The punch was more potent than Dwayne had been prepared for. Putting his hand against the gymnasium
wall to steady himself, he looked around. None of the other attendees from the George Washington High
School Class of 1989 reunion seemed to be effected by the Diesel brand grain alcohol he’d emptied into the bowl.
“Ain’t that a freshman move.” It was only eight o’clock and the room was barely full. Dwayne arrived early
so he wouldn’t miss the seeing all of his old friends. He’d run the circuit of attendees but didn’t recognize any
of the people he encountered. Even when he offered a handshake, they seemed polite, but dismissive to the
point of ignoring him. These duds must have been the people with babysitters on the clock. Likely the same
losers that went to see the school plays instead of the basketball games where he was hustling to look good
for the scouts that were always promised to show up, but never did.
Dwayne shook the fog from his head and headed out the door for some fresh air. He had to sober up for
the A-listers that were likely aiming to show up to the event fashionably late. His muscle memory guided his
legs to his favorite spot in the old building: the trophy case. It looked like the basketball team’s wining streak
had cooled considerably since he’d graduated. Dwayne only had to walk a few yards to reach his era of
trophies and team photos.
Despite his inebriation, his eyes locked in on his crowning achievement in the display case. The
All-State Varsity Basketball trophy was a thing of beauty. None of the cars on his lot matched the l
uster of the prize behind the glass. He remembered how heavy the trophy was when he hoisted it over
his head after captioning his team to victory his senior year.
“I remember those days.”
Dwayne swung round to see where the voice was coming from. It was a tall thin silhouette of a
man haloed by the light of the gymnasium reception behind him. Dwayne had no clue who this man was.
“Yea, I lead the team to state,” Dwayne replied, instinctually offering the man a handshake.
“Dwayne Jeffries. I was –“
The frail man stepped closer to the case and ignoring the offered hand.
Dwayne couldn’t help but laugh. How could this man know about this team and all of its
accomplishments, but not know or care about his role as the team captain? “Look.” He
pointed to the list of player names on the trophy.
“We had some tough wins,” the man said.
“You’re damn right. I had to push this team hard for every single game that year.”
Dwayne said guiding his eyes to the top of the list where the team captain was called out.
He nearly choked upon not seeing his name etched there. In its place was Arthur Boone.
Dwayne confirmed that this trophy indeed said 1989 at the base and the rest of the team
were all the guys he had played with. The same guys he was hoping to meet tonight. The
only name he didn’t recognize was that of the man next to him. Dwayne wanted to punch
the wistful look off the man’s face.
Dwayne ignored the man and examined the team photo near the trophy, nearly pushing his
nose and forehead through the glass to get a closer look. Buddy, Reg, Mark and Jimmy were all
there with the rest of the team. Coach Klein was at the edge of the photo next to the team captain.
The man smelled of bourbon and aftershave when the team took the photo after the championship.
Dwayne remembered that clearly. Only, Dwayne wasn’t standing in the photo. In his place, was
a younger iteration of the man standing next to him at the display case.
Despite being full of booze, his stomach felt empty. To the point where his whole middle felt
like it was collapsing in on itself. Dwayne stumbled and caught himself on the display case.
“Those were the days, right?” Arthur whispered and turned to leave, again disregarding
Dwayne, now on his knees closer to 1988’s accomplishments.
Dwayne found his breath. His mind wavered from rage at Arthur and his classmates for
completely overlooking him and utter confusion at his erasure from his crowning achievement
not only in school, but in his lifetime. The memory of the wins were crystalline in his head.
Much more than the years that followed. He found some comfort in the tears that started welling.
He wiped his tears and finally found his photo in the trophy case. It was part of a newspaper
clipping preserved in a plaque. DWAYNE ANDREWS MEMORIAL BASKETBALL TOURNEY.
Furrowing his brow he read further. George Washington High School Junior, killed in car accident
last Spring will be honored with a preseason scrimmage.
His vision lost its focus and, Dwayne could feel the loss of certainty in his own existence.
His head filled with refreshed memory. He was in the car. A bottle of Diesel tucked in between his
legs. His breath was flammable and filled the cab of the Rav4 as he barreled down the highway
screaming his favorite song.
Dwayne paused, opening his eyes to the world in front of him. He knew the memory of flying
through the windshield of the car would return but he never wanted to reconcile that. If he ignored
that and refused to accept his pitiful destiny, he could continue to live in these halls, shape his own
history. See less and less of his classmates come back every five years so he could continue to try
and speak to them. See if they could finally acknowledge the ghost among them. The cloudbank in
Dwayne’s head rolled in again, covering up the memories and erasing any self-awareness he had.
When he opened his eyes again he would back at the punchbowl, complaining about how
old they all were getting.
Feel free to read over Brady’s shoulder if you see him working on a new novel or short story at the coffee
shop, library, orcommuter train into NYC. Despite his penchant for crime, horror, and the unusual in his
writing, he’s actually a nice guy andwelcomes your feedback. Brady Koch’s first collection of short works,
Guns, Gods & Robots, is now available.