Every time I go home these days, all these people keep calling me up all the time to play basketball. It makes no sense, even though I have to admit that it isn't really all these people--just Ed Thompson, and Meyer, and this dude I've disliked ever since we were both eight years old, and his younger brother, and this guy who used to think he was either Captain Scarlet or Matt Busby from the Beatles' White Album but never quite made up his mind which (though it took him only a week to decide he hated Harvard Medical School) and Truck. In between halves, Truck tells me about an article in the Reader's Digest. When I acknowledge that I've missed the article, Truck allows that that's always a problem with the Reader's Digest. There's so much in it, he explains, and so little time to read it in.
The dude I've disliked since we were both eight years old, on the other hand, plays the piano. His favorite technical device is putting five beats into four-beat songs so as to syncopiate them. He also likes to try to steal the ball from his teammates, so as to keep them from getting upset. This is not always so good for team morale.
Besides, it keeps getting worse. I might recommend it as a symbol of the world in general, in fact--except that I don't want to sound discouraged so soon before New Year's. So maybe it is more like President Ford: it started off as amiable idiocy, but the joke is wearing fast.
In one of these games, once, I started to make every shot I took. I couldn't understand it. Every time I would shoot, no matter how many feet behind the foul line it was from, the ball would take this strange trajectory and end up in the basket. If the Institute of Defense Analysis had been around to watch, they'd probably have junked the electronic battlefield. Truck and Meyer and Ed Thompson and Matt Busby just stared and watched, and after awhile even the dude I've disliked since we were both eight years old stopped trying to steal the ball from his teammates because he realized it didn't make any difference. "Where did you learn to shoot that way?" they said. I just smiled.
This will probably not happen this Christmas, I suppose, although in a year when Chairman Mao shakes hands with Mrs. Marcos and the Mets trade Tug McGraw, how can you tell for sure? The dude with the piano is going to be a success, soon. I feel it in my bones. I do not want to talk to him. Also, the one time I tried to play some hoop this fall, some tough-looking twelve-year-olds chased us off their court, and I didn't make a shot all afternoon. When these people call next week, maybe I will tell them I am sleeping.