But the walk to school? Damn, it is priceless.

Boys, all of those boys, running. Chasing after their girlfriends, skating, talking, leaning and just being boys.

I don't know what it is but it gets me so excited. I get thrilled and I can't stop looking at them. So I get a book, sit at a table and peer at them from it. I peak over my book and observe as I always have. And I love seeing them. Seeing them being boys. Watching them laugh and talk about the girls they've had sex with. Which team won last night.

As I watch I sometimes muster up the ability to look over at what the girls are doing. And they are generally always doing pretty much the same shit. Just not talking about sex. And I can't get excited. I just can't. I don't know why, but with guys I love every arm movement, everything they say, every which way they move. I could never find a way to enjoy them the way I enjoy my boys.

The bell rings and I have four minutes to get to English. I never found the class to be too interesting. Hell, I was lucky I was even passing the damn class. In the end it was just kinda easy. You read a book you write about it end of story B+.

I can't say I hated school, 'cause I didn't. I loved it 'cause of the boys, but I don't know. It wasn't intolerable or the worst time in my life. Calculus came easy and now that I look back so did most of my classes. Except Spanish. That was a whole other story.

But the one thing in school that got me next to dying with excitement was what?


Always basketball.

But you already knew that.

That bell rings and I rush out of my hated class of Spanish and I'm practically at the gym before even the coach is. The boys arrive. They undress. They laugh. Talk. Get into their gym clothes, their muscles, their bodies from underneath catching my wandering eyes. And I disrobe, the rush, the possibility, and then I get dressed, the rush, the possibility, and we run onto the court.

The boys are playing with the basketballs, talking the same talk they did when the day started. But for me and for them it never gets old.

Orlando makes a shot and Worm makes another.

"You know my girl Trina?" Kareem says, "Let's just say she was on her knees all last night."

"And I imagine that's as far as you and her will ever go." Brady laughed, "What she have to do? Search for it all night?"

Kareem lashes out at him but Brady just laughs and Kareem is held back by Worm. Everything cools down when Jason starts making shots again.

They're most dribbling and shit. I'm dribbling too but listening and observing like always. Timo and Worm are talking it up. Kenyan's trying to get the ball from Kareem. Jason makes his way over to Brady. And then Coach comes over, grabbing our attention, my eyes focusing on the new guy behind him.

"Now I've been lookin' for a new coach to take over for me this season," Coach says. He points to the guy next to him, "This here is Ken Carter. He went to Richmond. He was a two-scored all American. Still holds record of scoring, steals, a Basketball Scholarship to George Mason University. We're lucky to have Coach Carter," I kept hoping that the new coach would be someone young and muscular. Someone that I could check out, "Now let's give him the respect he's due. They're all yours, Coach."

"Thank you, sir," Carter shakes his hand. Coach walks away and Timo and Worm start their interrupted conversation. I cross my arms. I always do when I don't know what else I'm supposed to do, "Good afternoon, young men," Craig walked over to me, "As Coach White said, I'm your new basketball coach, Ken Carter," I was listening to Carter more than I was listening to Craig, "I guess you need to speak louder so you can hear me. I'm Ken Carter, your new basketball coach."

"Yo, we hear you, dog," Worm says, "but we can't see you. The glare from your big black-ass head is hella shiny, man. Damn, do you wipe it?"

We laugh. Damn, Worm was funny.

But Carter was slick, "Oh, so you got jokes to go along with that ugly jump shot of yours, huh?" Everybody "oos" and Jason cackles that distinct cackle he has. Carter continues, "First of all, you need to know my credentials as Coach White said," credentials: a qualification, achievement, personal quality, or aspect of a person's background, typically used in resum├ęs to prove they are qualified, "They're on the wall there behind you," I looked. There it was, "Secondly, if basketball practice starts at three," K. Carter '71, K. Carter '72, "You are late as of two fifty-five," Jason makes a shot, "You, shooting the ball," he turns, "What's your name, sir?" Jason. Jason Lowe. Seventeen. Graduating that year, a fine man with a fine body.

"Jason Lowe, but I ain't a sir."

"You're not a sir?" Carter seemed surprised, "Well, are you a madam?" that was pretty funny. Brady muttered bitch. Bitch! "As of now, you are a sir. So are the rest of you. Sir is a term of respect. And you will have my respect until you abuse it," Mom always referred to her father and even dad as sir. I asked her why. She gave me the same answer, practically, only with a smile. And only with a kiss, "Mr. Lowe," Jason. Jason Lowe, "How many games did you guys win last season?"

"Like four wins, twenty-two losses."

"Sir." "Mom, can I have my allowance this week?"

"Sir." "Oh, yes sir. Thank you for reminding me."

I remembered that. I remembered that first game we won and how we thought it would be a winning streak for once. We won twice in a row, and then went to shit after that. We thought, we would make it for once.

