work in progress
Think Black Thongs
[Season 1 – pilot]
— in which two pickleball aficionados meet, talk, play pickleball,
become friends, and discover they’ve signed up for a “clothing optional”
tournament in central Florida — their very first
Boomer McWillie had never been much of an athlete.
For many decades, he had treated his body like you truly should not treat even a bad dog’s body, abusing it with excessive soft drugs and rich food, pummeling it into bad posture, rarely exercising at all. By his mid-sixties — predictably enough — he began to develop the usual health problems.
One sudden day, walking (without a shirt) to get his mail, he heard a kid two houses down the block (there were a couple of them wandering around an above-ground pool): “Hah! There goes a man!” He went back inside and thought Hey! They meant me! They were being derisive, those kids! It was not a good feeling. One night he saw a girl wearing a t-shirt that read “I Dink Therefore I Am” and when he asked what it meant, and she told him, he became a convert to the church of Pickleball.
“Ah, fuck this grief counselling shit.”
McWillie couldn’t help but overhear the guy talking on his old-fashioned flip phone. He’d been attending the Garalusa Grief Group (led by Larry, local poetry professor) for several months, really for no reason aside from the joy it gave him to hear womens’ voices. He rarely spoke and was rarely given a reason to do so. He sat at the edge of the chair-crescent in a state of benevolent receptivity, quiet but not scarily so, secretly slightly high from the reefer he almost continuously consumed.
“Whatta ya say, man?” he asked the guy on the phone.
Putting his hand over the phone, he looked at McWillie, widened his eyes, and said, “Fuck this grief counselling shit. Let’s go get a beer.”
There was a bar several streets down from here. “Alright, let’s go.” Nobody would miss him. He’d apologize next time he attended.
He introduced himself as Sammy. “Mine is court-mandated, you know, so I have to attend at least x number of meetings. I had the choice of grief or trauma, I chose grief.”
“Uh, or — what?”
“Lose my clown license.”
McWillie frowned. “Oh. You’re a professional clown, then?”
“You’re gullible, aren’t you? I like that in a person. What do you do for fun, dude?” He eyed McWillie sympathetically.
“Aw, naw. Me too.”
“How long? I been at it a few months.”
“About the same here.”
“You want head to Gray Rock and play a few games?”
“Singles? These legs ain’t built for single matches.”
“Hah! There’ll be somebody there. But let’s have that beer first.”
“Well tell me what happened to your wife?”
“I keep saying I lost my wife because I really think Xenia will turn up again someday, though she — “
“What? So she didn’t die? I thought you — “
“No, like I said, I lost her. She had the sundowner syndrome or whatever it’s called. Dementia was there but we joked about it, mostly. I have a bit of it myself.”
“I hadn’t, uh — go on.”
“I guess it will be two years this-coming December, she just wandered off and was not immediately found, so — so we don’t exactly know what to think about her. People were coming to the house to celebrate Thanksgiving — boy were they shocked. I just can’t see her or feel her as deceased, though the cops tell me that after this long, well, there’s not much hope aside from faint glimmers.” He looked at McWillie. “So what about you?”
He told his new friend the story of how his next-to-last wife had gotten tired of him, amicably divorced him, and was now living more or less happily in Seattle with her children.
“Not my kids,” he said, “though I was their dad for awhile. None of us talk much or visit, ever. I’m kind of stuck in this solitude that I had better like since it don’t seem like I’m about to escape it any time soon, right?”
“Uh, right, yeah I guess. Want to go try to find a game or two?”
Silence walking back to the Grief & Trauma Center, shoes crunching broken tree-limbs (storms late last night) on the ancient sidewalks.
“Sometimes I think I see Xenia,” Sammy blurted out.
“Yeah. I don’t go up to the people or anything, though, you know.”
“Right. I wouldn’t either. It must be tough, this not-knowing about your wife….”
“Getting used to it to some degree. Losing one’s self in mindless pleasures helps, too, right? Am I right, Boomer? Is that really your name?”
“You know I went and camped out pretty much in the woods behind our house after Xenia got lost. I had the skills and the gear, nothing else to do, and there was the chance that I might find her. Very pretty, mild days. I didn’t hunt. I stopped hunting years ago. I forgot about football.”
“Yeah, shit. Sorry to whine so much.”
“Nah, man, it’s okay, it ain’t — “
Sammy stopped and reached into his wallet, pulled out an ancient tiny photograph of a dark-haired woman looking toward the photographer’s left shoulder. “There she is.”
McWillie grinned at his friend, knowing he was being put on. “That can’t be her.”
“Because that’s the woman on the cover of a book I once read, and it can’t possibly be your ex-wife.”
“We’re still married.”
“Okay, sorry, but still, that photo comes from Richard Brautigan’s The Revenge of the Lawn. “