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Thread: Theater of Broken Dreams.

  1. #131
    Stand On Guard For Thee Captain Canada's Avatar

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    Man, this is getting intense. Such an emotionally impactful update. Creative job, Soap.

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  3. #132
    G.O.A.T. Soapy's Avatar

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    "Come on, Tommy."

    Thomas groaned as he rolled out of bed, careful not to step on the few empty bottles that coated his apartment floor. He rubbed his eyes as he tried to estimate based on the amount of sun coming into his room what time it was. With as little movement as possible, he grabbed the cleanest looking shirt in his vicinity and threw it on.

    "What's up?" Thomas said as he swung the door open, leaning on the edge of the door frame.

    "Didn't expect you to answer to be honest," Kenny said as he welcomed himself into the room, scrunching his face as the smell of alcohol and sweat overwhelmed him, "I now see why you missed the team meeting last night?"

    "Yeah," Thomas replied flatly, rubbing his nose before placing his hand on his hips.

    "I think it's the first time...the was....good, I guess. You should have been there, you know. The guys decided that..ummm..we're going to play."

    "That's cool," Thomas cleared his throat, still with no inflection or tone in his voice.

    "We're actually getting ready to board right now," Kenny awkwardly laughed, "Like....right now. Bags are packed, everyone's on the bus except for.....I guess, us two."

    "What do you want man?"

    "You're really going to make me do this?" Kenny sighed, "We want you to come....we need you to come."

    "Y'all go ahead man," Thomas scoffed, bending over to open up his mini fridge and grab a bottle of water, "Good luck, y'all got...St. Johns right?"

    "Stony Brook," Kenny corrected him as he sat up from the bed, "We play them tommorow night, yeah. I mean...fuck. Alright, man."

    Kenny lightly patted Thomas on the back before he quickly made his way out of the room. Thomas couldn't help but laugh to himself before taking a seat on the bed, chugging the rest of the water bottle.

    "Go beat fucking Stony Brook," Thomas whispered to himself, "Go ahead, go, go fucking play them. Go beat fucking Stony Brook!"

    Thomas threw the water bottle at the door, causing the loud bang to echo throughout the empty apartment.


    One of the perks of being a junior was that Thomas no longer had to swindle his way for some alcohol. A simple flash of his actual, government issued ID was all he needed as he continued to pound drink after drink in the lowly lit bar a few miles from campus. Due to his height and tattoos, he was spotted pretty easily and most campus bars wouldn't serve him alcohol but he had found a broken down ale house that either didn't care or didn't recognize him.

    "I think she's recording our conversations man. Like the other day, she kept being real polite and like real interview like. She then asked me if I've been drinking and I'm like what the fuck?"

    Thomas continued to overhear the conversation between the two man behind him as he aimlessly moved his fingers amongst the fries in front of him. He didn't know why he ordered them or even when, he just remembered a brief conversation with the waitress that was pushing forty but still 'fuck-able' and then the fries were in front of him.

    "Nigga, you always drinking!"

    The two erupted in laughter which slightly frustrated Thomas. He didn't find that line to be that funny and his baby momma was right, he was a terrible father. At least from the small information that Thomas was able to gather.

    "I hate that fucking bitch man," one of the guys said once the hyenas had their fill.

    "She's not a bitch," Thomas slowly turned around to face the guy, "You're really do I say this? Like if being a dad was like a job, you'd probably get fired. Oh, or like if being a dad was like a restaurant, your Yelp ratings would be like a two star."

    "Who the fuck is this kid?" the guy got up but was quickly held back by his friend.

    "Why don't you finish your food and get out of here, champ. Take a look around, gringo, this ain't the place you want for some shit to go down."

    Thomas got up and the men were quite stunned as his six-foot-eight, 245-pound frame approached them.

    "That's enough," the waitress that had magically served Thomas his fries stepped in, "Every week it's something with you, Jorge."

    "It's this fucking guy," Jorge shook his head, "He's talking all crazy to my mans, thinking he's some tough, white supremacist shit."

