Soothing Invisibles
by MacBride Callihan

SMITH: Prophet Nation! Smith Holbrook here, back with ya, FINALLY! I’m trying to get my master’s degree for pete sakes, so be lenient with me, my dear friends. So, for tonight, we’ve got a special guest who is soon to be on the line. You all know him as Drayden Dunn. He’s our tri-state’s newest church league hero who just got picked up by the New Orleans Pelicans last week. I talked to him earlier today, and he said it’s high time the fans get to know him better. I’m excited to hear some of his thoughts and his story! So, here, he’s on the line…hold on, let me transfer this over to us…okay, there we go…without further ado, here’s Drayden Dunn!

DRAYDEN: Hey there Smith! Thank ya a ton for this opportunity; it’s a real privilege to be on yer podcast. I get nervous and antsy with questions and go all blank, so I’m just gonna read out loud what I wrote for yall last night. It can get a bit weird and revealin, and jumps around some, so hang in there with me. Okay, here goes:

This happened last month: I walked in to the barn, and scoped out the surroundins. Smoke filled the room. Mirth and smolderin pain was afoot. Thinly veiled pride…vicious snakes were all present. Three tables were going, with a couple open seats here and there. My mind started: “Yep. Same old thing as ever Saturday evenin. Couple good guys, and a lot of sour ones: big stacks, deep bank accounts, heaviness, meanness, lotta big egos. No one here’s ‘hurting’ for nothing…predators wearin masks. Should I put the mask on and play…or observe from the darkened bar over in the corner? Of course they don’t consolidate ‘em tables, they got ta ‘commodate every willing player…plus, they draggin bout 6 bucks per pot. Standard shit. Crunch the numbers, that’s a whole lot for how long these people will be here. Every week. I’m so mindful of it that it irks me these people ain’t. They accept being taxed to death…fuck all ‘at. The house always wins, the people, we sometimes win, sometimes lose. Yeah…I best go. There’s other places where my time would be better spent. My spirit will be sucked out in small increments if I linger here tonight. The energy is greed in here, and false bravado abounds…fuck gettin revenge, I don’t need it…I don’t want it. Maybe ‘at 800 I lost las week was a warnin, a court fine and lawyer fee. I’ll take it as that…don’t wan commit any more these costly crimes…I don’t need their respect or attitudes or glares.”

    I had a nauseatin’ feeling that urged me to run, so I listened to it and didn’t fight against it…I scooted on out of the barn and hopped in the truck. Rolling through them curvy hills that evenin, the spring winds spoke confidentially to me. They were warmer than neutral and jus right; they valued themselves and were content. Helpful is what they was. There was gratitude and unrestrained possbility written upon ‘em. Those who are disciplined and patient, they told me, gained an intuition…an appreciation…and they’d be rewarded internally. Or that’s what I gleaned from those soothing invisibles movin through my open windows.

    The truck did the decidin on where to go that evening, I let him ride all through those snakin appalachia hills. It was about an hour before dark when I slowed at a stop sign, middle of nowhere. The sound of a basketball bouncing and feet scuffling seemed to be somewhere around me, so I turned the radio down all the way. I could hear ‘em. I pulled off the road a bit and put the truck in park, closed my eyes. The ball was bouncing on a dirt court…my mind and senses instantly went back in time to when me and my friends and cousins would play as kids at granpa’s barn. I smiled at the memory and cut the engine off, stepped out of the truck. I walked up the road toward the distant sounds...looked crossed and down a gravel drive and saw ‘em playin outside a barn…the boys were bout 13 or 14, givin’ each other hell and tauntin each other in good fun. One of ‘em caught glance of me and shouted, “What you lookin at mister? You a goddam murderer?”

“I ain’t a murderer, and don’t mean no harm…I’s just drivin’ through and heard ya’ll. I love ball, used to play…I wanted to join ya’ll if yuns don’t mind,” I called out.

    “Come on then, goddamit! He’s on my team ya’ll…me, that feller, and Jenkins versus you three goons! Weeee! He’s taller an hell! Bet he can dunk!”

    We played til the sun went down, and we was all damn near coated in a inch of sweaty dirt by the end of it. I was reborn ‘at day, playin the game I truly love. Showed em I could shoot first, then dunked a few, and they cheered loud for me…smiled for the first time in what felt like years. Forgot how much joy the game gives me, and vowed to never stop playin again. I severed basketball from my life before, and other things took its place, but rededicated is what I become that day.

