Tuesday, January 25, 2005


I was ready to go home, ready to exit in the cold and I was putting on scarf and mittens. He caught me right before the door. A short man, about 45, 50 years old. Balding a bit. A large smile: "Do you want to play dodgeball?"
I looked at him puzzled. "Dodgeball? Like the movie??" That's my only reference to this game known in France as a variation of "La balle au prisonnier" which translates loosely to "Ball to the prisoner".
Another smile. "Yes. Like the movie. Come on, I show you."
I turn around, unsure of what he is asking me to do. "You want me to play now?"
He is holding a blue T-shirt in his hand. "Sure. Come. You'll see."
I follow him more with curiosity than with the real desire to play. I am wearing a jean, about 5 layers of sweaters, I have heavy boots and blisters from a day cross-country skiing last weekend when the snow was still so beautiful.
The building houses a gym and we arrive next to a large window that allows people to watch the game below. Two teams (blue and yellow T-shirts) are playing dodgeball. It looks like fun. The man has introduced me like his trophy. "I found the missing player. We're all set for tonight". I feel the look of everybody on me. They're gauging me. I try to explain that I know nothing about the game, that it was not played in France but nothing helps. The man has disappeared again, apparently in a mission to find me some shoes. I cannot play with snow boots on. I am looking at the game below, thinking about how bizarre that I may be playing dodgeball in less than 20 minutes with people I don't know when I hear a voice saying. " I found another one." It's the same man, coming back with someone else. A young woman coming out of the exercise room housed on the 4th floor. She has the shoes, the T-shirt and an energetic air that says "let's just do it guys!". My new teammates are looking at her with relief. I start "Well, it seems that you won't need me tonight. I guess I can go." No one is saying a word. I insist: "This seems like a fun game, though, maybe you can give me the phone number of the team and I'll contact you for a future game". The coach looks at me and smiles "I don't have a pen, I'm sorry". He lowers his eyes and that's it. I'm not part of the team anymore. Touched by an invisible ball. I'm out.
I put my gloves and scarf back on and hurry to catch the bus home.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

That was a nicely written and amusing story. When I was a kid, we had a variation on Dodgeball which we charmingly called "Smear the Queer" (which even now makes me chuckle).

I also read your comment on the French Ambassador. I would have loved to see your exchange with him. Mr. Levitte is frequently on C-Span. I wonder if it is available in streaming video. Think I'll go check.

Please keep sharing your thoughts.

4:30 PM  
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8:59 PM  

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