Best Of 2021

Columbo Gets a Tennis Lesson

Columbo: Hi there! Excuse me, sir? I’m wondering if you can help me?

Tennis Instructor: Yes. If you’re looking for the conference hall, it’s just beyond these courts.

Columbo: Conference hall? Oh no, I’m sorry. It’s nothing like that. You see, I’m a guest here at the resort. My wife thought it’d be a good idea if I signed up for tennis lessons.

Tennis Instructor (eyes Columbo up and down, checks his list): You must be a Mr.… Columbo?

Columbo: The same.

Tennis Instructor: Well, we can’t begin unless you change into more… fitting attire. First, you’ll need to remove that trench coat—and exchange those slacks for shorts.

Columbo: Oh, these? Ah, geeze. I’m sorry. I don’t know what I was thinking. You know, I get so used to wearing the same thing, even when I’m on vacation! My wife is always saying, “Unwind a little. Wear something breathable.” She has a point. I just can’t take the hint.

Tennis Instructor: I see. Well, why don’t you run on up to the clubhouse. There are extra clean pairs of tennis shorts and shirts you can put on.

Columbo (returns wearing tennis outfit): Boy, you know, I feel better already. I don’t think my skin’s seen this much sun since my parents took me to Coney Island as a toddler.

Tennis Instructor: I’m sorry to hear that. We are a bit behind schedule, Mr. Columbo, so if you don’t mind grabbing your racket?

Columbo: Certainly.

Tennis Instructor: We will start out with the forehand. Now to hit a solid forehand, the object is to hit the ball at an angle to give it topspin, making it more difficult for your opponent to return.

Columbo: Huh. Topspin, wouldya know. I never knew you guys hit it that way. This won’t give me carpal tunnel will it? You see, I’ve already got wrist issue as it is.

Tennis Instructor: I don’t think we’ll know until you try it. Now I will bounce the ball a few times, and I want you to hit it with the same spin I do. (Instructor demonstrates)

Columbo (after hitting a few forehands): Wow. That’s really something. You know, you’re very good at this. I thought all I’d do is hit it into the net. When I watch tennis on TV, I’m always worried they’ll either hit it in the net or run into the net. I think I focus more on the net than I do the ball!

Tennis Instructor: Well we don’t want to do that. Let’s try a few serves. Now put a few balls in your pocket and let’s walk back to the baseline. No, that’s the sideline. I mean baseline, at the top of the court.

Columbo: Oh, this way? Sorry, I get a little disoriented in this sunlight. My wife says it’s good for me. She says it’s a lack of Vitamin D that makes me so muddled all the time. I can’t say I disagree with her.

Tennis Instructor: Now, I want you take a ball out of your pocket. What’s that?

Columbo: Oh, gosh. Wouldya look at that? These are just my cigars. I must’ve accidentally shoved a couple in my pocket in the locker room. I’m sorry. Is it alright if I smoke one while we play? Are there rules against it?

Tennis Instructor: Yes, there are.

Columbo: No harm in asking, right? (Tosses cigars in his gym bag)

Tennis Instructor: Now, when we serve, it is essential we come over the top with our racket, moving our wrist at a downward angle. We must also release the ball with our offhand at eye level.

Columbo: Excuse me, sir. But do I have to serve it from this side? My left eye don’t see too good. I’m afraid I’m flying blind here. Can’t I just serve from the other side?

Tennis Instructor: Mr. Columbo, they don’t let you serve from one side. In a match, you must switch sides every other serve.

Columbo: Darn. Well, as long as I get it over the net, right? Haha…

Tennis Instructor: You will need to get it within the first box on the opposite side in order for it to be in bounds.

Columbo (shielding sunrays, peers over): That little enclosure behind the net? I have to hit the ball within that space?!

Tennis Instructor nods.

Columbo: Oh boy. Well, I always did like a challenge. It’s too bad I got a stiff neck. I’ll have to really twist my head to get a decent aim. What happens if I get it in? Do they call that a point?

Tennis Instructor: If your opponent misses an in-bound serve, they call that an ace.

Columbo: Ace, huh? You know, I knew someone in high school named Ace? Nice guy, but he got caught selling dope outside the girls’ bathroom and I lost track of him since.

Tennis Instructor: I’m sorry.

Columbo (shrugs): Don’t be. Boy, I’m having a great time out here. I think this is the longest I’ve ever worn shorts. Not counting boxers, of course!

Tennis Instructor: That’s nice, Mr. Columbo. Now, when you score a point on your serve, you can announce the score to your opponent as “15-love.” The “love” means zero. This means that you have 15 and your opponent has zero points.

Columbo: You know, I gotta thank you for clarifying. I’ve always been confused about how the whole scoring thing works. So does this mean, if I get no points when I’m not serving, my opponent has to call me “love” before they serve?

Tennis Instructor: They wouldn’t be calling you “love,” they’d merely be stating the score.

Columbo: Well I like that. I can tell you right now, that’d be the most times I’ve heard the word “love” than in my entire marriage. I ain’t joking.

Tennis Instructor: I’m sorry to hear.

Columbo: Oh, that’s alright. My wife and I have an interesting way of communicating. We certainly do love each other. It’s just in a sort of “off the court” kinda way.

Tennis Instructor: I see. Well, Mr. Columbo. I’m afraid we’re out of time. Tomorrow we can work on volleys and backhands.

Columbo: Oh, boy. I’m excited already, sir. Thank you. Thank you very much for giving me my first tennis lesson. I apologize for my gift of gab. Well, some wouldn’t call it a gift. Can I leave you with a cigar?

Tennis Instructor: That’s awfully kind, but I don’t smoke.

Columbo: OK! No harm done. Well, until tomorrow. You know something… you never introduced yourself to me.

Tennis Instructor: I’m sorry?

Columbo: You never told me your name. Now, don’t you find that strange?

Tennis Instructor: It must’ve slipped my mind. My name is—

Columbo (holding up a hand): That’s alright, Armand. I already know your name. In fact, I already knew you’d refuse my cigar offer, too. You see, before our lesson, I did some digging. I asked around about you. I also found out you don’t smoke. Which is funny because when I went to the clubhouse to change, I took the liberty of taking a peek into your locker. I hope you don’t mind.

Tennis Instructor: Why would I mind, Columbo?

Columbo: Sure. Perhaps you thought I’d borrow one of your wristbands, something harmless. Well, the odd thing is, I found a pack of cigarettes in the far corner. And next to those were the same brand lipstick worn by one of your female students who was murdered on the highway a few miles from here Thursday night.

Tennis Instructor: So? What’s a few cigarettes and lipstick prove?

Columbo: Well, nothing significant. But the fact you had her purse and .38 in your gym bag—the same .38 that matches the bullets that killed your student—is significant. You see, her husband told our department to look into you. Turns out you two were having a tryst, and when she called it off, you just couldn’t handle the fallout.

Tennis Instructor: So why?

Columbo: Why what?

Tennis Instructor: Why did you wait to tell me until after the lesson?

Columbo: Oh, that! You know, I’m never any good with punctuality. I forgot which time I arranged for my colleagues to meet us down here. Then I remembered it wasn’t until 10 am, the time our lesson ended. Lucky for me. Believe me when I say I truly enjoyed my first lesson. Now, if you don’t mind, you’ll need to follow my friends here downtown where they’ll go over a few formalities. Oh and don’t worry—I’ll have the boys grab your gym bag.

Tennis Instructor is being handcuffed. Columbo walks away.

Columbo: Oh and one more thing. Do you know when the U.S. Open starts? That’s this month, right? My wife and I sure love those matches.