A/N: The following is a work of satire not meant to be taken seriously. This is entirely a work of fiction.
As I take a left on to Madison Avenue, I wonder for about the 1,000th time in the span of 10 minutes what I am doing. I glance over at my phone and read the message that I had received the previous night just one more time. Meet me at the Huey’s on Madison Avenue at noon tomorrow if you want to know the truth about the Memphis Grizzlies. Tell no one about this.
I have no idea how this person had gotten my number, and it seems really sketchy. But I’ve always been a truth seeker, and my journalistic curiosity is peaked. And besides, what’s the worst that could happen? The person was wanting to meet in a public place. And the worst thing that has ever happened to someone at a Huey’s was a toothpick in the eye.
I shudder as I think of that childhood memory.
I finally pull up to Huey’s, and I walk inside. The place is full as it usually is at lunchtime. Out of the corner of my eye, I see a young hostess walking towards me.
“Are you with the man that just walked in?” she says with an obviously nervous smile.
“Uh, I’m honestly not sure. I don’t really know who I’m meeting,” I explain sheepishly.
Suddenly I feel both of my arms being grabbed. I look to my sides and I see two tall burly men.
The absurdly tall man gives me a malicious grin. “He’s with us ma’am,” he says with a thick Middle-Eastern accent to the obviously uncomfortable hostess. He puffs the cigarette that he’s been holding and blows it right in my face, throwing me into a coughing fit.
The hostess recovers from her initial discomfort and glares at him. “Sir, this a non-smoking establishment.”
The Middle-Eastern man sneers. My NBA career never stopped me from smoking. Do you think I care about what this restaurant tells me?”
“Hold on, wait a minute!” I exclaim as the realization finally hits me. The absurd height, the smoking habit, and the former NBA career? That could only mean one thing. “You’re Hamed Haddadi! What are you doing here, and what do you want with me?”
He takes another puff of his cigarette. Man, some things never change, I think to myself. “I’m here to do a job. There’s someone here who wants to talk to you.”
I turn to the other tall man. “And who are you?”
The man simply shrugs. “I’m Hakim Warrick. I played for the Grizzlies at one point. Also won a national championship at Syracuse with Carmelo Anthony.” He rolls his eyes. “Not many people remember me.”
“Ah, the person who hired you didn’t have enough money for the real Darrell Arthur so they hired the poor man’s version, huh?” I quip.
He shrugs again. “Sounds about right.”
As both of the former NBA players lead me to the back of the restaurant, I notice that it’s now nearly empty. If it hadn’t been sketchy before, it definitely was now.
We finally stop at a back table. As soon as we get there, both men leave to go to their own table. A man sits alone at the table. I can tell even with him sitting down that he’s also very tall. He almost looks like a page out of Disguises R’ Us Magazine, with a grey trench coat, a red scarf, a black hoodie, and black sunglasses to complete the look.
Without turning around, the man gestures with a wave of his hand for me to take a seat. He stares at the menu while he drinks one of three beers on the table.
“Like to drink?” I ask with a nervous laugh.
The man puts the beer down. “Well I’ve found that after the parade, I just can’t stop,” he says in a quiet Spanish accent. His speech is slightly slurred. The alcohol has obviously not been kind to him.
And it finally all clicks into place. “Marc Gasol?! I ask incredulously. “What the heck are you doing here? I thought you spent most of your summers in Spain.”
Gasol shakes his head. “Not even Spain had enough wine for me to drink.” He raises his hands. “I had to come back home. To my real home.”
“Buy why did you contact me? And how did you get my number?”
He drunkenly laughs. “You’re not a hard man to find, Chester. You’re the best Grizzlies blogger around. Remember when you wrote that feature about how everybody in Memphis hates me? Phenomenal stuff.” He begins downing another beer.
I gesture over to Warrick and Haddadi. “Well why did you need them here?”
He stares at me for a second and then shrugs his shoulders. “Honestly, I’m not really sure. I guess they were gonna make sure you didn’t run off. They may seem useless, but they serve a purpose.”
“Heh, sounds like their NBA careers.” He merely nods and slouches back in his chair with his hands behind his head.
I can feel frustration beginning to creep up my spine. Sure, it’s cool for a former all-star fresh off an NBA championship to text you to meet him out of the clear blue. But I’ve been here for 30 minutes, and this seems like nothing more than a social call with some intimidation thrown in on the side. “Alright look,” I say slowly. “You text me out of the clear blue to meet me. You say you have something very important to tell me. But you’ve been closer to Lebowski Thor than Marc Gasol over the course of our talk. So what’s up?”
Suddenly he appears to snap out of his drunken championship stupor. He now seems to be extremely focused. He nervously glances in both directions, almost as if he’s nervous someone will hear him despite the restaurant. “Nathan, what do you think about conspiracies?” he asks as he nervously twiddles his thumbs.
I shrug. “Well you’re going to have to be a bit more specific. Like, are you talking 9/11, moon landing…
“No,” he says cutting me off. “I’m talking about NBA conspiracies.”
“Well,” I say as I scratch my beard thoughtfully. “I definitely think that the draft lottery was rigged for the Knicks back in the 80’s so they could draft Patrick Ewing. I also think Michael Jordan didn’t retire for baseball but was suspended for gambling.”
He shakes his head forcefully. “It’s far worse than you could ever imagine. It’s not just terrible for the Grizzlies, but for the United States of America as a whole. It could be the end for everyone.”
At this point, I’m beginning to wonder if I’m dreaming. Because this has been one of the most absurd mornings of my life to this point. “What in the world are you talking about?”
He gestures over to where Hadaddi and Warrick sit, and they immediately rise. “Come with me. What I’m about to show you could save everyone’s lives.”
He stands to take me to my future...but not without grabbing his leftover beers first.
End of Part 1. Part 2 coming soon...