Wordcarpenter Books
The Mantle Pat

The Shoelaces

Hellmantle enjoyed the warmed red clay as he lay for a moment beside the net, lingering in dumbfoundedness over the luck of his opponent. Inches he complained to himself. As he lingered could feel the camera lenses on him as if the beam had a tangible force. So Hellmantle brushed himself off, and with very loose limbs lifted himself up. As he rose he misplaced the words "good shot" with the words "fluke shot." He looked over at Ketchum for a ‘racquet up' gesture in recognition of his fluke shot, but much to the concern of those in the crowd following the minutiae of the match, Ketchum immediately assumed a posture of pomposity as if he had meant to hit the ball so close to the net and on the line on such an unlikely point in the rally.

Before Hellmantle could stop himself, he had squared his shoulders to his tennis foe and raised the doubt before his countrymen that Ketchum's shot was done in earnest. "Wormburner my ass!" yelled McEnroe in protest. "Let him hit another one I say!" added Buffy Cranford-Patelle. Hellmantle was sure it was the older women with the wind-blown hair and red wine that led the outburst of laughter that swiftly followed. There was a chorus of appeals to the Brit to come clean and admit the fluke. Hellmantle had seen this type of thing before but rarely at the professional level. It was tantamount to suicide to take credit for a fluke on any surface, in any racquet sport. After all, previous to this one drop shot winner, Ketchum had only hit one other drop shot winner in a dozen attempts spanning two and a half years in the ATP tour. Ketchum strode like what appeared to be a peacock to the base line where he saw Ralucca holding up the box of shoes and turned to Rusty to call for time.

Meanwhile on the chilly sands of Cape Scott, Remy Hellmantle stood on the patio cooling his forehead while Ketchum took a time out. The roar of the waves crashing into the steep shoreline filled the winds with the salty Pacific kiss. Cindy Kafel, the cousin of Russian Iron Man and tour-with-his-own-private-jet Yevgeni Kafelnikov, joined Remy outside. In her turtleneck sweater and denim jacket that her beloved Ketchum-called-Ben gave to her as a gift, Cindy's urge to follow the rugged-looking Remy Hellmantle proved to strong to be quelled.

"Your brother is playing well, no?" she said, successfully putting Ben out of her mind. He looks strong. He moves smoothly, like a cat or something." She moved her head in the direction of the wind. The taste in the sea air spoke to them as they chewed on their own thoughts.

"My brother needs to keep his flow, that's the key, that's the key," said Remy. "Nothing should disrupt his flow." It was then that Remy began to notice the effects of the three red pills he had taken. The moment appeared to expand somewhat making his mind quicker and making it appear as if the outside world was slower. Back in Paris Remy's identical twin brother was feeling the same effects of the three red pills he had ingested. But for Hellmantle, the slow motion enabled him to use his reflexes to his advantage and to thwart control from his opponent. With Kethchum's small, chocolate-brown North Stars impeding his reactions, Hellmantle was flying around the court running the long-legged Celt rampant. When Remy thought of this he realized that the three red pills he had taken (thinking they were some sort of aspirin-based medicine) were in fact from his brother when he had left them in his bathroom last time he visited him on Vancouver Island. He knew that these were what he had taken at that changeover at four games to five. He had seen it on TV. The pills were the same color; the same hue.

Remy walked off the patio and strode towards the sea with Cindy following. At some rocks he reached out for her hand as she caught up and the wind blew her hair back. She grasped Remy's hand and they walked north in silence into the wind at a slow pace. Suddenly Remy bent down and picked up an old piece of dried-up wood and handed it to Cindy.

"Throw it to me will you?" he asked, backing away from her. She didn't bother to ask why so she threw the stick at Remy like a master would their pet doggie. But when he caught the thrown stick he held out his hand and carefully carried the stick downward in an exaggerated follow-through motion. He then proceeded to throw it up in the air and catch the stick behind his back and then over his shoulder and then flipping it each time increasing up to a point of roughly a dozen before he lost count. The tennis beckoned and his brother was fighting for the title of his life, punting on some sort of muscle relaxant that quickened his mind. If his brother could employ mind over matter, then he could achieve feats unknown to him and possibly to the sport of tennis. Remy assumed that this was one of those medicines the ATP did not check for in their extended list of prohibited enhancers. Remy's twin mentioned something about a friend who specialized in ancient Chinese medicine. In fact it could be said that in the hands of another man this medicine could be a great hindrance. Only men with the mettle and innate aplomb of a Hellmantle could take on such a dose of herb and display such examples of what he called the Phinneous Flow - the art of graceful shot making. And in tennis that meant keeping your eye on the ball all the way so you could play on a cow patch and still hit all strings.

But Remy could feed his vibe to his twin by telepathy. Through years of study and dedication to his craft, Remy had learned telepathic signaling while living with the Nakuta Indian tribe near the great salmon falls at the sacred mountain in the middle of the island - the only sacred site for a thousand miles in all directions along the west coast. If he knew what was going on through the TV coverage then he could transmit his energies to his identical twin to enhance his on-court powers. Just as he and Cindy were stepping back to watch the tennis, a pick-up truck drove by with a blaring radio. "This is 94.1 JROC of Arizona and the Pacific Northwest with our affiliate MPA104.4 in Seattle Washington feeding our northern brothers up in the cold and wet parts of our north-western flankie and the northern Pacific waters up to Alaska. Now back to the French Open Men's Singles Final with defending Wimbledon Champion John Ketchum taking on the underdog Peter "Hellmantle" Higgins from Normandy. Hellmantle, a somewhat fitting name for a young man who is showing us that he has the mettle to inherit the mantle of French Open glory..." and then the radio narrative was out of range.

