JAN. 2, ORLANDO
Dear Kind Reader,
Well, I can't believe I'm writing a book and this is because I've hardly ever even read a book much less wrote one before, on account of evil surface trappings like books, TVs, and automobiles weren't allowed in the Spelunkarium where I grew up.
As you probably know, my name is Maurice Finsternick, although the people at the Spelunkarium always called me "Mo" but the sportswriter gentlemen have given me a nickname which is "Slo-Mo" because they say I have the same speed and agility of the Istanbul Hilton.
But it doesn't matter anyway because I'm also tall as a hotel! I'm 7 feet 8 inches tall, and 195 pounds, which is pretty skinny I admit and, in fact, Mr. Charles Barkley, one of my teammates on the team, asked me today if I'll travel with the team or will they just fax me everywhere!
I've been big ever since I was little, but I guess it's a good thing because starting tomorrow I join the long line and great tradition of professional basketball's most wonderful franchise, the New Jerseys! It's real great because, like I told the sportswriter gentlemen this morning, even though our record is only 16-13, I really think we have the chemicals on this team to really go somewhere, a comment that they all seemed to like a lot on account of they wrote it down very fast.
But at the same time I'm very scared and lonely because I really don't have any family and I don't know anybody on the team and they're not going to let me keep taking trains like I did to here to Orlando and I'm a little nervous to fly and I miss the Spelunkarium and miss my high school teammates who I got to know for only one season before my agent accidentally turned me pro, which I never really wanted to do at all but I guess that's another story.
Still, my new teammates on the New Jerseys have been real nice to me. Tonight, for instance, after we were narrowly defeated by the Orlandos, 111-79, Mr. Barkley took me into the hotel bar so that we could talk about the exciting life in the NBA. It's the first bar I've ever been in because I'm only seventeen and because I've hardly been out of the compound most of my life.
Unfortunately, women kept interrupting us and rubbing his bald head and giggling, although Mr. Barkley didn't seem mad at these interruptions and, actually, seemed to kinda like it. I kept asking him questions, but finally he said, right into my ear, "Yo, chill, man, get yourself a freak!" And I said, "No, thanks, I don't drink." And just then Mr. Barkley must have got something caught in his throat because he spit out his beverage.
JAN. 4, NEWARK
Well, I'm just back from my first airplane ride of my life which I liked a lot, except for the well-known policy on all NBA teams that all supplemental rookies, which I'm one of which, have to serve the drinks and the meals onboard and also clean up but that's the rich tradition of the NBA for you. Anyway, I'm all settled in for the season here at my very nice hotel, the Newark Airport Ramada Hotel, which I'm very excited about, as I think it is much better than moving into one of those pandemoniums the other guys live in.
I got a collect call tonight from my best little buddy, Microchip, although his real name is Mustafa Unity Smith, and when I say Microchip is little, I don't mean little compared to me, I mean little compared to a collectible action figure. Microchip stands only 5-4 but he is "faster than rent money" as he always says, kidding.
Microchip played basketball with me at Most Virgin Lady High School in Boulder, Colorado. And I could not have made it to the New Jerseys without him and, really, I wouldn't have made it and didn't really want to come at all but I had no choice and Microchip said he'd call me every night since he didn't have much to do anyway since he got cut the day I turned pro and he'd always wanted to play on the playgrounds of New York. "You just practicin' till you play Hell's Kitchen, Stumpy," which is what he always calls me, kidding, of course.
Microchip doesn't talk like a professor at all, even though both of his parents are professors at the University of Denver, and both of them do not like one bit his playing basketball, which is fine since they don't even know he plays basketball. He told his parents that Most Virgin Lady High School didn't even have a basketball team, much less that it had won four Class 5A titles in the last seven years, and that its specialty was Black Studies and he told them he was living with a man who studied under the great black leader Dick Gregory and taking evening Black Studies classes through the exchange program at the Naropa Institute but really he was only playing basketball every second and sleeping on an old mattress in the basement of our assistant basketball coach, Scooter Chambers.
And it was funny that we became such good pals because he was the shortest player on the team, Microchip was, and I was the tallest and also because his skin was the blackest and mine was the whitest and he'd done so much in his life and I'd done so little. And I'm glad to have at least one true friend in the world.
Actually, I may have two friends now because today I met Mr. Harley Pearce from the local newspaper although everybody calls him Harley the Stain because his shirt usually has something on it from lunch that day or perhaps the day before, and usually there's also some of it in his teeth, just to the right of the Tootsie Pop stick he's always chewing on.
Mr. Stain was here in my room this morning before practice, ordering us up a lot of room service and drinks and asking me a lot of questions, which was nice of him, and he asked me if I minded being so tall and large at 7-8. And I replied that people ask me that a lot and also say funny things to me like, "How's the weather up there, stretch?" and "What time you due back at the lab?" which are very funny except maybe I have heard them a few hundred too many times. I really don't mind, as I say that it is truly stupendous that I turned out to be 7 foot 8 inches tall when you have considered that my mother, Phyllis, was only 5-4 and 102 pounds when she was living with me at the Spelunkarium, which was until she died in the cave-in at the King Soopers grocery store.
I guess I should have told Mr. Stain that my dad is very tall, too, except that I don't know his real name. Although I do know that his fake name was Genghis Korn, the 7-foot-tall giant who drives to supermarkets all over America and promotes Krispy Korn imitation-corn frozen food products. Of course, Phyllis told me that "Genghis Korn" is not really even his real name though she didn't know what his real name was.
Unfortunately, after their one night together, he went on to another city to display his imitation-corn frozen food products and Phyllis never got an address or anything for him and, besides, I guess they couldn't really have been together because how would he have liked spelunking, which is, of course, cave exploring, as much as she liked it, being as tall as he is. When you are as tall as he and me are, you can't really spelunk very well on account of you're constantly knocking down million-year-old stalactites and stalagmites. Which is really sad because you don't get close to the true God, which is what we believe at the Inner Door Spelunkarium where I lived, but what can you do? Life is no better roses.
Excerpted from Slo Mo! by Rick Reilly. Copyright © 2000 by Rick Reilly. Excerpted by permission of Anchor, a division of Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.