Has he ever shot pool? asked Paul Lerner.
Beth says when he was younger, in the Army, replied
his wife Sally.
Great. That must have been 100 years ago. Our group isn't
so hot as it is. Three of the guys are deaf and cant hear a thing, even
when they remember their hearing aids. Max keeps on forgetting whether he's
stripes or solids.
You'd be doing Beth a great favor. She says Buddy never
gets out of the house. Its driving her crazy. Beth was one of
Sallys good friends. They were both in their retirement communitys
Chorus and Art Club.
Buddy? What kind of name is that? Sounds like hes a
teen-ager. Come on, Buddy. Lets go cruising and pick up some
Please, give it a try.
All right, sighed Paul.
Good. Ive asked Beth to stop by with Buddy this
afternoon so you can meet him.
Beth and Buddy. I cant wait.
Beth and Buddy duly came by at around three and although Sally
had said theyd just stop in for a few minutes she couldnt help but
offer them something to drink. Luckily Beth said, No thanks, I just
wanted Paul to meet Buddy.
Beth and Buddy, it turned out, were one of those couples where
the wife is a large woman and the husband a small man. Buddy, Paul estimated,
was in his early sixties. He had a round open face and still had most of his
blondish hair. Buddy came forward, his hand extended to shake Pauls.
Glad to meet you. I really like your columns. He was referring to
the two columns that Paul did every month for the senior newspaper that went to
everyone in their retirement community, Favorite Restaurants and
Thanks, said Paul. I also have some e-books
online that you can get if you like my writing.
Paul had been half-joking with his suggestion, which he made to
anyone expressing interest in his writing, but Buddy said, Ill look
online when we get home and buy them all.
You dont have to do that.
No, I want to.
If he wanted to give pool shooting a try, said Paul, Buddy
should come to the billiards room at ten the following Tuesday. That was when
Pauls group met. Buddy said hed be there.
When Beth and Buddy had left, Sally said, See, you have a
Thats something, said Paul.
Pauls Tuesday morning pool group was just assembling when
the door to the Billiards Room was cracked open and Buddy peered in. Come
over, said Paul. He introduced Buddy around. Hed told his group to
expect a newcomer. With Buddy, they had six so they played three to a table,
Paul having Buddy at his table. As Paul had expected, Buddy was pretty bad, but
at least he didnt take a lot of time lining up his shots before his
misses, like Stevie, whod been their worst player until now. They played
until about 11:30. At the end, Buddy said, Thanks for putting up with me.
Ill try to do better next time.
Next time? thought Paul. So this wasnt the end of Buddy.
Buddy and Stevie, not a great prospect.
Besides his Tuesday morning group, Paul played twice in the
afternoon when guys, usually the better players, started coming in around 2:30
and usually all four tables were filled. On the Thursday of the following week
Paul was lining up a shot on the eight ball when he glimpsed a familiar figure.
Sorry, said Buddy. I didnt mean to distract you.
Luckily the shot was an easy one and Paul sank the eight to win the game.
Do you mind if I join you? asked Buddy. As they had three players
and Buddy would be the fourth and it was an unwritten rule that anyone could
play Paul couldnt very well turn Buddy away. They tossed the peas for
sides and as Paul knew would happen he was paired with Buddy. After theyd
lost four games, Paul said he had to go. Im sorry, said
Buddy. Im going to come in and practice. Say, I read one of your
books, the short stories. I really liked them.
Paul could only say, Thank you.
The following week Paul was having lunch in the community
restaurant with two members of what they called the guys lunch group.
Theyd all been in the same writers club, since disbanded. Max
Wagner, also one of Pauls pool group, wrote poetry and Sid Paulsen was
working on a musical play. The other member, Carl Kennedy was away on a cruise.
Max was holding forth on the many faults of the President, which Sid would then
refute, when Paul looked up and there was Buddy. Hi, said Buddy,
I was wondering if I could join you guys. Paul was about to say
theyd already ordered when Max put in, Hi, Buddy. Sure, we only
have three this month. Sid, this is Buddy, Pauls buddy.
Alice, the restaurants veteran waitress came over as soon
as she saw Buddy sitting down and took his order. Max finished his speech, then
it was Sids turn. After this, Max asked Buddy what he thought. Oh,
Im not much for politics. So, are you guys writers, too, like Paul. I
just read one of his books and thought his stories were great. This is
something neither Max nor Sid, being writers themselves, would ever say. For
the rest of the meal, Max and Sid told Buddy about their projects. It
didnt go as badly as Paul had feared. He was beginning to be afraid
though that Buddy would become a larger presence in his life than he wanted.
This feeling was reinforced the next week. Paul wrote his
columns in the early afternoon, then usually took a nap. On this afternoon, he
was working on his Favorite Restaurants column, putting the e-mails
hed received from readers in what he considered the best order. The
doorbell rang. Sally was out at one of her womens lunches. Paul went to
the door. There was Buddy. Hi, said Buddy. Hope you
dont mind me stopping in without calling. I found a book in the library I
thought you might like. He held out the book, which was by one of
Pauls favorite authors and the newest one he had out.
Thanks, said Paul. I really cant ask you
in. Im right in the middle of doing my column.
Buddy looked a little crestfallen. Paul was sure hed been
looking forward to a nice chat. He was glad he had a legitimate excuse to avoid
it. Thats okay, said Buddy. But take the book anyway.
Ill see you next Tuesday.
Thanks, said Paul. Yes, next Tuesday.
And the Tuesday after that and the Tuesday after that. And who knew when else.
Paul groaned inwardly.
Sure enough, Buddy was there the next Tuesday. Paul had to admit
that Buddys pool shooting had improved, if only a little. Buddy also had
news. Under Buddys urging, his wife Beth had persuaded three of her women
friends to buy one of Pauls books. Maybe it wasnt that bad to have
a fan like Buddy, thought Paul. In any case, he was sure hed see Buddy in
the Billiards Room one afternoon that week.
But Buddy didnt appear that week. More surprisingly, he
didnt appear the next Tuesday morning. Paul wondered if Buddy might be
sick. In their retirement community, if someone didnt show up for
something that was always a possibility. A few days later Paul was taking his
usual afternoon nap. He opened his eyes and saw that Sally was in the doorway.
Sorry, she said. I didnt mean to wake you up.
Thats all right. I was up.
That was Beth on the phone.
Beth of Beth and Buddy?
Yes. She wanted to let you know that Buddy wouldnt
be able to play on Tuesday mornings any more. He might also not to be able to
play in the afternoon. It seemed that palling around with you nudged something
in him and he decided to join the Veterans Club. They meet on Tuesday. Then the
club secretary wanted to retire and Buddy volunteered to replace him. He
expects to be very busy.
Paul had to laugh. Well, I guess Buddy wont be my
buddy any more. I dont know whether to be glad or sad. He did manage to
get a few of my books sold. But overall I think Im just as glad.