Photo by Gary Dineen/NBAE via Getty Images
A short, semi-fictional play about Orlando forward, Tobias Harris, who’s out indefinitely with an ankle injury.
Previously: Act I
- Bus driver
- Tobias Harris
Not the next day, and not the same time, but at the same place.
Hours have passed. A deep black shrouds the sky just before sunrise. Stan is reading from Rony’s phone and silently nodding. Rony blinks his eyes open.
Stan: Good morning.
Rony: Is it morning?
Rony: Has Tobias Harris come and gone?
Stan: No. (Stan opens up the iTunes app and starts to sing in a low whisper.)
Sunday mornin’, praise the dawnin’
It’s just a restless feelin’, by my side
Early dawnin’, Sunday mornin’
It’s just the wasted years so close behind
Watch out, the world’s behind you
There’s always someone around you, who will call
It’s nothin’ at allllllll
Rony: HEY, what’s the meaning of that? (Pats his entire body, but doesn’t find a nip left.) Cut that racket out.
Stan: Lou Reed died.
Rony: So, Tobias Harris is alive, and we need him back. Where the hell is he? (Begins to panic that last night’s memories were just a dream and he might not get to meet Tobias Harris.)
Stan: You don’t know who Lou Reed is, do you?
Rony: No, I don’t, but I know that in 27 games last year, Harris averaged over 17 points, eight rebounds, two assists and a one block in under 36 minutes of action. According to Basketball-Reference — and you can check me on that, since you somehow got my phone to work despite no visible outlet or charger I can see — only a handful of guys in the league accomplished that feat, and all of them are at the top of the forward food chain, if you know what I mean.
Stan: I actually do now. That’s why I was playing Sunday Morning. I have all these regrets about my job. Like, PER, what a wonderful stat! And this site I found on your phone, Hoopdata, except now they look to be shuttering. Tough break. I would have enjoyed those numbers.
Rony: (He remembers Stan is connected to the team somehow, but thought he was just a flunky for the owner.) How long was I out?
Stan: Long enough for me look up some relevant information on Tobias Harris.
Rony: Spare me. I know his stuff by heart, just like you know mildly depressing Louis Reed songs or whatever.
Stan: He’s regretting his mistakes from the night before. I’m sure you can understand that feeling. (He kicks the empty whiskey bottle and a couple nips lying around the bench.) He wrote it at 6 a.m. on a Sunday morning.
Rony: Is it Sunday morning here? It’s too dark for 6 a.m.
Stan: No, but I wouldn’t expect you to understand the lyrics. It is peculiar we were here all night and never saw a bus, or even a passing car. This isn’t a main road, but it’s near one. Maybe we’re in purgatory? Maybe I got drunk, started something with the wrong guy (He envisions a Heat fan.) and they murdered both of us.
Rony: (Dismissively.) Where do I fit into that scenario? (He broods comically, like he picked up the action from a character on Veronica Mars and not any real life introspection.)
Stan: What are you doing?
Rony: (Blushing.) Nothing. You know, as I was zonked out, I got to thinking about Tobias Harris.
Stan: Go on. I have some grasp of his capabilities on the basketball court — at least as far as numbers go. Also, have you seen my shoes? (Looks around the bench and spots his shows lined up next to each other underneath. Pointing to his scuffed work shoes.) Did you do that?
Rony: Yeah, I woke up for a moment, and my OCD came out. So what have you learned from Harris’ numbers? I’m curious what a basketball newbie picked up in a couple hours time.
Stan: He’s not that efficient. He takes a lot of those shots that are further away, but don’t award you the extra point. It seems like he’d do better to take the shots closer in.
Rony: Yes, those extra point shots are called 3-pointers, and that’s very smaht of you. (He always said it the Boston way ’cause Good Will Hunting was his favorite movie, though it made him feel more intellectually inferior than usual.)
Stan: Not a very creative name for the points, if you ask me.
Rony: I didn’t.
Stan: Harris takes a lot of shots from far away when he should be making things happen off the cut. Also, I’m not sure how much defensive statistics matter, but there’s something called Synergy you mentioned before, and when I looked at it, he appears to be not as insecure as some other players. I’m not sure what points per possession is, but his is high — in comparison — when he’s isolated? It’s strange he would get defensive when he’s alone. Is he schizophrenic?