Across the border 30 miles east of Reno Nevada, Lily-Jean Talbot King was dusting the debris off her shoulders and cursing herself that she didn't have a mobile phone. She knew Hellmantle when he was little boy. For it was she who had first taught him how to hit a tennis ball from under the nose of his father, Sir Helmut Schongait Hellmantle. Schongait, as his friends used to call him, was the love of her life that still lingered even at her mature age of forty-eight. Lily-Jean Talbot-King, or as Hellmantle used to call her during his teenage years ‘LJTK', had left tennis behind and moved south just after her favourite tennis student Hellmantle moved to the international junior scene. She had lost touch with the Hellmantles but since hearing of Schongait's untimely passing some years ago, the separation had for her become a primary source of grief. Now she wanted to call in and talk to this Butch ‘I-pulled-my-groin-again' Grogan and answer his question. She still remembered the pillow whisperings of Sir Schongait, who was notorious for his engaging social acumen at events of all forms and sizes and notorious ironic wit with the ladies. A shiver went down Lily-Jean Talbot-King's spine as she smiled into the setting sun on the desert highway roadside where tumbleweeds nestled the front of her rolled Oldsmobile. Lily-Jean Talbot-King remained stretched out in her car with her fingers still on the steering wheel. She had yet to let go. Through the broken windshield she could see the tumbleweeds having free reign over the land.   

Back in Paris, security bigwig and otherwise big-swinging dick Rouel Grosjean was thinking about the situation. When he thought of how he had asked his second-in-command to make sure that the fences would withstand any force during this afternoon's events, he bristled under a cool exterior and his trim moustache. The thought of the broken barrier showing up on Monsieur Poussin's report to the ministry had wrecked the tabula rasa he had enjoyed throughout the tourney, which was now irrevocably marred by the narcissistic Gerrard Feltier. The over-the-hill enfant terrible had sullied his near-perfect record, but he breathed a sigh of relief when Feltier used his charm and asked the fans to respect the tennis for the sake of the French people and for the world. But at the same time Grosjean was bugged because Feltier always followed his sentences with a hanging ‘non?' He reached into his pocket and felt the cluster of Jellybellys that he had so wisely packed before. He took one out, pinched off a dust bunny that clung to it and then lobbed it into his mouth.

The wiry and tall but rather ill-kept young man in a thick, healthy-looking deep green tweed jacket and cuffs too short with shoes that were worse for wear that Grosjean Senior saw walking towards the court was non-other than the Irishman Phelim O'Shea. Sure enough, when the curly-haired O'Shea, great-great grandson to the famous Gaelic hero Paedraihg O'Shea the Daring, one of Ireland's most unsung Celtic leaders during the lean times in Cork a century ago, removed his tweed hat letting the thick red curls (that Fergus Goering always wanted chopped off) flowed over his metallic green eyes and he squinted towards the chair umpire without apparent care to the timing of his interruption. This boy, thought Grosjean, has no guile.

For O'Shea, in his favorite tweed jacket and sporting a good hair day coupled with the three, no, four pints of Guinness at Cedric's Café, this moment was of divine import. As a good Catholic, like his boss Fergus Goering (who was known to imbibe with other Irishmen ‘struck with the curse'), O'Shea knew he had a responsibility to ensure fair play. It was a Christian moral imperative. He had to give Ketchum the shoelaces that he had accidentally put in his pocket. The shoes as they were in the box, were without the proper laces. He saw that this moment of walking on to Centre Court during the men's final carrying the required equipment for his client Ketchum as his fifteen minutes of fame.

When Ketchum realized the laces were missing, he looked up and saw O'Shea in tweed holding the long white shoelaces in his hand, feeling as if a rope had been thrown to him. The sight was enough for the Wimbledon Champ to take a deep breath and rub his feet. Hellmantle, briefly glancing over and bending one of racquet sport's most enduring points of etiquette of not invading ones opponent's space between games, saw that with proper peids equippe he had to change his strategy.

As O'Shea stepped onto court in his favourite North Stars (but with his own size forty-four Birkenstock insoles in place), the fans watched the tall Irishman with the loping gait hand shoelaces to his VIP-client Ketchum, a Canadian who had sold his soul to fight for the British. How as an Irishman can I serve this man who embraces the one force responsible for so much misery in my own country? These were things he could not hope to understand so he chose to look the other way and ignore it so he could serve the Wimbledon champion well. But however hard he tried to keep his thoughts to business, he could not help but see Ketchum as the man who stood in the way of the rightful heir Hellmantle to the French crown in the tradition of Henri Lacoste, Henri Laconte and Jean Berotre. For the O'Shea clan in County Cork, the French Open was all about style and in this final Hellmantle was dripping with style all over the court. He had character like the greats Ilie Nastase, Jimmy Conners and John McEnroe. One of the prerequisites for a French Open Men's Singles Champion is to have what the French call l'esprit d'corps. Without ones own style, one cannot truly be a French Open Tennis Champion in the French tradition. O'Shea blinked as he handed Ketchum the laces and felt for sure the man from Canada had read his thoughts.

"Thanks O'Shea. I owe you one. You and Fergus Goooering." The serious look and the raw rash on Ketchum's chin disappeared for a moment when Ketchum smiled and then broke into a rather desperate laughter. O'Shea, too, could not help but laugh. There they were laughing on Centre Court in front of all the fans. For a moment O'Shea's cheeks flushed as he thought that perhaps some would think he had cracked a French joke. Suddenly there was a flash of what sounded like a weak machine gun but then turned out to be a loud camera bellowing at his rose-hued cheeks. O'Shea's hand flung towards the camera in what seemed to be a violent motion, and another flurry of shots were clicked. O'Shea slowly lowered his hand nearly dislodging the microphone near the net and said to all the cameras: "No, I like the French."

There was silence and confusion for what seemed like an overlooked eternity until Buffy Cranford-Patelle raised her glass of Bordeaux and, just about as she was about to speak, she coughed. The fans erupted with raised glasses and cheers anyway. O'Shea just stood there.

"Viva France!" shouted the crowd in response to the Irishman's words, captured on the on-court microphone and transmitted live to the millions of tennis fans around the world. A colony of yells came from the north corner of the stadium near Miss Leduc and her class.

"C'mon Hellmantlepiece!" The ‘Mantlepiece' moniker had been Luc's invention months before during the winter when he and his friends were keeping warm by the fireplace and the word mantelpiece came up. But they also called him "Mantlepiece" because he was so cool. Luc looked over at the man who sat a few rows over stuffing his mouth with a large croissant and washing it down with a Heineken, but Luc and his co-conspirer and right-hand man, Pierre Grotius, were still eagerly sipping their rum and cola but were now taking out extra straws from their bag with some extra serviettes. Pierre, or "Pee Wee" as Luc and the boys called him, was the first to tear off a piece of napkin and put it into his mouth. Pee Wee Grotius was the direct descendant of Hugo Grotius, father of International Law and author of De Jure Belli et Pacis (Of the Law of War and Peace) in 1625, but Pee Wee didn't know about his pedigree. After rolling the tissue into a wet ball, he placed the straw to his mouth, aimed and shot the ball of saliva-soaked tissue hurling towards the man with the Heineken. Pee Wee's shot landed on Pascal Gufflet's left cheek sticking there until the man whipped up his hand and wiped it off with his bare hand.

