Sunday, October 16, 2011

BTG: Short Story Contest: I Have Chrome Balls, Don't You? by Giovanni "The G-Man" Gelati

I Have Chrome Balls, Don't You? 

by Giovanni "The G-Man" Gelati

Let me set this up for you: The crowd is uncomfortably quiet, hanging on every move my opponent and I make, every twitch of the eye, every finger movement, as we approach the imaginary line for this last point. I say that with certainty because I have let him hang on too long; I have carried him for far too many points. The ESPN crew here filming didn’t want another blowout like last year, bad for the ratings; management said they wanted a barn burner, so I am giving them what they asked for. Me, Giovanni “The G-Man” Gelati , nine- time Champion of the East Coast’s largest Beach Bocce Tournament, held each and every year at a very popular beach in N.J. This is the single’s event, the finals. It is between me and one of my teammates from our 4 man squad, - which we have called from the beginning “Four Guys with Chrome Balls” - Dan “Big Balls” Cannoli. The reason for the moniker, his nickname, he likes to use the 113mm balls, hence the “Big Balls”. I personally just go with the average 100mm. When your balls fit in your hands and they feel good, really good, then you don’t mess with them. Remember it is not always the size of the balls, but what you do with them.
I have been fortunate enough to be the undefeated champion of this tournament since its brilliant inception. I have been bringing my balls and slinging them around this beach for a full decade, bringing joy, happiness, and good times to thousands, if not hundreds of thousands here at this beautiful beach. On television, the ESPN executives have told me that the ratings are higher than that of Ecuadorian Tag-Team Midget Wrestling, the Lake Placid Surfing Finals and the Overweight Male Thonged Foosball League. The list of celebrities from this area could fill a phone book that have not only watched me win in grandiose style, but have had their picture taken with me.
I have basically dominated the sand, winning each and every match I have played in. My adversaries fall like autumn leaves drifting in the wind. I have gone up against all manner of competition, all different types and sizes of balls, and all different surfaces here on the sand, groomed, built up, walked over, sea foamed.  Playing on the grass for me is a problem though. I have no idea why, it just is. For some reason my mastery of sand does not translate well to the turf; it is like my Archemedes hell, or whatever you call it. I call it sucking really badly. If there is a clump of crabgrass, bam, my balls find them. Besides that, I dislike the grass stains. I like my balls to be clean and smooth, grass stains don’t work for me and I hate to scrub them off. I much prefer to caress my balls and wax them smooth so they glide across any playing surface they come into contact with.         
Back to the finale here, pay attention please, I want all of your basic rapt attention: Dan steps up to the imaginary line in the sand, puts both his balls in his left hand, and then holds the pollina with his right. Side note and a bit of education here for the uninitiated. The pollina is a very small ball. So small in fact that most do not use the one supplied in the bocce ball set purchased. At times it is too small to be seen; other times like in the sand, it sinks too far into it to be useful. My idea is to use a tennis ball or a ball from another bocce ball set that is not of the same color, size, or model that is being used so that it stands out for everyone. Outdoor freestyle bocce rules are very simple, even for a genius like me: the pollina is tossed by somebody, usually the last one to win the point or whoever is chosen to start the round. Where the pollina lands becomes ground zero; this is where the action is about to take place. To win the point, the person that lands their bocce ball or bocce balls closest to the pollina wins the point. Game goes to 11, 13, or 15 depending on who you are playing with and how they set up their game. We are playing to 13. We each have two bocce balls, the one that tosses the pollina throws first, then the next person must get “inside” of that toss to win the point. Simple right? Make sure that you have a tape measure, or there could be fist- a- cuffs. In any game, the bocce balls may be closer than they appear, measuring the distance between the balls is vital, and sometimes the size of the balls is an advantage, much as I hate to admit it. Bigger balls do win out sometimes, that’s why proper placement and skill are important. A deft, accurate hand can and should be used to win the points and make your partners, adversaries and the crowd ooh and aah. Basically a firm, skilled, guiding hand, should win out over size everytime.   

