Story:Kresta- Reflections of a Pool
Kresta- Reflections of a Pool
Kresta sits down on the bench and watches some kids play basketball and just enjoying their summer vacation. She had brought a book with her to not come across as creepy and had gone in her usual outfit when she wanted to simply blend in. So many people were used to the way she presented herself that they didn't even really recognize her anymore when she didn't go with it. It was something she found out when she was still playing in Vegas. Let her hair out of the ponytail, remove her trademark headband and let her tail out and she looks like a completely different fox. She's also gone through the effort of moving and acting in a slightly different way when she's out like this. A nice blue summer dress rather than either extremely formal wear or a jersey. Decided to even go with a pretty little blue tail cloth to accentuate the appendage. The bench she was on was actually a really nice one too, even had a little tail cubby to hold the tail and keep it from touching the ground. It was one of the reasons she liked coming here on the very rare occasion to go and watch some of the new generation enjoying themselves at the sport.
She puts the book on her lap and stares up at the sky for a moment. Only two more years on her contract, but then what? She's been in the league for almost a decade. She's probably about as good as she's ever going to get. In a few years age will start catching up to her and she'll start the slow decline she's seen in a bunch of other players. And yet, despite all of her efforts they still don't have a ring. They aren't expected to get a ring. She's accepted that. There's simply a limit that effort alone could actually reach and those that were born with far more talent than she are proving that in spades. When dealing with the best of the best it's only natural that those that have the talent and put in the effort will rise above any that only have one or the other. Her team's practically considered a joke these last few years. Good enough to make playoffs, sure. No one is denying that they are practically guaranteed to make playoffs year after year. But actually winning the finals? They aren't even considered a possibility. And can she really blame them? In all of her years on the Howlers they only got to the finals once. And they got so very close. She almost could have tasted victory. But then at the last second the Typhoons guard had shown the world he wanted the ring so badly in that one instance that he was willing to throw away the entire rest of his career just to get it. Was that something she could do? Would she be willing to push her body beyond the point of breaking if it meant assuring victory? Or would she be too much of a coward and back down at the last second.
Would her father be okay if she shied away at that last inch? She still missed him but had to keep going on with her life. Would she ever be more than just a fox? Of being little more than a second-rate player and then likely forgotten about the year after the team drops her for someone much better than she could ever hope for. She is just a fox after all, and there's a limit to what can be expected from one. She was sure she'd be fine financially when she did leave. Her agent made sure she was used to a reasonable life-style that could be maintained after no longer getting the large sums of money and investing a large portion of the rest of it. If she lived conservatively enough she could probably live the rest of her life without working another day in her life. But is that what she would want? She's already known that eventually she'll no longer be in the same circle as everyone else in the league, going so far as to all but stop using social media entirely. She's simply beneath them at this point and doesn't want to disappoint them all.
"Is this seat taken?" someone asks from nearby, half startling her out of her thoughts. She turns and sees another fox staring down at her, gesturing at the other side of the bench. He's good looking enough, though probably about five years her junior. Definitely a cross-fox variant of the species. She is half annoyed at the fact that he isn't picking one of the many other benches this park has available, but she doesn't really have much of anything real complaint. So she slides to the side to give him more room on the bench, making sure that her feet don't rest on any of the cracks in the sidewalk. He sits down and alternates between glancing at her and watching the kids playing on the court in front of them. She half wonders if perhaps he's a friend of one of them or something but doesn't really feel all that much of an interest in asking.
"So, is it a good book?" he asks after a few moments of them sitting silence.
"Eh," she answers, shrugging a bit in response. "It's not bad, all things considered," she answers truthfully. "It's just it is very clear that the writer was trying to follow all the standard models when writing. Everything in the book is far too formulaic and easy to see what is going to happen long before it happens, even without foreshadowing. He has all of the foundations in place, it's just he's not at all willing to think outside the box in his writing."
His response is to just stare at her with a very perplexed expression. She tries to ignore it but when he half snickers she puts the book down and turns to face him.
"What?" she demands.
"Nothing," he stifles laughing more. "It's just not the kind of answer I was expecting."
