Symbole du masque et de l’ombre. Embrace-toi, embrace-toi!
In a rabid yet hushed chant the voices seemed to rise with the dancing flames; until it became a constant hiss.
The tribal drums tapped onto the asphalt in no discernible rhythm. It was as though the drums were the ones in control. Amongst the chaotic symphony a human shape strapped to a chair shuddered. Their blindfolded head jerked violently in an effort to see what was happening. Once the blindfold is removed, their face twists into several looks of confusion, horror, and shock. Their confused questions were answered with just one phrase.
“Symbole du masque de l’ombre. Embrace-toi, embrace-toi.”
Across the street from the outdoor park, another human shape stares out the window of a modest home.
“Man I swear to god who is playing pickleball this late? Like seriously.” Gil’s eyes peered through the blinds towards the park, illuminated by the gentle glow coming from the interior of it.
“Oh, come on babe just put the fan on high.” Clarissa said as she flipped through to the next page of her book.
“Yeah but then you will get cold in the night,” He said, glancing from the window at her now. “Like what the hell are they even doing? You hear that?” The two sat quiet for a moment, outside they could hear the vague rhythmic tapping's of pickleball paddles, excited voices, and a sort of light music.
Gil looked out the window again, the large walled enclave around the courts glowed with a yellow and orange hue that danced from the moving bodies on the court. “I swear if this keeps up I'm gonna’ call the cops.”
“Oh you're gonna’ go Karen on them?” Clarissa said with a laugh.
“Yeah, either that or I'm going to cut the wire for those damn lights out there.”
Gil turned on the fan, and buried his head into his pillows. “I think I'm going to work out there tomorrow, maybe see what this whole pickleball shit is about.”
Beneath a cloudless sky, the “Early Birds,” as they called themselves, had just begun to arrive for the 6AM pickleball club. Anywhere else this late in autumn it likely would have been too cold to play outside, but not for Santa Monica California.
The brilliant sun began to rise, and the numerous geriatrics circled the courts like buzzards circling prey. Doing their warmups, and catching up with one another, sometimes doing more talking than playing.
As the games got under way, Kim ruled the session alongside his partner for the day Edith. Despite being one of the older men of the group Kim was in stellar shape. Short yet stout, he would wear a sort of tank top or leotard regardless of the weather. He was an unusually chipper man, who had immigrated from Japan in the early 1950's and lived for the pilates classes. That and pickleball.
There was a revolving door of old folks that would come every other day to play. Some would go to the night sessions, and others would go to the morning ones. Regardless of the time and who played, they played for one thing. To feel young again. Sometimes their bodies would not cooperate with this desire.
Kim's teammate Edith,who was the unofficial leader of the group, was a retired teacher who seemed to have a different pair of Richard-Simmonsesq tights for every day of the week. They met Robert and Phyliss at center net to do the ceremonial tap of rackets before facing off.
Robert, was a lanky bald eagle looking man, who next to Kim was perhaps the best and most competitive pickleball player. Sometimes this rubbed people the wrong way, part of it maybe was his unintentionally loud voice. He could sound as though he was yelling at you even though he was whispering. This also could be related to his hearing, or lack thereof.
Then lastly the aforementioned Phyliss and her husband Ernie. Perhaps the least athletic two of the Early Birds. With what they lacked in talent they made up with heart. They were regulars to both groups almost every day of the week. Looking at them you wouldn't have been able to guess they were going to work out or do anything active.
Between Ernie in his belted cargo shorts, mid-shin height socks, and typical polo; and Phyliss with her floral pants, thick glasses, and assorted t-shirts, the two looked more likely to go to a luncheon than anything. The great signifier that the games had begun was Phyliss would wrap a four finger thick sweat band beneath her puffy white hair.
Several games had gone by when everyone in the group took notice of a young man who was using the outdoor workout park. The game stopped for a point scored by Phyliss and Robert. Phyliss waddled over to her husband Ernie and gulped down some water from her Hydroflask. “Not playing today honey?” She asked, wiping the water and sweat from her lips.
Ernie's mustache shifted before he let out a dejected sigh. “No. I don't have the strength to play today.” He turned to look away from her, “Today I just feel my age ya know?” Phyliss gave an apologetic smile, and then as if sensing Edith's gaze she joined alongside as well.
“Oh yeah! Nice volley there.” Robert said in his booming voice. He noticed everyone's attention was elsewhere though. “What's everyone looking at?”
