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The Tennis Season
Martin Green

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 morning.

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 pretty depressing."
"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 said, "Maybe."
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 department."
"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 him."

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, came in.

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."
"What's that?"
"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. "Thank you."

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," He said.
"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
mgreensuncity at

Sausalito Revisited -Martin Green

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