A Hoop for Mary

A Hoop for Mary

A Story by Tayler Riouff

Mary, a high school student failing math, is passed to play the game. Her mother and coach witness a victory that defies morality.

Note: This was also a writing prompt from my creative writing and editing class. A classmate gave us a prompt and we created a story based on the information. This is also my rough draft. 

            Cindy Llewellyn knew that her daughter was failing math. Mary was a bright, rambunctious girl of 16 and the star player of the female basketball team, but numbers didn’t come easily to her. It was the first class she had failed in her two years at Fairdale High and it was compromising her position on the team. This was also the first year the Lady Bobcats had a chance of proceeding to the state finals.

            The determining game was tonight and when Cindy stepped into the gym the atmosphere was a clash of anticipation and excitement. The team was warming up on court and Mary shot up to take her spot in front of the hoop. She shot, scored, and jogged to the back of the line. When Cindy waved, Mary returned the gesture, face flushed and eye bright. Cindy took her usual place in the stands, right behind the team on the court. She placed her jacket beside her and glanced at her watch. Ten minutes until the game started.

            “Mrs. Llewellyn?”

            Cindy startled and looked up into the face of the Coach. Sarah Thrace was a tall woman in her mid thirties. Her light brown hair was pulled away from her face in a no-nonsense ponytail and her high cheekbones were flushed, much like her players on the court. She was also Mary’s math teacher.

            Cindy nodded. “Hello Coach Thrace.”

            “How are you this evening?” Coach Thrace was a kind woman but a quiet one as well. She was not prone to striking up conversation this close to a game. Behind her the assistant coach stood shouting advice to the girls. Cindy’s nerves crept on edge.

            “Fine,” she said, “Just fine. How are the girls?”

            Coach Thrace glanced over her shoulder and quickly back at Cindy. “They’re ready,” she replied, “More then ready. They want to win more then anything.”

            There was a pause in the conversation and, Haley, a short, quick girl, shouted, “Head’s up!” Both Cindy and Coach Thrace looked around to see a basketball come hurtling in their direction. Coach Thrace took a quick step to the right and caught the ball on the third bounce to the bleachers. “Be careful, Haley,” she called before throwing the ball back. “Your tosses are too high, you’ll never make the shot if you aim above the board!”

            Cindy relaxed slightly, believing that was the end to the conversation. But when Coach Thrace turned back to her she knew something had to be wrong. “Coach, is there something I can do for you?”

            Coach Thrace sighed. A sad look crossed her face. “It’s about your daughter,” she said after a few moments of silence. “She’s not doing too well in my class, ma’am. She’s-“

            “Failing,” Cindy cut in. “I know, she told me.” Dread fell into her stomach and it stung like fire. “Is this going to affect her game?” Around her the stands began to fill and the mingling sound of hundreds of voices polluted the air. Cindy leaned forward to hear the coach’s response.

            “It should,” Coach Thrace said. “It should affect her game. She shouldn’t even be warming up.” She pointed to the bench. “Mary should be sitting right there. But I put her on the court because she deserves to play.”

            Coach Thrace glanced down at her tennis shoes. Cindy knotted her hands together. She felt a knee in her back as people filled in the stand behind her. Cindy heard a quick apology but paid it no heed.

            “She failed today’s exam but I passed her.” Guilt riddled her eyes as she regarded Cindy once more. Guilt mingled with a ting of desperation. “She missed twenty nine of the thirty two questions and I passed her so she could play in the game.”

            Cindy blinked at her. She wanted her daughter to play as much as the coach did but to compromise her credibility was risky. As she was about to offer words of encouragement to Coach Thrace the buzzer sounded through the through the gymnasium. The coach turned away immediately, her movements animated as she gathered her players. Mary smiled at Cindy and she forced a smile back. The game began.

            Cindy cheered for her daughter as loudly as the students around her. The quarters passed on and the teams stayed even. Cindy watched her daughter score goal after goal but they were evenly matched and the florescent lights on the scoreboard rose with the same consistency. Anticipation leaked throughout the gymnasium like water. The cheerleader’s pompoms swished and flicked. The sound seemed permeate above the voices. Swish-swish-flick. Swish-swish-flick. When Cindy looked up from the pompoms, the last quarter had just under a minute left.

            Mary stood away from the goal, flanked by teammates on each side. She held the ball in her hands, turning the ball in her hands. The next shot would determine the game, Cindy knew. She glanced at the Coach who was standing still as a beam, arms crossed. They were down two points and in Mary could make this next three pointer shot; they’d win the game by a point.

            Silence fell over the court as the game hung in the balance. Mary bent her knees, eyes fixed on the goal, and shot the ball into the air. It flew, slowly, before hitting the rim and bouncing into the net.

            The gymnasium exploded as the scoreboard ticked to zero and the score shifted in their favor. The Lady Bobcats had won and were advancing to the state finals. Mary was stormed by her fellow teammates as they cheered and jumped up and down. Cindy smiled, watching, as they were ushered down to the locker by a beaming Coach Thrace. The woman turned, looked at Cindy, and her smile fell. Guilt riddled her features once again and the triumph faltered within Cindy. Coach Thrace disappeared and the gymnasium emptied. Cindy remained, starting at the doors to the locker room, the feeling of pride leaving a rotten taste in her mouth. 

© 2013 Tayler Riouff

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Excellent. Winning came at too high a cost. Mary was passed when she shouldn't have been, and her mother was sensititve enough to be ashamed.

Posted 4 Years Ago

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Added on November 10, 2013
Last Updated on November 10, 2013
Tags: literature, lessons, guilt, morality, high, school, regret, victory


Tayler Riouff
Tayler Riouff

Cullowhee, NC

Rainy days, lattes, jazz, leather bound journals, and leg warmers. I study professional writing and philosophy. I'm addicted to coffee and tea. I question everything, know little, and love to writ.. more..

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