The nearest concrete wall was three miles away which wasn’t far by my standards. It was 1969 and mom didn’t like the idea that I would ride my bicycle to the wall at the local university to hit tennis balls probably because I was ten years old and a girl, and too independent for my own good as she would say, so she insisted that I take the back roads and avoid the busy parkway.
Most of the time I did as she asked but if I was in a hurry the back roads nearly doubled the distance and the highway was so much quicker I would just ride my bicycle fast in case someone I knew noticed and felt the need to tell my mom. At the wall, at the university of course, I got to meet people twice my age just by hitting tennis balls. I could easily hit tennis balls on the wall for hours, or it seemed like hours because I didn’t wear a watch and if I got hungry I always carried a few coins to get a snack at the student book store none of which I was supposed know about at my age.
One day, as I hit and hit the ball over and over, a college student asked if I wanted to hit on the tennis court with him and yes I did. I brought my box of used tretorn tennis balls that never wear out with me but he had a new can of slazenger so we used his. The balls were more bouncy than I was used to and he was quite good, better than I and at first I wasn’t sure why he asked me to hit with him, but eventually my wood bancroft racket and I could keep the ball in play just as well as he did, and I was happy running from side to side keeping up with this much older college student. Just wait until I get home and tell my parents that I played tennis with a college student and I imagined their reaction to be just as gleeful as mine.
After we played tennis for several hours as one did back in those days hoping to become the next pam shriver, it was time for me to ride my bicycle home. I rode it as fast as I could and couldn’t wait to share my good news. I even rode the back roads though I didn’t want to as it was slower. I reached my house and dropped my bicycle in the lawn too excited to put it properly in the garage and ran inside only to find everyone eating dinner at the kitchen table.
I received a stern lecture on not getting home on time for dinner that followed with an inquisition as to what I could have been doing for the last five hours which I didn’t realize it had been five hours. Dad was talking about taking my bicycle away from me for a week and there was much discussion as to what kind of punishment would be appropriate and nobody wanted my opinion, which of course was punishment was not necessary. Then they wanted to know where my bicycle was and I wished I hadn’t dropped it in the lawn, but I had and there was no way to change that so I said that I left it out because I wasn’t sure if the garage was open which was a lie and that didn’t help matters.
After much back and forth, and this versus that, they decided that I could still ride my bicycle but I would be banned from riding to the university tennis courts for a week which seemed unfair but they were determined. I didn’t think this would be a good time to bring up my new friend the college student that less than an hour earlier I was so happy to have met guessing they wouldn’t find this in the same positive spirit as I, so I kept my mouth shut letting the conversation sort itself out. Eventually the dinner topic changed and my brother had won another gold star in school, math i think, and that made everyone very happy and perhaps I could try to follow in his footsteps instead of chasing a tennis ball. I didn’t think those gold stars really meant much and I said so which got me sent to my room but that gave me time to figure out how to ride my bicycle the next day back to the wall and rendezvous with my new college friend.
~~Fiction by J Wadsworth