Rony: HAHAHA. No. That’s defense, as in preventing the other team from scoring. It has nothing to do with getting defensive. And that’s about right. Harris has a lot of holes in his defense, though he’s pretty good in the post with a 7-foot wingspan and quick feet.
Stan: Not quick enough to get him here, it appears.
Rony: Ahh well, he’s got a severe ankle injury. It was once a day-to-day thing, but its dragged on this season, and we don’t know when he’ll suit up. It’s a nuisance that could derail all the high hopes many had for him entering the year.
Stan: High hopes lead to the lowest of low’s. I’d expected Harris to arrive last night, and now I can see the first wisps of dawn.
Rony: There you go again with that middle school poesy.
Stan: Shut up, and stop flailing your feet around without shoes. (They both sit and ponder their mutual antagonism after becoming friends the night before.) We should eat.
Rony: I have a turnip.
Rony: Yeah. I can’t remember why I have it, but as I was looking for more hooch, I found a turnip.
Stan: (Holding his stomach, he makes a sour face.) I’m good, thanks.
A bus can be seen in the distance, but it’s unclear how far away. The two strangers become excited. Like the last few feet into the rest area when you’ve had to pee for hours, the tide of hunger for both is growling in their bellies as the bus approaches. The bus stops next to them on the road, and the Bus Driver swings the door open.
Bus Driver: What are you two doing here?
(Rony and Stan both realize there’s no one on the bus.)
Rony: Isn’t this the bus stop?
Bus Driver: It used to be. But the city lost some money when Dwight was traded, so they’ve shuttered this one, since it’s off the main road.
Stan: Where’s the main road?
Bus Driver: Back that way. (Points a old finger further down the road from where he just came.)
Rony: But what about Tobias Harris? We’ve been waiting for him forever.
Bus Driver: Forever is just the inexorable passage of time. It seems infinite because it is — something most of us cannot wrap our heads around. But our corporeal lives are a blink in the face of that infinity. We are just specks, like you two here when I first rounded the bend to this straightaway.
Stan: What kind of bus driver are you?
Bus Driver: The normal kind, though after seeing Road House on cable one night, with Swayze kicking butt, I figured I should get a degree in philosophy. I’m a couple credits short of a bachelors, and I still haven’t learned how to pull a man’s heart out of his chest.
(Blank expressions all around as neither Rony or Stan had TBS on their cable packages — a weird quirk of their satellite access in Florida — and so they were both unfamiiar with the opus about the fictional Double Deuce.)
Stan: I was supposed to meet Tobias Harris here, but since I stupidly left my phone in my broken down car, I can’t reach anyone at work.
Rony: By the way, do you really work for the Magic?
Stan: I do, but I’m an accountant, and up until last night I had no interest in basketball. This Tobias Harris fellow I’m supposed to be meeting, though, seems intriguing.
Rony: Oh he is.
Bus Driver: Oh, Tobias Harris of the Magic! Yeah, he’s still out with that ankle sprain. He was at the Amway Center yesterday. I read it in the paper.
(Rony giggles to himself thinking about people who still read the paper — then again he’d been at this bus stop all night, half-drunk and waiting for an NBA player who was actually in Orlando.)
Stan: What?! But we’ve been waiting and waiting for Harris, and now I have so many questions for him. Like has he worked on making a controlled run-out when he’s recovering to (tentatively) 3-point shooters? Is he going to be more aggressive getting to the line this year? Is he a starting small forward, a stretch four, or a sixth man who can lead a second team and whose defensive lapses aren’t as hard to overcome?
Rony: Whoa, Stan, you picked up a lot in one night.
Stan: I’m a fast reader.
Bus Driver (Begins to start closing the bus and wonders about the Patrick Swyaze fan fiction he submitted to the The New Yorker the other week. He can’t remember if he included a return address on the letter with the manuscript sealed inside.) Take care, fellas.
Rony: OK. (Punches his newsie cap, and puts it on his head, but not before a close examination of its inside. He then turns to Stan.) Well, shall we go?
Stan: First, put on your trousers. You took them off for some reason last night when you slept, even though it got cold.
Rony: (Puts trousers on.) Well, shall we go now?
They both stand and watch as the Bus Driver pulls away right as the sun first glints above the horizon. They do not move.