    "Sweetie," the waitress looked at Thomas with dissapointment.

    "You need any help, miss?" one of the guys from the nearby table approached them but she waved him off.

    "I got this," she said as she placed her hand on Thomas' chest, "Amanda, clean up Jorge's table and cash them out. You guys are done."

    "Come on, Mira!" Jorge complained.

    "That's it," Mira shot him a firm look, causing Thomas to smirk a little bit, "You're not off the hook, mister. You're coming with me on this smoke break, let's go."

    Thomas shook his head before he realized that she was serious. The beers were cheap so he obliged, realizing that this might be his go-to spot for the remainder of his semester and he didn't want to ruffle the feathers of the apparent mother hen.

    "You're a good looking kid," she said as she lit up her cigarette, "What you doing, huh? Getting in fights with middle-aged guys on Friday nights?"

    "I don't know," Thomas scoffed, "Thanks, by the way, for not kicking me out."

    "Don't worry about it," she waved her hand, "You're in no state to drive so kicking you out would only make the situation worse. Ever since mijo started driving, I'm real careful. That's why I be giving you guys free fries and shit, just to keep your ass in that chair until you at least can see half-decently."

    "How old's your son?" Thomas asked as they took a seat on the bench that faced the entrance to the bar.

    "Seventeen," she shook her head, "He's not supposed to drive after nightfall but with me working, he knows that as long as he's back home before my shift is over, there's no way for me to find out. You must have been a bad one at seventeen, huh?"

    "In more than one way," Thomas laughed.


    "These are some stale ass chips," Jason complained before throwing the rest of the bag on the ground.

    "Dirty ass niggas man," Fresh laughed, "This why you can't let niggas in nice, white neighborhoods man. Remember that, Tommy boy."

    "I'm gonna be right there on draft night with my nigga Tommy," Jason smiled as he got on his tippy-toes to place his arm around Thomas' neck.

    The trio continued to walk down the street, harassing a few of the high school girls that were making their way home. Thomas kept his mouth shut for the most part, happy that his afternoons weren't consisting of dribbling drills and shooting free throws for once.

    "There goes that nigga Craig," Fresh pointed out as the light blue Sedan pulled up next to them.

    "Y'all get in," Craig said quickly, reaching over to unlock the passenger side door, "Not you, Jason. Get the fuck on, nigga!"

    "Really, my nigga?" Jason complained but when Craig shot him a cold look, he stopped his protesting, "I'll watch y'all later or whatever."

    "What's up Craig?" Fresh said as they got in the car.

    "That niggas back," Craig said with a smile, "I told y'all, niggas can't stay away from a piece of pussy too long."

    "Fuck you talking about?" Fresh asked as they continued to speed their way down the block.

    "That bitch ass nigga Ro," Craig replied, "He's laid up with his baby moms like right now, my nigga."

    "Right now, right now?"

    "Yeah," Craig laughed, "We gotta do this shit right now or it's a wrap."

    "I thought he was in protective custody," Thomas muttered.

    "Y'all ain't noticed they ain't been sweating us for a minute? He's probably getting antsy," Craig reasoned, "When niggas get aggravated, they run to that pussy man. I told y'all!"

    "We really about to do this right now, right now?" Fresh scoffed as Craig stopped the car a few houses from where Ro's baby's mother lived, "I don't like this. You even know whose in that crib, bro?"

    "Do it matter?"

    "Yeah," Fresh sucked his teeth, "We just gonna go in there and blast motherfuckers?!"

    "You pussy!" Craig opened the door out of frustration and grabbed the brown paper bag that was underneath his seat, "Tommy, you riding?"

    Thomas froze as he sat there, staring at the brown paper bag.

    "Look at that shit!" Craig grabbed Thomas' arm and pointed to the crying Geisha on his right bicep, "You certified, motherfucker. So you riding or what?"

    "Fuck it," Thomas muttered as he threw his hoodie over his head, "Come on Fresh, let's go."

