Welcome everyone to part one of my Christmas week edition of CHALLENGE COURT. Prepare yourself for a fun filled adventure as I indulge myself in a different kind of writing. In the following story you will be introduced to characters that have appeared in previous editions of CC.
Dalton McDeep – see Apr. 26th, May 17th, June 28th, July 19th, and Aug 2-16th editions.
Yujoil Kowq – May 3rd, July 26th, Aug 2nd-16th editions.
Jean (the Scottish genie) – July 15th-19th, Aug. 2nd and 9th editions.
Elvis – July 26th, Aug 2nd-16th editions.
This story will also have a group of PB friends who have agreed to be virtual characters. Here are brief descriptions of our appearances that will help some of the readers who do not know these people.
The Pickleball Crew:
Neil – tall, strong and athletic, sparse hair.
Jane – medium height, short blonde hair, Neil’s spouse.
Eddie – about 6′ tall, full head of wavy dark hair, short white beard.
Sue – medium height, slim, dark hair, Eddie’s partner.
Beverly – dark skinned, medium length dark hair, infectious laugh.
Robin – (male) about 6′ tall, strong and athletic, sparse hair.
Sandy – medium height, short blonde hair, athletic, Robin’s wife.
Jan – medium height, short streaked hair, Elvis’s good friend.
Wayne – tall, slim, athletic, short dark hair.
Gwen – slim, medium height, light coloured shoulder length hair.
Leslie – (female) short and slim, medium length blonde hair, Gwen’s life partner.
Pamela – 5’2” tall, long silver and dark hair, Doug’s spouse.
Doug – your narrator, 5′ 11” tall, short salt and pepper hair and beard.
In real life we are all baby boomers, but please feel free to visualize us as younger and better looking. Speaking of which……Note from me to the other members of the pickleball crew: When Hollywood decides to do the film version of this story….I have ‘dibs’ on Brad Pitt to play my role.
PICKLEBALL CHRISTMAS STORY
Tension was high on the bridge of the Vulcan star ship….I looked around at the faces of my fellow travellers…..Many of them were my pickleball friends and, like me, they were making their first trips in space. We had been to the planet Zweegh, but, since it was 5 am on December 24th, it was vital that we get back to Earth soon, not just for our sakes, but for our VIP passenger….I looked over at his iconic face. He didn’t look well. His normally ruddy completion had turned pale and he was sweating. I asked him if he was feeling okay and he gave me a weak smile and nodded in the affirmative. The Vulcan captain of the star ship looked over at us. Her name was Commander T’ron. She noticed that I was staring at our famous passenger. She could tell I was concerned about him. T’ron went over and put her hand on his shoulder.
“Don’t worry Santa,” she said to him gently,”We have just one more jump to make at hyper speed and we’ll be near your destination at the North Pole.”
He frowned at her. ”I’m not going there,” he said grumpily, ”I left my damn sleigh and reindeer at his place!” Santa pointed over at Yujoil Kowq, who looked over our way with an unconcerned expression.
”We’ll get there in no time, Nick,” Yuj said in his squeaky voice. ”We have absolutely nothing to worry about on this…”
My alien pal stopped talking because Commander T’ron was holding up her hand to get our attention. We all looked nervously at the vis-screen…..there was another ship approaching us!!
”Klingons!!”…our captain said that one word and a chill went up my spine!
”Pickleballers,” T’ron said with urgency, ”grab your paddles and get ready to defend our ship from attack!!”
I hurried to my battle station. I had little time to react! The Vulcan/Klingon peace treaty banned all weapons of war, but,…they had forgotten one thing…On the screen I saw that all hell was breaking loose! The Klingon ship was firing huge yellow pickle balls at us!
‘Oh no,’ I thought, ‘how did we get in such a mess?”
Chapter One – Twenty Eight Hours Earlier
It was the early hours of the morning on the 23rd of December, and I was doing dishes in the kitchen of my pal Yujoil Kowq. I was one of the volunteers who had offered to stay and clean up after the party Yuj had put on for all us pickleballers. It had been a fun evening, and I hope everyone who is reading this story will imagine they had attended the bash. Over two hundred people had been there..it was a real party hardy affair!
I had my hands in soapy water when I heard a knock on the back door. I wiped my paws off on a cloth and went and opened the door. Standing there was the last person I expected to be there…The whiskered gentleman smiled at me.
”Hello,” he said, ”is Yujoil at home?”
