The Celebrity

Randall Brown

He glows, my son said of the Celebrity.

          We met him on the tennis court, my son a twelve-year-old tennis prodigy, his serve a swerving, unhittable blur of ball and racquet.

          My son noticed him on the bench. At the net, he whispered, "He's watching me."

          My son made the Celebrity the star-gazer—and my nobodyness grew with each of my son's aces, his top-spin lobs, his passing shots from beyond the baseline.

          "Kid," the Celebrity said, when it ended. "You are something."

          They set a time to play, the following morning. It rained overnight, but when we arrived the staff had squeegeed the court, and now knelt, wiping the excess with towels.

          I heard someone speak once of the defeated heavyweight fighter, about his diminishment, his fall from gianthood. I thought of that as ball after ball sailed into the net, over the line, behind him, finally one glancing off his racquet into his eye, knocking him down. They swarmed over him, brought ice. He shoved them away, made his solitary way back to his cottage, swaying as if drunk.

          "Jeez, he sucked," my son said.

          We received, that night, an invitation to dinner. A boat took us to a private island used by the hotel. A pig roasted in a pit. The Celebrity, men and women who were his friends or part of the entourage, and us.

          "I bet you didn't know we could get black eyes," he said to my son, speaking not of celebrities but of black people.

          "I never thought about it," my son answered.

          "If you were a stock, I'd invest in you," the Celebrity said. "You've got someday written all over you."

          "Thanks," my son said. A waiter brought him another virgin mango and banana daiquiri, brought me another drink I couldn't name.

          It ended with white fireworks, like an explosion of stars. We sat on the edge of the ocean. My son put his arm around me.

          "What do you think, Dad? About what he said. That someday stuff."

          I watched the sky. The Caribbean waves like ripples from a stone thrown far off. They sounded like the tiny splashes of my son in the bathtub. One night, I had sat with him, the water draining out, thinking of death of all things. With his finger he'd touched my tears, tasted them, asked what it was.

          "Salt," I had said.

          Always, after that, he'd asked for tears to put on his eggs, his fries…what was I trying to remember? —to say? Don't grow up. Forget about someday.

          "Dad? Do you think he's right?"

          "Of course," I said. "Anyone can see that."

          "That's cool," he said, then pointed down the beach.

          The Celebrity stood alone, at the ocean's edge. I wondered about his loneliness, his secret wishes, his life here among the mortals. He knelt. It looked as if he were building something, dribbling wet sand, over and over again.