Wordcarpenter Books
The Mantle Pat

The "Accidental" Rolling Ball

Over the course of the eleventh game of the French Open Final - thirty minutes in all thus far - Cindy Kafel's powerful right hand had, unbeknownst to her, managed to crush her lukewarm Kokanee beer can to less than a three centimeter diameter through its middle. Yet, neither the increasingly contorted can, nor the stale peanuts she juggled in her left hand, were presently of any concern to the perfectly postured, born-again, young aerobics instructor. What was important, rather, was the fuzzy TV screen with its descending horizontal lines and crackling hiss, that beamed out from the cobwebbed, upper shelf of Brad's Bar, a rundown, wind-whipped affair that stuck out like an Old Growth on the North-western shore of Canada's Vancouver Island. 8:00 a.m. was generally an early hour to be throwing back beers anywhere in the world, but Cindy's clock had been adjusted for the past two weeks in order to behold the events on TV live; for her, it was mid afternoon.

Cindy's self-imposed and secretive three-month exile in Cape Scott, but what she liked to call No Man's Land (so named for its barren, outpostedness, its dearth of males and its reference to the most difficult, challenging and unforgiving region of a tennis court - tennis being her favorite sport), had thus far been a success.  She was strong again, stronger than perhaps she had ever been, and that fueled the 21 year-old's confidence and faith in the human body to the point where she was already contemplating blowing her cover as Natasha Farnsworth (her childhood nickname had been Natasha) and returning to her parents in Victoria.

Imagine, she thought perched on the barstool during the commercial break, three years ago to the day (minus one French Open) me, a naďve, overprotected, hormone-happy eighteen year-old, boarding a plane for Paris to spend time with my cousin and his wild friends. What was I thinking!  And so it was that her cousin, Yfgeni Kafelnikov, who had, at that time, recently broken the top ten, had indeed invited his young cousin on an all expenses paid trip to Paris to watch him compete in the 1998 French Open Finals. However, what Cindy didn't know then and still didn't know was that the invitation was in fact the result of a late night, lost bet by her cousin to the Aussie tennis giant Patrick Rafter in a high stakes, Vodka-drenched poker game during the qualification rounds. Get to the finals, Yfgeni, and you must fly out your beautiful Russian cousin and let me try my luck. "Kreto" Yfgeni had said, with uncharacteristic Russian cheerfulness.

Cindy's detailed knowledge of the professional tour and its players had made the invitation sound like manna from heaven and never once during her three year stay in Europe had she found reason to question the invitation's authenticity.  Yet that said, events didn't turn out as Patrick or Cindy had anticipated. Instead, within 24 hours of arrival, Cindy Kafel had fallen, net chord, baseline and Western grip for Ketchum, the lanky, lamb-chopped ex-Canadian with the almond eyes, and trademark Belgian brown sneakers. "Fallen Hard" Yfgeni would later confess, when his cold-blooded uncle, Ivan, Cindy's father, called for an update on the European manhunt for the missing Cindy.

Ivan's Kafel's decision to drop the "nikov" from the family name was made quickly and decisively upon arrival in Victoria in 1983. Having learned English at night school in London following his defection from the motherland two years earlier, and while awaiting the arrival of his wife and five daughters, Ivan had picked up many English expressions while out carousing with other Europeans from his language class.   One East London expression the men in the group had come to use almost daily when recounting the nights activities was posed as a question: Did ya ge-ah Niks off?  Eventually, to everyone's amusement this was used with reference to Ivan's last name. Thus, when Ivan finally made it to Canada's West Coast to be a groundskeeper at one of Victoria's most posh tennis clubs, he sought to drop the "nikov" from his family name in order to erase his own memories of those wonderful, steamy nights in London, as well as to remove, he thought, any temptation for his daughters to engage in such unbecoming activity.

The move backfired completely. Taking heed from the juicy details of the many letters Cindy sent to her sisters during her early days in Europe, one after another of the Kafel girls tried her hand at nicker removal in the hopes that she too would find a talented, young Prince similar to the tennis hero, John Ketchum.  At night, each of them would stare up from her bed at the personalized autographed poster of the ex-Canadian and wish feverishly that he could be cloned, have a twin or at least relinquish British citizenship and return to Canada and father their children.

