Hooray for Sample Sunday!
As I close in on the finish line for Accidental Arrangements, I’m becoming more and more excited for you guys to read it! But for now, here’s another sample of what’s to come. 🙂
Also, if you haven’t read the first sample, here’s the link!
(Note: Sample copyrighted, unedited, and subject to change)
“What the fuck?”
I approached the door of my apartment and found a crowd of people carrying boxes of my belongings out as if I had called them to do so myself. But since that was far from the case, I was all but ready to go off until I saw my agent standing near the doorway.
“Yo, Damien. What the fuck is going on?”
Damien had the nerve to offer me some half-hearted ass smile as he peeked up from his phone to say, “Sorry, man. I tried to warn you, but you haven’t been picking up the phone.”
“Yeah, cause I’ve been busy bustin’ my ass in the gym tryna get back on the court,” I fired back as if he didn’t already know it as the truth. Damien knew all of my moves, from my morning ritual to the balance in my checking account after a crazy night out with the homies. There hadn’t been a secret between us until now where he had a whole ass moving company packing my shit.
And I could tell things were really as bad as they looked when he sighed before he said, “Levi, I know how bad you wanna get back in the league, but I already explained how slim the chances were months ago.”
“You said slim. Not non-existent,” I reminded him as I dropped my duffle bag on the floor, quickly picking it back up once I saw one of the movers reach for it.
“Well unfortunately time proved otherwise, Levi,” he replied as he turned to walk away, though I quickly caught him by the arm to stop him.
“But this is my crib, man. Where are they taking my shit? Where am I supposed to go?” I asked in a panic, already thinking about how much of it I could fit in my car.
Most of it was shit I really didn’t need, had just splurged on when I got my first real check from the league right before my first knee injury. But after spending three quarters of the year rehabbing only to tear the ACL in my other knee during the first game of the preseason, I had been demoted to the D-League which eventually panned out to be no league at all once they decided not to resign me.
“Look. I did more than my due diligence as your agent and set you up with a storage unit until you can get back on your feet. But as for a roof over your head, I suggest you start looking at extended-stay rates around here,” he finally replied dismissively as he turned to walk away once more.
But again, I caught him by the arm to ask, “Extended-stay rates? Come on, man. You know my pockets. I would’ve paid the rent on this bitch if I had that kind of money.”
“You sure found that kind of money to go out last night.”
“I put it on my credit card, man. So I can pay it off later.”
“Well maybe you should be looking for employment at the extended-stay instead.”
“Yo, fuck you, man. How about that?” I asked, though my anger really wasn’t at him. I mean, I should’ve been mad at myself for getting in this predicament in the first place. But going from no money at all to more money than I knew what to do with had turned out to be way more of a curse than a gift.
Growing up, nobody around me really had money so none of us learned what to do with it when we actually got it. And it certainly didn’t help that people were coming out of every corner once I got on, expecting me to save the whole hood with my minuscule rookie contract. Sure I had gotten some people the help they needed, had gotten a few bills up to date for a few others. But now that I was out of the league with no money to my name, it was like everybody had managed to disappear.
Well, everybody except for Damien as he easily brushed off my insult to say, “That’s not going to change your situation. Now I might be able to get your ungrateful ass a job down at the car dealership with my brother to hold you over, but that’s the best I can do.”
“At the dealership? What I look like selling cars? I’m fuckin’ Levi Graham, man.”
“Correction. You used to be Levi Graham. Now you’re just another has-been athlete who got plagued by injuries before their talent could actually be seen. Is it unfortunate? Yes. But that’s the reality of the situation. I told you when I first signed you to the agency that this professional sports world is brutal. You have to eat or get ate. And you… you got devoured.”
“So now what? I’m supposed to go sell cars and sleep in the back room until I make enough for a new spot to lay my head? How am I supposed to focus on getting back on the court when I can’t even get a good night’s rest?”
Damien only sighed, his lips in a tight line as he said, “I’m sorry, Levi. But I’ve already done all I can do for you.”
“Come on, man. Just loan me a couple hundred. I’ll pay you back as soon as I make it.”
While I wasn’t sure how I was going to make it back, or when I was going to make it back, I knew getting money from Damien was the only way I’d be able to keep my ass from being homeless.
From the NBA to fuckin’ homeless in a matter of a couple years.
