Rob must be related to Denise, because his conniption fits match hers for their violence, and both of them would be hilarious to watch on stage, as long as one wasn’t my boss and the other wasn’t my stupid ex-girlfriend’s stupid best friend. I was about up to here - at chin level - with Rob at the bookstore when he laid into me on a Saturday in front of the sophisticated city customers who looked on trying not to laugh. Dos Passos and Dostoyevski were in the wrong spots, he barked at me.

“They’re both Dosses,” I said.

“What comes first, ‘P’ or ‘T’,” said Rob, playing up to the smirking browsers who pretended not to listen.

I knew the answer but wasn’t going to tell him. I started switching the Dos Passos with the Dostoyevski without looking at him, while he stared after me until he was sure he had made his point clear.

He had it in for me ever since I shook that lady off the ladder for calling me a dimwit, and I knew it was only a matter of time before I was a goner. I could have been coaching Saturday softball with Tommy, nice and peaceful, but I never even bothered asking Rob if I could get off because I knew what his answer would be. And then there was Tommy having to coach by himself, and then there was Bill, league director and friend, giving me the quiet treatment because I had gone against my word and backed out.

“Your word is your word,” Bill has said to me more than once, but there I was going back on mine, so instead of playing and coaching, I had to stand there and get yelled at because one dead guy’s books really came after another dead guy’s books.

I called Jeannette in a fit of glumness that night, and told her I had got her letter and would see her just for lunch, maybe, so that we could settle things and let our bygones be bygones. She said okay, all casual, like she didn’t care one way or another, so I said I’d meet her at the train station the next day, Sunday, which was my day off, and she said she’d try to be there, if she wasn’t too busy. I said I didn’t care if she came or not because I could always visit my parents instead. And then we hung up on each other.

So then I called my father while my glumness was still percolating inside me, and I asked him how to go about working with Uncle Eddie at the race track since my bookstore job probably wouldn’t last.

“What the hell’s wrong with the book job?”

“I keep mixing up the books and knocking ladies off ladders,” I said, and he was quiet.

Then he told me, to change the subject, that he had taken up golf for a hobby, since at work they cut down his hours because he refused to retire, and he asked me to come on over and learn the game and stop being such a sourpuss. I said all right since I was coming out there anyway, and then we hung up on each other too.


Tommy met me outside on the stoop on Sunday morning, before I hoofed it over to the Atlantic Avenue station, and he told me it was my decision about Jeannette, but that from what I’d told him, he thought she was a liar and a two-timer, and he didn’t like liars.

“I don’t like liars either,” I said.

“Me neither,” he repeated. “Whatever happened to that Kelly girl?”

“She told me God bless and keep me.”

“Oh. That’s not good. Forget her.”

At the Deer Park station, I waited a while before Jeannette finally showed up late wearing her hair fluffy and curly, and with a new light blue jacket on. Her face was done up, too, but only a little. I was in my collar shirt and jeans because of the golf date with my father.

We went over to Gino’s pizza and had a slice each, and there wasn’t much talk except about my job, which I didn’t want to talk about, and her job, which was boring. Then we got around to golf, which I told her I was going to play with my father for the first time.

“That’s so nice,” she said, all gooey.

Before we knew it the subject turned from golf to pool because I told her my friend Tommy was good at it, and then it went naturally to bowling. I told her I haven’t bowled in years.

“Me neither,” she said, giving me a meaningful eye-flash.

“Me neither,” I repeated. “Stupid game.” I looked at the burned crust and flipped it down onto the plate. “Can’t get decent pizza on Long Island.”

“It’s not that bad,” she said.

“Long Island sucks,” I said.

“Because of pizza crust?”


“You never say anything, you know?” she said, and she dropped her crust down too, onto the white plate.

“What do you mean?”

She clamped her mouth shut.

“Say anything about what? About you and that stupid Al? Al the bowler? Moron Al?”

“See? I knew it. Even Denise said you’d bring that up, first thing.”

“Dopey Denise.” I looked at her, at her bottom lip all pushed out. “Dopey Denise and Moron Al, your two buddies.”

“And what about you and your silent treatments? Two years without saying -”

“You cheated on me.”

