Number Eight: The Taj Mahal
Mr. Blaine took full advantage of the Taj’s generous four-square design. The well-stroked ball will proceed through the front entrance, strike a triangular block inside the structure and exit to the right. The finishing touches are the watchtowers, placed at all four corners of the surrounding square.
Inevitably, the weather arrives, putting a two-week stall on the project. It’s all Pablo can do to keep his tents over the seven uncovered holes. A mid-November Wednesday comes up dry and overcast, so David heads over after class to see what his junior archaeologist hath wrought. He steps onto the lot to find what looks like a two-man senior citizen work crew. One of them is Gerry Kolder; the other is a stranger, tall and slender, overdressed in khakis and a camelhair jacket.
“Whatsa matter, Gerry? No fish at the lake?”
“Actually, I’m here with a friend. Mr. Thomas Blaine.”
The tall man smiles and shakes David’s hand, displaying a set of patrician features he could have ordered from a Boston attorney supply store.
“Well what the hell!”
“Sorry for the lack of notice. My schedule opened up, and I knew I had about a five-minute window to get out of town. My poor wife thinks I’ve lost my mind. But how many men have the chance to see their father’s rendition of the Taj Mahal?”
“Of course, I’m having some difficulty figuring out who my father is. Certainly not the man who told Mr. Kolder two hundred and fifty-three dirty jokes.”
The four of them manage to finish the cleaning and pitch a tent over the Taj before the inevitable evening rain. Then it’s off to Laney’s, where Thomas sits in judgement of a pepperoni and mushroom.
“After genuflecting at the altar of East Coast snobbery – ‘It ain’t no New York pizza’ – I must admit, it is good.”
“Fresh ingredients and lots of them,” says Laney. “That’s what keeps us in business.”
Gerry laughs. “What is this, a commercial?”
Thomas takes another bite and washes it down with beer.
“Well, gentleman. There are a few things you should know. I have studied the various documents – the blueprints, Dad’s note, deeds, auction receipts, et cetera. Speaking as your de facto attorney, I have concluded that the Blaine family has no claim on your treasure. Speaking as the eldest child, I doubt if I would pursue a claim even if I had one. You folks took a lot of trouble tracking me down, and I would like nothing more than to see your efforts rewarded.
“Now. Speaking as Thomas Blaine – and yes, we lawyers are very fond of deploying mutliple personalities – I deduce from these plans that you are looking at one hell of a lot of work. And cost. I’ll work out a formal set of numbers later, but I suppose that what I’m saying is, I would like to invest some capital in this venture, and to act as your consultant.”
“Wow!” says Pablo. “That’s awesome!”
Thomas laughs. “That is quite awesome. And I’ll tell you another conclusion I’ve come to. My father, typical of his generation, took great pains to keep this project a secret. Went as far as to take it to his grave. As his son, I say…” Thomas gives a conspiratorial look. “Screw the old buzzard! I am going to out him, and show the world what a brilliant, whimsical man he was. If it’s all right with our executive board, as it were, I would like to incorporate some historical element -–a plaque or display – to tell the story of the course’s creation.”
David raises a hand. “The company historian seconds.”
“Passed!” says Laney.
The party disintegrates one member at a time: Gerry back to his lake, Laney home to sleep, Pablo to supervise his closing. David and Thomas stay on to indulge in one last beer.
“So where are you staying?”
“The Shilo,” says Thomas. “I hear they have an excellent jazz band.”
“Yes. The duo that should be a trio.”
“Ah. The Billy Saddle Affair. Ocean Shores seems to have living legends and buried treasures on a weekly basis. Is there something in the water?”
David laughs. “And yet, my students profess to being bored out of their minds.”
“Say! Speaking of schoolkids, I saw that story your son wrote. What an amazing sense for allegory. Do you think he would let us use it in connection with the golf course?”
“I’m sure he’d be delighted. Wait a minute. Where did you read it?”
“I was Googling ‘Falter, Ocean Shores,’ and I got his blog: stories, poetry, some excellent football photos.”
“Well, good! Now I can stop pretending I haven’t read it.”
“Ah. Tonight’s theme. Father-son privacy issues.”
“Thomas, it is so good to have you here.”
Thomas gives a small, thoughtful smile. “I wouldn’t miss this for the world.”
Photo by MJV