Illustration by Griffen Eckstein
Paul Pierce woke to a rattling sound. A reverberating hum that was traveling slowly from right to left, like a cellphone vibrating against hardwood. He opened his eyes—it was a cellphone vibrating against hardwood. His cellphone vibrating against his Hardwood Classics limited edition personalized coffin. Would it scuff?
Just breathe, Paul.
The last time he woke with a start he was still adjusting to the lower ceiling of this model and smashed his head against it. He’d been fretting about the snacks the guys left lying around, and would that bring mice, and would those bring snakes, especially here in this dry climate. He wound up getting a little bump on his forehead.
Come on, Paul, they know better. Plus a part of his contract was assurance from Doc that the San Antonio snake thing had been because of the rodeo, and that the Staples Center would refuse all rodeo-related events henceforth. He sighed and started to wiggle his toes, the interior sensors picked up his movement and the internal lighting hummed to life. The phone was still vibrating against the top of the lid as it started to slide open, eventually dropping right into his upturned hand.
“That timing is The Truth,” Paul Pierce says to himself before glancing at the screen. “Salsa dancing woman, praying hands, spooky ghost, banana,” he reads, brow-furrowed. They are the emojis Blake Griffin has woken him up with. He launches a browser window and begins to type “What Does Spooky Ghost Plus Banana” and is startled by an incoming call, dropping his phone onto his chest.
He closes his eyes and breathes deeply. Although it reverberates the same way throwing rocks into a bottomless well does, it calms him and he slides the phone to answer.
“Body Piercing! What’s good. Oh shit, did I wake you?”
“No, Christopher, and I told you not to call me that. What’s going on?”
“Sacramento baby! First game of the season for Pierce Bros’nin and the boys!”
Paul Pierce hangs up. A second later his phone buzzes with a text from Chris Paul: the new detective emoji. He sets his phone on the edge of the lid and slides it further open, sitting up with his arms crossed over his chest and telling himself like he always does it’s for the upper body support and not because he’s like those other Draculas.
Twenty minutes later he’s out of the sauna at the Staples Centre. He always spends the nights before games in-house, preferring the quiet rumination and spooky echoes the empty arena provides, not to mention the unfettered punk’d’ing access to the Lakers’ lockers. No one will tell Paul Pierce that, even though he’s only been there a few months, they all know he is the one continually leaving the fake spiders in their shoes. He checks his phone, there’s a message from Doc and another from Blake—
Need transport to Sacramento?
Woman getting head massaged, racehorse, deep fried shrimp
“I’m good, could use the warm-up. Make sure all my gear with Nancy. DON’T LET CP3 TOUCH. Thx,” he responds to Doc.
He puts on a light one piece tracksuit that runs two sizes too small and makes his way through the concrete corridors that lead through the arena. He is a little melancholy about October’s already coming to an end—his birthday, another one of those—but his body is buzzing with expectation over the start of another season.
“Bittersweet,” Paul Pierce says out loud, enjoying the echo of his voice down the empty hallways. He smirks mischievously before bellowing, “BUT WE’LL ALWEAYS HAVE HALLOWEEN! MUAH HA AH AH.”
His phone vibrates against his chest, he fishes it out of the small zippered pouch he’s had added to the inside of the tracksuit.
CP3 tried to wear your shoes, in a fight with Nance, locked himself in bus bathroom.
He starts writing a message back to DeAndre before his eyes flick over to the time, 6pm. Though he can’t see it he knows the light is waning outside, going hard gold and slipping down on the edges of everything. He’s starting to feel his senses perk up and begins jogging up the last ramp. Using a nail that’s slowly extending into a talon he punctures the long, thin can he’s been holding and shotguns it at a run.
“The Truth!” he shouts when he’s finished it, blood dripping from one corner of his mouth and a blank, empty can clattering down the last bank of steps that Paul Pierce has just vaulted up. The masking-tape label he’d affixed to the can came off on the way down the stairs. A fan will find a piece of tape with LEBRON scrawled on it and wonder where it came from.
Pierce bursts onto the roof of the Staple Center, out under the H-A-P-P-Y B-I-R-T-H-D-A-Y bunting one of the maintenance staff had made for Paul Pierce’s birthday and since “forgotten” to take down. As he approaches the edge of the roof he puts in his ear buds and screams for Siri to start his Fly Zone mix. He leaps off the edge as the bubbling cauldron sound effects of ‘Monster Mash’ kick in. And then he’s gone.
Oh, no, there he is. Rising slowly and shrinking—shrinking?—yes Pierce is definitely getting smaller as he gains height, clearing the height of the Staples Center roof now and rising steadily. The sun slants in such a way that it’s painful to look at any one point in the sky for long, especially due north where he’s headed. So it’s tough to say the exact moment that Paul Pierce turns into a bat wearing headphones tucked into a baggy tracksuit, but somewhere along the line it happens and that is what he’s become. He will move up the coast, flipping and flapping steadily, spinning in circles and loop-de-loops when his phone buzzes with a text, which is near constantly, because the phone disrupts his sonar and his music (‘Thriller’, now) and because the rest of the Clippers are very excited.
If a bat could unlock an iPhone he would be faced with an endless stream of laughing until crying emojis, shooting stars, seemingly typo’d green frog faces, tiny men in a rowboat, jiggling flans and bullseyes, and 14 missed calls from Chris Paul.
But a bat can’t do that, so this bat flaps on, surging with excitement, the blood of LeBron James and the promise of a new season, in a new place, where he can scare the shit out of some more young players both on the court and off. Though he’s thought it true of nearly every year of his already accumulated 1078 years on earth, Paul Pierce thinks that yes, this year—this is going to be his year.