Rules of The Game

Originally published online August 23, 2014

This story was inspired by the Furry Basketball Association, a fantasy basketball league with a little more ‘fantasy’ to it than most.  The league makes use of user-created players and teams to create not only a fictional sports league, but a world of anthropomorphic animal athletes with their own stories to tell.  For this story, I borrowed from both the real-life creation of basketball by Dr. James Naismith, and the FBA’s early history.

“Come on, cat, we’re gonna be late!” the tan-haired teenaged dog said while he hurriedly tied the laces on one of his sneakers.  His friend, a cat with white fur and orange spots, sat across from him on a locker room bench.  The feline sneered at him before pulling a blue practice jersey over his head that said “Third Coast High” on the front in white letters.

“Yer such a square, Will,” the cat said, “I should have skipped gym today, too.”  He lazily reached for a comb to brush his headfur with.

William ignored the remark and replied, “You know, Ben, just because you’re the only feline in this school doesn’t mean you have to take it out on your friends.”

“Sorry,” the feline said, shrugging his shoulders.

“No worries.  Get a move on!”  William said before standing up and jogging toward the exit.

Ben slowly finished getting dressed and ran out of the locker room.  He exited and walked over to stand next to William.  The two friends and a dozen other students were lined up side by side.  Bored, Ben looked at the far wall and noticed a peach basket that appeared to be nailed to it about eight feet high.  He turned to ask William what it was for, but decided not to because their coach was walking towards them.

Coach Shoemaker stopped in front of the students.  He was a large bear that wore a grey T-shirt and black shorts. He held a well-worn soccer ball against his body with one handpaw and carried a clipboard in the other.  “It’s very nice of you to join us today, Mr. Benjamin,” he said.  Ben reacted by making a face at the coach when he turned away.

The coach began to walk back and forth in front of the students and addressed them:  “As you know, boys and girls, because of all the rain we get in lovely Mississippi this time of year, we stay inside the gym and do calisthenics.”  The students groaned; the coach ignored their protest and continued:  “Pipe down, youngsters, I am fully aware of know how much you love calisthenics and that’s why I invented a new game that we can play inside.  But before you can play, you need to learn the rules.  There are thirteen of them.  Rule number one…”

“Is Coach Blubbermaker serious?”  Ben whispered to William while the coach continued to speak.

“I guess so.”  William whispered back.

“Well, anything’s better than doing lousy sit-ups and jumping jacks for an hour.  Hey, I’m thinking about asking Beth on a date…” Ben continued.

The coach, noticing that Ben was not paying attention to him, dropped his clipboard and immediately threw the soccer ball at him without warning.  “Think quick!”  He shouted.

“Ahh!”  Ben yelped, surprised.  He instinctively unsheathed his claws and raised his handpaws to defend himself from the incoming projectile.  The ball became impaled on his claws, then slowly began to deflate.  “I’m, uh, sorry, coach?”  Ben said apologetically.  He shook his handpaws to release the ball, it came loose from his claws and fell to the floor with a heavy thud that echoed throughout the gymnasium.

Furious, Coach Shoemaker stared at Ben and began to growl.  He opened his mouth to speak, then looked down at Ben’s handpaws with their claws still extended and came to a realization.  “Felines.  Right.”  He said to himself.  The coach sighed and bent down to pick up his clipboard from the floor.  He flipped through pages of diagrams and lists before reaching one particular sheet that said: “Indoor Team Game Rules” at the top.  A pencil was attached to the clipboard by a string, the bear took it in his other handpaw and wrote at the bottom of the list: “CLAWS SHOULD BE TRIMMED OR BLUNTED”

The bear looked at what he had just written for a moment.  He cleared his throat, looked up, and resumed addressing the students:

“Allow me to correct myself, boys and girls…there are now fourteen rules…”