Anthrocide is the official website for D.L. Hamilton, author of several Christian novels and essays.

Oh, What a Night

This had to be the worst night of Randy’s life. He flung himself onto an empty seat midway of the bus although he would have preferred riding home in the luggage bin underneath. He did not want to sit at the back where the guys whispered about girls and told jokes. He was in no joking mood. He certainly did not want to sit near the front where the coaches and cheerleaders were. He turned his face toward the window and hoped no one would sit next to him. The bus had not been full so there was no need for anybody to do so. He did not want to talk to anyone—not about the game, not about Del Monte High’s now-ended season, not about basketball in general, and most of all he did not want anyone trying to console him. He wanted to be left alone to wallow in his own misery. When the bus started rolling, the seat beside him was still empty. At least something had finally gone right on this wretched night.

One lousy free throw, he thought. Two shots and all I had to do was make at least one stinking free throw. Down by one point with two seconds left, if he had made both he could have been a hero; make one and at least the game could have gone into overtime. I’m a freakin’ 68% free throw shooter for crying out loud. He used his 4.0 GPA math aptitude to do a quick calculation. That means the odds of me making at least one of them was just a hair under 90%. Ninety stinking percent! When he had bricked the second one in a row off the back rim, Jackson had gone over the back of Crockett High’s big oaf of a center in a desperate attempt to get the rebound. Then, with the Del Monte supporters heading for the exits, Randy had been forced to watch that lummox with the 40% free throw average sink both ends of a one-and-one. Talk about in-your-face.

Randy usually only played four or five minutes per game to give Donovan, a legitimate star, a breather. But when Donovan had rolled his ankle with eight minutes left, it was up to Randy to get the job done. He averaged about two points per game, but he had actually played pretty well. He had scored seven points, had two assists and a steal that led to them being only down by one. But he knew what everyone on the bus—and everyone else driving home from the tournament—was thinking. If that had been Donovan at the line, Del Monte would be on its way to its first trip to the state quarterfinals in nine years.

“Mind if I sit here?” came a voice from the aisle. He turned, ready with his prepared, “I’d rather be by myself if you don’t mind” reply when he saw who it was and stopped short. It was Megan Sanchez. He barely knew her, but she was just about the only person on earth he would not send away. She had caught Randy’s eye last year when she was a freshman even though none of the other guys ever mentioned her when listing the cutest girls in school—something they did often. This year they had begun to notice her, especially when she joined the song-girls pep squad. Randy had been wracking his brain for weeks to come up with some way to strike up a conversation with her. Now, here she was with that gorgeous smile and those dark, captivating eyes. And she apparently had decided to move from where she had been sitting with the other girls to sit with him.

He sat up straight. “Sure, feel free. Only I’m afraid I won’t be much company.”

“Yeah, tough loss,” she said as she swung into the seat. “But at least you played well.”

Randy stared at her in shock. “You’re kidding, right?”

She frowned one eyebrow in honest confusion. “No, not at all. You came in for one of the league’s best players and did him proud. You scored, what, seven points? Plus a couple of assists and that steal, wow, that got us close enough to at least have a chance to win.”

“Humph. Yeah, a chance I blew at the free throw line.”

“Ran-dy,” she scolded. He had not been sure she even knew his name. He liked that she did. “Until you drove for the basket with three seconds left, everyone else was just standing around looking confused. You drove in, got fouled, and got to the line.”

“Yeah, but…”

She leaned close to him and looked right into his eyes. “There are no ‘buts’ about it. Tell me honestly, if you could go back and replay the last two minutes of that game, would you have done anything differently?”

Her closeness was so intoxicating he nearly forgot the question. Megan, I think you might just be the most beautiful girl I’ve ever seen, he thought. Then he forced himself to snap out of his reverie.

“Differently? Well, yeah—I’d make those blasted free throws!” he said laughing. A short time ago he had been certain he would never laugh again.

She leaned back and slapped his arm playfully. “You know what I mean, silly. You did exactly the right things and up until then had not missed a shot. Who else on the team went three-for-three plus a free throw in eight minutes?”

Now it was Randy who moved closer. “Megan, I’m noticing two things about you.”

“Oh?” she said with a demure smile. “What might those be?”

“First, you really know a lot about basketball. I mean, you’re talking about assists and driving to the basket and all. I hate to sound sexist, but most girls aren’t that into it.”

She laughed. “I love basketball; have since I was a little kid. I’m pretty good at it, too, if I may say so. But, at five-three and not likely to grow much more, I’m pretty much left to watching and an occasional game of HORSE.”

“Oh, then we have got to play,” he said. “I must have played a million games of HORSE in my life. The gym is open on Saturday mornings; we could play on one of the practice courts. You free this Saturday? I’ll pick you up.”

She flashed a delighted grin at him. “I’d like that very much.

“Anyway,” she continued, “that’s one reason I joined the song-girl squad—so I could attend all the games.”

“Well, I’m glad you did. And you look great in that outfit.”

“Thanks,” she said, beaming. “So, what’s the second thing you noticed about me?”

He cleared his throat, and then spoke slowly and quietly. “You seem to have followed me pretty closely. I mean, I doubt if even my mom and dad know I had seven points and two assists. So, either you are a walking sports statistics reference or…” He did not quite know how to finish the sentence.

“Or,” she said nervously, looking down at her hands, “I’m very interested in you.”

He gulped audibly to keep his pounding heart from exiting his throat. The bus was pulling into the Del Monte High parking lot. “Megan, could I take you home? I’ll need to know where you live anyway if I’m going to pick you up on Saturday.”

“Sure. I’ll just need to tell Lindsay I won’t need to ride with her.”

As they exited the bus, she pointed toward her older sister who was one of the cheerleaders. “There she is. Linds!” she called out. She took Randy’s hand and hurried over to her.

“Randy’s taking me home, so I won’t need a ride.”

Lindsay eyed the two of them standing hand-in-hand and smirked. “Okay, but don’t be long or Mom will freak. Oh, and Randy, great game. Thanks to you we at least had a chance to win. I hope you’re not all upset. You have no reason to be.”

“Well I was.” Impulsively he put his arm around Megan’s shoulders and gave her a little squeeze. “But things have taken a definite turn for the better.”

As he took Megan to his car, her arm looped through his, he could not help thinking this had to be the best night of his life.

A Short Circuit

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