He joined the group and they watched the young man as he stretched, adjusted his weighted vest and proceeded to do what many of them couldn't do even in their youth.
Edith’s milky blue eyes were so wide they seemed to bulge, “He's so strong. Would-ya look at those arms.” There was a brittle murmur amongst the group.
Kim crossed his arms, “Oh he's not so strong.”
Phyliss adjusted her headband, “easy for you to say, you have enough energy for two people.”
Ernie's voice whistled as he added: “Yes, it's unnatural, we need someone to beat you today.” He looked down at his belly dejected, “I don't think I have the energy to play today. Maybe we'll see if we can recruit that kid. Maybe see if he wants to play with the “Night Owls. What do ya think Edith?”
Edith’s smiling dentures stretched beyond what should've been possible, “Oh yes, yes we should see if he wants to play. We haven't had any fresh blood around here in a while!” She nodded emphatically as she spoke.
It was at this point Gil dropped down from the chin up bar and wiped the sweat from his brow. He went through his notes and his targeted exercises he wanted to do for the day. At the bottom of the list was a question: play pickleball? He shook his head and deleted it. Then he pulled up his Youtube app to continue the flow of music. Why can’t Youtube continue while you are out of the app? He hit next several times on his playlist. As he waited for the skip ad option to pop up he noticed a group elderly people staring at him, all smiling awkwardly.
He glanced around himself to see if they were looking at him, he found that he was the one lone soul in this area of the adult jungle gym. He winced at the sudden loud onslaught of Bad Bunny now pouring into his ears. “Fuck.” He whispered to himself exasperated, as his fingers slipped around the screen of his phone.
He paused the music on his air pods and awkwardly waved to them. “Uh hey how's it going?” A lady in colorful leggings and a cartoonishly wide smile,came over with an older buff Asian man.
The group observed hopefully as Kim and Edith spoke with the young man.
“Is it going well? Phyliss chirped from the back. “I can't see without my glasses.”
Ernie responded as if a bug was in his throat. “No honey it doesn't look like it is.”
Robert whispered loudly, “If anyone can recruit someone it's Edith, she almost always rings em in.”
Robert could hear Edith say one of her usual lines, “It's the fastest growing sport in the country.”
After some further selling, she and Kim brought the recruit over to the group.
Ernie grabbed his wife's hand, “Bingo.”
Edith gave a grand hand gesture to the group. “Everyone this is Gil. He is being a trooper and going to play with us some.”
The old folks all gave approving hoots, and introduced themselves.
Gil shifted his feet, “Uh hi, I will try to remember everyone's names.”
Edith continued, a prideful smile on her face. “Matter of fact Gil used to play pickleball in highschool.”
Gil held up a hand, “Well, highschool was a long time ago,” he said with a nervous laugh.
Everyone laughed as if it were a laugh track.
Ernie leaned forward, “And how long ago was that Gil?”
Gil’s head tilted to the side as he seemed to be doing math in his head. “Oh about 8 years ago already now.”
Robert's booming voice made almost everyone jump, “It's like riding a bike Gil!” He gave him a solid slap on his shoulder forcing Gil to wince.
Ernie and Phyliss moved away from the interview slightly. Under his breath Ernie whispered. His voice hardly could contain his excitement. “He’s perfect.”
After several hard fought games the group began to disperse but not without attempting to get Gil to join them for the night session. “No that's okay I have a lot of housework to get caught up on already.”
Kim all but begged him. “Oh come on Gil tonight's a big tournament, there will be others like you there.”
“Like me?” Gil’s head leaned to the side in confusion.
Robert leaned in with a hearty laugh. “He means people without arthritis. Youngsters like you.”
Edith leaned uncomfortably close, so much so that Gil could smell the mornings coffee on her breath. “Oh yes, it truly is a good time, just good old fashioned fun. The PM group calls itself the Night Owls.” She wiggled her eyebrows almost seductively. “Plus there is a grand prize for the winners.”
Gil tilted his ear towards her, clearly interested. “A prize? Like a gift card to Cracker Barrel or something?”
They all chuckled at the jest, except for Kim his face was very taught. “No big prize, four thousand for each partner.”
Gil’s eyebrows raised as his eyes widened, “Four thousand?” His voice was filled with disbelief.
Kim held up four fingers simply repeating, “Four thousand for each.”
Gil paused, his mind jumped to thinking about how that would cover his rent for a month and some change if he saved it right. It may just allow him and Clarissa to actually have some carry over. Maybe they could save some for themselves for once.
