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The Relationship between Kobe Bryant and Ron Artest

June 23, 2010

cape-cod-evening-edward-hopper3A wind rippled through the dry grass, made golden by a sunset that painted the entire yard in dreamlike hues. Phillis watched her husband sit on the front stoop like a sad, little child, his white undershirt transparent with sweat, his forehead wrinkled from pouting. She crossed her arms and wondered how long he would sit out here waiting for his dog, Ron, to come home.

"He may not come back, Kobe. You need to realize that. 'Cause if he don't, then you still got things you gotta do. You can't spend all your days waitin' on some collie to come runnin' back into your arms."

Kobe didn't look at her, rather he continued to watch the horizon, like an old, wise owl, praying for a mouse to scurry into view. Kobe didn't care about the dog, but he did feel responsible for it. He'd seen the creature almost starve to death when his cousin, Jermaine, abandoned it four years ago, having blamed it for the death of his daughter. She followed the dog into the woods and watched it attack a grizzly bear. This action was strange for a dog to take, but even stranger was her response to it: she got between the bear and the dog, at least that's what she said before she died, and took a paw to the head. The incident prompted Jermaine to take up the bottle, and for all Kobe knew, Jermaine was stumbling around right now on some cold Toronto street or some hot Miami beech, cursing the heavens for instilling primal urges and unexplainable instincts in both dogs and men alike. Kobe felt bad for Jermaine, but he disagreed with Jermaine's assessment of the universe: getting between a wild bear and a crazy dog was not an instinct, not some cruel act of God, but a sign that the stupid in this world do not survive, and as hard as it might be to say it, Jermaine's daughter deserved to die. Kobe saw this assessment of the situation as fact, as he twirled a stick around in his fingers, waiting for the dumb dog to come running up into the yard.

"Dog ain't comin' back, Kobe. It just ain't."

Kobe wanted to tell Phillis to shut up, that old age was making her slow and apt to repeat herself; after all, she'd been saying that Ron wouldn't come back for two weeks now and that if he needed to, then he ought to just go and get another sheep dog. Kobe hadn't responded once to her claims, and whether she voiced them in the morning over a cup of coffee or at night across the darkness that separates a man from his wife, he responded by putting his head in hands and letting it stare blankly into the empty air of her words. The dog--he was certain--would come back.

The breeze picked itself up into a strong wind, rattling and jerking the screen door against the house, and in between the sound of wood banging against wood, Kobe caught the sound of barking. Then he saw Ron running through the gilded grass like a shark through water. The dog kept barking as it approached, and Kobe stood up slowly, his knees stiff from sitting so long. He looked over at Phillis. Her mouth was open wide: "Well, I'll be. . ."

Ron ran up to Kobe's leg and sat back on his hind quarters. Traces of blood could be seen around his mouth and teeth, and patches of fur were missing around his throat and on his legs. Kobe wondered if the dog had tussled with another dog, a fox, some chickens, or maybe even a bear. The thought concerned him, but he decided that as long as the dog was here and obedient then whatever it did out of sight and out of mind was its business. Kobe tossed the stick he'd been twirling out into the yard, and Ron retrieved it, wagging his tail the entire time. When Kobe took the stick back from Ron's mouth and tossed it out into the yard once more, Ron sprinted out once again to fetch it. Kobe turned to Phillis and said, "I'll be taking him out with me into the far pasture tomorrow."

Kobe cast the stick out into the yard a few more times, proud that he was right about Ron's return, and with each toss, he thought how light the stick felt in his fingers--an idea that stood the chance of making him smile, if not for the anchor of another: one day, responsibility will ask me to shoot this dog.

This post originally appeared over at The Faster Times, where Teach writes a basketball column that sometimes distracts him from making regular posts over here at LCB.

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