The Incredible Shrinking Court

…or “The Smallest Game Ever Played”
First posted 06/26/10.

I haven’t played a lot of tennis. My mother-in-law was interested in the game and we took some lessons so now I know at least when I’m holding the racket wrong and when I’m swinging incorrectly. I was aware of this in my dream, it was an occasion where my dream self was very like my real self, although I think my dream self was worse at tennis than I am in real life.

I was entered in a tournament. I’m not sure by who, I might have even signed myself up. Initially, I thought it would be one-on-one so I wasn’t too worried. No one should know who I am so there would be no embarrassment in loosing. But it was a doubles tournament and I had not signed up with a partner. I would be assigned one, and that poor person would most likely loose because of me. So now, I’m nervous.

At first my partner was going to be a faceless woman. I call her faceless because she was someone I did not recognize and so now, after waking, I don’t know what she looked like. I think she was blonde, very tall, and well built. She looked like an athlete. I must have argued against being her partner because some time later I had a different one. It was someone I had gone to grade school with. Another tall person, but male. He wasn’t the nicest of boys (most at my grade school weren’t) but he was one I had a crush on. He looked a bit like Luke Skywalker, my very first crush. This might have been why I liked him. He was also good at soccer.

The tennis court was concrete, I don’t remember what was on the edges. There’s this blank space in my mind between the court and the spectators. And where the spectators sat was not auditorium seating but level ground. Maybe there weren’t supposed to be spectators there, the tennis court could have been in the middle of a public park. It was a smaller court than I was used to, I wondered how two people could play on it without getting in the way of each other. What happened was we never ran around the court but stayed in one place.

I was horrible. I couldn’t hit even the easiest lob. The ball would sail toward me and it was as though my racket was made of smoke, it never connected. My opponents were a pair of girls I had known from grade school. To my knowledge they were not friends, but they got along fine on the court. One I remember as being an athlete. She had at least two sisters who also excelled at sports. I think there was heckling, but I can’t remember anything specific. I can’t even remember if my partner was mad at me for playing so poorly or not.

The court kept shrinking until we were no longer standing in it. I seemed to know that it was against the rules to stand in it, actually. It was probably about as wide as of a table used for table tennis, but not as long. And still made of concrete. Through the dream the court slowly rose, or else our legs got shorter. There was this odd sensation of not being proportionate any more. It might have been that our heads and hands also got bigger. Eventually my partner went for a snack. I don’t know how long we played and I don’t know why we weren’t declared the losers yet. We had scored no points while our opponents had scored countless. While he was gone, something changed.

I managed to hit the ball.

I not only hit it, but my opponents failed to volley. It could have been that I hit a great shot or it could have been that they were too shocked to respond. Maybe they got so used to the balls never returning that they weren’t looking for it. Well, that wasn’t enough to score. Now I had to do the same thing off of my own serve. I served the ball and…

…my team mate came back. We lost that round, too. I started to wonder if maybe he was the bad player. I had done one brilliant thing while he was gone and now, suddenly, I couldn’t play anymore. So I asked if he would go fetch me something too. He was starting to become faceless anyway, no longer really reacting to anything or looking like anyone. He stopped looking like my grade school classmate and more like someone I didn’t know. He went to get the food and I played on with my two opponents.

I was actually able to score a point before he returned.

After that point everything began to dissolve. The court became weightless, we were floating. The net shrunk until it was no longer there and the court became transparent and cloudy. I woke up to my husband’s alarm clock going off and with the feel of a tennis ball on my skin. I could even smell the texture of tennis balls.


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