The Captain and I were in the steam room at Bodies in Motion, trying to keep limber the day before our game, when a new gym member, Ex–Studio Producer, joined us. After getting only one movie into production in the past four years, a movie that tanked at the box office, he lost his deal and was evicted from his cushy digs on the lot. He had once gotten The Captain paid for a script, and so The Captain returned the favor by introducing him to fake-breasted women and pretending to like him. Ex–Studio Producer scratched himself and asked, “What do we do in here?”
“We sweat,” The Captain replied.
“It’s a good way to end a workout,” I said, trying to be genial even though Ex–Studio Producer drove a more expensive car than I did and had a much more desirable home on the Westside.
“That’s it,” The Captain said.
“Can we talk about bush?” Ex–Studio Producer asked.
I peered through the fog at three other gym members who were seated across from us on the hot tile. Sheepishly, The Captain mumbled, “I guess so. You can talk about whatever you want.”
Ex–Studio Producer nodded and absently rubbed his paunch. I started to apply shaving cream to my face. “Did you see the bush in the yoga room?” he asked.
“I didn’t,” The Captain said.
“It was nice. I used to date a yoga instructor and she could put both her legs behind her head. Her stuff stuck out like a pig snout.”
I set my jaw. An image of my sweet pig, Francis Bacon, was destroyed by a comparison with the mons-pubis region of his slutty yogi. The three guys across from us laughed awkwardly.
“Nice. Thank you for the visual,” The Captain said.
“So how come you wear a towel?” Ex–Studio Producer asked.
“I’m just more comfortable wearing a towel,” The Captain said.
“Why do you wear boxers and a towel?”
“Because I don’t want to see johnson. And I don’t like to show johnson.”
Ex–Studio Producer thought for a moment. “You don’t mind me, do you?”
“Actually, you’re a friend,” The Captain said. “But there are complimentary towels in the bin.”
“What are you saying?” he asked.
“I’m saying, yeah, I mind. I’d rather not see your johnson.”
“But why? This is a men’s locker room.”
“It’s just a personal preference. I prefer to not see johnson. Not strange johnson, not my friends’ johnsons. If I live the rest of my years and never see a johnson other than my own, I would be content with that. That’s just my perspective. So, please, if you’re asking me, in the future: no johnson.”
I exited the steam room, shaved, showered, and changed clothes. There was a message on my BlackBerry from the Actress Wife of Studio Chief. She was excited that my most recent e-mail to them, a photo of a naked Cisco Adler and his voluminous balls, had engendered anxiety in their household. She liked to disrupt the rhythms of the Studio Chief’s supreme confidence. Apparently, Paris Hilton had neglected to pay her storage-locker fees and some of her personal items had been combed through and a naked picture of her friend Cisco Adler had been discovered and subsequently posted on the Internet. O.C. actress Mischa Barton, Cisco’s girlfriend at the time, was appalled and promptly dumped him. The photo displayed Cisco’s preternaturally large balls, droopy as a basset hound. It was enough to promote insecurity in most men not suffering from elephantiasis. I didn’t bother to e-mail the image to The Captain—he knew not to open any JPEG attachment from me. He was terrorized by Ex–Studio Producer’s endless tales of perdurable lechery and already felt that the gym was a minefield of male nudity. We would need The Captain fully focused against the Seattle Supersonics, who were now led by English, our best player from last year.
Having been on a losing streak, we desperately needed a victory to turn around our season’s sour fortune. We had five players against the Sonics, so each of us—The Captain, Rickets, Teen Actor, The Shield Actor, and myself—would get to play the entire contest. The downside is that basketball is an exhausting game, and, even though we were in pretty good shape, we weren’t young, and all the up-and-down action takes its toll. The game turned ugly very quickly, with English penetrating and scoring—he ended up with 23 points, 10 assists, and 7 rebounds—and even their second-tier players, including Older Actor, whose signature offensive move was a creaky 3-point bank shot, scored in bunches. By halftime, we were down double digits. In the second half, things got even worse. We were running out of steam and they were able to sub a couple of guys in and exploit our slow, tired defense. Their lead kept increasing. Frustrated, angry, I managed to swat a shot by an actor on the Fox series 24 and—I couldn’t help myself—I barked a profane exclamation. English quickly rebuffed me: “You’re losing by 30 and talking trash?” The Captain, equally dyspeptic, told him to shut up.
The final tally saw us lose by 32 points, our largest margin of defeat ever. The Captain was so upset that he pulled The Commissioner aside as we walked off the court and unleashed a vituperative rant about the dismantling of our team and English’s behavior during the game.
As we sat in the locker room, sullen and bitter, I knew there was only one thing that would bother The Captain more than our pathetic performance. As Talk-Show Host shed his shirt, jeans, and jock and bent over, I called over to The Captain. He looked up only to be confronted by a Cisco Adler vista.
And it was at that moment that I realized our morale was as low as Cisco’s balls. Whether we could rebound, it was tough to say. Our prospects for this season were dire indeed.