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BIRDIE / Mark Wisniezvski FIRST DAY OF PRACTICE my senior year, I walk out of the locker room and see what looks Uke a sixth-grade white dude whooshing in a jumper from way past the free throw Une. "Who's the punk with the freshies?" I yeU across the gym to Shannette. Shannette and I are buds 'cause we the only two seniors on varsity who don't play—and the only two who'U admit we Uke to fool around with dudes. "Transfer," she say. She hit the bottom of the rim with a layup . "From California." "What he doing shooting with the freshies?" I ask. "Managing?" Shannette put a baU on her hip, squeak her Air Jordans my way and stick her mouth so close to my ear it almost tickle. "SHE," she whisper. "She on the freshy team. Name is Birdie." A shot HOOSH in on the freshies' side of the gym, and there's this Uttle Birdie, standing thirty feet out, waving a perfect foUowthrough at the glass backboard. "She won't do that again," I say, and someone pass Birdie one of them cheap, worn-down rubber baUs, and she hits. I pretend Tm not watching and she hits again, this time from a foot past the three-point Une. I look at Shannette and she don't say anything. She don't have to. Because lots of girls can shoot, but they mostly have SETTERS, not jumpers, and this Birdie's jumper be Uke an NBA ESPN highUght, with the elbow under the baU, and the release at the top of the jump, and that perfect backspin you wish you could watch in slow motion. Two weeks into our regular season, Boys' Varsity starts coming to practice early to watch us scrimmage the freshies. Birdie be rainbowing home twenty-foot jumpers and Boys' Varsity be jumping and hoUering Uke German shepherds under a ham bone hanging from monkey bars. AU of us on Girls' Varsity be busting butt on defense and making three-quarter-court bounce passes connect clean on full-speed fast breaks, but Boys' Varsity never cheer for any of that—they just sit there eyeing Birdie, waiting for her to sting in another jay. I gotta admit I was jealous: because I knew Boys' Varsity liked Birdie because she played hoop and looked most Uke they did. She walked pigeon-toed Uke them, and had 164 · The Missouri Review her brown hair cut short Uke Danny Ainge. The hair on her legs needed shaving more than she bothered with it, you could see the muscles in her Uttle forearms move when she dribbled, and her chest be flat as a back aUey. Which most of Girls' Varsity wasn't. Most of Girls' Varsity had big breasts boundng everywhere, slowing us down, getting in the way of our shots—at least that be my excuse. Birdie never made excuses herself. In fact, she hardly even TALKED. When she did it surprised you, sounding low and hoarse and soft. I never heard her say anything until after the practice Shannette's ankle busted and Coach moved Birdie up to Varsity. We played Yates the next day and Coach put in Birdie and HOOSH-HOOSH-HOOSH-HOOSH—she drain four nothingbut -net jumpers in a row. We win by thirty and after the buzzer to end the game, when we in Une doing soft high-fives with the Yates players, their Uttle Mexican point-guard teU Birdie she look Uke Michael J. Fox: "Fuck you," Birdie say. Coach, who the only dude coach in the conference, hear Birdie say this but just laugh. Then he stay up in the Yates Athletic Director's office talking to the Yates coach, who the prettiest lady coach in our conference. We go down to the visitors' locker room and Yolanda, our backup center, teU us Coach be trying to talk his way into a date up there. She teU us she's sure he'U be in that AD office for at least a half hour, and that she herself's gonna show us how to have fun. She grab some towels and cover the drains on...


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