The idea that Ketchum might have a twin had also crossed Cindy's mind a few times since she had been back on the island. Oh for just one more night with that talented, Pheromone-filled, Tennis-Lover extraordinaire she had cooed many a night from her drafty room at the abandoned fisherman's camp she called home.

But twins were not what she was thinking now as she watched her ex-Lover deftly serve and volley three points in a row to save serve in the eleventh game and return the pressure to Higgins. As a barely audible roar went up from the crowd, Cindy relaxed her death grip on the Kokanee and exhaled. "That Higgins," she chortled, "He doesn't deserve to be this close. He's not even in the same class as Ben" (Ben was the nickname she'd given Ketchum after a night in Pamplona two years earlier when Ketchum, barefoot, full of beer, and fresh off a straight sets victory at Mallorca, had run a 9.5 second, 100 meter dash to the roaring applause of a visiting group of Russian Folk dancers). 

"Really."  The word, spoken close to her ear and with a casually extended "R," punctuated Cindy's train of thought. As she wheeled around to glimpse the mouth that had spoken it, she found herself face-to-face with a face that sent a chill straight up her right-angled Russian back and froze her brain.   Just before losing consciousness completely and slumping into the stranger's arms she squinted hard (a trick Ketchum had taught her for diminishing her extreme beauty in the presence of dangerous men) and whispered questioningly, "Higgins?...but you're in Paris, losing to Ben...you can't win...what are you doing here... where are my knickers...my head hurts..."

Looking down at the spent Russian beauty in his arms, Remy Higgins, the picture of calm in his "Farfignuggen" emblazoned bomber jacket cleared his throat and asked in an effortless and decidedly avuncular tone, "Your what hurts?"

*

Back on center court there was a certain carelessness-some might even say mischievousness - about Hellmantle's gait as he approached the bench following Ketchum's game-ending barrage.  The roar of applause that had greeted Ketchum's athletic outburst to win the game, took much of the attention off the Hellmantle walk, but it wasn't lost on some of his die-hard supporters: one in particular, Johnny Mac, looked on with rapt attention.

For most observers, there was nothing abnormal about both players approaching the bench equidistant to each other. Ketchum's approach was light and lively and he allowed himself a smile and a nod of his head at the crowd who appeared, at this moment, to be fully in his favor.  The unison cooing of the remaining girls on Ketchum's bench and the sulking look from the one blonde defector over on Hellmantle's bench aroused in the Brit a sense of pity for his opponent and he glanced over subtly at his foe who was now less than a meter from the net post. As any real tennis fan knows, a full look at ones opponent in such a situation would have constituted a breach of the age-old unwritten rule of no eye contact during bench approach, but it was in time to anticipate Hellmantle's next move.

Fifteen years prior, as High School tennis players in Toronto, Ketchum, a winner in his match of the Championships against Crescent, another local school, recalled watching from behind the bench as Higgins struggled through a windy tie breaker in the final set of the fifth and deciding match.  Having lost the point to go behind 2-4, Higgins, approaching the bench, had reached into his pocket, pulled out a ball and rolled it expertly into his opponent's feet. The opponent, the serve-and-volley expert Edward Prittie, had tripped on the rolling ball and twisted his ankle badly.  The match was immediately awarded to Crescent and an interschool brawl followed during which Ketchum had been forced to jump in and make use of his Aikido black belt skills to save Higgins from serious physical damage.

Ketchum had never forgotten that windy day, and now found himself dumbfounded, flabbergasted even, that Higgins, the man whose life he had saved,  would now attempt a similar move with so much money, fame and ball girl attention on the line. Higgins had clearly been practicing the move for at the same time as he looked up smilingly at the crowd, the ball was already on the head of his racquet and beginning to drop quickly to an impossible angle giving the ball momentum for its downward slide. As the ball rolled off the head of the racquet and towards his feet, Ketchum had an idea. Instead of dancing to the side, he walked right into the rolling ball, arched the heels of his brown shoes up onto the fuzzy yellow cover and balanced expertly for a brief second before kicking both feet up, pirouetting, and landing on both feet.  While performing the circus like feat, Ketchum pointed his racquet at Higgins smiled and shook his head, knowing what was about to happen.

"Penalty, Higgins. Eleventh game to Ketchum. Ketchum a servir, six - cinze." 

