We sparred on the basketball court. My son scored several baskets in a row, the best I’d ever seen him play. He’d been practicing for months, complete dedication, working each move until he mastered it. There was nothing more I could teach him.

      “Nice job,” I said. “All your hard work is paying off. I’m so proud of you.”

      The boy smirked. “That’s right old man. You can’t stop me. Nobody can.”

      He dribbled and strutted and danced on the perimeter. Irritation flashed through me, but I let it go. At least he’d found some confidence in his game.

      “Stop this one, old man,” he said. “If you can.”

      He darted in for a lay-up and I rejected the ball with such force he plopped on his ass. The ball bounced on his chest. I grabbed it, spun, leapt toward the basket, and slammed it through.

      The boy looked stunned lying on the concrete.

      I walked over and helped him up, trying not to limp from the agony shooting through my knee and the spasms attacking my lower back. He eyed me with respect for the first time in ages, but I was too riddled with pain to savor it. If I could get home to my recliner and a fistful of aspirin before collapsing—the boy taking my silent agony for the classy calm of a champion—I could shamelessly milk this coup for years, a veritable kryptonite against disrespect and insubordination. The possibilities were endless.

      But as I hobbled toward the car, the boy grabbed the ball and returned to the court.

      “Great block, dad,” he gushed. “And that dunk was intense. Do it again and show me how, every step. Let’s practice until I get it right. As long as it takes.”

Tom Mahony is a biological consultant in California with an M.S. degree from Humboldt State University. His fiction has
been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and has appeared in dozens of online and print publications, including Surfer
Magazine, Flashquake, The Rose & Thorn, Pindeldyboz, In Posse Review, Boston Literary Magazine, 34th Parallel,
Diddledog, Foliate Oak, and DecomP. His short fiction collection, Slow Entropy, was published by Thumbscrews
Press in 2009. He is looking for a publisher for several novels. Visit him at

My six year old son has gotten heavily into sports of late. As his skills improve, he's prone to the occasional bout of trash-talking. So it's my solemn duty as a parent to mercilessly school him as needed to keep him in line. This story is my conception of how things will be in ten years, as my skills fade and his peak.




Copyright 2009