"And what kind of answer were you expecting, ‘oh I like all the pretty pictures but all the big words make my head hurt?'"
"Heavens no," he quickly retracts, waving his hands up in front of him in a placating gesture, his ears halfway between an embarrassed and amused stance. She knows her own ears are back in annoyance, which is fine and she's glad for the little tail cubby or else her tail would likely be picking up a bit of dirt from lashing about. "It's just that normally when you ask someone about a book they tell you about how well they like or dislike the plot and pacing, they don't go into a critique on the sentence structure."
"Well excuse me for being a lit major in college. I actually notice things like this."
"I apologize. I've gotten off on the wrong foot. Allow me to introduce myself. Aaron Pool, at your service," he gives a mock bow on his seat.
Kresta doesn't return the favor and pretends to ignore him, grunting slightly as she turns away and goes back to reading her book. She doesn't really feel like giving him her pseudonym for when she's out and about because she honestly has nothing to say to him beyond casual conversation. He's just a fox, after all. An admittedly somewhat good-looking fox, but still a fox nonetheless. Nothing good can really come from associating with one of them and if her coming off as being very rude causes him to have a bad opinion of her then it's just as well. He doesn't get up and walk away nor does he seem to get all that annoyed at her actions. If anything, he's still watching her out of the corner of his eye with an annoying little smirk while pretending to watch the kids play basketball. She would occasionally glance at the kids as well but only to get a feel for how they're playing or when they get particularly noisy as one does something to rile them up.
"I will admit," Aaron says after a few more minutes of this nice silence, "one thing I would be really interested in seeing is whether or not you could wipe the four of them by yourself."
"Excuse me?" Kresta asks, closing her book around her finger for the moment and staring at him.
"Yeah, you're right. Four on one is probably a bit too unfair, especially in that dress. Which looks really nice on you by the way. We'll give you one of them to make it a much more even two versus three."
"I think you might be mistaking me for someone else," Kresta quickly states.
"Probably not. I mean if someone wasn't paying all that much attention then yeah, they probably wouldn't recognize you. But Billings isn't that big of a city. And I can do quite the bit of math when I feel inclined. Foxes are common enough and silvers account for about a tenth of all the foxes. But factor in your age and height and well, the results speak for themselves. Statistically speaking there are only going to be about maybe two female silver foxes around your age and over five nine out of the hundred thousand people in the city. And your summer coat isn't going to do anything to hide your athletic figure. And gee, just what silver fox athlete can I think of that would happen to not only live in Billings but have enough of an interest to routinely pick the bench most able to watch others play basketball on the outdoor court?"
"So what, are you stalking me or something?"
"Nothing that severe. As I said, I'm good at math. I'm an accountant for the bank just over there," he says, pointing off in the distance. "I'd frequently come here for lunch to enjoy the fresh air. And when the Howlers' season ended I started seeing you take a seat on this very bench. And it got me to wondering and with a bit of statistics it's fairly simple to guess who you really are. Any particular reason for the disguise?"
"Not wearing particular clothes is not considered a disguise," Kresta corrects, turning away again and to her book. "This is simply what I felt like wearing today."
"I suppose," he shrugs and goes back to just watching her. She tries her best to just ignore him and debates whether or not it might be in her best interest to just get up and leave and find another bench to sit on next time, perhaps a bit further away from the city while she's at it. And if he thought less of her for the abrupt departure, why should she care about what a fox thinks of her. After another moment of silence and watching the kids play on the court in the near distance he speaks up again. "You know, your tail is far nicer than I was expecting?"
"And what is that supposed to mean?"
"Well it's just that you're always going around with it wrapped up in cloth. I would have figured that it was either disfigured or something as a reason to hide it. That or you went all in and just shaved all the fur off to make wrapping it all the easier. But instead it looks to be kept in really good condition, which is surprising is all."
"What, are you next going to say that you're surprised that I don't have mange because I tie my hair back?"
"Well, no," he says, his hand going up to the top of his head in a bit of embarrassment. "I guess you got me there. But you did stop dying your fur after your father, well."
