Beep.. beep.. beep. Ben groggily opened his eyes. Outside his window, a large moving van backed into his driveway. “SHOOT!” Ben jumped out of bed. He forgot all about his dad renting a pesky moving truck. Ben threw on his favorite jeans and walked outside.
“Looks like you rolled out of hell this mornin.’ You doing all right son?”
“Yessir, as good as ever.” Answered Ben.
“Let’s load this sucker.” Said Samuel, Ben’s dad. “Are you excited for your NBA tryout tomorrow?”
Ben chuckled, “I’m more nervous than anything. I should be ready, though. My flight leaves at 7:30 A.M., so I’ll arrive at LAX around 5:30-6ish. Sometime in between.”
“If you go all ‘big time’ in the NBA, don’t forget about your old man here, all alone in Los Angeles,” laughed Samuel.
“Dad, you know I wouldn’t forget about you,” grinned Ben. “Now let’s get to moving my stuff. By now you should realize that I’m a busy man.”
The next morning in downtown Los Angeles, Ben ran down a dimly-lit sidewalk towards Los Angeles International Airport. As a cool and crisp breeze flew through Ben’s hair, he struggled to make his flight on time.
Despite waking up late for a second straight morning, Ben arrived at LAX twenty minutes before his plane took off. Right on time, in his world.
Boarding the jetliner, there was no going back.
This was what he hoped for, right? Ben’s parents urged him to search for a calling, but was his future really in professional basketball? Venturing 2,000 miles from home didn’t feel good. No, it felt good.
He was nervous; this NBA tryout could make or break his career.
“Attention ladies and gentlemen, our plane has arrived in Cleveland; you may now depart the plane. As always, thank you for choosing Delta.” Announced the Captain over deafening speakers.
Unbuckling from the cramped flight, Ben put his Air Pods in and headed for the exit of Delta flight 839.
Walking briskly from the airport, Ben began to scour the terminal curbside for a taxi that could take him to the nearest Motel 6. Moments after inhaling loads of car exhaust, Ben flagged down a taxicab. The driver threw Ben’s bags into the trunk and began to drive him towards the Motel 6 in East Cleveland. Ben’s watch read 10:42 P.M.
Ben and the taxi driver engaged in small talk until they were interrupted by Ben’s cell.
Diiiing. Ben looked at his phone. It was a text from the Cleveland Cavaliers owner, Dan Gilbert. “Hey Ben, just a reminder. Your tryout is 9 A.M. tomorrow at the Q.” (Quicken Loans Arena) “LeBron James will be at the front of the stadium to greet you in the morning. See you there.”
Wow, thought Ben. His lifelong dream was finally coming into fruition.
The taxicab pulled up to the Motel 6 around 10:55. Ben pulled his gear from the trunk, paid the cab driver, and walked inside the motel.
“Excuse me,” stammered Ben. “Is there vacancy here?”
“You tell me, hotshot, ya got money?” Asked a gruff middle-aged manager with pubescent facial hair.
“Yes, how mu-much do you need?” Stammered Ben.
As he reached in his trousers for cash, the grouchy man demanded $75. Ben obliged and handed the money over for his one night stay.
“Here’s your key boy. Don’t do anything stupid, ya hear me?” Barked the gruff manager. Ben’s watch read 10:57 P.M.
Ben went to his quarters for the night. It had been an easy day, but the biggest day of his life was on the horizon. Ben climbed two flights of cement stairs and began to search for room 309.
“Let’s see.. room 307, nope. 308 aaaaand 309.” “Here we are,” said Ben.
He inserted the metallic key into the rusty doorknob and turned the door handle left. The creaky wooden door opened and Ben took a half-hearted step inside.
What he saw was appalling. The mattress was soiled brown, as if it were forty years old. The room also smelled like musty alcohol. He glanced up and saw popcorn ceiling, which had begun to cave in. Brown water was dripping from the ceiling in the far corner of his room. Ben’s watch read 11:03 P.M.
Looking where he stepped, Ben cautiously walked over to the rusted bathroom sink to wash his face. He flipped the water handle up and splashed water on his face.
Ben glanced in front of him and inscribed on the wall read “Beware of this room, leave while you can.”
Ben started feeling woozy and his head began to throb. Time seemed to stop as Ben’s heart thumped violently inside his chest. He attempted to limp out of 309, but blood began to trickle from his mouth and Ben lost all control of his body. In a final exertion of effort, Ben threw himself on the soiled mattress. His watch read 11:07 P.M.