To cement it Robert added, “If you and Kim ended up on a team you two might just be the bell of the ball.” Gil’s interest peaked at the thought, he would return that night to play. Maybe there would be a few other more youthful people there, though he felt he had a pretty good chance against most of the windbags there. And what the heck? It's just pickleball.
After a quick light dinner Gil was preparing to return to the park with a new found enthusiasm in his heart for pickleball. Clarissa wished to attend with him but she ended up having to attend a zoom class for her Psychology course she was taking. “Have fun, take it easy on those old farts.”
“Nope, no mercy, gonna be 4k richer next time you see me.” He leaned in and gave her a kiss. She pulled away, giving a playful tug on his hair, “Knock em dead.” Her hand shot to her mouth covering it, “Oh god maybe not a good thing to say.”
Gil laughed and grabbed his gym bag and freshly bought pickleball racket. “Yeaaah maybe not best line of thought with this crowd. I’ll see ya later, love you.” He opened the front door to the moonlit night. Clarissa smiled as he began to close the door, “If it gets too loud out there I'm calling the cops on you guys!”
It was a chilly night, though the brisk night air felt good to breathe in. There was a light seaside breeze tugging his clothes against his body.
As Gil approached he could see some of the same cars that were there earlier during his session with the “Early Birds” group.
The lack of any lights turned on surrounding the park confused Gil some, he would have figured there would be lights or numerous signs pointing the general populous and gym goers here. As he entered the front gates he also found it odd at the lack of flyers or advertisement for such a tournament.
Four thousand dollars for two winners, you would think such a pot would be a bigger deal. How the heck is this little group able to make such a large prize? But he rationalized to himself that these were Santa Monica retirees afterall. With such money on the line it made sense why the games would get so rowdy in the night. Now he would see what all the fuss was about.
His stomach went into knots as he walked in through the walled entrance and passed the fences leading to the courts. It was a starless night, apart from being lit by the moon, the facilities were all in shadow, it was dark everywhere but the approaching courts. Gil laughed to himself about the nervous dance happening to his stomach. Come one it's just pickleball.
Gil could make out much of the same group from the morning, as well as a handful of others. Much like before he was greeted with the same uncomfortable sort of lifeless stares. It was odd to Gil because it was as though there was not much movement in the group until it was known he had arrived. That's when everything seemed to go into motion. People began stretching and conversing in small huddles.
Robert approached him first, tonight he was wearing a headband covering his mostly bald head. “You met the Early Birds. Tonight you meet the Night Owls.” He punctuated the sentence with a hearty laugh.
There was a small makeshift table behind Robert, Gil pointed towards it with a grin on his face. “Is that where I pay my entry fee?”
Appearing out of nowhere, a small but strong arm wrapped around Gil’s shoulders. “I already covered yours partner.” Gil turned to the thin smile of Kim, who gave him a fist bump with his free hand.
“Oh really? Thanks, you didn't have to do that!”
Kim shook his head. “No, No, I did. It's like an investment.”
“Okay, well we got this then.” Gil responded with an awkward smile, “Who do we have first?”
Kim finally let his arm off Gil’s shoulder, “Well we have this devil here.” He said pointing to Robert.
Robert pretended to look away, “Ha you guys don't stand a chance.” Somewhere in the group Edith ordered the games to begin.
Robert's partner was a chubby man with a walrus-like mustache and peppered brown hair, named Marvin. They tapped rackets with Gil and Kim and lined up across from them. As they played Gil quickly worked up an improbable sweat.
He couldn't help but notice that Robert and the other man were incredibly focused. There were no smiles exchanged, just a sort of determined dead focus they had about them. Gil figured the cash prize changed the attitudes of everyone there.
There were several rapid volleys back and forth, coinciding with Gil drop shotting the small plastic ball outside the reach of Robert. Robert groaned slightly “Ahh Shoot!”
In between sets they all took a small breather. Kim handed Gil a red Gatorade and they talked in between gulps.
Gil glanced around and noticed that their game was the only one going. All of the other participants were in a circle of sorts around them watching. “Why’s no one else playing? There's three other courts.”
Robert gave a hooked smile, “You are the main event kid.”
Kim leaned in,”Yeah not bad Gil, you got some skills, that was a nice drop shot! Worked up a good sweat too huh?” Make sure you get your fluids up and drink up. We are gonna need the strength to win the championship.”
Gil nodded and obliged, though he felt odd. Even though he may win some money that night to pay for a few months rent or whatever he wanted, he felt like everyone looked at him strangely. Like he was a piece of meat or something.
