No Runs, No Hits, No Errors

By Jane Greensmith
www.janegs.com

Copyright © 2004.
 All rights reserved.

Chapter 17

 

Playing with gravity, as Harry found out on the eleventh hole, was even more fun than he remembered. After all, gravity is nothing more than sheer bodily attraction.

"The most powerful force in the universe," Harry intoned as stepped up to the tee. "Use it. Don't fight it."

Free electrons are all well and good to get sparks flying, but gravity is the real heavyweight when it comes to bringing bodies together.

Harry had first shot of the threesome. He told Kathleen that this hole they would work on gravity drills. "They help you take the violence and tension out of your play so that you can generate maximum club head speed and swing-plane movement by having your upper body work with gravity instead of against it."

Yada. Yada. Yada. Kathleen nodded as if she knew what he was talking about and wondered how she was going to get rid of Matthew. Her intuition told her that he was like a rock in a shoe, annoying at first but ultimately debilitating. After his crack about the status of her and Phil's relationship, Kathleen was warily waiting for him to strike again.

Strangely enough, Harry seemed wholly unconcerned by Matthew's presence. Even more strangely, Harry seemed to like, even trust Matthew. Kathleen was pretty sure Harry was not going to like what she had to tell him about the trap Joanna and Phil had laid for Matthew. She was also pretty sure he wasn't going to believe that Matthew had virtually imprisoned Joanna through the contract he had negotiated for her with Campbell Modeling. Might as well enjoy playing with Harry now, Kathleen reasoned, because things between them were going to go south once they started talking.

Harry's drive sent the ball far down the fairway. Matthew insisted that Harry had hooked it, but Harry hotly countered that he had done no such thing. While Harry and Kathleen searched the short grass for their ball, Matthew wandered in the rough and brush to the left, determined to prove that he was right. He was.

After Matthew stopped crowing and retreated to find his own ball, Harry offered to show Kathleen what he knew about gravity.  He complimented her on her stance. She rolled her eyes at him. He went on to mention that he thought that if she turned every so slightly, it would be easier for her to find the ball's sweet spot.

"Sweet spot?" she asked, with a lovely little tease around the corners of her mouth. Harry took the bait and Kathleen discovered that she was to be treated to a demonstration.  In short order, she found herself with Harry’s hands on her waist, squaring her hips with the ball and the line it needed to travel.

While she took a couple of practice swings, exercising her now-square hips, Harry went on to elucidate his theories regarding the sweet spot, "When all the planets are in alignment and your hips are square and the air is still, sometimes you can combine gravity with muscle memory and make the club and the ball connect at exactly the right spot for the energy in the club to completely transfer to the ball. A ball hit sweetly will sail high, wide, and lonesome down the green expanse of avenue, and it's one of the prettiest things you can imagine, and the most pure. And then it's gone. It's done. It's a memory. And, of course, you duff the rest of the round because golf is like that. But you remember how good it felt and that's what keeps you coming back. Knowing that you hit the sweet spot once means you can do it again. And it felt so damned good that you'll play forever just to feel that way again...No! No! No!"

Just as Harry was finishing his rapture, he found that Kathleen had contorted herself, getting ready to hit the ball, and he was just barely able to stop her from executing a truly hellacious swing. Clearly he hadn't taught her enough about gravity, so he resumed the lesson. This time he felt the need to wrap his left arm across her abdomen, while gently pivoting her shoulders into his, so she could feel how to far she needed to wind up.

He graciously showed Kathleen her maximum allowable windup a few times and then went on to satisfy himself that Kathleen was in perfect working order to utilize gravity properly. Finally, he told her to take a few more practice swings. After each she seemed completely unable to get her body back into the proper position, requiring Harry to repeatedly reconfigure her. He assured her that he didn't mind in the least doing this small task, especially since the lovely tease around the corners of her mouth had matured. And this smile insisted on dancing across her lips whenever he pivoted her shoulders.