He mustered up the strength to open up his eyes ever so slightly. Thinking for a second, Ben assumed that he passed out in the motel. As a beam of light shot into his retinas, a feeling of strength surged through his body. He breathed slowly. As the light became more visible, he remembered the Motel 6. The Motel 6. Where was he? This was definitely not inside the grimy room of 309, let alone any other place he had been before.
The light began to beam brighter and brighter. Ben heard footsteps and murmuring.
“Welcome to the team, rook. My name is LeBron James.”
Ben’s eyes shot open. There he was. LeBron James and Dwyane Wade, standing right over him. What the hell just happened, thought Ben.
“Is something wrong?” Asked LeBron.
“N-n-no I’m good,” said Ben.
Dwyane added, “Hey man, our first game is in fifteen minutes. You should probably put your uniform on.”
“Hey, head coach Ty Lue is on the court waiting for you. We’ll see you out here in three, right?” Asked LeBron.
“Y-yeah, for sure.” Answered Ben.
Ben anxiously looked down at his watch to see the date and time. Startlingly, the watch wasn’t on Ben’s wrist anymore. As the two stars were exiting, Ben was desperate for answers.
“H-h-hey Le-LeBron,” stuttered Ben. “What time is it? I may have l-l-lost my watch.”
Confused, LeBron and Dwayne both cocked their heads sideways.
“It’s game time, rook.” Said LeBron.
“Yeah,” said Dwyane. “It’s game time!”
The two superstars jogged out of the locker room as promptly as they arrived. Ben looked around. He was alone now. Was he really was inside the Cleveland Cavaliers locker room? He definitely was, but how? Had Ben really made the team? Ben didn’t even remember having his tryout. As odd as this was, Ben couldn’t miss his first NBA game. He stood up and looked for a locker with his name on it.
Sure enough, a locker in the corner of the room had a plaque which read “Ben Fields, #00.”
Inside, there was a full Cavaliers uniform and a new pair of matching Nike shoes to go with the team colors of white, wine, and gold. Ben changed out of his grey t-shirt & trousers, and put on the Cavaliers uniform. Feeling a bolt of energy, he ran through the tunnel towards the court.
This was it. All the basketball Ben had played on his driveway as a kid. All the early morning practices. All the workout sessions. Every minute that Ben had spent training, depended on this moment.
Ben turned a corner through the cement tunnel and the court was in sight. He saw his teammates. He heard fans screaming and cheering. Ben jogged closer to the court. He could tell the fans weren’t screaming now, they were chanting something. What were they saying? “In Rields, In Rields, In Rields.” Ben reached the tunnels end and took his first step onto the court.
The chanting grew louder.
Ben looked to his left and saw head coach Ty Lue walking towards him. “Ben! It’s a pleasure to meet you,” said Ty. “I’m looking forward to seeing you play tonight.”
The chanting grew louder.
Ty added, “You’re in the starting lineup tonight, one of our five starters is hurt.”
The chanting grew louder.
“Coach,” said Ben. “What are the fans saying?” Ty responded, “They’re chanting your name, Ben. They want to watch you play.”
“BEN FIELDS,” screamed the paramedic. “BEN FIELDS, DO YOU HEAR ME?” “BEN FIELDS, I REPEAT, CAN YOU HEAR ME?” “We need to get this man to a hospital now. I SAID NOW!” Ben’s watch read 8:03 A.M.
A team of trained paramedics loaded Ben’s body off the motel bed, onto a stretcher, and into their ambulance. They zoomed towards Cleveland Clinic Medical Center, as the condition of Ben Fields snowballed by the second.
“Doctor Rhodes, your next patient.. he’s in critical condition,” voiced the assistant of Dr. Rhodes. “He’s been saying weird words and having hallucinations ever since we reached the Motel 6 forty minutes ago. Investigators noticed that the faucet water in his hotel room was tinted with arsenic. We have evidence to believe that he drank some of the poisonous water. ”
As the doctor and nurse discussed the dire situation outside of the operating room, Ben’s body, which was lying on a stretcher, was briskly pushed by four nurses.
“Is this my patient?” Asked Dr. Rhodes.
“Yes,” said one of the four nurses. “And best of luck with him Doctor; we know you can save him.”
Nineteen hours passed before Ben’s parents, Tracy and Samuel, reached Cleveland. Minutes before they ran inside the Cleveland Clinic Medical Center, Ben’s heart rate monitor flat-lined.