By Edele Winnie
Puker Peters held onto his beer cup too tightly and spilled half the contents. On another day he would have been angry, but today was different. Today everything was going to change for him.
He had bought the Pierre Angels National Basketball League Franchise for a paltry seven million dollars. It was all the money he had in the world combined with all he could borrow. It was the chance of a lifetime, an opportunity too good to be true.. And that turned out to be quite accurate- it was too good to be true. Pierre, capital city of South Dakota, had 15,000 people and only four of them liked basketball. At every game Puker Peters lost money that he didn’t have. He started drinking as his life and future withered, and that was how he’d gotten his nickname.
But today was going to be different, because he had done something extreme. He didn’t have a good team filled with skilled players. The Pierre Angels were in last place and the team were dregs of the dregs. Puker didn’t hate them- you had to start somewhere- and they were all he could afford at the time. Truthfully he couldn’t even afford them anymore. He’d mortgaged his house, his car, his children, he’d sold his dog for scientific experiments and removed one of his mother’s kidneys while she was sleeping and sold it on the internet.
He had hit bottom and was considering suicide when he‘d found the girl. He’d been sitting in his car, drinking straight vodka and jelly beans when he heard a basketball bouncing. It was early morning- he’d been there all night. The girl was okay, she obviously loved the game- but what really set her apart was that she had three arms. Two were normal on the side things but the third came right out of the center of her chest, and it was twice as long as the other ones. It wasn’t some wimpy half dead arm either- she’d worked it and it was muscly and strong. He’d staggered out of his car and stood there on the other side of the fence staring and drooling. She would save him. She would save the team. Everyone in the world would want to watch a three armed girl play basketball.
Puker had slithered over to the fence and offered the girl everything in the world if she’d sign to play with the Pierre Angels. She’d accepted.
Wanda Perez had always wanted to be accepted for who she really was. She’d had a hard life, treated as a freak for most of her younger years. After puberty she’d been able to fold her third arm across her non-existent chest and appear busty. Men were not disappointed when they discovered she was flat-chested and had three arms. Men liked freaks. But they had not loved her for herself, only for her extra arm.
It had made her feel powerless and trapped so she had worked out and exercised and her center arm became a flex of strength and power. She could do anything if she put her mind to it- except find someone to truly love her.
The Pierre Angels had been in last place, as usual, when Puker Peters had brought Wanda Perez to practice. Practices were loose affairs, with the players mostly standing around talking and telling jokes and trying not to think about how awful they really were.
Peters had come in with Perez beside him.
“Hold everything!” He’d shouted. “Our new star player is here!”
The hackles had collectively risen on the rabble of players. No one likes being told they are now moving further back in the bus.
“This better be good.” Someone grumbled.
They were stunned. Wanda Perez looked like an alien. She was a rough looking woman, but the center of her shirt had an opening and an extremely long arm came out. Someone passed her a basketball and the center arm had caught it, spun it around on one finger and then flipped it towards the net, all while her other two hands were on her hips. Her shot did not score but it didn’t matter. She was a basketball playing freak.
Kevin Soother had given up an engineering scholarship to take a basketball one. He was not shocked to have been offered the engineering scholarship, for he was bright and studious. The basketball scholarship was the surprise. Of course he had played, he loved to play. He just wasn’t all that good. He wasn’t terrible, but there were so many more that were better. So he’d gone to an obscure college in South Dakota and played basketball while completing a degree in mythology.
Being drafted into the NBA had started as a joke, became a dream and ended up a nightmare with the Pierre Angels. On any other team he would have been a bench warmer, but the Angels played him in every game, because it didn’t matter- they knew they were going to lose anyway.
Perhaps he should have been thankful, getting to play all the time but the truth was he was always outclassed and he’d grown to dread hearing his name called and running out on to the court. The pro players were just too much better than he was. The crazy dream of playing a pro sport had turned into a dribbling daymare of humiliation.
They did some shooting practice and no one said anything. The three armed girl shot well enough, but they all did- it was easy when there were no hands in your face and nobody trying to mess with you. The coach, who’s mouth had opened when Wanda Perez arrived and never quite closed, called for a practise game. No one wanted to guard the three armer so coach sent Kevin Soother in. He was nervous and embarrassed and felt like he normally did- that he just wasn’t good enough and that everyone was laughing at him. It was how Wanda Perez felt everyday but she had gotten used to it somehow.
When the whistle blew Perez’s team got the ball and passed directly to her. Yea, it was an obvious set up but they all wanted to see what she could do. She caught the ball and bounced it down the court, Kevin Soother guarding her all the way. She stopped suddenly and began this complex fancy move of tossing the ball amongst her three hands. In short she had evaded Soother and passed the ball off to one of her teammates under the net. Unfortunately the ball bounced off his head because all he could do was stare. The rest of the game unfolded much the same. She was given the ball, she dazzled them and they didn’t score. She was amazing. They were stunned.
Puker Peters was shaking with the ecstasy of dollars to come. He was really shaking and laughing about it, until he went all rigid and his eyeballs rolled back and he keeled over, dead as King Tut.
Everyone stared. Wanda Perez ran over and started doing CPR, pressing on his chest. Her third arm came in really handy. But it was no good. Puker was dead. An ambulance was called. The players and the three armed girl all hung around because no one told them to go home.
Finally the old coach came out. He’d been a coach for ninety seven years or something, and his face was so grizzled it broke razor blades.
“It’s all done.” He said. “We’re done. I just talked to the friggin ‘countants. There’s no cash. The Angels are through.”
He started kicking chairs and then got a funny look on his face and keeled over too. They tried to save him but it was no good. All the heart had gone out of him.
The players went to collect their belongings from the locker room, and to strip any Angel memorabilia that wasn’t nailed down to sell later on eBay.
Wanda Perez found herself alone, on the bench, pondering her life. It seemed like one rotten thing after another. And then she noticed she wasn’t alone. Down at the end of the bench, in his usual terrified spot, was Kevin Soother. He stood up when she looked at him, came awkwardly over.
“You played really well.” He said.
“Thanks.” She didn’t return the compliment because he hadn’t played so hot. “You not cleaning out your stuff?”
He shook his head, even smiled. “Already did. I was going to quit at the end of the day.”
His smile was infectious and she returned it.
“Do you want to get something to eat?” He asked, and then added quickly. “I don’t have much money so could it just be like hot dogs and stuff?”
If anyone had been there to watch, they would have seen them holding hands by the time they got to the parking lot. And yeah, he was holding the long weird arm and hand that came from her chest.