"Died. It's been a few years. It's not like I'm going to be mourning for him the entire rest of my life."
"But I still have to wonder to what purpose are you dressing the way you normally do. That you take such good care about grooming your tail it means it clearly isn't a disfigurement. Typically, when someone goes out of their way to look different than everyone else they are either trying to attract attention or are trying to make a point. And the way you behave in the public eye does not strike me as someone that is trying to get attention. So what point are you trying to make?"
Kresta puts her bookmark into her book, closes it fully and stands up. "I don't need to just take this. You're just a fox. It's not like you'd be able to understand the reasons why I do what I do."
"Last I checked, you're a fox as well. Or is that why you hide your ears and tail?"
Kresta stops for a moment, uncertain if she should respond or just keep walking away. After a full minute of just standing there her shoulders sag.
"You're right. You're absolutely right. I am just a fox as well. And there are certain realities of what being a fox means. And there are simply some things that can't be fought, no matter how hard you try. We're an inferior species, better suited to the underclass than the spotlight. We'll never be able to dominate the league. It's just not in our genes."
"What about the toothpick? He seems to be able to dominate well enough," Aaron says.
"Yeah, but he's a freak of nature. He's the exception to the rule. His body got confused or something growing up and when it decided how tall he'd grow it confused feet with meters. Outside of anomalies like that, a fox can never hope to be anything more than a second-rate player."
"You're a starter on a team of the highest level of play. You're not second rate."
"Not that it means much. I'm at my peak and will only start going downhill from here and yet do not have a single championship ring to call my own."
"Is that all that's important?"
"Well there are some players who have had two or three rings by this point in their careers. And I have to accept the fact that in the grand scheme of things I may end up being the reason why we haven't gotten the ring. That if I was a better player, if I just tried harder that we might have gotten one by now. But as I said, I'm just a fox. It's just not likely in my cards to be good enough to ever win."
"And how does that make you second rate? Let's talk numbers, shall we?" Aaron says as he gestures towards her with an open palm. "On any given year at most only fifteen people are given a ring. If we assume average career length of about eleven years then that means at any given moment there are at most one hundred fifty rings in the league. Out of three-hundred sixty potential players that means at best your odds of having a ring is about forty-two percent. Which is just a little bit worse than a coin toss. So, is that all that's important? What do you really want out of your career in the FBA that you don't think you already have? Can't be fame. Do you honestly think if we went up to those kids right now and told them who you are that they wouldn't freak out? How many kids do you think there are in the world right now that will kiss something before a game in imitation of you? Do you think anyone who is even remotely aware of basketball wouldn't at least recognize your name? Or would you consider only making the Hall of Fame as being the minimum in satisfying that. But that can only be determined after the fact. It most definitely cannot be fortune. You make more money in a year than I likely will in my life time. Can't be friends because if so you wouldn't be here by yourself. So is it the coin toss? Are you considering yourself a second rate player just because you never won the unfair coin toss? Does that then mean that the fifty-eight percent of the league that also never won the coin toss are now worthless? If you never win the coin toss does that instantly invalidate everything you've done? Has that invalidated everything they've done?"
"To some, yes. There have been coaches who have been fired for far less. To some, whether or not you've ever had a championship under your belt is all that matters," she refuses to turn back towards him, to look him in the eyes. Instead her head turns and looks at the kids playing basketball some more. "And you say people recognize me now, but what about in ten years from now. Right now I'm just a flavor of the month, a silly little fox pretending they have any real skill and drawing attention by being quite likely the most superstitious player in the league and dressing strange. When they catch on to that I have no skill. When the league tosses me out like the fraud I am, how many do you think would still imitate me? Or will they just latch on to the next shiny player. You think I'm famous? Ha. In ten years no one will even remember my name. Just you wait and see." She takes a deep breath and steadies herself. "I'll be leaving now. Good day to you, sir."
She walks off down the path stiffly, trying to fight back the tears and wanting nothing more for the time being than to just escape from it all and get back to the safety of her home where she can have herself a good cry and forget all the realities of what she had confessed.