Emblem: come on, i'll lead you to the court for your shot. it's quieter here in the mornings.
Atalan: especially after a wild night of reverie.
Emblem: that was more collective town desperation. this way.
it takes a while to clear a path through the more-packed destruction and sleeping sadness, but eventually the two wanderers make it to the tip of a clearing surrounded on all sides by lucid thick green brush. the trip starts now. there is a dispirited waterfall spilling in the background, providing splashes of natural gatorade from time to time. it's a simple patch of dirt with one half-circle of white chalk. the basket's circle metal is rusty but not as rusty as the pole it's on.
cameraguy: where is the camera gonna be positioned?
Emblem: on that far palm over there, the drops of waterfall get through enough for you to have a shower in front of us but not enough to get on the lens.
cameraguy: i thank you, you're so considerate.
Ata: i just want to let you know, even if i do make the shot and have to continue onwards without helping you, it was a pleasure to get to know you, to meet your people, and to cultivate myself with your culture.
Emblem: you don't have to do anything. you make the rules, always. isn't this just a publicity stunt? there's reality tv and then there's reality on tv.
Ata: don't fuck with me or i'll fuck you ten times harder.
Ata sets up for this momentous shot in the middle of the wild. he toes the white line, rubs the basketball with his palms for luck, kisses it more than he would his mother but not quite at lover-level, and does a few ball spins across his body. the palms don't move save for a faint rustle. then some giant comes out of the bushes.
cameraguy: Bill Russell, greatest winner of all time?
no, Shaquille O'Neal himself. he swings Atalan to his side by gripping Ata's shoulder with his thumb and turning him.
Ata: starstruck. got any free-throw pointers? i know you probably get that a lot.
Shaq: sure, it's no secret, well it's an open secret to those who haven't seen my commercial. Gold Bond, put this magic dust on your hands, rub once, too much rubbing is a bad thing, and you'll sink the shot every time.
Ata: thank you, my man, you are the best! i will not chafe in honor of you.
Shaq: never pull back, if you need to explode, explode. life's too short. especially if you're too short. go for it at all times. live your manufactured dreams.
cameraguy: of all your gigantic accomplishments, the titles, the raps, the movies, the cinematic treasures i show just to my kids, the one thing i admire about you the most is the name, how it flows off the lilting tongue mellifluously when it rhymes, i mean talk about a marketing bonanza.
Shaq: you just did. hey don't keep referring to giant, big will suffice, i'm starting to get offended. nah, just playin'. we're all humans in the end, all shapes and sizes and sizes of tongue.
a gorilla comes out of the bush and approaches Ata.
gorilla: you know Canbiy?
gorilla: tell him he OWES ME A FORK, CLICK HERE, RIGHT HERE AT THIS LINK.
he knows what i mean. we're gaining on you guys, we'll be on your level soon.
the cameraguy's computer screen beeps. it's an urgent message from Cotard.
Ata: buddy i'm just about to make history.
Cotard: i might as well tell you now before anyone else, your blog isn't doing too well. not a lot of hits. no interest whatsoever. i've been busy with my own angst to partake in your zeitgeist. plus i think my cats are depressed which is getting me depressed.
Ata: how can you be depressed when you have Christ in your heart?
Cotard: it's not enough. y'know i type all this shit on this blog and at the end of it, i feel so empty. will any of this writing live on? is anybody affected by the words on this blog page? i should have gone into music. you compose a memorable song, you press it, and it makes an impression, you must make sure to press it, record it, and you're set. people from the far corners of space will enjoy that melody and your heartfelt lyrics long after your overdose. music makes one immortal, not blog prose.
Ata: try poetry, that's the next step toward song lyrics.
Cotard: church music is so staid. i want to learn the electric guitar expressly so i can Chris Gaines the dying music industry. if i can just get one song on the charts, i'm set for lifetimes. i will be remembered. like remember those singing nuns? and those group of monks who combined their chanting with European electronica to create that surprise #1 album in time for Christmas that year? why did i have to be an American monk?
Ata: go to one partition of the confessional, spill your guts, then go to the other side of the confessional and absolve yourself, it's the only way. i'm under a lot of pressure right now, can't you appreciate that? what about my feelings?
Cotard: you don't count if you're not famous. sure you're one of Jesus's flock but there are a billion sheep. Jesus had loads of disciples but you only ever hear the Apostles named. hierarchy no matter what, at all times. the Curia *cough cough* sorry i have a cough, i coughed there, that was me. i think i'm coming down with something.
Ata: it's a bug called existentialism. it goes away soon, but it never really leaves your body, it bugs you, lightly tapping you on the shoulders and face. you shoo the annoying bugger away, but it flies back when you get sad again, not making a demonstrative scene, just quietly letting you know it's there, it's buzzing around in your vicinity, always in the mix, in the latest buzz. it doesn't creep in, it's not creepy, it encroaches, it cheats its way in.
just then a pop-up ad blocks Cotard's wayward starry-eyed spacey Randy Quaid skype expression and runs a short video before Ata has a chance to pause it. it's Codrus, showing his steely eyes but not his face. he speaks perfect english.