“Alright next set’s up, let's kick these guys asses eh Gil? You ready?” Kim gave him another firm fistbump.
Gil stood, surprised by how heavy his body felt. Meanwhile Kim hopped to his feet as if he were a rabbit.
As he walked toward the end of the court he stubbed his toe, almost slipping. “Woah shit.” He caught himself, looking to see if anyone noticed the young guy being more tired than the old guys. Everyone indeed was watching but did not acknowledge it or chose not to.
Robert prepared to serve the ball. He held it at eye level, “Service.” He slapped the little plastic ball over the net, it seemed like it came at a thousand miles per hour.
Kim hit it with his paddle, it bounced up high in the air before being hit back towards Gil now. His feet felt as though they were in sand, he leapt over and went for the ball. He just barely managed to knick the ball back towards Kim who slapped it over the net. What's going on? Am I that tired from playing against these fogies?
While these thoughts bounced back and forth in Gil’s head like a pickleball, the ball went speeding past him into the nets behind him.
“Oooh dang! Too slow Gil, you will get the next one.” Kim yelled. The murmur of the crowd seemed to be as loud as a tornado for some reason.
Gil bent over, slowly picking up the ball. He went to serve it back over to Robert but swung and miss. He blinked his eyes several times in mild surprise.
“Swing and a miss!” Robert shouted.
What's wrong with me? Gil watched his fingers move, they were not moving normally, it was as if they were in slow motion. He stood watching them for a moment, oblivious to his surroundings.
Confused, he looked up at Kim who approached him with a concerned smile. “You okay Gil?”
Then he almost stumbled into Edith who was behind him suddenly, “Yes you look pale honey why don't you have a seat. Come over this way.” Her hands gestured to a waiting chair.
“No, no I'm okay I think I'm just a little dehydrated maybe.” His hand went to the back of his neck feeling a large moist patch of sweat.
The rest of the old people continued to chant. He then started to lose his balance, before he knew it his head was spinning, and so was he.
He fell to the ground, the last thing his fleeting vision caught was a circle of wrinkled, sagging faces looking down at him. Their faces lacked the concern they had moments ago. It was more like a pleased greed.
When Gil awoke, his vision was shrouded in darkness. Though with what vision he did have he could see through the cloth or whatever was covering his face vague shadows and dancing lights.
His head throbbed, he hadn't had a hangover like this since he turned thirty. Did I drink?
He went to rub his temple, and remove whatever was blocking his vision only to find that his hands were bound behind his back. What the fuck? He tried to speak but all that could come out was a muffled grunt. Whoever had tied him to this chair not only bound him and blindfolded him, they gagged him.
Oh my god, where am I? What is happening?
His mind was racing. It was then he heard it. A rhythmic tapping of what sounded like plastic over the top of concrete. It was then his blindfold was pulled down. He blinked several times adjusting to the light, once he was able to see clearly he was dumbfounded.
Kim stood in front of him, a morbid grin on his face. Is this some sick joke? Behind him, rather surrounding them was the crowd of the same old people who were watching them play. The Night Owls. Erie shadows were cast on their sagging, gastly, skeletal faces. A fire pit of some kind was blazing behind them, Gil thought this gave them the appearance of the undead waiting to get into hell.
What are you doing? Gil wanted to shout but forgot he was muzzled.
The tapping continued, he then realized the source of the sound. In front of him standing in opposing lines like a marching band they clanked their pickleball rackets on the court; while doing the same chanting. He remembered it from just before he collapsed.
His brown eyes pleaded with them, for answers, or anything.
He tried with all of his strength to escape, though it felt as though he was being squeezed to death by an anaconda.
Edith approached him now, her white dentures almost had a glow in the night with her smile. She leaned in close, the smell of sweat and rose scented perfume wafted into Gil’s face. Her eyes stared into his.
She lowered her long veiny neck down to his restrained arm. Just when he thought he couldn't be anymore horrified or shocked Gil felt her warm wet tongue glaze over it. Gil squirmed in the chair, what the fuck he meant to say, but with the gag in his mouth, what came out instead was a strained groan as he squirmed in the chair.
Her tongue moved up and down his arm as if she were licking an ice cream cone. When she finally pulled her mouth away it left a trail of saliva like a slug had crawled across it.
Edith held up a frail fist into the air, the chants and beating sticks ceased in response. There were only the crackle of the fire, and the hum of distant traffic, oblivious to the strange happenings.
