A Transient Visitors Very Tiny Tale by David O’Boyle
Illustration by Abnan @sabzdunz
Then, even in the darkness, during Monty’s limited time for peace and quiet, he finally heard it.
POP CLICK POP.
The dreadful noise of a pickleball rally. But how? The light towers in the park across the street turn off at 10 pm?
POP CLICK POP.
Monty opened his bedroom blinds and stepped onto his balcony. From there he saw silhouettes of kids volleying a green glow-in-the-dark pickleball back and forth. To increase visibility, the spectators that surrounded them shined their cell phone flashlights onto the blue acrylic court.
Disgusted, Monty retreated from his bedroom and descended into his basement, an area that, before the pickleballers came, was merely a remote office. After they came, it turned into a lair, a lair where he spent all his time, a lair that was the lone place where he couldn’t hear the smack of a racket or the bounce of a pickleball.
These circumstances made him angry. Very angry. The glow-in-the-dark pickleball was simply the tiny breeze that blew that anger over the edge.
And then, above his workbench, he saw a solution. It came in the form of Fiskars work shears.
The tool, weightless thanks to an adrenaline rush, rattled in his shaking hands as fast as his heart pounded. Adequately armed, he bolted out the front door and charged the pickleball courts across the street, hurling insults and howling about trespass in between orders for all to exit.
The kids, deeming the maniac running through the dark wielding Fiskars work shears as unwilling to negotiate, were receptive to Monty’s demands. They fled reluctantly, like seagulls from a four-wheeler when French fries were nearby.
With the court to himself, Monty got to unfinished business. Ever since those steam rollers flattened the front of the county park in front of his house, added light towers, and constructed all these pickleball courts, his life had changed for the worse. In return, he sought his pound of net.
Snip snip snip.
More memories. More annoyance.
Community used to form around wage labor or anti-discrimination ideals, he thought. Now they’re built around cheap wannabe tennis rackets for people with bad knees. This they had coming. Serves them right.
Snip snip snip.
While he worked, Monty brooded over his change of circumstances. A son of immigrants, a gritty city-kid who toiled, saved up, and finally stashed away enough cash for a downpayment on a house across the river, shouldn’t have to deal with packed streets. Here parking curbs were aesthetic boundaries for manicured lawns. The joy of living on a quaint suburban street was that you got to see them. Since the coming of the pickleballers, who knows the last time Monty laid eyes on a curb. Now every inch was covered by a car. Fifth Avenue had better parking.
If urban sprawl was to blame, Monty could’ve swallowed this loss and chalked it up to foreseeable real estate risk. A pragmatist at heart, something like that would have been disappointing, but it wouldn’t have driven Monty to his present state, wielding Fiskars hedge shears.
No. This was something different. This was an American Dream turned nightmare, all due to the unexpected, meteoric rise, of pickleball.
The Fiskars shears cut as easily through the nylon as they did branches and brush. Before long, one net, then two, and then all seven disappeared, minced into a giant pile of nylon scraps at center court. All that remained in this sea of blue acrylic nothingness were fourteen barren posts bobbing above ground.
Monty hiked his legs up against one post and rested his head atop the piled cutouts of nylon net. Then he closed his eyes, resting like a cobra awaiting a charmer’s lullaby, dreaming of hack saws at Home Depot that were capable of ridding him of these posts once and for all. In dreams the pungi player may come. In reality, it is more likely a mongoose.
Bright lights blinded him. Damn kids must have called the cops. Fair enough. Wielding hedge shears at children in the public square has consequences.
But unless police cruisers learned to fly, and unless those cruisers were no longer cruisers, but refitted flying saucers, what hovered above the pickleball court was not property of the local precinct. Nor were its passengers police personnel.
Four aliens beamed down from the ship. Each of their tentacled hands held a device that equaled disaster…
By the time the aliens took their positions on the court, two per side, four in total, they noticed the damage. They turned to Monty, who before now went unacknowledged, for an explanation regarding the lack of nets.
“I’m sorry,” Monty said with a terrified plea, his hands shaking so much that the shears resting on his lap rattled on the acrylic blue playing surface like drumsticks. “I didn’t know you were trying to play tonight.”
“No worries,” Alien One said as he bent his neck like an accordion. In their respective squares, Alien Two, Three and Four, performed the same stretch.
Alien One continued. “You’re the fourth person on this block to cut down the nets this week. Angry neighbors come packaged with pickleball courts. It isn’t an Earth problem. It’s a Universe problem. If you only knew the violent uprisings pickleball caused on our home planet.”
“How was it resolved?” Monty asked, unable to resist hearing about pickleball solutions whenever he could, even in this most severe predicament.
“Resolution, of sorts, came in the form of federal galactic and solar system laws, and where that didn’t suffice, planetary and continental ordinances. If you know any ambitious lawyers, there’s a booming legal space for intergalactic pickleball law. The running joke is that you need counsel just to be able to play,” Alien One said.
“It’s the main reason we play here now. Planet Earth isn’t governed by intergalactic law. Too insignificant. Most local galactic maps don’t even list it. In our time off, we travel to these off the grid planets in search of places to pickle. An added bonus here is that humans can’t see in the dark. So the second the lights go out, the place is ours,” Alien Two said.
“Although that glow in the dark pickleball, the one those kids were using, is cause for concern. Haven’t seen one of them before,” Alien Three said, exiting a peculiar back bend that nearly split him in two.
“We’ll just have Monty here stand guard. He’s great at scaring children,” Alien Four said.
Then that same alien, Alien Four, flicked its long tentacled fingers together and restored all the nets to their proper form and function, pre-Monty meltdown.
POP CLICK POP.