    Fresh punched the dashboard and groaned before he got up and followed the two of them down the road. Unlike their usual jobs, they weren't worried about being spotted as three guys walking down a street like this was common place. Still, Thomas couldn't help but keep looking over his shoulder. What if this was just an elaborate trap to catch them in the act? It was too late for reconsidering as Fresh went around the back of the house while Thomas and Craig were standing on the porch.

    "Knock twice," Craig instructed Thomas before he crouched next to the door.

    Thomas knocked, his heart racing as his fists connected with the wooden door. He knocked again, not hearing anything coming from the house until he heard the door rattle and then swung open.

    "You one of Ro's friends or something?"

    Thomas' heart drop and he was stuck as he stared aimlessly into her face. He tried to open his mouth but before he could say anything, Craig pushed him into the door and quickly pointed the gun in the girl's face.

    "Get in bitch!"

    "I thought I left having sex with strangers in the 2000s," Mira groaned as she walked back from the bathroom, not even bothering to cover herself up.

    There was something majestic about how she walked and in general carried herself. This was only his second time being with an older woman and the first one didn't even really count but he could tell that he preferred the finer and more experienced things in life. She had a certain aura and confidence in the bedroom that only a woman that stopped caring decades ago could possess.

    "I'm not a stranger," Thomas laughed as he sat up, "You know my name."

    "I actually don't," she said as she lit up a cigarette and sat next to him, "I know you told me your name but after the last few rounds, I'm a little punch drunk."

    "I've been known to have that effect on people," Thomas smirked.

    "Relax," she scoffed, "You might be in my top fifteen, top ten maybe because of your stamina but let's not get carried away, champ."

    "I think I'll take it," Thomas' ego was a little bit bruised but he decided not to show it, "It's Thomas, by the way."

    "Yes," she shook her head, "I remember now, why do you say Thomas and not like Tom or Tommy?"

    "People back home call me Tommy and I don't know, I guess I don't like it anymore."

    "Where's that?"

    "Where's where?"

    "Where's home?" she asked as she blew a puff a smoke towards her salt-and-pepper hair that hung over her forehead.

    "Out east," Thomas cleared his throat, "Boston to be exact, accent didn't give it away?"

    "All white people sound the same to me," she shrugged, "What brings you out to LA? Let me guess, you were considered good looking for Boston, tried to make it as like this edgy, model?"

    "I'll take that as a compliment," Thomas laughed, "Um, no. Basketball, I play for UCLA."

    "That's cool," she nodded, "Fuck, I just had sex with a college kid. Don't take this the wrong way but you're one of my biggest mistakes."

    "It's what I live for," Thomas cracked back.

    "I've lived in Los Angeles all my life and I don't think I've ever been to a game," she shook her head, "Maybe Arturo someday goes there and I'll see you play. You're any good?"

    "Some people think so," Thomas decided to take the humble route.

    "When is y'all next game? Maybe I'll turn it on at the bar or something and secretly root for you," she joked, "Who knows? In ten years, I can be an old lady bragging about banging the new Michael Jordan."

    "I don't think there's gonna be a next game," Thomas awkwardly laughed, "Yeah, a lot of shit going on."

    "I can see that by the fact that you're in my bed right now. Come on, lay it on Mira. I do this for a living, listening to people's problems. They should make a reality show about me."

    "Just.....shit," Thomas replied.

    "I had your dick in my mouth twenty minutes ago sweetie," Mira sucked her teeth, "You really shy now?"

    "Uhhh....I don't think I'm going to play again, I don't really want to."

    "Why not?"

    "Some shit happened," Thomas explained.

    "What shit?"

    "My friend died," Thomas said flatly, "No, he didn't die. No, he got into a fight with some dudes and then.....yeah, they killed him."

    "That sucks," she replied with very little empathy in her voice.

    "Yeah," Thomas scoffed, "It sucks, Mira. It really fucking sucks. Right next to me too, had to drive him to the hospital."

    "I don't get it," she rubbed her pinky in circles around her temple, "So your friend dies, I'm sorry, is killed and you don't play basketball anymore. I don't get it."

