The International Writers Magazine:Story about a doubles match
Danny Stein sat on a sofa in the
living room. The furnishings looked expensive, as had the house
from what he'd seen of it on the way in. He was uneasy, still
in his sweaty tennis clothes, and a little surprised at being
there. His hostess, Anne Curtis, was in the kitchen, preparing
the lunch to which she'd invited him after they'd played that
Danny had started going to the Golden Gate Park tennis courts
just a few weeks before, when he'd moved into a little guest house
in the Panhandle, which was near the park. This was after he'd
been fired from his job at a downtown San Francisco advertising
agency and had given up his apartment to economize.
He and Anne had
met when playing doubles, then the next time neither one had a partner
so they'd played singles and turned out to be evenly matched. Since
then, they'd played two or three mornings a week. She was tall, almost
as tall as he was, with auburn hair and a fair complexion. She had green
eyes, a straight nose and full lips. She also had a great figure. Now,
not for the first time, he tried to guess her age. He thought she might
be 28 or 29, certainly not more than 30; he himself was 23.
Anne came into the room. In her white tennis outfit, she didn't look
sweaty at all, just cool and poised. She was carrying a tray with a
plate of sandwiches and two large glasses of iced tea.
"There," she said. "How does that look?"
"It looks great."
"You seemed to be off your game today."
"Yeah. Well, I just found out I didn't a job I thought I had. It's
"That's too bad. You seemed a little down."
"Yeah." He wondered if this was why she'd asked him to lunch.
"I thought I had this job locked up. I'd been down there three
times and the last time had a long lunch with their media boss. Then
they called and said they'd decided to hire someone else."
"Do you have any other prospects?"
"No, not really." He'd been so confident of getting this job
he hadn't done much looking elsewhere.
"Well, I'm sure you'll find something."
"Yeah." He looked down. "You know, I really look forward
to our tennis games."
"That's sweet." Suddenly she was sitting beside him on the
sofa. She put a hand to his face and kissed him. This was even more
surprising than being invited to lunch, not that he hadn't fantasized
more than once about this happening. After a while, she led him into
the bedroom. Danny just had time to notice that the furnishings there
looked just as expensive as those in the living room before losing all
interest in the outside world.
Later in the afternoon, she drove him back to his guesthouse in her
red BMW. "Will I see you at the courts tomorrow?" she asked.
"Sure," he said.
"Good, don't forget your tennis bag."
He gathered together his tennis racket and bag and got out of the car,
then watched as she sped off. Had that lunch and what came after it
really happened? He guessed it had. Danny went in, showered, changed
and went down to the little dining room. The other boarders at the guesthouse
were already there, a strangely assorted bunch. Mrs. Moorehead, who
always sat at the head of the table, was a regal-looking woman in her
sixties. Miss Starling was a startlingly beautiful young lady with a
cloud of dark hair and dark eyes who was studying to be an actress.
Danny sat next to two guys about his age he'd become friendly with.
Art Everest worked nights on something to do with data processing and
spent his days devising computer games. Art's friend, Ed Allen, was
a writer who worked part-time as a waiter.
Art was in the middle of describing the latest computer adventure game
he was creating. The hero was a knight who had to battle his way through
dragons, ogres, witches and wizards to rescue a princess and save her
kingdom. He broke off to ask Danny how it was going.
"Not too good. I didn't get the job."
"Too bad. My knight's having a hard time, too. Can't get him across
the moat into the head wizard's castle."
Mr. Fong, the guesthouse owner, came out of the kitchen with their dinners.
Mr. Fong was a Chinese gentleman of indeterminate age who was also the
guesthouse cook, served their meals and did all the repairs. "Sorry
to hear about the job," Mr. Fong said to Danny, setting his plate
before him. "Maybe next time will be better."
Danny wondered how Mr. Fong knew about the job but then shrugged and
The truth was that he wasn't thinking about the job at all. He was thinking
about Anne Curtis.
It was July in San
Francisco. The sun burnt through the fog every morning to unveil yet another
beautiful day. Danny went to the Golden Gate Park tennis courts every
morning and met Anne Curtis two or three times a week. She wouldn't agree
to any more than that. After tennis, they'd go to her house and she made
lunch for him. After lunch, she'd take him to her bed, where they'd make
love and then talk.
It was Danny who did most of the talking. He told her all about himself,
about growing up in New York City, coming to San Francisco, his adventures
at the advertising agency before being fired and now about his fellow
roomers at the guest house.
Anne rarely talked about herself and was evasive when he asked her questions.
He gathered that there was an older man in her life, who paid for the
expensive house and other things and that he was a lawyer for a large
corporation. That was all she would say.
July passed, then August, then one morning Mr. Fong told him he'd had
a phone call. It was from a company he'd applied to several months before
and forgotten about. Now they wanted him to come in for an interview.
"Is good news?" asked Mr. Fong.
"I guess so. I hope I remember where I put my suit and tie."
The next afternoon Danny told Anne about the interview. They were lying
side by side in bed. "That's good news," she said. "I hope
this one works out."
