by Alvin Park
For James Harden
James Harden, born on a Saturday, sold his soul to the Devil on a Monday, signed with pen and blood.
I’ll give you what you need, the Devil said, I’ll take what you won’t miss.
James Harden, shuffling his feet, scoring more than other men could dream. The other men wiped away the blood mixed in sweat, shook as they drank, retched into buckets. James Harden ran and flew.
The Devil laughed and gave him men to trust, giants, strong and brave. The Devil, putting his lips to James Harden’s chest and blowing in fire and salt, sucking out marrow and blood.
James Harden, hugging gold to his cheeks on a Monday. James Harden, kissing cold metal on a Tuesday. James Harden, wearing a ring on a Wednesday.
The Devil said, I need flesh. I need mineral. He licked James Harden’s legs, drank his fill. The Devil gave him new men to replace those who had withered, who had fallen to the dirt.
James Harden, his bones brittling, his muscles burning sores. His legs bandaged with ice and honey and calendula.
James Harden, cradling another trophy. James Harden saying, I’m the best of all men. I can do whatever I want.
He turned to the Devil and said, I don’t need you anymore.
The horned beast said, But there’s more for me to take.
And so the priests, the salves, the water splashed and crossed against James Harden’s skin.
The Devil shaking his head, saying, This is not how it should be. Saying, I take back what I gave.
James Harden, his knees ground down, ankles cracking, fingers forever bent. James Harden, turning anger to his teammates. James Harden, missing layups. James Harden, wielding the little power he had left, forgetting his wife and children.
The greatest of our time, the radio said, A true legend.
But things change, the radio said, But he changed.
James Harden, wrinkled and worn away. The pictures of him unscrewed from walls. James Harden, buried on a Sunday, honored for the gold he wrought. The whispers and the knowing, the feats he accomplished, the devil he became.
Alvin Park lives and writes in Portland. He’s associate fiction editor at Little Fiction. His work has been featured in The Rumpus, The Mojave River Review, Wyvern Lit, Synaesthesia Magazine, Wildness, and more. His parents are Korean. He has a long way to go. Follow him on Twitter at @chipmnk