Such a quick pronouncement from the referee surprised Ketchum as he looked up from the bench, towel in hand. He was also surprised at the relative mildness of the punishment but ultimately nodded in fairness. Hellmantle however, taking a page out of the book of John McEnroe book, took issue with the call and pushed over his bench sending the blonde girl into a backwards somersault that ended with her legs pinned beneath the bench and a toppled Perrier water dispenser showering her head and white top with bubbling French Spring Water. Before anyone could realize the situation, Higgins took the second ball from his pocket and slammed it, in anger, into the fifth row of box seats, where it struck Deseray Lewis smack in the right eye. As she fell into her brother's arms, her husband Lennox stood up quickly and stepped down over the seat in front of him.

The characteristically mild-mannered Layton Corners, who had stood up at the pronouncement and yelled at the chair umpire "Frig you, you Frog" for all to hear, now felt himself being crushed under the weight of the Kangol Crowned Heavyweight Boxing Champion as he moved steadily downwards, raw anger spilling out of his every pore as he set his sights on Higgins.

Johnny Mac, who had reluctantly agreed to help Higgins perfect the ball rolling trick the day before, now stood up feeling somewhat implicated in the present mess. As he stood and turned to face the scrambling Lewis, his right foot toppled the bottle of Jack Daniels that he and Pete Townshend had been nursing, sending a river of brown liquid and the pungent odor of Tennessee into the stands.

Standing half-erect before one of his sporting heroes, Lennox Lewis pulled up and stopped. "It's cool Lennox, its cool" said the head-banded former tennis star. The words struck a chord with the boxing champion who pulled up and permitted himself a deep breath while allowing the disheveled Corners to extricate himself from underneath.

It was now quite a scene in Paris. Most of the crowd was now on its feet as security guards flooded the bench area. While everybody's first concern had been for Higgins' life as Lennox Lewis had approached the court, the calming effect of John McEnroe's words had broken the tension and now a number of French Open personnel busied themselves with the task of both removing the blonde girl from beneath the Perrier dispenser, as well as covering her now fully revealed breasts from the hungry band of photographers who had descended on the area.

As Higgins sat, head hidden beneath a white towel, engaged in what Ketchum had earlier coined a "mental pat," calm gradually set in on center court.  People began to sit down and there was much hushed chatter. It was hard to imagine any of the fans being on Higgins' side at this moment but those who weren't were able to keep it to themselves in the interest of seeing the match continue even if the outcome now appeared obvious.

On the other bench, Ketchum who had just returned from helping the blonde girl free from her Perrier Pin, was now focused on his left brown shoe. The acrobatics that had precipitated the bedlam on center court had managed to tear away half of the back soul of his left brown shoe, leaving it flapping. Isabelle Delacroix, who, for the proceedings had been positioned at the net, now approached Ketchum and offered him a hand.

Fergus Goring, known across southern Ireland as The Leather Shoe Shaman, had never missed a French Open Final. Now, with Ketchum sporting a pair of his brown Cork Courts in the final, he was beside himself with pride. The burning peat had taken the damp out of his dark living room and the sun had recently come out and lit up the white caps on the Celtic Sea that spread out endlessly from the bay window behind the television set. Three Irish Whiskeys had settled Fergus and now the one game penalty against Higgins led him to believe that he had more than one shamrock up his backside. Oh, the orders for Cork Courts will be flowing in, he giggled in glee.

Yet the television image of a disengaged sole on Ketchum's Cork Courts had shattered the peace in the Goring living room.  Fergus was now fully erect and screaming with both hands at the plasma screen in front of him (a present from Ketchum only a month before). Ferkin Impossible!!!  He repeated over and over.

And there was another complication: So confident had both Goring and Ketchum been about the Cork Courts that a second pair had not been packed.  Thus, Ketchum, set to serve for the French Open Final, found himself in what the French called a predicament.

If any one word could describe Layton Corners it was loyal. He'd led a quiet, puritan existence with his wife and two sons and had been rewarded with a series of small successes that had won him esteem in the North Toronto community of which he had been alderman for eight years. However now, in the heat of tense, primitive French Open Final and in spite of the whole trip being backed by Higgins, he felt it is moral duty to supply Ketchum with a new pair of North Stars. Probably, he would have felt moved to do this even without the antics of the past fifteen minutes. But Higgins' woefully bereft behavior had iced his resolve. And so, as Higgins continued to sit towel over his head doing the Mantle Pat, Corners motioned to Isabelle and passed a pair of clay-red, size thirteen North Stars from his Jansport backpack over the heads of the people in front of him and into the hands of Isabelle Delacroix.

