A day off from the bean pressing sweatshop. No training, mind or body, just a day of rest...at least that was the rough draft.

Still in tight underwear of cradling comfort in the house of playacting manners, I wandered to the kitchen to make a sandwich of significance — turkey, cheese, spicy sprouts, wasabi mayo, stacked on a nut bread. Fresh awesomeness filling a hungry gut. After taking the first bite, mild mannered Marcus entered the kitchen filled with bipolar excitement. His excitement was not of my doing, so I took another bite of the stacked spicy feast.

“Are you comin'?” Marcus asked.

“Coming?” I replied, taking another teeth tear of deliciousness.

“We're playing volleyball at Jake's boss' house. The same place we played a couple of weeks ago. You had fun. You should come. This time we have to follow the rules of the IWVA, though.”

“Huh?” I enquired.

“I think it's the International Water Volleyball Association or something. I don't know, just come.”

Another bite, giving the satisfied mind time to consider. It was fun, and a good workout, but there were some real tools there...and the dynamics. Jake's boss was the worst player there, but he corrected and criticized everyone else's play — no one had a single unkind word, correction or critique to pass his way because it was his house and he was the boss man...and, lest we forget, they were polite young men. A couple of his friends, an albino named Jiminy and a redneck named Tucker, also had critique to offer, always bitter and nasty. Marcus and his peers took the abuse with a smile on their faces, just glad to be invited...they had a great time. It was fun.

I nodded my head in acceptance, swallowing spicy dancing goodness.

“Great! It's gonna be a blast.”

“Are the tools going to be there?”

The assumption was that Marcus would reply by saying, “Who?”, but instead he answered, “It's their thing, they're always there. But it'll still be fun!”

Yeah, a good time by all with a few dull tools to make the effort slightly more dangerous.

Wearing a pair of tattered board shorts I found on the side of the road one night, I rode over with Marcus and a few of his buddies to Boss' house. I will admit to a dash of envy, as he had enough of a layout to have a volleyball court, though not quite a compound of Captainesque proportions, while I lived in a rented room of what I was beginning to believe was a stolen house. There is a reason envy is a cardinal sin, and not in any lifetime would I wish to be the man to whom all of this belongs — sin dismissed, resolve accepted.

Trying to find the fulcrum of a universe of older never-athletes past their prime and younger athletes having fun, I tuned out most everything and played. It was a blast! A dive here; a dive there; a great save; an ugly miss. A great save my by “get out of your wheelchair” and an ugly miss met with “If you'd just line up in the right place” commentary by the guys of decay who have never tasted the bitter pain of hard fought narrow victory and the sour savor of defeat. In contrast, the youngsters, all athletes, had nothing but “Oh yeah!”, “GO!”, “Dive!”, “Damn...”, “Almost” and “Nap time is over.” They were having fun, as they, like most in a pick-up game without consequence, were there for the fun of sport.

Time flew as most of us enjoyed stretching our muscles and mouths while sharing beer, snacks and stories of...nothing, except for those guys who took the whole thing so damn seriously. Even while we were sitting around talking and drinking during a piss rest, they were talking about how bad this person was and that person was. For the most part, it was an immature child-man named Tucker, who Boss and Jiminy followed for fear his bitter tongue would be turned on them, much like the cowardly kids who befriend a bully on the schoolyard because they were too afraid to stand on their own. But this was all about the game, and most of us were having a really good time...until...well...

Innocently, I turned to one of the young guys and asked, “Where's the tall guy with the long hair who was here last time?”

The young man shrugged his shoulders to answer that he did not know, but his eyes deceived him as he looked toward Boss and Tucker with fear in his non-wandering eye. It was at that moment that the wall of peace gave way. For my own enjoyment, I had dismissed evil as nothing more than an immature pseudo-man we could all ignore, but truth slapped me hard with a wet sting. I went to sit next to Boss, Jiminy and Tucker.

Jiminy and Tucker left to urinate, so I took the opportunity to ask Boss about the missing young man.

“He sucked. Did you see how tall he was? He should have been better. He wasn't any fun, couldn't take a kidding, and he sucked!”

“And you're soooooo good?” I asked instinctively, to my surprise and his.

“Well...”

“It must take a lot of fun out of the game for you, since no one 'teases' you guys.”

He gave me a startled, blank stare, as if he had believed no one commented on his game because of his olympian abilities.

“I guess I need to fix that for you so you have more fun,” I offered, standing to leave. “I'm your huckleberry.”