    "What's not to get?"

    "Because he's dead, you don't want to play anymore? That seems....dumb."

    "The fuck you talking about?"

    "It's just that.....what did your friend like to do? Huh, give me something."

    "He played basketball too," Thomas shot back, "My teammate actually, a pretty fucking good one at that. Way better than me, better than I could ever wish for."

    "Fucking perfect. So your friend who is very good at basketball dies and now you don't play basketball. So now, both of you don't play basketball."

    "Whatever," Thomas got up and started to look for his clothes.

    "The youth is wasted on the young," she laughed quietly to herself.

    "What's your issue?"

    "I just think it's shitty that you're using your friend as a reason to tap out on life," she shrugged, "I at least had the decency to pin my failures on someone's that alive. Yeah, I tapped out when Arturo came into the picture. Take me out, coach."

    "No one's giving up," Thomas muttered under his breathe.

    "This is an even bigger mistake than I thought it was," Mira laughed as she put out her cigarette on the ash tray on the dresser, "You new kids are something else."

    "Go fuck yourself," Thomas shot at her as he didn't even bother getting full dressed before he collected his things and made his way out.

  4. #133
    G.O.A.T. Soapy's Avatar

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    The five hour drive had worn down Thomas as he aimlessly got out of the car, stretching his back before he took a seat on the hood of his car. He reached into his back left pocket and grabbed the last two remaining cigarettes in the carton. Smoking was a nasty habit he had managed to kick to the curb following his high school days but they had flared back up over the past few days.

    He looked at his watch and was content with the time that he was making. There was a little bit more traffic on the '5' than he expected but he more than made up for it when he was going 100mph all through the lonely roads of Stockton. Disgusted by himself, Thomas lit out the rest of his cigarette and spat out some of the mucus that had built up before he grabbed the bag out of his car and walked towards the hotel entrance.

    "Welcome to the Citizen Hotel," he was quickly greeted by a tall, wiry host that tried to grab his bag.

    "I'm good," Thomas replied, a little started as he held on tighter to his bag.

    "Do you have a reserv..."

    "Shelby?" the host was cut off as a voice from about 50-feet from them interrupted the conversation, "What....what are you doing here?"

    Thomas turned around to face the familiar voice, "What's up, kid?"

    "He's with us," Wonder said to the host, wavering him off as he was now face-to-face with the teammate that he hadn't seen in almost a week, "Shit, dude. Does coach know you're here?"

    "Nah," Thomas fidgeted around a little bit with his hair, "Just wanted to check in on Kenny, you know, some of the guys."

    "Right, of course. Hmm, I'm not sure what room Kenny is in but Nate's like three rooms from me so we could check there. Good to see you, man."

    "Yeah," Thomas replied coldly as he followed his point guard into the elevator.

    The two exchanged eye contact periodically but never for too long. Neither of them were quite sure what to say or even how to feel. Joy? Relief? Sadness mixed with a little bit of anger, possibly dissapointment? Thomas was just glad when the elevator went all the way to seventh floor without a stop. Thomas bolted out of there before realizing that he needed to slow down and let Wonder take the lead.

    "They're right here," Wonder knocked on the door twice before it was answered, "Look who I brought."

    Thomas uneasily walked into the room and was welcomed with a trio of shocked faces. Everyone stood there in complete silence before Nate walked toward his roommate and hugged Thomas.

    "Good to have you here man," Nate held on a little longer than Thomas wanted to, "You look good, man."

    "Just wanted to check in on my boys before y'all head out," Thomas awkwardly laughed before exchanging greetings with Byron and Ivan.

    "You seen Kenny yet?" Byron asked after the two dapped up.

    "Nah," Thomas shook his head, "I actually came here to see him and saw Wonder over here when I walked in."

    "That boy always walking around looking for some NoCal puss," Ivan joked, hoping to tease the tension in the room.

    "Never change kid," Thomas tapped Wonder on the shoulder.

    "He's rooming with Ronnie and Ryan I think," Byron commented.

