Mike BernierEd Meek
Mike Bernier was a dead shot from the corner.
I’d feed him on a fast break
knowing he’d make it good.
Like me, he had an attitude.
Coach Kudo kept him after practice for drills.
My friend Richard caught Kudo one night
pummeling Mike in the showers.
Halfway through the season
Mike didn’t show up for school.
Two weeks later the principal announced
on the crackling loud-speaker
Mike had died of a mysterious kidney ailment.
Mike’s old man was a disciplinarian.
Richard said he’d told Kudo to keep the kid in line.
It could have been Kudo or his dad
who did Mike in—hitting him one time too many
where the bruises wouldn’t show.
In those days we didn’t question
A fourteen-year-old dying
of a mysterious kidney ailment
though we all wondered aloud about Kudo
who pushed us up against the lockers
for fooling around in Health
and lifted us by our hair
for failing to tuck in our shirts.
Louis Cook was the one who finally KO’d Kudo
one afternoon in the parking lot after school.
That Kudo never reported it should’ve told us something.
Me, he liked because I’d suckered a guard from Dedham
who got away with fouling me under the boards.
Take it easy, Tiger, Coach Kudo said to me on the bench,
his smile more of a sneer. We understood each other.
I smiled back.