DISCLAIMER: Crude/profane language and marijuana use.
“Mom is picking you up at 8 or so -- how about no black eyes or bloody noses today, eh?”
“Pshh,” my daughter laughed.
“I’m talking about the other kids, Linds.”
“I promise nothing,” she said in a Russian accent as she slammed the door and ran into the gym. That little goon is too much like me.
I usually stay for practice, but my wife says I give her too much confidence. I mean she does get into more scuffles on the court when I’m there, but I take that as a sign of how much she loves me. She knows I got her back and her mom just doesn’t understand the art form of aggression in competition.
Before I pull off, I send a text message, “Gimme 15 and I’ll be there to spank you like the bad girl you are.”
Ah shit, I didn’t mean to send that to my wife. The phone rang before I could even send a follow-up.
“Let me guess what the last text meant,” my wife started, “either you’re cheating on me, which I know isn’t the case with your lame ass.”
The nerve of this woman. Sheesh. I could cheat if I really put my heart into it.
“Or, even worse, you got a little play date with your buddy from Australia that you can’t stand. I thought you guys weren’t talking?”
“Oh yeah, I forgot. Well, Daddy’s going to bring the bread home, don’t you worry, neow,” I said with a fake-serious tone, “Plus somebody has to put that little sack in his place, right?”
“Please don’t call yourself Daddy,” she laughed, “but I’ll let you have the house. I need to run some errands anyways.”
I re-send the text to the right person and go 5 over on the way home. I speed-walk to the front door and turn the key like somebody is after me, going directly to the Playstation to turn the power on before I even take my shoes off. I’d legit be embarrassed if Luka saw me hustling to appease his schedule. He’d probably think I was excited or something.
I leap up the steps to the bedroom, throwing on some shorts and a white tee. Now— the necessities.
Treats for the dog? Check City, USA baby. Let’s go.
I push the couch closer to the TV and nudge it back and forth to center it perfectly. Before I can grab the mic, the ding for a game invite on NBA2K pops up.
COLONPOUNDER HAS INVITED YOU TO A PARTY
“Well, well, well,” Luka says, “I’m surprised you came— was kind of hoping your wife was getting on though.”
“Shut up and set up the game. Go on and make it full length, too. You get a full on shellacking tonight. 5 random teams and let’s put $100 on it”?
“Double if game disconnects or I dub you?,” Luka asked.
Dubbing is defined as getting beat by 20 points or more when the final buzzer sounds. The best part about dubbing is the loser isn’t allowed to hop online for a full week. It suggests the loser is so horrendous at decision making he needs to take a break and reevaluate his life.
“The sun shines on the some pretty shitty places from time to time, you know I’m not going for that again,” I said, “Send it when you’re ready, I’ll be right back.”
Limiting distraction is the key to winning. So I turn my phone on vibrate, let the dog out to do his business, and take a massive bong rip. I blow the smoke out the door as I let him back in and crack the red bull.
“Let’s hit these randoms,” Luka says in an attempted American Southern accent, “Go on and pack in your lipper big guy, you’re gonna need it.”
I throw in a lipper as quiet as possible.
We alternate turns for the random teams; nothing special for me. I’m running with the Hornets. On Luka’s last random he lands on the Jesus Christ of the sport gaming world, Lebron James. I don’t even need to say the team name, because it doesn’t matter. It’s Bron-Bron plus 4.
“Go on,” I said, “I don’t need any sympathy.”
Luka chooses Lebron and the game gets underway.
Like usual, the first quarter of the game is accompanied by general silence. A few expletives here and there, but no back-and-forth. Part of it is the ritual bong rips settling in for each us, but it’s mostly the fact there’s a lot of game left to be played. Complaining early signals fear and gloating just sharpens the focus of the opponent.
At the end of the 1st, the game is tied up at 30-30.
“I’ll let you quit now if you want,” Luka says, “You can just pay me $50 and we’ll call it good.”
That little nut goblin. He just fudged up by making me sit up and take another bong rip to re-align.
“I’m sorry for what I’m about do to you,” I said, “May God have mercy on your soul.”
I come out busting ass like a big dog does, jumping to a 15-point lead midway through the 2nd. Unlike the mistake Luka made by talking trash too early, I’ve been patient. A couple good insults now might just demoralize him enough to pave the way to a good ol’ fashioned dubbing.
I click pause on the game and take the deepest breath my lungs can provide directly into the mic, "Luka, make sure your kids can’t walk in on this, they didn’t do anything wrong. I love winning as much as the next guy, but no child needs to see their Dad like this--"
“Shut the hell up and unpause it,” Luka said.
I leave it on pause for another minute to let him stew in his shame, but I may have went a little too far because I only have 30 seconds of pause time left for the remainder of the game. It was worth it though; I’m in his head.
The rest of the 2nd is just pure domination. Luka’s focus is gone in the wind, evident from the constant game-blaming and the faint lighter click during each free throw break. Halftime score: 70-46.
“You smell that,” I ask while sniffing, “I think that’s a dub out in the distance. Might be a big one.”
Luka doesn’t respond. I give my doggo an early celebratory treat and we get into the 3rd.
I continue to play some fine ball, but Luka has the motivation of shame inspiring his game. Every play Luka makes is methodical and reeks of try-hard; basically driving to the basket with Lebron every single play. I suppose he does need a miracle so I can’t fault him even though it’s annoying.
The 3rd quarter wraps up and Luka has chipped away at the lead: 90-76. I would be lying if I said my hands and feet didn’t catch a little anxious sweat heading into the 4th, but I’m not worried.
