Greg Oden and Michael Beasley Converse Amidst a Mirage

When he woke, his conscience weighed more than his legs. A beating heart murmured such that he seemed of another world entire. It had been like this for months, ever since the secret had burrowed into his skull. Dawn broke the mushroom-clouded sky and he opened the mahogany gate and stepped outside to find a giant nestled against the redwood adjacent his home. Shit, he thought.

Yeah, it’s me.
Why’re you here? How’d you get to Amsterdam? How long have you been here?
1) You; 2) See this dimples, Mike? I have my ways; 3) Forty-five minutes.

Beasley’s breath smoked palely in the heat, an inner fire leaping from within his ribcage. This place was a secret—a sanctuary, even. In the days preceding their first trip to the NBA Finals, Beasley had sought asylum in one of few countries that considered him more brother than beast. And yet, a gargantuan teammate had learned both subtlety and espionage, and inexplicably found an airline that could lug such oversized cargo.

I’m here to bring you back. We have to get to San Antonio. Spoelstra is pissed.
Oh, don’t worry, man. I’m coming back; I wouldn’t miss the first taste of accomplishment for anything.
It’s not that, Mike. I’m here to bring your jumper back. You actually have a chance to play.
I’ve logged six minutes this far, though!
So what? Remember Mike Miller? Remember Shane Battier? They all did it. So can you.

Oden’s almond eyes quivered as Beasley’s shoulders slumped down into his chest. His body concaved until his spin bent nearly horizontal, and he shunted his forehead against outstretched palms. He knew any attempt to convince the struggling teammate of potential would only serve to plant yet another misplaced pipe dream in an already vertiginous mind. But both had swallowed comparable context and tribulation over the years, both had been let loose in every living room in the country. Both had been damaged, both had come up short.

I feel as though my openings are floating like parade balloons above me. I just cannot grab the strings.
At least you can see openings. I’ve been trying telephone therapy, but all I’m left with is static.
It’s not as if we possess steroidal egos, but confidence has turned to myth. I hated folklore as a child. Now I know why.
Hey—if there is myth then there is truth.

This is worse than getting the clap from your sister, Beasley thought.
This is like looking for the body of a loved one after a typhoon, Oden thought.

A waxing sun simmered in the dry red lake above them, silhouetting an endless mountain range. Beasley began to stagger, his brain surged as if jabbed by two-thousand needles. He wandered toward a wooden box with dovetailed corners, he knew what could be found beneath its casing. A season packed into the depths of a bench like herrings was too much to bear. The undisclosed truth was unraveling before him.

What’s in there?
What if I told you I had a solution to your problems?
I would say that you should’ve come to me instead of me coming to you.
Look, I don’t want to be alone. I can’t be alone.
Quit freaking me out. What’s going on?
Okay, stay with me. In this crate is a carbon copy of your right wrist and both kneecaps.

I didn’t know how I could survive without someone else pinned down by uncontrollable factors. I couldn’t lose you, Greg!
You’ve had a solution for my injury-riddled body this whole time?
Yeah, well see-
-You’ve known the key to fixing a malady-pierced tenure with the league? A door I never understood how to open!?
Hear me out-
-How could you not tell me!?!?!?

Beasley knew this was the end before it happened. Like anyone who destroys himself running for a finish line that doesn’t exist, he knew there would be no going back. This was it. The sun’s rays had been mitigated by time, and a domed moon rose out of the ground: white, fat, and membranous. Oden snatched the box from Beasley’s clammy palms. Just as he’d been told, Oden found the remedy that eluded him since deciding to play professional basketball years ago. He screamed upward until the lucid grey amphitheater cracked and shattered around them. Oden affixed his new weapons to his body and discarded the old.

I don’t know what to say, Greg…
There’s nothing you can say, Mike.
I love you like a brother.
I LOVED YOU LIKE A COUSIN, MIKE. A COUSIN THAT YOU LOVE AND LOVE AND LOVE. The NBA Finals are here. If you won’t make an impact, I will. You can’t stop me anymore, Beasley.

And with that, Greg Oden soared into the clouds and back to San Antonio. His fresh wrist and kneecaps carrying him to freedom.

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