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The International Writers Magazine: Young Fiction

The Hoopster & The Hopster
David Russell



The Hoopster and his mom had flown from Los Angeles to Glasgow so they could

spend the school Spring Break with his cousin, aunt and uncle who lived there.  He was now quite the veteran flyer, having experienced a half dozen international flights and was very comfortable in a jet plane.


On the first days of their holiday, they all visited Loch Lomand and the gorgeous botanic gardens, though  his favorite was Museum of Things That Moved, locomotives and old motor cars, though his cousin liked  those huge tandem bikes.


Another favorite of theirs was a restaurant where they served a big basketful of Fish and Chips and you could go back as many times as you liked and they refilled your lemonade or Iron Bru glass anytime you liked. But by the fourth day the Hoopster was getting itchy. Not only was this a Spring break from school, it was also a break in his league’s basketball schedule.

His team had had a good first half of the season and were in the running for the playoffs, if they could win 3 of their next 4 games. But the Hoopster had not touched a basketball since leaving home. He just knew if he didn’t get some practice soon his shot would be everywhere except in the hoop.


So, he told his mom he needed to shoot some baskets. And she, being good with tools, helped him cut the bottom out of a fruit basket they’d gotten from a market, which she nailed to the trunk of a tree in the backyard. The Hoopster thought it looked a little like pictures he’d seen of the very first basket ever used. And with a ball his cousin borrowed from a neighborhood friend, he went right at it. In minutes, he had his shot stroking the rim or dropping right into the hoop, just like he did back home. It felt good to be back working at his favorite game.


His cousin, who did not care about shooting baskets, was, instead, playing mother, which she did very well, with her pet rabbit, the Hopster. She had let the Hopster out of his cage and he was enjoying the freedom of the backyard, hopping here, there and everywhere. That is, until a ball bounced high off the rim of the basket and the Hoopster skying for it landed right on the Hopster, burying the rabbit under him.


There was a quiet moment. Then, the rabbit made a squeaky moan. It was obvious it had been hurt by the collision with the almost 100 pound boy.

But, how hurt? In minutes, they were in the car on their way to the veterinarian with the frightened Hopster, the worried cousins and aunts. Because it was an emergency, the vet saw them immediately. Soon, there they were in the waiting room sitting then pacing, while in the examining room the vet gently poked and probed. He touched here and there and finally

smiled with satisfaction. Luckily, the rabbit had no broken bones, just a bunch of bruises which though they would be painful for a while, were not serious.


Everyone was happy to hear that good news. But, the vet warned that the rabbit would probably not be very hungry or do much moving around. That they should be very careful and not pick him up or take him out of his cage. To just let him recover at his own pace. Well, the Hoopster, as you can guess, was terribly sorry and feeling sad for what had happened, even though it really wasn’t his fault.


When he got that way, he also got very quiet. That’s the way he was for the remainder of the visit. Not even a Fish & Chips dinner with Lemonade refills seemed to cheer him up. His cousin was much the same. However, she had moved the rabbit cage into her room and was keeping a careful eye on him. She even put doll furniture pillows inside the cage to make it softer and “more comfortable”.


Before the Hoopster and his mom flew home, he gently patted the rabbit and said again that he was so sorry. Then, he hugged his cousin, aunt and uncle. Soon the airport Van was driving them to the Airport. It was a quiet flight back home, where his dad picked them up and learned the whole sad story. He was certain that The Hoopster would come around to being himself soon, but he agreed that they should just let him be for now.


But by Saturday morning game time nothing much had changed. In fact, the Hoopster didn’t really look much like his old self. On the court, he wasn’t challenging for the ball as he usually did, not fighting for rebounds, not even taking open shots he usually buried.


The coach noticing his uninspired play called time out and told the team that he wanted much more effort or they were going to lose the game. Though he didn’t say anything directly to the Hoopster, he pointedly looked at him as the team went back on the floor.


Well, the Hoopster seemed to rouse himself and play with a bit more effort. His block-outs under the basket became sharper and he started going up hard, fighting for rebounds. Unfortunately, in one such effort, he came down with the ball right on top of a player from the other team, who had to be helped off the floor.


Immediately, the Hoopster’s play slacked off again, so much so that the coach substituted for him and sat him through the end of the first half. Though the Hoopster started the second half, his continued poor play soon had him back on the bench where he sat and watched his team lose that important game by ten points.


As soon as he got home, the Hoopster long-distance phoned his cousin to see how the Hopster was doing. His cousin said though she was trying to hand feed the rabbit, he wasn’t really eating and was just sitting, not moving much at all. When he hung up, the Hoopster felt even worse than he had earlier. It was the same with his music practice and in his classes. Even

his friends and teachers noticed the difference in the usually outgoing guy. What’s more, he even skipped basketball practice one afternoon, something he had just never done before.


That night the coach phoned and spoke to the Hoopster’s mom. She explained what had happened and said she thought the best thing was to leave things be for a while. The coach agreed.


With the  time difference between her home and his, the Hoopster had just gotten home from school when his cousin, who was ready for bed  phoned with good news. The rabbit finally had taken a few steps on its own and was nibbling on greens without help.


That good news seemed to really lift The Hoopster’s spirits. He got right to his homework, did a good half-hour practice on his horn, grabbed a snack, then quickly changed into his basketball uniform calling out to his mom to hurry so they wouldn’t be late for basketball practice.


On the court, there was an definite difference. He had a real hop in his step. He was moving the ball and himself with crisp passes, hard drives to the hoop and began hitting his jumpers and 3-pointers. He looked like the old Hoopster.


The coach sure noticed the difference and so did his teammates. In the inter-team game they played after their warm-up, the Hoopster was assigned to the second unit. His suddenly inspired play had them pushing the first unit hard. After a time out, the coach returned the Hoopster to his usual starting role on the first unit and it was clear that this was going to be a

tough team for anyone to beat.


With more good Hopster news the next afternoon, the Hoopster could hardly wait to get on the court. His cousin said that the Hopster was out of his cage and seemed to be moving easily without any pain.


Was the Hoopster delighted! Next day on the court he was everywhere, hawking, blocking out, rebounding, delivering snappy give-and-go passes, making 2-handed jumpers. He even hit 4 three-pointers. His coach knew this team – thanks to the return of The Hoopster was ready for Saturday morning’s game.


And they really were. They swept the other team 62 – 48. The Hoopster led the way with 24 points and his play lifted his teammates spirits, spurring an inspired effort on their part. They played great D, switching, picking up and rebounding. On offense, they moved the ball with short, sharp passes that time and again led to easy lay-ins. It was just no contest.


As soon as they got home, his mom called her sister to tell her about the game and how well the Hoopster had played. When he got on the phone, he accepted his aunt’s congratulations in his usual quiet manner, seeming to be a lot more interested in how well the Hopster was doing. His aunt told him to hold the phone and she’d check, because his cousin had the rabbit out in

the backyard.


When his aunt told his cousin the good news about the game, she quickly passed it on to the rabbit, who was busy hopping around. With a smile, his cousin said, tell the Hoopster that the rabbit was so thrilled by your good news, he was bounding with HOPPINESS!!!


© David Russell Feb 2010
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