The friendly game of butts-up took a dangerous turn when the case of Pabst Blue Ribbon arrived. The game involved throwing a tennis ball against a wall and catching it on the rebound. If you dropped it, and didn’t touch the wall fast enough, you had to stick your ass in the air while other players nailed you with the ball.
As Smitty, Joey, and I drank the beers, our agility suffered. Oafish Smitty was the first to flounder. Joey and I pelted him without mercy. The beers lowered our accuracy but increased our velocity and curious thirst for vengeance. The resulting carnage was disturbingly addictive.
“Does this game seem weird to you?” Joey said after a throw.
“Yeah,” I said. “A little.”
But it wasn’t time for introspection. It was time for pain and humiliation and avoidance thereof.
As I prepared to pummel Smitty yet again, my wife approached.
“Dinner’s ready.” She paused and glanced around. “What are you guys doing?”
“Nothing,” I said.
She nodded toward Smitty, still on the ground with his ass in the air. “What’s he doing down there?”
I lowered the ball and grudgingly explained the game.
“That’s so pathetic,” she said.
Joey and I shrugged. Smitty mumbled something but, hunched over, it looked like he was talking out of his butt-crack.
She just shook her head and walked away.
Joey muttered an apology and headed for the house. My adrenaline evaporated and I suddenly felt stupid. We were pushing forty, guzzling lukewarm PBR, and hurling tennis balls at the upturned ass of a grown man rather than talking art, finance, and politics with the real adults back at the dinner party.
I started toward the house, but something pulled at me. Some primal force acquired on the childhood playground and never fully abandoned, unlike the immortality that faded long ago.
I turned and hurled the ball and as I heard the flat dull thud of impact and Smitty’s howls of pain I couldn’t help but smile.
About the Author
Tom Mahony is a biological consultant in California, with an M.S. degree from Humboldt State University. His fiction has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and has appeared in dozens of online and print publications, including Surfer Magazine, Flashquake, The Rose & Thorn, Pindeldyboz, In Posse Review, Boston Literary Magazine, 34th Parallel, Diddledog, Foliate Oak, Decomp, and Lowestoft Chronicle. His short fiction collection, Slow Entropy, was published by Thumbscrews Press in 2009. He is looking for a publisher for several novels. Visit him at tommahony.net.