My Brother, A Star

for my mother and my father

My mother was pregnant through the first
nine games of the season. We were 7-2.
I waited for a brother. My father
kept to the hard schedule. Waking
the morning of the tenth game, I thought
of skipping school and shooting hoops.
My cornflakes were ready, soggy. There
was a note: “The baby may come today.
Get your hair cut.” We were into January,
and the long December snow had turned
to slush. The wind was mean. My father
was gone. I looked in on my mother still
asleep and hoped she’d be OK.
I watched her, dreamed her dream: John
at forward, me at guard. He’d
learn fast. At noon, my father
picked me up at the playground. My team
was ahead by six.
We drove toward the gym.
“Mom’s OK,” he said and tapped his fist
against my leg. The Plymouth ship that rode
the hood pulled us down the street.
“The baby died,” he said. I felt my feet press hard
against the floorboard. I put my elbow on the door handle,
my head on my hand, and watched the town:
Kenner’s Five and Ten, Walker’s Hardware,
Jarret’s Bakery, Shaffer’s Barber Shop, the bank.
Dick Green and Carl Stacey waved. “It was
a boy.”

We drove back to school. “You gonna
coach tonight?” “Yes.” “Mom’s OK?”
“Yes. She’s fine. Sad. But fine. She said
for you to grab a sandwich after school. I’ll see you
at the game. Don’t forget about your hair.” I
got out, walked in late to class.
“We’re doing geography,” Mrs. Wilson said. “Page
ninety-seven. The prairie.”

That night in bed
I watched this kid firing in jump shots
from everywhere on the court. He’d cut left,
I’d feed him a fine pass, he’d hit.
I’d dribble down the side, spot him in the corner, thread
the ball through a crowd to his soft hands, and he’d
loft a star up into the lights where it would pause
then gently drop, fall through the cheers and through the net.
The game never ended. I fell into sleep. My hair
was short. We were 8 and 2.

© Jack R. Ridl 1985

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