"I'd just hate you to leave the Rapids, Doubs. We need you. We never had anything like you here in Fort Zack."
Double T turned to face the boy. "Hey, man, it's like my agent Eddie Razor say—an athlete only got so many years. He got to score with them, you know? Now you take tonight. If I had fallen a little bit different, I might be done. You know? Hey, we only got so many good years to play."
"I know," the boy said. "I never had any good years."
Embarrassed, Double T dropped his head. He started to reach out and lay a hand on the kid's shoulder, but he let it fall instead on the arm of his chair. "I'm sorry, little dude," he said. "Hey, I'm sorry you be sick. But you be up and around soon. You watch."
The kid smiled bravely. He didn't reply and Double T didn't know what else to say, so he got up and glanced down the hall to see if Bevo was coming. But there was no one in the hall and he had to come back into the room. "I hope I'm not bothering you, Doubs," the boy said. "I know everybody bothers you."
"Hey, man, you don't bother me. You be my friend."
"Sure, little dude. What be your name?"
"Well, little Dickie dude, how be it with you if I bring you an autographed basketball tomorrow night?"