"Hello," one of the girls said to
Rose as she gathered a couple tennis balls sitting on the
court near her.
"Hello!" Rose answered in a happy
voice. "You two are very good."
"Thank you," the girl said with
a bit of modesty. "My name is Rachel and that is Vanessa
over there. Do you play tennis?" the girl asked sincerely.
"Oh, my," Rose said bringing her
hand to her mouth. "It has been at least 40 years since
held a racket.although, I did play back when I was your
age," Rose said with a gleam in
her eye as she pointed at the pony-tailed Rachel.
"My name is Rose," she offered as
Vanessa came over to join the conversation.
"Well, you're never too old to start
again!" Vanessa said as she put her hand on the shoulder
of her friend and exchanged knowing glances with each other.
"After all, tennis is truly a
"You both are way ahead of your
years!" Rose said laughing. "Who taught you that?"
The two girls both pointed to the
parking lot. "Nick, he is our tennis pro," Rachel offered.
There was an old red van parked in the otherwise empty lot.
An older gentleman was
sitting in the driver's seat smoking a pipe.
"He is an excellent teacher," Vanessa
said with obvious loyalty.
"Hey, Rose. Why don't you let him
help you get back into playing?" Rachel said. Before
Rose could answer, Rachel yelled at Nick who waved and stepped
out of the van.
"Oh, no. I don't think I could even
hold the racket let alone hit a ball!" Rose said holding
her hands to her face. "I would be wasting his time."
"Now, now, now," Nick said as he
approached the group puffing on his pipe at the corner
of his mouth. "What are you two ladies up to?" he asked
through the fence.
Nick didn't look much like a tennis
pro standing next to Rose. He had a distinct belly and a
rough beard that needed a trim. He wore a pair of old plain
sweats over a tattered collared shirt.
"Nick. Will you teach Rose how to
play tennis?" Rachel said in a voice that was more demanding
than requesting. "She used to play a few years ago."
Nick held out his hand to Rose.
"I believe I can.if you believe you can," Nick said holding
her hand now between both of his.
Rose began to blush, a first she
thought in at least a decade. "I don't think I am up to
playing again," Rose said halfheartedly. "And its been more
like forty years," Rose said
looking at Rachel.
"Let's give it a try, shall we?"
Nick said letting go of Rose's hand and walked back to his
"I don't even have a racket," Rose
said, almost pleading with Nick, offering it more as an
excuse than a problem.
"No problem. I've got a magic wand
right here," Nick said pulling a brand new racket,
one that Rose had never seen before. He held it up in the
dimming light of the oncoming
dusk. "This is just the thing."
Nick pulled out a basket filled
with brand new tennis balls from the side of his van and
walked through the gate onto the court.
Rachel and Vanessa gathered up their
own rackets and balls. "See you next time, Nick,"
the girls said in unison. "Good luck Rose! We know you can
Rose looked after the girls as they
walked away. "I'll be busy this next week," Nick yelled
back to the girls.
"We know," both Vanessa and Rachel
giggled in harmony as they waved.
After the Girls left, Rose was left
standing at the gate as Nick set up his basket of balls
the far side of the court.
"It is time," Nick said walking
over to Rose and led her into the court.
After helping Rose with the grip
and stroke motion, he started back to his side of the court.
"Ready?" he asked smiling, still
holding the pipe between his lips.
"Don't laugh," Rose said as she
took her ready position.
The first toss of the ball from
Nick came towards Rose as she took the racket back for a
forehand. A smooth swing at the ball came from Rose's arm.
She hit the ball over the net
just to the side of Nick.
"How did that feel?" Nick asked,
seemingly not surprised with her first shot.
"Oh, that was wonderful!" Rose said
as she felt that same joy in her hand from decades
After a few more tosses, Rose was
hitting balls consistently over the net. She looked at her
racket and her hand. No pain at all! What a miracle she
As the setting sun cast a winter's
twilight across the fields and tennis courts, Rose and Nick
continued to hit ball after ball. As the lights came automatically
on the courts, to Rose it
seemed like a new day was dawning.
A few days later on Christmas Eve,
Rachel and Vanessa came out to the tennis courts early
in the morning to get some hitting in before their family
breakfasts. Out on the court was a young girl hitting serves
from a basket of balls by herself. As soon as Rachel and
came onto the court they ran over to the other side and
embraced the new girl.
"Now, all we need is a fourth,"
Rose Marie Jacobs said laughing, wearing a pretty new
tennis skirt and holding hands with the other two girls.
Across town that same morning, a
red van was parked in front of a pair of dilapidated tennis
courts. An old man hobbled along the sidewalk and looked
at the back of the van as he approached.
"St. Nick" was the license plate
and a man smoking a pipe stepped out of the van holding
a tennis racket.
"Want to hit some tennis balls,
The man turned to look at the crusty
old man that had just spoken to him.
Now, just how did this man know
my name, William Oliver wondered as he shuffled slowly towards
the courts now a bit more than just curious.