The injury wasn’t as bad as the doctors had originally thought, but Johnny Timberland would still have to miss the next three months of play. The last three of the season. He looked at his elevated toe as he lay on the couch watching old cartoons. It was still red and swollen. He had been prescribed opiates for the pain, but was too scared to take them. He had seen too many of his people destroy their lives with those kinds of drugs. He much preferred weed for the pain and seeing how he wouldn’t be drug tested for a while, he texted Jasmine asking if she could get some more from that guy. The guy who he gave all the money to and still hadn’t officially thanked him. But, whatever. A thanks would be nice, but he wasn’t the type of person to expect things from others. He was grateful however, that he didn’t press charges or try and have Bonnie put down.
The injury was disappointing, but Johnny had grown accustomed to missing extended periods of time. After a bit of rehab, he decided to rest for a bit back in Oakwood before going back to Boston. It wasn’t like he disliked his teammates or the organization, the NBA lifestyle was just a lot. Most days he’d be practicing or watching film for up to 10 hours and when he had free time he’d go out to the clubs and spend some time with his brothers and if by chance he actually had some more time after that, he’d usually spend it with a short-term fling. In the NBA community, it was expected to have an attractive female in your life at all times. If not, people would start to talk and there wasn’t anything Johnny hated more than hipstas talking shit behind his back. He was kind of glad he was just a role player and not a star. He knew full well he wouldn’t be able to handle everything that came with that. The media circus, the attention, all those expectations. Johnny never did well with pressure. At least off the court. On the court it was a different story. On the court he was no longer Johnny Timberland. He was Johnny Rocket.
What he liked best about Oakwood was the time. As soon as he closed his door his life fully belonged to him. No coach or trainer could tell him what to do, he was in charge. Before his suspension he hadn’t had that long a stretch of free time in god knows how long. At first he didn’t what to do, he just watched TV, played video games, and smoked weed. But eventually he grew bored of this lifestyle. Maybe when he was a kid ,he was lazy, but organized basketball molds you into something more than just an athlete it gives you work ethic and dedication. No one knew this more than Johnny Timberland. He didn’t read that much before the suspension, but during it, he probably finished 6 or 7 books. Mostly history books but a couple of the old Russian classics as well. He also played piano. When he was a boy, his mom bought an old used piano for him. She didn’t play herself, but she always wished she was a musician. So, Johnny took private lessons all the way until high school. It was his only extracurricular activity outside of ball. At first he hated it. Refused to play. But, eventually he found it alright and actually kind of calming. After he learned to read music, he could power through most medium level pieces. He’ll always remember his mom cheering for him the last time he really played during his 8th grade recital. He chose to play the Mario Bros theme song. This time he had downloaded some of his favorite songs and decided he’d master one a day. It was his way of keeping busy and he felt like he was honoring his mom. He even kept a picture frame of her on the piano as he played.
“Good girl” He called to Bonnie as she successfully ignored a dog passing by on their walk. Most of the time she was a perfect dog, just every once in awhile she’d snap. He still had to figure out how to train that out of her. He wore a cast on his foot while going out for walks and as long as he didn’t put any pressure on his toe, it would heal fine.
“Heya Johnny. Good to see you back in town! Hope the toe heals before the playoffs!”
“Thanks Wayne. I’ll seeya around.” Johnny said to one of his neighbors, a 50 year old dentist named Wayne. He took a deep breath of fresh air. He missed the air out here. It was way crisper than the city. There was also so much more space, everything wasn’t just crammed close together. He could see the horizon and the trees. One day after retiring, he envisioned himself going out west and living in nature at least for a little bit. He never truly was able to experience nature like that. Emersed in nothing but trees and mountains.
A young kid stared at him as he held his basketball at the edge of his driveway.
“Sup buddy. Good day to shoot some hoops.” Johnny said to alleviate the awkwardness of the kids staring.
“Yeah… Are you Johnny Timberland?”
“That’s what my mama named me… What’s your name sir?”
“Cameron. You were at my apartment once, you don’t remember though.”
“I was? Sorry about that my guy, guess my memory isn’t what it used to be.”
“Yeah, you gave a duffel bag full of money to my mom.” Cameron said directly.
Johnny was caught off guard by that statement. He collected himself quickly however.
“Is that right? You usually snoop around other people’s belongings.” Johnny said with a smile.
Cameron blushed and looked down. “No. I was just curious. I didn’t take any.”
“Head up, little man. It’s alright. At least it found itself in the right hands.”
“What was all the money for, drugs?”
“Haha. Oh, cuz I’m black it has to be drugs?” Johnny said laughing.
Cameron looked sheepish and turned to look at the ground again.”
“I’m just playin dude, don’t sweat it. You have a big imagination, don’t you?”
“Yeah, I have a big imagination.”
“Nah, it wasn’t for drugs cam. I owed the guy for veterinarian bills. Bonnie here bit your neighbor dog’s neck.”
“Really? Why did she do that? She seems so nice.” Cameron said as he patted Bonnie’s head.
“She’s nice most of the time. But sometimes she’ll snap and go wild.”
“That’s ok. People are like that too. You can’t control what you do all the time.” Cameron said as he shot the basketball with horrible form.
“You a wise little man. Anybody ever tell you that?” Johnny chuckled.
“Some people think I’m wise. But some think I’m not.”
“Here, pass me the ball. Let me show how to shoot wise guy.”