Number Two


from the book The Seventh Son

by Douglas Brin

With Felix.

We go places, do things.  If you call getting your leg cut on a barbed wire fence pickin’ apples on someone else’s property/sneakin’ in the movies/lookin’ at the tits of a naked lady parades her ass near the same window doin’ things.

Felix isn’t a total zero.  Real good at checkers.  And shootin’ baskets.

Other day we come outta this long movie (big war long time ago: guys couldda died twenty times but didn’t, their women home doin’ dishes till soldier boy stops bayonettin’ Japs) our eyes squinting Felix says, "let’s shoot."

Goof-off’s always let’s this-let’s that.  Usually, it’s a new way to get in trouble.

"Shoot what?" I say.

"Baskets" he says.  "Can beat the big niggers on baskets."

Hell he can.

"Can beat the big niggers!"

"Don’t talk so loud!" tell him.  "Wanna get your lip busted?"

He shrugs.  We walk to this playground – buncha blacks.  Tall mitey-mite blacks with the thick socks rolled down over the tops of their sneakers.

Felix pipes: he can make more straight baskets.

These niggers laugh.  "Hey peanut man" says a guy tall as a flag pole.  "You can’t shoot shit!"

Felix says "twenty dollars."

What twenty dollars? We ain’t got twenty dollars.

"Lemme see your money" this other guy says.

Lemme see it too.

"Got the money" Felix says.  "Somebody wanna play me?"

"Hey Bimbo" one black says to another.  "You shoot,"

Bimbo looks around.  You don’t get too many real laughs these days, right?

Starts tossin’ the basketball – hits the chute.  Number one.  On the button.

Next shot: in the hoop.  Two.

Three.  Oh boy.

Four.  Flag pole lets out a whistle.

Five and six.  Too late to get out?

Seven.  Felix stands there, watching.


Nine.  Pray for us, Father.

Ten.  We’re dead.

Eleven.  Doesn’t make eleven, just misses, rolls off the rim.

And so what?

Bimbo twirls the ball on his finger like the Harlem Globetrotters throws it to Felix, slam.  Hard.

Felix drops it.  The niggers smile.  Smile: look what we’re havin’ for dinner.

Felix picks that ball right up doesn’t waste a second shoots – and makes it.

One of ‘em snorts.  Lucky throw, get us on the next pass.

Felix tosses.

Again.  Okay.  Three.

They’re lookin’ at each other laughing not fun laughing what’s-goin’-on? laughing.

I stand there.  Pray.

Felix goes for four.  Again.  Gimme five.

Six.  This Felix?

Now the blacks ain’t laughing or talkin’.  Too busy: watchin’.

Felix is in another world.  Eyes on that basket.  Seven.

A chance.

Eight.  Jesus Christ, three more.

Nine and ten.

Safe, ain’t we? He misses nobody wins.  Tie game.

Doesn’t miss.  Next throw is safe.  Eleven, on the count.

Felix stops.  Puts the ball down on the ground, smiles at me.

Then holds his hands out: for money.  Blacks just look at each other.  Wanna laugh, bad.  But something’s stuck in their throats.

Bimbo’s pal says: "well?"

Tall skinny guy growls "lucky you made it, man."

Lucky? "What lucky? Want my money" says Felix.

"What money?" says Bimbo.

"Twenty.  I won."

"You ain’t won shit.  Do it again."

Felix looks at me.  Wish he’d do his lookin’ someplace else.

Skinny guy says "you kids in the wrong neighborhood.  Right Lulu?"

This Lulu hasn’t opened his mouth.  No need he’s the biggest black of the bunch.  A giant.  Kong.  The big niggers’ big nigger.

He nods.

We’re in the wrong neighborhood.

"Want my twenty dollars" says Felix.

Bimbo goes up to Felix knocks him down with one finger walks over to me.

"You got a problem man?"


"Yes you do.  HE’s your problem."

"Real smart white boy" I hear as I half carry Felix outta there.

"Let’s go back tomorrow," he lights up – smile – after a while.

Kick him good.

Better than the screen door.

Copyright © 1997 by Douglas Brin


Complete excerpts from The Seventh Son

About Douglas Brin

Back to Contents