This book starts with a note to the reader stating that:
“THE FOLLOWING ADOLESCENT SPORTS AND LOVE ENCOUNTER has been retrieved from a promise never to tell. What’s to say? time slipped by, some deaths occurred, perspective was gained. The impulse went from taking a secret to the grave to getting it down before it was to late'.
Storytellers have ever had it that to understand is to sympathise. Imagine a boy and his teacher in a relationship eclipsing (at least for the boy) the pull of school, friends, basketball, his father at home. Emotions that become magical and prepossessing for the boy. The lesson is that any occasion of intense adoration of the kind deserves any airing that might add insight to the never-ending puzzle of how we live and evolve.” Theodore Weesner.
After this note we then meet the hero of the book, Dale Wheeler, a fourteen year old livewire, who knows what he wants & how to get it, he’s pumped & can talk the talk because he knows how to walk the walk. Dale is all cocksure confidence and braggadocio, a man-boy whose dreams seem to be coinciding with his day to day reality.
“This is it. Today is the day. The first practice of the year after school in the boy's gym. Time to show the speed, do the deed, take the lead! All these weeks and months Dale has been able to think of little else. Since last spring.
Since forever. Now it’s his turn to be the oldest, the biggest, the best. Tryouts. But he’s a returning starter and is sure as hell not trying out. He'll be leading the way, making them pay! His excitement is such that for days on end he has been telling himself to be cool. Time to be cool and not a fool. For playing it cool is the only tool...if you’re out to win the entire goddamn city.
Dale Wheeler is fourteen all the same, and whatever energy he may be bringing to his talking-the-talk temperature he doesn’t know how not to dream. He’s grown an inch and a half since the season ended last year and is growing still. In this instant he’s pushing up through five-nine. Sitting at his desk in school he can look at a forearm and see it growing larger, stronger, longer. Can pump up bicep-pears before the bathroom mirror at home. One on the left, one on the right! Pop, pop! Pow, pow! Hey, hey, get outta my way...my name is Dale Wheeler and I came to play! Besides confidence Dale can call up conviction in his mind and heart. Secret power leading the way, making his day! Call me cocky and I’ll make your fat ass pay!”
Until the moment when everything that he has dreamt of is taken away, and it all comes crashing down. His dream of becoming a top basketball player and with his team mates compete for his city tournament, of being spotted by some scout & by his hard work and talent rise like some shooting star from the dire poverty of his existence, are all lost in a moment, lost in a deal that leaves him out of the team. At the moment it was all sliding into place, the ball was taken away by some rich ex-player who will sponsor the team if his sons play & although Dale can talk the talk & walk the walk - money talks louder.
It is at this point that Dale, heart shattered and his mind a confusion of conflicting images, finds kindness in the shape of his favourite teacher.
This is the second book by Theodore Weesner, and although I preferred the first, I did enjoy this. The themes are similar, they share the same dreams, whether lived or broken, they both reflect a harshness that could be soul destroying were it not for that glimmer, that shot at redemption, that raises both the protagonist & the book above that darkened abyss into which life can sink.
Theodore Weesner’ born in Flint, Michigan, is aptly described as a “Writers’ Writer” by the larger literary community. His short works have been published in the New Yorker, Esquire, Saturday Evening Post, Atlantic Monthly and Best American Short Stories. His novels, including The True Detective, Winning the City and Harbor Light, have been published to great critical acclaim in the New York Times, The Washington Post, Harper’s, The Boston Globe, USA Today, The Chicago Tribune, Boston Magazine and The Los Angeles Times to name a few.
For those interested;