Exactly what Corners was doing with a pair of size thirteen tennis shoes when his client wore a notoriously small size 7.5 was a mystery to all but Corners. In truth, Corner's son, Justin, a Ketchum fan for many years and a shoe salesman at the local sports store, had encouraged his Dad to seek out new opportunities while in Paris and had advised him to take a pair of extra shoes. He had picked out the size 13 North Stars which his Dad now passed down to a needy Ketchum. That man will not get away with this!  Roared Fergus in a high-pitched tone from the other side of the Atlantic.

'Quiet Please!  Ketchum a servir. Six-Cinze.'

With the umpire's words Ketchum slammed his racquet confidently into the soles of his new shoes and walked purposefully to the baseline to serve for the match.

 

NEW GAME

The Pricked Tit

Knowing his avuncular tone was a gift from God, Remy Higgins, identical twin brother of Hellmantle the tennis player who played on the TV over the bar, wasn't surprised to find the golden-haired Russian respond in an exasperated movement. Like a floppy disk or floppy doll - or something floppy - Remy Higgins held the still light0headed Cindy Kafel until she suddenly kicked her leg straight out grazing his left kneecap but scoring a direct hit on his left charliehorse. Thrown back with a severe wince of pain, Remy balanced himself against the bar - a reflex that he had developed over many years during his self-imposed exile in Cape Scott. It was the one piece of real estate on the planet where no one who was "sick" could contaminate his highly developed sense of justice and spiritual fair play. Remy liked to call it the Mostapha Mond's Greenland of Huxley's Brave New World.

"My-" She stopped, looked at this man who wore a Farfignuggen bomber jacket, a present he had been given by his tennis-star brother after his victory over the hard-hitting Swede Magnus Norman at the German Open in Berlin, gave him a double-take and then quickly looked back to the TV.

"Bit early to be quaffing don'tcha think." Uncanny she thought; he even sounds like Hellmantle. "But then again, I'm here to do the same" he said. She looked at the choked can of Kokanee and chucked it to the dusty corner of Brad's, a corner that hadn't been swept since the Canada adopted its own constitution during the Trudeau years.

With a head's up motion, he lifted the Russian up to her feet with his arms and said: "I see you like your tennis. You have strong legs. What's the score?"

Remy had planned on showing up at Brad's earlier but he couldn't find one of his dogs. He had woken up early enough - which was a monumental achievement in itself and one that showed his undying loyalty to his twin brother as his number-one fan - but he couldn't find one of his wolves. Others called his wolves dogs, but he knew their real pedigree, just like he knew his own real pedigree, which reached back to Godfrei de Boullion, the leader of the First Crusade and the first king of Jerusalem after the destruction of the Temple in 1106. The longhaired Merovingian removed his bomber jacket and settled in with characteristic Higgy suaveness. He scooped up a peanut from the peanut-strewn wooden table.

"Ah, sex-five for Ben- ah, Ketchum," she replied. She stared at the clone of the man who sought to dislodge her man from his lead to take the French Open crown.

"Russian aren't you," said Remy, "from a resort town near the Black Sea I'd say - but it's just a guess." Remy had traveled the world when he was young, and had become an expert on languages and history and, as a result, accents. "I have a friend who is Russian. Actually, I met him through my brother. He's a tennis player - name's Yvgeni." Remy said the name with particular emphasis on the second syllable so it sounded like "Yev-GEN-ee." "We partied in Paris and had a blast. That was after that chappie with the Visigoth chin - forget his name - conquered Hellmantle in last year's Open. Not this year though, he kicked his ass this year in the quarters. See that's Hellmantle up there playing that bumbee with shoes the color of Belgian chocolate."

"You follow tennis?"

"Yes, that's correct," he replied unaware that as he answered his own chin lifted ever so slightly. He turned and called for Brad the bartender. "Get me the usual will ya Big Schooter. Thanks matey. And whatever this Russian lass is having." When he looked at the stunned-looking Russian, he was quick to notice her exceptional posture. Both were caught looking at each other directly in the eyes. "Posture" he said, half mumbling it and half-surprised he had verbalized what he was thinking.

Despite being beside a windswept western shore of the very edge of the Western World, Hellmantle's brother Remy had insisted that Brad import a German beer so he could carry on with his legendary drinking intake and not wake up the next morning with a hangover. So Brad - knowing what good business was - stocked up on Becks, a beer that Remy drank with authority and aplomb. The Becks arrived just as color was returning to Cindy's face.

