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How I met Jay is we were teaching tennis together when I was sixteen. I mean, I was sixteen. He wasn’t. Public courts behind Hammarskjold High. Little kids, five- to ten-old, maybe. Parents drop them at eight sharp because tennis is cheaper than babysitting in July. Wave goodbye because we look safe. Well, I do. Jay doesn’t.

Jay drives a windowless ‘93 Chevy G20. Sweats alcohol on the courts. Coke sniffles. DJing is his main gig, he says. Jay screeches into the parking lot blaring Joe Budden at all of eight-twenty-four in the morning,



and me and these little kids watch dumbly as he tumbles out of his creep van, horks a fat wad onto the court and starts the lesson.

            Holy shit, he says, am I hungover.

Jay’s a war general on the courts. Has these little kids running suicide sprints in the heat. Barks like the guy from Full Metal Jacket. Drills forehands, backhands, serves, volleys. Beans a kid with a tennis ball at least once a day. The crazy part is the kids love Jay. Most of them, anyway.

About a week into the clinic, Jay makes an enemy. Ten-year-old boy.

I’m gonna get rich, says the kid.

Oh yeah, says Jay. How.


They already make those, says Jay.

I’m gonna sue.


For leaving the brown ones in.

Ten laps, says Jay.

For what?

For being stupid.

Jay always leaves halfway through the lessons to pass out in his van. I know he hates this kid because today he skips the nap. Hugs his racket to his chest with folded arms and spits dip while watching this kid run the ten laps all the way around four courts. Can’t see his eyes on account of the aviators but if I had to guess they’re squinted real hard.

            Done, says the kid.

            Til tomorrow, says Jay.

            Gonna sue you, too.

Jay makes it his mission to break the kid. Extra laps, sueys, drills. Beans him in the face on purpose, not on accident. I keep thinking we’ll get a complaint from the parents but nothing, not a word. Figure this kid will squeal. If not about the beef, then about the naps, about the swearing, about the booze smell, something. But nope. Kid’s unflappable. The harder Jay runs him, the more he chirps. Big shitmeal grin on his chubby pink face.

            Gonna sue you, he says. Gonna sue you so bad.

            For what, says Jay.

            For being stupid.

Jay fumes. Stomps to the G20 for his hangover nap.

            Little shit, he says. Fuckin’ kid.

But at the end of clinic Jay asks if I wanna grab lunch at the gas station around the corner. He offers to buy. I get in the G20 and there’s speakers sliding around in the back and the frame rattles with Dre’s Ackrite. He raps whitely at the top of his lungs all the way down Clarkson til Red River. After grabbing food, he pays for the gas and grabs a pack of peanut M&Ms. When we get back in the van he says,

            Last day tomorrow.

            Yeah, I say.

            Gonna take the brown ones out, he says, as a joke.


            Don’t wanna get sued.

            That’s the joke, I say. He’s a kid.

            Yeah, he says. I guess.

He pulls out of the lot. Halfway back to the courts he turns the volume down on Dre.

            He’ll think it’s funny, Jay says. You watch.   

Next morning he screeches into the parking lot late like usual but I’ve already got the lesson going because I know what I’m doing now. While the kids run laps I watch Jay. Driver’s side, aviators top of his head. Squinting at the pack with one eye. Two fingers pinched, pulling the brown ones out. Lays them to melt on the dash, next to the hula girl and what’s left of last night’s lines.

            What’s he doing? asks the kid.

            Building his case, I say.