Leonard Redmond

English 200

Writing in the Humanities

February 26, 1999

“Event Essay: Scene & Dialogue”

The event I have chosen to write about most people have hopefully never had to go through. I was arrested for selling a controlled substance, meaning weed, after my freshman year here at State. This occurred in the Englewood neighborhood on Chicago’s Southside, and caused my mother or should I say me many problems.

    This event lead to me being dragged away from home, and some dialogue from my mother that I’d never heard from her before, although I’d heard other people say those things. As I was being cuffed and read my rights, she started screaming, saying “No good motherfucker,” and went completely out of control, at which time I realized that she was yelling at me and not the cops. They were reading my Miranda warning, and she began slapping, and so then they had to restrain her. So this was another event that most people will hopefully never have to put themselves through—hearing their own mothers say motherfucker, and then the cops responding by laughing, as if I was not humiliated enough.

    But the ripple effect that we talk about in class, what happened after the event, was even more interesting, and what I have really chosen to pursue in this paper and even write a scene about. While I was gone that afternoon, my mother had to call the coaches here at State and tell them the details of what happened. Everybody knows lots of players smoke weed, which is why the NBA doesn’t even test for it anymore, don’t ask me why the colleges do.

    This was after my freshman year (I am now a senior, don’t ask me why it took so long to take this class) when I was named the league’s Freshman of the Year, the trophy of which my mom tried to hit me with too, while I was in handcuffs. I had to calm everyone down and tell my mom to put my damn trophy back on the TV where it still sits, chip and all. But I bailed out thanks to Red, an old partner of mine, and didn’t even have to spend the night, which I was thankful for.

    No sooner had I got home than the phone was ringing, and it was my coaches, who already knew what had happened, thanks to my mom’s sense of panic, thank god she’s not my coach, right?

    So I had to explain everything to Coach Pytel, and each time I said something, Pytel repeated it to Coach Hood, who probably thought he’d get polluted talking to a drug dealer. And I was damn near in tears, for real, because I thought that they’d take my scholarship. Until Coach Pytel said this: “Did you talk to any reporters?”

    So I said, “This Chicago. Getting popped for weed happens every day.”

    And I heard Pytel say something to Coach Hood, who he always has to answer to. Pytel would get very twitchy when Coach Hood was around. One time I noticed, when Pytel was doing an internet search, with Coach Hood standing right behind him. Pytel would click like five times when he just needed to double click on something. Anyway, then Pytel came back on the phone and said, “Do you think there’s a chance it will stay out of the papers?”

    These guys never had any experience with Chicago cops, not that I had a whole lot, so I told Pytel that, “If I go to trial and get convicted it would have a bigger chance to make the paper.”   

    See, I was what the coaches call a “Sleeper,” meaning nobody ever paid any attention to me and realized that I was destined to be a great player. But in a funny way, I could tell. When I was in high school, I started seeing plays develop and I’d make my move—but it was like my body wouldn’t listen to me yet. Meaning that I’d miss the steal or the blocked shot, but I knew I should have had it, and in my mind I did make the play.

    Once I got to State as a freshman I guess my body started to catch up with my mind. And the plays that I used to just miss, now I was making them easy. Plus I gained about ten pounds eating in the cafeteria, which my mother was mad about, since she’s a better cook.

    The next day—I mean really, the next day—Pytel called me again, but this time he was at the Midway airport, and said to stay home because he was coming to visit.

    Pytel hadn’t been to our apartment since he came that one time, by himself, for his recruiting trip. He said that day, “All we are offering you is a chance, there are no guarantees about playing time,” so that day was different. Because, one, he was the only coach from a major college to show up, since my grades were a mess. The junior college coaches said I’d be a big star, but my mom liked that Pytel was more realistic she said. Me, I wanted to be a star, but I also wanted to play at a major school, so when I made my SAT test score, that was it. I signed at State.

    The day after my arrest, I met a different Coach Pytel. Here’s why. Now that I was already State’s best player, he talked to me the way I wished he had the year before.

    “You’re our hope,” he said. “We’ve never had a guy named Freshman of the Year. So we’re going to do our damnedest to help you here.” And he just generally made a fuss over me, saying it would be a shame if my career ended over this, and that he’d already spoken to the Public Defender.

    So I said, “But ya’ll kicked Joe Robinson off the team last year for just smoking weed.” I was still trying to understand what the difference was, I mean here I was selling. Then Pytel repeated Joe Robinson’s name, in a way that I got the idea. Joe Robinson wasn’t shit. I was dunking on Joe Robinson while I was still homesick my first week.

The next week, a miracle happened. My PD discovered that the warrant that the cops used had the wrong address, it said 932 W 67th. But our apartment building is 934. And 932 doesn’t even exist. And they spelled my last name Readman, which isn’t right either. So the whole case was thrown out, and the cops would have to find someone else, because that side job career was now over for me.

    “I hope you learned your lesson,” my mom said, I suppose like most moms say all the time.

