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Rusty Rim - Richie Smith

Before my father had them knock down the garage

I still believed I could become an athlete.

I believed I could train

with the best of them just like stocky Trey Gibbs across the street

who tackled me hard when we played football.

I believed I would have a basketball court like his

and I would learn to shoot hoops like him, modeling himself after his even more athletic and wiry older brother.

But I didn’t have an older brother. I had a younger sister

who sucked her thumb with a bammy and a father

who never learned to play sports because his father

died when my father was five-years-old.

My grandfather died

from a ruptured appendix in the days

when antibiotics were as primitive as the medical treatments

that could stop a twenty-eight-year-old man from dying of sepsis.

Instead of a basketball court with a proper backboard I ended up with a plywood

piece of lumber my father nailed behind the rim of a rusty hoop

that hung there like the discarded twist-off top from a tin soda can

in the days before they made cans out of aluminum

and didn’t have enough sense to keep the tops attached to stop the squirrels from ingesting jagged pieces of discarded metal

and mouth bleeding all over our sidewalk

like Trey Gibbs did when he smacked his mouth

on our rusty gate.

The rusty rim hung without a net.

If you took a shot the ball hit the lumber

and died

like the septic grandfather I never met.


Richie Smith

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