Saturday, January 5, 2013

To Ride The Cyclone



Summary:  A/U, Kid, Lou and the rest are all part of a Division I college basketball team, on their way to great things, if they can get past the hurdles life throws at them.  They'll have the help of a great coach, Teaspoon Connelly, along the way.  Watch out.  There's at least one totally unexpected twist right at the start.
Author's note:  This is a crossover with my favorite basketball team and the incredible story of how it came to be.  That said, it's only loosely based.  There's definitely a bit of 'Could've Been' in there.

Prologue:   Cedar Rapids, Iowa.
Thunk.  Thunk.  Thunk.
The repeated pounding of the basketball on the concrete of the driveway was a soothing sonata to Kid’s frazzled nerves.  In just a few short weeks college would start, and a whole new stage of life would begin.  It wasn’t the classes Kid worried about, it was the basketball.  If there was one thing in life Kid held sacred, other than God of course, it was basketball.
Thunk.
A bend of the knees, a carefully indrawn breath, eyes zeroed in on the basket and… release.  The ball described a perfect arc from hand to basket.  Swish!  The net sang its sibilant song of triumph.
“Ninety-seven,” Kid said under breath, racing to get the rebounding leather sphere.
“Kid!  Jed’s on the phone for you!” came a female voice from the front door.
“Aw, Mom,” Kid groaned.  “Can you ask her to wait a few minutes?  I’ve only got three more shots to go.”
“Kid, now!  Your sister’s calling all the way from Ohio.  And you know how busy her schedule is.”
“Yes, Ma,” Kid said, turning and trudging unwillingly toward the door, bouncing the ball with every step.  Reaching the doorstep, she turned and let loose with the ball, smiling with satisfaction as it sailed effortlessly through the hoop.  “Nothin’ but  net,” she whispered to herself.  “Ninety-eight.”
Bounding up the steps and in the door, she took the phone her mother held out for her and began leaping up the stairs, two at a time, to her room, where she threw herself across her bed.
“So, what’s up?”
“Hi, little sis’,” Jed said, her soft, Southern drawl a pronounced difference from her younger sister’s more Midwestern twang.  “All ready for college?”
Jedidah Krakowsky was ten years older than Rivka, or the Kid as her friends called her.  Kid was the baby of the family, a ‘surprise’ addition according to their mother, who’d arrived well after they’d all moved Iowa.  Jed had been born when they still lived back in Virginia, on the old family homestead.  But an economic downturn had led to their father losing the farm to creditors.  Now, he happily worked for someone else at a corporate owned dairy in Cedar Rapids.
Jed had never been totally happy in Iowa and had headed back East first chance she’d gotten.  There she’d quickly traded her basketball scholarship for a degree and a job coaching at the University of Virginia.
“Everything’s packed up, got my dorm assignments, schedule’s set,” Kid said, flipping over on her back and twirling one of her long, curly locks of thick brown hair around one finger.  “What about you?  You enjoying being back home?”
“Well, see, that’s what I wanted to talk to you about,” Jed said, a smile in her voice.  “I’m comin’ back.”
“What?” Kid asked, sitting upright in shock.  “But, why?  I thought you hated it here.”
“I ain’t exactly enamored of the place, that’s the truth,” Jed laughed.  “But I couldn’t pass up this chance.”
“What chance is that?”
“You remember Teaspoon?  Coach Connelly?”
“Yeah,” Kid said.  “He’s one of the best in the game.”
“Well, he just got hired on at Iowa State and he’s asked me to be his assistant, working with the guards.”
“No way!  The one that’s known for taking no name teams and turning them into powerhouses?”
“Yes, way!” Jed confirmed.
The sisters laughed together.
“You know that means we’re going to be rivals,” Kid said.
“I couldn’t persuade you to trade in that Hawkeye scholarship for a Cyclone one, could I?” Jed asked, only half joking.
“Nuh unh,” Kid breathed, shaking her head.  “I’ve dreamed about playing for the University of Iowa for about as long as I can remember.”
“That’s too bad,” Jed said.  “It would’ve been nice bein’ on the same team.”
Kid laughed.  They loved each other like crazy, but fought like the siblings they were when in the same space for more than a day or so.
“So, when’re ya movin’ back,” Kid asked.  “Any chance of seein’ ya before I head off to school?”
**********
Nine months later….
Kid pushed her way through the door of the coffee shop in Iowa City, exhaustion, both mental and physical, bowing her slight shoulders.  A quick glance around showed her sister, Jed, seated in a back corner booth, obscured from the general crowd.  Kid nodded, then jerked her chin toward the counter, indicating she was going to get something before heading over.  Jed smiled in understanding, lifting her own coffee cup in salute.
A few minutes later, Kid slid onto the bench across from her sister, almost deflating with the movement.
“That bad?”
Kid shook her head.  “Worse.”
“Wanna tell me ‘bout it?” Jed’s soft voice soothed Kid’s jangled nerves.  “Somehow I doubt it was your grades and I know your playing was up to its usual standards.”
“They don’t take it seriously,” Kid said, barely audibly.  “They’re getting scholarships, getting paid to play for one of the best schools in the country, a powerhouse in the Big 10 and they act like it’s all a Sunday afternoon lark.”
“Uh oh,” Jed murmured sympathetically.
“All any of them can talk about is boys and what parties they’re going to after the game, or went to last weekend, or whatever.  They put in the minimum time they can get away with in the gym.  I… I just can’t take it.”
Jed didn’t say anything, just reaching out and placing her own slender hand over Kid’s smaller one in a comforting gesture.
Kid sat there, glaring into her coffee cup, for long moments, saying nothing.  Then, slowly raising her eyes to meet Jed’s, she asked diffidently, “Is that offer to transfer still open?  Would Coach Connelly take me?”
Jed smiled.  “He’s just been waitin’ fer ya ta ask.”
To be continued....

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