    "So they're really going to stick all the white boys in one room?" Thomas quipped, drawing a huge laughter -- perhaps more than it warranted -- from the guys.

    "Let's go bro," Byron said as he got up and waved them towards him, "Hopefully, there's not one big circle jerk. I know how y'all white boys get in them lonely hours."

    "Fuck off dude," Thomas chuckled, "You're gonna be wanting a big circle jerk when you get down there in Memphis. Trust me, if they look anything like the women in Louisville that weren't in the five mile radius from campus, good luck."

    "Speak for yourself man," Byron replied before knocking on the door just down the hall from the room that they had exited, "I like them thick."

    "Fuck you want, Knowles?" Kenny said before opening the door, "I don't have no fucking left overs, man."

    "I got another member for this Klan rally," Byron laughed before he stepped out of the way to reveal a smiling Thomas.

    "Oh shit!" Kenny yelled out as he ran out and hugged Thomas, going as far as kissing him on the cheek before holding him by the shoulders and admiring him from a few inches away.

    "Get a room," Ivan groaned.

    Kenny shot Ivan a punch in the chest before the welcome back party was transferred from the halls to Kenny's room. The news of Thomas' arrival spread fast and soon enough, pretty much the entire team was crammed inside the room designed for four people at the most. It didn't take long for some of the guys to order some food and even the guys old enough brought some alcohol into the mix.

    "We ain't really been out much," Wonder shrugged when Thomas mentioned how awful Sacramento looked during his drive in, "Practice, rehab, get some food. We might walk around a bit after that and then it's rehab, team meeting and we go to sleep. Ain't really been much to it."

    "I'm just happy we don't have any cold weather cities," Nate replied, "One of my high school buddies plays for Middle Tennessee and they had to leave like thirty minutes after their last game to avoid a storm that was coming or else they might be trapped."

    "What time do we even leave tommorow?" Welsh asked.

    "Probably right after breakfast," Prince groaned, "How long is that flight?"

    "I think probably like five or six," Alex answered, being one of the few players from outside the state of California on the team.

    "We're probably not gonna get in our rooms till at night though," Prince added before there was a knock on the door.

    They all looked at each other, wondering who on the team hadn't already made their way into the room. It was a little bit after one in the morning so maybe one of the upstairs or downstairs guests were complaining about the chatter and commotion. Kenny got up and walked towards the room and his face turned pale as he looked into the peep hole.

    Kenny motioned to the rest of the room to disperse themselves and they followed suit with most of them going into a corner of the room where someone standing at the door wouldn't be able to see them.

    "Wassup, coach."

    "Save the gag," coach Alford replied before stepping into the room, "I know Tommy's in there and I'd like to talk to him."

    "How'd you find me?" Thomas scoffed as he revealed himself to his former coach, not even bothering to hide the beer in his hand.

    "Maybe some of y'all shouldn't post everything on Snapchat," he replied with a wry laugh, "A minute, Shelby?"

    Thomas nodded before following his coach outside. Kenny looked a nervous so he tapped him on the chest to assure him that things were okay.

    "How you holding up?" coach asked his star player, tilting his head to one side as he stared into Thomas' eyes.

    "Good," Thomas nodded.

    "You sure?" coach's eyes wandered to the bottle of beer in his hand, "I'd be lying if I said I wasn't worried about you."

    "Got it under control," Thomas shrugged.

    "I get it," coach sighed, "It's cool with me, you coming over here. Talking to some of the guys, wanting to see them. They're worried about you, I'm worried about you. I meant what I said when I signed you, I'm signing the person too. So if you want to travel with us and be with the team, I get it, I understand."

    "I'd like to play coach," Thomas finally blurted out.

    "You'd like to play, son?"

    "Yeah," Thomas nodded, "If that's cool with you.....I'd like to play."

  5. #134
    Stand On Guard For Thee Captain Canada's Avatar

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    Two incredibly well-written updates, Soapy. This story is developing extremely well.

