He looks at me as if this is supposed to mean something. I return a blank stare.
He and I are forehead to sweaty forehead in my backyard basketball court. He starts pacing and dribbling, as he looks to drive.
Bill lowers his voice. “June.”
Now I understand. I shrug it off.
“I won’t miss any of the games,” I say, stepping side to side along with him. “And besides, who’s to say the Celtics will even make the Finals?”
“Really,” Bill scoffs. “They won it all in ’08. The only reason they didn’t make it last year was the injury to KG. Now he’s healthy, and they’ve added Rasheed. How could they not make the Finals? And it’s going to be against Kobe again. You know it is.”
Bill shoots, misses a contested jumper. I rebound.
“Possibly,” I say, clearing the ball. “But I won’t miss anything.”
“Really,” Bill says, “South Dakota…Wyoming…you’ll be lucky to find a picture of a TV set. A few months ago, I went apple picking outside DeKalb. It’s barely an hour West… might as well have been rural China. There was a diner there that closed up shop at Two p.m.”
Bill looks at me. No blinking. “Two p.m.,” he repeats.
I stop dribbling, and Bill straightens from his defensive posture.
“You’re being dramatic,” I say. “There are…cities and stuff.”
“Oh sure, and between those cities are enormous stretches of nothing,” he says. “I’ve taken the Yellowstone trip, my friend. Do you have any idea what kinds of attractions you’ll be stopping for?”
My heart rate is rising. These are the details I have intentionally avoided. I need to be completely ignorant when I step into that minivan. It’s the only way I’ll survive. I start humming, but I can still make out Bill over the drone.
“I can damn near guarantee you there’s a giant rock carving, a building devoted to the wonders of corn, and a sanctuary for dangerously well-endowed horses in your future,” Bill says. “While the Celtics are playing the Lakers in the NBA Finals, you’ll be in a cabin made of cow pies playing travel monopoly by candlelight.”
Giant Rock Carving: Check
Building devoted to Corn: Check
Sanctuary for dangerously well-endowed horses: Check
I’m still humming, and it’s still not working.
“And don’t even get me started about Yellowstone,” Bill says. “You know what qualifies as entertainment at Yellowstone?”
I close my eyes, as if that will help. I know Bill means well in some twisted way, but he might as well be shoving bamboo under my fingernails.
“BUFFALO!” Bill says. “Also known as Bison. I’d explain the difference between buffalo and bison to you, but I don’t want to ruin it…because instead of watching another historic NBA Finals on 42 inches worth of stunning high definition, that’s what you’ll be learning about.”
Bison, or buffalo...one or the other
When I think he’s done, I open my eyes and stare at Bill. He stares back, looking at me like I’ve just told him I have cancer.
“I’ll be fine,” I say, then make my move and drive to the basket. My burst leaves Bill frozen and flat-footed, which is why I’m stunned when my lay-up is swatted and I tumble to the ground.
Above me, a burly bandana-clad man flexes and growls like he’s just blocked LeBron James, and not a Glucosamine-Chondroitin-taking 40-year-old.