For David, Michael, and Daniel
Occupational therapy session for Steve Heller Sr., St. Mary's Hospital, Manhattan, Kansas, April 16, 1994 (three generations of Hellers present):
The world is a round and perfect blue. The woman in white holds the world between her palms, shows it to the rest of us.
Like this, she says, smiling. Squeeze it softly with both hands. OK?
We nod, then, one by one, turn toward the man in the wheelchair.
The man shows no expression, but his eyes are fixed on the blue world before him. He understands.
OK then. The woman in white tucks the world beneath her arm, then cups her palms in front of her face like Joe DiMaggio settling under a high fly to center, and faces the man in the wheelchair. Hold your hands out toward me, just like this.
The man's hands rise tremorously from the arms of the chair, then hover in front of his chin like a pair of humming birds. The backs of his hands are a mottled gray, brown, and blue. His palms, open to receive the world, are a soft pink.
That's right. Are you ready? Here it comes . . .
Like a white god, she launches the earth into space. Orbiting the bare milky white linoleum floor, the planet spins on the wrong axisa line driven not through its two poles, but through its equatorNorth and South America tumbling over and over each other as the sphere reaches the apogee of its flight, then drops . . .
. . . into the eager bare hands of a young boy standing in the left field bleachers of Muehlbach Field in old Kansas City. He snatches the small orb out of a blue September sky and pulls it to his chest like an answered prayer. Then holds it aloft, displaying its white perfection to the dozen pairs of hands that reached too late. Lemme see! Lemme see! the faces behind the hands cry out, but the boy ignores them. Instead, he pulls the sphere back to the safety of the dirty gray cotton T shirt covering his chest, then turns back toward the field just in time to see the great Zack Wheat, formerly of the Brooklyn Dodgers, trot around third base on his way to touch home plate for the final time in his final season in the game.
Excellent! We knew you could do it, the woman in white says.
The man in the wheelchair stares at the blue world in his hands, as if seeing it for the first time. The salmon-colored continent of Asia caps the blue sphere like the round, hairless dome of the man's skull.
OK, now toss it over to Michael Jordan.