Unpublished Squash Chronicles: Hemingway, Faulkner, Emily Dickinson, Elmore Leonard, Lee Child and More

by John Branston

     Ian McEwan wrote about it --  well – in his novel “Saturday.” Woody Allen played it – badly – in his movie “Manhattan.” For the most part, however, squash – in contrast to baseball, boxing, and hunting and fishing – has been ignored by men and women of arts and letters. Perhaps this oversight will be corrected by the Black Knight Squash Short Story Contest. What if famous writers had made squash the focus of their passion, rage, and creative efforts? Might we have seen such works as these?

Ernest Hemingway: Big Two-Hearted Squash Court

     He had waited all day to get to this, the good place. The place where the water was cool and clear. So clear that he could see the bottom. It was good and he was alone and he sat down. The place where he sat was smooth and cool against his skin. He would stay here, and he would come to grips with the bad place. The place where men engaged in close combat, so close they could smell one another's sweat. The place where they screamed in awful agony “tin, tin, tin” and where the projectiles flew past their heads.

     He thought about the well-lighted place where the red lines crossed, their redness the color of blood that came from the mouth of the rainbow trout he had caught for his supper. Like the blood that he himself had spilled in the bad place not so long ago. He took comfort now in the memory of the bad place. He had tested himself, and he had found that he had cojones, like the Great Khan himself. Some day he hoped that he would meet him. But now he was in the good place, and it would soon be time for supper. He looked once again into the cool waters beneath him. It was good. He would return to the good place tomorrow when the sun rose and warmed his tent. He flushed.

 William Faulkner: The Yoknapatawpha Squash and Hunt Club

     It was long ago a time before time and space where Colonel Benjamin Grierson’s daring cavalry raid through Mississippi and Yoknapatawpha County where the damn yankee son of the colonel with more money than sense and his wife a secret southern sympathizer came to Mississippi from the North the land of sin and industry and the ball-bearing factories that drove Dixie down in the War of Northern Aggression he bought the finest mansion and cotton plantation in the state and dug a hole in the ground that everyone took to be a turnip cellar but was really a squash court like the ones in Boston and Quinton Cline wondered why anyone would want to bury perfectly good vegetables and the son of the colonel staged the great exhibition match between Hashim Khan and Jonah Barrington and Lem Cutler’s boy Cletus the bear hunter who took to the game a rangy boy of whom it was said that you could get a pork chop past a coon dog easier that passing him on the squash court and when he was playing his sister Sugarbaby the wagons would clog the roads for miles to see them and the flivver dust would fly on the endless summer afternoons and the Delta dirt that had been there since the Cambrian period and where brave men had shed blood in the alluvial mud of the time before time that can never be forgotten and haunts the lives of Yoknapatawpha where they live in the past that is not past and you can hardly find a decent cup of coffee for a nickel anymore.

  J. D. Salinger: Squasher in the Rye

     If you really want to know, I would tell you this prep school is a joke, but then you'd probably want to know my whole goddamn autobiography. The only reason I'm here at Pencey is because my parents made me go to squash camp from the time I was about six goddamn years old and some coach saw me play and decided I should be on the hot-damn squash team. Can you believe it? Me and that cocky bastard Stradlater, with his letter sweater and his goddamn white shorts and Jack Purcell sneakers. What a phony.

     The only thing good about being on the squash team is I don't have to be around that pimply guy Ackley, who hangs around the dorm and can be depressing as hell. It makes me feel lousy just thinking about him. I think I'll take the train into New York. Maybe crash the Downtown Athletic Club. What a bunch of phonies.

 Emily Dickinson: Because I Could Not Stop For Lets

Because I could not stop for Lets,

He kindly stopped for me;

The squash court held but just ourselves

And Immortality.

We slowly drilled, he knew no haste,

but would not clear the way.

My forehands, and my drop shots too,

Were working well that day.

We passed the school where squashers played,

Their lessons scarcely done;

We passed the Amherst courtyard where,

I had a Cinnabon.

We paused before the crucial point,

The ball went round and round;

The tin was scarcely visible.

The corners soon I found.

Since then 'tis centuries but each

Feels shorter whence to me,

I first surmised that winning means

You must control the T.

 E L James: 50 Shades of Grey and One Squash Stud

      “Listen very closely Anastasia. Today I am going to teach you a new drill called Boast Rail. If you do it well then who knows what other pleasures may be in store for you.”

     Anastasia Steele, as usual, was obedient. She could not take her eyes off her master's rippling abs, bulging pecs, shapely glutes, and rock-hard calves. When he unsheathed his 27-inch Black Knight Magnum Corona from its leather case her loins tingled with excitement. He smiled slyly at her and commanded her to stand in a corner. He whipped the Magnum back and forth a few times, then began hitting the Dunlop Double Yellow Dot against the front wall. Faster and faster, harder and harder, deeper and deeper, tighter and tighter as he thrust left and right, his movements deft as a ballet dancer's. In her skin-tight Spandex shorts and a tank top that revealed the top of her perfect breasts, Anastasia licked her lips in anticipation.