Codrus: i am here in the Empty Quarter. sand everywhere, more here than anywhere else, a place for brutal reckoning, an honest assessment of your identity, you can't hide in the open desert, my friends, each step you take is permanently marked in the sand. which footsteps will you follow? yours? mine? ours? is there one trail of footprints because you are being carried by Jesus? my fellow brothers. and sisters. you know this is true. you know this to be true deep down your heart. it bugs you, nags you, shakes you with a hug shake, but you don't know how to tell your folks that you have abandoned them in spirit. you must tread your own won way, hardwon, hard one, the old ways, the old faiths, are stone cold, there is only one hot way to live this life the way you have always dreamt it.
Codrus moves his hand clutching a stone in front of his eyes, he smashes the stone to the ground, Ata makes out that the stone had some cryptic writing on it-
-Cotard: hey, delete the spam, i got that, too, some lame karate moves, not worth your time, he looks familiar and sounds familiar and has a familiar-sounding name, but that's all. the writing isn't even cryptic, it's just in a language you don't understand.
Codrus takes a fragment of the crushed stone, a shard, and places the piece on his tongue. that's when the vid goes black, either intentionally or the time limit.
Ata: fucking youtube time limit, always shielding the truth when it just starts to get good. press start for a stop.
Cotard: it's not youtube, it's yahoo or something. enough of that yahoo.
Ata: he was different. he is different. he's different. he speaks loudly but doesn't Alex Jones shout, he calmly measures his tone, he's not in a hurry, he speaks with grace and confidence, only a man backlit by a knowing, a secret knowing, would pronounce his speech so boldly.
Cotard: serial killers are like, that, too.
Ata: on that note, i have a once-in-a-lifetime shot to make.
Ata soaks his hands in Gold Bond and promptly misses the free throw shot. doesn't even clang the rim or cling onto the backboard. all air.
Emblem (demonstratively with an arrow point of his finger down to the ground): AIR BALL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!AIR BALL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Shaq: you used too much powder.
villager: you are in need of a blackboard.
cameraguy: didn't get any of that, you were hogging my computer.
Emblem: doesn't matter, i saw it, it's done, recorded in history, doesn't need to be recorded, documented, written down, it's written down in my mind, the human eye is the most delicate dessert God ever bestowed on his poor flock to enjoy life with. i see better than a camera eye ever could.
cameraguy: false. does an eye have a telephoto lens for long range?
Emblem: yes it does: it's plugged right into Jesus, i'd say He has a long range. Jesus is the answer to everything. if you believe that. we still hold firm to our tribal worship of our ancestors.
Atalan: for the record, i would have helped you guys either way. i knew as the shot left me that it would not go in. i don't know if it was the Codrus distraction, i subconsciously wanted it to fail cos i want to meet up again with that indian princess, or i had this picture in my mind of the ball not going through the hoop in slow-motion because it going through the hoop slo-mo is a cheesy Hollywood cliche and it's always easier to be negative than positive.
Emblem: i'd say all three, or four, whatever. the subconscious plays a vital role in the actualization of the imagined into real life and real time. watch.
Emblem raises his staff and points it at a weed.
Emblem: turn into weed.
Ata: it's okay, i'm not the stereotypical pothead you all subconsciously think i am. i tried it once in college and didn't like it, i spit it out, i can still be president, but i'm making up for it now by inhaling all life, i now can love who i want, i swallow. you were missing one thing, a stone in your belly.
the early morning cracks open the consciences of two fellow amazons, Kenyatta and the infamous indian princess named Sunsong.
Sunsong: i wanted to talk to you. it's hard to get real girltalk in this place.
Kenyatta: patriarchy, patrician, when in Rome, do as the Roman patricians did. i hear ya, sister, girl power.
Sunsong: i'm worried that my man is cheating.
Kenyatta: whoa. two women in a scene talking about a man. i feel we're breaking some vital Rules here. you live amongst such cinematic scenery, i was hoping to elevate our conversation past the usual Maury Povich stuff.
Sunsong: we will in time, our village needs you. and me. no, Emblem is the father of our child, and i do love him, but i see him always canoeing away to other villages. the gossip crows come back and squawk of women he's helped who are forever grateful to him because he's doing something to them that no other man in these parts can.
Kenyatta: elevate, elevate, think noble, noble man, not noblemen, PLUR, not TMZ. we simply have to, we've had enough of tawdry gutter repetition, we need something new, bright, original, and exciting. what's on the back page of the newspaper, the local interest? what used to be the back page is now the front page.
Sunsong: what's a newspaper? we missed that era.
Kenyatta: so did we. you'll never know. never again. the beagle won again, can you believe it?
Sunsong: i heard about that. if it's not Snoopy, though, i'm not interested.
Kenyatta: nice. you're full of surprises. things are breaking through. you didn't just hear about Snoopy through your husband, right?
Sunsong: nope, from my child.
Kenyatta: that's the ticket.
four figures stalk away from a basketball court bathed in orange sunlight that's starting to be mixed with blue moonlight. the combination color is better left to the mind's eye, the two colors are best enjoyed with the two eyes in reality as separate colors. there's a spoon in the road.