From the second
that the match began, two bizarre things became obvious: first, Charley and
Father could beat the Brocks, which is as precise a description of the general
quality of the Shadyside tennis players as one could imagine, and, second, each
team was going to obey the unwritten law about not slamming the ball at the
little kids, even though this was the semifinals. Despite this excess of
ethics, it was also evident that a certain amount of hostility lay just beneath
the surface. Mr. Brock was given to gentle needling, which took the form of
over-solicitude. "Oh, nice try, excellent try!" he would shout when
Father missed a passing shot. Once he drove a ball right between Father's legs
and hollered, "Sorry!"
quite all right, Brock," Father said. "Nothing to be sorry about at
all." Father just didn't realize that tennis players are always saying,
Mr. Brock was
also a great one for upsetting the rhythm of the game. Father would be winding
up to serve, and Mr. Brock would say, "Just a minute, please," and run
out to remove a speck from the court. "Thank you," he would say
ostentatiously, and Father would double-fault. Whenever Father was ready and
waiting for Mr. Brock's serve, Mr. Brock would shout, "Ready?" But if
Father wasn't ready and waiting, Mr. Brock would serve.
these petty annoyances, Father and Charley stayed right with the opposition.
The Brocks took a 3-1 lead, but the Rhoadeses switched to their
"getting" technique and reeled off three straight games. Then the
Brocks won their own service, and the set stood at 4-4. But Larry Brock, a
skinny kid who smoked and had a bad case of what we referred to as
"acme," was breathing hard, and his father wasn't making so many smart
remarks. It looked as though the Rhoadeses had them on the run. All hail the
mighty Rhoadeses, on their inexorable march to the finals!
Father served to
Mr. Brock, and Mr. Brock hit the ball into the net. Five-love. Father served to
Larry Brock, who returned it to Charley, who lobbed it 900 feet into the air.
Mr. Brock camped under the ball, wound up like Bucky Walters and fanned.
Thirty-love. The Brocks had a short conference behind their hands. Charley
moved up to the net as Father got ready to serve to Mr. Brock again. By now
Father's serve had nothing on it except the label, and the ball plopped high
and fat into Mr. Brock's forehand. Mr. Brock took this occasion to bash the
ball straight at Charley, who promptly went down, groaning and squirming.
hit you?" Father said, running up to his fallen partner's side.
Charley managed to grunt, "I'd-rather-not-say."
see," said Father.
rose to his feet after a few minutes of discomfort and wobbled around the
forecourt as though in a daze. "Ready, Charley?" Mr. Brock called.
not ready!" Father shouted.