It was the middle of the afternoon when everyone was in the lake swimming and there was no real work for us to do in the lodge.
“Let’s play a game of tetherball,” I said to Garret, one of the other workers.
“That’s a kid’s game,” he said.
“No it’s not,” I said. “And so what if it is. It’s not like you’re a hundred years old.”
“Why would I want to play tetherball with you?” Garret was a college freshman, and wouldn’t even play pool with me unless no one else was around.
“Because someone else is on the pool table,” I said. Do you want to play or not?”
“Maybe we can play tiddly winks instead,” Garret told me, and he looked out on the lodge’s deck where Krysten was drinking a coke and taking her break.
“There’s no such thing as tiddly winks,” I told him. “That’s just a game that someone made up. Tetherball is practically a game from the Middle Ages like jousting.”
“You’re thinking of the Maypole, professor, and people dance around that, they don’t smack a volleyball in the air.
Garret always called you “professor” when he was acting like he knew more than you which I hated, but I just ignored that and said, “Are you afraid to play me?”
“I assume that you’re some kind of tetherball professional who thinks he can show me up in front of everyone.”
“Do you mean Krysten? Is that what you’re afraid of. Do you think you’re going to look bad in front of Krysten.”
I thought Garret would just ignore me at that point, but instead he told me to follow him and we went outside.
There were a couple boys already playing at the tetherball pole, but Garret told them to beat it which was funny because he and I just worked at the lake and those kids were campers, but things like that didn’t matter to him.
“You start,” he said, so I took the ball and stepped back so I could get a good angle on my first hit.
The point of tetherball, if you don’t know, is to knock the ball around and around the pole until the ball runs out of rope. You win when the ball gets trapped against the pole , but the person you’re playing against is trying to do the same thing in the opposite direction.
It doesn’t sound like there’d be a lot of strategy involved, and I guess there isn’t except you do better if you can keep the ball high up on the pole, and if you can get the ball going at the right angle, it will come low to you and too high for the other person to reach.
The only rule is to stay on your side of the pole which Garret ended up totally ignoring because I was smacking the ball around the pole like a maniac when he slid close to me and stuck his feet down below me as I jumped into the air. When I landed on his feet I fell right over because you can’t stay standing when someone else’s feet are underneath you.
Garret said, “Sorry, partner,” which is what he always says when he cheats, and while I was getting back up, he was smacking the ball like crazy. He hadn’t figured out, though, the angles of the game entirely, so the ball got low enough for me to hit it back at him, but as I put my hands above my head for the ball, Garret wandered over to my side again, and this time he pretended to swing at the ball, but what he really did was smack me in the face.
Tetherball isn’t a game where you expect to get punched in the face, and I fell down as much out of surprise as anything, and while I was lying on the ground wondering if I had a broken nose, Garret finished winning the game.
“Bad break,” he said like his punching me had been an accident, but he wasn’t even looking down at me; instead he was looking over at the lodge deck where Krysten was finishing her coke. I was hoping that she might call out “Cheater!” or come running out to take over checking my nose for breakage, but instead she stared at both of us for a second and then went back inside.
“You can never tell what she’s thinking,” Garret said; and then, instead of walking away, he reached down and helped me up because he’s one of those guys that the moment you start hating them, they decide to help you up from the ground.
I should have told him to go to hell, and I might have if I wasn’t worried he might smack me again in the nose, and that’s the last thing you want if you think your nose is broken.