    Except I did learn a lesson, another besides don’t sell weed: the coaches had begun to sweat me, all worried about my life and my career and my grades. So one day in August I called Pytel to say the whole case had been dropped and they could stop fretting, then Pytel asked if he could put me on hold. He had to excuse himself from a meeting with the school’s president.

    And I thought, and I’m being real here, when will this shit ever happen again? Meaning, I didn’t want the coaches to stop sweating me and treating me special.

    “Sorry to keep you waiting,” Pytel said. “I had to tell the president it was an emergency. What’s the latest?”

    “No news,” I said. But it was like I heard me saying it. Because at the same instant, I was thinking, “Why are you lying to Pytel, Leonard Redmond? Why not just come out and tell the coaches that the charges were dropped?” That was the first lie I told to the coaches.

    And that was when Pytel told me the plan that he and Coach Hood had cooked. They were going to put me in the easy classes, meaning Criminal Justice and the like. And I was going to just play through the year and then when my trial came, I’d have a bunch of “A’s” to show the judge.

    “Did you talk to Rothstein?” I asked.

    He was that Public Defender. If Pytel talked to him, he’d know the whole case had been dropped like a bad habit. But Pytel hadn’t talked to the PD since the first time, and I told him that Mr. Rothstein had said it was better from now on if none of the coaches called ever again. Which was the second lie I told, and leads me to the real conflict of this essay (not getting arrested for drugs, which would be a more sentimental and cliché conflict that as writers we are to avoid).

    Instead, it was telling a lie to help myself and improve my status, even though being known by the coaches to be a drug dealer most people wouldn’t think is too helpful. So, it’s ironic, which means better.

That Fall of my sophomore year I was signed up for Intro to Criminal Justice. And also Jazz to Rock. And Marriage and the Family. And two others, but not this English class (smile) so I had a very relaxed time. Here I was, supposed to be sweating this upcoming trial, and what am I going to say to the Judge on my own behalf.

    And instead it was Coach Pytel and Coach Hood that were worried, always doting on me the way my mom did the time I had my tonsils taken out. Pytel would ask did I need anything? and had I talked to Mr. Rothstein at the Public Defender’s office? Then it was extra Nikes and sweatsuits and sometimes even single rooms on road trips. And I began to wonder if I should tell the coaches a third lie: that there had been a continuance in the trial and that the whole case might take another year, and to keep those Nikes coming.

    Now I know that I pushed the whole thing too far, or I realized it one morning when I was over at this Nigerian guy’s house, another guy on the team who I call Jungle Boogie. He’s serious for real. It was a Monday morning, and Pytel was coming by the school apartments as usual, pretending it was something important, like where did I think the team should eat pre-game meal, but really it was to make sure that I got to class. I didn’t mind because who wouldn’t like being chauffeured to class three days a week?

    So Jungle Boogie said, “Coach Pytel is here to get you. I heard him beep his horn.” He went to the window and pulled the drapes back.

    But I didn’t move. “Let him come up and get me,” I said. There were some cinnamon Pop Tarts that I had just put down in the toaster.

    Jungle Boogie got that look on his face he gets when he’s talking about Marcus Garvey and Malcolm X. He started talking about the over-dependence on the white man, and the cycle of poverty that I was now party to.

    “Party nothing,” I said. “I’d be doing this even if Pytel was black.”

    But Jungle Boogie said that wasn’t the point; the point was that Pytel and Jack Hood had made a colony out of me, and now I was part of this system just by playing along. And maybe he had a point, although he once made the same statement when I was waiting for this fine girl from La Jolla to swing by the apartment and get me. What Malcolm X and Coach Pytel and some slim goodie from California have in common I still don’t get.

    Although Jungle Boogie didn’t know anything about my court case, let alone the whole thing being dropped, I started to think he was right. There was only two weeks left in the Spring semester, and they thought my trial was coming up soon. It wasn’t, but still I figured maybe now it was time for me to change.

    So, just as Pytel started to come up to get me—he slammed his car door in disgust—I was coming down from Jungle Boogie’s apartment.

    “I’ll get to class on my own,” I said to Pytel. Then I could see that Jungle Boogie was right. Pytel needed me more than I needed him. Pytel had the radio cranked up to my station, Hot 103, which I know he never listened to if I wasn’t in the car, but I had programmed his radio.   

    “It’s over a mile,” he said. “You don’t want to be late.”

    And I said, “I got legs.”

Chicago native Rus Bradburd coached college basketball at UTEP and New Mexico State for fourteen seasons before resigning to pursue an MFA degree in 2000.  His fiction has appeared in The Southern Review, Colorado Review, Puerto del Sol and Aethlon. His essays have appeared in SLAM Magazine, Bounce Magazine, the Los Angeles Times, the Houston Chronicle, the El Paso Times, and Heartland Journal. Rus went to Ireland in 2002 to coach Tralee's Frosties Tigers. Paddy on the Hardwood: A Journey in Irish Hoops is his first book. He is an assistant professor in NMSU's English Department.

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Rus Bradburd

Scene & Dialogue