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  7. #135
    G.O.A.T. Soapy's Avatar

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    "Shelby! Gabe!" coach Alford barked as he looked down his sideline for a quick second before returning his attention towards the action on the court.

    Thomas could feel a million eyes fixated on him as he got up and tore off his warm ups, blowing some hot wind into his hands as he trotted towards the scorers table.

    "Take Welsh out and kick Alex to the five," coach Schilling instructed Thomas and Gabriel, "You go in for Smith, I need active hands gentlemen!"

    Justis' shot rimmed out and the Texas center decided to let the ball go out of bounds. Thomas checked in at the scorers table before dapping up an excited Welsh who was tired of following around the quick and shifty front court that Texas had rolled out. Much to Thomas' surprise, the arena erupted into a standing ovation as he jogged onto the court. He tried his best to remain in the moment, not letting it get to big but he could barely hold himself up.


    "The Bell-Williams twins on the court along with Prince Ali, Alex Olisinki and Thomas Shelby for UCLA. Of course, this is Shelby's first game since returning to the team following the death of teammate Jamal Garrison. I think I speak for both of us, Doug, that we're glad to see the uber talented Shelby back on the court."

    "One of the best players in the country, Spero. He's got length, athleticism, size and just a knack for making the right plays. Shooting slump for the Bruins right now, down 19-12 early, but this is the kind of lineup with the twins and Shelby running the show as a point forward that has worked for them all year."


    Thomas quickly got into his defensive stance as the whistle was blown and the ball was subsequently in-bounded. He kept his eyes on his man but was watching the ball from the corner of his eye at all times. A pull-up jumper rimmed out and he was eager to box his man out before exploding up and grabbing the ball. A simple rebound felt like he had just hit a game winner as he brought the ball up the court, much to the pleasure of the fans.

    He looked to the sidelines for a play call as he casually dribbled the ball between his legs. Coach Alford didn't seem to be in a hurry to give him one before he held up his right fist and did a circular motion with his left index finger. Thomas gave the ball up to Justis and sprinted to the corner of the court. He slowly made his way through the baseline, going through a bevy of screens set by Alex and Prince before he was now back on top of the key. Justis dished him the ball and without much though, Thomas let it fly.

    Most of his shots during warm-ups were flat and he missed all but two or three of them. Thomas simply wanted to get the first shot out of the way and work his way from there. When the crowd erupted into full pandemonium, he just had a feeling it was one of those games.


    "Shelby in the corner, jab step, jab step, step back, three, good!"


    "Ali on the fastbreak up to Shelby....back to Ali...back to Shelby from's good!"


    "Harris drives in and he's blocked by Shelby who tips it up and brings it down! Shelby on the break, behind the back, gets a screen from Welsh and fires's good! Stephen Curry has nothing on Thomas Shelby, folks!"


    "Texas desperately needs a stop here as UCLA continues to pull away. Smith hands it off to Williams who shoots the 18-footer...rebounded by Welsh who kicks it out to Shelby...pump fake...drives....OH MY! THOMAS SHELBY SLAMS IT IN AND TEXAS CALLS A TIMEOUT! The UCLA bench is going crazy and guess what folks? Thomas Shelby is back!"


    "We're out in 10!"

    The commands shouted by one of the staffers rushed Thomas back to reality, now realizing how scalding hot the water that was running down his back was. He ran his hand through his hair one last time as he turned the shower off. The coldness of the locker room floor bothered Thomas so he quickly slid into his slides before wrapping a towel around his waist and making his way to his locker.

    The rest of the team had already made their way onto the bus and outside of an equipment manager, the locker room was empty. Thomas sat down in front of his locker and took a deep breath. The past two hours or so of his life had seemingly flashed before his eyes. Truth be told, he couldn't remember most of it; just a flashback here or there of the 36 points he had put together during his first ever career triple-double.

    "He would have been proud," Eric said as he walked up and placed Jamal's last game-worn jersey in front of Thomas, "I don't know what to do with it."