Carter nodded, "I'm going to give you contracts," he hands one to Brady, "if you sign and honor your side of them," I read it, "we are going to be successful." I will wear suit and tie to all games. I will not disrespect myself, my teammates, or Coach Carter.

"Yes sir!" Carter said. Apparently Worm had said something, "You get to become a winner," I will be to practice every day, on time, "because if there's one thing I know, it is this," I will play beyond the best of my ability, "The losing stops now," I will maintain at least a 2.3 GPA, "Starting today you will play like winners, act like winners, and most importantly you will be winners. If you listen and learn, you will win basketball games. And gentlemen, winning in here," I crossed my arms, "is the key to winning out there," he held up a contract, "This contract states that you will maintain a 2.3 grade point average," that's a C, "You will attend all your classes, and you will sit in the front row of those classes."

"Yo, this a country ass nigger, dog-"

"Excuse me," Carter interrupted Worm, "Did you say something, sir?"

Timo jumped in, "Worm was wondering... are you some country church nigger with your tie on and all that?"

Worm muttered, "Right."

"That's what you try to say, right?"

"And what is your name, sir?" Timo. Timo Cruz.

"I'm Timo Cruz, sir."

"Well, Mr. Cruz, and Mr. Worm, what you should both know is we treat ourselves with respect. We don't use the word nigger." Mom was the same. She hated shit like that. Nigger, coon, squaw, all of it.

"Are you some preacher man or some shit? 'Cause God ain't gonna do you no good in this neighborhood."

"Oh, I live in this neighborhood, sir." He sounded real proud too.

"Sir," Timo said prestigiously, "Can you believe this uppity negro, sir?" Brady and Worm laughed. So did Craig and Kareem. And most all of us.

"Okay, Mr. Cruz. Leave the gym. Right now."

That stopped all of us, "For what?"

"I'll ask you one last time to leave the gym before I help you leave."

"Before you what?" Timo walked up to him, "Do you even know who I am?"

"From what I can see a very confused and scared young man."

"Scared of who? Scared of you? I'm supposed to be scared o' you? Nigger, I ain't scared o' nobody; I will lay ya ass out." "Why you think everybody's scared o' you? I ain't scared o' you!"

"I don't think so."

Everyone watched. Timo looked away, "A'ight."

He started to walk away. I kept telling myself how unlike him it was to walk from a fight, but this was a teacher. He wouldn't be that crazy. But he was, and he aimed to hit Carter, and in less than a second Carter had Timo slammed against the wall, Timo saying, "Get off me, get off me!" We all watched, "Teacher's ain't supposed to touch students." I was thinking the same thing.

"I'm not a teacher. I'm the new basketball coach."

He tossed Timo away from the wall. And just like Timo he turned and shouted, "This ain't over!" but it was. It was really was over.

Carter stood for a second and then walked to the rest of us, picking up the contracts on the floor, "Is there anybody else who's not feeling this contract?"

Dawson and Tyrone were out the door.

"I don't do high school contracts. Tell that when you meet the real ballers."

"I will do that, sir." Carter said to Dawson.

"There goes our two-leading scores from last season, man." Kenyan said, and it was true. Dawson and Tyrone were two of the best shooters. It was a shame to lose to bodies like theirs.

"Then I guess we'll have new leading scorers this season, huh?" In fact TY and Dawson were our leading scorers for three seasons, "Now I can't teach you the game of basketball until your conditioning is at a level that allows me to do so. Gentlemen, report to the baseline," no one moved. We weren't ever referred to as gentlemen, "To the baseline!" I knew what this meant. We walked over, "I presume you all know what suicides are. So," he blew his whistle. I ran. We all did, "I saw the Saint Francis game the other night. None of you had a problem shooting the ball," I did, "You all had a problem getting up and down the court. If you are late, you will run. If you give me attitude, you will do push-ups," that was on the contract, "So you can push-up or shut up. That's up to you."

"Yo, how many we gonna do?" Kenyan.


"Yo, sir, how many we gonna do?"

"Let's see how many you can do in..." oh shit, "One hour and seven minutes," Kenyan groaned, "Uh, fellas don't make me commit homicide. I said suicides; put your hand on the line! Put your hand on the line!"

I was eight. Mom sat me on her lap.

"Okay, now, Will I am going to teach you proper etiquette. Do you know what that means?"

I shook my head.

"Well, it means that you will learn to be a gentleman, so that when you take a nice young lady out to dinner one night you will know how to treat her properly. Both my boys will grow up to be fine young gentlemen."

No one else ever called me a gentleman.


Timo was naked.

"Go ahead. Come to me."

I came.

"Sir it a term of respect, dear. I respect you, Will, and I show that respect by calling you a sir. You are a sir and will be respected. Don't let anybody ever tell you less."