a story about the quirks and glories of church life featuring unlikely basketball star Hayden Daily
How embarrassing. One of the guys from Hayden’s bible study group was going jihad in geology class. “The world is only 6,000 years old! That’s easily deduced from genealogies in Genesis 10! Tell, them Hayden!”
Hayden went rouge. He resented being conscripted into this holy war. He also knew that his celebrity as a basketball star explained his sudden authority as Defender of the Faith.
“Yes, Mr. Daily, tell us”, said the professor brightly, sarcasm dripping from in his mouth. This professor loved to bait Christians, and now he had two ready to reel in.
“Uhh…” Hayden stuttered. He didn’t have a good answer. “Well, there are other ways to understand the Genesis story”, he said lamely. He felt his fellow student smite him non-verbally.
“You mean as a legend, then, Mr. Daily?”, said the Professor.
“No, not merely as a legend", said Hayden, suddenly heated. "And since science can only describe the first microsecond after creation, I wonder if you could enlighten us poor fools about how the universe actually began.”
There goes my geology grade, thought Hayden. Simultaneously, Hayden realized his own sarcasm betrayed the fact that he didn’t know what he believed.
“Hayden, we want you to come with us to Afghanistan”. It was Dorcas and Elder Andrew. They'd cornered Hayden at Coffee Hour after service, and both had a serious look in their eyes. “We think God wants you on this mission trip”.
Instantly Hayden felt a thrill of fear and excitement. He sensed those feelings were the Spirit prompting him, but he quickly found an excuse. “I don’t have the $1500”.
“You do now, hon”. It was Gertie Hardnock, who had eves-dropped. “That’s just 3 months of arthritis medication to me. Easy”. Hayden gaped. He had no words. “When do we leave?”, he finally heard himself say. “YES!”, Dorcas whooped, leaping at him with both arms.
The basketball team was jubilant. They’d just sent another Division I team home crying. Hayden’s 39 points, 8 steals, and 15 assists led the way. Hayden himself was in shock; he’d never been near this good. Every time he touched the ball he saw exactly what to do with it; the feeling was uncanny.
“Backroom at DJ’s tonight, baby”, said Jason to Hayden. The rest of the team chanted “Hay-DEN, Hay-DEN, Hay-DEN.” Hayden grinned. “I’ll be there”. And the rest of the team shouted in approval.
Except one. Charles. He met Hayden at the door. “Careful, man”. His face looked almost angry.
Hayden swept along with the other players to DJ’s backroom. He’d never been there before; admittance was by invitation only. I can handle it, he thought. He forced away the warning in his mind. Where’s Charles?, he thought.
The team spilled in to DJ’s and a cheer from the others in the bar welcomed them. Hayden found a beer in his hand and a cheerleader on his arm. Oh my, said Hayden to himself. Plunging neckline and a slit skirt. Hayden looked away, but wanted to look back. He took a slug of beer. He wanted to leave; he wanted to stay. He stayed.
Loud music, dancing, players having a chugging contest, and more free beers. It wasn’t so bad. Then some others started to chant: “Hay-DEN, Hay-DEN, Hay-DEN! Chug, man, chug!”, yelled someone, pointing at his glass. With the whole room looking at him, Hayden obliged. It hurt, but he got it down. Then a loud belch leaped out of his gut; the room erupted in cheers.
Hayden raised his fist in triumph. It was then that he saw Gloria. She was sitting on a guy’s lap. Suddenly their eyes met and in an instant a laser beam passed between them. It wasn’t attraction; it was: what are YOU doing here? They both looked away, awkward and guilty.
A man grabbed Hayden’s arm and ushered him to a table in a darkened corner booth where three of the other players sat. In his hand he carried a mirror with five lines of white powder. “First one’s free, baby”, said the man. “Shoot, you got 39 tonight – they’re allfree for you, Hayden.”
They sat down. This was getting surreal for Hayden. The beer was slowing his mind, and he watched dumbly as Jason pulled the mirror toward his nose. Jason sniffed, grimaced, and leaned back with his eyes closed hard. The mirror passed to another, and the process repeated. Then to another. And now the mirror came to Hayden.
continue next week