The older one was tall and had long arms. The younger boy was quicker, but at age eight was no match for a sixteen year old. The older one won every match until he left for college, got in with an even faster crowd of players there and was more dominant than ever.
The older one left for medical school and had no time to play. Years went by. The younger boy left for college and joined a table tennis club.
It was after Christmas dinner when the young one asked. “Hey, man, we ought to play some pong.”
“Hm. We still got a table?”
The mother answered. “Yes, I saw it in the closet downstairs just the other day.”
“Great,” the older one relied. “Let’s go get it out.”
They went to the basement and warmed up. The older one noticed his shots were not quite as quick, or as accurate, but he was still young and had retained most of his skill. They hit through a few rallies, and the game began.
The young one prevailed, 21 to 18. He placed his paddle on the table and took off in a run. Mama suppressed a laugh. She loved both of them, and showed no favoritism. “We’re never gonna play again,” the young one shouted and laughed as he bounded up the steps to his room.
For years they didn’t. One day the younger one called. He had a Sunday School party scheduled at his home. The Preacher had challenged him to get up a doubles match.
“Can you still play?” he asked the older boy.
“We better practice,” he said. “Preacher played semi-pro baseball.”
“Uh, oh.” Pitchers only play in a rotation. They play other games on their days off, which is why they are often dangerous at golf or table tennis.
They practiced up. Preacher was tough, but his Deacon partner was not quite as good. The boys squeaked by.
They began to think they were good. They could beat anyone in town. They got invited to an exhibition in Raleigh. “How good could they be?” the older one asked. “They are only ranked in the top hundred in the U.S.”
“I dunno,” the young one said. “They are sponsored by Butterfly. I bet they can play.”
“Maybe they’ll beat us but they’ll know they’ve been in a game. We can whup anybody in Harvey County.”
“Yep. We’ll at least make ‘em work at it.”
It was total humiliation. They didn’t break a sweat. Those guys hit serves we couldn’t see; much less hit.
It was a long ride home. The young one spoke up. “How’s your golf game, brother?”
“Not bad. I’m ‘bout too old for pong.”
Decades went by. The old one called his younger brother. “We need to play some ping-pong.”
“You been practicing?”
“No man, I swear I haven’t. Just want to work off some gut. Let’s donate a table to the Y and hit a few.”
“Is that the truth?”
“Swear to Mama.”
The first session was sluggish but the second was better. “”It’s this new ball,” the older one complained. “It’s too big. At 40 mm it don’t have the same zip.”
“Yep,” The younger one replied. His slam just missed the edge of the table. “It takes some of the speed out of the game, but I guess we better play by the new rules.”
“Yeah man, it’s that durn new ball. That’s it for sure.
They promised to just hit for a month, then the games begin. No big money involved; loser buys supper and winner leaves the tip. The older boy still has longer arms, and now has better vision thanks to his cataract surgery but the younger one is quicker in spite of a touch of arthritis.
My money’s on the old guy.
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