Ever since her parents graciously gave us a ping pong table to celebrate our emancipation from grad school, Kara and I have spent the better part of our waking lives down in our unfinished basement, smacking a little ball at each other and inhaling massive quantities of fiberglass insulation particles. The air down there is so thick with insulation that, after a few games, your nose and throat begin to feel as if you’ve just snorted an entire Pink Panther.
Before we got the table, which came in a box so large that I thought Kara had gone online and ordered us a mid-market condominium, the most meaningful rivalry of my life had been against my buddy Josh on Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3 for Super Nintendo. We’d yell and scream and throw our controllers on the floor and at each other. Of course it was a stupid thing to get so excited about, but you shouldn’t judge us unless you’ve experienced for yourself the joy of ripping off your friend’s head with his spine still attached.
While Kara and I haven’t achieved quite the same level of violence on the ping pong table, the scores of our games are getting uncomfortably close.
“I’m really sick of losing,” she complained last night after I delivered one of my patented topspin Dream Crushers™. But she’s getting better so quickly that I can feel my days as household ping pong champ coming to a close. I tried to encourage her, telling her that if our ping-pong rivalry was made into a movie, we wouldn’t be at the end yet; the synthesizer music would just be cuing up for the training montage.
“If this was Rocky IV, you’d be in Siberia chopping down trees and running through knee-deep snow right now,” I told her. “We haven’t gotten to the part where you come from behind and knock me senseless in the fifteenth round while the Soviet crowd chants your name.”
I didn’t dampen her hopes by telling her that her euphoria will turn out to be short-lived, as during our fight she will have sustained such massive brain injuries that she will decide making Rocky V sounds like a good idea.
For now, though, her training goes on and our scores continue to converge. Our rivalry is likely to soon become one for the history books, like Red Sox vs. Yankees or Autobots vs. Decepticons. Before too long, we might even be able to start a game on a point that I win. Score keeping officially begins (retroactively) after Kara wins a point, and we have to keep playing until she slams one in my face, preferably leaving a welt. These have become the house rules, though I sure don’t remember ratifying them.
We have become especially good at delivering welts to one another. I’ve found that when it comes to minor skin contusions, it is far better to give than to receive.
Last night, Kara said, “Nine to thirteen,” just before she served, and I was thrown off for a moment. After I thought about it briefly, I realized what had happened. It turns out that she was just reciting the score, not estimating the number of toilet paper rolls she goes through in a week.
You can send a ping-pong paddle up a creek to Mike Todd at firstname.lastname@example.org.