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••• The International Writers Magazine: Life Stories with Martin Green

My Nemisis
• Martin Green
“I wonder why Irv Kane hates me?” I said.
“Irv Kane hates a lot of people,” said my friend Abe Silverman.
“Yeah, but he seems to have a special hatred for me.”

hipster old

Abe and I were sitting on a bench by the back tennis court of our Northern California retirement community.    We were both long-time members of the community’s tennis club, but we were both in our seventies and didn’t really compete anymore.  It was an unusually warm day in April so I’d called Abe;  I wanted to see if after having a hip replacement the year before I could still move around the court.  The answer was that I really couldn’t and after twenty or so minutes I’d called a halt.  The reason Irv Kane had come up was because we’d seen him playing on the front court, the preferred court of the club’s top players.

     “Maybe it’s because you beat him that one time in a tournament.  Guys like Irv hate to lose at anything”

     “That was years ago, when I could still run.”

     “Maybe it’s because you’re president of the New Yorkers club and he’s always wanted to be.”

     “You’d think we’d be friends since we’re both New Yorkers.”

     “But you’re from the Bronx and he’s from Manhattan.”

     “Hmmm.  He cornered me in the Lodge last week to tell me he’d gone to one of the places in my column and it was terrible.”  I’d been writing a column I called “Favorite Restaurants” for our senior paper the last few years.

     Abe shrugged.  “It was probably him, not the restaurant.  He does have a nice wife.”

     This was true.  Julie Kane was a nice woman.  She and Irv were one of those couples where you wondered how he’d gotten her to marry him.

     “I guess Irv Kane’s your nemesis,” said Abe.


     “Your nemesis.  The word comes from the Greek, I think.”

     “What does it mean exactly?”

     “I’m not sure. but roughly some guy who’s meant to be always bugging you.  Hey, look.”

      I looked.  It was one of Kane’s trademarks after winning a match that he’d jump over the net to shake hands with the losing player or players and usually make some sarcastic remark.  He boasted that he was the only player in the club who could still jump over the net.  Maybe he was.    

     “One of these times he’s not going to make it,” said Abe, “and maybe he’ll break his neck.”

     “Or his hip.  That seems to be what seniors do.”

     “Yeah, and when that happens it’s almost always curtains.”

     “I know.”  I was thinking about a friend of my wife Sally’s who’d slipped in her shower and broken her hip.    In a few weeks she’d passed away.  A broken hip for us oldsters seemed to be the message of doom.  Sally hadn’t wanted me to hit with Abe; she was afraid I’d fall.  I’d moved very gingerly, one reason I couldn’t cover the court any more.

     “Well, if Irv trips over the net he wouldn’t be troubling you any more, at least not for a while.  Maybe not, period.”

     “ Too good to be true.  Anyway, thanks for coming out,” I said.

     “Yeah, too bad about your hip.”

     “I’m officially retiring,” I said.

     But I was wrong.  The club was having a May Day tournament and somehow I got roped into it. The tournament was to be mixed doubles and partners were drawn by lot and without regard to ability.  My partner, Irene Collins, was one of the younger members, an attractive woman in her fifties.  “I have to warn you,” I told her.  “I had a hip replacement and I can’t really move.”

     “That’s all right.  You can just stay on the right side and I’ll take care of the rest of the court.”

     “Okay,” I shrugged.  “Don’t expect to win any trophies.”

     She laughed.  “I don’t,” she said.  “It’s just for fun.”

     The morning of the May Day tournament, in contrast to the nice weather we’d been having, was cloudy and windy.   There was a good turnout and all six courts were full.  Amazingly, Irene and I managed to win our first match 7-5.  The other pair weren’t too good and, true to her word,  Irene, who was pretty athletic, covered almost the whole court while I stayed on the right side and just tried to return any ball hit my way.  Then, to my horror, I saw that our next match was against Irv Kane and his wife Julie.  How had that happened?  Julie wasn’t really a good player and when she and Irv played together he usually spent most of his time berating her, but still we were no match for them.  Irv may have been a jerk, but he was still a top player.  

