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The Vagabond



He was short with well-developed arm and back muscles. He wore a brief pair of shorts, white socks, and low sneakers that were badly torn. He also wore heavy black-horn rimmed glasses which were protected by a little wire and leather mask. He ran up and down the floor working his legs like pistons, with his hands stiffly beating the air at his sides. He carried his head high and his chest was puffed out so that he looked like nothing more than a cocky Mickey Mouse. Or I could have imagined him as Fanny Brice burlesquing the dance of the Dying Swan.

He would sprint across the floor when he saw his team had the ball and wave his arms wildly and shout, "Here! Here! Throw it here!" Then the ball would be thrown elsewhere, and he would grow! and mutter an "Oh, damn!" Once he captured the ball out of the air and started to dribble madly towards the basket. Suddenly he bethought himself of an unselfish move and pushed the ball into the unsuspecting arms of a teammate. Before the latter had taken two steps, and before he could get ahead of him, he shouted, "Pass it back, pass it back," in an officious tone that intimated the lack of team spirit on his fellow player's part.

Later he freed himself from his man, by pulling the other's arm and throwing him off balance, and cut for the basket. Near the foul line he caught the ball, jumped around like a rabbit, and threw the ball with both hands at the basket. It sailed over the backboard and delayed the game thirty seconds.

When the opposing five were struggling about his basket, he stood apart, hands on hips, head high, and contemplated the situation. There was a smirk on his face, made grotesque by the mask, as if he believed the other team could not by any means shoot a basket, which made it necessary for him to waste his strength. So he stood there, doing nothing, shuffling from one foot to the other, while the enemies he scorned made a basket.

The game over, he grabbed his sweatshirt off the floor, brushed ahead of several less cager exercisers to be the first to get a drink at the fountain, and vanished in a flurry of propelling hands and legs.

He was a boy playing basketball.

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