The sudden hand movement by Pascal Gufflet to wipe the spitball off his face caught O'Shea's eye while he was being photographed with his North Star client Ketchum. But despite this mild imposition, the Irishman kept his eye on the sweaty-looking man in the tweed. It was then that Slip Sally Ripken caught site of the man wiping something from his cheek. Not sure if it was female intuition or photographer's instinct, but Slick Sally turned immediately and clicked a few of the man in tweed as he took a thirsty swig of Heineken. It was something she liked to do: collective photos of the indigenous peoples in the areas she worked. She already had quite an oeuvre, something Hellmantle had specifically commented on when he had first introduced himself to her at her exhibition in London eight months ago. In fact thinking about it now, it was that word 'oeuvre' that resulted in the two of them playing their own version of one-on-one on a much softer court surface with more forgiving rules but with stricter penalties. Remembering Hellmantle's short game, she felt a sudden pang of loss in her chest. Slick Sally Ripken let out a deep sigh.

Pascal Gufflet, in his current incognito commando role had checked his perimeter and had previously taken note of the children. And since he had partaken in the same Tom Foolery when he was a young lad, he quickly surmised that it was likely the boys in the corner being mischievous. Putting down his croissant, the man with the remote control whipped his head around to Miss Le Duc's class and set his eyes not on the culprit Pee Wee, but on little Ricky Asselstein. The boys looked ahead innocently watching their favorite Hellmantle smile at the tall guy from Ireland.

"Give us a Mantle Pat Hellmantle!" yelled a very brave Pee Wee in an effort to deflect the man's accusing stare. Pascal Gufflet, feeling like he had succeeded in communicating his message that he knew it was them who had been responsible for the assault,  realized that he didn't want the spit ball to spoil his tennis experience nor did he want those kids to wreck his extreme goosieness of being in possession of the other remote control that Monty didn't know about. He didn't want the boys to sully his enjoyment of knowing the bomb was safely in place and poised for detonation. So he turned his head slowly away from little Ricky Asselstein and joined in the chorus against O'Shea.

"Viva France!" he yelled just loud enough for it to be heard by Hellmantle who sat calmly taking a nip of his Scottish tea waiting for Ketchum to tie his shoes. This had to be Ketchum's last time out.

Pascal Gufflet felt the drip of sweat drop from his forehead to his lower lip. He liked the warm saltiness and licked the spot where it dropped. He reached for his remote control and felt a tremendous relief in his chest. He took a drink from his Heineken and yelled out: "Pick it up Johnny. Pick it up my boy..." There was a wavering in his voice that made the people beside him look at him to see if he was in pain. Pascal Gufflet looked on at O'Shea looking at him. But Gufflet could not help himself. He so dearly loved the game of tennis that he wept within for the final he was witnessing before him. But he was also bound seek justice against Warwick Biggerstaff for blackballing him and wrecking his career. It was his turn to sabotage Stiffy's career.

Suddenly realizing that the hollering had faded and there was no longer any reason for him to be on Centre Court, Phelim O'Shea said good luck to his client Ketchum and then looked directly into the TV camera and attempted to make amends.

"It's me mates that don't like this country-" A piercing pulse of voltage struck him from within when he heard his uncensored words. The TV cameraman in the beret looked up from his camera to see if he had just seen and heard correctly. Ignoring the immense reality of his faux pas, the six-foot-four O'Shea smiled when he thought of his immanent date with a pint of the dark lady at the pub He lifted up his arms to the crowd and said "God bless all tennis fans around the world! And particularly to the Irish legend Terry Mulligan who was Ireland's best. I love Ireland!" The word "Guinness" was heard amid the hands gesturing aggressively towards the red-haired man from Cork who strode off the court proud of his role as chosen saviour.

When O'Shea reached the gate, Carter Manson was there with his earpiece in place, poised with his clipboard and mobile-phoned holster.

"Well thank you dearly friend for saving the reigning Wimbledon Champ's feet." Carter Manson shook O'Shea's hand so the eager fans' could see the gesture of reconciliation. "Everyone could see that smooth-moving Hellmantle was running him around as if he was toying with ‘im." O'Shea wasn't sure who this man was so he only smiled at him.

"I'm Carter Manson, the head of security here at the tennis grounds and I would like to thank you on behalf of the tournament committee of your act of loyalty to your associate." Carter, straightening his posture flashed his badge. "As an expression of our gratitude I would like to extend to you a free pass to the VIP lounge and bar where you may enjoy whatever you like on the house." Carter Manson held out a VIP pass. "Please, accept our gift."

Without thinking, Phelim O'Shea replied "Thanks mate. Why don't you join me for a pint of the dark lady and you can show me the way?" The Irishman's easy-going grin unmasked Carter Manson's professional gait for a moment, and then seized the doubting side of his nature.

"No I really shouldn't but I'll happily show you the way." With a nod they left the edge of the clay surface and took the wooden stairwell up to the player's lounge that hung directly below the scoreboard. Carter took O'Shea up the stairs but upon reaching the top had an urgent message from a frantic Layton Corners. So Carter pointed at the entrance and told O'Shea that important business was afoot and that he couldn't drink while on duty. They departed and O'Shea made his way toward the Player's VIP lounge. When he reached the entrance there was no one there to check his pass, all eyes were focused on the match that all could see along the eastern wall that opened to Centre Court. O'Shea, feeling brave from his religious experience as saviour, walked in knowing they had all seen him but hoping they hadn't heard what transpired. The players that were there nodded in varying degrees of casualness, excitement and exhaustion. Suddenly, a short man with dyed blonde hair pulled back over his head with his eyes squinting appeared beside O'Shea.

"You're not supposed to be in here are you?" he said. "Where are you going please?"

"Mustn't talk so directly sir," he replied, again not thinking of what he was saying. "As a matter of fact I'm going to have a powwow on the house."

