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“You want to what?”

They’d managed to catch up with Jerry before he’d waddled his way back inside, catching him on the badly weathered staircase that led to the top level of the two-story home. He’d already been panting and wheezing from the exertion, the sweat that was rolling down his cheeks and pooling in the hollows around his eyes seeming to reek of something they couldn’t define. Still, no one laughed, or stared, or did anything but let Brady take the lead.

“This is going to sound insane,” Brady said, “but when we were kids you came to the courts in Ocean Park. You wanted to play one on one and you-“

“I acted like an asshole.” Jerry wheezed as he sat down heavily on one of the steps. The wooden platform gave an ominous creak as his bulk rested upon it, bending under his ample backside as the others could see from their vantage point. The man had to be upwards of three to four hundred pounds. He had almost no ankles, wrists, and looked as though he might have to peel his clothing off. His bald head was sweating profusely, and his breathing was coming in what sounded like labored gasps.

“Unfortunately I wasn’t any better,” Brady said as he shrugged, the ball that Titus had found in both hands as he did. “I lost my cool and beat you so badly you walked off and I regretted it immediately.”

Jerry looked contemplative as he asked, “Why didn’t you say anything?”

“I don’t know, except that I felt, justified somehow. I was young and stupid and wasn’t thinking. But I wanted to try and make it up.”

“So just out of the blue you show up and want to fix this?”

Brady nodded.

Jerry looked to the weathered, almost completely rusted hoop that had been bolted to the single tree that stood in the middle of the wide driveway.

“You want to play on that? And you expect me to run with you?”

Brady frowned as he considered this. Jerry just laughed however as he shook his head. Easing himself to a standing position the steps beneath him creaked yet again as he ascended a single step, then another.

“I can’t run and gun these days Brady,” Jerry said, “I can barely make it up these steps without feeling like I’ll have a heart attack. So a game is out as of now.”

Brady looked crestfallen and was about to say something when Jerry spoke again.

“But if the lot of you want to come up for a drink, and just to hang out and bullshit for a while, I think that might make up for it.”

Brady looked to the rest of them, but he didn’t even need to question as every last one of them had already started moving for the stairs, the promise of good conversation and a good drink more than enough at that moment.

(to be concluded)

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