He could have sworn that even in the moonlight, her eyes were fairly sparking with energy left over from last night's storm and the mock seriousness with which she attended to his extensive demonstrations was positively enchanting. The only real problem, as far as Harry was concerned, was that Kathleen's dress kept riding up her right thigh every time she swung the club back, and he found that this distraction inhibited him from fully articulating the finer points of gravity golf. He hoped her game wouldn't suffer for it.

Kathleen herself was surprised by how warm it could be on a golf course at night. When they had started out from the parking lot she had been concerned that her sleeveless dress would be too thin for the cool Colorado night air, but now she found the back of her neck was pleasantly warm, especially when Harry's chin, scratchy with beard stubble, grazed her cheek as he was helping her reach the apex of her windup on her fifth practice swing. Chin to cheek--a mere quarter turn of his face and his lips could be upon hers. He backed off quickly and told her to hit the ball.

She hit it a good fifty yards--"twenty-five up and twenty-five down" he teased.

She sauntered over to him, slipped a hand behind his neck, and whispered into his ear, "Ask me if I care?"

Not trusting himself to answer, Harry took a breath and swapped clubs with her, determined not to claim a prize he had not yet won. Instead he asked carelessly, "Did you feel gravity working that time?"

"The most powerful force in the universe? I should say so."

They started to cross the fairway, but were stopped short by Matthew bellowing "Fore."

"I thought the club didn't want people playing at night," Kathleen commented.

"They don't."

"Then why is he yelling like that, especially since we are no where near being in the way?"

"Matthew likes the sound of his own voice."

"So I've noticed."

"What did you two talk about while I was out working over Skip Henderson?"

"He propositioned me."

"Was it a good offer?"

"Not bad--an art gallery in Santa Fe ."

"And what did you say?"

"I said you wouldn't like it."

Harry laughed. "Good girl. And you're right, I wouldn't." He took her hand and gallantly kissed it, then he growled softly, "Propositioning you should be my job."

"Actually I told him that telling me what to do was your job."

"Well, I think I can hold down two jobs. Maybe I can start propositioning you on the side, while keeping my full-time job of telling you what to do."

It was her turn to laugh at his silliness. She slipped her hand into his as they started toward their ball. 

Kathleen had planned to wait until after the game when she was alone with Harry to tell him that she was no longer Phil's girlfriend. She would have to confess that in Phil's eyes she never really been more than a decoy--not a pretty thing to have to admit, but there it was. That, of course, would be a beautiful segue to telling him about Joanna and her troubles, and then perhaps Harry might tell her that he wasn't interested in anybody but her, and then....

"Harry, I want you to know that Phil and I..."

Harry's stomach and jaw clenched simultaneously as he interrupted her. "Don't tell me. For god's sake, Kathleen, not now. Save it for tomorrow and then I can claim that the sun got in my eyes..."

"It's not like that. Please let me..."

"No, Kathleen. I don't want to talk tonight. I just want to play." He walked away quickly. "I'm up and Matthew gets impatient if he has to wait too long."

Matthew gets impatient! What about me? I've been trying to put things right between us for over twenty-four hours and you're just so pig-headed that you won't let me. You're ready and willing to put your hands all over me but you can't even trust me enough to listen to me. Fine, then. Wallow!

And with that, Kathleen watched gravity's charms disperse in a storm of vanity and pride. She could scarcely believe how thoroughly Harry trampled on all the free electrons they had just stirred up, squandering the joy they had found experimenting with gravity because he was afraid of her words. The eleventh hole, which had held such promise of fun and frolic, proved a long, hard par-five, filled with traps and doglegs.

Harry, Kathleen, and Matthew now each walked separately, plodding along. Kathleen lost what little rhythm Harry had imparted, and she duffed shot after shot, until even Harry started to be out of patience with her. Harry still got their ball out of the jams she hit it into--the rough, the sand, the deep grass--but the fun was gone and they were now just playing to finish.

