The funeral service for
Matt Campbell was in the old neighborhoods church. Paul sat in the back.
Hed been late, driving from the retirement community he now lived in,
about an hour away. At his age, 75, he didnt like to drive on the freeway
but he felt he should go to Matts service. He and Matt, along with Bob
Simmons and Charlie Foster and been neighbors and fellow tennis players at the
old club for, how long was it, maybe 20 years. Bob had since dropped out of
sight. Charlie had moved back East. He and Paul exchanged cards on Christmas.
In a way it was funny that Matt, who was over six feet tall and the strongest
of them was, if Bob was still around, the first to go. But hed been
battling lymphoma for years and it had finally gotten him.
The church was surprisingly
full. Paul recognized a few people from the old days but most of them were
strangers to him, and younger. He did recognize Matts son, sitting up
front, with what Paul assumed was his family, a wife, a son and a daughter.
When Paul had last seen him Steve had been a kid, now he was a middle-aged man.
Steve spoke last, telling everyone what a great father Matt had been. Then it
Paul stood up and waited
for his chance and then said hello to Steve. Steve recognized him. Thanks
for coming, he said. You and my Dad and those two other guys played
a lot of tennis at the old club.
Yes, we did,
twice a week for a lot of years, once on Saturday morning and once on Wednesday
You were known
as the Fearsome Foursome.
know how fearsome we were, but we had a lot of fun.
Steve asked where Paul was
living now. Paul told him about the retirement community and that, no, he
didnt play tennis any more, hed had a hip replacement a couple of
years ago and that was the end for him and that yes, his wife Sally was doing
fine. Some other people wanted to speak to Steve and Paul was moved aside. He
wandered around for a while, found a couple hed known and talked with
them for a bit and found out that yes, the old club was still there but was
getting a bit rundown. Thered be some kind of lunch later but Paul
decided that hed leave.
In the church parking lot
Paul, on an impulse, decided hed drive over to the club, which was only a
short distance away. The gate was open and not many cars were in the parking
lot. Paul parked and walked over to where the tennis courts were. The club was
a small one, five courts. Paul remembered that when they played interclub the
other swim and tennis clubs had nice clubhouses while when the other teams came
over all they could offer them was a bench, a few plastic chairs and a Coke
Only one court was
occupied, a couple of teenagers playing. The others were empty and Paul could
see some cracks in them.
Paul watched the teenagers
play for a while. They were pretty good. He envied them their
youth. Then he looked at one of the empty courts but he wasnt
seeing an empty court. Paul crouched down at the net waiting for his partner
Matt to serve. Matt always tried to serve hard and was as likely to hit the
ball into the net as not. Paul hadnt told this to Matts son
This serve went over, a
hard one to the right corner. Bob, who was short and fast as a
rabbit scuttled over and returned it just out of Pauls reach. They hit
back and forth until Charlie, who was the best player, hit a good shot to win
the point. They continued to play. Their practice was to play three sets,
changing partners with each set. After, theyd sit out on the clubs
plastic chairs and drink Cokes. Theyd talk about their jobs, their
families and the worlds problems. When they were older theyd talk
about their aches and pains.
Paul watched the empty
court for a long time and then what he was seeing became blurred. His wiped his
eyes.. He turned and went back to his car. He drove back carefully, thinking
that when he got back hed try to find Charlies last card and get in
touch with him.