GENRE: Epic Fantasy
On the basketball court, Jim Thompson expected trash talk. Here in his parents' beach-side condo, not so much.
The jet-setting owner of the place next door crossed his arms over his puffed-out chest. "It's better you got cut, Jim. Now you can settle down and get a real job. Only exceptional athletes make it big in the NBA."
The verbal jab landed just north of Jim’s own uncertainties about his future, but there was no way he'd let this pompous know-it-all realize the cheap shot stung. Jim waggled his head back and forth the way his favorite wide receiver used to do after taking a ferocious hit. The burble of conversation from the other guests swirled around them, peaking with an explosion of laughter from a bunch of college kids nearby. His sister's friends, no doubt—oblivious to the real world of "produce or get cut loose."
When their voices died down, Jim parroted what he’d been telling his fans since his surgery. "I appreciate your concern, but this is only a temporary setback. I'm not done with basketball yet."
"Trust me on this, kiddo, you don't want to be one of those players bouncing around the D league, earning next to nothing. There's no future in it."
"I’ll keep that in mind." Jim flashed his photo-op smile, the best way to slam the door on the discussion. He couldn't listen to any more dreary predictions about his career. No matter what this jerk or anybody else said, Jim wasn't washed up. All he needed was a chance to prove it.
As the guy moved off, Jim checked the entryway for new arrivals. Thankfully no media, at least not yet. If the local sports reporters overheard talk about him leaving basketball, they would drop-kick him into the has-been pile before the eleven o'clock news. No telling if his career could survive that kind of bad press.
Jim stretched his tender knee. His best hope would be to give the reporters something positive to write, and for that he needed his brother's help. Eddie might be pigheaded about most things, but he was still family. Maybe Jim could corral him and wrangle a commitment about the golf tournament in time to make an announcement before the reception ended.
His older brother stood beside the food table dishing hors d'oeuvres onto a paper plate. Sidestepping through the afternoon crowd to minimize his limp, Jim made his way into the dining area. One guest after another patted him on the back and told him to hang in there. He thanked each, assuring them he'd be back on the basketball court in no time.
Confidence. That's what fans needed to see. That's what Eddie needed to see.
When he reached his brother, Jim bent toward him to keep from raising his voice. "Hey, Eddie, you have a minute?"
"It's your reception, bro. Here, have some food." Eddie pushed his plate into Jim's hand and gave him a paper cup.