"I'm not asking you as a customer of this lounge sir, I'm asking you as the secretary of this lounge please. We don't want men in here who shouldn't be. Where are you going please?" His eyes black and penetrating dug into him like a clamp with sharp teeth. Beside him was a dartboard with a cluster of darts. O'Shea stepped over, pulled out a dart and threw it toward the dart board but missing by three feet, hitting the wall instead. There the dart stayed. O'Shea took out his VIP card and flashed it at him like a badge. "Mister Carter Manson gave me this pass as a gift." The mention of the name "Manson" was enough for the man to retreat and send a waitress over right away.

O'Shea quickly assessed his choices and opted for the small table beside the young French sensation Jerome Golmard and two girls. O'Shea settled down beside the brunette with sparkling eyes named Suzanne, along with Golmard and the blonde.

"Le tennis...c'est bon n'est-ce pas?" O'Shea drawled in his best French. Golmard turned and nodded as a waitress arrived.

"An aperitif monsieur?" Golmard looked at O'Shea and said "pint of beer, non?" The smile of the saviour returned to his face as he squinted into the setting sun in the western sky from their windowless edge above the court. Golmard, ever the Frenchman, ordered another bottle of red wine but O'Shea, with no real Guinness served at the bar, was enduring an inner violence as to what to drink. All the other beers were crappy compared to his beloved pint of the dark lady, so the only choice, even though it meant possible danger, was to opt for a cold pint of cider, a choice that left him suddenly concerned. When the drinks arrived and Ketchum finally had his shoes on, O'Shea was in full-regret mode for veering off the course of good judgment and opening the door to such nefarious possibilities. He had experienced enough snake bites to know that every single time he had mixed beer and cider he had ended up in a predicament of some sort. So when the clapping began to the third point of the 13th game in the fifth set, it was with trembling hands that the cider reached his lips and the snake bite began. Golmard, noticing his shaking hands, asked "You have money on this match, non?"

Down below the players were returning to the court. Hellmantle, in his lime green surf shorts now a darker hue than the original bright green but now splattered with clay around the pockets and on the thigh, walked towards Guy with his Yonex towel around his neck. Ketchum now sported a bright new pair of North Stars, the flagship brand that sought to renew their once formidable shoe empire. Hellmantle had retained his poise with the tea helping sooth his nerves. He wondered if Guy could smell the faint trace of Jack Daniels on his breath when he held out his racquet face for three balls to serve. And when he handed him his Yonex towel, he was sure he could.

Suddenly Hellmantle was struck with a life-long paranoia that had hampered his game for years. It was his serve. When he was far into a long match he had a tendency to exaggerate his serving motion, and now, at the moment he put his toe on the line and the crowd hushed down, he felt that he was becoming undone. Using the strength of his mind, he tried to feel his arms but he couldn't seem to find his grip. Taking a deep breath and bouncing the ball a few extra times, Hellmantle faced his opponent and went for the toss. There was a shudder as he raised his left arm so that the ball went askew to the right where it landed halfway to the sideline. A murmur went through the crowd. Hellmantle, not embarrassed but rather humoured by the error, again took a deep breath but this time he found his wind. Immediately, without bouncing the ball, he tossed and nailed a solid serve down the centerline. Ketchum, noticeably more nimble on his feet, jumped on the ball and hit it deep to his backhand but Hellmantle hadn't gone back to the baseline because of the exaggerated follow through, so he was forced to hit a half-volley from his ankles. In a perfectly horizontal motion he hit the ball dead-on down the backhand line. Ketchum, running to get to the ball stretched just enough for the return to fall short at the net. The high, sissy return came down ten feet from the net with a deceiving high bounce. Swirling from the ball's lack of spin, it came down like a bullet. Hellmantle, keeping his eye on the ball, rearranged his entire body to accommodate the falling ball swinging at it almost sidearm. The result was a side-spinning stroke that went back to Ketchum at his feet. With the new leather still stiff, Ketchum went to manoeuvre around the bounce but instead stubbed his toe on a clump of clay.

"Trente-cinze ‘Ellmantle" said Rusty, not realizing that he had used Higgins' nickname.

"Damn!" he yelled, but held up his hand indicating a good shot by Hellmantle. Ketchum faced the court and looked curiously at his new shoes. He jumped up and then squatted down on the line, and then up he went bouncing on his feet again. Only slowly did he begin to shake his head. When Phelim O'Shea watched with Golmard and the girls from the VIP lounge, he had an odd sensation creep up his neck and into his mind. "My Birkenstock insoles," he said aloud. "I-." He looked at Golmard who was keeping stats on bar napkins he had accumulated. O'Shea looked at the Frenchman's tattoo and then back at Ketchum. It was when Ketchum looked to the box beside his chair and then back at his shoes that O'Shea knew that he had given Ketchum his own shoes with the size 44 Birkenstock insoles. He was relieved to know that it was the right size but was freaking out at the thought of a foot that has never been on a Birkenstock insole before. He was alarmed about Ketchum's feet on a Birkenstock because footwear was his craft. It was the high arches that Ketchum was feeling right now as he bounced up and down. It was the stretching of the metacarpal tissue against the force of lunging on the higher and fuller arch. But once the foot's arch is raised from the higher Birkenstock arch, it bends in a perfect arch along the big-toe-line. The outside of the foot along the top is kneaded outward over the arch stretching the ligaments along the outside of the lower calves. Ketchum's naturally fallen arches will make his feet feel like it's balanced on the middle of a long arch. Apprenticing ones foot to ‘the Birkenstock way' takes a week or two with small walks, but to break-in ones foot during a Grand Slam tennis match was extreme and even dangerous.  

Phelim O'Shea again reached for his pint of cider with his jittering hands a little worse now, and thought that he was the only one in the stadium watching that knew of the strife Ketchum's feet were about to endure. Ignoring the fact that the British Davis Cup number one kept jumping up and down looking at his shoes and shaking his head, the saviour placed his cider down in a watery mess and focused on one thing: Ketchum's posture. Apart from  all the benefits of Birkenstocks, the overwhelming plus from adopting Birkenstock footwear was that O'Shea's posture had reached a sort of perfect equilibrium. His alignment couldn't be straighter. With the higher arches the back is forced to straighten; that's why people thought he was so tall. But Ketchum's feet will stretch and force his arch upwards causing a new alignment up his spine. Ketchum will need to do something urgently about the inch and a half of height he was about to gain from a new ‘Birkenstock posture.'


