Flock of Seagulls

The seagulls are circling the outdoor barbecue, waiting to snatch the half-cooked chicken off the grill.   

"And are you his wife?," the tallest one says to me.    Her tennis skirt matches her shoes.  She twirls the pickleball racquet.   

I am the briefest of interruptions in their constant discussions about third shot drops, back handed serves, and poaching.  I pause on the word poaching, such dual meanings. 

I came to the tournament both to admire Kevin's impressive athletic ability to smash the ball and to remind the seagulls that I do exist.  The half-cooked chicken on the grill is mine.  

I imagine my funeral, the flock that would arrive to console poor Kevin.  Armed with casseroles and self help books on how to rebound in record time.  They would offer up a dizzying number of opportunities to play pickleball. Or to talk.  Or to ...  

They all know that I don't play the game, not to their level.  They have spent 40 years of chasing balls on a court.  They have taken lessons, watched videos and attended camps to improve their footwork, decrease unforced errors, and achieve a sports resume good enough to attract a tournament partner the quality of my husband.  Kevin allows them to stand on the podium at the end of a tournament.  He serves up the trophy.  

While Kevin takes a break between matches, I head out for a five mile run.   Usually I run one large loop around all the ball fields, but today I stay closer.  I create a two mile loop that takes me through the parking lot, around the courts, and out to the bathrooms. 

I eye up the flock of seagulls.    The half-cooked chicken is on the barbecue, court number 9.  They are here to poach.  I do not take my eye off the ball. That's one lesson I have learned --  not from 50 years of chasing balls on a court or from videos, coaching, or camps on how to play the game ---  but from 30 years of being married.