Monday, 6 March 2017
Tennis in the park
I am delighted to announce that we have now reached 20%! Thanks to all 79 of you for your generous contributions. As promised, I'm posting another extract from the book. This scene occurs shortly after Adam has got his wishes - he has wished that Natalie Forbes would be madly in love with him, and now he's on his way to meet her for a game of tennis in the local park. (He's also wished for a brand new graphite tennis racket, and he's wished that he's a little bit better at tennis than Natalie - he could have wished to be the best player in the world, obviously, but he doesn't want to intimidate her.) Now read on:
The park's full of people. It's a Saturday, and it's sunny, another of those days that's like a kind of advance instalment on spring. There's a few daffodils and some little purple and white flowers out. And, you know, I start to get a sort of idea about what people mean when they go on about the beauty of nature and all that stuff. To be honest, I used to think people were putting it on a bit, to show off about how sensitive and artistic they were, like that poem we did in English with Miss Rogers in Year 9, about a host of golden daffodils. I mean, I felt like saying to the guy, come on, man,you don't have to make such a song and dance about it. It's only daffodils for Christ's sake. Get a grip. But now I'm getting a sort of glimmering of what he was on about. The daffodils do look great. And so do the little purple and white flowers. And so do the trees, even though they haven't got their leaves yet. And so does the blue sky, and so do the little white clouds gently sailing across it. And so does Natalie - oh, my God, so does Natalie. The minute I see her I forget all about the beauty of nature. The beauty of Natalie, that's all I'm interested in.
She's standing next to the tennis courts, and she's wearing a pair of little white shorts. Hey, that rhymes. I didn't mean to do that. She's got on a white tee-shirt with a picture of Albert Einstein sticking his tongue out on it, and she's tapping her tennis racquet against her trainers. Wow. I mean, what a picture. I can't help staring at her legs. I've never seen them before, except with tights on. They're kinda longer than I thought, but not too skinny, very shapely, in fact, with rounded calves, very pale, and very smooth. Does she shave them, I wonder? Or are they naturally smooth? It's still a bit early in the year to have bare legs and I notice that she's got little tiny goosepimples, and I dunno why, but that seems really, like, exciting.
Natalie's like, 'Isn't it a lovely day?'
'There's no one on the courts - shall we get started?'
'Yeah, let's do it!' And then I go, 'Play tennis, I mean!' - in case she thinks I'm making a, like, indecent proposal, and then I realise that she'd never have thought that if I hadn't drawn attention to it. But then she laughs, and I realise it's OK. Cause she loves me. I can say anything.
'Tennis first,' she goes. 'And then - well, we'll see!' And then she gives a little wicked smile - totally different to her normal expression, which is usually kinda serious. And I'm, like, 'Wow!'
So, anyway, we start this game of tennis. And I start to get what people see in this game - when you can play a bit, when you get a rally going and the ball goes 'Pock! Pock! Pock! Pock!' zipping low over the net, and you're making these elegant strokes, you know - well, it's still not as good as football, but it's quite OK.
'Hey, you're good!' goes Natalie, after I've won the first game.
I'm like, 'Yeah, well, I don't get to play that much, you know, but I reckon I haven't got a bad eye for the ball.'
Natalie corrects me. 'A superb eye for the ball!'
'Well, I wouldn't go that far, you know...'
Halfway through the match, when I'm winning 4-2 in games, the park keeper comes bustling on to the court. He's a short but stocky kinda guy, with a red face and an incredibly bad temper. I used to be dead frightened of him when I was a kid, and I still am, a bit. I sometimes think he's the kind of guy who'd just go mad one day and murder a load of people with that pointed stick he uses for picking up the rubbish, and it would be all in the papers - 'Neighbours commented that he always kept himself to himself' and all that stuff.
'Did you book this court?' Well, of course he knows perfectly well we didn't book it, cause he's the guy who takes the bookings.
I'm like, 'Well, there was no one on it, you know, so we thought...'
'So you thought you'd get away without paying!'
In the past, at this point I'd have got all nervous and apologetic and started saying, 'No, honestly' and stuff. But now I've got my wishes, I don't need to be nervous of anything. So, I'm like, 'How much?'
'It's three pound sixty, plus a pound for the booking fee!'
'What booking fee?'
'Don't argue the toss with me, sonny!'
For a minute, I wonder whether to get angry about this. I could teach the guy a lesson he wouldn't forget, using my wishes, if I felt like it. I could wish that all the squirrels in the park would go mad and attack him, jumping on him and gnawing his nose off, or something. But then I think, nah, it's a lovely day, Natalie loves me, let's not spoil it with any unpleasantness. Under my breath, I mutter 'I wish I had a hundred quid' and I feel a sort of little nudge as it materialises inside my tracksuit pocket.
'Here,' I go, shoving it at him. 'All right?'
'What's this? I only asked for four pounds sixty!'
'That's all right. Keep the change.'
His little eyes dart from me to the money and from the money to me. 'Is this a wind-up?'
'Here, just take it. And don't bother us again.'
He reaches out cautiously and takes the money as though it's gonna chomp his hand off if he's not careful. 'Well - all I can say is - thank you very much indeed - it's very generous of you, sir...'
He's gone all respectful, now - so respectful that he walks off the court backwards, bumping into the gate on his way out.
Natalie's come up to the net. 'Wow - that put him in his place! How much did you give him?'
'Dunno. Didn't count it.'
Natalie giggles. 'Wow! You're so cool, Adam!'
'Oh, you know - that's just the kind of guy I am...'
After we'd finished the set - which I won 6-3, just thought I'd mention that - we went for a walk in the park. I bought ice creams and we strolled past the duck pond, licking them. The ice creams, I mean, not the ducks. I liked the way the ice cream made a little moustache on Natalie's upper lip. It made me want to lick it off. And then I thought, well, why not?
So I'm like, 'Hold still a minute' - and then I take her by the arms and I lick the ice cream off her lip - and the next minute, we're snogging like we're representing England in the Olympic Freestyle Snogging Event, right there in the middle of the path. I can feel her tongue frisking around inside my mouth, and my tongue frisking against hers, it's like two seals playing together, and her soft warm body is pressed up against me, and it's just like - it's almost too much for me to take, if you want to know the truth. It's so fantastic that I almost want to stop, and go off somewhere on my own for a bit, so I can think about her properly. Only I don't really wanna leave her. It's like I wanna be with her and on my own at the same time.
Natalie's like, 'I love you, Adam.'
'Yeah, I love you too.'
I'm getting quite good at saying this now.
'And I want to show you how much I love you.'
I just look at her, not saying anything for a bit. She's used the exact same words as in my fantasy. For a minute, I wonder if I'm sitting in that Experience Machine Dirk was going on about, imagining it all. Cause this has gotta be too good to be true. Hasn't it?
'My parents are out this afternoon. We could go back to my place - what do you say?'
There's only one word I can say to this. And it's 'Wow!'
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