The Shoelaces

Hellmantle enjoyed the warmed red clay as he lay for a moment beside the net, lingering in dumbfoundedness over the luck of his opponent. Inches he complained to himself. As he lingered could feel the camera lenses on him as if the beam had a tangible force. So Hellmantle brushed himself off, and with very loose limbs lifted himself up. As he rose he misplaced the words "good shot" with the words "fluke shot." He looked over at Ketchum for a ‘racquet up' gesture in recognition of his fluke shot, but much to the concern of those in the crowd following the minutiae of the match, Ketchum immediately assumed a posture of pomposity as if he had meant to hit the ball so close to the net and on the line on such an unlikely point in the rally.

Before Hellmantle could stop himself, he had squared his shoulders to his tennis foe and raised the doubt before his countrymen that Ketchum's shot was done in earnest. "Wormburner my ass!" yelled McEnroe in protest. "Let him hit another one I say!" added Buffy Cranford-Patelle. Hellmantle was sure it was the older women with the wind-blown hair and red wine that led the outburst of laughter that swiftly followed. There was a chorus of appeals to the Brit to come clean and admit the fluke. Hellmantle had seen this type of thing before but rarely at the professional level. It was tantamount to suicide to take credit for a fluke on any surface, in any racquet sport. After all, previous to this one drop shot winner, Ketchum had only hit one other drop shot winner in a dozen attempts spanning two and a half years in the ATP tour. Ketchum strode like what appeared to be a peacock to the base line where he saw Ralucca holding up the box of shoes and turned to Rusty to call for time.

Meanwhile on the chilly sands of Cape Scott, Remy Hellmantle stood on the patio cooling his forehead while Ketchum took a time out. The roar of the waves crashing into the steep shoreline filled the winds with the salty Pacific kiss. Cindy Kafel, the cousin of Russian Iron Man and tour-with-his-own-private-jet Yevgeni Kafelnikov, joined Remy outside. In her turtleneck sweater and denim jacket that her beloved Ketchum-called-Ben gave to her as a gift, Cindy's urge to follow the rugged-looking Remy Hellmantle proved to strong to be quelled.

"Your brother is playing well, no?" she said, successfully putting Ben out of her mind. He looks strong. He moves smoothly, like a cat or something." She moved her head in the direction of the wind. The taste in the sea air spoke to them as they chewed on their own thoughts.

"My brother needs to keep his flow, that's the key, that's the key," said Remy. "Nothing should disrupt his flow." It was then that Remy began to notice the effects of the three red pills he had taken. The moment appeared to expand somewhat making his mind quicker and making it appear as if the outside world was slower. Back in Paris Remy's identical twin brother was feeling the same effects of the three red pills he had ingested. But for Hellmantle, the slow motion enabled him to use his reflexes to his advantage and to thwart control from his opponent. With Kethchum's small, chocolate-brown North Stars impeding his reactions, Hellmantle was flying around the court running the long-legged Celt rampant. When Remy thought of this he realized that the three red pills he had taken (thinking they were some sort of aspirin-based medicine) were in fact from his brother when he had left them in his bathroom last time he visited him on Vancouver Island. He knew that these were what he had taken at that changeover at four games to five. He had seen it on TV. The pills were the same color; the same hue.

Remy walked off the patio and strode towards the sea with Cindy following. At some rocks he reached out for her hand as she caught up and the wind blew her hair back. She grasped Remy's hand and they walked north in silence into the wind at a slow pace. Suddenly Remy bent down and picked up an old piece of dried-up wood and handed it to Cindy.

"Throw it to me will you?" he asked, backing away from her. She didn't bother to ask why so she threw the stick at Remy like a master would their pet doggie. But when he caught the thrown stick he held out his hand and carefully carried the stick downward in an exaggerated follow-through motion. He then proceeded to throw it up in the air and catch the stick behind his back and then over his shoulder and then flipping it each time increasing up to a point of roughly a dozen before he lost count. The tennis beckoned and his brother was fighting for the title of his life, punting on some sort of muscle relaxant that quickened his mind. If his brother could employ mind over matter, then he could achieve feats unknown to him and possibly to the sport of tennis. Remy assumed that this was one of those medicines the ATP did not check for in their extended list of prohibited enhancers. Remy's twin mentioned something about a friend who specialized in ancient Chinese medicine. In fact it could be said that in the hands of another man this medicine could be a great hindrance. Only men with the mettle and innate aplomb of a Hellmantle could take on such a dose of herb and display such examples of what he called the Phinneous Flow - the art of graceful shot making. And in tennis that meant keeping your eye on the ball all the way so you could play on a cow patch and still hit all strings.

But Remy could feed his vibe to his twin by telepathy. Through years of study and dedication to his craft, Remy had learned telepathic signaling while living with the Nakuta Indian tribe near the great salmon falls at the sacred mountain in the middle of the island - the only sacred site for a thousand miles in all directions along the west coast. If he knew what was going on through the TV coverage then he could transmit his energies to his identical twin to enhance his on-court powers. Just as he and Cindy were stepping back to watch the tennis, a pick-up truck drove by with a blaring radio. "This is 94.1 JROC of Arizona and the Pacific Northwest with our affiliate MPA104.4 in Seattle Washington feeding our northern brothers up in the cold and wet parts of our north-western flankie and the northern Pacific waters up to Alaska. Now back to the French Open Men's Singles Final with defending Wimbledon Champion John Ketchum taking on the underdog Peter "Hellmantle" Higgins from Normandy. Hellmantle, a somewhat fitting name for a young man who is showing us that he has the mettle to inherit the mantle of French Open glory..." and then the radio narrative was out of range.

Across the border 30 miles east of Reno Nevada, Lily-Jean Talbot King was dusting the debris off her shoulders and cursing herself that she didn't have a mobile phone. She knew Hellmantle when he was little boy. For it was she who had first taught him how to hit a tennis ball from under the nose of his father, Sir Helmut Schongait Hellmantle. Schongait, as his friends used to call him, was the love of her life that still lingered even at her mature age of forty-eight. Lily-Jean Talbot-King, or as Hellmantle used to call her during his teenage years ‘LJTK', had left tennis behind and moved south just after her favourite tennis student Hellmantle moved to the international junior scene. She had lost touch with the Hellmantles but since hearing of Schongait's untimely passing some years ago, the separation had for her become a primary source of grief. Now she wanted to call in and talk to this Butch ‘I-pulled-my-groin-again' Grogan and answer his question. She still remembered the pillow whisperings of Sir Schongait, who was notorious for his engaging social acumen at events of all forms and sizes and notorious ironic wit with the ladies. A shiver went down Lily-Jean Talbot-King's spine as she smiled into the setting sun on the desert highway roadside where tumbleweeds nestled the front of her rolled Oldsmobile. Lily-Jean Talbot-King remained stretched out in her car with her fingers still on the steering wheel. She had yet to let go. Through the broken windshield she could see the tumbleweeds having free reign over the land.   

