Day two at Wimbledon. Federer cruised through to the third round. Djokovic did the same. In Northern Ireland, Martin McGuinness and the Queen shook hands. In Dontesk, Spain reached the Euro 2012 final, beating Portugal on penalties in the first semi-final following a goalless draw. In Outer London, Roy remembered something bad.
It was a school tennis court, asphalt, he’d been maybe 14. Roy and his friend Paul had been playing after school when Joanne Brown and another girl came by.
Joanne wore her skirts very short and chewed gum with her mouth open. She didn’t do sport. She picked up a spare racket, walked onto the court on Roy’s side and asked him, “Can I play?” It wasn’t really a question. The other girl, arms folded tight, stood at the side.
“I’ll hit first,” Joanne said. “You have to spank me if I get it wrong.”
“Oh, ok,” Roy had said, panic flooding in.
Joanne plopped a spooned forehand into the net.
“You have to spank me, Roy,” she said, moving close, weirdly intent, bending over just enough, her skirt tight over her bunchy little bum.
“Spank me then,” Joanne said. “Gently, though.”
Roy, flustered, tapped her rump with the Dunlop catgut, wanting to just get on with the game.
“A bit harder than that,” said Joanne.
Roy did it harder.
“That was just right,” said Joanne, nodding a thrilling, frightening approval, and marching straight off to fetch the ball from the foot of the net. Roy could have got there first and yet he couldn’t. Joanne had taken control of the game, changing its nature utterly.
Another droopy underarm, another plop into the net.
“I’ve done it wrong again, Roy, you’ll have to spank me.”
Roy again did as he was told, conscious of Paul’s vacant passivity as his own humiliation increased. This time, though, he scurried for the ball, marched back to the baseline and hit a proper serve. The ball reached Paul but weakly, and he dollied a return straight at Joanne. She flicked hopelessly at the ball, which hit her in softly on her left breast.
“Right on the tit!” she guffawed, looking at her friend, who guffawed too. The ball trickled away.
“You’ll have to spank me again, Roy.”
“Alright,” Roy said, embarrassment now searing his insides. Joanne offered herself once more. Roy, scared of what playing this new game right might entail, desperately, deliberately, played it wrong instead. He hit Joanne hard – too hard,
“Ow, you poof!” she snapped and threw her racket down. She looked at him, dagger-eyed. “You poof, you queer.”
She stalked off, friend in tow, and Roy knew that he had failed utterly. How different might his life have been had he passed Joanne’s test? After the play spanking, what? A hand down her pants behind a hedge, feeling around for whatever it was? A missed chance with a bad girl, a chance, which, four decades on, he still wished that he had taken, even though he had disliked, even hated, Joanne Brown.
All previous instalments of Roy’s Summer of Sport are HERE.
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