Match Point

Each morning the man eats a stale piece of bread and writes his novel.

He mumbles to himself, mouth filled with floury crumbs, “the only true artist is the starving artist.”

He would then greet Newbould, the cockroach.

“Morning Newbould. What does it feel like to be free?”

At night, the man would reward himself with two-minute chicken noodles and a glass of milk. But this was only if he had written something of value, something of substance, and especially something with backbone. If he hadn’t, the man would look hard in the mirror, bow in disappointment and skip dinner.

“This place is nicer than the last. The pipes at the last joint were as broken as my spirit,” he would reflect.

He found his duffle coat, rolled it up like a mattress and went to sleep. The novel was his all, his everything, his existence. If somebody asked what the novel was about, he would say, “it’s about a professional tennis player who becomes a train station cleaner.” He would add, “I based it on a friend of mine.” But everyone knew the novel was autobiographical. The man was the prodigal tennis player, the one who lost the Australian Open final after having twenty-two match points in the fourth set, only to lose the fifth, 6-0.

When he woke the next morning, Newbould, had written the man a note. The man laughed. He chewed on his stale piece of bread and began to hit a thousand invisible tennis balls: backhand, forehand, overhead smash, game, set and match. Today was a new day. For the first time in a long time, the man felt hungry.


This story first appeared here: Illy Coffee – Europe in Italy.

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