Tennis Ball
by Eric G. Müller

Tina and I were meant to meet a young woman at the majestic Lions, guarding Nelson's Column in Trafalgar Square, London.  We’d just flown in from New York a few days earlier and were enjoying the beginning of our summer vacation.  There were many people around and TV crews were coolly bustling about with their cameras, setting up for some publicity event.  It was a radiant morning and we watched the proceedings. 

A provisional tennis court had been fashioned just below the stairs that lead up to the National Gallery – our next destination.  The museum held a special place for us, because that’s where we’d gone on our very first date thirteen years ago while studying at Emerson College (and kissed so vehemently in the darkened enclave dedicated solely to da Vinci’s charcoal drawing of the Virgin and Child with St. Anne).  Pigeons fluttered about and I was already thinking about coffee.  Though the girl was late for our meeting we’d decided to wait a while longer. 

I was leaning against one of the sun warmed bronze lions when two guys who looked strikingly familiar began playing a mock tennis match on the makeshift court.  I found it amusing: Tennis at Trafalgar Square! They were dressed in whites and the cameras were zooming in on them.  Here was some mild entertainment to pass time with.  I wondered, however, what the big deal was.  I patted my sturdy lion on the mane and stepped down from the granite plinth to take a closer look.  That’s when I recognized them: Andre Agassi and Pete Sampras – hence the TV crews (dressed in black).  Of course, now it all made sense: Wimbledon was just a few days away and this must be some sort of a promotional, most likely sponsored by Nike.  I became excited.  I found a good vantage point right behind Andre Agassi. 

Tina, meanwhile, who wasn’t too much of a tennis buff, had walked up the stairs to take a look around, to see if she could spy the teenage daughter of a close friend of ours.  After dropping out of school, the reckless and carefree girl had gotten herself into a spot of trouble – caught up in the sex, drugs and rock and roll thing; slowly drowning in the swamp of London’s decibel packed night life.  The worried mother hoped we could help in one way or another by talking to her.  We’d known the daughter when she was still an innocent little school girl, and remembered her fondly.  Of course we’d talk to her.  But would she want to talk to us?

I’d watched these two tennis giants for years on TV.  I was tickled by seeing them so unexpectedly – live and up close, volleying and rallying away.  I even forgot about my coffee.  And to top it all off Andre missed one of Pete’s serves and the ball whizzed right toward me.  What an ace!  To my surprise, I caught it – clumsily, but I caught it!  I held up my little yellow trophy, scanning for Tina to appreciate and applaud my lucky moment.  She was leaning on the railing above me.  She spotted me and smiled approvingly at my bounty.  A few feet from her a TV camera turned and zoomed right in on me, catching the proud occasion.  I felt silly. 

The girl we were supposed to meet was a no-show, but I had my ball and felt satisfied.  However, a few weeks later, while packing to return to America I searched in vain for my tiny treasure – the ball was lost!  I must have misplaced it or hidden it all too well.  But the girl we’d failed to meet found herself again, becoming as radiant as that sunny summer’s morn in Trafalgar Square – the day I caught the trophy tennis ball.  

Eric G. Müller is a musician, teacher and writer.  He has written two novels, Rites of Rock (Adonis) and Meet Me at the Met (Plain View Press), as well as a collection of poetry, Coffee on the Piano for You (Adonis), and numerous short stories.  Contact Eric.

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