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: Dreamscapes Story about tennis and relationships...

The Tennis Boom
Martin Green

The Challenge
It was a warm May morning in Sacramento. I'd gotten up early, had a quick breakfast and dressed in my new tennis shirt and shorts and new tennis shoes. Now, holding my new tennis racket, I looked into the kitchen and told my wife Ellen that I was on my way to the club for my challenge match. "Good luck," she said, with a certain lack of enthusiasm, perhaps because she was busy trying to get David and Michael, our two young sons, to eat their breakfast.

"I'll see you later, right?" I said. Ellen was supposed to come down to the club with the boys so they could go swimming. This was after they'd finished breakfast and she'd straightened out the house. "Yes," she said. "David, don't you dare throw that. Michael, you're spilling your milk all over." Then, to me, "Don't forget your tennis bag."
"Right," I said, and quickly exited to the garage.

The Golden Manor Swim and Tennis Club was about a half an hour's drive from our new house. This was the late 1970's, the time of the tennis boom, when everyone had started to take up the game. Golden Manor was the newest, and biggest, of the clubs which had sprung up to accommodate all of the middle-class suburbanites who were now also enthusiastic tennis players.
There were one or two smaller clubs closer to us but we'd chosen Golden Manor because of Pat and Gary Strover, friends of ours, who were members and had highly recommended it.

I arrived a little before nine, driving through the club's ornate gold-painted gates and parking in the large lot next to the clubhouse. I went through the clubhouse, which was also large and furnished with a variety of overstuffed chairs and sofas, all circled about a giant television set. Exiting through the rear doors, I walked out onto a terrace set with tables and chairs, overlooking the club's two dozen tennis courts.
Jim Colby, the club member I was challenging was already there, waiting for me. I'd gotten on the club's challenge ladder two months ago and since then had won one and lost one challenge, putting me at number 54 on the ladder. If I won this match, I'd vault all the way up to number 49.

On the way to our court, I saw Pat and Gary Strover rallying on another court and waved to them. Ellen and I had known the Strovers casually through mutual friends but hadn't seen them for a few years. Then, shortly after we'd moved, we'd gone to a neighborhood party and there they were.
Gary, an accountant, was tall and thin and now he was very tanned.
Pat, an attractive blonde, was also very tanned. We asked if they'd been on vacation but it turned out the tans had come from tennis playing at Golden Manor. They told us they regularly took lessons from the club pro and played every chance they could get.

I mentioned that we'd recently moved, to a larger house as I'd gotten a promotion, and were thinking about joining a club They urged us to join Golden Manor and invited us to meet them at the club the next weekend to have a look at it. We went with the two boys, who cavorted around in the swimming pool; I played a little tennis with Gary, who I quickly saw had moved up to a level far above mine; and after an extensive discussion when we returned home, Ellen and I decided we could just barely afford the club and we joined the following week.
My challenge match went three grueling sets before I finally won because I hit a few less balls out than my opponent. While I was having a cold drink on the terrace, the Strovers, taking a break, came up to congratulate me. They had someone else with them, introducing him as Pete Richmond, saying he was a financial consultant. Richmond was a big blonde person, in his mid-thirties I'd guess, who looked more like a weight-lifter than a financial consultant.

They all sat down and ordered drinks and the talk, as it often did then, drifted to real estate prices, taxes and investments. The Strovers had evidently invested some money with Richmond, which would cut down on their taxes. Having done my own taxes the month before, I mentioned that I wouldn't mind getting in on something that would reduce them. Richmond immediately reached one big hand into the pocket of his tennis shorts and, with a practiced movement, gave me his card, saying he'd be happy to talk about that with me. Before we could proceed any further, Ellen came up with our two boys. Introductions were made all around, the boys raced over to the pool and the Strovers, with Richmond, went back to their tennis. I described all of the exciting moments of my challenge match to Ellen, who listened abstractedly while keeping a close watch on our sons, then said something about the Strovers investing money with Richmond to save on taxes and that I was thinking of doing the same. She said she didn't much like his looks. "You just met him," I pointed out.
"I know," she said, then added with typical feminine logic, "He just looks too big and hearty."

The boys came up just then, asking for money to buy ice cream at the snack bar although they hadn't yet had lunch, and all of our attention turned to this important matter.The Tournament A few weeks later I was sitting in the grandstand overlooking the number one tennis court of Golden Manor, waiting to see the Strovers play in the finals of the club mixed doubles tournament. They were warming up with the Bergers, another couple who had plunged into tennis during the tennis boom. I felt a heavy hand on my shoulders and turned to see the Strovers' friend Pete Richmond.

