Talking, dribbling, at a medium pace, two young hulks sweated outside in a brutal boiling sun while their would-be girlfriend stared. Their ball hammered and echoed off the cement driveway and around the brick retaining wall. Sound swirled out and up and dissipated slowly, without the aid of a breeze. The girl chatted while chewing gum as they strained to swing up from the outside to hook the basketball up, over the other kid, and inside the net.

In the lull of a suburb summer, the trio's only options had been to sulk inside around a television screen blaring Texas Justice and Judge Judy, to perhaps play a too-eighties board game or talk, or to whittle away the time outside somehow. They were young enough to realize that television was boring on one's own, but thrice as numbing when together. At the same time, there had been no prior luck with silence. They fumbled, were nervous, without external stimulus. They had to take it outside, to the court.

The larger guy, sixteen, had suggested the game. He wore an appropriate long, loose black venting tank top and his most relaxed jean shorts. Before they'd walked over to his house, he'd gotten prepared for their assent to a game or two. When he dribbled, his eyes fixed on his opponent, not the ball. His father had taught him to take sports seriously; success in competition produced pleasure in one's worth. He could side-step and fake inside, things he'd picked up from camp.

The second, wiry teenager had agreed to play out of a sense of obligation and faint confidence from an occasional game he'd helped win in gym class. He would have voted for the inside: non-confrontational, bland, safe television. Nevertheless, his fast, lean arms could grasp inside and steal. He could hear the ball beat and pretend it was his marching band snare drum firing. His shots weren't careful, though, and he often lost the play.

Mostly the young woman sat on the sidelines in the shade. She'd occasionally venture in the game to steal and take a shot, or bump and rumble into one or the other. She smiled the whole time she was outside, unless she needed water. Her bubbly eyes couldn't fix on either guy the way a young man might want. She'd only been kissed once or twice, and often sat alone.

The basketball rattled inside the rim every minute or so. Each guy would pause to talk about school, the days passing until fall, their plans for sophomore year, or whether they'd get a car soon. They could trump--one would get an A, but the other would lead in track and field. The scrawny, tall one could be his club's vice-president, but the experienced one planned to purchase a sedan modified for street racing. She sat, humbled by her lower plans for a safe, cheap car, and made each boy promise to give her rides until she could drive herself.

Hormones raging, they could have gasped each time she guarded them. Since she didn't yet know her effect or their attraction, she couldn't calculate how she favored one, then the other. Each guy was confident that he could beat her in a fair game, but they liked how she grinned when they threw to her. She was just smiling because she liked to cut in and win.

Nobody's heart was in the game. The unblocked sun dropped, unread, as they faded out of the past and into the action. They met and played to pass the time. They played to change their fortunes.

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