Saturday 18 June 2022

'Old-schooled' by Steve Nelson

We laughed when the old guys asked to play, sure we’d run circles around them. “Elder abuse,” Johnny whispered and I shook my head, wondering if it would even be worth our time.

The courts were right by the beach and our girls were waiting for us in their swimsuits on the warm sand. The sky was clear and the air tasted clean and Johnny and I felt fresh and flexed. We were having a day.

Easy business, we thought and let them take the ball first, their knee braces earning them that right but nothing more. But from the go, they passed and shot with a skill and grace we didn’t expect, putting the ball in the right place at the right time again and again.

We kept it close but when it was clear we were in real trouble, Johnny and I looked at each other, both wanting the other to figure the shit out. Finally, we just nodded to each other as if to say, Hey, try harder.

But we stayed a step behind while they worked their slouchy geezer magic, panting to call out the score after each basket; their old, ugly faces sweating and looking at each other but never at ours until it was done.

Afterwards, we drank our beers on the court to make it clear why we’d lost. And didn’t care. We looked around to see if anyone had seen it but no one seemed to be paying attention.

On the beach, the girls asked why we were sulky and we just said we were tired and walked into the lake to cool off. We didn’t talk about it, just looked out at the horizon, where the water met the sky, feeling both too big and too small at the same time. 

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