"Well, we stole the darn thing and dragged it through alleys to the school. It was snowing like crazy. The people at the school were delighted. Then the guy came looking for his tree and found it. Somebody squealed on us, I guess."
He sighed. "It certainly didn't win me any points, because a year or so later they transferred me out of the place. I never did have much luck with holidays as a kid.
"There was one Halloween—I was only 8 or 9 and hardly in a position to afford a costume. And I didn't want to be.... I was always different than the other kids, I felt, because my environment at home was different. This Halloween, trying to be like the rest of the kids, I wore long red underwear I borrowed from my grandfather. I put a pillow inside and had a great mask with a beard on it. I wore it to school—and the principal sent me home because she said that was...you know...that I looked like...that it was immoral or something because the underwear had a trapdoor.
"You think she'd have looked at me and said, oh, the poor kid, and tried to understand. She didn't. She sent me home. I hated her. But I got even. I shot her right in the fanny with a B-B. And she got even with me, too. She gave me my walking papers, shipped me off to a strange school, right away from my group. So in the end, she had the last laugh. Funny, how you remember things like that."
The limousine reached the silent outskirts of Milwaukee, barely slowed, then, at last, came to a stop in front of a downtown hotel. The chauffeur was still asleep. Pavalon and his passenger climbed from the car, stretched, yawned and shook hands. The passenger started into the hotel, turned and came back. "Wes," he said, "we've been together for almost 24 hours, and one silly question keeps popping into my mind."
"Well, ask it," said Pavalon.
"It's foolish, but if you were, say, 12 or 13 or 14 again, and you had all the money you have now, would you trade all those millions for the ability to put a basketball through a hoop?"
"You've got to be kidding," said Wes Pavalon, leaping and twisting in the cold air and firing off an imaginary one-handed push shot. Then he burst into laughter. "For Pete's sake," he said, "don't tell Kelly I just took a shot."