Simon’s Worst Moment (Chapter 30)

What follows is a chapter from the rough draft of Mencken and the Lost Boys. Please excuse any spelling or grammatical errors. This is raw and unedited. Mencken and the Lost Boys will be published in the Fall of 2017. (Featured image by William Stitt on Unsplash) Enjoy!


Simon glanced at the score board. Twenty seconds left and his team was ahead 120 to 22. Simon wasn’t completely sure, but figured close to 80 of those points were his. He laughed, shook his head, and nudged number 55 with his elbow. 55, a tall and slender kid with patchy peach fuzz on his face, had been trying to guard Simon all night, but he wasn’t fast enough or agile enough for the job. Unfortunately, he was the best his team had.

“Watch this, you little bitch,” Simon said smiling at him. “I’m about to make this an even 100.” Simon had given 55 the nickname “little bitch” in the 1st quarter when Simon had taken the ball from him and then dunked on him.

55 frowned with determination and wiped sweat from his eyes.

“Are you crying, little bitch?” Simon said taking a defensive stance against 55, positioning himself to see the throw-in with one eye and 55 with the other. “Oh, I’m gonna make you cry because you’re my little bitch,” Simon said.

The referee blew the whistle and handed the ball to 55’s teammate who was standing out of bounds. 55 stepped right and then cut back left, hoping to shake Simon off, but Simon was too quick. Snatching the ball before 55 could get a hand on it, Simon dribbled away from the basket, out to the three-point arch. 55 covered him with intensity, as it this were the first twenty seconds of the game, not the last. Simon dribbled effortlessly with both hands, keeping his body between the ball and 55.

He glanced at the clock. Twelve seconds left. “You ready, little bitch,” Simon said. “Here it comes.”

The crowd began to chant with glee, “Ten! Nine! Eight! Seven!”

Simon lunged forward like he was going to make a drive for the basket. 55, trying to keep up with the quick step, became tangled in his own feet and fell. With a quick step backward, looking at 55 on the floor, Simon retreated back behind the three-point line.

“Four! Three! Two!” the crowd screamed.

On “two,” Simon released the ball in a graceful arch. It soared through the air. The net snapped as the ball passed through it making no contact with the rim. The crowd exploded with joy.

Simon walked over to where 55 sat on the ground. The teen’s head rested on his knees. Simon thought he could hear sniffling coming from his opponent. This was the moment Simon loved the most, seeing the other team defeated. The look on their face when they have to admit that he is better than them. Simon poked 55 in the shoulder to get the kids attention. Leaning down close to 55’s ear, Simon said, “I’d say good game but you played like a little bitch tonight. I’m a future NBA Hall-of-Famer, bitch. Don’t you ever come out on the court with me again.”

Before 55 could respond, Simon’s team mobbed him, pulling him away from his fallen opponent, screaming and jumping in celebration.

The post-game wrap up was always a slow let down from Simon. There was the coach’s speech in the locker-room intended to rally them for the next game, then the laughing and joking in the showers with the rest of the team. Then sitting at the bus stop, waiting for the bus to take him home. Then the ride back to his neighborhood, alone on a city bus, wanting to sleep, trying to sustain the high of the game, but knowing all that waited for him was a silent house, his grandmother asleep on the couch, and an old mattress on the floor of his bedroom.

Simon stepped off the bus. His eyes hurt and wanted to close. His feet dragged on the sidewalk as he walked. His stomach rumbled, complaining that there wouldn’t be any food waiting for him at home. He was so tired and physically exhausted from the game, he didn’t notice the group of boys following him.

“Hey!” a boy yelled from behind him. “Hey, little bitch.”

Simon turned to see four teens getting out of a black Ford. He recognized all of them from the game. 55 seemed to be the leader of the pack. While the other three hesitated, 55 moved with the aggressive determination of a man on a mission.

“Remember me, bitch,” 55 said.

Simon managed a smile. “Yeah,” he said. “You’re the punk ass little bitch I left crying on the court. You come back to get your ass handed to you again.” Despite the complaints from his exhausted muscles, Simon held up his fists like he’d seen boxers do in movies, ready for a fight. He could feel the adrenaline returning to his system.

