• Stephanie Yu

Bad at Tennis

We had three tennis coaches in one season. Ms. Marmian was retiring, which was fine with us. We called her a cunt behind her back. It was a word we liked throwing around because we liked the weight of it. We liked the feel of it in our hands before it smashed through windows like a dull brick.

Mr. Mayer was delicate and laughed like a hyena, so we made quick work of that. He hit like a girl too, which we meant as an insult. There was an anthrax scare at the post office, which made national news and sent all of our Seventeen magazines back desiccated in thin plastic bags. We were reading Lord of the Flies in AP English even though it was a book for children about children. We were all obsessed with prom. But only Rima got asked to go, making the rest of us feel ugly and small.

Mr. Howlan showed up one day without explanation. His most defining trait was his Sam’s Club membership, which he used to purchase pre-packaged rice krispie treats in bulk. He fed them to us before all our practices and meets. Towards the end of the season, our classmate found her sister blue-lipped with a bag over her head, so we tied black ribbons to our ponytails in remembrance. We would scream our heads off on the bus to our away games and crash on the courts once the sugar rush peaked. One day, Rima shrieked because a man exposed himself from the bushes when she went to grab a ball she had hit over the fence. Mr. Howlan didn’t run to catch him—didn’t even take off his fitover sunglasses to get a better look. He would have seen that Rima was crying and wasn’t in the mood to continue playing.

We tried to start a rumor before graduation that he probably knew the flasher and that he was probably a pervert too.

But the truth was much worse than that. A fact that stared at us like a hog’s head on a stick: we were bad at tennis and hadn’t won a match all season. Our serves were faults and our scores were bagels. 0-6, 0-6. That we would never win with an attitude like that.

And no one would ever love us because of it.

Stephanie Yu lives and writes in Los Angeles. Her work has appeared in Hobart, Longleaf Review, Phoebe Journal, X-R-A-Y, and has been selected for Wigleaf Top 50. You can find her @stfu_stephanie.