Back in Paris, security bigwig and otherwise big-swinging dick Rouel Grosjean was thinking about the situation. When he thought of how he had asked his second-in-command to make sure that the fences would withstand any force during this afternoon's events, he bristled under a cool exterior and his trim moustache. The thought of the broken barrier showing up on Monsieur Poussin's report to the ministry had wrecked the tabula rasa he had enjoyed throughout the tourney, which was now irrevocably marred by the narcissistic Gerrard Feltier. The over-the-hill enfant terrible had sullied his near-perfect record, but he breathed a sigh of relief when Feltier used his charm and asked the fans to respect the tennis for the sake of the French people and for the world. But at the same time Grosjean was bugged because Feltier always followed his sentences with a hanging ‘non?' He reached into his pocket and felt the cluster of Jellybellys that he had so wisely packed before. He took one out, pinched off a dust bunny that clung to it and then lobbed it into his mouth.

The wiry and tall but rather ill-kept young man in a thick, healthy-looking deep green tweed jacket and cuffs too short with shoes that were worse for wear that Grosjean Senior saw walking towards the court was non-other than the Irishman Phelim O'Shea. Sure enough, when the curly-haired O'Shea, great-great grandson to the famous Gaelic hero Paedraihg O'Shea the Daring, one of Ireland's most unsung Celtic leaders during the lean times in Cork a century ago, removed his tweed hat letting the thick red curls (that Fergus Goering always wanted chopped off) flowed over his metallic green eyes and he squinted towards the chair umpire without apparent care to the timing of his interruption. This boy, thought Grosjean, has no guile.

For O'Shea, in his favorite tweed jacket and sporting a good hair day coupled with the three, no, four pints of Guinness at Cedric's Café, this moment was of divine import. As a good Catholic, like his boss Fergus Goering (who was known to imbibe with other Irishmen ‘struck with the curse'), O'Shea knew he had a responsibility to ensure fair play. It was a Christian moral imperative. He had to give Ketchum the shoelaces that he had accidentally put in his pocket. The shoes as they were in the box, were without the proper laces. He saw that this moment of walking on to Centre Court during the men's final carrying the required equipment for his client Ketchum as his fifteen minutes of fame.

When Ketchum realized the laces were missing, he looked up and saw O'Shea in tweed holding the long white shoelaces in his hand, feeling as if a rope had been thrown to him. The sight was enough for the Wimbledon Champ to take a deep breath and rub his feet. Hellmantle, briefly glancing over and bending one of racquet sport's most enduring points of etiquette of not invading ones opponent's space between games, saw that with proper peids equippe he had to change his strategy.

As O'Shea stepped onto court in his favourite North Stars (but with his own size forty-four Birkenstock insoles in place), the fans watched the tall Irishman with the loping gait hand shoelaces to his VIP-client Ketchum, a Canadian who had sold his soul to fight for the British. How as an Irishman can I serve this man who embraces the one force responsible for so much misery in my own country? These were things he could not hope to understand so he chose to look the other way and ignore it so he could serve the Wimbledon champion well. But however hard he tried to keep his thoughts to business, he could not help but see Ketchum as the man who stood in the way of the rightful heir Hellmantle to the French crown in the tradition of Henri Lacoste, Henri Laconte and Jean Berotre. For the O'Shea clan in County Cork, the French Open was all about style and in this final Hellmantle was dripping with style all over the court. He had character like the greats Ilie Nastase, Jimmy Conners and John McEnroe. One of the prerequisites for a French Open Men's Singles Champion is to have what the French call l'esprit d'corps. Without ones own style, one cannot truly be a French Open Tennis Champion in the French tradition. O'Shea blinked as he handed Ketchum the laces and felt for sure the man from Canada had read his thoughts.

"Thanks O'Shea. I owe you one. You and Fergus Goooering." The serious look and the raw rash on Ketchum's chin disappeared for a moment when Ketchum smiled and then broke into a rather desperate laughter. O'Shea, too, could not help but laugh. There they were laughing on Centre Court in front of all the fans. For a moment O'Shea's cheeks flushed as he thought that perhaps some would think he had cracked a French joke. Suddenly there was a flash of what sounded like a weak machine gun but then turned out to be a loud camera bellowing at his rose-hued cheeks. O'Shea's hand flung towards the camera in what seemed to be a violent motion, and another flurry of shots were clicked. O'Shea slowly lowered his hand nearly dislodging the microphone near the net and said to all the cameras: "No, I like the French."

There was silence and confusion for what seemed like an overlooked eternity until Buffy Cranford-Patelle raised her glass of Bordeaux and, just about as she was about to speak, she coughed. The fans erupted with raised glasses and cheers anyway. O'Shea just stood there.

"Viva France!" shouted the crowd in response to the Irishman's words, captured on the on-court microphone and transmitted live to the millions of tennis fans around the world. A colony of yells came from the north corner of the stadium near Miss Leduc and her class.

"C'mon Hellmantlepiece!" The ‘Mantlepiece' moniker had been Luc's invention months before during the winter when he and his friends were keeping warm by the fireplace and the word mantelpiece came up. But they also called him "Mantlepiece" because he was so cool. Luc looked over at the man who sat a few rows over stuffing his mouth with a large croissant and washing it down with a Heineken, but Luc and his co-conspirer and right-hand man, Pierre Grotius, were still eagerly sipping their rum and cola but were now taking out extra straws from their bag with some extra serviettes. Pierre, or "Pee Wee" as Luc and the boys called him, was the first to tear off a piece of napkin and put it into his mouth. Pee Wee Grotius was the direct descendant of Hugo Grotius, father of International Law and author of De Jure Belli et Pacis (Of the Law of War and Peace) in 1625, but Pee Wee didn't know about his pedigree. After rolling the tissue into a wet ball, he placed the straw to his mouth, aimed and shot the ball of saliva-soaked tissue hurling towards the man with the Heineken. Pee Wee's shot landed on Pascal Gufflet's left cheek sticking there until the man whipped up his hand and wiped it off with his bare hand.