Crickets resumed their chirping hesitantly.
“He is ready! Ernie, Phyliss, come forward.”
The circle of geriatrics parted, allowing Phyliss and Ernie to awkwardly walk through towards Gil, Edith, and Kim.
As they got closer, Gil noticed that their skin seemed to be much more loose than the hours prior. The flaps of skin on Ernie's girthy neck moved with every step.
He thought it could've been the pale glow of the moon competing with the dance of the flames. Or perhaps something else. What something else, he did not know.
Edith began to speak, the words rapidly spat from her mouth. Though after a moment of careful listening Gil realized that it was not English she was speaking. He could not pinpoint the origin of it either, he listened for familiar words or syllables.
As she spoke the circle formed back up, the chanting, the beating of the rackets returned as well.
Some of the decrepit shapes began to shudder and whisper nonsensical words as if speaking in tongues.
It was then Edith, while speaking her strange language, snipped a piece of Gil’s hair off. She put it into a bowl filled with a sloshing liquid of some kind.
Then with a pestle she ground the hair into the liquid. She dipped her finger in the mixture, and lined it on the foreheads of Phyliss and Ernie. She bowed her head, prompting them to drink from it.
The crowd at this point went into a savage frenzy. Those speaking in tongues seemed to speak faster than possible, louder until it became a buzz.
This can't be happening, please someone stop this.
As if answering his prayers the group began to die down, in its place a loud yell from outside the ritual circle.
All that Gil was able to hear was an authoritative voice saying. “I was called for a noise complaint by a neighbor in the area.”
Yes police, police! Gil began to grunt loudly, moaning to let the officer know that he was being held hostage by these psychotic cotton tops.
He could hear Robert explaining to the officer, “Yes officer we were just wrapping up we understand it gets a little rowdy with these late night games.”
“Oh yeah I know how you guys get.” The officer said with a light laugh. “How ya doing Rob?”
Edith stood in front of Gil blocking him from view. Her voice was filled with a jollyness as if she were teaching kindergarten students. “Well officer Johnson, what a pleasant surprise.”
No! No! It's not a game! Gil struggled with all his might, so much so he was able to let out a muffled scream, one that he knew the officer should have been able to hear. His throat hurt from the exertion.
“Hello Edith, so you guys didn't give me an invite this time huh? I see how it is.”
“Well this tournament under the Moon was specifically for Ernie and Phyliss here.” Edith holds up a wrinkled hand towards the two.
“Ah, yeah I know how you guys need some fresh blood around though to liven things up.”
No! Help! Gil moaned again. Then something clicked in his mind, fresh blood.
The officer seemed to be closer now judging from his voice. “Is that them I'm hearing grunting away over there?”
He forgot Kim was behind him until he spoke, “Oh yeah he's a fighter for sure. Just what was needed around here.”
Edith stood aside to where Gil could see officer Johnson now. A black man with a patchy gray beard in his early fifties or so stared back. His eyes were wide and filled with a look of hunger. “Yeah it certainly looks like it. Well just wrap this up quickly now, and be sure to let me know the next time in advance. I could use a little pick me up too.”
Edith smiled politely, “But of course.”
The officer turned, the entire time his eyes stayed fixed on Gil. His belly was more prominent now with the fire outlining him.
Jesus Christ, he's in on it? Whatever this is.
The group watched him leave, with each step Gil’s heart sank.
The circle enveloped Gil blocking the officer from eyesight. Edith again went down to eye level with Gil. “Now Gil we are going to let out that dreadful gag, if you promise not to scream okay?”
Gil’s breathing hastened, but then he relented and shook his head in agreement feverishly.
“Okay then.” She gave a single nod to Kim, and Gil could feel the cloth around his head loosen, as well as the gag. Once it was undone Gil shook his head and spat out the gag. Spittles of drool rolled down his face.
As soon as he caught his breath he started to scream, as loud as he could. “Help me! Someone help me! These crazy fucking old fucks ar-” Gil's words were stolen from him as Kim's strong hands coiled around his throat and jerked his head back against the chair, he tried to continue screaming but before he knew it a funnel was shoved into his mouth.
He gagged, coughing around the plastic but there was nowhere for him to go. Tears welled in his eyes and more drool rolled around his lips.
Edith shook her head, “Alas they always scream don't they Kim?”
He seemed to be amused when he answered, “Yes, yes they do. When it really just makes this part easier. Reverse psychology I guess.” He said with a laugh.
