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Skeeter picked up the ball and ran for Daylight.
“Gimme that ball, Skeeter,” cried Daylight. No one could stop him on the court.
“Ain’t no way you gonna get a ball inna basket ‘less you take it away from me,” replied Skeeter.
They both raced down the court, not together, but in tandem, running to the basket hooked to the concrete brick walls with rusty bolts. There was no one in the gym with them except the guards watching from the booth above them. Incarcerated felons had guaranteed exercise every day, but there was nothing that said they had to be allowed to do anything useful or fun; a one-on-one basketball game with a partially inflated ball was a joy for the guards to watch even as it was an eternal frustration to those trapped in an hour of exercise.
And they had to exercise the whole time; you didn’t exercise during your hour and the warden would take it away with the excuse “Looks like you didn’t really need it seeing as how you didn’t use up the time.” It was the same with books and meals and movies – if you didn’t use it all up, why the next time it was reduced or even missing. So Skeeter and Daylight ran back and forth, from the wall with the basket to the opposite side where the metal cage offered a midcourt wall. Back and forth, endless rocking, the full hour taken up with dribbling and running and jumping and shooting, all for a meaningless score that counted for nothing more than a chance to have another hour the next day for more exercise.
The dead ball was just an irritant to their game now; the game was now about who could keep running his mouth along with his game. Skeeter was the quicker wit but Daylight was the more devastating. His heavier body seemed to give more weight to his put downs. Skeeter would dance around the insults like his namesake, but after months of endless ripostes and put downs he was tired of it.
There would be some changes coming soon, he vowed, and he’d worked with one-eyed Jack for a month now on preparing a surprise. One-eyed Jack, named for his favorite playing card, had shown Skeeter how it was going to work one night earlier in the week during chow time. “You just hit it like this –“ he illustrated the move with his plate and hand “– and you gonna see something special.”
Now was the time. Daylight had the ball and they had turned around at the cage, running back to the basket. With a final triumphant shout Daylight reached up to toss the ball; Skeeter reached up at the same time and slammed the upper bolt with his hand. As Daylight grabbed the basket rim, the entire assembly fell off the wall, and the floor gave way underneath him. He and Skeeter fell into the basement.
“Shoot man,” Skeeter said euphemistically. “You OK, Daylight?”
Daylight was still stunned, shook his head, and then responded. “What the blazes was that?”
“Got me a plan to get outta here. We gotta book it, though.”
Skeeter grabbed the flashlight from the shelf in the dim basement, snapped it on, and they escaped down the tunnel together towards freedom.
Up above the guards were blowing whistles frantically as lights flashed and sirens blared. They ran down to the hole and looked down into the darkness.
“Well, Larry, looks like they’re gone. Off somewhere.”
“Never thought I’d see the day, Bobby-Joe, where this’d happen, but it’s like Pappy always said.”
“Yep. Looks like Daylight’s finally gone where the sun don’t shine.”