    The reasons I quit playin basketball is somethin I ain’t never told no one, but I think it’s time to tell now. When I was 13, about those boys’ age, I was the best player on my middle school team. I could dunk, pass, and play defense. Best player in this area…played with high school kids and adults and beat most all of ‘em. Coach Dilly was tough on me, but my friend. He was a hard man ta please, but said I could go pro one day and needed the work ethic he was teachin me. Coach was close to my family and was at our farm a lot for dinner and to talk. He even seemed to like my momma and I fancied that they might get married. I’s dead wrong though, cause it was my twin sister he had eyes for. One weekend my momma was at work and I was out shootin ball with my pals. After ball, I walked back home and saw his car in fronta the house. I walked in and heard whimperin and cryin upstairs from my sis and gruntin and cursin from coach Dilly. Grabbed me a cast iron poker from the fireplace and went quick and quiet up to her room. Walked in to see him with a knife to her throat, and her squirmin underneath him but he had her pinned down rapin her. I wanted to kill him but I started shakin and cryin and then he saw me. He got up and had the devil in his eye as he walked passed me and he laught in a sharp, low way, and said, “Guess this changes our relationship…good luck forgettin that image. I couldn’t resist that little thang and I ain’t sorry.”

I cried harder and so did my sis, and he scoffed n spit, then went out to his truck n left. I never saw hide of him after ‘at, but killed him ever day and night in my thoughts an dreams. Then things got worse. My sister couldn’t get on no more…she slit her wrists a couple months after that an died…then momma couldn’t deal with the grief of it, and felt to blame…she hung herself in the barn. I dropped outta school and went huntin him for revenge with my uncle, but we couldn’t find him. Cops couldn’t neither. Come to find out, he was a fugitive with fake i.d.’s, and Dilly wasn’t even his real name. He shacked up in town with a broad under some phony pretense and did what he had always done. So, basketball was furthest thing from my mind. It made me cringe to even imagine it, n’ my heart was full of hate and pain when I saw someone playin it.

    I gave up on my dreams at 13, and didn’t pick up a basketball again until last month with those boys at the barn. 10 years and I didn’t play onced. But I was ready to again, and the spring winds guided me there to those boys. That next mornin after we played, I woke up refreshed and headed to my old church in Flatwoods, KY. I’d not been for a long while on account of all-night card games at the poker barn. Felt nice to be awake and not be hungover or drunk or broke or despised for onced on a Sunday mornin. It felt right, and it didn’t feel lonely.

    After church service, I talked to old friends and they asked me I still played ball. I said I do now, so they got me join their Church League Basketball team. They called ‘emselves the Prophets. I said I was in. You know the rest, Prophet Nation. Smith. Last week, Commissioner Adam Silver looks my way and says, “You got what it takes; you’re playin’ in the NBA.”

    And we’s just gonna go from here. And from here on out, I ain’t livin in no past, and not dwellin on no revenge. That man weren’t no coach, and he ain’t rentin space in my head no more and I ain’t lettin his ghost rule my life. If God is real and good like I bleeve he always is, then I know things will have a way of evenin’ out. They already are now. And they will for you too, if ya let ‘em. So thank you for hearin’ my story, Prophet Nation. I’m proud to play for you and hopefully this helped someone out who went through some trouble and loss when they was young. Keep pushin through and the sun will do the same. I hope to meet a lot of ya soon. I miss Kentucky already and will be back much I can in between these summer practices. Thanks for havin’ me Smith. Until we talk again, goodnight ya’ll, and keep yer chin up...

{Drayden hangs up phone}

Shew…hey guys. I’m honored to call that man a Northeastern Kentucky Prophet. He has the power to inspire, and I think he’s done a lot of that tonight. Thank you, Drayden, for calling in and blessing us with your story. You are overcoming the darkness from your past and moving forward now. I look forward to watching you, as you’re a hell of a player and person, with limitless potential. Thank you, Drayden, for your strength, bravery, and vulnerability…from all of us who listened. Until next time, Propheteers…I’m Smith Holbrook, and it’s Prophet Reporting.