“Okay?” he asked.
“Okay,” she said.
HE LIKED THE FEATHER TOUCH OF HER FINGERS ON HIS spine playing some light music. She made little sounds when he sucked a piece of flesh on her arm into his mouth, making a circle. He bought her a silk scarf to keep her collars from chafing against her neck. She bought him a snakeskin wallet. He bought her pieces of Indian jewelry. She cooked him fancy desserts on
occasion. When he carried her from place to place he kept his hands open and flat against her flesh. She had away of giving herself over to his carrying. He carried her often. He stood while he made love to her, sometimes, so as not to injure her body by pressing too hard against it. She bought him a silk robe, Japanese style, and turned her head away shyly. She ate everything still but favored things that were spoonable. He spoke to her while she was sleeping. Her skin had grown slack in its struggle, but there were no significant lines in it. He bought her a small flashlight. He liked the way her voice trailed off at the ends of her sentences. She bought him Johnny Walker Scotch and took an occasional puff on his cigarette. He found that even her thin waist had grown thinner when he placed his hands around it. She placed her lips on his neck when he carried her. He liked to buy her pieces of fruit.
She bought him a knit shirt with an alligator on the pocket, and they laughed about it. He put the tips of his fingers into her mouth when he made love to her. She pointed things in the landscape out to him from the corner of the backseat. He had a way of moving to her before she called him. He liked to leave her alone and then return to her. He gave her money. She gave him room on her pillow. He bought her pieces of hard candy to suck on. She bought him small tools. She leaned against him when she walked. He gave her towels to press on her stomach. She made little sounds when he lifted her: air forced out of her lungs when his hand took her weight through her back. He liked to prop her up with pillows in chairs. She sang very quietly in the dark in the tub. He thought of her, walking to his ball after he had driven. He bought her a curved shell from Africa to file her nails with. He liked the way she had given over control to him. She seemed very strong in the stolid way she accepted the places of her helplessness. He liked it that she was a real burden. She gave him a small hemostat. He bought her thin yogurt in small containers. He liked the feel of her arm across his back when he carried her, her hand like a soft hook on his shoulder. He bought her loose
underwear. He liked to watch her in her glasses, reading, framed in the rearview mirror. She seemed to like to catch his eye in the mirror and smile. She bought him a small notebook in which to keep their accounts. He liked the strange smell of her breath. Sometimes her fingers would caress the arm of the chair in which she sat. They drank tea in the evenings. He made a picnic of fruits and vegetables at a rest stop. They did not talk about things in detail. She made liver pÃ¢tÃ© when there was a kitchen. They wrote no letters and received no mail. They had no friends.
He bought her a pair of warm socks. She read many books. She seemed to be waiting for something other than her death. He took her to a baseball game in a small town in southern Arizona. They did not travel much on the super highways, and he drove slowly. He liked the way she dressed herself with such care. He bought a gun. He liked the smell of the medicine bag. She bought herself a thimble after she had pierced her finger with a needle and it would not heal. He bought himself bright-yellow cheap headcovers for show. She had some trouble when she swallowed. He liked the way she was lighter each time he lifted her up. He bought her a stuffed stocking with the smile of a fat snake sewn into it for the small of her back. He told her stories of adventure and other details about golf. He told her stories about his childhood. She told him about the way sand drifted along the Cape. He bought her a music box the size of a matchbook. She liked the seriousness in his eyes when he was studying. He read very little, but he went over books in his mind. She bought him range balls at a market. She was pleased that he liked it that she was finally reading
. He liked the way she understood the behavior of other people. She liked the way he sweated when he made love to her. She was no longer curious about his secrets. He felt she had no secrets.
She thought of his psychological insides as a series of mystery boxes, some transparent, others only half opened, the rest opaque and totally closed, shut off from his entrance completely. He was strong on the complexity of details. He rolled
his eyes and laughed with her when she told him about his boxes. She liked the ways in which she had become physical with the cancer. He bought her books about the Indians of the Southwest. They both stopped taking each other so much for granted.
She bought him a Coltrane tape,
. He took her to see a pottery exhibition and found he was moved by it. He liked the way she liked to bathe in the dark. She thought seldom about the other possible men, lost days, and her lovers (so many years ago) back East; it's all right, good-by and no regrets. They walked short distances some evenings, but like young lovers or old people. She appreciated his sadness when he was sad; she left him alone with it, realizing it was proper and necessary. He was taken by the hardness of copper jewelry against her vulnerable skin. She liked the way, in her memory, he put a small red boat out from a dock. They talked about the congruence of their traveling dreams.
IN THE TWENTY YEARS OF INCREASED EXPANSION INTO the foothills, the javelinas had for the most part kept out of sight. Still working the Catalina range, those distant mountains that turned red in the sunset to the pleasure of the rich who had built on the other slope of the wide low valley in which the city sat, they had grown thin and increasingly vicious in that spare, high country. When they did come down, visibly, into the foothills, their packs were smaller, usually no more than thirty in number, and they usually came in quick raids, hitting the cultivated cactus and the feeble gardens of those who lived highest up in the hills. They weren't a problem if they weren't stirred up. On a few occasions they had killed dogs who had tried to attack them. They could run quickly for short distances. There was a time when people ate them; they had been thought a delicacy when they were healthy and fat. It is doubtful if the rich who now lived there would ever have eaten these small wild boars. They were not numerous enough to be an embarrassment to the developers; they had become an instance of local color. Bob White thought he'd like to see some of them. He also wanted to see about getting a few rattlers.
