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Escape From Jonestown (cont.)

Posted: Monday December 24, 2007 12:36PM; Updated: Thursday December 27, 2007 11:25AM
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By Gary Smith

As a freshman forward Rob (22) averaged 23 minutes and 6.3 points in San Diego's first 13 games this season.
As a freshman forward Rob (22) averaged 23 minutes and 6.3 points in San Diego's first 13 games this season.
Robert Beck/SI
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The kid misses a four-footer, gets whistled for climbing a defender's back on a rebound, then flings a pass out-of-bounds -- all before the game, against San Ramon Valley in the final of the Crusader Classic, is 45 seconds old. Focus it, thinks Jim. Focus that fire

His son knows how much Suzanne meant to Jim upon his return from the massacre. Knows that a game's more than a game. He barrels in for three layups, then slashes across the lane and feathers in a turnaround jumper, igniting Riordan to a 17-8 lead. He's settling down now, becoming who he is: RobJones, San Francisco's reigning high school player of the year. RobJones, the kid who keeps that loaded last name glued to his first one so that nobody will ever lose sight or sound of it.

Who would he be now if he didn't know? Yes, this had been the million-dollar question for Jim and his surviving siblings after their children were born: Would they tell the kids of the horror, and of their relation to one of the most diseased men and moments in U.S. history? Would the next generation of Joneses have to carry the stain?

Jim glances at Suzanne's two adult children, cheering for their cousin. Only on her deathbed, a few months ago, had Suzanne disclosed her family history, though she'd dropped out of the Peoples Temple long before its hasty flight from San Francisco to the jungles of Guyana in 1977. Surely Jim could've tried to quash his past too. Could've started life over far from the Bay Area, the cult's home base, and disowned the legacy, sealed it from his three sons. Jones, after all, was the fourth most common name in the U.S., and he, unlike the notorious father who had adopted him and made him his namesake, was black.

But Jim's an extrovert, the life of the party, not the keeper of secrets: a lousy vault. Hell, he'd named Rob, his firstborn, after the father of his teenage wife, Yvette Muldrow, who'd drunk the cyanide and died along with their unborn baby. When Rob was a toddler, Jim marked the anniversary of Yvette's death by taking him to the mausoleum where her ashes are interred and letting him play while Jim sat near the urn, devoured by shame that he was alive and she wasn't . . . because of a game.

He knew that one day he might have to pass on his story to his son. But how could he ever pass on his game?

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