Dan is just rubbing the pollina, total concentration, his eyes squinting more and more as he does it, fixating on spot in the sand where he wants the pollina to land. He eyes the spot one more time, arches his back and with a guttural sound escaping from him, releases, and the pollina arcs through the air and lands with a thud, impaling itself in the sand. The crowd lets out a collective sigh. “Big Balls” just nods his head like a bobblehead, just like he is in control and that is exactly where he wanted it to land. He looks over at me like, “What are you going to do about that?” I look back with nothing but shear ambivalence; he still has to toss his balls, see who gets closer, so no big deal.
“Big Balls” Cannoli puts one ball in each hand, concentrating on that spot in the sand the pollina exists in, and then in one concerted motion releases his ball, it arcs through the air, cutting it like a Slapchop or Ginsu knife and lands about 4 inches from the pollina. Sand explodes into the air like an IED was just detonated. The crowd of thousands on the boardwalk and the beach go nuts, screaming, cheering, “Big Balls, Big Balls”. The camera is loving it; it pans all around as Dan takes high fives by as many people as he can. If he wins this point, we are tied at 12, it stands at 11-12 me. I need this point to win. To get that last point I either have to land closer to the pollina or hit his and knock it further away and get my ball in there, pretty simple.
I just stand looking at my plastic bocce balls, head bowed, till the crowd quiets down. When I am comfortable with their silence I approach the invisible line in the sand, look at Dan’s bare foot prints in the sand and then look around at the crowd, panning it like the television camera does , taking it all in, it is time to make my final move. This is it, the moment I have plotted all year for, the move I have planned for 365 days; this is my moment, my crowning achievement, my legacy. I can only say one thing:
“Mrs. Gelati, the chrome balls if you please.”
The crowd collectively gasps. Dan’s jaw drops. The commentators are freaking out, screaming into their microphones, spittle flying out and frothing at the mouth. Who uses chrome bocce balls on sand? WHO? The answer my friend is, I do, and there will not be a scratch on my precious balls, not a one. My beautiful wife walks up to me, her purse slung over her shoulder; ceremoniously, she reaches into her Broach purse of death (please see “The Jersey Shore has Eyes” my collaboration with Big Daddy Abel), comes out with one chrome ball in each hand, and while holding them, reaches her arms around my neck, pulls me in close and plants a huge, wet kiss on my lips. Eat your heart out everybody, haha.
Finally after what seems like seems like an eternity she disengages, looks into my eyes and says, “Here are your chrome balls Mr. Gelati, do what you do best with them.” She looks over at Dan, “Sorry Dan, game over!”And walks back to her spot in the crowd, with a great deal of style I must say so. Damn she looks good, (even if her nose is a little crooked – see “Down, Low Dead”)!
Me being me, I hold my balls up over my head for all to see. The sun glints off of them as they have been shined with care before we came; people turn their heads away as they are blinded. The crowd is totally silent; every eye is on my chrome balls, transfixed by their beauty, their incredible dimensions and just plain spherical perfection.
I casually approach the line, sweep my right barefoot into the sand and obliterate Dan’s foot prints, like he was never even there. I look at the pollina and turn the ball in the palm of my right hand over and over, the coolness of the chrome resonates throughout my body, the ball and I are now one and the same, my mind is the ball’s mind, knowing full well what it must accomplish to win this point, to land into that 4 inch separation, clean and quick.
Without hesitation and in one swift move I toss the ball into the air, all eyes are watching the arcing chrome sphere as it cuts a swath through the ocean breeze, honing in on its intended target like a Hellfire Missile raining down from the sky after being launched from a Predator Drone. There is the sound of a soft swoosh as sand is being displaced, my ball lands right up against the pollina with a soft kissing sound. My chrome ball and the pollina are both sucked down into the sand, two miss matched balls seemingly joined together in the same indentation, the same crater, kissing each other.
The crowd pauses as they take this all in, looking at each other with furtive glances, then as one they erupt,  screaming, dancing, and hooting at what they had just witnessed. My tenth victory in a row! Me, The King of Bocce, winner of ten straight tournaments, unbeaten in both single’s play and team play for the last decade. My wife jumps into my arms, kissing my face, Dan is trying to shake my hand, Harry Balls is shaking my shoulders, screaming something in my ear; I am not sure what, but it sounds like:
“Wake up Mr. Gelati, wake up! Your nap time is over; you have more work to do.”
Why does Harry Balls sound like my wife all of a sudden?
“Come on Mr. Gelati, dinner’s ready and then you have a blogtalk show to do. Big Daddy Abel, Vincent Zandri, Thomas White, Benjamin Sobieck, B.R. Stateham and Thad Brown are your guests; you are going to discuss all of your collaborations thus far at one time.”
I start to wipe some drool away from my mouth, and get propped up on an elbow, “Okay hun, thanks.”
I guess a blogger and blogtalk radio host can dream, can’t he?

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