There are many reasons to cheap out on sports equipment. Low-paying job, for one. Buying equipment to fulfill a resolution or get a spouse off one’s back, equipment which in all likelihood will wind up being strictly ceremonial. Naked cheapassery is also a popular option.

But, as Ames reflected, a summer party in which alcohol would be flowing was not the time or place for bad badminton equipment.

He surveyed the line of mangled equipment piled in the driveway. First were the badminton birdies, mangled pieces of cheap plastic barely able to hold themselves together. One had been bitten by a dog, one by a person, and one was cut clean in half and covered with tire marks.

Then there were the rackets. One was bent at a nearly 90-degree angle and still had a birdie stuck between its nylon strings. The angry birdies that had come with the set were so flimsy that they tended to comically stick in the rackets as often as not, and Ted’s response to a stuck birdie had been to thwack it against the cooler repeatedly rather than sully his hands or risk birdie flu. Another matched pair both had bent necks and snapped strings as a sobering illustration of what happened when you hit something that was not a birdie. That pretty much went without saying for the first racket, which had been used to hit a full can of Miller Lite and Andy Culloden, but the cause of the second’s injuries was a mere tennis ball.

The less said about the racket that was charred and twisted into a corkscrew shape, the better.

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