     Irv served first.  He had a high service toss and I could see that the wind bothered him.  He doubled-faulted twice before he could get his first serve in and we won another point when Julie netted an easy return.  Irv of course yelled at her.  So we won the first game.  I wish I could say that we went on to score a tremendous upset but after this Irv settled down and although Irene did her best we lost the next six games.  Also, Irv was on his best behavior; no more yelling at Julie.  After the last point, I knew that Irv would be jumping over the net.    Would this be the time he couldn’t make it; no, one foot caught the top of the net and he nearly fell but he righted himself.   He went directly to Irene and shook her hand.  “Good playing,” he said. “Too bad you didn’t have much help.”   

     Julie had come over, not be jumping over the net but walking around, and she said, “Paul did pretty well for someone with a hip replacement.”

     Irv scowled at her.  “Stick around,” he said, “and watch me win another trophy.”

     But I’d had enough.  Even though I’d been mostly stationary my knees were aching.  I quickly left and when I got home I took a hot shower and then collapsed in my reclining chair.  Those two matches had taken a lot out of me.  I’d told Abe I was officially retiring but hadn’t; now I definitely was.  Later that day I had a phone call from Abe.  “I suppose you heard about Irv Kane,” he said.

     “No,” I said.  “Did he win another trophy?”

     “He and Julie won their final match; he did his usual jumping over the net thing but this time his foot got caught and he went down hard.  Like we were talking about the other day, he broke his hip.”

     “You’re kidding?”

     “Nope; the ambulance came and carted him off to the hospital.”

     “It’s hard to believe.”

     “Well, like I said, he won’t be bothering you, not for a while anyway.”

     I was in the Lodge, the center of our community’s activities, going to our little library, when Julie Kane came up to me.  “I’m glad I saw you, she said.

     “Oh, uh, how’s Irv doing?”  I felt I had to ask.

     “He’s been home for a month and he’s not doing well at all.”

     “Wasn’t the operation successful?”

     “It’s not that. He hates being cooped up in the house.  He hates doing the exercises they’ve prescribed for him.  He hates not being to able to bend over, all those things.  And I think it bothers him that no one, not one person, has visited him.”

     What was there to say to that, that nobody liked him?   As if reading my mind, Julie said, “Oh, I know he’s not well-liked and he says he doesn’t care if nobody visits but I’m sure it hurts.  Do you think you can stop by sometime?”

     “Me?  Are you sure that’s a good idea?  I thought he hated me.”

     “He doesn’t hate you.  I think he’s jealous of you.”

     “Jealous?  Of what?”

     “Well, people all know you because of the column you write.  You have lots of friends.  You’re president of the New Yorkers.  You know.”

     “I don’t know. It might upset him.”

     “Please give it a try.  I’m at my wit’s end.  He’s driving me crazy.”

     As Abe had said, Julie was a nice lady.  What could I do?

     “Okay, later this week.  I’ll give you a call.”   


   “So you’re going to visit Irv Kane this afternoon?”

     Abe Silverman and I were having lunch in the Lodge’s restaurant, one of our community’s amenities.    “Yeah,” I said.   “Julie asked me and how could I say No?”

     “Well, good luck.”

     “Thanks.   I don’t suppose you’d want to come with me?”

     Abe laughed.   “I’d rather go to the dentist.”

     “You know you said if Irv broke his hip he wouldn’t be bothering me.  That didn’t really work out.”

     “I guess not.   Like I said, he must be your nemesis.”

     “What are you doing?” asked my wife Sally.

     “I’m going to see Irv Kane.  I’m bringing over some of the stuff I got when I had my hip surgery, to help you reach things, bend over and all that.  Julie said Irv never got anything.  He said he didn’t need it.”

     Sally snorted.  “Just like him.  Anyway, be careful when you go over there.”

     “Julie said Irv can barely move.  I don’t think I’ll be in any danger.”

     “But you’ve always said the man hates you.”

     “I think he does and I thought I’d got rid of him for a while, but it seems I can’t.   He’s my nemesis.”


© Martin Green April 2017

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