The ball landed outside the opponent’s box, and the opponent screamed with joy, running with glee to meet his teammates. I looked around at the rest of my team members and saw that they all looked downcast. We had lost the game.
Let me start from the beginning. My team members and I represented the table tennis players from our town of New Haven. We were supposed to be the best table tennis players in the town. However, we had all lost each of our games, and soundly too.
The tournament comes up once in three months, and there was a cash prize of a whopping fifty thousand dollars to win. It might seem like a little amount, but that cash prize does wonders. However, this year alone, we had played twice but never one a single game.
Three table tennis players were picked from each town, and five towns in the state had to compete together. The total number of points gotten by each player is calculated and then summed up with the points of the other team members to determine the winner.
I looked towards the coach and saw that he was very sad, even though he pretended he wasn’t. He had done all he could for us, and we kept letting him down. Not only him, but also the town. Since this would be our third defeat, I wondered how we were going to keep our heads up when we walk around town.
After the first two games, the townspeople had welcomed us with fanfare even though we lost both times. Will they feel the same way this time? I didn’t think so.
We reached the bus that would covey us back to town and the coach, Mr. Reynolds, stood at the entrance of the bus. For a moment, I thought he was going to ask us to trek home or something. I expected him to yell at us for being so useless. He didn’t.
“That was a nice game that each of you played today,” Mr. Reynolds said. Surprisingly, I could hear the genuineness in his voice. “I have never seen players play with so much fire, so much determination. However, the opponents were better. I guess we will have to practice more and harder.”
Surprisingly, the townspeople welcomed us again with joy. They said we made the proud despite the fact that we lost again. I wanted to cry. It was so painful. I made a promise to myself that I was going to opt out of the team so that a better player can take my place.
That was what was on my mind before I went to bed that night. However, the next morning, I got a call from Mr. Reynolds, and he told me to come very quickly. I wanted to tell him that I had decided to opt out of the team, but I felt it would be better if I did it face to face.
When I got to the training center, I saw a very expensive and exotic car parked outside. I knew it belonged to one of the richest men in town. I wondered what he was doing there. Perhaps, he came to berate us for performing woefully at the table tennis competition. Well, I will have to tell him too that I was out.
When I walked inside, I saw the man, Larry Crompton. His ancestors built the town of New Haven. They had been construction and ship builders, and the fortune had passed from generation to generation. However, Larry Crompton had built his own company by himself.
His company builds different types of robots, and he had made a fortune from that too. Now, he was standing beside a man-size robot that was dressed in the attire of a table tennis player. I wondered what was going on.
My other teammates and Mr. Reynolds were already there. They all looked at me as I walked in. “Oh, Mr. Walter Higgins, I have heard so much about you,” Larry Crompton said as he walked towards me to shake my hand. ‘You are highly welcome.”
“Hey, Walter,” Mr. Reynolds said, “As I was telling the others before you arrived, Mr. Crompton has decided to give us one of his robots which were specially designed to train people how to play table tennis better. What do you think?”
“Wow,” was all I could say.
“Yeah right? Well, let’s see how it works,” Mr. Reynolds said. ‘You are up first.”
Mr. Larry Crompton walked over to me. “Okay. There are three levels that the robot can play. Trust me, and you don’t want to try the third level. Are you ready?”
I nodded. “Yes, sir.”
Mr. Crompton pressed a button on the robot, and the robot walked like a human being to the other end of the table while I stood at the other end. The robot served first. It was very easy. Since it was in the first level, it played like a beginner. I beat it easily. The second level was a little bit competitive, but I also managed to beat it in four sets. I sweated a little over that.
The third level was a bomb. I simply had no chance. The robot’s services were out of this world. I gave it my best services, and it picked all. Its backhand was the worst; it threw me off balance every time. The robot was very fast. It was as if it had calculated the trajectory of the ball and it was always there to smash the ball back at me, even somersaulting.
After I was soundly beaten, my other teammates also tried, but they also had no chance. None of us could handle it. Mr. Crompton was very happy with his toy. He gave the robot to us as a gift to help us train, and he taught us how to take good care of it.
The robot proved to be a great challenge to us. We were determined to beat it. If we did, no one would be a match for us. We played with the robot for two solid months, and none of us ever won. However, our focus and speed were boosted.
It happened finally. I was the first person to beat it, and then the others did. When the competition finally came, we beat up all of the opponents and made our coach and the town proud. We had gotten the very best training.