    "Yeah," Thomas awkwardly laughed as he simply stared at the '24' that was seemingly staring right back at him, "It's weird how like, I don't know, it seems that everyone is acting like it didn't happen. "

    "Only way to deal with it," Eric shrugged as he took a seat next to a player that he had maybe spent a collective two-minutes speaking to prior to that day, "No one really knows what to say, or what to do. I spent like hours looking for that jersey and when I found it, it was like "What now?", you know? Like, is me giving his mom that jersey going to make her feel better or worse? Give it to coach, let them hang it up in the rafter? I don't know, man."

    "It fucking sucks," Thomas powered through as he felt his throat tightening up, "I thought playing tonight would make it better, I don't know. It still fucking sucks. You know how in the movies, the team wins despite the tragedy and they come together and it's a fucking kumbaya moment and everyone is happy? We just blew out Texas and I had my best game like of fucking ever and it still fucking sucks."

    "I don't think it'll ever stop sucking," Eric sighed as he got up, "Bus getting ready to leave, I'll let them know you're coming."

    Thomas simply nodded as his eyes remain fixated on the numbers '2' and '4', just begging that they'd come to life.

  8. #136
    Stand On Guard For Thee Captain Canada's Avatar

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    Heartfelt update, Soap. Really coming together lately.

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  10. #137
    G.O.A.T. Soapy's Avatar

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    "We're going to switch! Get ready Alex! Alex, get ready!"

    Thomas didn't wait for the screen and instead initiated the contact himself, knocking the Kentucky forward off his balance. When the ball handler attempted to go around Alex, Thomas did his best to slow the screen setter from rolling to the basket by interlocking arms. Just as the ball was lobbed over Alex's head, Thomas disengaged from his man and leaped into the air and snatched the ball, making use of his 7-foot-3 wingspan.

    "Timeout! Timeout!"

    The bench was fired up and the coaching staff was pleased as they all congratulated Thomas but his eyes remained fixated on that scoreboard. It was a tie game with 17 seconds left but they hadn't scored in nearly two minutes of game time and seemingly an hour of real time. A collection of fouls and timeouts had brought UCLA's up-tempo offense to a halt.

    "We're staying with this five!" coach Alford barked, "Wonder, high screen action with Tommy, force the switch. Hey, Tommy! Get the ball to the fucking hole! Let's go!"

    Thomas simply nodded as he took a sip of his water, taking the break in action as an opportunity to take a breather. He laid back against his chair, stretching out his legs as teammate after teammate came over to congratulate him for that steal. His eyes remained fixated on the scoreboard until the head referee blew the whistle to bring the timeout to an end.

    "Ball in!"

    "Ryan, check in for Alex! Ryan, check in!" coach Grace screamed at the last second, causing the senior to quickly hop out of his seat and check in at the scorers' table, "Tommy! Tommy, come over here!"

    "Yes, coach?"

    "Take your time," coach Alford instructed Thomas as the rest of the coaching staff huddled up around him, "Get it going around 11, have shooters. Trust them."

    "Let's go! Let's go! Ball in!"

    Thomas joined the rest of his teammates around mid-court and noticed that Kentucky's coach, the legendary John Calipari, was yelling instructions to his team and pointing at Thomas. He couldn't help but smile as he thought back to the last time he shared the court with coach Cal and how he subsequently never offered him.

    The whistle was blown and the ball was inbounded as Thomas lingered around the baseline, his eyes firmly on the game clock. Once Wonder passed half court, he printed to the top of the key and sent a half-hearted screen before turning around and extending his arm. Wonder obliged and kicked the ball out to him about 36-feet from the basket.

    Thomas slowly went into his dribble, getting lower into his stance as his eyes shifted back and forth from the game clock and his defenders' eye. His stance was loose and measured, clearly content on letting Thomas settle for the jumper. Thomas did a hesitation move to see just how lax the defender was going to be and when his defender flipped his hip, Thomas exploded towards the lane. Tucking the ball into his right arm like a running back, Thomas' long strides allowed him to go from the top of the key and into the paint. The help side defense was quick to crash in and when Thomas spotted an open Ryan out the corner of his eye, he whipped the ball behind his defender's arm and into the corner for Ryan.


