June 26, 2008
By Nora Sternlof, New London, CT

For his protection, I won't write his real name. Maybe I don't need to bother; probably you don't know him. After all, he's just another little kid at the park who looks like the one before him and the one before that. His life is another sad story like the one you heard before it and the one before that.

On the other hand, maybe you do know him. After all, he comes up to meet you, if he senses something about you. Maybe you've seen his foul shot hug the net like it was a long lost sister, and noticed the way he keeps his arms aloft. Maybe you're like me- thirteen and gone to half a dozen costly camps where you practice doing exactly that, holding your form, and still aren't very good at it. Arthur- I will call him Arthur- is eight years old. He has never attended such a camp, and he shots perfectly every time.

So I will call him Arthur, because if you have met him, I know you still remember him. Maybe you don't remember his bright face, his short stature, or his shining dark hair, but you remember his manner. He is a polite boy, particularly to adults, with a sense of mischief gleaming through. He does not have the aura of a lost boy- when he leaves you to peer through the links of the fence, he explains that what he's doing only so that you will not think he's abandoning you. He tells you that he is making sure his mother will not forget him and his little sister there, as she has once before, only so that you will not continue the game (Around the World) without him. And if he asks you to help him look, that is only because he wants to get back to the game as quickly as possible. As soon as one of you spots her, the world can start turning again.

Arthur doesn't want your pity, and indeed- if you have met him, or even if you have been reading this account which doesn't quite do him justice- you are as wont to admire him as to feel sorry for him. He is charming, and sweet, and above all, radiates strength. He may be a couple of feet shorter than you, but he is concentrated. Nothing the world throws at him will overwhelm him.

However, it is impossible not to pity Arthur sometimes. His mother, apparantly, does not have this quality of strength. You hear from friends that she is "crazy." It is hard not to pity him when you hear that she has had DCF called on her several times, that she lies about weeping because her boyfriend has left her, that she has thrown herself at the mailman, trying to flirt with him when he delivered a package. (Embarassed and alarmed, he pretended not to speak Spanish, which is her language.) In addition, he has an autistic brother who once threw all of his younger sister's belongings out the window in a fit of rage.

You may have formed a picture of him, a snapshot of his life some years into the future. Perhaps it will be autumn, and he will have returned to the park. He has access to better gyms now, but he also has loyalty. People will look twice at him, trying to figure out if he is really the boy whose picture they have seen in the paper so many times, along with statistics- three pointers, rebounds, assists- and a grade point average- 3.7, perhaps? Maybe some will be afraid to approach him, but there will be a little boy, or maybe a girl, who is not. Either way, they will be young, and they will ask him if they can have a turn with the ball. He will bounce it to them, gently, and watch them shoot.

It will be all net.

Will this come true? Maybe not. But either way, Arthur is unforgettable.

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