Takedown by Rich Wallace Read Free Book Online

Book: Takedown by Rich Wallace Read Free Book Online
Authors: Rich Wallace
want to quit. Even Mario and Jesse had won their matches today.
    Maybe this isn’t my sport, Donald thought as he stared out the bus window on the way back to Hudson City. Maybe I’m not as tough as I thought I was.

    “Y ou heading home?” Kendrick asked after “they’d returned to Hudson City.
    “Where else would I go?” Donald said.
    “I mean, you want to head out together?”
    Donald yanked his jacket out of his backpack and shrugged. “Sure.”
    Kendrick had lost again, too, so they wouldn’t be joking around like other days. Donald just wanted to get off the bus in a hurry. He was mad at everybody—at the guy who had beat him, at Tavo for trying to help, even at Mario for winning his own match.
    They stepped outside. The air was still and cool.
    “The thing that makes me maddest is that I would have beat the guy Mario wrestled,” he said.
    “So now Mario looks like a better wrestler than I am. He won.”
    “That ain’t Mario’s fault.”
    “No. It’s mine.”
    “You might not have beat that other guy.”
    “I can beat Mario. I would have clobbered his opponent.”
    “That’s not the point. You wrestle who you wrestle. One on one.”
    They walked along the Boulevard in silence for a few minutes. When they reached the YMCA, Donald stopped. “I’m gonna go in here for a little while,” he said.
    “How come?”
    “I don’t know. Just to chill out.”
    “All right.” Kendrick turned and looked up the street. “I need to get home.”
    “See you tomorrow then. And listen, don’t say nothing to Mario. I’m not mad at him. Just jealous, I guess. And mad at myself.”
    “Sure. I hear you.”
    The Y was quiet this early in the evening. Donald had spent a lot of time here, but mostly on rowdy Saturdays when he was younger, participating in indoor soccer and floor hockey and basketball leagues. He’d always done all right. Never a star, but usually a pretty good player.
    He wasn’t sure why he’d come here tonight. Probably because this was one of the few places where he’d ever had much success as an athlete. He needed to be reminded of that.
    He walked into the empty gym and set his backpack on the first row of the bleachers. A basketball was lying on the side of the court, and he picked it up and dribbled it a few times.
    He spent a few minutes shooting baskets, missing the first several but then getting into a groove and making four in a row. There’d been one game a couple of years ago—a tournament semifinal— when he’d tossed in a three-pointer in the final minute, then stole a pass and went the length of the court for a game-winning layup.
    There hadn’t been many moments like that in his sports career, but there’d been one or two others. A fumble recovery that he returned for a touchdown. A bases-clearing triple.
    He rolled the basketball to the far end of the court and went downstairs to the weight room.
    Three high-school guys were in one corner working on the bench press, and a woman was running on a treadmill. Donald had passed through the weight room a few times, but he’d never lifted weights. Other guys on the wrestling team lifted, and Coach had said that the seventh-graders ought to start doing so in the off-season.
    He climbed onto an exercise bike and pedaled slowly for a few minutes, watching the high-school guys lift. They were laughing and busting each other. Loud rock music was blaring from the radio.
    How could I lose like that again? he wondered. He’d felt so ready, so psyched up, so certain that he’d win. Now he felt just the opposite, unsure if he would ever hold on and win one.
    His parents were both working tonight, so there was no rush to get home. He had no appetite anyway. He pedaled the bike for ten more minutes, then grabbed his stuff and headed out.
    There was still a lot of traffic on the Boulevard, and the restaurants and small grocery stores were open. Donald trudged past, suddenly eager to get home and out of the

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