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Head Over Heels
an SAT/ACT vocabulary novel

April 11: Easter

Not a big Easter turnout this year. Just my parents, myself and—as a substitute for Rico, who’s off at tennis camp—my Uncle Randy. Tremulous about the potential of a repeat performance from Thanksgiving, Dad emptied the liquor cabinet. Mom hid her nice blown-glass vases in the basement. Personally, I was kind of looking forward to his picaresque stories.

But Uncle Randy was short on histrionics this time. On the contrary, he was sober, docile and oddly sincere. After a casual breakfast of sausage, eggs and toast, we went to church. Church was always nice on the holidays—everyone dressed well and it allayed your fears, for an hour or so, that you might be a bad person. When we came back home, I changed into shorts and went out to shoot hoops in the driveway. After a while, Uncle Randy walked out, duck-footed and slack-jawed, still wearing his light blue polyester suit.

“Mind if I shoot a couple?” he asked.

“Of course not.” I gave him a bounce pass. He dribbled a few times, his elbow bend constrained by the suit jacket. He tossed up some wacky leap-frog of a shot that went backboard, rim, backboard and in.

“Nice shot,” I said, giving him a chest pass this time. He dribbled, his eyes fixated on the ball and his whole body bouncing up and down in rhythm with it, like a kid who just realized he was a kid.

“You seem like you’re doing all right, Uncle Randy,” I said.

“You’re right there,” he said, giving me a little giggle.

“Uncle Randy,” I said.

“Yeah?” He stopped dribbling to look at me.

“I was just wondering. I think about older people sometimes, like Mom and Dad, and I just wondered . . . do you regret anything about your life?”

He smiled, bounced the ball once with both hands, then caught it and held onto it. “Well, you know, when you’re young, you worry that you’ll grow up and regret not having made the right career choice, or having not traveled enough, you know, missing out on things. But I think when it comes down to it, the main regrets involve the people in your life. Your relationships.”

“Oh, yeah?” I said.

“Yeah. Like, looking back, I wish I had told my first wife that I’d follow her to the ends of the earth. I should’ve covered her bed in rose petals each night. And my second wife . . . I should have told her she was a miserable witch the night I met her, because I knew.” Randy laughed. He bounced the ball and put it in shooting position. “So, I guess that’s the thing. The people that you really care about, don’t be afraid to shower them with love. And the ones you don’t, get out of there as quick as you can.”

“Because life’s short,” I said.

Uncle Randy took a shot that clanged off the rim and landed in my hands. “Exactly,” he said.

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