Not having played it for some time, the old friends were rusty and a little drunk, but always on the look-out for some competition, so they said, What the hell, and headed for the basement where the landlord had left a battered table, a couple beat-up paddles, and one good ball out of four, and the first friend said, Boy, I don’t know if I even remember how to serve this thing, but the second friend said, Look, you go like this, and he did, and so they played for six hours, each of them remembering in turn how to add a little English, or how to deftly get the long shots—or at least the ones that didn’t go in the cat litter or the sump pump hole or way back behind some left-over 2 x 4s, when they’d put the cat back there, too, and hope she’s knock it back to them, and sure enough, it happened enough times they would smile every time, and they both got sweaty and forgot about their beers or else knocked them over going for a wide shot near the chimney where they’d put them to be safe, and soon the games got so close they stopped keeping score, since each game went to deuce anyway, and it wasn't long before they were in top form once again, or so they thought, and each was full of admiration for nearly every shot the other made, and the first friend got really good at back-spin so that the ball would die on the edge of the table and fall off, and the second friend got really good at pulling impossible shots out of his ass, as it were, so that the first friend was laughing so hard in disbelief he sometimes couldn't return the ball, and this went on for, as I said, six hours, until their wives came downstairs and wanted to know what was so funny and what were they supposed to be doing while the men played around down here like a couple goddamn kids—but, no, that’s not the way it happened, I made that up as an easy resolution—what really happened was, after a few hours of this, they began to realize that it’s difficult to be friends if you never do anything together, if you only sort of talk about things, share views, as they say, and maybe have an occasional lunch once in a while, no you gotta do something together, like jog, or play tennis, or Jesus, even play ping pong once in a while like they were doing that very minute, and each felt closer to the other, and they knew each of them felt that way, but they didn’t talk about it, just kept playing and having fun, and then when they decided to call it a night, the beer was gone, the first friend said, You know, I really enjoyed that, and the other friend agreed, and said, You know, let’s start doing this more often, sort of have a ping pong night once in a while, get together, have some beers, relax, get away, and, you know, have some fun.
But, of course, they never did again.
Danny Rendleman's last book of poetry was Stepping Into the River Once. He has a new book due this fall from Kelsay Books, Continuo. His poetry and fiction have been published in a gob of mags, from Clown War to American Poetry Review, from Happiness Holding Tank to Field.