Excerpt of "The Prize"
Middle School Version
The next day, Karter and Eddie were in the schoolyard shooting hoops when Karter caught a glimpse of Moe on his way from the school building to the convent. He winked at Eddie, who nodded toward Moe.
"Hey!" Eddie shouted. "Moe, want to shoot some hoops?"
Moe stopped and smiled at Eddie. "Thank you very much for the invitation, Eddie, but I am not very proficient at playing the game."
Karter threw the ball to Eddie and let out a high-pitched, fake laugh. "Proficient. Did you hear that, Eddie?" He hit his forehead with the palm of his hand. "Proficient. Can you beat that?"
Eddie dribbled the ball over to where Moe was standing and let it bounce and roll on the ground. He put his hands on his hips. "How long you been in this country, Moe? When you gonna learn to talk English like the rest of us?"
Moe shuffled his feet back and forth, saying nothing.
Eddie laughed and did a little dance while he chanted. "Yeah, Moe. Moe says. Moses, Noses, Brown Noses. Brown-nose Moses."
Karter sauntered over to the other two boys and poked Eddie in the arm. "You're being too hard on the boy." He turned to Moe. "Pick up the ball. We'll give you some lessons."
"I am not " Moe cleared his throat and swallowed, "good."
Karter put his face close to Moe's and spoke softly. "That's all right, boy. We'll teach you. Go on, pick up the ball."
Moe picked up the ball and made a halfhearted attempt to throw it in the direction of the hoop. It fell short by a good five feet.
Karter laughed and poked Eddie in the shoulder. "Ain't that cute?"
Eddie retrieved the ball and rolled it to a stop at Moe's feet. He looked at Karter as if for approval. "Thought I'd make it easy for him."
Karter stared at Moe for a full ten seconds. "Pick it up."
Moe protested. "I'm not very good at this game. You are wasting your time on me, Karter."
"Pick it up, I said."
"All right, have it your way, Karter." Moe picked up the ball.
"That's better. Now do as I say. Throw it in the basket."
Moe raised his arms to make the pass, but Eddie blocked him and Moe dropped the ball.
Karter cocked his head at Eddie. "What did you do that for? I told you we should help the boy."
Eddie nodded. "Sorry, Karter. Forgot there for a minute." He tossed the ball gently to Moe, who caught it.
"Very good!" Karter shouted. "Very good, Moe; you get the picture." He turned to Eddie. "See, he just needs a little help. I got an idea. Come here." Eddie did as he was instructed.
"I think we ought to make it easy on our good friend Moe. Here's what I want you to do, Eddie. You stand here," he pointed to a spot on the ground, "right here, and Moe, you bring the ball and set it next to me."
Moe approached the other two boys slowly. "Yeah, that's right, Moe, just come on over here. I want you to climb up on Eddie's shoulders, see?"
Eddie had a puzzled look on his face, but he took Karter's lead, as usual. He crouched down, and Karter made a stirrup with his hands. Moe climbed up and sat on Eddie's shoulders. Karter handed him the ball, and Eddie stood up straight.
"Now, throw the ball in the basket."
Moe obeyed Karter's order, but the ball fell short of its mark.
Karter picked it up and handed it back to Moe. "I'm losing my patience with you, Moe. I said, put the ball in the basket." He motioned Eddie closer to the hoop.
He looked up at Moe. "Can you reach it from here, Mosey?"
Moe had tears in his eyes as he hung on to the hoop with one hand and placed the ball through the net with the other.
"There now, that wasn't so hard, was it?" Karter grinned. "See, it's a simple thing. All we need is a little cooperation. Let him down, Eddie."
When his feet touched the ground, Moe hung his head and turned to walk away.
"Come back here. I ain't done with you yet."
Moe turned back and looked Karter in the eyes.
Karter shook his finger about an inch from Moe's nose. "Let that be a lesson to you," he said in a soft authoritarian voice. "When I say do something, I mean do it. Whatever it takes, you do it. You got that straight?"
"Say it! I can't hear the marbles rolling around in your head. Say it. Say, 'When Karter says do a thing, I do it, no matter what it takes.' "
Karter watched Moe's Adam's apple move up and down several times before he wiped the tears from Moe's cheeks with his thumb and whispered, "I ain't got all day."
"When Karter says to do it, I will do it." The words tumbled out of Moe's mouth in a flat monotone.
"That's better." Karter took hold of Moe's shoulders, turned him around, faced him toward the convent, and gave him a gentle shove. "Now get. I'm done with you."
Moe shuffled off slowly with his hands in his pockets and his head down.
"Run!" Karter shouted.
Moe picked up his pace.
When Moe reached the convent, Karter turned to Eddie. "Didn't I tell ya, Eddie? You want cooperation, you find their weak spot. You break their spirit and you make them say the words."
Eddie rolled his eyes. "Yeah, Karter, you told me."