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ELLICOTT AND THE TRIPLE PEEL
short fiction by D.K. Holland


Denis Holland plays at the Chatsworth Croquet Club in New South Wales. This story has appeared in THE CROQUET GAZETTE as well as the new anthology "The Lighter Side of Serious Croquet," by David Appleton.

"I have long contended," said my friend Ellicott, "that the triple peel, in all its forms, is the most gross manifestation of arrogance seen in croquet today."

Ellicott pursed his lips, glared at me, and bit savagely into another of the cream eclairs which invariably accompanied his otherwise nondescript luncheon.

"But you will allow," I responded tentatively, "that the triple peel, performed well, is a most difficult manoeuver?"

Ellicott's brows shot together. The eclair was dropped to the plate. "Allow?" he thundered, "I will allow no such thing. And as for being difficult, so is standing on your head. To quote the great Dr Johnson: for a dog to walk on its hind legs is difficult, but one should not consider whether it is done well, but more to the point of whether it should be done at all. The triple peel, my dear DK, is simply a circus trick, and has no more place on a croquet lawn than heckling spectators in hob-nailed boots."

I should perhaps here explain a little about the general character of Ellicott. A fairly competent player of croquet, he was inclined to a relentless intimidation of his opponents via a long study of the Potter concept of One-upmanship. The Ellicott maxim was that if you were not One-up, you were, without question,. One-down; and he pursued this philosophy come what may.

Ellicott's take-offs, for example, were notorious in that the ball from which he took croquet seldom shook, let alone moved; and his response to a questioning opponent was to swing his mallet menacingly and at the same time advance to within six inches of his questioner's nose. He would then tap his mallet a couple of times on the innocent turf and declare in a loud voice: "Moved!? You question whether it moved. Are you blind, sir? Or are you so desparate to win that you would resort to chicanery to put me off this splendid game I am playing?"

Not for Ellicott the game of Hide and Seek, and so-called "percentage' croquet was anathema to him.
To be fair to Ellicott, there is no doubt that he really believed his ball had moved, and for all his bluster and gamesmanship, he had an untiring love for croquet and played it in a positive and spirited fashion. Not for Ellicott the game of Hide and Seek, and so-called 'percentage' croquet was anathema to him

I bit into my Huntley & Palmer biscuit and attempted to pursue the matter of the triple peel. I knew I had to be quick, and countered while Ellicott was sampling another sticky eclair: "Tell me, Ellicott, if the triple peel is such a bad thing or, as you say, an arrogant circus trick, why is it that so many of our up-and-coming players think it necessary to attain the skills required to perform it?"

"I will tell you why," Ellicott retored. "It's because of the examples set by those who should know better. The few at the top set the standards, unfortunately, and they take delight in their childish high-wire act of proceeding to 4-back, wiring you, and then sucking their thumbs while you miss the lift. They then take their second ball around, perform their wretched triple peels, and believe in their naivety that that is how croquet should be played."

Ellicott drew in his breath, stifled the question hovering on my lips with an impatient wave of his hand, and continued with shoulders hunched forward confidentailly. "And in any case, if they must show off, why not continue to rover with their first ball? Four balls placed accurately, one in each corner, is an admirable leave. But they either lack courage or are too besotted with their precious triple peel."

"You will agree that a triple peel can finish a game in a remarkably disciplined fashion," I ventured cautiously.

"As for the triple peel finishing the game with discipline, a thump on the offending player's head with a heavey mallet would do just as well..."
Ellicott's eyes bulged at this, and his reply was typically intense: "I can see, DK, that you are yet another unwitting accomplice to the lunacy that is rapidly sounding the death-knell of any universal embracing of our game. And as for the triple peel finishing the game with discipline, a thump on the offending player's head with a heavy mallet would do just as well - and create a lot more spectator interest into the bargain."

"Would you ban the triple peel?"

"The triple peel," Ellicott responded flatly, "must not be allowed to continue without the introduction of imaginative curbs on the player who attempts one. And there must also be revisions of the rules to allow compensating strategies to the other player."

Ellicott had finished his luncheon and now stared reflectively at his empty plate. "Croquet is, after all," he continued quietly, "a contest between two people. In singles anyway. And you will concede that a contest requires interaction?"

I nodded vigorously while stuffing myself with the last of the Huntley & Palmers. I knew that croquet was a game between two people. I had lost enough of them to know I wasn't playing by myself.

"But where is the interaction," Ellicott continued, poking a spoon aggressively into a cup of Gold Blend. "The circus clown wins the toss, elects to go in, stops at 4-back, sneers when you miss the lift, and goes out on a triple peel. Boring high-wire stuff. Utterly boring."

"I used to like seeing the odd circus or two," I responded excitedly. "And I tell you what, Ellicott, I never thought the high-wire acts were boring. Some of those buxom wenches in skimpy costumes don't half make a chap..."

"Take the American game," he continued soberly. "Lots of interaction there. They have their priorities right....They see croquet as a contest, not a one-sided exhibition by a computerised ghost in white."
"Ellicott's glare and admonishing wave of his hand cut me off in mid-sentence. "Take the American game," he continued soberly. "Lots of interaction there. They have their priorities right. They play to the spectators. They see croquet as a contest, not a one-sided exhibition by a computerised ghost in white."

Ellicott had now risen to his feet and was busily swinging his mallet in preparation for the next round of what he saw to be the Game of Life.

I had never yet got the better of Ellicott in any dialectic. I now thought I saw a chance. "Ellicott!" I yelled after him as he was half way through the door. "Have you ever done a triple peel?"

Ellicott was stopped in his tracks. But I was mistaken if I thought that the calorie-filled eclairs had in any way diminished the quality of his repartee.

"No, I have not," he responded affably. "I have always been too busy playing Croquet."


 
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