Story:Arex Gonnes Katu: Focusing the Fire
Arex Gonnes Katu: Focusing the Fire
Written by Gideonwebb
His mind rolled back. The lush, jungle racing over the Eastern Highlands of Papua New Guinea. Home – born in Okapa along the coast, and raised mostly among the Yewa Clan of the Zia tribe, the clan of the Birds of Paradise –Home. Arex Gonnes Katu’s crimson eyelids fluttered while the sounds of a village echoed in his long ears.
“Alright! Enough of the wall sits,” the splotched-furred dog barked nastily, “Somebody might think you out on something with your eyelids doin’ that!...Next time focus solely on the exercise, no fond memories. Ya’ have to earn those.”
The red-headed okapi stared blankly at the mutt. His short trainer, the indomitable Coach Oswald Tozer, could be described as anything but heaven sent. Five foot two and mean to the core, Oswald was terror both in the ring and on the court. Arex began stretching his legs, shaking his head in disbelief. “Big Joey” Katu once again showed tough love, tough love that has been with him since the season was over.
“Don’t look at me like that boy. That was one of the worst rookie seasons on record. I had to leave the SoCal sun to straighten you out, and straighten you out good, and that is what I plan to do,” Oswald snapped, baring his fangs as he did so.
Arex did not say a word. After three weeks of the dog’s grueling regimen, the tall okapi knew better. The terrier mix gave a toothy smile and walked off. He just sighed. Three weeks ago, three painful weeks! He did not run…
Thud! Thud! Bam! Arex sat up, the used brown couch accenting his simple lifestyle, and shook his head loose. A slide of the door revealed himself fifty years older; despite the silver hair and the wrinkles around his muzzle, they shared the same face and intensity of life in their frames. The silver eyes spoke of a very silent displeasure. Arex stepped aside.
“Is as good a time as any,” he heard his own voice coming from the old okapi, “Now pack up your bag, we’re headed to an old place I know. Be quick about it” The tone in his voice, Arex knew exactly where “Big Joey” meant.
“I found the perfect person…”
“I am truly sorry about the season. It just happened. I made a good showing at the Rookie All Star Game.”
Jimson Rae Tooh Katu, “Big Joey,” the wrestling legend, simply shook his head, “That is why I’m here. You’ve got the fight in you, and you need to bring to the basket. I’m here to make sure you learn to use like a true warrior. The court is your battlefield as the ring was mine.”
Arex sighed and nodded.
“One more thing…I brought him along.”
Was that ever an understatement.
“Arex, Arex, get your mind out of the clouds. We’ve done all you could here. Now it is up to you. Where to next?” the short mutt asked, knowing full well there was only one place to go, Shawshank Arena.
Just off the I-95, at the intersection of Stevens St. and Bantam Ave. stood Shawshank, home of the Bangor Tides. Arex could see Tozer’s eyes start to sparkle. Despite his notable career in wrestling, basketball was the dog’s first love. To be in a professional basketball team’s stadium was like a kit at an amusement park. Arex hid a grin.
“If they say 'no' outside…”
“Arrangements have already been settled.”
“No offense, Coach Tozer, being my father’s wrestling protégé and all, but why do you even bother asking. Do you live to be a pain?”
“In your tail, absolutely. You, like all those I coach, end up better for it. Pain without purpose truly is pointless.”
“Is that you what said to Bearlovsky?”
“That bear brought that on himself,” Oswald snapped from the passenger seat, instantly angry, “He destroyed almost ten promising careers in the ring. Your father would tell you the same.”
“Funny,” the okapi shot back in an unusual tone, “I could say the same thing about the tree who slept in the giant tree south of my calf-hood village – mean as they came.”
Tozer turned quiet.
“He fled from somewhere south due to tribal fighting. The clan matriarchs would not let him in to put it mildly, so he slept in the tree. A wild one he was – you name it, he did it.”
“So ‘Big Joey’…”
“No, I did.”
Tozer was a statue of calm.
“I was coming home from the regional school on break catching him do what he always did, but this time he started beating some of the little chicks from the village. This was the fall before I went to what you Americans call high school in San Dimas. Joey was not where to be found. I had seen all these things more times I care to admit, but this time…”
Arex Gonnes Katu trailed off before glancing to his left. Tozer looked down. This okapi knew his Viking heritage alright.
“I,” the rookie continued to Tozer’s surprise, “caught him by surprise, and, boy, did the fists ever fly, as the Yewa clan love to repeat. A matriarch shouted my name until my adoptive mother came running up. She had to literally pull me off. The clan males ran him off mostly to make sure he did not return….Well, here we are.”
Oswald Tozer jumped out of the s.u.v. quick as a flash. Arex rolled his eyes, grabbed his sports bag, and slammed the door with a thud.
Tia Terra, the “Awesome Possum,” as some of her teammates love to call her, buried her head in a nearby towel having spent the last half hour honing her dunks. Nearby barks drew her attention almost causing her to freeze. The thud of sneakers gave a soft response. The Tides’ center walked ever so slowly down to the gym as each thud grew louder in her ears. There was Arex, the okapi with the funny accent, jumping on various stands, and a splotched-colored mutt barking a loud, unpleasant cadence.
