A Dull-Witted Boy story, for your entertainment only.
From the offices of the Badlands Journal editorial board.
It was Wednesday afternoon and four masked boys were playing basketball at the last public basketball court in town that didn’t have lids on the baskets. Somebody in Parks and Rec thought the whole idea of fitting lids on basketball hoops was baloney.
One team was the Dext’rous Duo, The Dull-Witted Boy and his good friend , Li’l Hector. The opposition, as always, was their neighbors and friends, Bobby Davis and his Terribly Tall brother, Stretch.
Despite the size of the opposition, or at least of Stretch, since Bobby wasn’t much taller than the Dull-Witted Boy, the Dext’rous Duo were weaving their backcourt magic with their usual skill, dribbling and passing, in and out, looking for the layup and the jumper inside the key. On defense, they dared Stretch to put the ball on the court. Li’l Hector could steal a tennis ball from the jaws of a junkyard dog. He never had any trouble stealing a basketball from Stretch. But Bobby had a devastating long shot, a sort of running set shot of his own devising. It wasn’t orthodox, and the Dull-Witted Boy tried once again to declare it illegal, but he was outvoted. Li’l Hector’s renowned sense of justice prevailed.
“You can’t do that,” he explained to the Dull-Witted Boy. “ He didn’t travel. You can’t outlaw a shot for being unorthodox. What would your Uncle Henry say?”
With mention of his uncle, the Dull-Witted Boy replied: “My mother calls Henry ‘nothin’ but a over-educated, alcoholic ne-er-do-well, or something.’ I asked Henry once what “neerdowell” meant, and he told me ‘that’s a redneck bohemian.’”
“What’s a bo-hee-mee-an?” Bobby Davis asked.
“Well, that’s one thing but the running set shot is another thing,” the Dull-Witted Boy replied, “and I don’t know what Henry’s ruling would be. But on the ho-hee-mee-an point, he said it was a group of very powerful men from all over the world that meet at some hideaway up north of here and have rituals for a month every summer.”
“Is rituals like vittles,” asked Stretch, who was always hungry, trying to feed a body that would never see 5 feet again.
“I dunno,” the Dull-Witted Boy said, knowing that he had forever lost his ruling on the running set shot, thanks to his teammate, “and I don’t want to argue. I don't think them bo-hee-mee-ans play basketball, anyway. I withdraw my official opposition to Bobby’s running set shot and let’s get to playing basketball before dark. Otherwise, we might as well be a bunch of skateboarders.”
With that, he threw a clever bounce pass between Stretch’s legs to Li’l Hector, who dashed for the basket a step ahead of Bobby for an easy 2. Bobby was yelling that that was an unfair pass because … when Stretch stepped back from the foul line, pivoted and projected forth his lean, serpent-like arm and baseball mitt of a hand, and swatted away Li’l Hector’s lay up the moment it left the little fellow's hands.
They were arguing whether or not Stretch had actually fouled Li’l Hector and whether or not Bobby had stepped over the line when he had grabbed the loose ball and bounced it off Li’l Hector’s knee, which would have meant an easy 2 for the Davis Bros. because all Bobby would have had to do would be to toss a high one to Stretch right under the basket and watch the Dext’rous Duo hopping around underneath Stetch’s hands as he gently bounced the ball off the backboard into the basket for a real easy 2.
When the Dull-Witted Boy looked up from the spot Li’l Hector was pointing to, claiming it was the smudge made by Bobby’s shoe, he saw the police.
“Keep it down,” he whispered. “The cops are here.”
The other boys looked up. They saw four policemen, two of them with face masks, pushing a dolly holding two cutting torch tanks, and the other two approaching them.
The next thing they saw was Stretch getting quickly down flat to the ground with his hands over his head.
“He had the talk,” Bobby whispered. “I’m too short yet, Dad said.”
The Dull-Witted boy, who didn’t get his name for nothing, was confused – Stretch on the ground, cops approaching, gas tanks, masks – it was a lot. Maybe too much.
