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Puddle tennis

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IT MIGHT BE INTERESTING to play tennis using a handball instead,'' my brother-in-law suggested. I was looking through a box of sporting equipment, trying to locate my can of tennis balls, when he made that remark. It reminded me of what a gift he has for transforming any game he participates in. I recalled that once we had played Scrabble together, and after having completed a conventional game, with its typical frustrations of drawing too many vowels or too many consonants, my brother-in-law said, ``Let's forget about dictionary words. We'll play using only words we invent, but for each you have to offer a convincing definition.''

What a breeze that game was! When I found that I had drawn an excessive number of E's, it was a simple matter to unload them. I merely formed the word ``eeeeel'' and explained it as being an especially long eel. One of the words my brother-in-law formed was ``frudola,'' but unfortunately I've forgotten its meaning. Maybe if we had worked the word into conversations a few times, it would have had a longer life.

To the uninitiated, the letters on our game board appeared no more logically ordered than those in a bowl of alphabet soup, but to us they were meaningfully employed. ``It's amazing how your vocabulary can increase once you stop insisting on a word's legitimacy,'' my brother-in-law concluded.

Now I was heading out the door, can of tennis balls in hand, and my brother-in-law was pointing to some dark clouds that were fast approaching. Instantly I adjusted to the prospect of a canceled game, picturing myself sitting by the fireplace, reading Mark Twain while rain tapped on the roof. But he said, ``Hey, this is great. It might be interesting to play in the rain.''

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