Friday afternoon in the park. The sun smiled down on players and spectators alike. Thanks to the now experienced park-keeper and the early morning rain that day, the greens were immaculate. Everyone was looking forward to an excellent evening’s bowling. Club championship. First round. 64 of the best bowlers in the club pitting their skills against each other. And for the first time a woman had made it into the first round. Ginetta had won the junior championship three years running. Last year she had also partnered the club captain to the final of the pairs, losing only to her grandfather and his long-standing bowling partner. Polite applause, the closest thing you’ll get to enthusiasm in bowls, accompanied the arrival of the club secretary with the pairings. In his best monotone voice he read out the names, hesitating when he got to the fourth pairing:
“Mercetto Brintini…” He raised his eyes towards Mercetto before adding “… Ginetta Brintini.”
Try as he might it took at least three minutes for order to be re-established. This was going to be the game of day. For years Mercetto had been after the club championship; ever since he had been seduced to leave their oldest rivals and come and join them in Garwledd. It was the only prize to elude him. Pairs, fours, mixed pairs… some several times. But never the championship. Never, that is, until the previous year. Fate had smiled on him that year. A storm had brought a postponement of the original date set for the final. The rearranged tie was fixed for the day of Mercetto’s 60th birthday. The whole Brintini clan turned out to see him. His opponent had little choice. Win and get lynched or put a brave face on things.
Most people were convinced Mercetto would retire from championship bowls after that. He himself, had no such thoughts. He was the title holder, he was determined to defend his title. Walking towards their rink, a smile on his face, he proclaimed for all to hear:
“The chit will win the first two sets but then I’ll wipe her off the green.”
Ginetta herself, was delighted to be playing against her grandfather. She was a chip off the old block if ever there was one, but today it was her wisdom which shone through. She simply kept her mouth shut and let her bowling do the talking. Not that that had much to say, mind you. Despite her best efforts she lost the first set badly. Her length had gone to pieces and she wasn’t able to get any real draw on the woods. In the second she faired a little better but still lost, scoring just two points.
Mercetto was exasperated. He walked off the back of the rink and up to the club secretary who was refereeing their game.
“What did I tell you about letting girls into the championship. Girls were born to play girls. They have no business playing with us. They can’t even win when you let them.” And arms flaying he poured out a torrent of insults against his granddaughter. The referee stepped up and warned him but Mercetto continued.
“Mercetto docked one point for misbehaviour,” he announced.
“Mercetto docked one point… docked one point. You could dock me a hundred bloody points and I still couldn’t lose. She doesn’t know the first thing about bowling.”
The referee stood his ground. Any more of this and he would disqualify Mercetto. Then he caught sight of the tears streaming down Ginetta’s eyes. The girl was visibly shaken by the outburst but in her eyes he also saw the steely coldness of the Brindinis. She didn’t need a knight in shining armour to come to her rescue. She could do that herself.
“Play on!” he called out.
Now it was Mercetto’s turn to stutter. He lost the next set without winning a single point, before taking six straight points at the beginning of the next. With victory in sight, his smile came back but his bragging had stopped. Which was fortunate for him as Ginetta fought back and won 21 points in a row to take the set. And so the two locked horns for the final battle.
Ginetta took the early advantage and kept it by constantly changing the length of play. She knew her grandfather hated short lengths but by varying it, she stopped him from getting any regularity into his play. But Mercetto wasn’t a champion for nothing and once he succeeded in gaining a point, he played a series of long lengths and began picking up points. But his lead never extended itself to more than one or two points and when Ginetta took two points on a long jack which Mercetto had set up, they were locked at 19-19. What turned out to be the final rubber was fascinating. Ginetta had one wood to play with three woods were clustered around the jack. To the onlookers it seemed as if one point, maybe two would go to Mercetto. But the decision would be a tough one and would probably require the measure. Ginetta stepped up to the mat wood in hand. She had two options. Thunder the wood down the rink and try and take out her grandfather’s two or try and squeeze through the tiny gap and hope it ended near enough to give her the point. It was the final option she took and a gasp went up from the crowd as the wood drew through the gap coming to a stop just millimetres away from the jack. The point was hers, that much was obvious. The referee stooped measure in hand. Mercetto followed his every move. But he couldn’t fault him in the least. Her second wood must have been almost half a centimetre closer. Mercetto stalked away before the referee even had time to announce the result. Ginetta, a beaming smile on her face turned to acknowledge her grandfather but he was nowhere to be seen. The club captain came up and congratulated her, before leading the referee away into the office. Their deliberation was short and sweet.
The letter, informing Mercetto of his immediate suspension came as he himself was putting pen to paper to inform the secretary of his decision to resign.