“So you ran away to Italy by yourself, instead of -”

“You cheated, that’s it,” I said. “You cheated.” I raised my eyebrows at her, waiting for her to get my point.

She took in a deep breath.

“Switzerland, too,” I said.


“I went to Switzerland by myself too.”

She rolled her eyes and I looked out the window. I wanted to play golf with my father, to hit the hell out of the ball and keep score and enjoy the May sunshine, and then drink a beer after that and talk with my dear old dad, not sit there having dramatic moments with Jeannette and her pouty lips.

“I didn’t cheat,” she said. “I made a mistake. I was mad.”

I laughed through my nose and looked away.

“I’m just a person, like you are. But you don’t act like it.”


“You don’t act like a real person. You’re like God or something, like you’re better than people and perfect and everything.”

I slumped into my seat a little and stared at her, and it was a long time before I said anything. “I’m not better than anyone.”

She shook her head to herself, not looking at me.

“I’m not better than anyone,” I said. “I’m worse.”

She didn’t say anything. She stared off toward the pizza counter and shook her head, and I looked past her shaking head, outside.

“So you never went out with Al, huh?” I said to the sunny street.

She leaned forward. “I did but I was mad and it didn’t last. Okay? I was mad.”

“Mad about what?”

“I don’t even remember.”

I picked up my burnt crust and chewed on it.

“Maybe like now,” she said. “I’m mad right now because you never say what you feel, never.”



“Stop pressuring me, okay? I was just going to say what I felt.”

“Sorry…Okay, then.” She sat back, waiting, and I looked at her, and it seemed that my whole life - or at least the afternoon - was either going to go one way if I said something, or another way if I said nothing at all.

“I wrote you letters when I was in Italy,” I said.

“Oh yeah?”

“I wrote a lot of them…every day…but I threw them out.”


“I’ll tell you about them, though.”

“Oh, all right.”

I knit my brows. “But I forgot what I wrote.”

She stood up.

“Where are you going? I forgot what I wrote.”

She put her jacket on, her face in conniption mode.

“Let’s talk, come on.” She turned to go. “Come on, don’t be all dramatic.”

She pushed in her chair.

“I gotta warm up first.”

She stomped out.

“I like your jacket,” I called after her.


Golf with Dad was easy compared to pizza with Jeannette. Both of us hit the ball all over the course, and on some shots we missed the ball altogether or dribbled it three or four feet ahead. Dad said it was lucky we weren’t teamed up with any other two guys because we would have embarrassed ourselves. We both lost about ten balls in the woods, and spent time looking for them. Some guy playing behind us hit the ball too close to me once instead of waiting for us to be in the clear. The ball landed next to my feet, so I kicked it into the woods. Later the guy caught up to us. He had pop eyes and was around my age. In full conniption mode, he wanted to know why the hell I kicked his ball. I had a seven iron on me, and thought about Bill and his advice about going for the knees if necessary, and I thought about Tommy, who was nuts and would fight anyone, and I thought about Jeannette and her pouting mouth, and I thought about when I got punched in the eye in Switzerland, without really feeling it, when I wouldn’t pay for a too-expensive coffee. So I stood there and waited until he turned away.

For our last nine holes, we took our sweet time, although we picked up our balls after ten or twelve shots apiece and stopped climbing into the woods to look for each stray.

“Fair is fair,” said Dad to me before we teed off on the eighteenth hole, “even though Popeye’s a jerk.” I agreed about Popeye being a jerk, and shrugged a little about fair being fair.

After we finished and tallied up our astronomical scores, we had two slow beers together in the clubhouse. Dad wouldn’t let me pay for either one. We sat and watched the baseball game up on the screen. My typical one-beer buzz came after only half a beer, and I joked with him about coming out to try golfing again, that maybe he could teach me so I could get my score below 150. He rubbed at my shoulder a little and pushed at my head. “Any time,” he said, and I felt a little choked up.

Half-way through my second beer, I staggered to the empty men’s room. Swaying already while I took my long leak, I told Jeannette out loud that I missed her. I said it three times, to the ceiling, trying to feel whether it was true or not true, before Popeye walked in and I clammed up.