“OK, so he didn’t step over the line,” he yelled at the approaching policeman. “I don’t care. We’ll leave quietly.”
“What are you talking about, kid?” the first policeman said. “Here, give me the ball for a moment.”
Li’l Hector obeyed.
The first cop passed it to the second cop who put a jump shot up from the corner, which hit the rim; the first cop rebounded it, crouched, head faked, pivoted and put it in.
“An easy 2,” he yelled, raising his arms in triumph, then passing the ball back to Li’l Hector, who passed it to Bobby, who passed it to the first cop, who tried a hook shot, as the third and fourth cops lit up the torch and started cutting the base of the pole. The first cop passed it to the Dull-Witted Boy, who sunk a foul shot, then the cop passed it to Bobby, who sunk a running set shot, and then the torch cop said, “Timber!” and pole, backboard and basket crashed to the ground, barely missing Stretch.
It brought back speech to his mouth. “Why did you cut down our basketball hoop?” Stretch asked.
“It’s political,” said the rebounding cop.
“Yeah, real political,” the corner-shot cop said.
“What’s political about basketball?” Li’l Hector asked.
“The president don’t like it,” said the torch cops in unison. “So down go the baskets in the park.”
“Can we play at home?” Bobby asked, whose father had nailed a backboard to the back of their garage, and even though the court was grass, the neighborhood kids played there for hours, until the grass turned to dirt, hardened and became a good surface for dribbling.
“Yeah, but you better keep it off the street at least until the election,” the first cop said.
“What election? Why?” Stretch asked, sensing the cop wasn’t going to shoot him for being tall or something.
“Just because they can!” said the four cops in unison. “Now go home and quit asking dumb questions we don’t know the answers to,” the corner-shot cop said. “Blow!”
But Li’l Hector, intrepid as ever former readers remember him, replied with a question: “Who’s they?”
“Well, they ain’t you, kid,” the first cop said, advancing on the fearless little Socrates in an unfriendly way.
“Are they you?” the Dull-Witted Boy asked.
“Shut up and dribble, kid,” he said, loosening his baton. Stretch was about to do another flop but the boys grabbed his hands and drabbed him away upright.
“Next time, you little bleeps,” another cop yelled behind them.
Li'l Hector muttered something unprintable even in Spanish that he had learned when his father and his father's friends played cards in the garage.
Gathered in the Dull-Witted Boy’s mother’s house that evening over a delicious watermelon Uncle Henry had provided, the boys asked him, “Can they abolish basketball.”
“No,” said Uncle Henry with the utmost seriousness, “they cannot abolish basketball.” He smashed his fist on the table.
“Oh, Henry,” his sister said, “calm down.”
Later that evening, the four boys easily defeated Uncle Henry and Mr. Davis in a game in the Davis’s backyard.
“Them two nephews of yours are shifty little peckerwoods,” Mr. Davis gasped after the game.
“And I don’t expect your son to block my shots, either,” Uncle Henry said. ”We got stars on our block.”
“Yes, we do,” Mr. Davis agreed.
“They will never abolish basketball,” Henry said.
“They will never abolish basketball,” Mr. Davis said.
“They will never abolish basketball,” the four boys yelled.
And they didn’t abolish basketball. In the first place, there never was a “they.” It was just a thought in the president’s mind the afternoon before his speech at the Republican convention.
The speech writers conferred and decided it was “Ivanka Time,” and summoned the First Daughter.
The father and daughter conferred behind closed doors. We won’t know what was said until Ivanka’s memoirs are published and we get to read the chapter, “How I Saved the NBA.”
Throughout the speech, the writers that had some spiritual power to pray to, did so fervently. But the president exhausted his bile on the usual lies, blaming and bragging, a genuine throwback to a 19th-century riverboat colonels, Southern senators, con men, Shakespearean actors, thieves, and other character much beloved by the speechwriters, who drank to forget it all.