What a life.
I watched as Damien pulled his checkbook from the inside pocket of his suit jacket, opening it to drop a few scribbles with his signature black ink pen before ripping it off and handing it to me. “Here’s a check for $1500. That should be enough to cover two months worth of rent. Consider it a parting gift.”
“$1500 for two months? This place costs double that for one!”
“Well then it sounds like you’re going to have to lower your standards drastically. Hell, maybe you can even get a roommate. But the life of luxury is over, Levi. It’s time to get back to reality.”
He offered a little sympathetic pat on the shoulder just as his phone was ringing, surely with the client who’d be replacing me on his roster. And while I couldn’t blame him for moving on, as I watched him excuse himself to take the call, it only infuriated me to the point of screaming, “This is some bullshit!”
Then, to add insult to injury, I heard a little voice behind me ask, “Excuse me? You think I can… get a selfie with you? Maybe an autograph or somethin’? Not everyday I get to help evict an Ex-NBA player.”
“How about I autograph my foot and shove it up your ass?” I threatened though I knew the little dude was no match.
But to my surprise, he didn’t back down, instead suggesting, “As long as I get to keep the shoe.”
“I don’t know, Levi. I mean, a roommate might not be the worst idea in the world. At least until you can get back on your own feet.”
There was no use in hiding my frustrations as I plopped down on the couch in my sister Lily’s two-bedroom apartment while she rocked her youngest to sleep. It was the same apartment we had grown up in as kids, sharing the place from the time our mother died up until I went off to college. And it was clear Lily had outgrown the space as the living room was currently doubling as a playroom for her seven-year-old twins and a resting spot for the almost two-year-old in her arms.
“You only say that because you have a house full of roommates. Lifemates. And they don’t even pay any rent,” I teased as she passed the little one to me to give her arms a break.
Then she rolled her eyes as she adjusted Anastasia’s head while insisting, “You know I would take you in if I had the room.”
“And you know your crib is far from a long term option regardless, sis. Can’t even take a nap around here without somebody checking my pockets, or crawling on my head, or asking if I have games on my phone.”
“Hey! That’s your nephews and niece you’re talking about,” Lily said with a laugh as she straightened up the toys scattered amongst the living room floor.
“Yeah, the niece and nephews I’m glad I put money away for before all of this shit went down. They’re lucky none of us can touch it until they turn eighteen,” I admitted as I watched baby girl’s eyes flutter closed. But the second I thought I was in the clear, they cracked right back open.
“Well you know they appreciate you, Uncle Levi.”
“Yeah they better,” I replied as I watched Anastasia’s eyes slowly drift closed once again.
But this time, they actually stayed closed, even when her mother shouted, “Anyway! I know your lanky ass isn’t gonna survive too many days on this couch, so what are you going to do?”
“I guess I’ll… I don’t know. What should I do?”
Lily and Damien had both given me some reasonable options, but neither sounded like something I actually wanted to do. Then again, I didn’t really have much of a choice. And it was obvious Lily felt the same way when she finally replied, “Swallow your pride and find something around here for a reasonable price. You know the landlord loves your game. I’m sure he’ll be willing to cut you a deal.”
“Yeah, but he’s a crook just like the rest of these niggas. You know how they are. Probably would be using his master key to snoop all up and through my shit, not to mention I’d practically be walking around here with a target on my back. I’m sorry I couldn’t get you out of here before I fucked shit up, Lily.”
While I had taken care of a lot of people while I was on, my ultimate goal had always been to get my sister and her kids out of the hood. But somehow, the fast life had managed to chew me up and spit me out long before I could actually make it happen. And while that was easily at the top of my list of regrets, Lily didn’t exactly agree when she brushed off my apology to say, “I am not your responsibility, Levi. Never have been and I never will be. I’m doing what I have to do just like everybody else in this world. And now it’s your turn to do the same.”
“How much rent cost around here anyway?” I asked, more out of curiosity than anything.
Lily shrugged, finally joining me on the couch as she answered, “About a thousand a month once you include utilities.”
“A thousand a month for this piece of shit? No offense, sis. But that’s outrageous.”
“Let’s not forget you were also raised in this piece of shit.”
“And you see how I turned out,” I muttered, once again faced with the reality of the situation I had managed to get myself in.
