Buddy by Martin Green
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 chicks.
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 Observations.
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 fan.
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.
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