An okapi in dingy, sweat stained uniform barely lifted his legs.
He twisted around, leapt in the air practically raising his knees to his chest, and barely, landed on top, the back of his sneakers jetting out.
Arex did not stop for a breath as he brought his knees closer together. Thud! More centered.
“Again! Watch the chest!”
Arex glided mid-air as he somehow landed perfectly. Panting heavily, his long muzzle broke is a small grin.
Clap! Clap! Clap! The black-haired opossum gave a toothy grin. “Good job, AG! Who’s the trainer? He seems really good…”
Coach Tozer bowed with an extended arm to the side. “Milady, no worries, you were a splendid rookie. A near perfect balance of power and grace, you’ll only improve with time!” the dog noted in a surprisingly soft tone.
“Don’t mind him. He is a personal trainer to help improve my game.”
“He seems nice to me. Can I try?”
Arex backed away. Tia took one look up and down. A single deep breath, and the center made an almost effortless jump. She stood on the highest stand without the least bit of strain. AG’s eyes bulged, his muzzle dropped, and long tongue hung limp. Tia Terra started giggling. Tozer pulled the tall okapi along. “We’ve got a long way to go still.”
The next few days were grueling. Even some of the Tide’s trainers took note of the little mutt’s relentless regimen. Everything simply became more and more intense. Arex pushed through every exercise the trainers had shown him the past season, and more, so much more. He could not deny the results, but evidently something seemed lacking.
“This dog is crazy!” was all AGK could text during the break.
“Put the phone down, electronic brain suckers! I got to head out soon, basketball camp back in SoCal and all…”
“That’s it? You put me through this…” he paused, holding it in, “You’re just going to leave, good-bye…”
“Still holding it in…”
“You do nothing but let it out...”
A sparkle glinted in the mutt’s silvery eyes. “What would the tree kangaroo say?”
Arex glared poison. “You...dirty…bastard. This whole thing was to see me snap?! Well, congratulations you got what you wanted. Now what?” he started shouting.
Coach Tozer was the lighthouse of calm; he simply shook his head, his eyes silently shut. “You’ve got the fire within you, you need to use it to propel you. Don’t hold it in”
Arex began to shake with rage. “I’ve seen violence,” the okapi fumed, “and not the kind scripted for the ring. I mean primitive, raw violence. The kind that has been going on for centuries, the kind that people don’t talk about, so excuse me, if I don’t want to go there.”
Again, the dog shook his head. “You’d rather run from yourself, wishing for the best. I don’t want you to fight, I want you not to be consumed by it. I know you lied to me. You couldn’t look me in the eye. What really happened?”
A single tear raced down into the side of his muzzle. They both knew. Tozer leaned forward in anticipation. After a brief pause, the young Norwegian looked down. He had seen more than his parents, biological or adopted, had ever wished for him to see. That was the real reason they left New Guinea.
“The story is essentially true…”he started softly, getting a little louder as he went along, “’Tree-Tail,’ we called him, was one of the most crass furs I had ever met. The real reason the village did not put an end to him was my mom, a regional nurse appointed to the valley, made them swear not to.”
Arex looked to the side, “He did harass some the younger chicks of the village, but this time I really did lose it. There was a large fallen branch. I saw it, I ran up…I began to club him from behind. What no one knows is I saw some of what he did in the south, I wasn’t going to let up. “Big Joey” did not handle it and I was going to…”
“I …am…sorry,” Arex heard his voice behind him, “But I’m only mammalian. You saw ‘Tree-tail’ split that young hog’s skull, didn’t you?”
Arex turned around and saw himself across time. “I cannot be everywhere, you know that. You’ve seen so much, yet you still love that land.”
“Yes, father, I do.”
“You do this for them and all the villages of the Eastern Highlands, then do it. Just don’t hide within yourself anymore. You can play so much better than this past season.”
Arex finally saw it; he saw what they saw. He straightened up. A slight grin came across Tozer’s slender muzzle. “Ahem, one more exercise before I go.”
Both okapis raised an eyebrow.
AGK, Arex Gonnes Katu, glided across the floor. His dance over the court from one end to another spoke of a batter focus. Steps determined, the Tides’ guard had no fear and no regrets. Swish! Three points. A mad sprint, stride wide, high jump. Dunk! Listening to commands, he assumed each stance with increasing speed. Minutes rolled in a one fur show. The silent cheers from empty seats spurred the young player on.
Clap! Clap! Clap! The pair was satisfied. “I think you’re ready; bring on next season!” Coach cheered, a rarity among rarities.
“We’ll see,” the player responded, a new spirit in his eyes.
The three nodded in unison before heading out the door with a smile on their muzzles. Three voices filled the almost empty corridor with sound of conquering freedom.
World set in the FBA, Tia Terra is copyright wolfnummber9; Big Joey, AGK, and Coach Tozer is copyright Gideonwebb.