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Serves Up

by Al the Bard

Al the Bard This is one of my submissions for the Creative Flash Challenge: Starters. This is a story about a tennis player whose Squirtle has been helping him prepare for the state tennis tournament. One of the sports I cover is tennis and there are a few kids who are competing at the state tournament so I thought I'd use that a jumping off point.
Ethan and his Squirtle arrived at the tennis court just after dawn. The state tennis tournament would begin in a few hours and Ethan wanted to get some last-minute practice in before his first match.

“All right buddy, show me what you got,” Ethan said to the his Pokemon as he placed his athletic bag to the side.

Squirtle nodded as Ethan placed a bucket full of tennis balls on the other side of the net. The Pokemon stood next to the bucket, grabbed one of the tennis balls and threw it in the air while Ethan moved to the opposite side of the court. As the tennis ball started to descend, Squirtle used his water gun attack and sent the ball toward Ethan, who hit the ball with a forearm shot.

Squirtle continued to send tennis balls over the net while Ethan hit them over the Pokemon’s head with different forearm and backhand shots. This had been their routine for the last few months.

When Ethan started playing tennis for his high school, Squirtle became upset because he spent less time with his trainer. After Ethan noticed his Pokemon’s feelings, he told Coach Brian, who suggested he have Squirtle practice with him. It started with Squirtle cooling off Ethan on hotter days and helping carry his bag, but the two developed this practice drill after Coach Brian’s automated tennis ball thrower broke down.

Practicing together not only brought the two closer, but it also helped Ethan refine his shots and returns and improve his conditioning as well as his confidence. When they started, Ethan could only hit one or two out of every six shots. Now he’s averaged five to six. Squirtle was proud to see Ethan’s progress, which culminated in his friend winning his first district tennis championship. Coach Brian asked Squirtle to go with Ethan to the state tournament as he would not be able to make it because of a prior commitment.

After Squirtle sent the last tennis ball over, Ethan hit a lob shot and watched as the ball landed in the bucket. “That’s it for now buddy,” Ethan said as they quickly retrieved the rest of the tennis balls and placed them back in the bucket.

Ethan took a swig of water as Squirtle, who wanted to test his friend’s reflexes, took one of the tennis balls and tossed it at his friend. Ethan batted it back and accidentally hit Squirtle in the face.

“Oh no Squirtle, I’m sorry,” Ethan said as he picked up Squirtle, who now had a small bump on his head. Squirtle pointed to Ethan’s watch, pointing out they needed to register for the tournament, then smiled as he touched the knot and let his friend know he was fine.

After they were finished at the tennis court, Ethan and Squirtle walked over to the wall with the bracket mounted on it. “Looks like I’ll be facing the No. 3 seed,” Ethan said after he found his name next to the No. 6 seed.

Squirtle shook his head and pointed to the words “District 7 champion” underneath Ethan’s name, assuring his friend he had the skills to make it far in the tournament. They registered and walked to the fieldhouse and waited for Ethan’s match to begin.

When the announcer called his name, Ethan made his way to the court, greeted his opponent and waited for the match to begin.

Ethan missed the first serve, which set the pace of the match as he dropped his first four points. He rallied back with two points, but his opponent finished with a lob shot to win the first set.

During the match, Squirtle watched Ethan’s opponent’s movements and shots, which were similar to what they had practiced. The Pokemon used his body to mimic some of those movements and flexed his muscles to encourage Ethan to be more aggressive.

Squirtle’s pep talk seemed to work as Ethan successfully returned his opponent’s shots and score the first five points. After he dropped the next two points, Ethan finished the set with a backhand shot.

The third set was closer than the first two with Ethan and his opponent trading points. Ethan managed to break away with a two-point lead after landing a slice, then followed it up with a serving face for the win.

After the match was over, Ethan shook his opponent’s hand and ran over to hug Squirtle.

“Thanks for believing in me and all of your help,” he said. Squirtle embraced his friend and together they went back to the locker room to wait for Ethan’s next match.