Theme Parks and Obstacle Courses – A Novel

I-Play-Tennis-Because11

28

Pat stood in the door of the pub, leaning against the jamb of the open door. Midday poured down from a sun that stood directly overhead.

He heard the traffic crawling; the faint scuffle and scrape of leather-soled shoes on the way to and from corporate lunchtime. His phone rang in one of his pockets.

Pat had bought a mobile phone the day before. This was evidence of some kind of root system the jaywalking police would have approved of; a regular bill he would have to pay.

It also meant the police would have somewhere to send the fines and tickets when necessary.

He had marvelled at the technology, but was mindful to keep this to himself. He had purchased the cheapest phone he could to ensure he was on the shortest contract possible.

He had commented on the phone having a camera and a planner even though it was the cheapest on offer and noticed, while turning it over in his hands, the twenty-ish salesman looking at him with a mixture of chagrin and amusement.

It was very small; so small, in fact, he couldn’t reliably hit the right numbers with the flats of any of his fingers. Pat had to hold the phone in one hand and use the edge of his other thumbnail to dial.

It was still a novelty to hear it ring. When it did, he had to rifle through all his jacket pockets to find it. It had a very short ring, too; three reports and then it diverted to voicemail.

This was bad, because Pat had to pay first to retrieve the message and then to call the person back. Who was almost always Wally.

“Hi,” said Wally. “It’s me.”

“I know. Hi mate.”

“What are ya doing?”

“Not much. Here at the pub. Taking deliveries.”

“I’m not doing anything, either. Waiting for tradesmen.” Wally was refurbishing a warehouse in Richmond. Pat had been over the other day to help him carry in the circa-1950 sea-green bath, toilet and basin Wally had bought at auction.

“You wanna play tennis later today?” he asked.

“Okay.” With a court between them and a lot of running to do, it meant that the conversation could be kept to a relative minimum. It certainly wasn’t that Pat disliked Wally; quite the opposite. It’s a special kind of relationship where two people can annoy each other so much on such a deeply intimate level.

“Where’s the court?”

“I was thinking Fawkner Park or the one on St Kilda Road, near Commercial Road.”

“I think you’ll find they’re members only.”

“I’ll look into it and call you back.” Pat hung up and returned the phone to his pocket. Pat had no sooner reached inside the door to pick up the newspaper and the phone rang again. He answered without checking the caller ID.

“Yes-what-the-fuck-is-it-Wally?” he said.

“Pat it’s Brendan calling,” said a baritone male voice which sounded very close to the receiver.

“Hello, sorry – fuck – how embarrassing.”

Brendan Leigh was an old friend from years ago, who now owned a security company.

“How did you get my number?”

“I was speaking to Wally. he said you needed to be kept amused so you didn’t get into any trouble.”

“Thank fuck it’s only you calling.”

“Thank fuck you’re not answering the phone in my office,” said Brendan. “You busy tonight?”

“Not yet.”

“You got a car?”

“I can probably get one.”

“You want to work in Frankston?”

“You going to pay me?”

***

It turned out that, for a fee, Wally and Pat could go for a casual hit on a court in Brunswick. This was probably a far better option, given that the Brunswick courts were frequented by people who neither looked like they knew how to play, nor could afford to plunder the Nike store to create that impression.

Wally had even gone so far as to wear shorts. These were actually cut-off jeans, not unlike Gilligan’s cut-offs that he wore while marooned on the Island.

Wally matched these with a pair of raggedy All Stars that looked like they had been parked on the liquor-soaked carpets of every bar in New York City. Pat was dressed for the occasion in cut-off camouflage shorts and his Asics.

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