"That's my identical twin brother," said Remy, smiling at a girl he didn't know knew his friend Yvgeni.

*

As Hellmantle, the tall ginger-haired Norman of noble descent, held his head in his Yonex towel in the midst of a ruckus on center court, he found his thoughts veer to an old memory that stemmed from a similar incident with the famous "accidental" ball- rolling trick. It was the first time he had used it to great effectiveness that had rendered his opponent useless after going over on his ankle. Of course there were slight fisticuffs after the "Crescent School incident," but the most striking - indeed the most embarrassing - was watching little Johnny Ketchum with his enormous and cumbersome feet and skinny ankles (even back then), try to use his so-called black belt. A smile crept across Hellmantle's face in the towel as he recalled the sight of the skinny kid sans chops striking the air trying to imitate Karate with his gangly legs and long arms but he looked more like a big spider in heat. He really never lived that down - being laughed at for what he thought was martial arts but to Hellmantle and his flock was a classic.

"Ah, those were the days," he reminisced, completely losing himself from the crowd underneath his Yonex towel. It wasn't until he smelled the unmistakable aroma of Tennessee Jack that his thoughts were brought back to the present. Aware now that a circus had developed over a simple dropping of the ball that happened to have an angle to it and had also happened to meet with the large feet of his opponent, Hellmantle picked up his half-empty bottle of his special tea that he drank during the game, turned and lobbed it in the air to Johnny Mac. His loyal friend McEnroe had been watching him with the astuteness of a friend who knew that his buddy might need something extra to get him through this crucial point of the match. McEnroe caught the flying projectile so nonchalantly that only Pete Townshend and the ever-attentive Layton Corners had noticed the lob.

McEnroe, ever the prepared Irishman, had been smart enough to anticipate a sloppy toe by one of the fans - or even by Pete himself - so he had hid a personal mickey of his favorite Jameson's in the inside of his coat. Feeling a momentary twang in his heart to depart with a liquid he thirsted for so greatly, Johnny Mac selflessly filled Hellmantle's bottle of tea with a bit of fine aqua vitae. When he lobbed it back to the court, it bounced expertly off the bench and landed at his foot leaning on his North Stars. Without even raising his head, Hellmantle grabbed the bottle of "tea" and took a long, slow tug. As he sat in front of the big, burly men with hairy chests who were helping Hellmantle's half-naked female fan get up and put her top back on, Hellmantle went back into his retreat under his Yonex towel, a sponsor who would be the happiest of all during this moment in the match as all the world saw Hellmantle's pose - the thinking man's tennis player.

Lennox Lewis had walked back to Deseray and sat down but was still perturbed about Deseray taking the rifled tennis ball in the eye. Accustomed to taking punches in the eye, Deseray seemed to make a remarkable comeback from the direct hit that threatened her second-to-none tampered facial architecture with a black eye. It was the deeply rooted sense of chivalry that had Johnny Mac had assumed a caring posture for the assaulted lass, (but also mixed with a sense of loyalty to his friend and fellow warrior Hellmantle), so Lennox Lewis's wife had in turn taken a liking to the feisty McEnroe. This contributed to her motivation to open her purse and spike her husband's Coke with Valium. Soon, his puffed-up deltoids were to be calmed by the contents of his cup.

Layton Corners, who had supplied the Wimbledon-stick Ketchum with size 13 North Stars (which were a half size snug) was making his way off the court when Corners managed to walk past Hellmantle and drop a sullied Kleenex by his feet. Again, it was a tactic that he and Corners had perpetrated in past tournaments but without the knowledge of the fans. As if on cue, Hellmantle, who knew that the timeout he had called after unsuccessfully arguing against the game default from the ball-sliding incident was about to come to an end, casually leaned over and picked up the Kleenex as if he were tying up a loose shoe lace. Again retreating under his towel, he took another long hit of his "tea" and then pretended to blow his nose. He postured to look at his snot but what he saw was no snot but two small blue pills and a large red pill - pills that would have a tremendous effect on the outcome of the match - and perhaps of the game of tennis as recorded in history.

With Lennox doused with Valium, Deseray nursing her eye with ice, Mac gone to the player's lounge for another bottle for him and Pete, and the blonde streaker sitting beside Hellmantle (her Merovingian hero with the hair), Rusty Hugh called a timeout.

