#AtoZChallenge April 18, 2018. Pickleball
26 posts. 26 days. And 26 letters of the alphabet, one post beginning with each letter, in April.
Follow me as we visit the not-quite-normal retirement village of Twilight, Arizona, where reality clashes with the unexplained.
Leon Pulaski announced the score of the pickleball game to his opponents then served.
One more point, he thought as he waited for their return. The first team to eleven with a two point margin won the game. Leon needed this win. For nine years, he and his partner carried home the Twilight, Arizona Pickleball Championship trophy. If he won ten in a row, the pressure would be off to compete. He wasn’t getting any younger or steadier on his feet.
Artie Schuumaker waited for the ball to bounce then hit it back to him. Buddy Hanson, Leon’s partner, nodded, their signal for Leon to rush the net while he batted back the ball after its second bounce.
He who controls the net wins the game. Leon knew the importance of the third shot. If your opponents kept you to the back of the court, you might as well forfeit.
Buddy returned the shot deep into the opposite court, on Artie’s backhand side, his weakness. But Hank Bell, his partner, hit it across the net.
Leon hit it before the bounce, slightly opening his paddle angle. The soft stroke lifted the ball just enough to clear the net and drop into the no-volley zone. Artie misread the hit and ran to the net too late.
“Score!” Buddy yelled. He rushed to Leon’s side to high-five him.
The thrill of victory pulsed in Leon. Damn, he deserved this win. Serve low, fast and to their opponents’ backhand had been his team’s strategy. He never thought he’d win on a slow volley.
“Congratulations.” Hank held out his hand, meeting him at the net.
“You guys are tough,” Leon said, wanting to appear magnanimous. He’d been on the receiving end of defeat and knew its sting.
“Steaks are on the losers,” Artie declared as he pounded him on the back.
“I reserved a table at the Pavilion, either way,” Buddy declared, his grin as wide as the Sonora Desert.
They gathered their gear and drifted to the entrance to the Eventide Rec Center where the event organizers had set up a temporary winner’s circle.
The winners of third place, played earlier, received their bronze trophy.
Artie and Hank stepped up to receive the silver trophy.
His hand on Buddy’s shoulder, Leon moved forward to receive their tenth consecutive trophy.
Together, they held it in the air as the crowd cheered with a smattering of applause.
Leon, filled with pride, turned to his partner—
* * *
Leon woke, drool dried on the side of his mouth, his limbs heavy and stiff. He groaned and glanced at the living room clock. Six. The western sun slanted in the front window, the only time of day when the unrelenting rays invaded his home.
He groaned again and reached for the handle on his reclining chair. Damn, but he’d fallen asleep in the middle of the day.
With a series of grunts he remembered his father making, Leon rose to his feet and shuffled into the kitchen. He didn’t have the energy to microwave a frozen dinner or warm up his Meals on Wheels lunch he’d not eaten earlier.
“Guess it will be cereal again tonight.” He pulled out a half-gallon of milk and a box of cornflakes and limped over to the cupboard to grab a bowl and spoon.
He heaved himself into a kitchen chair and rubbed his leg where tight muscles bunched in a knot. Hell, at ninety-two, he was lucky to be above ground.
Leon ate in silence. The rays from the setting sun sketched a line on the wall behind him, reaching upward as it drifted toward the horizon. In its last gasp before setting, it stretched to spotlight the shelf above his head. Ten pickleball trophies stretched across its length, the last won minutes before his stroke.
He pushed aside the memories and bent to place the milk-filled bowl on the floor. Unable to whistle anymore, he clicked his tongue against his dentures.
From the back of the house, a brown and white cocker spaniel lopped into the room and headed for the bowl.
Leon scratched the dog’s ears as it lapped up the leftover milk.
“That’s right, Pickles. We all get our reward in the end.”
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Twilight, Arizona, all the stories now available on Amazon
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Tomorrow’s #AtoZChallenge April 19, 2018 Quick Sale Realty
New realtor Amy Zimmerman makes a quick sale in more ways than one.
Until then, blessings,