I'd talked briefly about tax-free investments with Richmond after our first meeting and he'd told me he'd look into it. Now he said he'd found something which looked really good, having to do with either cattle ranching or cattle trucks, I wasn't quite sure which. The match was about to start so we agreed to talk about it at the party the club was having that night to celebrate the conclusion of the tournament. The Bergers were good players, although not quite as good as the Strovers. But on this day they were playing very well. Both thin and dark, they scampered all over the court to get back every shot. It was an exciting match, with the Bergers leading the first set 5-4 and Gilda Berger serving at set point. There was a long rally, the ball going back and forth, until Gilda hit a hard deep shot which seemed to hit the back line, forcing Pat to return it weakly into the net and giving the Bergers the set.
But then Pat raised her hand, calling Gilda's shot out. The Bergers looked at each other but didn't argue. The Strovers won the next two points and the set. This seemed to deflate the Bergers and the Strovers easily won the next set and the match.

Everyone clustered around the Strovers to congratulate them on their victory, which would earn them a big trophy. to be presented to them at the club party that night. I got up and went to the snack bar for a soda. I'd been sitting right behind the spot on the court where Pat Strover had called Gilda's shot out and I thought that the ball was in. It also seemed to me that Pat had hesitated for a second and that it was only after she'd failed to return the ball that she'd called it out. But I knew from my own experience that it was sometimes hard to see just where a ball had landed, especially on a shot hit as hard as that one. I finished my drink and headed for the pool to see what Ellen and the boys were doing.

The Party The Golden Manor party that night was held outdoors, around the pool.
The club was decorated with balloons and Japanese lanterns. There was a bar and tables were set up for a buffet dinner. Music was provided by a three-person band with a loudspeaker system that blared out their offerings over a good part of Sacramento County. Almost all of the club's 500 members seemed to have come to attend the festivities. Almost as soon as Ellen and I arrived, Pete Richmond spotted us in the crowd, come over and took me aside to tell me about his cattle deal. As he described it, I'd make a lot of money on the investment and on top of that save a bundle in taxes. It was a can't-miss proposition. He had some papers with him which he wanted me to sign right then and there to close the deal. I told him it sounded good but I'd like to think it over for a day or two, perhaps talk it over with my wife. He said, All right, but I had to act fast or it would be too late to get in on it. At the dinner, Ellen asked me what Richmond and I had talked about. I told her about the investment. You haven't given him any money, have you? she asked. I told her, No. After the dinner, during which the tennis trophies were given out, couples danced or wandered about the terrace, drinking, laughing or talking. Many of the women wore evening dresses, tanned shoulders gleaming in the light. There was a smell of perfume in the air.

I ran into Gary Strover at the bar and congratulated him on winning the mixed doubled trophy. "This is some affair," I said. "Where's Pat?"
"She's around somewhere." He called my attention to a couple dancing nearby. "I hear they're getting divorced. She's playing around with" and he mentioned the name of another club member. "That's interesting. Anything else going on here?" He laughed. "Oh, yeah, lots. You'd be surprised."
As the night wore on, more and more people began to get a little drunk. The talking and laughing became louder. One of the women jumped into the pool and several others followed her. I thought it was time to leave. Circling around the clubhouse looking for Ellen, I saw in the shadows Pat Strover and Pete Richmond kissing. Feeling embarrassed, I moved quickly away.

On the drive home, Ellen asked me, "Are you going to invest with that man?"
"No, I don't think so."
"But we need some extra money, don't we?"
"I think I know how we can get some."
"Quitting Golden Manor."
"But what about your tennis? And the Strovers?"
"I made it up to number 49 on the ladder. What more can you ask? And I have a hunch the Strovers are going to have other things to worry about than my leaving the club."
"Did you notice how many club members have gotten divorced since we joined?" I nodded; Ellen didn't miss much.
"But you still want to play tennis, don't you? And the boys liked the pool."
"We can check out one of those other clubs we looked at before we joined Golden Manor. They wouldn't be as elaborate but they'd be okay. Either one would be closer, and also a lot cheaper."
"Fine," she said. In bed that night, I played back in my mind the shot in the doubles match that Pat Strover had called out. I was now sure it had been in.

© Martin Green 2004

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