     “Move with me now, Anastasia. I want you to cut my balls off in the corners and smash them into the wall.”

     Oh God, she thought, am I really here? She forced her body to do things she never imagined she could do, as her master drove her without mercy. Deeper! Harder! Tighter!

     “That's it, that's it, don't stop,” he cried. “Tomorrow we do front-court drops and smashes!”

     Anastasia exploded in a paroxysm of pleasure and fell to the floor at his feet.

  Lee Child: Jack Reacher, Squash Avenger

     “Who are you, mister?”

     Reacher had heard the question 100 times. His answer was always the same. “Just a guy.”

     A big guy, 6' 5” tall, 240 pounds, former military policeman. But now just a guy roaming the country by himself, hitching rides and catching Greyhound buses, with nothing but the clothes on his back, a toothbrush in his pocket, and a squash racquet. A guy who didn't go looking for trouble, but trouble always seemed to find him.

     That can happen when you get your kicks at some of the roughest squash clubs in the country, and the Club From Hell outside of Boston was one of the worst. A dive full of guys with attitudes, MBAs, and too much testosterone. Reacher was minding his own business, hitting by himself on the challenge court, when a musclebound lunk banged on the door and walked in.

     “Which part of DRESS CODE don't you understand, pal?” he said.

     Reacher said nothing.

     He was wearing black high-top Converse All-Stars, a pea-green t-shirt, and a pair of camo cargo shorts he had just bought at a thrift store. The lunk had been joined now by four of his buddies, all of them brandishing their Dunlop 130-gram racquets and sneering at him.

     The 130-gram racquet is fine for tournaments but a poor killing machine prone to breaking in combat. Reacher's first-generation Jahangir Khan graphite model, on the other hand, weighed nearly 200 grams and was indestructible. In his hands it was a lethal weapon.

     As Reacher knew he would, the musclebound lunk came at him first, figuring to impress his gang with a leaping karate kick. Reacher had seen the move a thousand times and sidestepped it easily. He grabbed the lunk's foot in mid-air and gave it a savage twist, severing the Achilles tendon and cracking the ankle bone as the lunk crashed to the floor in agony. Two of his pals advanced on him, drawing their Dunlops. Reacher knew the racquet is slightly head heavy, and instantly calculated that its air speed and momentum would carry its right-handed owner just above his left shoulder. He ducked the first swing and jabbed the butt of his Jahangir Khan in the guy's gut, knocking the wind out of him. Then he spun around on his right leg, flipped the racquet, and swung it in a vicious arc, practically decapitating the guy and slowing his advance for half a second. That was plenty of time for Reacher to grab him by the shoulders and head butt him, crushing his nose and eye sockets. Nothing more than simple physics. A pink mist splattered the wall.

     One of the other punks managed to land a glancing blow to Reacher's shoulder with his racquet, but it cracked on impact. He drove one of his size 14 Converse All-Stars into the guy’s knee, shattering the femur and patella and turning the ACL and meniscus to strands of spaghetti. Chrondromalacia would be his best hope if he ever walked again. Then he finished off the last guy with an elbow smash to the larynx. Death usually comes in 30 seconds. It would be a blessing.

     “You guys want a let or a stroke on that?” Reacher said.

     Then he stuffed his racquet into his duffel bag, walked out of the Club From Hell, and headed to the highway. Just a guy, thumbing a ride to Anytown, USA.  

 Anne Coulter: Obamascore is Ruining America!

     So, let's connect the dots, people. In 2008 the namby-pamby libs on the World Squash Federation adopted the point-a-rally (PAR) scoring system. And in 2008 Barack Hussein Obama was elected president of the United States. Coincidence? I hardly think so.

     Obamacare wasn't the only card up that sleazeball's sleeve. If Obamascore wasn't Item 2 on his nanny-state agenda then I'll make out with Keith Olbermann. “The game is too long, it's too hard, there must be a point awarded after every rally so nobody gets their little feelings hurt.” What whiners.

     You think deficits don't matter? Tell that to someone trailing 8-1. Our traitorous president never would have gotten away with such shenanigans if Margaret Thatcher had been around, bet on that. The Iron Lady. There was a woman who knew how to rule. If some Labor Party lefty tried a lazy crosscourt on Maggie she'd cut it off and hammer it into the nick every time. Thanks to her, the Brits gave the world the magnificent Peter Nicol, Lee Beachill, and James Willstrop.

     What this mollycoddling, liberal-loving, Obamascoring country needs is no-nonsense leaders like her and Hosni Mubarak. The General. A little rough around the edges maybe, but a conservative's conservative. And what a player! Is it any wonder that Egyptians from Karim Darwish to Rami Ashour have dominated the sport for a decade? As for Americans, don't make me laugh. It would take three of them to beat Nancy Pelosi.

 Elmore Leonard: Killshot II

     “Squash? The fuck?”

About the Author:

John Branston lives in Memphis, writes for various publications, and started
playing squash when he was 50. He can beat players who aren't very

The above story is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are either products of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

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