“You still got shit to say to me, huh?” 55 said with a laugh. Reaching to the small of his back, the teen produced a gun.

Although Simon saw the weapon and turned to run, he wasn’t fast enough. His knee was struck with a searing pain, he collapsed to the ground, and then he heard the loud bang of the gun firing. Looking down in terror, Simon saw his blood pouring from where the bullet had torn a hole in his leg.

55 walked toward Simon, gun extended. “Who’s laughing now, little bitch?”

Tears flowed from Simon’s eyes as he tried to hold his leg and back away from 55 at the same time.

The hot barrel of the gun sizzled as 55 pressed it against Simon’s knee. Simon shrieked in pain. 55 moved in so close Simon could feel 55’s breath on his cheek. “Don’t you ever come out on the court with me again,” 55 said. And then pulled the trigger, eradicating the structure of Simon’s knee.

Before passing out, Simon watched the black car pull away, knowing the future of pro-ball he’d imagined for himself was gone forever.


To read more rough draft stories about Simon, click here, here, and here.

One thought on “Simon’s Worst Moment (Chapter 30)

  1. Another great chapter, if somewhat depressing. As usual, your writing is great; these are just grammatical suggestions for you.

    Paragraph 1: instead of starting the 3rd sentence with “55”, try rearranging it to something like “Tall, slender, and sporting a peach-fuzz goatee, 55 had been trying . . . .”

    2nd para: probably you should capitalize “Little Bitch” here and hereafter, since you’re using it as a proper name.

    3rd para: “grimaced” is probably better than “frowned with determination”

    4th para: fine.

    5th para: you use “55” over and over. Try to at least end the paragraph with a synonym, such as “his opponent.”

    8th para: replace “make a drive for” with “drive to”; replace “the” in the 2nd sentence with “Simon’s”. 3rd sentence: it’s very awkward to start a sentence with two adverbial phrases. Maybe you could should delete “with a quick step backward” and insert “quickly” after “retreated” to get the same imagery in a less convoluted fashion.

    9th para: “the net snapped as the ball swished through” can replace “passed through it, etc.”

    10th para. Combine the first two sentences; insert a comma after “ground” and rephrase to “resting his head on his knees”. Aside from being shorter, it avoids confusion as to the identity of “the teen.” Also, is Simon really trying to beat the other team, or 55 personally? It sounds like the latter. If so, change “the other team” and “their/they” to “his opponent” and “his/he”.

    11th para: I have both a grammatical and a logical question here. Logic–are teammates really going to be jumping and screaming because the whistle blew on a game that has already been won a long time ago? The context implies that this is just an ordinary rec league game, and not worth getting excited over. Grammar: the three participles at the end of the sentence are rather verbose. Can you rephrase?

    12th para: this needs some sprucing up. First of all, get rid of the “there was” and just tell us what the coach did. Second, while the coach might have given a boring speech, the laughing and joking in the showers seems quite exhilarating–i.e. not part of a “slow let down” that you told us about in the 1st sentence.

    Also, while I get that he has to take the team bus back to campus, then a city bus home, but you use the word “bus” so often that it’s kind of hard to follow. Second, if this guy really is the next LeBron, isn’t someone–a teammate, coach, or booster–going to give him a ride home instead of making him take the bus? Finally, why isn’t his grandma up waiting for him when he gets home?

    13th para: is there no postgame meal? the stomach should complain “because”, instead of “that”. “that” expresses an opinion that may or may not be valid; “because” expresses a fact about the world. Compare “that the teacher gives too much homework” to “complain because the teacher gives too much homework.” Finally, “boys” should not be used as a synonymn for “teens”; the two descriptors are different.

    15th para: delete “aggressive”–it is implied by the following phrases.Or you could just say “moved like a man on a mission”:

    16 para: Capitalize “Bitch” if you’re using it as a proper noun.

    17th para: “punk-ass”; why does he hear the gunshot AFTER feeling the pain? Wouldn’t he hear it first? Also, does Simon try to read the license plate or anything?

    18th para: no hyphen in pro-ball; probably you should change “black car” to just “car” or “Ford”, because you want to emphasize the verb rather than the noun in that sentence.


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