I took me a moment to reply. ”You’re, uh…” I sputtered,..”no,…you’re not,….are you?”
He smiled and nodded. ”Is it alright,” he asked politely, ”if I leave my deer and sleigh out there?”…He pointed outside.
I didn’t know what to say,..so I pushed past him to walk out on the deck. In the darkness I could see some large animals grazing on Yujoil’s lawn. They were illuminated by an eerie red glow, which seemed odd to me, until I noticed one of the beasts had a bright red nose!
‘Oh my gosh,’ I thought, ‘It’s Rudolph!’..I hurried back into the house. I stared at our visitor.
”It is you,”I said, ”I’m so excited to meet you sir…is it alright if I shake your hand?”
He chuckled and took my hand. His hand shake was warm and strong. Then I stood beaming at our guest.
”Sir,” I said to him after a moment, ”would it be okay with you if I play a little trick on my friends? They’re in the other room and I want to surprise them. Would you mind staying here for a minute?”
”Sure,” he said, ”that sounds like a splendid idea Douglas.”
It didn’t dawn on me at that moment, because I was so giddy, but much later I realized he knew my name without my telling him who I was. All that mattered to me at that moment was playing a guessing game with my pickle pals. I went in the living room where everyone was busy tidying up.
”Excuse me everybody,” I said in a loud voice, ”but can you stop what you’re doing for a moment? I have some important news to share with you all!”
Eddie looked in my direction. “Did you find something valuable when you were doing dishes,” he asked me?…Or did someone leave us a big tip?”
”No,” I answered coyly, ”but I will soon be introducing you all to a surprise visitor,..and I bet you fools can’t guess who it is.”
”Is it the Pope,” asked Eddie?
”No,” I replied, ”it’s someone who is sort of an idol of mine.” By this time I had their interest…People stopped what they were doing and Bev came close to me.
”Do I get a prize if I guess who it is,” she asked?
I shrugged. ”Perhaps,” I said to her.
”Is it Timothy Nelson,” she asked with a snicker? I frowned and shook my head.
Jan joined the game. ”I don’t think Doug likes the Puppetmaster so much anymore. The guest is probably Wes Gabrielsen,…that’s his new idol.”
I shook my head. ”Sorry,” I said, ”it’s someone much more famous than him.”
”Oh,” said Jan excitedly, ”Is it Elvis?”
”No,” I said, ”don’t you remember Jan?…I told you earlier today,….Elvis is down at Vegas with Jean and McDeep.”
Just then my pal Wayne looked past me towards the entryway. ”Is it Saint Nicholas,” he asked?
I heard a noise…Our visitor came and stood beside me. Everyone was standing in front of us in stunned silence. I made a grand flourish.
”Ladies and gentlemen,” I said, ”say hello to Santa Claus!”
Chapter Two – Breakfast With Santa
The next morning I awoke in unfamiliar surroundings. It took me a moment to realize where I was…in a guest room of my pals large country house. I and the other volunteers had brought overnight bags so we could spend extra time with our alien friend Yujoil Kowq. Everyone liked Yuj….the guys because he was easy going and funny, the ladies because he reminded them of a big teddy bear with a vaguely moose like face.
I smiled to myself…I would also have time to spend time with someone else….Santa was staying with us today! I felt very happy. We had all wanted to talk to him last night, but Yujoil made us all go to bed,.. promising us that we would have an opportunity to get acquainted with him in the morning.
Then I had a thought,…’Pam must have gotten up early and gone downstairs….maybe I had slept in too long and missed breakfast.’
I was still quite tired, and as I lay there I had another disquieting thought that made me get up right away…..Something was not right, and did not make sense!..I freshened up in the bathroom, got dressed quickly, and went downstairs. I got to the kitchen/dining area and surveyed the morning scene….Leslie was at the counter helping Yuj prepare one of his his weird green liquid concoctions. She took a teaspoon and had a little sip of his morning brew….she made a grimace.
”Yuj,” she said, ”how can you say you like this stuff.”
”It’s an acquired taste,”he said. ”Just ask DeeJay,…he drinks it all the time.”’
”Yeah, in your dreams Kowq,” I said. Yuj and Leslie laughed.
Pam was making a pot of her special healing lemon and ginger drinks for us humans. Jane was cooking some hash browns on the stove and Sandy and Neil were getting some eggs and cheese ready for omelettes.
Santa was at the table talking and drinking coffee with the rest of the crew. He looked my way and said, ”Good morning Douglas.”
