by Michael Davidson
In the morning, in my room, the pallet bonfires from last night keep me warm in my sleeping bag.
Although I’ve lived in OB for almost a year, I still haven’t bothered to purchase a mattress. Well, that’s not entirely true.
My sleeping bag did come with a twin-size air mattress. Really more of a float for swimming pools. It didn’t take me long to realize that the carpet suited my sleeping needs much better than a rubber float that comes to a screeching halt whenever I roll over to cook my other cheek on the pillow: a maneuver I loop through often during my self-prescribed eight hours.
Seeing as I got home around 2AM, it makes complete sense that I don’t get out of my sleeping bag until somewhere in the 10AM hour.
bright and early Sunday in Southern California. OB looks good outside my window. No canyon, but plenty of roll. I feel philosophical. I smile,
and I stare at the attic window across Voltaire St. There’s a girl who lives there, I’m sure of it. She stares at the roof beams and thinks about love. She wears an ankh that lifts and falls with her chest cavity. I love her. In my wife beater,
I love her.
I immediately drop to the carpet and give her fifty push-ups. The sun shining through my arched window lets me see my shadow. Featureless yet full of love.
How is it, Dear Lord, how do you imbue the shape of my shadow with love? And why do you keep me without counterpart? Why do you keep me alone, unmusical. Give me song, Dear Lord, let me sing. Make me musical.
It isn’t until I walk through the living room and into the kitchen that I remember Rob and Locust slept here, too. They are pouring cereal into shallow bowls. Whole milk. I lowly chant:
That’s the Reserve song I bring to them. Good enough for a laugh. We eat our cereal and stare at the lines of Earth sediment outside the casement window. That’s the top of OB. The Pacific looks glorious from up there. I live right on the other side.
One grade beneath the top. No ocean view, just geological strata.
But I have a Ping-Pong table that doubles as a dining room table. That’s where we eat our breakfast bowls.
Locust fills in another answer for this week’s Reader‘s crossword. He is a contender. When he gets stuck, Rob takes a gander.
Feel like a game?
That’s me asking if anyone feels like a game of Ping-Pong. Rob suddenly engrossed in the boxes of the puzzle, Locusts silently picks up the padded paddle and waits for my serve. We rally, our shots sometimes clipping the tape of the net. Then
Locust gets crazy and bats one mightily into the wall behind me. The ball, as true and delicate as an eggshell, suffers an invisible rupture. But we continue playing with it anyway, smacking it harder and harder while somehow keeping it in play. Every other bounce sounds cracked, but we go on swinging. Then
Locust’s hits a backhand that sets me up nicely for the forehand smash. In the name of the spirit of Ping-Pong, both my feet leave the ground and the momentum of my shoulders opening into the shot swings my arm through the ball. The black rubber of my paddle gets its sweet spot touched. The ball glances off the corner of the table and headlong into the wall behind Locust. Yeahhhh. The rupture becomes visible.
In this way, a new game of Ping-Pong is started. One that doesn’t involve finesse. One that is savage, brutal, merciless. One that doesn’t involve points and has boundaries that go beyond the plane of the table.
Winner is the first to bust the ball into separate parts.
If this is accomplished after bouncing it off the table – after a legal shot – kudos.
Probably forty minutes elapse. Forty minutues of taking turns setting up the smash and ripping the misshapen egg into the wall, sometimes attempting to keep it in play, before it becomes obvious that this game is a lot harder than we thought it would be. At first, the ball broke so easily, practically of its own accord, but now, shattered and shredded yet still united,
we begin to wonder if such a feat is even possible.
The ball no longer flies through the air. It flaps unpredictably, like a sail caught in the wind.
A fragmented wing.
I give it one last stab, flattening my swing and creaming it into the wall.
Did it break?
Locust inspects the carpet for broken parts, but the cracked eggshell is still whole. Rob looks up from the crossword and says he wants in. I hand him my paddle and sit, noticing for the first time that my arm is worn out, worthless for a game of this quality.
On the other hand, Rob, fresh off the bench, lays into a shot with a grunt and a degree of quickness that I’m no longer capable of in my exhaustion. Locust ducks out of the way, and the tenacious ball finally loses its unity,
snaps like Pangea
against the wall.
Our game isn’t a metaphor. There’s no poetry, no rhyme or reason, in our game, only mayhem. That said,
bless our mayhem, Dear Lord, for without it there would be no Toyota Dolphin.