Racquet By Tamara Walker

April 24, 2014 Comments Off on Racquet By Tamara Walker

At least once a week, in a recently refurbished bookstore, two women briskly approach the magazine section from opposite sides.  Each carries a racquet.  One woman is diminutive and attired smartly, in khaki slacks and a white blouse, long light sepia hair and rimmed spectacles.  Her racquet is for hitting the papier-mâché porcupines that emerge periodically from the burnished clay pipes surrounding her home.  She’s obligated to pound the creatures whenever they’re about to shoot quills. This pounding reveals the multicolored shells inside, which her friends weave into tunics in emotionally humid gatherings every other Friday.

The other woman is urban-sporty and looks like her racquet is actually for playing tennis: tall, with short-short black hair, a glare that somehow manages to look nurturing, disaffected, and fiercely competitive, and a tennis outfit (!) comprised of neon shorts, new shoes, and an airy mesh top.

They’re both there for a transparently shrink-wrapped manga magazine that reads, in terse characters across the top: Shojo-Ai.  Girls’ Love.  This time there’s plenty of copies, a fresh stack recently installed on the shelf.  The women on the cover, clad in school outfits with their fox-like ears and cat-like tails, are embracing each other. These girls are glossy. As glossy as the polished porcupine pipes, thinks the sepia woman as she trembles slightly and lifts a copy into her modestly manicured fingers.  The tennis woman, who’s glowing florescent green and appears to have just finished a grueling match, seems relieved.

“Which series are you following?” the tennis woman asks kindly.

The sepia woman shifts her weight from her left to right foot and twists the racquet around in her hands. She doesn’t reply, pretending she didn’t hear instead, shoving the magazine into her book bag and hastily walking away.

The next time, after the gawky button-down male otaku types have come and gone, there’s only a single copy left.  Both women speed towards the rack as this possibility becomes distinct in their fields of vision.  The tennis woman arrives first.  Her arm mechanically projects outward and sticks the head of her racquet on the shelf to block and claim it.  The sepia woman catches up.  The sound of a string breaking on her clutched racquet pings through the silence.  She thinks about porcupines.  How when the papier-mâché is struck, the strings often break.   Her racquet is strung with considerably more tension than the tennis woman’s, who prefers a loose stringing pattern for greater distance, power, and spin.

The tennis woman glances with flickering concern at the sepia woman and relents, giving her a pitying stare.  “I guess you probably need this more than I do.”  The sepia woman begrudgingly stares at the ground and accepts.

The next time they meet, the sepia woman is wearing a tunic with colorful shells woven in.  She meets the tennis woman’s curious stare as they reach the magazines. “You shouldn’t judge people,” she says.

The tennis woman smirks with the impending thrill of a challenge.  The ball is in her court now.

© 2013 Tamara K. Walker

Tamara K. Walker loves writing on manual typewriters even though they were thoroughly obsolete before she was born. Her writing has previously appeared or is forthcoming in Apocrypha and Abstractions, LYNX: A Journal of Linking Poets, Gay Flash Fiction, nin: a journal of erotic poetics, and Scifaikuest.

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