less endangered. There was something about this man that seemed oddly familiar. Charlie began to stare back at the old man, but with an opposite expression. He stared at him as if he was amazed by what he saw.

      “What is your problem boy? You don’t stare a man in his eyes unless you see something wrong,” The old man kept staring at him as if he wanted to yank Charlie’s head from his shoulders. “Nothing,” Charlie replied. “You just got eyes like my mama. I never seen blue around nobody’s eyes like that, except for my mama.” “Let her keep looking at you then. I don’t have time for a little rascal fool anyhow,” the old man retorted. “I would, but she’s dead,” Charlie told him. “That figures. I should’ve known you didn’t have home training,” the old man answered. This made Charlie upset. He wasn’t about to hit an old man, but how dare he talk to him that way? It was he who had approached Charlie in the first place.  “Whatever ‘no homie’,” Charlie sneered back, “Least I got a pot to piss in.” The old man laughed at Charlie and turned to walk away. “The joke’s on you Buckwheat. So do I.”

     Charlie couldn’t believe what had just happened.

     This old man just played him on his home court. As if school hadn’t been bad enough. After gym some of Allen’s upperclassmen friends locked Charlie in a janitor’s closet. When David let him out, they found Charlie’s book bag open; all its contents were scattered up and down the hall. His personal locker had been broken into, and everything in it had been ripped up. The last picture Charlie owned of his mother was kept in that locker.

     In a place where his mother and father walked the same halls many years before him, Charlie felt her picture in his locker was the only thing able to preserve his image. His father may have been one of two students in the school’s history to score one thousand points, but everyone knew what else he’d done. Magnolia Springs was a small town. The horror of Charlie’s childhood had been in newspapers and on television screens all across Baldwin County. “She looks real young in that pink dress man. They probably thought she was one of your girls.” Charlie knew David was just trying to make him feel better. Charlie looked up at David. “She used to always say pink was her signature color, but it’s all good. I ain’t gon’ sweat it,” but Charlie was sweating it. In fact he was sweating right now. His eyeballs were drenched, but not with the kind of sweat you’re used to in your armpits. Charlie never made it to his last period class for the fourth time that week, and after he left the park, he never rolled home that night either.

 

Charlie seems to be good at hiding his emotions. Why do you think that is? 

What do you think happened to Charlie after he left the park? 

 

Buns of Steel. You don’t want to miss what happens next!