Chapter One - Charlie

Charlie turned his alarm off and rolled over wondering whether if he kept sleeping he would wake up in time.

Charlie pulled down the dusty cardboard box from his garage shelf and placed it beside his pile of wooden pallets he had found.

On the side of the cardboard box was written “tennis stuff”. It took him a second (a long second) to think why he had tennis gear in his garage in the first place. After brushing the dust from the top of the box he saw some scribbled writing. SVTC. South View Tennis Club. His old club. Removing the lid, the memories came flooding back like a slow web browser loading. Was he meant to give this back? Did he keep it for himself? Or was one of his children hoping they would one day want to fit it? Was it even worth anything now?

Tennis balls, a few racquets and even some tennis shoes lay in the box. Nervous to even see if the shoes still fit him, he opted to inspect one of the balls first. Worn, slightly fluffy and even a little dirty but still round. Sitting on a chair he bounced it on the concrete and after a few bounces, it rolled and landed near a stack of plywood lying against the wall. The movement of the tennis ball lit a fire in his body he wasn’t expecting. It was as if he had gone right back to the very place he most fondly remembered when he used to play. Suddenly he could recall the movements. The flick of the wrist and the vibration of the ball connecting with the racquet.

Charlie put on his old tennis shoes. The Velcro marks of where the straps used to fold weren’t quite in the same position as they used to. He retrieved the ball which had rolled underneath the pile of wood and grabbed his old tennis racquet.

With all the nervousness and excitement of playing in his previous club days, he got into position ready to hit the ball at the stack of wood. He bounced the ball and with one movement of his body, gave it a forehand like he never had in the past 10 years (because he had it). He heard a sound, and then he felt some vibration… The sound was his shoulder clicking and the vibration was his back spasming.

Was this the reason he stopped playing tennis? This was how his body reacted to exercise these days, or so he told himself, and others around him confirmed. Things didn’t operate the way they used to and that’s just the way it was.

Slightly hobbling and in need of some pain killers for his back, he left his tennis gear out (too far to bend down and pick up) and exited the garage. As he was walking back to his front door he noticed a skateboarder waiting at a traffic light crossing over the road that was red.

He always wanted to skateboard but never quite got the hang of it.

Before the light was anywhere close to going green, the skateboarder threw his board out on the road, ran at it and jumped on cruising down the middle of the road keeping up with inner city traffic.

That was illegal. He broke the law and shouldn’t have done that. But why did Charlie care so much about him breaking the law? “It was dangerous” he told himself. Yet somewhere deep down, passed what he admitted to himself might be jealousy (might!), was a slight appreciation for the skateboarder.

How did he do it? Was it all the tattoos?

What would happen if I hopped on one of those?

Concrete is hard.

He couldn’t bare to imagine.

His back spasm reprioritised his attention and he headed inside to the all too familiar medicine cabinet.