Serve and Folly:

My Life On and Off The Tennis Circuit

by Scott Ross

As told to Nick Meglin

     Our Eastern Airlines flight was canceled for technical reasons, so Stanley had to scramble to another airline gate to try to nail us a flight to Atlanta that day so I could get in a full day of practice before the Invitational Tournament began that Friday.

     Stanley came back with a thumbs up but wasn't smiling.  He was able to get us on a Delta flight leaving in two hours, but only one First Class ticket was available and Stanley knew that that meant he would be back in coach for the flight.  I saw that he wasn't pleased -- I think this new, comfortable lifestyle I was providing him as my manager was spoiling the bastard rotten!  Case in point -- at dinner at an upscale restaurant a few nights before, the waiter opened a bottle of St. Emelion I had ordered and let him do the initial tasting.  He sent it back!  Stanley, who prior to my employment would have ordered a bottle of Ripple, sent back a St. Emelion as if he actually knew it wasn't up to par!  So I hid the fact that I was delighted he'd have to "suffer" in Coach this time around.

     My satisfaction was short-lived -- I did a three-sixty once we boarded.  The stewardess that greeted me with a chardonnay and a tray of cheese and crackers looked like Miss Oakley, my third grade teacher, while the stews in Stanley's seat area were a lot more aesthetically endowed.  One had blue-gray eyes so deep that they end up a foot-and-a-half behind her skull.  Funny how I've always been an "eye man" almost as much as a "leg man" as far back as I can remember.  Anyway, Carol (I got their names from the co-pilot in exchange for an autographed cocktail napkin), scored mightily in both eyes and legs categories as she passed through First Class on some pretense, which I learned early on that stews always do to check out celebrities who may be on board.  Let's face it -- tennis fan or not, a face that's graced the cover of Sports Illustrated three times and Time once does qualify me for a celebrity check out, right?  

     But much to my disappointment, Carole didn't return my sly, seductive Paul Newman smile.  It was obvious that her hypnotic eyes had visual frailties.  "Too bad, her loss," I thought lying to myself as I always do when the flora and fauna don't respond favorably.

     Sarah, the other stew, was the cute and bubbly type, a blend that never charged my sparkplugs much.  But she must have interested Stanley 'cause a half hour into the flight she came to me with a special request.  It seemed that Billy, a young sports fan, was sitting near enough to hear Stanley's exchange with her about his cousin the tennis champ seated in First Class and excitedly, the kid asked if she could get my autograph for him.

     "Oh, I can do better than that," I said to her, polluting the cabin with my charm. "I'll go talk to the lad personally."  I figured I'd give Carol another chance knowing how women melt when they witness the warm, sensitive "big brother" routine in action.  

     Not this time.  My extraordinary peripheral vision (fact!) picked up neither smile nor interest as I demonstrated my famous backhand follow through for the kid.  His mother, on the other hand, an attractive early-thirties redhead, was melting like butter on a hot griddle.  But let's stay focused on this commedia è stupenda for now.  It was obvious that Stanley was expanding in more directions than just wine snobbery and was moving in on Sarah with smoothness never evident before my expert mentoring.  

     After I signed Billy's latest copy of Sports Illustrated (without a mention of me or the other top seeds in their small blurb about the Atlanta tournament, thanks a lot!), I decided to double down on my short lived nice guy image with Sarah as I returned to my seat.

     "What’s the story with Carole?” I asked. "No wedding ring.  Is she in a relationship?"  

     “I don’t know her too well, Mr. Ross.  I've only been on a few other flights with her.”

     “Scott.  Why don't you ask her to join you, Stanley and me for dinner at a great restaurant I know across from our hotel.  We're at the Omni.  Where are you guys?"  

     "Holiday Inn.  That would be wonderful.  Thanks.  I’11 ask her.”

     They had to serve lunch before Sarah could get a clear shot at Carole.  When she finally arrived with the news I saw it was no deal from the face she wore.  

     “Carole's pretty tight with some guy and stays in when we're on overnights."  

     Not wanting to negate one of the few times Stanley was sailing on course, I said, "Okay, so it'll just be the three of us.  But I'll have to skip out early.  Full day of practice tomorrow."  

     And so it went.  I enjoyed Sarah.  She was bright and playful, maybe too sharp for Stanley, but she seemed interested in him enough to maybe make his night a special one.  I went back to my room, took a quick shower, and started watching a little TV when the phone rang.  A sultry female voice said, "Hello Scott Ross.  I hope it's not too late to call."  

     Guess who it was...  Bwahp!  Sorry, wrong answer!  It was little Billy's mother, who shall heretofore be known as "Judy."  And can you believe she was calling me from the house phone in the lobby?  Sarah, sweetheart that she is, provided her with all the necessary information she got from Stanley and the rest is, as they say, history.

     What about the tournament?  Are you really interested after hearing about what we celebrity jocks have to sometimes endure?  Okay.  Well, despite little sleep and a sloppy day of practice, I beat up on everybody pretty hard, not dropping a set.  But in the final, Teddy Walters played way over his head and took it to a tie breaker before I was able to put him away.  As we came to the net afterward I said, “Teddy, you played one helluva match.”

     “Fuck you, too,” he said.

     I meant it, but the bastard didn’t believe me.  Well, why should he, considering what I had said after embarrassing him 6-2, 6-love in the second round of the Hawaii last year.  

     “You hit like a ballerina today, Walters.”

     He said, “Fuck you, too,” that time as well.  I'll say this for the guy; at least he has consistency in clever repartee.

Nick Meglin is a writer living in North Carolina.

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