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  • Writer's picturePhilip Drucker

Communique for 2-4-2021 "10SNE1?" + Chemo Lounge Update


While I was on my daily walk around the block, I spied a stray and very lonely looking tennis ball. Thinking it had become separated from its tribe, I decided to take it home and introduce it to my two dogs who don’t play tennis, but like to chase after anything, round, bouncy and green.

As I bent over and picked up Mr. Ball, I found myself remembering an event that happened to me about fifty years or so ago. When I was growing up, one of the things I liked to do was go down to my local high school and watch all of the different sporting events going on.

There was baseball, football, basketball, track & field, volleyball and tennis. At the time I did not know the difference between a varsity level player and the “B” team, so I lumped them all together as athletes of the highest caliber. The funny part was over the years I did meet some fantastic players the most noteworthy of which would be Kareem Abdul-Jabbar playing in a half court pickup game. Needless to say, I remember him as being very tall.

As I continued to gaze at the tennis ball I was taken back to a far less noteworthy event, but one involving you guessed it a bright green tennis ball. There were several tennis courts and I don’t recall a time that any of them were not occupied. For the most part, it was older men and women who wore mostly white shorts and dresses, collared shirts with an occasional sweater or sweatshirt, the sleeves knotted together and hanging loosely around the neck.

There were also several younger players some, in high school, were always pretty good, and from time to time, a few “rookies” in street clothes doing their best to hit the bouncing ball with a racket and over the net. The joys of victory and the agony of defeat all in one place.

Seeing as at the time we were dirt poor and watching was free, it never occurred to me that I could be the one on the track, in the field and playing on one of the tennis courts. Seeing as there was quite a bit of loud bickering over availability and length of time allotted to each player, I imagined you have to have a lot of pull to get one of those prized mid-afternoon spots where the weather was just right for a rousing game of adult ping-pong that we so lovingly call tennis.

I would have been very pleased indeed to get a tennis racket for a gift, but I knew that wasn’t in the cards. In my family, a pair of fitting new shoes were still considered gift worthy, or, at least my parents made it sound like they were.

Do you know how many children in other parts of the world would love to have the cheapest pair of ratty sneakers we could find and purchased just for you? No, and I didn’t and recall thinking the very question unfair, accusatory and smacking of selfishness on the Oliver Twist level. Please sir, I want to play tennis. Not going to happen.

Then I saw a bright green tennis ball sitting by the side of a pathway just outside the tennis court fencing. Nonchalantly, I walked over to its resting place and I picked it up. At first, I was surprised to find the ball was fuzzy and not smooth to the touch as I imagined it to be. I started looking a bit more closely and noticed the seams, and for the first time, realized its name was Wilson.

I started to wonder what it would be like to own a real tennis ball. Why, if I could own a tennis ball, how far away could a racket be? I decided it might even work to try the garage sale angle with my parents. Surely there must be a used racket for sale somewhere.

I had no idea how expensive a racket might be, but back in those days it was an item that I would see at virtually every garage sale or swap meet. Wooden ones, anyway. A metal one? Unthinkable. I couldn’t comprehend that anything made with graphite must be expensive.

I knew I didn’t need to have a white shirt and matching pants to play, but I didn’t want to be seen as a “loser”, so I decided to do some further research into the matter. Maybe a thrift shop would have a used matching pair that someone else’s child no longer wanted? It was definitely worth thinking about, perhaps even something to aspire to?

Then, as I was still ensconced in a world of childlike wonder and possibilities, I looked up to see one of the more country club types looming over me and he did not look happy. Oops! Nurse is here time to visit the Doctor. Back in a bit.

Ah, short and sweet. Everything is virtually the same as two weeks ago with a slight improvement in my liver and kidney functions. Marker is slightly up, but nothing to be concerned with, except in a perfect world my number would be going the other way. If there is one thing that cancer will teach you, it is that we do not live in a perfect world.

My personal preference is to refer to my current medical trials and travails as doable. Of course, the opposite of doable is not pretty, but another successful treatment means another day of fighting the best fight I can think of to fight with failure, not being a viable option.

Meanwhile, back at the schoolyard, the pinche pendejo (I already spoke a bit of street Spanish by then) that towered over me was about to rain on my pretend parade while simultaneously casting a shadow of evil upon me while blotting out the sun.

I was scared. I didn’t know what he wanted. Finally, he said, “Is that your tennis ball?” And I said no. He asked me whose it was, and I said I didn’t know. What seemed sudden and surely a bit louder, Mr. Preppie Orange County Type Guy said Well then, it’s not yours then, is it? To which I said, “is it yours?”

Apparently, that is not what Mr. law & order wanted to hear. I would swear his face was turning red as he said in an ever-rising decibel level “That isn’t the point. The point is it’s not yours and he snatched the tennis ball from my hand (a battery) and told me if he saw me around the tennis courts again he would call the police.

He was, for all intents and purposes, calling me a thief over a single, slightly used probably abandoned tennis ball of uncertain ownership. I was ten years old. He was a dick back then and I would bet money on it that he still is.

Even at my tender age I realized this was a schmuck that wasn’t getting any at home. I didn’t know what that meant, but had heard it enough times in context to know it was no bueno. Today, I’d just call his candy ass a cuck and be done with him.

It took me several weeks until I found the courage to go back to the high school. I avoided the tennis courts and found myself a lot more interested in track & field than I previously was. There were a couple of athletes that were trying out for the Olympics. Later, I found out one or two of them had made it.

As fixated on their practicing as they were, I doubt they even noticed me and I felt reassured that no one was going to accuse me of trying to steal a shot put or a javelin anytime soon. So, what in the final analysis, was the point? His? I’ll never know.

The lasting take away for me is two-fold. One, if you think children forget these types of events, and they have no impact on their impressionable minds, you are wrong. And two, why do grown-ups feel the need to be such jerks? What would have happened if he started a conversation of sorts, read me the riot act about personal property and if it was his apparently priceless can’t do without it tennis ball, showed some kindness and God forbid, gave the fricking ball to me?

But then, that would have taken real balls and I’m pretty sure he didn’t have any. For any individual willing to terrorize a child in the interest of saving society from the next Charles Manson is in reality nothing more than a bully clothed in righteous indignation, was not doable. Pity really. Punk.

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