"Well, don't expect too much. It's only with someone in the personnel
"Call me after and let me know. And here, take this for good luck."
She kissed him. He pulled her against him. She was so lovely. What did
it matter that he was an unemployed adman who lived in a strange little
guesthouse? When he was with her, nothing else mattered.
The interview on Monday went pretty much as Danny had expected. The personnel
man seemed impressed by his resume but wanted to know why he'd left his
last job and why he'd been unemployed the last five months. As he came
out of the building on Montgomery Street he saw Mr. Fong, dressed in a
business suit and carrying an attache case. "Mr Fong," he called.
"What are you doing downtown?"
Mr. Fong gave a slight bow. "Ah," he said. "I had to consult
with my banker. And how did your interview go?"
By this time Danny wasn't surprised that Mr. Fong seemed to know all about
his activities. "It was okay but I don't think anything will come
out of it."
"That is unfortunate. You must not let yourself be discouraged. Now,
if you will excuse me. I have another appointment."
That night Danny went out for a couple of beers with Art and Ed. He told
them about his inconclusive interview. "Don't worry," said Ed.
"Something's bound to turn up."
"Hey, we have big news," said Al. "I actually got Ed to
look at my computer game. And he figured out how to get into the castle
and kill the wizard."
"Yes. Well, it was obvious that you needed the magic sword to defeat
When he got back, Danny lay in bed and thought about his finances. He
was already late in paying Mr. Fong his guesthouse bill. Even if Mr. Fong
gave him credit, he had only enough money to last a few weeks. After his
money ran out, then what? He heard the noise of a car door closing and
looked out of his window. A limousine was pulling away as Miss Starling,
in a long white dress and looking like a princess just back from the ball,
Danny and Anne had finished lunch and were having iced tea in the living
room. It was early in September. "I spoke to my, uh, good friend
about you," she said.
"What?" said Danny, nearly spilling his tea. "You told
him about us?"
"No, silly. About your needing a job. Now don't be mad. Your money
can't last forever."
"So, what did he say?"
"He talked to somebody he knows, the vice president in charge of
marketing at some big company and you have an appointment next week. Here,
this is his card."
Danny looked at it. "Wow! That's not just some big company. It's
the biggest advertiser in the city."
"That's good, isn't it?"
"Yes, I suppose so."
Danny waited for her to suggest going into the bedroom after lunch, as
they always did. But this time, she saw him to the door. "Good luck,"
she said, kissing him lightly.
"Thanks. I'll call you."
"Yes, call me."
The next day Danny told Art and Ed about his prospective interview.
"Sounds good," said Art.
"Yeah, maybe this is it," said Ed.
"But it's through her friend. I feel funny about that."
"Look, a job's a job. Don't worry about it," said Art. "Now
we have news for you."
"Well, we pitched that computer game and this one company is really
interested in it."
"No kidding? Well, that sounds good."
"Right," said Art. "If they buy it, we'll make millions.
Well, maybe thousands, to start with."
"Sounds as if you're on the way. Good luck, guys."
Danny saw the vice-president the following Tuesday. It was raining slightly
and he wore a coat for the first time in months. They talked for a few
minutes, then the vice president said, "Well, Charley Stamford knows
a good man when he sees one. So welcome aboard, Mr. Stein. My secretary
will take you to Personnel and get all the details worked out. Can you
start next Monday?"
Danny did his best not to look amazed. After all those months, was he
really going back to work? It seemed he was. "Yes," he said.
When he left the building, it had stopped raining but it was still cold
and gray outside. Danny saw Mr. Fong hurrying along the street and called
out to him.
"Ah, Mr. Stein."
"Coming from your banker again?" asked Danny.
"No, my stockbroker. A matter of rearranging my holdings. Congratulations
on your new job."
Once again, Danny wasn't surprised at Mr. Fong's knowledge. "Thanks,"
"I suppose this means you will be leaving us soon."
Danny hadn't even thought about it, but Mr. Fong was right. "Yes,
I suppose I will." He wouldn't be living right next to Golden Gate
Park any more. He wondered if he'd ever see Art and Ed again.
"We will miss you. I will see you tonight."
That night at dinner Mrs. Moorhouse announced that a lawsuit had finally
been settled and she'd be moving to London the next week Miss Starling
also had news. She had a part in a new television series.
The next morning it was raining again. Danny called Anne Curtis and told
her he'd gotten the job.
"That's wonderful, dear," she said. "I'm so happy for you."
"Can I come over and see you?"
"No, I don't think so."
"Well, how about later?"
"No, Danny, I don't think that would be a good idea."
"Wait a minute. When can I see you?"
"Danny, I don't think we'll be seeing each other any more."
"But why not?"
"Well, you see, things are different now."
Danny held onto the phone for a long moment, then he said, "Yes,
I suppose they are."
He put the phone back on the receiver. The tennis season was over.
© Martin Green November 2005
Revisited -Martin Green
stories in Dreamscapes
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