A Pretty Good Deal

by Rob Vogt

A 12-year-old boy with a serious look on his face stands alone on the park district tennis courts, their surface once a vibrant green but now mostly bare asphalt the color of overcooked meatloaf. Aggressive cracks in these courts elbow their way inside the boundary lines; tattered nets droop well below regulation height; and piles of dog poop sit beyond the baseline, baked into dusty, hardened clumps by the summer sun. On one side of the courts are youth baseball fields, their chain link backstops and wooden benches implying South Side simplicity; on the other, the side boards of a vacant hockey rink collecting errant tennis shots that sail over the fence forever. Across the street is a takeout pizza joint called Wise Guys where you can get a hearty slice of pizza for three bucks, a pretty good deal in any neighborhood. The boy pulls dog-chewed tennis balls out of a duffel bag, tossing them up towards the blue-collar sky and dutifully tapping them over the droopy net, one after another after another. Every time a serve lands in the proper area, the courts’ green paint seems slightly less faded in his eyes, the balls less dog-chewed, the nets now taut and straight and regulation height.


Rob Vogt teaches high school English on Chicago’s South Side. His flash fiction "Serenity" was recently named a finalist for the London Independent Story Prize.