"Whew, that opening is narrower than a bigot's mind," Matthew whistled as he set up the chip shot he needed to thread through two huge sand bunkers that guarded the green.  He had to be careful that he didn't overshoot the green, as the lake lay just beyond, still and glassy in the moonlight, ready to accept any offerings that errant golfers might lob its way. Kathleen watched him as he swung his club back short and sharp and then cruelly dug into the grass below the ball, rocketing it almost straight up into the air. It plopped onto the green about three feet from the pin. He turned to Kathleen who had been standing behind him; his eyes were glowing with the intensity of blood scent.

"That's how you play the game, princess," he snarled at her. "Attack when you're cornered. If you hold back and try to be cute and soft and easy, you'll languish in the sand. Attack. Remember that, Kathleen. Attack and you'll win."

Kathleen had no intention of attacking anything. She just wanted to go home. She walked over to her ball and squatted down the way Harry and Matthew did while they were 'reading the green,' and visualized the ball rolling into the hole. Then she stood up and scrunched over the ball. She held her breath and then gave it a quick hard putt. The ball shot across the green past the hole and climbed up a swell, caught itself in a little eddy of grass, and then dribbled back resting not more than six inches from the hole.

Harry tapped it in and then tossed her the ball. "We keep score on the next hole."

#  

The twelfth hole, and the last one for the evening, was a short par-three with a little lake, a pond really, separating the tee from the green. Harry offered to take first shot since hitting the ball across the lake might be more than Kathleen was up for. She declined his offer, informing him that just because they were now keeping score didn't mean that she should be patronized. If he hadn't wanted her to play he shouldn't have asked her to. Harry looked a little dazed and told her to tee up when she was ready.

To everyone's surprise, Kathleen's drive cleared the pond, barely but enough for them to see the faint whiteness of the ball nestled on the far side of the water. Kathleen was amazed at what a little anger could do when properly applied.

Matthew casually washed his ball and dried it off on the remnant of a towel stuck to a pole near the tee.

"Washing and drying the ball before a water hole reminds it to stay out of the drink," he quipped. Then he stuck a tee in the ground and grinned at Harry, "Swing for show and putt for dough?"

Harry nodded.

Matthew walloped his ball, sending it over the lake and to the far side of the green. He gazed across the water for several moments before he asked, "What's the wager?"

Harry turned to Kathleen. "Your call."

She almost choked at his words. This was supposed to be a friendly little game in the moonlight, not a betting match! She swore to herself that if she lived a million years she would never understand men.

"I never bet," she said.

"You have to," Matthew replied. "That's how we play. Whether you name it or not, something's always at stake. You'll find it's better to be honest about what you want. If you don't know what you're willing to lose, princess, you'll never know what you want to win."

"Stop calling me 'princess'!"

"Stop acting like one."

"Fine, then. What do you propose?"

"Take me up on my offer regarding Santa Fe ."

"In your dreams. Besides the bet has to involve Harry."

Matthew laughed at her. "Come now, Kathleen, you were very clear at dinner that everything about you involves Harry..."

Harry interrupted Matthew, "Don't be crass. Kathleen doesn't know when you're joking."

Matthew sighed. "A hundred bucks then. A hundred bucks says I can outplay, out-think, and out-fox you on this hole."

Harry motioned Kathleen to follow him down to the edge of the pond where their ball lay.

"I'm sorry I dragged you out here. Just ignore Matthew. He likes to needle people."

She turned on him, finally exasperated beyond caring how she sounded, "It's not Matthew. I'm getting used to him being a jerk, but what do you want from me anyway? You ask me to work at K-B-K, so I give up my summer with Colleen to work in your office. Then you badger me into playing softball, so I join the team. Then you lay a guilt trip on me so that I'll spend every Friday night with a bunch of kids, and I do it and I even like doing. And all that's okay--I can live with that.  But after I kissed you and you kissed me back, you acted as if I had the plague. You give me flowers, and then get all bent out of shape because I didn't know they were from you. And tonight--tonight!--you practically make love to me while showing me how to swing a stupid golf club but you won't even let me talk to you. I know I'm not as buff as Maggie or as gorgeous as Joanna, but I can't take much more of this teasing."

