Marko at the Net, Chapter 5

Marko still likes to think that when his game changes, it is for the better.

Yes, he can double-fault three times in one game. Sure he can. You could, too. It takes no special ability. You simply have to space out and/or choke despite the stakes being low, low, low. But Marko can do it — hit the big flat serve long, follow up with the second-serve slice right into the net.

Oh, call out all you want: “No, Marko!”

“Not like that!”

“[Wordless groan of the soul.]”

The calling-out does not help. It hinders. No one needs to hear it.

Oh, but reason not the need, says Marko as King Lear. He does sometimes stalk around behind the baseline like the unfortunate royal who squandered his kingdom only to stalk madly about the heath. But enough of this Lear-ing. We have a whole inventory of ill-played tennis to consider.

Or we could not and say we did; because again, no one cares why you didn’t make the shot. Just play the next one. This is what Marko is doing and it is part of why he believes his game is changing for the better as opposed to crumpling.

One of the better guys on the team even told him today that he likes Marko’s slice.

Can you believe it?

Yup, he said, “I like your slice. It gets over. You might just think about hitting it with your whole body as opposed to just your wrist, because that will put more intentional muscle mass behind it.”

This guy happens to be Quite Fit, so when he brings up muscle mass, it makes sense to listen.

Marko replied, “No one has ever said anything nice about my slice before. I have always considered it a character defect.”

“Well, you can work on that on your own,” Fit Teammate replied. “But I think it could be good. Also, how do you feel about the net.”

“I have a whole blog about the net,” Marko replied.

No he didn’t. No one knows about this blog, except me and you. He said, “I feel great about the net. I have great things in my mind. They usually don’t happen, though.”

“You could try standing closer to the net,” Fit Teammate said.


So in the next set, after Marko and FT got bagel’d, Marko was full-body slicing and standing closer to the net and things were much more competitive, decidedly so. It was improvement, so that’s why he thinks of things as getting better as opposed to deteriorating pitiably.

Also, it was fun. He loves his tennis team. Those guys always pick you up. They greet you with warmth and enthusiasm, phrase all their comments positively, play hard, don’t get upset. Being on this team is a definite plus for being alive in 2022, which is otherwise an awful time in ways we needn’t go into and I don’t even know why I brought it up except it sure is on his mind a lot. Between ground war in Europe and the three inches of rain in LA this winter, Marko is looking for signs of hope.

He finds them in his tennis game.

PS I don’t know the name of the exotic and exuberant shrub shown flowering in the cover photo, but it is flourishing in my backyard.

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