The sudden hand movement by Pascal Gufflet to wipe the spitball off his face caught O'Shea's eye while he was being photographed with his North Star client Ketchum. But despite this mild imposition, the Irishman kept his eye on the sweaty-looking man in the tweed. It was then that Slip Sally Ripken caught site of the man wiping something from his cheek. Not sure if it was female intuition or photographer's instinct, but Slick Sally turned immediately and clicked a few of the man in tweed as he took a thirsty swig of Heineken. It was something she liked to do: collective photos of the indigenous peoples in the areas she worked. She already had quite an oeuvre, something Hellmantle had specifically commented on when he had first introduced himself to her at her exhibition in London eight months ago. In fact thinking about it now, it was that word 'oeuvre' that resulted in the two of them playing their own version of one-on-one on a much softer court surface with more forgiving rules but with stricter penalties. Remembering Hellmantle's short game, she felt a sudden pang of loss in her chest. Slick Sally Ripken let out a deep sigh.

Pascal Gufflet, in his current incognito commando role had checked his perimeter and had previously taken note of the children. And since he had partaken in the same Tom Foolery when he was a young lad, he quickly surmised that it was likely the boys in the corner being mischievous. Putting down his croissant, the man with the remote control whipped his head around to Miss Le Duc's class and set his eyes not on the culprit Pee Wee, but on little Ricky Asselstein. The boys looked ahead innocently watching their favorite Hellmantle smile at the tall guy from Ireland.

"Give us a Mantle Pat Hellmantle!" yelled a very brave Pee Wee in an effort to deflect the man's accusing stare. Pascal Gufflet, feeling like he had succeeded in communicating his message that he knew it was them who had been responsible for the assault,  realized that he didn't want the spit ball to spoil his tennis experience nor did he want those kids to wreck his extreme goosieness of being in possession of the other remote control that Monty didn't know about. He didn't want the boys to sully his enjoyment of knowing the bomb was safely in place and poised for detonation. So he turned his head slowly away from little Ricky Asselstein and joined in the chorus against O'Shea.

"Viva France!" he yelled just loud enough for it to be heard by Hellmantle who sat calmly taking a nip of his Scottish tea waiting for Ketchum to tie his shoes. This had to be Ketchum's last time out.

Pascal Gufflet felt the drip of sweat drop from his forehead to his lower lip. He liked the warm saltiness and licked the spot where it dropped. He reached for his remote control and felt a tremendous relief in his chest. He took a drink from his Heineken and yelled out: "Pick it up Johnny. Pick it up my boy..." There was a wavering in his voice that made the people beside him look at him to see if he was in pain. Pascal Gufflet looked on at O'Shea looking at him. But Gufflet could not help himself. He so dearly loved the game of tennis that he wept within for the final he was witnessing before him. But he was also bound seek justice against Warwick Biggerstaff for blackballing him and wrecking his career. It was his turn to sabotage Stiffy's career.

Suddenly realizing that the hollering had faded and there was no longer any reason for him to be on Centre Court, Phelim O'Shea said good luck to his client Ketchum and then looked directly into the TV camera and attempted to make amends.

"It's me mates that don't like this country-" A piercing pulse of voltage struck him from within when he heard his uncensored words. The TV cameraman in the beret looked up from his camera to see if he had just seen and heard correctly. Ignoring the immense reality of his faux pas, the six-foot-four O'Shea smiled when he thought of his immanent date with a pint of the dark lady at the pub He lifted up his arms to the crowd and said "God bless all tennis fans around the world! And particularly to the Irish legend Terry Mulligan who was Ireland's best. I love Ireland!" The word "Guinness" was heard amid the hands gesturing aggressively towards the red-haired man from Cork who strode off the court proud of his role as chosen saviour.

When O'Shea reached the gate, Carter Manson was there with his earpiece in place, poised with his clipboard and mobile-phoned holster.

"Well thank you dearly friend for saving the reigning Wimbledon Champ's feet." Carter Manson shook O'Shea's hand so the eager fans' could see the gesture of reconciliation. "Everyone could see that smooth-moving Hellmantle was running him around as if he was toying with ‘im." O'Shea wasn't sure who this man was so he only smiled at him.

"I'm Carter Manson, the head of security here at the tennis grounds and I would like to thank you on behalf of the tournament committee of your act of loyalty to your associate." Carter, straightening his posture flashed his badge. "As an expression of our gratitude I would like to extend to you a free pass to the VIP lounge and bar where you may enjoy whatever you like on the house." Carter Manson held out a VIP pass. "Please, accept our gift."

Without thinking, Phelim O'Shea replied "Thanks mate. Why don't you join me for a pint of the dark lady and you can show me the way?" The Irishman's easy-going grin unmasked Carter Manson's professional gait for a moment, and then seized the doubting side of his nature.

"No I really shouldn't but I'll happily show you the way." With a nod they left the edge of the clay surface and took the wooden stairwell up to the player's lounge that hung directly below the scoreboard. Carter took O'Shea up the stairs but upon reaching the top had an urgent message from a frantic Layton Corners. So Carter pointed at the entrance and told O'Shea that important business was afoot and that he couldn't drink while on duty. They departed and O'Shea made his way toward the Player's VIP lounge. When he reached the entrance there was no one there to check his pass, all eyes were focused on the match that all could see along the eastern wall that opened to Centre Court. O'Shea, feeling brave from his religious experience as saviour, walked in knowing they had all seen him but hoping they hadn't heard what transpired. The players that were there nodded in varying degrees of casualness, excitement and exhaustion. Suddenly, a short man with dyed blonde hair pulled back over his head with his eyes squinting appeared beside O'Shea.

"You're not supposed to be in here are you?" he said. "Where are you going please?"

"Mustn't talk so directly sir," he replied, again not thinking of what he was saying. "As a matter of fact I'm going to have a powwow on the house."

