The FWIP! of the serve came simultaneously with the roar of the crowd. Wyatt stood stone still as his opponent dropped to his knees in celebration.
Wyatt had been up a full set, then helplessly watched as it slipped away. It was as though he was a spectator in his own tennis match. The final ace was the exclamation point to Wyatt’s epic collapse.
Almost robotically, Wyatt applauded the victor. The crowd seemed to appreciate the gesture, because they let out another cheer. It made Wyatt feel sick. He came so close to being champion, but here he stood.
His body remained rigid as his rival leaped over the net to give him a hug. Wyatt wanted to run off the court, but his body betrayed him.
“You’re a great player. Don’t let this get you down. Next time you’ll be on top. I just know it,” the rival whispered in Wyatt’s ear. If felt like a slap in the face.
He fought off a tear to no avail. He wiped it away, hoping no one would notice. When he looked to his supporters in the crowd, the welled up tears obscured his view. From the corner of his eye, he saw someone approach.
“Congratulations on a hard fought match,” said the official. “Would you come this way, please? We need to set up for the ceremony.”
Wyatt’s shoulders dropped as the official led him off the court. He collected his bag, and keeping his head low, skulked to the locker room.
The room was empty. Wyatt sat on a bench and draped a towel over his head. He was numb, wondering what went so wrong.
Two legs appeared, but Wyatt didn’t look up. He didn’t need to.
“Are you here to cheer me up?” Wyatt asked his dad.
“Are you gonna share some valuable lesson about life?” quipped Wyatt.
His dad shrugged. “I don’t have any.”
Wyatt gave his dad a quizzical look. “Do you see what just happened? I had it in the palm of my hand. Then, POOF! Gone.”
“It was something to see,” noted Wyatt’s dad.
“Gee, thanks,” griped Wyatt. “What do I do now? Where do I go from here?”
“I don’t know,” admitted Wyatt’s dad. “What I do know is, what happens next will reveal who you really are.”
“What if I really am a just a loser?” asked Wyatt.
His dad thought for a second, then smiled. “If that’s true, then at least you know you’re already successful.”