Air Bud: Glory Days, by Joe Veix

Do go check out PBQ Vol. 2. Edited by our friend John Howell Harris (with cover and interstitial art by Daniel Spenser) the second in the PBQ series is an elegant, hardbound number filled with humorous art and pieces from folks who have previously created material for The Onion, The Tonight Show, Adult Swim, Community, and The New Yorker.

It’s $15.00, so a small but solid investment. All proceeds benefit New York Cares. Please enjoy this excerpt, “Scenes From Air Bud: Glory Days” by Joe Veix.

Air Bud finds a box of old basketball memorabilia in his attic. He blows dust off a newspaper clipping, and ponders the photo of the final buzzer shot from the Big Game. He wonders where the years went.

Air Bud rejects insurance claims in his cubicle. Closing his eyes, he can still hear the roar of the crowd. It’s only a passing car.

In the break room, he complains to coworkers about last night’s Lakers game. He thinks players need to get back to fundamentals. His coworkers politely nod, and return to work.

Returning home, Air Bud parks his F-150 under the unused basketball hoop he installed for his twenty-three children. In the living room, they play video games. He closes the door to his room, muffling the arcade noises.

Later that week he arrives at the Y for his monthly pickup game. The league coordinator has forgotten to put him on the lineup. “Anyone wanna sub for me?” Bud asks. The other league members stare at their shoes. “Please?”

A dribbling basketball echoes across the gym.

One of the league members leaves early, and Air Bud joins the game. As he rushes in for a layup, his knees give out, and he crumples on the court. “Foul!” he barks, “that was a flagrant foul!”

Alone in the locker room after a long game, Air Bud smashes and then snorts an Oxycontin. The pain dulls. He sprawls on the shower tiles in a cold puddle of water. He traces the scars on his knees from the last surgery.

The next morning, Air Bud sits with his wife and reads the newspaper. On the front page is a long article about Jimmy Finch, the gay kid he used to toss down Old Cathedral Hill. The article says that Jimmy sold his software company for millions of dollars. “Can I read that when you’re done?” Air Bud’s wife asks. He violently throws the paper across the room, scattering pages everywhere. “Nobody’s reading it,” he says flatly. “Now clean it up.”

Down at the local dive, Air Bud chugs a beer. He tells the barflies how he won the Big Game. He sees their eyes roll, but continues anyway. One of them asks why he never turned pro. Bud leans in close. “If I were a black lab, I would have got further,” he confides in them, “They give all the jobs to the black labs now.”

During a trip to the bathroom, he does ten quick pushups on the men’s room floor. He can hear the barflies through the door, singing along to a Gin Blossoms song. Air Bud inspects his arms in the mirror. “Still got it.”

Ten beers later, Air Bud crashes into a Korean War monument. A crowd gathers. the police arrive, and find the Oxycontin in his gym bag. As he’s arrested he mumbles, “Do you know who I am?” One of the policemen rabbit punches him. Bud breaks free of the leash and bites two of the cops before a third tasers him.

When Air Bud returns home from jail, he finds that his wife has left him and taken the kids. He drinks whiskey from his “#1 Dog” bowl. Sitting drunk and alone in his McMansion, he realizes the only trick he never learned was how to love.

Air Bud wakes up at an uncertain time, and stares at his haggard appearance in the mirror. “My name is Buddy,” he says, “yet I have no friends.”

Decades pass. Air Bud is stricken with Alzheimer’s. As he lies in a hospice bed, his children finally visit and forgive him, but only as an obligation to the inevitable. They hold paws and listen to him describe the Big Game one last time, as the veterinarian’s assistant casually puts him down.

In the taxi back to the airport, one of his children breaks the silence.

“He had such a ruff life.”

Air Bud: Glory Days, by Joe Veix