"Ah, c'mon ump," Hellmantle said, peaking out from his towel to the sound of photographers clicking their shutters. He intuitively struck a pose, which he knew the photographers would love, lead by the legendary mustachioed Erwin van Goethenburg. He added: "C'mon matey, whaddya..." but the words were only words issued by a consummate poser who knew that when he won the cup his photograph would be splattered in newspapers around the world. Then, when Rusty the umpire was about to speak, the poised Hellmantle quickly raised his hand and stood up, stopping the chair umpire from speaking. And at that precise moment he was in perfect pose for Erwin van Goethenburg to press down on his button and snap a cluster of shots sounding just like a toy machine gun. Yes, thought the man of Norman aristocracy. Yes, there it is; there's the shot.

Milking his own penchant for body English, and immediately feeling the effects of the single malt-Irish whiskey-spiked tea, the man from Normandy wanted to pop only one of the small blue pills into his mouth but by error had popped the super-strong red pill. In front of the thousands of tennis fans, he was forced to again take a solid slug of "tea" from his bottle and swallow the huge red pill down his throat. Pushing his luck, he reached into his racquet's bag and pulled out a tie-dye T-shirt that had some lime green in it. Waking up that morning with Fraulein Schett, she had told him that if he was feeling daring enough that he should wear his tie-dye T-shirt with streaks that perfectly matched his shorts. She had said that it would establish a new trend on the hallowed courts of the circuit, so Hellmantle packed it just in case. Keeping the calls at bay from his large base of female fans, Hellmantle slowly put his tie-dye T-shirt over his hairless torso. Hardly able to conceal his grin, Hellmantle looked over to the blonde streaker and immediately noted her pout: that overzealous do-gooder Ketchum with the bulbous Iron Maiden ring on had pricked the blonde streaker when he unpinned her Perrier Pin. What he did was in fact poke the poor stranded lass while she laid helpless with her boobs showing to Erwin van Goethenburg and the boys. Hellmantle's own deeply ingrained sense for chivalry kicked in.

"Hey Rusty," he said to the chair umpire, "did you see this? Ketchum has pricked her." Hellmantle pointed at the small but noticeable bloodstain on her Perrier-soaked blouse. Rusty sported a double-take and appeared to redden at the realization of the situation, affected no doubt by the immediate geography of the wound. Hellmantle then sprung up from his crouched position, faced the crowd but posed at a perfect angle for Erwin van Goethenburg and the shutterbugs and said: "He's the poker, not meee" in a clear Louis-Winthorp-the-Third accent. Suddenly, Rusty Hugh looked like his name; his face had become the color of a dusty tomato. In the silence Hellmantle sprung into action.

"And you burn me a game for accidentally rolling a ball when he has assaulted this helpless lass!?! What's this world coming to!" With those words, there was a sudden rush of protest from the French fans whose sense of fair play had been infringed upon. Pointing at an unknowing Ketchum, Hellmantle said: "He has pricked her tit!" The last straw, the crowd went wild; both in protest against Rusty's impotence at not being able to make a call, and at the sheer audacity that Hellmantle had used such language in a Grand Slam men's singles final. Even the elderly women in the crowd were shaking their heads in outer disapproval but there were more than a few that inside were impressed by this big-swinging-dick Hellmantle from the North Country who could somehow get away with so much.

One of les Francaise madames was shaking her head in outer disapproval, but inside she was really quite taken by this goateed young man. Her name was Buffy Cranford-Patelle, the widow of Mr. Thane Cranford-Patelle. Buffy's late husband had inherited the family fortune from his great grandfather, who had struck a deal with the Merovingian-wannabe Napoleon to supply the French army with leather boots. She spent most of her time at the chateau in Languedoc near the famous turreted church, but she had become so bored that she had turned to Parisian society and in particular French Open tennis. And she had also taken to her medication for her "strained back." Recently, she had found a family friend to administer stronger doses for her sore back; today she had taken a handful of these pills and drank her obligatory three glasses of wine in the pre-game social event in one of the tents. Buffy Cranford-Patelle was impressed by this swashbuckler Hellmantle. She liked his style. But Buffy was too civilized to yell out; she kept it all inside. But that didn't stop her from devising some way of engineering a meeting with the dashing bachelor. She was over forty but she still had what it took. She would talk to Warwick Biggerstaff, whom all the players on the tour call Stiffy. He was a friend of hers who had pull in this tournament, and a fixture at the French Open.