For some reason that made the people at the table laugh…”Good morning Douglas,” they all said in chorus…more laughs.
I frowned..”Morning,” I said.
Pam came over and touched my hand, ”Are you okay,” she asked?
I gave her a nod,”Uh huh,” I said, ”I’ll be fine..I just need a cup of your health drink and a coffee chaser.”
She nodded in understanding. ”It’ll be ready soon,” she said. ”Why don’t you sit at the table and take it easy?”
”Uh huh,..yeah,” I replied, ”I will…I just have to talk with Yujoil for a minute.”
Yuj heard his name mentioned and came over to see me. I glanced over at Santa. He was telling an anecdote to his rapt audience at the table. I looked back at Yuj and gave him a lopsided smile.
“Can I see you in private,” I asked him?
He studied me for a moment, then said, ”Sure,..walk this way, Deejay.” He moved forward on tiptoes. I chuckled and followed him into the living room.
When we were seated on a couch I wasted no time. ”What’s he,…uh,..you know,..Santa doing here,” I asked him?
Yuj gave me an innocent look..”Guess,” he replied.
”I don’t know,” I said. ”Is he,…I mean, uh,..is Santa a friend of yours?”
Yuj thought for a moment. ”Yeah, I like him I think,….but you never know,…after all, I just met him last night.”
I shook my head. ”But,” I said, ”I don’t get it,..uh,…I give up,..how, uh..”
”I wrote him a letter,” Yuj said simply.
I scowled. ”You wrote a letter to Santa,” I asked in disbelief?
My buddy smiled. ”Yeah,” he said, ”I sent him some of your funny articles. Then I wrote him another letter and asked him if he would come down and help you write a Christmas story. Santa wrote back and said he would be happy to….He said he likes helping people like you.”
”People like me,” I asked in surprise, ”do you know what he meant by that?”
”I’m not sure,” Yujoil said with a shrug, ”do you think I should ask him?”
I mulled things over for a minute…’Maybe,’ I thought, ‘Santa can give me some tips on character and plot development,…after all,…he said he would help.’….I mulled some more…’Maybe Santa thinks I’m on to something…who knows,…maybe he thinks I’m a good writer?’
I jumped up feeling elated. ”C’mon,” I said to Yujoil, ”I’m starving…let’s get in there and have some food…I’m going to need lots of energy….Santa and I got a story to write!”
Yuj got up, and together we silly walked into the kitchen. Breakie was ready by then and we all helped ourselves to a yummy and nutritional repast. After our meal we all pitched in and cleaned up the dishes in a jiffy. I went to put a jug of milk away and noticed a bunch of paper bags in the fridge. I took one out and turned to the others.
”What are these for,” I asked to no one in particular?
”Surprise,” said Robin. ”You’re the only one who doesn’t know….those are our lunches. We’re going on a trip.”
I begged and pleaded, but none of them would tell me where we were off to. ”You shouldn’t have slept in Doug,” Wayne said to me. ” Your punishment for being lazy is you don’t get to know our destination until we arrive there.”
We took our lunches, and Santa took a small sack, and we went to a metal outbuilding at the side of the house. It was Yuj’s interstell transporter. There was an elaborate locking system to open wide sliding doors. Once inside we waited while Yujoil made sure we were all standing underneath a heavy funnel shaped structure that was suspended about six feet above our heads. Then he went into a small side room for a minute. I heard a electronic humming noise, and in a moment he came out and joined us under the funnel.
”Join hands and stand in a circle,” he said
We did as instructed. The humming sound was getting louder.
”This isn’t going to hurt,..is it,” asked Eddie?
”I’m already hurting,” said Jane. She looked at Santa, who was holding her right hand.
”Sorry,” he said and loosened his grip, ”I’m just a bit nervous.”
Bev, who was holding Santa’s other hand said, ”Did anyone check for bugs in here. I don’t want to end up with a weird head like that movie ‘The Fly’.”
We all laughed nervously, then I saw a flicker of light and the humming stopped. I felt a big queasy. Yuj told us to let go of each others hands. Sue looked around..she said it appeared we were still in Yujoil’s building.
”What do you think Yuj,” she asked, ”it doesn’t look like it worked?”
Just then the sliding doors opened and there was an old alien man wearing a uniform standing there.
”Welcome Earth people,” he said in a croaky voice, ”to the planet Zweegh.”
……..Coming up in the next edition…..Chapter Three of our adventure.