The Smiling Tennis Ball

Some people never believe in what they can’t conceive. Their motto is probably be, “I’ll see it when I believe it.” Well, I was one of those people, along with some of my friends, four to be exact. You see, nothing really exciting happens in this small town of Dullsville; I’m just going to tell you just how this weird phenomenon happened. Except for me and my friends, there were no eyewitnesses. Well, there may have been just ONE more witness, and the witness really puts the eye back in eyewitness. Just keep that in mind. And yes that was a joke, so laugh a little for me.

Okay, here goes. One day my friends and I all decided that we would get together and play tennis for awhile, maybe one or two matches of doubles. Since it was only the four of us it worked out perfectly. I know what you’re thinking. Tennis? Why would anyone want to play that? Well, ever since we met this one guy, Old Man Frank, he had a very big influence on all of us. He was also very funny with his lame jokes; you had to laugh at them because it was hard to hold back.

When we got to the tennis courts we did our usual warm-ups, popped a few balls around, and created the teams. Now, we were ready for the day’s big game; we were all very competitive, even towards the end of the game. We still wanted to rip the opposing team’s throats out, and keep the game “friendly.” That’s just the way it was between us. When all of the previous games were won, we would get out of our “vicious mode” and start acting normal by making a rule; the losing team would pay for ice cream. How often did I lose? Well, let’s just say I got a lot of ice cream treats during this time.

We sometimes kept the same teams; it didn’t matter anyway because we were all basically matched in our skill levels. This time, it was my favorite -- guys versus girls. Ah, nothing like the natural rivals fighting against each other. The teams were Tom and I, and then there was my sister Rebekah, and her friend Jen.

So, now the game had started. I gave a powerful first serve that almost touched the net. ACE! I was amazed at myself for starting out so well. Then it happened; no, it wasn’t the main point of this story or indigestion, it was the dreaded double fault. It shattered me, but I got back up and started over again.

You see, with a game of doubles in tennis the serving people rotate. Since I went first the next person to serve the next game would be someone on the other team. The next person would be Tom, and then the last person to serve would be the one who hasn’t served yet. In this game the serving rotation went like this: me, Jen, Tom, and then Rebekah.

The game went on for a long time; the score waved back and forth, first to my team, then to my sister’s team. The usual arguments would also go back and forth, such as “That ball was on the line,” or “You touched the net and you know it, so that is my point!” Now the first match was finally over, and it was the closest game we had ever played. My team won two-to-one. After the last, very close match point I served and won with an ace, I felt like doing my own little victory dance, but then I realized if I pulled out my moves, my friends would never let me live that down. There are already enough events my friends will not let me live down, so I restrained myself. We were all extremely tired after playing that game, so we took a break.

During our break we told jokes that had been passed around a million times, then chilled out and talked about what had been happening in our own lives. It was our way of checking up on each other. Then it happened, no, it wasn’t a double fault or indigestion, it was only me who tripped and spilt a sports drink all over myself. Yes, everyone was laughing, but it felt good in the heat. Luckily there was a water fountain nearby, so I wouldn’t have to resort to my own saliva.

After I got the worst off, we were debating if we wanted to play another match or just hit the ball back and forth a little longer. We decided on hitting the ball around and talking about whatever popped into our heads, which was usually weird stuff that didn’t make any sense whatsoever to eavesdroppers.

Anyway, I started to make weird shots trying to act cool and under control; it didn’t work, but they were pretty cool shots I must admit. Then it happened, no, it wasn’t me spilling stuff all over myself or indigestion, it was the main point of this story. All of a sudden Tom made this crazy shot, or else he was just so tired the ball bounced off the rim of his racket. Now the ball was picking up speed, soaring through the air going faster than sixty-five miles per hour (that’s actually good for Tom). At the same time, there was an innocent little squirrel minding its own little business, sitting on the fence with its back turned to us and the ball, which was now flaming, picked up even more speed from a freak wind. The little squirrel was just looking at its nut collection, amazed at the hard work that took two months to find let alone keep secret from the other squirrels. The squirrel had the biggest smile a squirrel can have, and as soon as the ball reached about two or three feet from the squirrel, it slowly turned around because its squirrel senses were kicking in, and WHAM! That squirrel had absolutely no idea what was happening the whole time we were there, and it had no idea what even happened. All I can say is that it needed to be taken to St. Squirrels Hospital.

Ever since that dreadful day, Tom has never been the same. I still don’t know if it was the fact that he was the one to hit the poor squirrel, or if it was me making fun of him by founding the “Feed the Squirrels Foundation,” or singing the famous pub style song in his face that goes like this: “Roamed through the forest and turned around, his little teddy bear could not be found . . . Tom, a man’s man,” (echo) “a man’s man.” Or it could have been both tormenting events. I personally suggested that he should start taking up the new and improved psychological group therapy, but he just shook his bowed head, looked at me, put his hand on my shoulder and thanked me, and then he just walked off. Of course, it was nothing I said. Why would it be? Don’t say a word; that was a rhetorical question. I believe there is absolutely no method to this madness.

Now all of the troubles are gone, the squirrel was just released back into the wild urban jungle and is starting to remember its natural instincts, and Tom is slowly recovering from the “happy home.” Tom has now taken a big step forward; two weeks ago he started to pick his racket back up and is now learning the basics again. I have high hopes for him, as I know it will only take him a couple of months to be his normal self again. I know that he will kiss that basket-weaving, chirping bird atmosphere goodbye very soon. Besides, it was kind of hard to play alone against two girls. I am not saying that going up against two girls is a competition, or anything like that, it’s just I don’t want Tom to miss any fun, that’s all.

Even if people don’t believe in what they can’t conceive, I have the only proof of what happened that day. You might be asking yourself, “What is the proof, why can’t I figure this out on my own, oh, please help me understand. . . ” Well, it is fairly simple. Try to remember exactly what happened that day with the tennis ball hurtling toward that poor, knocked senseless squirrel. The squirrel’s face was actually imprinted on the tennis ball, which is now my prize possession. I call it the Smiling Tennis Ball.

Eli Nuzzi -- 2005