"Who said anything about Maggie?"

"Joanna."

"As long as you're with Phil..."

"That's what I've been trying to tell you, Phil and I..."

Matthew yelled at Harry to hit the ball. Kathleen sat down angrily on the grass and faced the water, determined not to watch Harry's shot. She heard the crack of the ball followed by the soft thud of it landing on the green.

The world was silent for a moment, as if even the crickets were holding their breath, and then "Wahhoo!," Harry howled into the night. He pulled Kathleen to her feet.

"Look, Kath, you can talk to me all night if you want to, and I'm not disagreeing with a word you said, we'll stay up 'til sunrise if you like, but I just made the most amazing shot of my lackluster career.  And now we're shooting for par. Let's you and me whip this boy's keester and win something good from him."

He hugged her hard around the shoulders and exulted, "Baby, I hit the sweet spot sure as you're born, and now it's your turn. Matthew's short game is weak. You can out-putt him if you try."

He held her by the shoulders and looked straight into her eyes, past the familiar coyness and unfamiliar anger until he saw the quiet spot he was looking for. "He can only have you on the run if you run away. Just ask yourself, what do I want from him? Think now, what will make him run or at least squirm?"

"You think I can out-putt Matthew?"

"I do. You have soft hands, a gentle grip, and a good eye. You can beat him. I know you can.”

Kathleen took a breath, dazed by Harry’s hypnotic rattle, infected by his contagious confidence. She felt him squeeze her arm, and then her head cleared and she felt a lick of fire in her belly. She smiled at Harry in the moonlight.  It was inconceivable but he was actually handing her the reins and asking her to call the shots. He was handing her the moon and expecting her to howl at it.

"Okay, I know what I want from him."

"So go tell him."

Harry and Kathleen hiked up the hill from the pond's edge to the green where Matthew was waiting, smug nonchalance exuding from every pore. He had hit his second shot, and his ball lay no more than a foot from the pin. Harry and Kathleen's ball was slightly closer, an easy putt, a 'gimme' if they hadn't been betting.

"I don't care about money," Kathleen began. She swallowed hard, knowing that her voice was shaking. She gripped her golf club and gritted her teeth, and then her words came out in a tumble, "If we win, I want you to change Joanna Bridges' contract so that she can leave Campbell Modeling without being sued."

Matthew's lawyer face, his poker face, didn't betray the slightest shock or dismay at Kathleen's words. Nevertheless, it was a long time before he softly answered, "So that's the way it is."

He breathed out in a low whistle. "I forgot to ask myself who was Phil's lover if it wasn't you." He held Kathleen’s gaze for a long moment.  She didn’t blink, though her eyes were smarting and her throat was aching as if he had been strangling her.  Finally, he stooped to read the green and said casually, as he lined up his shot, "Are you sure you know what you're asking?"

He glanced up when she didn’t answer. She nodded.

"You're up then, princess."

If I don't wrap this club around his scrawny neck...Kathleen quickly scrunched over the ball and knocked it hard. Her aim was true, but the ball was going too fast to fall.  It circled the rim of the cup and then scooted off, coming to rest inches from the hole.

Kathleen groaned. Harry held silent. Now Matthew would have to miss twice for them to win. She had bet the farm and had blown it. The game was up. She had let Joanna down--she had told the man who held her captive that his bird was ready to fly, and Joanna would never forgive her.

She felt Harry's presence behind her. She wanted him to hug her and comfort her and fix things the way he always did. Instead, he let her feel her defeat. She wanted to creep away and be sick. And then, to her amazement she watched as Matthew calmly reached over, picked up his ball, and slid it into his pocket.

