Issue #17 |

This is Canada

Nevermind that she is not the product of giants, my daughter Jessica is two years into adolescence—age fifteen—and has already grown to six-foot four. Her mother is an average-sized woman, much shorter than I am, and I’m firmly under six feet tall. But my grandfathers were tall men, over six feet the both of them, as is my wife’s father. None of us is an athlete, none but Jessica. All she got from me was her vision.

Not that my poor sight should so debilitate her, I tell her, not for a player her size. “You know,” I tell her, “Kareem Abdul-Jabbar wore goggles.”

“Yes, Dad,” Jessica tells me back, “but that was ‘cause he kept getting elbowed. Those weren’t, like, corrective lenses.”

I’d taken an apartment off the main thoroughfare in Hudson, in hopes that such proximity to records stores and tinny, hip coffee shops could once more entice her affections, but what works better than that is my television and my master bedroom, both of which I ceded to her, the former of which she uses as a monitor for her computer and a “projector” to mirror videos from her iPhone. “Do you want me to get cable?” I ask her. The subtext being: Do you have cable at your mother’s?

“Cable?” Jessica asks me. “No one has ‘cable’ anymore,” and indeed whatever television she watches she streams from NBA League Pass and assorted YouTube highlights.

On our nights together she slips back into her new room—mine—soon after she’s washed her share of the dishes. More highlights—some decades old. “Did you know he used to be called Lew Alcindor?” she asks me. “Much cooler name,” she says. “Like cinder.”

Jessica wore her headphones when she asked this question, her head pointed down toward her phone, and at first I thought she was speaking to one of her friends, miles away. I do not bother to tell her she will further ruin her eyes with her phone, gazing into the screen all evening like it was the sun. My hands were sudsy in the sink; Jessica has, of late, taken to rushing off after dinner, abdicating her share of the labor, claiming “homework,” leaving the clearing and the rinsing and the dish-washer-loading to me.

“You shouldn’t call him that,” I tell her. “He changed it for a reason.” The subtext being: Don’t be problematic.

Based on a studied reading of her own highlights, her coaches’ teachings, her own commitment to her craft, my daughter has determined that the best possible career outcome is forked: “You could either be,” she daydreams, “a Bill Russell or a LeBron James.” The distinction, she tells me, is that Russell played his entire career with one franchise, winning rings throughout, whereas James has bounced from city to city—Cleveland to Miami to Los Angeles—winning rings in each. The distinction is one of loyalty, not quality. (Rings, she says, and I am such a nonathlete that my daughter must debase herself to explain that ring is metonym for championship.)

Complicating matters and subtext is the fact that Bill Russell—despite his loyalty—is twice divorced, whereas LeBron James—despite his wanderlust—has stayed married to a girl he met in high school.

 

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Jake Zucker’s short stories have appeared in West Branch, Sonora Review, and Iron Horse Literary Review, and he’s received residencies and awards from the New York State Summer Writers Institute, the Keller Estate, and the Purdue University Libraries and College of Liberal Arts. A former NCAA cross country athlete for the University of Rochester, Zucker …

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