Desert Companion

Zeit: Song of the Shark

Jerry TarkanianIn memory of Jerry Tarkanian

The Rebel enters the gym.

He enters the gym and takes his seat.

He enters the gym and takes his seat and watches as the spotlights swirl.

He watches the spotlights swirl as his students, tall fellows, greet each other in the glow.

The students, the tall fellows, listen as the Rebel’s name is proclaimed.

The Rebel’s name has not always been spoken in kind tones. The Rebel breaks rules, they say. Sometimes, they may even be right. The Rebel says everyone sometimes breaks rules.

The Rebel has chosen a city. Here his name is proclaimed. The people howl, they shout. The madness beneath these lights is joyful. If it were a hateful joy, a joy that comes merely out of adulation, celebration, aggression, elevation of man to god, unwholesome integration of circus and church, it would be frightening.

But it is not a hateful joy. It is something more like love.

The Rebel knows how to laugh at himself. He does not seek power. He seeks beauty. The Rebel tells himself that the ends justify the means. Even his allies, from time to time, grow uncomfortable with the means, or the rumored means. Does the Rebel break rules? Or are the rules themselves broken? Is it acceptable to break broken rules?

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The beauty: The students play basketball. No one has ever played basketball like the Rebel’s students play basketball. A strange wind whips through the arena, lifts them, swirls them in celestial motion, sweeps them across the universe, toward the center, the knotted strings, the opening in the knotted strings. The ball falls through, again and again, a storm without end.

The motion of these young men, almost boys, creates gravity, and the gravity pulls upon the city, and the city finds a center and the center finds a soul, and the soul fills the boys and the city and the Rebel. None of us, not the citizens, not the boys, not the Rebel, expected to be here. This desert does not need us. But now we realize, all of us, that we need it.

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