about the author

Gabriel Congdon lives in Seattle, works at a pizzeria, and occasionally acts in local Web series. His publications include Jokes Review, Bartleby Snopes, and Crack the Spine, among others.

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Gabriel Congdon

It was high time we learned. Dad was always going on about the finer things in life. It wasn’t class sanctioned what the affluent liked. All the shit rich people deem worthwhile is available to the lower classes, you just gotta grab it. Ergo croquet. We didn’t point out that a rich man’s croquet is polo but nodded our heads in acquiescence. And true, we found it the most natural thing in the world to rock out to Rachmaninov on the radio, “Dude probably invented the stuff by the sound of it. And by the name of it.”

Brother was attempting a water stroke from the plastic pool while Dad lit a cig and said, “It’s apropos that’d I’d be smoking a Pall Mall, as the game, when Charles II introduced it to England, was called paille-maille, pall mall. Latinized: ball y mallet. You assholes would have known that if you ever visited Wikipedia like I tell you to.” Dad was quick to drink during elevating activities.

“I did look that up you old coot, and if you’d remember to ask a question first, we wouldn’t appear so dumb to your dumb-ass.”

He acknowledged my point and for the rest of the day fucked with all my shots.

After a few swears tossed to the wind, we found ourselves in a game of extreme croquet. Luckily, our neighbor was a zealot of all things sport and did not mind our game extending onto his patio where he was in the midst of pounding his mistress, and only yelled at us advice. Mrs. Jennings wasn’t so obliging. Her living room carpet didn’t give to the wickets, forcing us to really drive them in there. But she pacified herself with photo albums and we quietly croqueted away.

We croqueted our way through bogs and swamps, ricocheted balls off sheer canyon walls and across stony steppes. We set up hoops through ice sheets and along the ridges of sand dunes, according to Brother. According to Brother, the final shot will be in the center of the earth, which really highlighted his infatuation with acid.

“You’ll have to watch over him. He’s a consciousness explorer and it’s in his profession to work with such materials. It won’t be very fun for you, but as my grandpappy said, ‘Dharma isn’t subtle, it sucks.’ But if you stick with that crazy-ass-som’-bitch he might lead you to buried treasure of the fourth dimension.”

We croqueted all over town and eventually found ourselves by the prison. “Boys,” Father said, “there’s a series of shadows my life’s entwined in, and any time the love light’s thrown onto me like it was today, it also casts the shadows. So I’m going to croquet my way into that there prison, and I’ll see you when I’ve made myself right with this world. Remember the finer things in life and to read your Wikipedia.” He croqueted right in and took off his clothes to reveal a prison uniform.

I asked Brother if he’d like to swing a mallet, but he’s already growing a mustache and giving himself cigarette burns. His LSD studies were floundering and he told me last night that he’s running away to college to study business administration.

So I took my father’s mallet and gave one of his wooden balls a hearty shellacking and the ball rolled and rolled. It led me all over town and showed me many strange scenes. It stopped in front of a bakery where the baker said, “He was always stealing cans of soda and throwing rocks at all the signs.” It rolled to a dry cleaner where the dry cleaner said, “The man was always citing some historical incident to justify his actions, he sure knew how to harness the powers of Wikipedia.” It rolled to a boutique where the boutiquest paced, “To think, that cursed croquet set it out there, its players hypnotized by its ancient curse.” It rolled into a pastel-tinted mist and came out onto a green where Charles the II was lining up to take the first stroke on English soil. A crowd of spectators looked on, their faces like busted clocks. I wondered what else Charles picked up in exile in the Netherlands. And what a game to bring to a country after a civil war, only to have a Catholic king back on the throne, introducing paille-maille; he looked like an idiot.

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