Sometime last spring I was hanging out in the backyard with my friend Dennis. We weren’t really doing anything, just enjoying the weather, listening to music via this one giant speaker, something I’d found laying outside of some house down the block, I don’t know if it was part of like a bigger PA system or whatever, but I got this wire at RadioShack and hooked it up and, man, it was definitely louder than anything I owned before.
My iPod was on shuffle, but it was something like twelve, thirteen good songs in a row, one of those shuffles that had to have been as close to divine intervention as I’m ever going to get to experience in my life, and I’m not just talking about the quality of the songs, but the order that they were played in, the way they seemed to apply to just that moment, of us hanging outside, one of the first really warm days of the year.
I think it was halfway through “Release” by Pearl Jam, I was tossing this tennis ball up and down, leaning back in this rinky-dink IKEA wooden lawn chair, I had my head leaned to where my neck was perpendicular to the ground, staring straight up, I kept trying to throw the tennis ball as straight and as far up as I could, of course never really getting what I was going for, and so I was sort of leaning the chair this was and that way if and when my arm couldn’t reach the unintended angle at which the ball decided to fall.
The playlist, the moment, it all should have been enough for me, I could have just basked in my contentment for a little while longer, but twelve or thirteen songs is about as long as I can ever really remember being at peace for one continuous stretch of time, I blurted out to Dennis who was spinning an old football in his hands, I said, “Hey Dennis, I’ll give you two hundred dollars if you can throw that football right into that hole in the garage door.”
He was looking right in that direction, and so I didn’t have to really explain myself any further, but if it’s not just right there, you might be getting the wrong idea. It wasn’t a hole, not really. It was just the garage door, on the top there are all of these square panes, and one of them didn’t have any glass. I’m not sure how it got to be glassless, like I don’t remember any specific glass-breaking incident, and there weren’t any shards sticking out of the framing.
Who knows, that’s really not that important, besides giving you a clear visual here. There was a hole, I said something stupid not for any reason really, just to kind of hear my own voice, to break up the monotony of what had up until then been this moment of almost impossible springtime serenity.
And what does Dennis do? He doesn’t even get up, there’s no hesitation, he just cranked his arm back and let it fly. And of course, it went right through the hole, a perfect spiral, it sailed inside so effortlessly, like there wasn’t any resistance from the wood, nothing touched, I don’t think it’s possible for this ball to have fit through that hole any more perfect than it did right then.
Even Dennis was surprised. I guess he could have played it off a little cooler, acted like it was no big deal, but there was definitely a look of shock on his face. I mean, neither one of us, if we were talking really honestly, like remove all of the bravado and the bullshit jokes that we try to interlace into even the most regular of sentences and conversations, there’s no way you can predict something like that from happening.
One, and I already said this, but Dennis was still sitting down. It’s not like he took a minute to consider the challenge, not like he stood up and did any practice throwing motions or anything like that. No, he just kind of cocked his arm and threw this wildly lucky throw. And two, the garage had to have been at least thirty, thirty-five feet away. So even if he did get up and really make an effort to try to aim, there’s no way he would have made it in.
Except that he did make it in, and after what I can only guess was his thinking that I noticed his own realization that what happened was a fluke throw, he tried to capitalize on the financial side of the ball-in-the-hole, tried to skip past any, wows, or holy-shits, or did-you-see-thats. It’s like his arm went back, it threw the football into the garage, and then it effortlessly extended back toward my direction, the palm outturned and facing up, as if to say, pay up man, I’ll take that two hundred dollars right here.
So I cut him off, I told him, “Dennis, I’m not paying you two hundred dollars. That was a great throw, but I’m not giving you two hundred dollars. It’s just not going to happen.”
And in the same way Dennis kind of betrayed his own surprise with his shocked facial expression, he gave me a different look after I told him there wouldn’t be any money, like he might protest, put up some sort of a fight, like come on man, I made it in, you shouldn’t have said you’d give me two hundred bucks if you weren’t at least somewhat willing to pay up.
But I was ready for that, and I think Dennis knew that I was ready for it, I could say we didn’t shake on it, I could hear him complain and get pissed off, but I wasn’t going to give him any money. I don’t even think I had any cash on me. Maybe a twenty. Definitely not two hundred. So Dennis kind of went back to sitting in his chair, now that the football was gone, he was looking around at what else he could get his hands on without actually having to stand up.
I went back to the tennis ball just as that Pearl Jam song finished up. Next on the shuffle was “Wonderwall” by Oasis which, yeah, it’s a great song, but it didn’t really match up with the moment anymore, I quickly played through the whole song in my head and I realized that I didn’t feel like listening to the whole thing. I thought, well, thirteen songs, that was a pretty good shuffle, and I started clicking next on the iPod, next, next, next.