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The Fearsome Foursome
by Martin Green



The funeral service for Matt Campbell was in the old neighborhood’s church. Paul sat in the back. He’d been late, driving from the retirement community he now lived in, about an hour away. At his age, 75, he didn’t like to drive on the freeway but he felt he should go to Matt’s 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 he’d 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 Matt’s 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 was over.


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 night.”


  “You were known as the Fearsome Foursome.”


  “I don’t 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 didn’t play tennis any more, he’d 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 he’d 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. There’d be some kind of lunch later but Paul decided that he’d leave.


In the church parking lot Paul, on an impulse, decided he’d 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 machine.


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 wasn’t 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 hadn’t told this to Matt’s son Steve.


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 Paul’s 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, they’d sit out on the club’s plastic chairs and drink Cokes. They’d talk about their jobs, their families and the world’s problems. When they were older they’d 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 he’d try to find Charlie’s last card and get in touch with him.




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