Gaines drives five minutes to Mama Chris's house. She is a Ram booster. Her living room befits her age and carriage, save for the autographed picture of Tim Newsome, the ex-Dallas Cowboy, and the sea of scarlet, Winston-Salem's main school color.
"Gaine!" says Mama Chris, dropping the final consonant.
"Mama Chris. Are we going to have a good year?"
"By now, every year's a good year. Sit down, Gaine," says Mama Chris. "This lady—you know her, don't you—is making a dress for me." The lady, a generation older than Gaines and Mama Chris, smiles sweetly and rocks. She appears to be no older than Gaines, who is 67 but looks 10 years younger. Gaines points to an out-of-town visitor. "I carried him by the original grease joint," he says. "Red put some pinto beans, okra, greens and short ribs on him. He's supposed to be one of these sophisticated writers. But he didn't leave nothing on that plate, Mama Chris."
Mama Chris laughs, then says, "Gaine, you look sleepy."
Gaines says, "Ahhhh," then settles a lot of black satiny material onto the couch, rests his head on a pillow and puts his feet up. Mama Chris laughs again. "Ask him anything now, sugar. A man will tell you the truth when he's sleepy."
What's the secret to winning basketball games?
His eyes are closed, his breathing deep. With great relish, he puckers up and enunciates the one word flawlessly. The Great Truth of coaching....
Gaines has come home now, across the road from what was a comforting stand of oaks, pines and maples before the trees were uprooted like toothpicks by a spring tornado. "Took trees right up out of the ground, like they'd never been there," says Gaines. "They'd been there my whole time here."