Walking off to the side to be alone and take in the scenery, I think about how much fun I have playing, and the banter of the young athletes, and I know I will probably never be back to play after I do what I must. I then spot the rock where I last remember seeing the tall young man whose spirit they broke, sitting alone. I now know he was just out of college and moved here from across the country. He had only been here for a month and this was one of his first outings. Some of the guys he worked with enjoyed the game and thought he would have a good time. I remember him sitting on the rock, quiet, thinking, and now know he was in pain from the hyper-critique of Boss, Tucker and Jiminy, but predominantly Tucker. I saw it. I ignored it. I hold myself accountable. It is better to be alone than to excuse the company evil.

Play resumes. I am on the team of Tucker and Boss. For obvious reasons, I am acutely aware of what is transpiring. Tucker senses something is threatening, the change in energy forms, but Boss' critique is on par — the kind of on par measured by the same trio when they beat a small, dimpled ball with a stick. Boss makes a couple of mistakes. I look to Tucker and ask for any critique. Nothing. Boss misses again.

“Tucker, anything?”

He looks at me, expressionless, the blank testing the depths of his thought process.

“I feel bad for you. There is no one to critique your mistakes which really cheats you out of all the fun,” I tell Boss.

After the third round of similar conversations, Boss sees the point. “I get what you're saying,” he reluctantly states. His critique is ended.

Tucker, the true purveyor of evil, is trying to use the mirror I have offered in kindness, but he cannot squelch his true nature for long.

After a loss, he tells us, his teammates, “I have an idea, but I'm afraid you guys are too stupid to get it.”

A couple of us smirk. We know we have to do his stupid plan, for our enjoyment of his ignorance.

One behind another, we line up five in a row down the middle of the court. Tucker is on one side of the line and Boss is on the other. To the surprise of no one except Tucker, we begin getting crushed immediately, and laugh our arses off.

“Whose idea was this?”

“Brilliant. Brilllliant.”

“Tucker, you just want to squeeze into this line and have one of us rub up against you, huh?”

“This is stupid. What do you do for a living?”

The comments were relentless, merciless, all having fun at the fool's idea. I quietly smiled at Tucker, needing to say nothing, his bitter character fermented. Everyone agreed to spread out to a traditional lineup and get back in the game. Of course Tucker could not refrain from saying how his idiocy did not work because of the ignorance of his teammates.

Unable to come back and win, we walked off the court laughing at a hard fought game that started out as a display of foolishness, but all-in-all it was fun had by most with the surreptitiously shared benefit of crowding out evil.

“That was fun,” I said to Tucker as we walked.

“I never knew anyone could be dumber than my wife, but watching you play. I knew you guys were too stupid to do it.”

“Never seen anything dumber?”

“Nope.”

“Tucker, I can't believe you don't have any mirrors in your house,” I chuckled.

What is amazing is how people who spend their time being mean, nasty and hyper-critical are least able to suffer the same treatment. He paused, fully wrapping his mind around the simple retort and paled.

“I guess not,” he answered meekly and shied away.

We played for a couple more hours. Boss and Tucker were very quiet, somewhat limp and lifeless, being unable to target others unmolested. Jiminy picked up on the new tone and adapted, as did Boss, eventually, for the most part. It was Tucker, the little bully who put on a dour face while broken within.

He may have been able to hide it from the others, but the man of tiny character was crying inside, blubbering tears of fear, for he did not know how to be anyone other than the mean mouthed pseudo-man pretending to be big. He could hide it from others, but I could taste Tucker's tears.

Undoubtedly, I will not be invited back, it is the only way they can regain their dynamics, because I cannot let the nastiness slide. What they fail to understand is that good, like evil, is contagious. Those who have put up with the three infected see there is another way, know decency is an option.

I would rather be alone than in the company of evil, especially when evil is pretending it is otherwise. And to battle such impotent evil is such a wasted effort...but if called to play again, in the name of what is right...

Most are decent, generous and quiet, wishing to avoid evil and battle no one. Most people just want to get through the day. A few people are evil's nasty minions because they found it helps them hide the worthlessness from which they are constructed and harbor within. A few people are doers of good, those who would like to enjoy the day but are unwilling, no, unable to ignore the bitter rain spewed by evil. The battle between good and evil will never end, and though it is easier for one to turn evil, by nature, the strong of man is good.

Good will always win because good is simply embracing the righteousness of truth...and because evil is ugly...Tucker ugly.