NEW YORK—Mere seconds after a hotly contested rebound during a game between the vice president's biggest on-court rivals, a mishandled basketball rolled across the blacktop of "the Cage"—New York's infamously tough West Fourth Street courts—before being brought to a stop by the wing-tipped foot of Dick Cheney. Witnesses at the scene, whose gazes drifted slowly upward from the loose ball to Cheney's determined face, said they observed the vice president set his unblinking eyes on the assembled players, pause in the sudden silence, and utter the challenge, "Let's do this."
In the heavy stillness brought on by his challenge, Cheney sized up the assembly of players. The collection of local court legends reportedly ranged from hard-grinding seven-footers to tricky, loose-limbed ball handlers, all of whom instantly recognized Cheney from their last meeting: an all-out clash of the titans in late March that ended prematurely when the vice president suffered severe heart palpitations and was shamefully laughed off the court.
It is not known whether the vice president, as he stood on the edge of the court, composed an internal, possibly sound-tracked montage of scenes from the endless hours of training that had brought him back to the Cage. Some experts have said that, even months later, it is likely his opponents' taunts of "How's that pacemaker, old man?" "Too slow!" and "No. 2 in the executive branch, No. 2 on the court!" still rang in his ears.
As Cheney remained utterly still, apparently evaluating the scene without reaction or emotion, a sudden gleam of sunlight, which some in attendance claimed was accompanied by a keening high note, reflected from the rim of his trademark glasses.[slideshow:84806:left]
Eyewitnesses also said Cheney's nostrils may have flared almost imperceptibly at this time.
Having thoroughly gauged the skill of his opposition, and displaying no evidence of his opinion thereof, Cheney shifted his eyes to the expectant crowd of roughly 300 people, every one of them also motionless and silent. But the former defense secretary remained impassive, moving neither his head nor his facial muscles and reacting in no way whatsoever to the mounting tension, the gathering electricity in the air, or the general feeling that those assembled were about to witness a watershed, possibly life-affirming display of tenacity and heart.
Adding to the tension was the unspoken understanding between the athletes that if Cheney proved triumphant, and managed to somehow outmaneuver his younger, faster rivals, he would win back control of the beloved city landmark he played on as a boy, and could finally have the entire park bulldozed.
Although almost no time has passed since Cheney's foot came in contact with the basketball, details of the developing scene continue to pour in: A drop of sweat reportedly formed on the temple of one of the more handsome competitors, tracing a line down through the grit on the side of his face, dripping off his jawbone, and splashing on the blacktop in slow motion; an apprehensive young female spectator took her daughter's hand and protectively drew her closer in anticipation of the epic battle; and a flock of pure white birds suddenly took flight from the roof of a nearby church, their beating wings unusually loud in the moment's eerie calm.
No other action or motion was reported, save for the whisper of a hot wind.
While it is not known when or if anyone in the tableau will move, analysts predict that the almost timeless moment of buildup will finally end when the most talented of the local hoop stars issues an aggressive yet stoic statement accepting Cheney's challenge, most likely "Come on if you're comin'," "Let's see what you got, then," or even simply "Yeah."
Aides close to Cheney have confirmed that the vice president will then kick the ball to the top of his foot, bounce it to the inside of his left elbow, pop it to his right hand, dribble through his legs while simultaneously executing an ankle-breaking spin move, take two steps to the foul line, leap to the hoop, and dunk the basketball up to his elbows, sending pieces of the chain-link net scattering into the crowd as Master P's "Make 'Em Say Ugh" echoes throughout the park.