This week’s Tuesday Tale:
Will stretched out his legs and pulled his hat over his suntanned face. The hat was from the country club’s gift shop. It was a present from his wife last Christmas. It was a nice gift, but Will thought it aged him by a decade. Only the grandfathers out on the greens wore a hat like this. All the younger chaps wore ball caps or visors, but Will understood why the old men preferred this style. These wide-brimmed hats actually kept the sun off your face and your head cool and for that Will could sacrifice fashion. He rubbed the back of his neck when he remembered that he was old enough to be a grandfather.
His wife had answered the phone that morning when their daughter called. Will had gotten in the habit of waking up early ever since his fortieth birthday last year, so a 5 a.m. call was not too early for him, but a person has certain expectations about when the phone could ring and 5 in the morning was not one of the expected hours for telecommunication, even with his daughter. No, Will thought, especially with his daughter. She rarely called them and when she did it was usually late evening. Martha, his dear wife, was not in the same habit of early rising, but still she had awoken and answered the call because he was on the front porch drinking coffee. He liked it out there in the dark all alone with just a mug of coffee and his old dog.
Will sat now on the porch of the country club waiting on his Saturday morning tee time. He always arrived early and today, despite his daughter’s shocking news, was no different.
“Good Morning, Will.” His golf partner, Kennard Faust, towered over Will by a foot, and though they were both conscious of this difference in stature, it did not negatively affect their relationship. Will had known Ken since middle school. They had pondered once over a late night bottle of gin that they enjoyed their friendship because it kept their middle school years in the not too distant past. Since that conversation Will sobered up to the fact that middle school was a stupid long time ago and they needed to own up to that fact, but he never mentioned it to Ken.
Ken had married, divorced and remarried, but Will was fairly certain he was having an affair with his first wife and enjoyed it that way. Martha disliked Ken and Will understood why. Ken was a complicated fellow and Martha was real simple. She liked Ken’s first wife while they were married, she loved his second and currently hated his first. Will only smiled when she brought up the matter. She always had an opinion about Ken, and it annoyed her that Will never picked a side. Will liked Ken and that was the bottom line. They were golfing buddies, and Ken never asked him for advice, especially not about women. Will did not want to know who all he got around with and how often, and Ken was kind enough not to share.
Will had married the first girl he kissed and the only girl he had kissed was Martha. She pleased him in his youth, and he was content with her as they had gone through life. They both had their quirks and annoyances, but Will decided that if she could put up with his ways, he could put up with hers and be congenial about it.
“You ready to hit the greens?” Will stood up from his rocker. The sunlight streamed in and it appeared like the rain the weatherman had predicted was not going to happen. Not that it mattered. They had a standing tee time every Saturday morning and they always showed up. If they couldn’t golf, they drank.
“Yes sir,” Ken did a hop-step towards the awaiting carts.
They played through the eighteen holes before Will remembered why he wanted to make this game last the whole day. Claire, his daughter, was driving in today. Will looked at his Rolex. She would be at the house in half an hour, unmarried and pregnant.
“Want to grab lunch?” They always ate lunch at the clubhouse, but Ken always asked.
“What’ll we have?” Will said as they strolled up to the clubhouse. They always ate the same thing, clubhouse special with Long Island Tea, but he asked anyway. Will looked at his watch again. Martha could handle the drama much better if he wasn’t there.
“So what’s new?” Ken asked after he set down his glass of tea.
“Claire got knocked up.” Will and Ken had never minced words. He shrugged and gulped his tea.
“She know who the father is?”
“Well, I would hope so. I don’t figure my daughter for a slut. After all, Martha raised her.”
“Yeah, but a women’s college will change a girl.”
Will nodded, but he really didn’t know what Ken was talking about. “She probably just got to the house now.”
“And you are here?” Ken took a bite of his sandwich.
Ken did not have children so he could not understand what it was like to have his only daughter in such a situation, Will reasoned. Claire had gone off to a women’s college because Martha was scared that this very thing might happen to her in one of the big colleges. Martha had done the best she could, but Claire was a bit too much for her to handle as a child. Now that she was in college Claire was completely out of control. Will cringed.
“I don’t think I would help much if I was there.”
“How far along is she?”
“And she’s just now telling you?” Ken raised an eyebrow over his sandwich before taking another bite.
Will shrugged. She was pregnant. What did it matter if hadn’t she told them before now?
“Seven months, that would have been… winter break. Might mean the father was from around here.”
Will shrugged again. “Guess that’s why she’s coming home. It could be one of these fellow’s sons,” Will said, as he looked around the clubhouse café. There were a few who he wouldn’t mind being grandfathers with, but there were some others that, well, he cared for far less.
Ken choked on his last bite of sandwich and reached for his glass, but it was empty. Will offered his tea and Ken drained it dry. “Sorry. They shouldn’t toast that bread so much.”
“Yeah,” Will said, but he didn’t think the sandwich was different from any other time.
“Say, I got to split, give Martha my best,” Ken got up. He looked flushed from the choking.
“Come over for supper. I don’t think I want to be in that house alone with those two girls. We could play a round of poker or something,” Will said. He wished Ken would stick around this afternoon; he wanted an excuse to extend his absence from the house.
“Sure, maybe. Uh, I don’t know. I got a date tonight – I mean,” at this he winked, “the wife wants to go out to dinner.” He pretended to cover for himself and waved good-bye.
Ken tried to relax as he drove out of the country club. Will was a good friend, but they were nothing alike. They couldn’t be more different than a putter and driver. He always thought he was the driver, the go-getter of the two of them — the one who had more fun and more adventures. And maybe that had been true. Ken wiped his sweaty palms on his pants. He couldn’t be certain, he reminded himself, but there was no amount of self reassurance that would dismiss the thought.
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