Mike is the uninvited guest at Floyd’s tennis party; a spectral goth, in long flowing coat and taciturn demeanour, whose existence appears to be both real and unsettling. Yet Mike is a subconscious projection of Floyd’s hidden fears and unsaid truths; a figment of his imagination until this familiar face becomes more prophetic than make believe.
Floyd is an aspiring champion pushed on by a father whose own Wimbledon dreams were shattered in an accident. Tennis is all he knows until this life-like apparition prompts him to question his motivation. This could be the author’s attempt to pay sporting homage to the James Stewart film Harvey, only Mike is more Nick Cave than Bugs Bunny, a serious messenger of doom with no slapstick pretensions.
The story reveals the child-like vulnerability of a boy whose puppy like familial loyalty is now challenged by this voice from the shadows. This is not a Roald Dahl exploration of our inner most fears but an existential search for the truth as Floyd is coaxed by his psychologist into exploring the reasons behind the presence of the elusive Mike.
Dr Pinner is the sympathetic shrink who treats this delusional state with medical interest and empathy. In contrast Barrington Gates embodies the sporting life he is trying to escape – the taunting Pete Sampras to Floyd’s Tim Henman, good looking, confident, brash with destiny awaiting while Floyd is the younger underdog whose gritty determination is more Pinewood than Hollywood.
The author imparts into the reader’s subconscious that life is about striving for excellence and enjoyment doing what motivates you rather than someone else. Taking vicarious pleasure in your achievements is acceptable as a parent as long a they’re not living their life through you.
An unexpected friendship finally gives Mike the confidence to face his demons as his life takes a game changing twist with marine life replacing the sporting life as Mike’s guiding light leads him towards the preverbial pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.