It was a Tuesday afternoon in Albuquerque. Merle Douglas was sitting behind the table at the sports apparel store where he worked. It had been a slow day so he was gazing at nothing in particular; he almost didn't notice as a young, well dressed customer approached him.
Merle was startled for a moment and then settled into his professional demeanor.
"Hi there. What can I do for you?"
The young man paused for a moment before saying, "I'd like a Jason Collins jersey, please."
Merle once again was startled. He had a hand in picking the merchandise for the store and couldn't remember ever ordering anything for a 'Jason Collins'. All the same, he thought he'd check.
"Jason Collins, huh? What is he a hockey player or something?" He asked while typing the name into the store computer.
"No, he plays basketball." The customer responded.
Merle stared at the results screen looking thoughtful. "I'm sorry, I'm not seeing anything."
"That's OK. Thanks anyway." The customer said before walking out of the store. Merle watched him for a moment as he merged with other mall customers outside. He thought for a moment about the strangeness of the encounter, but quickly was back to staring vacantly ahead.
The next few hours were more normal. He sold a few Kevin Durant jerseys and football helmets. The memory of his unusual encounter had almost vanished, when around 5 o'clock a tall, lanky teenager walked up to his desk.
"I'm looking for a Jason Collins jersey." The young man said in a deep voice.
"Did you just say you were looking for a Jason Collins jersey?" A startled Merle responded.
"Uh, we don't have any of those."
"Are you sure?"
"Yeah somebody just asked for one. He's a basketball player, right."
"Say, what's his deal? Is he a rookie or something? I've never heard of him."
"No. He's been in the league for over a decade."
"Huh... That's odd. Well, what team does he play for?"
"He doesn't play for a team."
"He doesn't play for a team?"
"No, nobody really wanted him. He's a 34 year old free agent." Said the youth, leaving a stunned look on Merle's face. The lanky customer turned and walked towards the door. Merle snapped out of his momentary stupor.
"We got LeBron James jerseys!"
"Don't want 'em." The youth called back. With that, Merle watched as another customer was out the door and swept up in the tide of shoppers—this time, with a head bobbing along seemingly a foot above everyone elses.
"This is getting kinda weird." Merle muttered to himself as the phone rang.
"Hello, Shady Grove Sporting Goods how may I help you... A what? A Jason Collins jersey? What the hell...were you just here? ...And I suppose this isn't some prank you and your friends just came up with? ...What's that? ...Oh sure, everybody just wants a Jason Collins jersey all of a sudden. Well, we're all out, sorry." Merle hung up the phone.
Out of curiosity, Merle decided to do an online search for Jason Collins. Maybe that would clear things up, he thought. When he entered the name into a search engine, he saw that most of the results he got back were from a site called Basketbawful. He'd never heard of the site, and started paging through the results.
Staring intentally at the screen, Merle eventually muttered out loud, "What the hell is a Voskuhl?"
At this moment, another customer had approached his desk unseen. He cleared his throat, which caused Merle to look up and see a heavy-set man dressed like a biker with a long whispy white beard. His arms were covered with tattoos and he was wearing sunglasses despite being inside.
"...Yes?" Merle asked, with a somewhat tentative tone is his voice.
"Yeah, I want a Jason Collins jersey."
Merle could hardly believe it. "You're kidding."
The biker leaned over the desk, getting within a whisker or two of the now terrified clerk. "Do I look like I'm kidding?"
"Uhm... we're out, but let me call the NBA store for you and see if I can order one."
"Yeah, you do that."
Addendum: The NBA store informed Merle that they had never bothered to make a Jason Collins jersey, which led to him getting his ass kicked in the parking lot. However, the next morning he ordered some from a Chinese supplier he found on the internet, saving him further bodily harm from the bikers, and making history in the process.