This poem is a continuation from Poetic License in the June 8 edition of the Islander
I'm in one of the Pro's baskets now with a hundred other balls in various stages of deterioration: some stripped to their rubber core, others dirty with soil and clay, a few like me still clean and lively, with good tennis left in them. But we only get hit and returned once every hundredth time: the rest of the time we lie there all over the practice court until the basket empties and the students pick us up with hoppers or by hand and the Pro starts feeding us to the students again. I get hit only eight times the whole day.
At night in the basket I cannot sleep with these hundreds of dead decaying balls on top of me.
I guess the end is near. I'm in the ball machine tray from where I'm sucked and hurled, not hit - then hit back once and returned to nowhere. No player touches me anymore, strokes or spins me to work a point.
I think of my brothers who are probably in another part of the machine with me or in a basket in the pro shop or lying out somewhere rotting in the damp and cold.
I think of Topspin, his big sweet spot and that glorious moment when he smashed me to victory and I was still neon bright and lively and a real ball.
But now there's no one, no one to take me out, no one to return me, no one to put me into play again.
DAY SIX AND BEYOND
There is life after tennis! God knows how many days I lay there in the recycling bin, forgotten, waiting to be shredded. Suddenly the pro drops a new batch of discarded balls into the bin and I tumble out, roll down the steps, right into the mouth of a cocker spaniel.
This is it, I thought, the end. He'll chew me into shreds for sure.
Instead, he runs over into the playground section by the pool. A four year old named Penn Junior takes me out of his mouth, squeals happily, throws me as hard as he can for a few feet and Alter the Cocker (that's his name) keeps running me down and retrieving me, over and over and over - delightful, happy happy me!
It takes me a while to get used to the saliva and I've never liked being wet but I'm bouncing and rolling again and Alter never tires of retrieving me. True, it's no longer tennis but I'm making someone happy: Penn Junior takes me everywhere: the pool, the playground. the pre-school, his bathtub and kisses and puts me under his pillow every night.
I've found true love at last.
Life's a real ball again.
I no longer miss Topspin.