Melinda had slept well and was feeling stronger. The cancer was taking a break, was the way she thought of it. Neither she nor Allen thought that the Laetrile had anything to do with it. They had stopped at a motel at the mouth of the valley before entering the city itself. The only available room had twin beds in
it, and Allen thought that this had in part accounted for Melinda's good sleep. Bob White had demurred at the offer of sharing the room with them. He had slept in the car, said he would like being able to see the road and the lights. The three of them had coffee in the room, and Bob White had told them a couple of stories, one about his childhood, the other about hunting rattlers. Melinda had found pleasure in the stories. She liked the childhood one most. Its message was conventional, and she felt she had heard the story, or some version of the story, before. But he had a way of telling it that was both ritualized and personal, and added to that was the humor he brought to it, a humor that joked both on the form of the telling and, in a very sweet and wise way she thought, on the trials of growing up. She thought this humor could have some application to what she was doing as well. And Allen had liked the story also.
Bob White said he would like to be let off near the foothills; he would like to use the gunny sack the golf balls were in.
They had laughed some at trying to figure what to do with the balls. Finally, they had decided to put them in the bottom of the shower stall. Allen had taken his shower among them. Melinda said she would stay and read, would order some lunch at the pool, would spend the day relaxing. He said he would call her around noon. He and Bob White drove off at nine.
When he dropped him off at the crossroad at the bottom of the foothills, Bob White immediately began walking. As he turned the car around, he saw him turn and stick his thumb out to the first two cars that passed him. He drove to the parking lot of a supermarket a few blocks away. The lot was already half full, and he parked between two cars. He got out, opened the trunk, and transferred the four clubs he had used the day before into his own brown-and-white vinyl golf bag. He folded the limp Sunday bag and stuck it in the left wheel well. He checked the larger golf bag, the small zipper compartment, to see that he had enough balls and tees. Satisfied, he got back into the car and drove out of the parking lot.
He thought three of the six courses in the Tucson area were possible. One was a public course, and he only toyed with trying that one for a moment. One of the others seemed good, but when he checked its location on the map he saw it was close to a retirement section of the city, and he decided against it. The third was called Tucson Hills. It was a par-seventy, sixty-three-hundred yard course, and it was rated as having average difficulty in
. It was located fairly close to the residential areas that were in turn close to the professional and business complexes of the city.
At the entrance, a few yards in from the blacktop road, was a crushed-stone drive with a wooden archway at the foot of it. Hanging from the crosstie was a piece of wood that swung free on screw eyes and woodburned into it were the words:
Tucson Hills Country Club
). He passed under the sign and along the drive, which was lined with a hedge high enough that from his car he could not see beyond it. The drive went on for a quarter-mile, and when the hedge ended, it opened up onto a crushed-stone parking lot to the left. At the end of the parking lot was a low rectangular building, adobe, in the Spanish style, with a red tile roof. There were three archways, equally spaced, in the side of the building, and above each was a sign:
. He parked and walked across the gravel through the archway marked
and into a space open to the sky in which there were a few metal picnic tables with umbrellas in the middle of them. At the left end was a bar that led both into the patio and the restaurant on the other side of it. Three men sat on stools on the patio side of the bar with their backs to him, and facing him was a man in a white jacket behind the counter. The man looked at him curiously as he entered. He paused for a moment, then walked to the right through the open courtyard to a screen door with a small sign above it: Pro Shop & Office. He opened the screen door and entered. The pro shop was large and carpeted in green.
It contained the usual gear. There were two metal tables to the left of the door, a couple of easy chairs, and a TV set on a platform
attached to the wall. A man in his early thirties, muscular and blond, wearing an expensive tan knit shirt, stood behind the glass case of the counter, a hand resting on the case, a low modern cash register to his right.
“Hello,” he said, not smiling. “Can I help you?”
“Thought I might play a little golf,” Allen said, reaching into his back pocket as he crossed to the counter. He took a card out of his wallet and handed it to the man.
“Redwood?” the man said. “Never heard of it.” He reached under the counter to his left and took out a small printed pamphlet. “These are the course rules; we keep them here. Green fees are eighteen dollars for guests. You've got to take a power cart; that's twelve bucks for eighteen. It'll cost you thirty to play. You still want to do it?”
He reached into his wallet and took out a twenty and a ten and handed them to the man.
“Okay,” the man said, his spirits rising a little. “Carts are to the left as you go out; they don't need keys. First tee around the back.”
“Might have a cup of coffee first?”
“Sure. The way you came in. Juan'll take care of you.”
He took a score card and wooden pencil from a container on the counter. The card had a small, rough map of the course on the back of it. He folded the card and put it and the pencil in his shirt pocket and went out into the patio to the end of the bar. He ordered a cup of coffee when the Mexican waiter walked over to him. He took the score card out of his pocket and opened it on the counter with the map facing up. Then he checked the three men. Two of them looked to be in their early fifties; their golf clothes were conservative, and they were very well-groomed. One had a thin mustache and graying hair. He was the larger of the two, and his hands suggested that he had once done physical labor. The other was short and stocky, thick through the chest and arms. He had a small paunch pushing out over his belt against the edge of the bar. The third man was younger, maybe thirty. His
clothes were a little flashy. He had a golf cap tilted back a little on his head and a mod haircut. He was more animated than the other two, a little ingratiating and brash at the same time.
He would laugh at a statement made by one of the others, then he would get quickly serious. Both of these behaviors were slightly exaggerated. On occasion he glanced down the counter in an automatic way, looking for approval, simply because there was someone there. He also seemed a little curious.
“Hey,” he said after a few minutes. “I see you're checking the card. You from around here? You'll like the course, if you're lucky that is â it's a tough one. Ever play it?”
The other men looked over at him also. The shorter one nodded and smiled slightly. The other just looked.