    "Shelby drives...kicks out....Butler at the buzzer and it rattles in! It rattles in! UCLA is going back to the Final Four! The Bruins return! The Bruins return!"


    Thomas stood there with a smirk on his face as he stopped in front of the television set in the hotel lobby and watched the shot go in and the eruption that followed thereafter. He had seen it about a half a dozen time since they had landed in Phoenix but every time, he would stop and enjoy it. Basketball had been taken away from him so often -- sometimes of his own doing -- that he had decided that he was going to enjoy every moment from now on.

    "I never took you for a narcissist."

    Thomas turned around and was a little bit surprised to see Natalia there but given that her family did come from some measure of wealth, it did make sense that they had traveled to come see their son play in what was likely to be his last basketball game.

    "Big time," Thomas laughed, "I actually wanted to get a mirror on my ceiling. Besides, I'm just enjoying the fifteen minutes of fame I gave your brother. If anything, you should be thanking me."

    "Good one," she lifted her eyebrows, "You never could sleep, could you?"

    "Figured I'd walk the walls," Thomas shrugged, "Tire myself out, maybe get a chance to get some sleep in before the sun comes up. When'd you guys come down?"

    "Actually," she smiled, "When you came back, my dad was so confident that he bought the tickets ahead of time. I'm not kidding you."

    "That's bold."

    "Yeah," she replied, "Or dumb, either way, I get a mini spring break after spring break. But yeah, we came down last night and got a chance to hang out with him a little bit earlier today but from the looks of it, you guys are pretty busy. How you handling all of it?"

    "It's alright," Thomas said, "They keep us busy which is better than the alternative of just hanging around, waiting for the game."

    "I meant like with the other stuff," she took a step towards Thomas as she continued to play with her fingers, avoiding eye contact.

    "It is what it is."

    "Did the police find out anymore stuff or no?"

    "Nah," Thomas replied flatly, hoping she'd drop the conversation.

    "I thought they had some camera footage of the guys leaving the club or something?"

    "Does it matter?" he answered her question with another question.

    "It kind of fucking does," Natalia raised her voice, "Or is this some kind of thug, street shit that you're still hanging onto? You're not in fucking Southie anymore, kid."

    "Not everyone gets to raise up in a nice house and hang on to the notions that you get to still cling to," Thomas was now just inches from her face, "It doesn't fucking matter, none of it. Jamal is dead, okay? Just like fucking Jason, like Devin, like Greg, like Ro, like all of my fucking friends that have hit the dirt. They're fucking dead and who killed them doesn't matter. Justice isn't those two guys going to jail, justice is those two guys fucking joining him and it's taking every ounce in me and every ounce in every fucking bottle I can find to keep me from doing that!"

    Natalia took a step back as she shook her head, "Why are we so fucking toxic?"

    "Who knew that a rich, white girl from Brentwood and white trash kid from Boston would have a hard time having great chemistry?"

    "Shut up," she tried to mask her smile as she punched him in the arm, "I don't know, we have good chemistry. It's just that the shit goes so fast so quick and a simple fucking greeting turns into an argument."

    "Look at your cursing like a sailor now," Thomas pointed it out.

    "I guess this break or whatever this is, I don't know, maybe it's for the best. I miss you, obviously, but..."

    "Yeah," Thomas sighed, "It probably is."

    The two of them looked at each other, unsure what the next move should be or would be and what should be said and what would be said. A lot of mistakes tend to happen in these wee hours of the night.

    "I think I'm going to call it in," she said as she grabbed her phone out of her pocket and looked at the time, "You should do the same, need those legs fresh against the Dookies."

    "I'm not too worried about them," Thomas replied before they hugged goodbye, "I just survived a conversation with you, how much worse can it possibly get?"

  11. #138
    Stand On Guard For Thee Captain Canada's Avatar

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    Jun 2013
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    Thomas' maturity coming out to play?

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