It was one of those cold winter nights in upstate New York where it seems to snow forever. A gentle fire crackled in the fireplace. An old man talked to his granddaughter amid books and leather furniture. It was night for stories, warmth, and hot chocolate.
Millie found an old black and white glossy 8X10 photograph among the books. “Are one of these guys you, grandpa?” Millie held it close to Charley for examination.
“That’s me,” Charley said gazing through is bifocals and the fog of time, “standing next to Jack Twyman, the ole Rochester Royals.” He pointed to himself. “That Jack Twyman was a real player. As good a shot as there’ll ever be.”
“I didn’t know you played professional basketball, Grandpa,” Millie said.
“Well, it wasn’t much of a career,” Charley said. “I was a real hot shot in my high school days and in college I was better than average. I had a college buddy whose dad worked for the Rochester Royals and he got me a tryout.”
“You must have been good enough,” Millie said, “You made the team photo. How long did you play?”
“One game,” Charley said, “and for some reason they let me go. The Royals were heading into to late November against the New York Knicks. Everybody on their bench had some sort of injury. That’s when I got the call. I was invited to a one day tryout.”
“How much did you get paid?” Millie asked.
“Oh, big money,” Charley smiled. “$50 and that covered everything.”
“Tell me about that game,” Millie said.
“It was midway through the third quarter at Madison Square Garden and the veterans were huffing and puffing; their months were open and tongues dragging on the court. Coach empties the bench. I’m the last to go in.”
“How long did you get to play?” Millie said.
“3 minutes 17 seconds,” Charley said. “There’s nothing like stepping on to the court at the Garden. It’s so smooth and shiny you think it’s wet. You can almost see your reflection in it. The rims are special, they’re magical. It looks as if the balls are destined to go through the rim. During warm-ups I couldn’t miss. When I walked onto the court I felt like I was king; I was as good as anybody. When they announced my name I felt like jumping around and saying that’s me. I didn’t want that moment to ever end.”
“Did you score?” Millie said.