But my personal pity party did nothing to stop Lily from firing back, “Get over yourself, Levi. You fucked up your money and now your back is against the wall. I know basketball has sheltered you from this thing called life for a long time, but it’s time to wake up from the dream. It’s time to start a new chapter.”
She was right.
Basketball had afforded me a number of opportunities beyond just a paycheck; from being a standout in high school which meant teachers wouldn’t dare give me a bad grade just to make sure I kept my eligibility to play, to college where I had people lined up wanting to write my papers for me, and even now where I could still walk into plenty of the local restaurants and eat for free. While I hadn’t thought much of it at the time – expected it in fact – there was certainly a lot I hadn’t learned along the way.
“You really think I can find a little roommate or whatever? I don’t even know where to start, where to look…”
Lily smacked her teeth in annoyance. “My God, don’t you have any life skills? Or did you leave them all in the halls of that bougie ass college you went to?”
“Duke is one of the top basketball programs in the nation,” I defended, though it was hardly any use once I heard her spot on response.
“Duke also coddled you to the point where you forgot where you came from. And let’s not even get on the league. I mean, what’s the point of having all of that money just for them to give you everything for free?”
“For me to trick it off obviously,” I muttered as my eyes fell on Anastasia who was still sound asleep.
“Enough of the self-sabotaging, Levi. Go grab the laptop from the twins and I’ll… help you get this figured out,” Lily said as she stuck her hands out for her daughter. I was slow to hand her over, making sure I didn’t wake her as I deposited her onto her mom. And then I took the short trip to the twins’ room only to find them laying on their bellies, face deep into the computer.
“Aye, knuckleheads. Me and your moms need the computer for a minute.”
“But we watchin’ Netflix!” the youngest by three minutes shouted, easy to identify by the short dreads he wore compared to his brother who rocked a curly tapered fade like me.
“This is important, Andre,” I told him as he looked to his big brother for confirmation of what to do.
And while Andre was a little easier to persuade, Adrian had no problem firing back, “So is Netflix!”
“Adrian… don’t make me body slam you. Hand it over.”
They both grunted as they unplugged the charger cord before handing it to me with a pair of matching attitudes that I found way too amusing to leave as is. So instead I dug in my pocket and pulled out a few stray dollar bills from the night before and stuck it out to them.
“Here. Run across the street and grab a snack or somethin’. We’ll be done by the time ya’ll get back.”
I fully expected them both to light up and snatch the money from my hand. But to my surprise, they both just… looked at it, forcing to me insist, “Here. Take it.”
Andre completely avoided my eyes while Adrian confessed, “Mama said don’t ask you for no money cause you ain’t got none no more.”
“That’s what your mama said, huh?” I asked to which they both nodded in unison. “Well it can be a secret between the three of us. Deal?”
This time my question warranted the lit up faces that I originally expected as Adrian snatched the money from my hand before handing some of it to Andre.
“Thank you, Uncle Levi!” they shouted before slipping out of the room.
And I was right on their heels as I told them both, “You’re welcome. And remember, it’s a secret.”
“Hold it. Where are ya’ll going?” Lily asked just as the twins made it to the front door.
It was clear Adrian was working hard to hold up his end of the bargain, choosing silence as opposed to an actual response. Andre on the other hand was quick to spill, “Uncle Levi gave us some money to get some snacks from across the street.”
Damn, so much for that secret.
Lily peeked up at me to confirm and I nodded as I told her, “It was a fair trade. And why did you tell the twins I was broke?”
“Because you are,” she answered with a roll of her eyes before turning her attention to the twins to say, “Ya’ll better come right back. Don’t talk to anybody other than Mr. Johnson at the register. And hold hands when you cross the street.”
“Okay!” they shouted in unison as they slipped out of the screen door.
Once they were gone, I was sure to tell Lily, “I ain’t that damn broke.”
But my words were obviously less than convincing as she quickly replied, “Yet here you are. Sleeping on my couch. Trying to find a place to stay until you can make some money to get yourself out of this mess you call a life…”
“Are you gonna help me or you just gonna keep talking shit?”
“Being poor sure makes you sensitive,” she stated teasingly just as I was cracking the laptop open. And while the truth to her jokes certainly didn’t put me in the best of moods, accepting it as the truth was also the first step in getting this shit figured out.