While Smaller and I went into Le Café to get the first round of beers, Hardy selected the teams for an initial elimination round of bocce. I think the thought was, Well, Smaller and Lansing are the worst players so lets put them on the same team. Which sort of pissed me off.
No matter. We destroyed our first opponents 12 to 3. And, really, it wasn’t even that close. We should have shut them out completely.
By the time we were finishing them off, we had a bit of a gallery watching us. Middle-aged couples sitting on the green benches licking their ice creams, a few older men dressed all in white, and a little wolf pack of kids, turned loose in the Place des Lices while their parents finished their meals at one of the nearby cafes.
The French, I think, are either amused or horrified by our style of bocce which includes much chest bumping, disrespectful fingers in faces, and boasts of “You’re going down, sucker.” Plus, we play by our own rules. We toss the damn pallino wherever the hell we feel like it—sometimes ten feet in front of us, sometimes half-a-mile down the dusty court right up against a plane tree. In France, it’s all very formal; the pallino must be tossed in a circle about ten feet in length and if you miss, the other team takes over.
Also, we have our own scoring. The closest ball gets a point and the second closest ball, no matter who chucked it, gets the other point. The French way is that the scoring team receives one point for each of their balls that is closer to the jack than the closest ball of the other team. So you could get two or three points and the other team zippo.
We don’t care. It’s just a game. The enjoyment comes from sipping a beer or a pastis on the dusty Place des Lices, languidly tossing these roughed-up metal balls beneath the plane trees that have silently, stoically watched thousands of men like us play this game. And now we are part of that history as well. And that’s enjoyment enough.