Winning back the crowd was a good consolation after his Mac-inspired ball-rolling trick. Hellmantle, with size seven-and-a-half North Stars, walked out to the court with his Yonex towel around his neck to again receive serve but he stopped. Turning around, he leapt toward the helpless blonde and kissed her where she had been poked as if to kiss it better. Everyone went quiet when it happened. First stunned then confused, the crowd wondered if there was breach of gentlemanly etiquette but when the girl let out a cry of utter pleasure - as if saved and healed from the touch of the Messiah Himself - the crowd instantly alleviated any doubt and began to nod their head in approval. A growing golf clap permeated throughout all corners of the stadium, even from the defending Wimbledon Champion's corner. The reaction graduated to a full applause with the Frenchmen becoming particularly lively. Buffy Cranford-Patelle was particularly taken; when she saw him kiss her, Buffy's head snapped backward almost erupting her pin-held bun into disarray. Her cheeks became flushed.

Reaching the back of the court to where Guy-the-ball-boy took his towel, he could hear his fans in the corner still shouting at Rusty Hugh about the game punishment he had given Hellmantle. "Back call ump." "Blame it on gravity ref," and other comments could be heard from the sides. He quickly turned and sought a warm glance from his honeybee but Fraulein Schett, with her sultry lips, had mysteriously disappeared. But what caught his eye instead were a cluster of Vikings up in the nosebleed stands wearing horns and long beards in honor of Hellmantle's Norman heritage and as full-fledged members of the now international network of biker gangs called The Hellmantles. For an instant, he thought of his hometown pub where The Hellmantles hung out. Some called it Hellmantle's Hideout. He didn't know there was a chapter in Paris.

When Hellmantle turned to face the tall Wimbledon champ who was serving for the championship, he felt his special McEnroe "tea" and the steadfastly loyal Corners' red pill that he had - perhaps recklessly - ingested. Aware of the millions of fans watching from around the world, he sensed - no, he knew - that his identical twin brother was watching from Vancouver Island. Knowing this, it gave him open license to push the envelope of conventional tennis with his own original technique. He assumed his receiving-serve stance and gave the tall Brit the nod.

The serve came in with pepper on it, as if the six-foot five-inch Ketchum had become ticked off over the changeover. Hellmantle played the ball as if it were good but the net-ump called a let. It was a late call so when Ketchum finally stopped he had run up to the net for the volley. But what Hellmantle saw was a new element of what appeared to be a pigeon-toe'd stutter step. Ketchum's new North Stars had size 13 written on them but were really European size - so they weren't 13 but really size 12! They were a size and a half too small for the tall champ from England.

Ketchum launched another 190kph-plus serve only to get a deep return back to his forehand court. Hellmantle stayed back on the baseline and ran him from side to side like a ping-pong ball. To the left side of the court to the right side, followed by a well-executed drop shot that dripped with finesse over the net. Then a lob over Ketchum's head was run down and popped up.

Instead of putting it away Hellmantle elected to hit an easier shot to his deep backhand which revealed a now limping Ketchum to feebly take a whack at the ball like a squash shot. Again facing a high ball to mid court, Hellmantle elected not to put it away but to hit a not-so-tight drop shot, one well within reach of the belabored Wimbledon champ. Barely getting there, Ketchum appeared as if he wanted to end the rally so he tried to hit a winner down the line but Hellmantle managed a return to deep court. Once again, Ketchum had to back track but as he did he appeared to be favoring his left foot.

The rally then proceeded for another ten shots with Hellmantle moving the Brit from side to side, from the back of the court to the front of the court, with his drop shot getting particular attention to bring his spindly-legged opponent in to the net. It wasn't until Ketchum ran toward the net and slid his toe, which appeared to snag the service line causing him to tumble forward. Despite being off balance, Hellmantle returned the ball right at him so Ketchum, ever the competitor, took a swipe somewhat wildly at the ball missing it entirely. Ketchum stood pigeon-toed on the court again favoring his left foot.

Erwin van Goethenburg and his shutterbugs photographed the limping Ketchum who couldn't conceal a huge grimace to the crowd. Above the hush, Hellmantle could hear the high-pitched yet unmistakable laughter of his loyal friend Layton Corners.

"Zéro - quinze" said Rusty Hugh.

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