"I'm not asking you as a customer of this lounge sir, I'm asking you as the secretary of this lounge please. We don't want men in here who shouldn't be. Where are you going please?" His eyes black and penetrating dug into him like a clamp with sharp teeth. Beside him was a dartboard with a cluster of darts. O'Shea stepped over, pulled out a dart and threw it toward the dart board but missing by three feet, hitting the wall instead. There the dart stayed. O'Shea took out his VIP card and flashed it at him like a badge. "Mister Carter Manson gave me this pass as a gift." The mention of the name "Manson" was enough for the man to retreat and send a waitress over right away.

O'Shea quickly assessed his choices and opted for the small table beside the young French sensation Jerome Golmard and two girls. O'Shea settled down beside the brunette with sparkling eyes named Suzanne, along with Golmard and the blonde.

"Le tennis...c'est bon n'est-ce pas?" O'Shea drawled in his best French. Golmard turned and nodded as a waitress arrived.

"An aperitif monsieur?" Golmard looked at O'Shea and said "pint of beer, non?" The smile of the saviour returned to his face as he squinted into the setting sun in the western sky from their windowless edge above the court. Golmard, ever the Frenchman, ordered another bottle of red wine but O'Shea, with no real Guinness served at the bar, was enduring an inner violence as to what to drink. All the other beers were crappy compared to his beloved pint of the dark lady, so the only choice, even though it meant possible danger, was to opt for a cold pint of cider, a choice that left him suddenly concerned. When the drinks arrived and Ketchum finally had his shoes on, O'Shea was in full-regret mode for veering off the course of good judgment and opening the door to such nefarious possibilities. He had experienced enough snake bites to know that every single time he had mixed beer and cider he had ended up in a predicament of some sort. So when the clapping began to the third point of the 13th game in the fifth set, it was with trembling hands that the cider reached his lips and the snake bite began. Golmard, noticing his shaking hands, asked "You have money on this match, non?"

Down below the players were returning to the court. Hellmantle, in his lime green surf shorts now a darker hue than the original bright green but now splattered with clay around the pockets and on the thigh, walked towards Guy with his Yonex towel around his neck. Ketchum now sported a bright new pair of North Stars, the flagship brand that sought to renew their once formidable shoe empire. Hellmantle had retained his poise with the tea helping sooth his nerves. He wondered if Guy could smell the faint trace of Jack Daniels on his breath when he held out his racquet face for three balls to serve. And when he handed him his Yonex towel, he was sure he could.

Suddenly Hellmantle was struck with a life-long paranoia that had hampered his game for years. It was his serve. When he was far into a long match he had a tendency to exaggerate his serving motion, and now, at the moment he put his toe on the line and the crowd hushed down, he felt that he was becoming undone. Using the strength of his mind, he tried to feel his arms but he couldn't seem to find his grip. Taking a deep breath and bouncing the ball a few extra times, Hellmantle faced his opponent and went for the toss. There was a shudder as he raised his left arm so that the ball went askew to the right where it landed halfway to the sideline. A murmur went through the crowd. Hellmantle, not embarrassed but rather humoured by the error, again took a deep breath but this time he found his wind. Immediately, without bouncing the ball, he tossed and nailed a solid serve down the centerline. Ketchum, noticeably more nimble on his feet, jumped on the ball and hit it deep to his backhand but Hellmantle hadn't gone back to the baseline because of the exaggerated follow through, so he was forced to hit a half-volley from his ankles. In a perfectly horizontal motion he hit the ball dead-on down the backhand line. Ketchum, running to get to the ball stretched just enough for the return to fall short at the net. The high, sissy return came down ten feet from the net with a deceiving high bounce. Swirling from the ball's lack of spin, it came down like a bullet. Hellmantle, keeping his eye on the ball, rearranged his entire body to accommodate the falling ball swinging at it almost sidearm. The result was a side-spinning stroke that went back to Ketchum at his feet. With the new leather still stiff, Ketchum went to manoeuvre around the bounce but instead stubbed his toe on a clump of clay.

"Trente-cinze ‘Ellmantle" said Rusty, not realizing that he had used Higgins' nickname.

"Damn!" he yelled, but held up his hand indicating a good shot by Hellmantle. Ketchum faced the court and looked curiously at his new shoes. He jumped up and then squatted down on the line, and then up he went bouncing on his feet again. Only slowly did he begin to shake his head. When Phelim O'Shea watched with Golmard and the girls from the VIP lounge, he had an odd sensation creep up his neck and into his mind. "My Birkenstock insoles," he said aloud. "I-." He looked at Golmard who was keeping stats on bar napkins he had accumulated. O'Shea looked at the Frenchman's tattoo and then back at Ketchum. It was when Ketchum looked to the box beside his chair and then back at his shoes that O'Shea knew that he had given Ketchum his own shoes with the size 44 Birkenstock insoles. He was relieved to know that it was the right size but was freaking out at the thought of a foot that has never been on a Birkenstock insole before. He was alarmed about Ketchum's feet on a Birkenstock because footwear was his craft. It was the high arches that Ketchum was feeling right now as he bounced up and down. It was the stretching of the metacarpal tissue against the force of lunging on the higher and fuller arch. But once the foot's arch is raised from the higher Birkenstock arch, it bends in a perfect arch along the big-toe-line. The outside of the foot along the top is kneaded outward over the arch stretching the ligaments along the outside of the lower calves. Ketchum's naturally fallen arches will make his feet feel like it's balanced on the middle of a long arch. Apprenticing ones foot to ‘the Birkenstock way' takes a week or two with small walks, but to break-in ones foot during a Grand Slam tennis match was extreme and even dangerous.  

Phelim O'Shea again reached for his pint of cider with his jittering hands a little worse now, and thought that he was the only one in the stadium watching that knew of the strife Ketchum's feet were about to endure. Ignoring the fact that the British Davis Cup number one kept jumping up and down looking at his shoes and shaking his head, the saviour placed his cider down in a watery mess and focused on one thing: Ketchum's posture. Apart from  all the benefits of Birkenstocks, the overwhelming plus from adopting Birkenstock footwear was that O'Shea's posture had reached a sort of perfect equilibrium. His alignment couldn't be straighter. With the higher arches the back is forced to straighten; that's why people thought he was so tall. But Ketchum's feet will stretch and force his arch upwards causing a new alignment up his spine. Ketchum will need to do something urgently about the inch and a half of height he was about to gain from a new ‘Birkenstock posture.'

 

 
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