DOUBLE THE TROUBLE, DOUBLE THE FUN. Is it a game, set, match for Henry?
Henry wants to win the doubles tennis trophy more than anything. He knows he'd good enough, but he's not sure his partner Rocky is. The advantage goes to new readers as they follow Henry as he helps Rocky train and, at the same time, works on his history project. Can Henry serve up an ace on and off the court?
About the Author
BETTY HICKS is the author of five previous GYM SHORTS books, as well as other novels for young people. She lives in Greensboro, North Carolina.
Simon Gane is the illustrator of TRACK ATTACK and a graphic novel artist. He lives in Bath, England.
Read an Excerpt
Henry stood three feet back from the net, his tennis racket raised and ready. He pictured Rocky behind him — getting ready to serve.
Right now, thought Henry, Rocky's taking a deep breath. And now, he's swinging his racket back with one arm and tossing the ball up with the other.
Henry listened for the thwack of Rocky's racket hitting the ball. What was taking him so long?
They had to win this point or they'd lose their doubles match. Too many losses meant no trophy. Henry loved trophies. Even more, Henry loved playing.
Just thinking that the match might end so soon made Henry grind his teeth.
Thwack! Rocky finally hit his serve. Blap! The ball hit the tape on the top of the net and fell at Henry's feet. Rocky had missed his first serve.
"Hey!" cried Henry. "Don't worry about it."
After all, a server gets two chances to put the ball in play. But if Rocky messed up again, that would be a double fault — and they'd lose the point. End of game, set, and match.
Henry turned to Rocky and pumped his fist in support. "You can do it!"
Rocky clenched his jaw and nodded. He bounced the ball hard, getting ready for his second serve. Match point. Last chance.
Henry turned back to face the net. He stared down the kid who was crouched on the other side, ready to receive Rocky's serve.
"Come on, Rocky," Henry whispered, "ace him."
Secretly, Henry wished it were his turn to serve. Henry's serve was the best part of his game. On a good day, he could hit the ball so hard and aim it so well, no one could touch it — a perfect ace. And, Henry never double faulted.
Not that Rocky was a bad tennis player. He just wasn't as good as Henry.
Blap! Rocky's serve struck the net again. The ball dropped down and rolled the length of the net. Henry stared after it as if it were a big yellow bug looking for a place to hide. Stupid ball, thought Henry.
Henry and Rocky had lost their match.
Goose, Rita, and Jazz surrounded Henry and Rocky after the match.
"Too bad." "You'll win next time." "Those guys were good," they all said at once.
Goose, Rita, Jazz, Rocky, and Henry were friends who lived in the same neighborhood. They had exactly enough people for a basketball team, or anything else they wanted to play. Which was perfect because they all loved sports — especially Henry.
Henry was glad they were trying to make him feel better.
"Those guys were good," Henry agreed. "Too good for me." Which was a lie, but he didn't want Rocky to feel any worse than he already did. After all, Rocky had lost the match.
"What you need," said Rocky, "is a new partner. I stink."
"You do not," said Jazz.
Goose held his nose. "Yeah, he does. He smells like monster sweat."
Rita jabbed Goose.
"Ow," said Goose, rubbing his arm. Rita could throw a punch like a prizefighter.
"Hey!" Henry exclaimed. "I don't want somebody else!" But even as he said it, he knew that just ten minutes ago he'd wished Goose were his doubles partner instead of Rocky. Goose had a better serve than Rocky, and he had a better backhand. Not only that, but his long arms could reach lobs — those high, arcing balls that sailed way over your head. Goose could put those away with an overhead smash that made Henry's jaw drop.
But Coach had paired Goose with another player. And Henry would never suggest a switch. That would make Rocky feel like dirt.
"Just work on your serve before the next match," Rita advised Rocky.
And your backhand, Henry thought.
Goose pulled a Tootsie Pop out of his pocket. It had so much lint on it that Henry couldn't even guess what flavor it was.
"Eeew," said Rita.
Goose handed the lollipop to Rocky.
"Thanks!" said Rocky. He picked some of the lint off with his fingers; then he popped the whole thing into his mouth.
"Do you have any more?" Henry asked.
"Nope," said Goose, pulling his empty pockets inside out. "Sorry."
Jazz tugged Rocky's hand and said, "Come on. You must be thirsty. Let's get you some Gatorade."
"Then let's look for an open court," said Rita. "We'll help you practice your serve."
The next thing Henry knew, all his friends were walking away. Rita was offering Rocky some of her lemon drops. Goose had one long arm draped over Rocky's shoulder. Jazz still held on to Rocky's hand.
Henry wanted to yell, "Hey! What about me? I lost too!" Instead, he ran to catch up.
A week later, Henry's dad dropped Rocky and Henry at their next match.
Rocky had spent the entire week practicing his serve until it was awesome. Rocky never gave up on anything. Henry felt stupid for ever wanting a new partner.
"Race you!" shouted Henry, and took off running for the court.
Rocky sprinted right beside him.
They reached the court at the same time.
"Time for warm-ups!" shouted Coach.
Rocky and Henry trotted onto the court. They stretched. Then they began their first drill, sidestepping back and forth from the baseline to the net. They kept their backs straight and their weight forward.
"How many times did Coach say we had to do this?" asked Henry.
"Six," said Rocky.
"How many times do we have left?
"No way," said Henry. It seemed as if he'd already done ten.
When they finished the drill, they both slurped water from their water bottles. Henry squirted Rocky. Rocky squirted him back. They laughed.
Henry couldn't wait for the game to start.
"See those guys?" Henry tilted his head at the two kids they were about to play. Both of them were running up to the net and touching the ground with their hands, then scurrying back, backward. One kid tripped and fell.
"We'll destroy them," said Rocky.
Henry bumped fists with Rocky.
Rocky served first. He slammed an ace right past the kid who had tripped.
"Fifteen–love," said Rocky, announcing the score.
Henry gave him a thumbs-up.
Excerpted from "Doubles Troubles"
Copyright © 2010 Betty Hicks.
Excerpted by permission of Roaring Brook Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
3. Rotten Returns,
4. Jazz to the Rescue,
5. I'd Rather Eat Rocks,
6. Henry's Plan,
7. Solid, Strong, Boring,
8. Henry's Best,
9. Match Point,
10. My Stuff Stinks,