It started with an idea, as these things usually do. “I need your help with something,” I said.
Hafiz was working on his Nerf ball free throw. “I’m listening.”
His face was an expressionless intensity, but the perforated foam hope fell short of the mark. He seemed to savor the data point. Silent as a feather in long term storage, the ball hit the knob on the closet door, rolled across the floor and settled against my heel. I picked it up and tossed it over to him, and he began the recursive process all over again.
“I need a tag team partner. It’s a steel cage match kind of thing.”
He nodded, fired the silent protagonist off the backboard this time, and watched it land in the same spot as before. I found myself automatically engaging in the recognition of patterns, anxious to uncover their hidden meanings. “Standing eight counts?” he asked.
“It’s a steel cage match, Hafiz.”
“So no holds barred.”
“I’m partial to the Vulcan nerve pinch,” he said. “Who’re the other guys?”
“You Could Still Die Badly, and I Wouldn’t Do That If I Were You.”
His face was an expressionless intensity. The ball sailed wide of the hoop and through an open door casing. It landed in the toilet bowl like a wintering mallard returning home from a few errands. He looked over at me, his concentration broken.
“I need your help, Hafiz. That’s what I’m trying to tell you.”
“I see what you mean. That Die Badly’s a real sunuvabitch. When?”
“Soon. Soon as we can.”
I showed up in my favorite I Might Be Good Enough outfit and stood awkwardly next to the cage. I tried to brandish my cape with élan, but it got wrapped around my throat and face because of vigorous ceiling fans above the cage, leaving me momentarily blinded and a little too vulnerable in my ill-fitting tights. It was a bad feeling. Where the hell was Hafiz!?
Die Badly sauntered over, punched my shoulder hard enough to knock the last person in line clean off the planet, and told me to sign the waiver. I Wouldn’t Do That If I Were You was waggling his finger at me in warning, but not the friendly kind. It was more like the condescending kind, implying that I Wasn’t Really Enough. Well that did it. I wasn’t having any of that. I signed the damned thing.
Next thing I knew Die Badly was coming at me with a small kitchen table as a lead blocker, and I Wouldn’t Do That was shaking his head in amused disbelief at my gullible nature. I panicked, tried to duck and got clobbered into the next county. Thankfully I landed in arm’s reach of Hafiz, who slid through the ropes and kissed my outstretched hand.
“Go get ’em, tiger,” I mumbled.
Then I blacked out.
I’m not sure how we got from A to B, but when I woke up Hafiz had his hands on Die Badly’s waist. He was angling the big man just so and showing him how to flick his wrist on the follow-through to get a little arc on the shot. The foam basketball, oddly saturated on the one hemisphere, flew like a drunken beach ball and straight through the hoop. I Wouldn’t Do That was practicing off to the side, pantomiming glory.
“What is this, Hafiz? You’re teamed up with Die Badly now?”
The big man interrupted his shot and looked over at me in surprise, then extended his hand in greeting. His eyes were burning hot reservoirs of compassion. “I’m Your Perfect and Inevitable Destiny,” he said. “Nice to finally meet you.”
I Wouldn’t Do That got into the bizarre action and introduced himself as Every Good Thing.
I looked at Hafiz and raised my bruised and blackened eyebrow, to which I pointed significantly.
Hafiz shrugged his shoulders. “You asked for my help,” he said. “You want to go back to the old way?”
For an instant I felt myself becoming Perturbed At My Loss of Control, but Every Good Thing was flickering back and forth of the spitting image of I Wouldn’t Do That If I Were You and my pattern recognition skills were at an all time high. “Nah,” I said. “This is good.”
Then Perfect Destiny smiled, picked me up and tossed me miles high into a sea of blue.