Thursday, May 29, 2014

Ashley Sterne The Last Heat

This is a minor article from The Kadina and Wallaroo Times, 11 May 1927.

[Note: the Irish slang word "shimozzle" used below signifies a disagreement leading to a scuffle or dust-up.  This word is not to be confused with the Yiddish word "shemozzle," which signifies a confused situation.  Although not wishing to stir up a shimozzle, I assert that it is precisely this shemozzle of linguistic similarity that causes some scholars to posit that the Irish are a lost tribe of Israel.]

The Last Heat
Amusing Tennis Satire
by Ashley Sterne

It was during the summer we spent on the river that the whole athletic world was concerned at the mysterious death of Kilham Lobb, the brilliant but profane International lawn tennis player and one-time holder of the Davis Cup, the Gordon-Bennett Saucer and the Lonsdale Slop Basin.

In the early stages of the Bimbleham tournaments of that year Kilham Lobb had earned for himself the unenviable reputation of possessing a most ungovernable temper, and a long tally of crippled umpires and maimed linesmen were permanently encased in plaster-of-paris as a result of his ferocious behaviour.

But it was not until he had publicly mauled his partner in the mixed doubles, Miss Pattie Ball, and cursed her with a comprehensive curse that the committee at length decided that he had transgressed the limits of true chivalry and sportsmanship, and warned him that if he persisted in his outrageous conduct they—well, they would be rather annoyed with him.

John Smith was not one to interest himself with the more strenuous forms of athletic exercise, and therefore I was not a little surprised when one morning he suggested that we should both go to Bimbleham and witness the finals for the mixed doubles.

"I have a fancy," my friend explained, "to see the notorious Kilham Lobb with my own eyes and hear him with my own ears. Yesterday—I see in the paper—he surpassed himself both in dastardly behaviour and indecorous language.  A Thames barge-man and a sergeant-major among the spectators were so shocked that they fainted."

"I see," I observed. "You are wanting to collect a little first-hand evidence before—"

"Before ridding our most sociable recreation of its most sinister and unclean follower!" cried Smith, passionately. "I am a just man, and will condemn no one on hearsay, not even were that hearsay endorsed by the entire Hyde Park constabulary. But if I find that that hearsay is true, then I shall not sheathe the sword, nor leave one stone unturned, until I have set my teeth upon Kilham Lobb and crushed him to powder in the maelstrom of my avenging fire."

Never before had I seen my friend so moved.  Not even on the occasion when he tried to stop a runaway pantechnicon had I known him to be so completely carried away.  That it boded ill for Kilham Lobb's chances for attaining longevity I did not for one instant doubt.

"We had better be starting," said Smith, "I don't want to miss the mixed doubles."

Within the hour we were safely ensconced in front row seats, John Smith's face suggesting in its.grave contour nothing so much as a compromise between the Day of Judgment and Sam Mayo.

It was clear from Kilham Lobb's demeanour as he stepped on to the court that we were in for a star display of temper.

His partner, Miss Pattie Ball, looked white, worn, wan, worried and woe begone. She commenced the first game of the match by serving eight faults.  Kilham Lobb turned on her with the ferocity of a sturgeon deprived of its roe and called her "a rabbit."

Women shrieked.  Strong men tottered feebly from their seats to the buffet and weakly gasped for brandy.  I glanced at John Smith. His face was pale as ashes (the more pallid sort of ashes), and his lower jaw was working with what I at first took to be emotion but which subsequently turned out to be spearmint.

I turned again to the court.  Kilham Lobb made a cross-drive, which the linesman had given "out."

With a fiendish howl Lobb ran at him and belaboured the unfortunate man about the skull with the handle of his racket, which was bent almost double with the force of the impact.

The umpire ordered him to break away, and Kilham Lobb called him a wall-eyed dogfish.  Miss Pattie Ball broke into tears, and he called her a cow-faced halibut.  Both his opponents raised a protest, and he told them to go to Leighton Buzzard and Chipping Sodbury respectively.

It was only after the Chairman of Committee, two ball-boys and the groundman had personally remonstrated with him that Kilham Lobb so far mastered himself as to be able to continue.  Then for a time matters progressed comparatively smoothly. Lobb and his partner (who, since Lobb monopolised the whole of the play, afforded a remarkable illustration of Milton's famous line, "They also serve who only stand and wait") easily captured the first set, and were well away  towards winning the second when the event occurred which was to start two Continents rocking.  Kilham Lobb served a ball like a bullet from a cordite express.

"Fault!" cried the umpire.

"You're a horizontal word of four letters signifying a fisherman," retorted Lobb with heat.

"Fault!  Serve again!" ordered the umpire.

For reply Kilham Lobb uttered a fiery oath, which scorched the turf, and, advancing to the net, tore up the poles by their roots, and hurled them at the umpire.  One got him on the North Pole, the other on the Equator. He was just able to declare the match null and void before falling senseless from his perch on to a vice-president.

It was close on 7 o'clock when my friend arrived back, and in response to my question as to what had become of him—

"Read that!" he said, handing me a copy of the evening paper, and indicating the stop-press column.

I took the paper and read: 

Mysterious Death Of Famous Lawn Tennis Champion

"Shortly after the extraordinary and regrettable incident (fully reported in another column), which occurred during the finals of the mixed doubles at Bimbleham this afternoon, the dead body of Mr Kilbam Lobb, the celebrated International was found in one of the gentlemen's dressing rooms. The body was devoid of all clothing and apparently stained a bright vermillion colour. Scotland Yard officials are already on the spot vigorously searching the servants' boxes, but so far no clue has come to light."

"All my work" said John Smith, as I laid the paper down, and gazed at him in astonishment.

"Tell me!" I urged.

"It was all exceedingly simple," began my friend. "The idea. came to me during the last shimozzle wth the umpire. Everybody was crowding to the court., and seizing my opportunity I made for the gentlemen's dressing room.  It was empty as I hoped. Do you remember reading that interview with Kilham Lobb in the paper the other day, in which he stated that he always took a cold shower bath immediately after every match?"

I nodded.

"Well," continued Smith, "I merely took one of the fire-buckets and filled the reservoir of the shower-bath with boiling water!"

"Truly it may be said," I observed, "that in more senses than one Kilham Lobb brought his doom upon his own head."

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