Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Billy Saddle, the Baseball Novel, Chapter Twenty-Nine: The Golden Gate Bridge

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 Number Two: Golden Gate Bridge
            Roadway and railings of concrete, two towers of steel, pieces welded precisely together. Rings at the ends of the railings and tops of towers for suspending cables. The object is to traverse the bridge by striking the ball down the center, avoiding foot-wide gaps to the left and right. A smaller mound nearby was found to contain a scale model of Alcatraz Island. Both island and bridge are marked with raised concrete block lettering.

            After an appointment with the one-armed temptress, David is wired, so he goes to the kitchen for a glass of wine. He is joined by Elena, who wanders into the kitchen in her bathrobe. She smiles.
            “You too?”
            “Yep. You want some?”
            He pulls out a glass and fills it up.
            “The red stuff always does the trick for me. Something about the tannic acid.”
            She takes a taste and smacks her lips. “Mmm… toasty. School going okay?”
            “Yes. I have achieved cruising altitude. It’s all pretty easy and smooth, and yet the subject matter still holds my interest. In another ten years, I will be jaded, bitter and ready to retire.”
            Elena lets out a laugh that’s like an L-shaped birdsong. Ha-haaah.
            “You’re a funny man, Mr. Falter.”
            “That’s what my students say.”
            Silence. David’s a little afraid of silence these days. A marriage has a way of leaking truth, and the balance of their symbiotic adulteries will tumble at the least exposure.
            “I’m sorry about the ice cream parlor.”
            “Ah, it was time.”
            “Yes, but it was my idea in the first place.”
            “Good ideas don’t always turn into good businesses. Besides, Pablo will take care of us in our old age.”
            “I heard about that! What an amazing project.”
            “They uncovered the Golden Gate today.”
“It’s like something from a fairy tale. Does he know anything about the builder?”
David gives himself a refill. “Went to county records in Montesano. Ocean Shores was basically created from scratch in 1960. Bunch of investors who wanted to turn it into Cape Cod West. Palm Beach. Newport.”
“I’d settle for Tillamook.”
“Silence woman!”
Elena giggles like a geisha. “Sorry, teacher.”
“So one of those original lots went to Howard Blaine. The address on the deed is Hoquiam, but I’m not sure if that means anything. He could have just been staying there while he worked on his golf course. I’m working on a little hunch, however. You remember Gerry Kolder?”
Elena gives her puppy-dog smile, her mouth part-way open.
“Kolder’s Hardware! My God, is he still around?”
“Well, he sold the store, but they were nice enough to give me his phone number. I’m meeting up with him Saturday at Lake Sylvia. Got a fishing cabin with his own boat-landing.
“How nice. Tell him I said hi.”
“I don’t know. I always thought Gerry had a thing for you.”
“I’d bet he had a thing for anything female that made the mistake of wandering into that store. Bunch of cavemen.”
“You make a good point.”
“By the way,” she says. “I’ve got news.”
David takes comfort in the word news. News is okay; confession would be alarming.
“You gonna tell me?”
“Yeah, well, I hope this is all right, but the boys seem to be pretty independent these days and…”
“So tell me.”
This is an old game. Elena hates to say anything that might stir the waters, so David has to tease it out of her. She ducks her head to the left as if she’s sneaking up on the subject.
“I got… a job.”
“Que bueno! What’re you doing?”
“Well, a friend of a friend in Aberdeen needed a part-time receptionist at his contractor’s office. I thought, you know, I could contribute my share to Derek’s college fund, make up for the ice cream thing.”
“That’s very thoughtful, honey. And it sounds like something you’ll enjoy. You’re definitely a people-person.”
Now it’s the beauty-queen smile, the one that still yanks the chain at the back of his medulla oblongata.
“I think I will. Thanks.”
The husband and the wife talk into the night. Somewhere along the stream of the conversation, it occurs to David that spouses with mutual affairs might actually treat each other with more civility than standard couples, since the edifice of their happiness depends on getting along with their partner. He also realizes that now he knows what the chubby chaser does for a living, and that he will be using money from the man who’s shtupping his wife to send his kid to college. It’s a brave new world.

Photo by MJV

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