Josey Wales is old, and arthritic. She is asleep now, like always, her face and legs twitching comically, but if it is only in her dreams that she can play the games of youth, then why wake?
Like her head is a crystal ball I can see through her hair, and her skin, and her skull. I can see into the machinations of her mind. I watch as she positions herself between the wall and me, her body crouched, her eyes eager. She turns to face the wall as I wind up to throw. She knows from experience that the ball will come from the wall’s direction. My shoulder is stiff, my arm ragged, but the tennis ball still has pretty good “zip” when it leaves my fingers. To my satisfaction the ball somehow finds the correct, darker brick in the center of the narrow strip between the two garage doors, the brick for which it was aimed.
She would catch it. No matter how fast it comes, no matter how high the bounce, no matter what she would catch it, but for that other ball, the one already lodged between her teeth. So instead of catching it she can only watch the thrown ball sail past her nose and bounce on the concrete drive to get caught by me and thrown again. She wants it so badly. Her eyes watch it, anticipating the next bounce. She finally pounces in whichever direction the ball goes until she can deflect it off of her face. When she finally does deflect it, she has it! Nose to the ground, she happily gives chase until it stops rolling beneath the shrubs. She must drop the ball in her mouth before she is able to bury her face in the hollies and pluck this new ball out, but then the old one is there on the ground and she must have it too, so she drops her new for the old, and on, and on, and on until I can take no more, and must save us both from madness by picking one of them up. I hold it in front of her mouth, teasing. She drops the ball she has and she “high-tails” it into the yard. Josey trusts the game. It has never let her down.
She is at full speed in only a few bounds. I lead her correctly. There! It strikes ground three feet in front of her nose. At its next bounce she cranes her neck for it. It is a tricky bounce, to the right, but she deftly adjusts and grabs it hungrily from the air... the winner! She lifts her head proudly, displaying her trophy for all to see. From his shaded spot on the sidelines her biggest fan, General Sherman, applauds. Sherman is above any sort of physical exertion, but he is ever a happy spectator.
Behind her, a ball striking concrete stops her victory celebration. She races back to her spot between the wall and me, her eyes wide, the trophy forgotten in her mouth. It all begins again, time after time, day after day. The weeks, months and years fly by like her tennis balls.
It is Josey’s game, and she more than loves it. If she cannot play, then why wake?