"Deuce!" a vicious backhand snapped across the net.
Third deuce in this never-ending round. The ball bounced noisily off the cement walls, rebounding on the floor. In table-tennis, the defendent gets exercise by retrieving loose balls.
Slyly smiling, my opponent straightened up, taunting me, tormenting me, tantalizing me with a promise.
"If you break back," he cajoled, "and take the set, I'll give you that." An oversized brass trophy gleamed in the flourescent light.
Undaunted, I hitched up my white ducks and eyed the monster. "You're on."
Business was business. Women aren't particularly wanted in the man's dominon of table-tennis. Women are to be subservient, obedient to boyfriends, husbands and dogs; but independent scrappy fighters on a man's turf? No way, Jose. Tough to beat, I was kept forever in the lineup simply because I was a female. No man likes his ego shattered by a kid, fourteen years old with rubbery arms stretching like Gumbo.
The youth minister perspired in the church basement.
"You sure?" he taunted. "If you lose, take the consequences."
Defiantly I shrugged. "Like what?" I asked.
"Like washing the floors."
"No sweat, " I commented, not to be put off. Twice, he broke back, but I could win. Even if he were number one; I was the better player. Women are not inferior to men. I packed more cucumbers than the packers could, taking the record. I waited, recognizing the symptons of a forthcoming sermon. Cheese, women compose fifty percent of the world, even if they aren't disciples of Jesus.
He was psychologically tormenting me. Anytime he was losing, he stopped the action, deliberated over nonrelated issues and then changed the tempo. In tournament play, he'd get penalized, but as the cock of the fence, the youth pastor of the church, he called the shots. Besides it was his turn to serve.
He shifted warily, eyeing me like a fox. "You sure?"
"Sure." I said, glancing at the gleaming metal hunk above his head. It'd look good, regardless of the plate lettering.
"Okay," he said, unexpectedly snapping the ball out of his hand. False moves were his strong point. Not much straight about him overall, but in this world there are no rules. One believes in God and eternity for those. The ball whistled. I snapped it back, nicking the edge before it riccocheted off the wall.
"My ad," I said flatly. I knew his tactics. He could beat me if I laughed. This time no laughs. Enough of false promises. Dump that trophy on me—see if I'll cry when I lug it home.
I extended my hand. He glanced at it. Oh no, another tirade about humility or subservience.
"Vamity, vanity, vanity," saith the preacher..." Paul tossed the ball over. "Your glory is but empty."
Unperturbed, I executed a swift swish across the net, catching him off balance.
"You're puckering," he cajoled. "Wrinkling your nose destroys your pretty looks..."
My backhand sliced neatly through the air sending a resounding smash into the corner. He dived dramatically, saving it on the rebound. It careened back. He smiled wickedly. "You can't win. You're only a girl."
The wasp stung. "The heck, I can't," I dug into the floor, sending a twisting spin back.
He lunged. As his body hit the table, the paddle fell.
"Game," I deadpanned. We exchanged sides. So many times I had been cheated by distractions.
He complained about the glare; the table was longer on his side. He needed a potty break.
"40-15," I announced, sending a light peck over the net, hanging like the Sputnik. He missed. The ball dribbled off the edge. My shirt clung with sweat. After months of promises, I had taken my set. And then, he extended the rules to the best of three sets. Hours later, I still stood there, victorious, as victorious as Jacob when he won Rachel, his wife.
Holding the gleaming light, I enjoyed the reflection of my hot face. "I'll get it engraved with the date and names."
"You can't take it," he argued defensively, "I didn't mean it."
"I won—fair, straight play," I replied. "Not an illegal move in the entire set."
"After all it was only a game, " he tergisversated.
"You promised You made the rules and I played-- and then you changed the rules." Anger burned at the injustice.
"It's only a game..." he cajoled. Bitterly I realized he never meant to keep his commitments.
Walking out, I shut the door behind me—betrayed.