“Duh-dun,” Luka whispers, “Duh-dun, duh-dun, duh-dun.”
I let out a genuine laugh because Luka really does know me even though we’ve never met. Just like a shark, he could smell my fear from thousands of miles away. His accent also made me think of an Australian shark, which is funny because I’m high.
We throw a couple of insults around and kick off the 4th. As long as I don’t lose focus and try to be cute, I got this in the bag.
A minute into the final quarter, my phone starts vibrating on the glass table in front of me. Shit, I knew I should have just turned it off. I silence it without looking and get back into it. A few seconds later, it goes off again. This time I look at it and see it’s my wife but silence it anyways; there are bigger things going on right now.
Dammit, Luka dropped a couple buckets while I was messing with my phone. The lead is down to 8. The phone vibrates again and I hit pause as I unplug my mic, quickened by annoyance.
“Babe, you just made me lose my pause and I only got one timeout left,” I said, “What’s going on?”
“Oh, are you in the middle of the game still?,” she asked, “You know I hate bothering you two--”
“J-- for the love of God, please tell me what you need or I’m hanging up this phone.”
Four minutes left: Good Guys-97
Lebron Jock Rider- 91
I'm met with a long silence. I think I might actually have to hang up this phone. We’ve had serious conversations about this situation so many times; I can’t talk and play video games at the same time. It’s just not in my blood.
“Excuseee me,” she said at a speed reminiscent of a generally slow talker with a Sam’s Club sized jar of peanut butter jammed in their throat.
“Oh nooo -- phone is totally dying.” Call ended. Phone off.
I know exactly what she’s doing, that sneaky snake. Luka texted her and asked her to distract me. Why did I even mention my weakness to Luka? I use my final timeout and throw the mic back on.
“How much did it cost?”
“Ehh, I offered her $20,” Luka said still locked into his Southern accent, “But she put this one on the house.”
“Shit, what’d I do?”
“I slipped up and let her know your name is still PoonGoon69420,” Luka said.
J doesn’t understand I’ve been called “PoonGoon” more than my actual name, it’s not something I can just walk away from. I probably shouldn’t have lied about changing it I suppose.
“All of that work just to take this L,” I said, “Tsk Tsk Tsk -- just embarrassing.”
“Alright, I’ll concede that was a little bit bush league. I’ll use a couple timeouts in a row to make it even. Go on and load a fatty, grab a drink -- hell, take a piss if ya need. I’ll wait.”
That’s a good boy. I crumple a little more bud over the ashy bowl on my way to the backyard for a leak. The moonlight came with a gentle breeze, the cicadas clicking through the silence. You know what, Luka is actually a good guy. Those words will never exit my thoughts and travel as air out of my lips, but I think it’s true.
Jesus, I’m baked like a cake. And where is that whistle coming from? Am I so high I can hear a neighbor’s dog whistle? No, that’s high talk, but what the hell is that? Right as I turn back to the house, I notice lights from the TV bouncing off the sliding door accompanied by another whistle. Luka started the game.
I sprint to the door and bounce the sliding door as I jump to the couch. I can hear Luka giggling like a middle-school aged boy hearing a teacher use the “p” word.
“You’re the biggest fuck I know,” I said, “Who even does that?”
“You’re the biggest fuck I know,” he said, “Who believes in sympathy during competition?”
“I’m not a fuck, I fuck,” we both whisper to ourselves, out of mic range.
Fuck 1: 97
Fuck 2: 97
The last couple minutes of the game bounce back and forth, but I’m fully in my own head at this point. Luka continues to crack lame jokes, amused with his creative orchestration of this comeback. I know I’m about to lose because I’m waiting for the end of the game, even though it’s still tied up.
With only a second remaining, Luka ends up with a single point lead and possession. Instead of letting the clock run out, this man uses his final pause. It’s time for his acceptance speech I suppose.
“First and foremost, I need to thank the big man upstairs—” Luka starts as I hastily yank my mic out, accidentally ripping the cord in half. Now, his acceptance speech is coming through the TV. I’m stuck listening because quitting would result in double the payout. It continues on for a couple minutes before the final buzzer finally sounds.
“Hey guy, you still there?,” Luka asked. I can’t let him know I broke the mic, but I can’t just leave him hanging either.
“Well if you’re hearing this, I’m glad we’re back in the saddle and gaming again. I don’t even remember why we stopped playing, but I missed playing with you and talking with your family, mate. Anyways, sorry if the ol’ texting the wife trick was too far, you don’t have to pay if you don’t want too. Later.”
Damn I did miss that heathen. I turn my phone back on and send him a quick text along with the $100.
“You are so soft. It’s full on wax-season next time we play. Hit me up this weekend and let’s run it back.” I’m still not telling him I broke my mic. I got a few days to come up with a believable excuse.
Stuck in a bittersweet concoction of shame and appreciation, I clean up my vices and push the couch back into place. I spray some Ozium and pick up my phone to see what J and Linds want me to make for dinner, when I see a voicemail notification from J.
“Hey Daddy, it’s Linds. I’m on mom’s phone.” She’s giggling and seems way too amused to be calling me right now.
“We just wanted to let you know we saw the Venmo to Luka and know you blew the lead. Mom said she’s sorry but liars get what liars get. Anyways, I wanted McDonald’s for dinner but Mom said only winners get Mickey D’s so we’re stopping by the store to pick up some depression dogs. You better win next time. See you soon.”
I forgot how much those two love plotting against me with Luka; I guess the “depression dogs” are worth it. But next time we will eat like kings at the arches of gold.