Story:Zero

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Zero
Written by Mitch

Zero

Thursday, November 5

5:00 PM

His fur still damp from the showers, Adge Martin pushed out the exit doors from the stadium and thundered into the player parking garage. His gym bag was thrown unceremoniously into the passenger seat before he fired up the engine of his Defender, and made a hasty exit, even beating some of the fans out of the arena after the most miserable game of his professional career.

Eleven shots in thirty-five minutes. None sank. None. Zero.

There was no excuse for it. Not a single reasonable explanation for it. Some players had cold nights, but for Adge? The big hare’s shooting might as well have been on ice. Much as his right paw would need to be soon, from the ache in it. Looking down at it as it handled the wheel, he could already see the swelling over his knuckles, and knew exactly why it was happening. His dented and destroyed locker door told the other half of the story.

His phone’s ringtone cut through the anger, and Adge glanced to it, before quickly hitting the red button to decline the call. It was Carson, probably wondering where he was, and why he wasn’t at the press conference. Like hell Adge was going to endure a press conference after that shit show of a performance. Every mic which had been jammed in his face on the way out of the locker room had been ignored, and his eyes refused to even meet those of the reporters holding them. His phone rang again, but that time Adge held down the power button to turn it off completely.

One by one, Adge passed by the bars he knew would be open, on his drive home. He wanted a drink - needed one, even - but he was just as loathe to expose himself to irate fans as he was the blood-thirsty press, so he passed them by. He’d had bad games before, but this was a shambles.

A few minutes later, his keys rattled in the lock of his front door until he gained entry, and it was closed and locked behind himself. Bag simply dropped on the floor, he headed straight for the kitchen, where he plucked a bag of frozen peas from his freezer and wrapped it over his aching right paw.

“Damn!” he hissed, feeling the cold react to that swelling immediately. Nothing was broken, that much he knew, but it still hurt. And it was still his fault.

Much like the loss that night had been his fault.

If he’d sank even two of his shots, the Typhoons would have won. There was no excuse for him to be so worthless on the floor. Sure, he made most of his free throws, but that didn’t matter if he missed every single normal shot. And now he stood in the kitchen of his condo, with a bag of peas on his aching right paw, because he couldn’t control his temper, and beat the crap out of his locker door.

Adge didn’t know what was more pathetic: his scoring, or himself, at that point. Grabbing a beer from the fridge, he decided the recliner in his living room was a better place to ponder that than just standing in the kitchen.

The recliner was also the only place to sit in his living room, which was sparse, to say the least. A recliner, coffee table, and a TV stand were the only items of furniture the room boasted. It didn’t need anything more; not like he had friends to come over. He was alone. A zero.

Dropping into the leather chair, Adge lifted the can of beer to his muzzle with his left paw, and used his buck teeth to snag the pull tab to crack it open, then take a deep drink from it. Who needed to go to a pub and spend more money to drink with strangers who would laugh at you when you could just drink at home? The bartender at home wouldn’t cut you off when you had too many, either. So as the first can found itself empty, he had another. And another.

O for eleven. It was a stat he’d never even heard of happening, yet somehow it had happened to him. Over and over, the game replayed in his mind. Shots going wide, pinging off the rim, or getting blocked. Was this what it was going to be like in the FBA? Was his history of being a good close-range scorer done for? Should he have played it safe and gone for the EFBL, instead?

In any case, he knew he’d just blown his shot at starter. Who in their right mind would put a guy who missed every shot in a game, back in a starting lineup, when there was D’Angelo McQuilkin waiting in the wings.

That damn lion.

Adge had known it would only take one slip-up, and D’Angelo would pounce, taking his spot. Just one mistake, and the hare would be headed for the bench, behind that massive, egotistical blowhard. Well, the mistake had been made. It just happened far earlier in the season than he expected.

But what was he supposed to expect, really? Getting drafted to a team who had just secured McQuilkin and Redfield, two star players who played his positions, Adge knew he was meant for the bench. Third overall in the draft, and destined for the bench. It was everything he could do in practice to earn the starting position in the preseason, and he’d managed to impress. He almost convinced himself he should be starter, even.

Who was he kidding? You don’t pay that kind of money for big names, then start the nobody farmboy over them; that’s just bad business. No, he was going to be told to ride the pine, while McQuilkin continued to focus himself on his relationships, his body, his underwear line, and his own ego, instead of the team. It was exactly what happened on Team GB, so why did Adge expect it to be any different here? When they said, “Don’t meet your heroes,” they were right. It didn’t help that D’Angelo had outperformed him in the night’s game, either, in half the floor time.

His fourth beer found his mind wandering to darker places, while worries which were typically kept at bay by common sense started to push in. What if he was just a fluke? What if up until that point, he’d just been lucky, and this was how it was going to be for the rest of the season? And if that was going to be the case, would he even get another season?

The questions grew worse and more outlandish as he slowly drained the can. The bag of frozen peas had gone soft, and when he took it back to the freezer to exchange it for frozen corn, beer was traded out for a shot of whiskey. Make that a double shot.

Adge leaned hard on the counter after that, feeling his ears wobble as the room began to spin. He’d gone thirty-five minutes on the court, that night, and missed all eleven shots he’d taken. Logically his coach should have pulled him earlier, but she didn’t. Maybe she was trying to send him a message, show him what he meant to the team with his appalling performance.

Zero.

The last thing Adge recalled of that night was his kitchen very quickly going sideways, and the floor rushing up to meet him.




Featured Characters

Adge Martin

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