‘The crowd’s barely able to contain itself! The stadium is in an uproar! This is the endgame!’
Nigel dribbled the basketball on the tarmac and leapt up in the air, neatly avoiding Andrew’s desperate attempts to block his path. The ball in his hands was shoved forward and struck the backboard of the basket Andrew and Dave had spent several hours erecting to the side of the apartment.
The ball ricocheted down into the metal frame of the hoop, bounced back against the rear of said hoop and dropped leisurely into Nigel’s waiting hands.
‘He shoots, he scores!’ Nigel crowed, wrenching the ball out of reach before Andrew could steal it. ‘What is the score again?’
‘Seventy-three to nil; my favor,’ Andrew grunted, making another dive at the ball.
‘Yes, seventy-three to...’ Nigel nodded, stopped, then frowned. ‘No it isn’t!’
‘Then keep score yourself,’ Andrew retorted, leaping to the left only to miss again.
‘Fine. And I think you fill find that the Verkoff Shaggers have achieved twenty points, while the Beeblebrox Bludgers wade in their own filth on a putrescent four points!’
‘Did you work that out all by yourself?’ asked Andrew, stealing the ball from Nigel’s grasp.
‘I did, actually.’ Nigel slapped with his left hand and the ball tumbled to the floor and bounced back into his hands. ‘Face it, Andrew. When it comes to basketball, I am undiscovered country!’
‘An undiscovered cunt, more like,’ Andrew grimaced, panting for air.
‘And you are nothing,’ Nigel continued, not listening. ‘Some of us are just naturally superior.’
‘Fascist,’ his opponent grumbled. ‘Answer me one question, Nige.’
Nigel waved his hand dismissively, wagging his fingers in Andrew’s direction.
‘When you throw the ball...’
‘...do you breathe in or do you breathe out?’
‘Well, Andrew, I... ah, I, er...’ Nigel shrugged. ‘Not sure. Why do you ask?’
Andrew flashed him a toothy smile. ‘Just curious. Your go.’
‘Yes,’ Nigel muttered absently, turning to face the hoop once more. He dribbled the ball with first his left hand, then the right, then leapt up in the air as Andrew scrambled to block him. Nigel lifted his arms to throw the ball, his mind wandering to his lungs.
What did he do? Breathe in? Breathe out? Hold his breath entirely?
He realized gravity was drawing him back to the ground and he threw out with all his strength. The ball stuck the side of the ring and was sent hurtling across the yard. Andrew was already pouncing on it. Nigel pranced across the yard and in moments held the ball.
Nigel ran, dribbling the ball with difficulty on the grassy turf, returned the patio and lined up to shoot the ball once again. Andrew was already moving ahead to try and block him.
Nigel was struggling to breathe now – it seemed a heavy, conscious effort to haul and expel air into his lungs. If he didn’t command his body to do it his respiratory system seemed quite prepared to suffocate him then and there...
Andrew snatched the ball off Nigel and shot the hoop.
It missed, rebounded back into his hands and he threw it again.
‘You... bastard!’ Nigel panted as he only just managed to block the next go. ‘You bastard!’
‘Nigel,’ Andrew replied calmly as he temporarily abandoned shooting hoops and began trying to spin the basketball on the tip of his finger. ‘If it’s legitimacy we’re talking about, then you are the only bastard in this particular conversation...’
‘You set me up!’ Sucking in all the air he could, Nigel jumped and snatched the ball off him.
‘What do you mean?’
‘You’ve ruined my athletic career!’
‘I just asked a question! Which you couldn’t even answer!’
Nigel tried – and failed – to score another two points.
‘Well, then, smart arse – do you breathe in or out when you shoot?’
Andrew scored another two points.
‘Out,’ he smiled.