Jerry Zezima: No absence of mallets

When it comes to croquet, a leisurely game that sounds like it involves chickens, I cannot mend my wicket ways.

That’s because I am not very good at it.

Proof came when my wife, Sue, who makes delicious chicken croquettes and recently bought a croquet set, soundly defeated me in a backyard blitz.

Our 7-year-old granddaughter also put me to shame before she got bored with the inferior competition and went off to blow bubbles.

Sue, a fan of the TV series “Bridgerton,” in which rich, snooty characters in 19th century England play a croquet-like game called pall-mall, implied that I could never be on the show because my character, Viscount Jerry I, would ruin the contest and give the swells a bad name.

It’s no different from other outdoor games in which I have competed, such as:

Golf, which I played once and ran up a score that rivaled the national debt.

Miniature golf, which I have played many times and have always lost to miniature people (my grandchildren).

Badminton, which I have played a few times and watched more birdies than I hit.

Bocce, which I botched.

And tennis, which I played when I started to court (literally) Sue. She routinely beat me, even though I took lessons as a kid. It quickly became clear that the only way I could qualify for Wimbledon was if I went as a ball boy and got beaned by a blazing backhand. It would have served (again, literally) me right.

Now my incompetence has spread to croquet.

The set that Sue bought came in a rectangular box that contained four mallet heads, four mallet handles, four colored balls, two stakes and nine wickets. There also were instructions that included croquet terms, court layout and rules of the game.

The rules were simple: Use the mallet to knock the ball through the wickets without breaking a window or adding new terms. (See above.)

After I planted the two stakes and the nine wickets, I screwed the mallet heads onto the corresponding handles and explained everything to Sue.

Sue picked up the game like a pro, knocking her first shot through not one but two wickets.

My first shot traveled about an inch and a half. My second shot glanced off the first wicket and rolled hopelessly away. I had to hit the ball back toward the first wicket and then knock it through.

By this time, Sue was well ahead of me.

I started to get the hang of the game, but by that time it was too late. Sue had already finished before I was even halfway through.

Jerry Zezima writes a humor column for Tribune News Service and is the author of seven books. His latest is “The Good Humor Man: Tales of Life, Laughter and, for Dessert, Ice Cream.” Reach him at [email protected] or via