“What are you doing?” Gil tried to say, though it came out mostly indecipherable.
Edith then poured the hair liquid down the funnel straight into Gil’s throat. He gurgled and tried to spit it out, but what he would burp up would just wash back down into his esophagus.
Snot pooling from his nose made it difficult to breathe, he gagged the last gulps down as fast as he could in a sort of resignation.
Kim gently pulled the funnel from Gil’s mouth, who now couldn't stop coughing. When he finally regained the ability to breathe he asked them, “Why are you doing this?”
He received no answer but the continued mystery language from the mostly undead.
He screamed as loud as he could manage, so much his throat started to feel like sandpaper. He could feel more sweat pouring out of him. His screams continued until he was drowned out by the chanting.
He was able to decipher some words, but they held no meaning to him.
Symbole.. masque….Embrace-toi….embrace-toi. Embrace? He knew he was just guessing and really it didn't matter. It was an effort of his brain to try and rationalize, to figure out what was happening to him.
He realized how sweaty he was, so much so he felt as though he was sliding in the chair from it.
Gil’s head began to sway weakly, he felt lightheaded, he watched helplessly as Ernie and Phyliss approached him. Phyliss lowered herself to her knees.
Much to his horror Phyliss began sucking on his forearm. He felt her wet mouth go up and down, and then he felt Ernies going up and down his leg. He sobbed in disgust. “What the. Wh-wha-fuck.”
The two gummed him up and down, exclaiming in strange delight as if his sweat was the only liquid left in a desert.
They grunted animalistically as they slurped up every drop of his sweat. Then as if ceasing up they abruptly fell backwards and writhed on the ground, softly whimpering.
Gil hoped whatever was happening to them hurt. Though he was sadly disappointed as pain spread through his own body like a tidal wave. He began shaking ferociously and he couldn't bring himself to stop it. He cried in pain, it felt like his insides were trading places with his outsides.
Slowly his skin loosened, sagging from his bones falling around the arms of the chair like elastic.
His hair began to gray and fall from his scalp. His violent convulsing began to shake the chair, clanking with the beat of the plastic rackets almost in unison.
Gil went from being a young healthy man in the prime of his life, to a decrepit old man withering away in the chair. He moaned weakly. His thoughts fleeted from his mind, Will Clarissa find me? Surely someone will. Someone will find out what they did. Clarissa. Who is Clarissa? He wheezed one last breath as his organs began to seep from every orifice on his body into a puddle beneath him.
The bodily juice slopped to the ground, moving along the court as if it were a self aware mud.
It stopped beneath the gyrating bodies of Phyliss and Ernie, who then, like sponges, soaked the liquid up. As this happened the chanting and clanking ceased. The crowd seemed to watch in wait.
There was a loud snap of the fire.
Edith one last time utters the words “Symbole du masque et de l’ombre. Embrace-toi, embrace-toi.”
The shadows of the elderly cleared out, tossing the chair and what remained of Gil and his clothes into the fire before they left. The only witness to their heinous ritual was the Moon, though it was not the first or the last time the Moon would be a captive audience to the primitive rituals of man.
Some Moons later the Early Birds were at the pickleball courts for their morning session. Robert and Kim were playing against Edith and an out of town friend of hers.
After their games finished, the Early Birds gossiped about the latest neighborhood and gym news.
A Slender brunette wearing brand new GymShark spandex that complimented her figure approached with a stocky but handsome man. He looked like he could be a linebacker at a college somewhere.
They only paused their movement towards the pickleball courts to accept a missing person hand out from a distraught looking young woman.
The two were new faces to the park, yet they brought with them two pickleball rackets that were chipped with use. They stopped in front of the group.
“Is it okay if we play the winner?” The young man asked with a familiar gentle whistle between his teeth, his voice was strong and full of confidence.
Robert answered loudly, “Oh of course! What's your names?” He raised his eyebrows with a coy look on his face.
The woman adjusted her glasses that kept sliding down her nose. “Why, my name is Phyliss, this is my husband Ernie.”
They all exchanged knowing handshakes and whispered to one another words of the old gods. It was then they all took notice of a nice looking young couple making their way to the chin up bars.
Edith's blue eyes widened, “We should ask them if they want to play!”
Robert startled them with his voice. "Yeah, we could use the numbers today.”
Kim added, “We could use some fresh blood around here.”
Edith and Kim approached the young couple in a near power walk, and surprised them with her sudden question.
“Hi! Would you two like to play the fastest growing sport in America?”