An open letter to that third boule

Lee Harris, Portland Petanque Club, Portland, Oregon, USA (August 29, 2019)

If I could be judged solely on the merits of you, my third boule, then I would be likened to the greatest players in petanque.

But I must be honest with myself. Your greatness is no reflection on me. You are ever flawless in execution and I marvel at thee.

Contrary to the first and second boule to leave my hand this end, you plot your own course, and refuse to follow in the ruts that your predecessors did.

You are unlike your two fellows, who went where I threw them and not where I desired that they should go. You threw off conformity to mark your own path, casually rolling past the barricade of boules, to nudge your boxwood compatriot. I pump my arm in salute to you. Bob, I believe I shall call you, Bob.

I stay in the circle, hoping to marvel at Bob’s position just that much longer. But alas, I must relinquish my position to the evil that is my opponent. He struts into the circle. With a casual air that makes me grit my teeth, he shoots you from your perfect position, all the while laughing like a maniacal fiend. I hang my head and lament your passing, for it seems that greatness must ever be fleeting.

On the next end, the Satan spawn throws his point. I try not to smirk at his amateurish attempt, knowing that it should be easy to best him. Especially since I have not relinquished my hold on you Bob, oh wondrous third boule, as I took care to recover your scar-ridden carcass from the previous end.

Brazen with confidence, filled with triumph, I throw you.

But alas, it seems that Bob can switch bodies at his whim, because my attempt at gaining the point goes astray and is nearly a meter short. My hands make fists, I thrust my chest to the sky, and scream “Why do you mock me?” Nietzsche was right, there is no petanque god. Once again, my villainous opponent wonders about the tenuous grip that I have on sanity.

Damn you third/first boule! I glare at you for a few moments, but I cannot dally. The game must continue. I breathe deeply, gathering my focus. I can yet gain the point with my second boule if I take into account where the first boule landed. Suddenly arrogant as I am armed with information gleaned from devastation wrought by my first throw, I cast my second boule, which lands exactly 8 inches farther than did the first. I have a moment to bask in my skills until it curves sharply left, and bounces against that accursed first boule. I damn you again.

I glance at the final boule, knowing at last where Bob has gone. Again, somehow, using some form of witchcraft that I have yet to decipher, he is the last boule. Marvelous, bewildering and yet, infuriating at the same time. Without pausing for reflection, to gather my thoughts, to even pick my landing spot, I casually cast you. Unerringly, with seemingly little assistance from me, Bob once again rolls past all obstacles until he rests against the cochonnet. Relieved, yet also angry at you, I take some solace in the punishment that Bob receives as my opponent shoots him out with a single throw. I’ve been fannied.

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