He walked over to her and stretched out his hand. On auto-pilot, she took it. He squeezed her fingers as if he was trying to imprint himself upon her.

"You win," he said.  "And now…" he paused as he held her gaze, making the hair on the nape of her neck bristle in warning, "you owe me. Remember, it's not whether you win or lose, it's what you win. I’d rather have you indebted to me than Joanna in my pocket any day of the week."

He let go of her hand, but not without giving her a nasty little smile.  He shook Harry's hand. "Good game, son. You've got a handful there, but you'll be all right. Just don't give her everything she wants right away."

And then he was gone, down the hill and into the shadows.  He called back, over his shoulder, "Adios, kids. Don't do anything I wouldn't do."

Even after she could no longer see him, Kathleen stood motionless, staring into the night where Matthew had disappeared until finally out of the darkness came Harry's voice, low and serious, "Did you get what you wanted?"

She turned on him, finally able to focus the rage and frustration that had been building all evening.

"He cheated!" Kathleen screamed in fury. "He let me win! HE-LET-ME-WIN! Arrgh. This is worse than losing." She pulled herself together and leveled what she hoped was an icy stare at Harry--"How could you let him do this to me?"

There was nothing Harry could say.  He shrugged, he held out his hands, he opened his arms.  He let her beat her fists upon his chest until her sobs subsided. Then he brushed back the strands of hair that had been drenched in the maelstrom of emotion and stroked her cheek. He massaged the nape of her neck and laid her head against his chest and patted her hair. He closed his eyes as she relaxed her body into his.

"There are worse things than owing Matthew," he ventured finally.

She looked up sharply, skeptically.

"Don't worry,” he continued.  “He's not really a bad guy. Just likes to play the part. I promise you, Kath, he won't ask you to sell your soul...or your body, though he might ask you for a favor someday, but you can always say no. And Kath, you've earned his respect and that's no mean feat."

She pulled back, surprised that such a strong, wonderful man could be so naïve.

"Oh Harry, you don't know what he's like. You couldn't and still be friends with him..."

"So tell me."

"Here?"

He took her hand and sat down on the grass by the lake, pulling her down next to him. "Tell me all the sordid details, starting first with..." Harry hesitated and then plunged on, "...with you and Phil."

Kathleen stared down at her clasped hands and said in a low voice, "I was never anything to Phil other than a distraction. I’ve been such a stupid little fool. I seem to be doomed to blindness..."

"Phil and Joanna?"

"Engaged--for months. All those trips of his to New York that just seemed to coincide with hers--they were no accident. They want to open modeling agency together, but Joanna can't leave Campbell because Matthew put a clause in her contract saying that she can't work in the business if she leaves Campbell . Phil has been putting together a case against Matthew to prove that he forced Joanna to sign the contract. Oh Harry, it's so ugly and when I saw a way to make it all right tonight with that stupid bet, I jumped at it."

She tried to smile, "You had made me so cocky that I really thought I could beat Matthew, and then I missed the shot, and then he let me win, and now I owe him and I feel like I'll have that around my neck forever. I'll always be waiting for him to ask me to do something horrible, when all I really wanted was..." Kathleen buried her face in her hands and sobbed silently. She felt the comforting weight of Harry's arm around her again. She let him lift her chin so that he could see her tear-stained face bathed in moonlight.

"All you really wanted was what?"

"To be loved."

"You are…by everyone who really knows you.  By your father, and your sister, and Jack, and Dorie, and..." He broke off and stared at the lake whose still and glassy surface was now beginning to break into waves as the breeze picked up. He watched the moon's reflection struggle to hold itself together as the moving water fragmented it.  "Phil is scum, Kathleen.  Nobody should play with someone’s feelings the way he played with yours."

“Oh, that’s rich coming from you.  All you do is play games.”

“Not with you, I don’t.  Not with us.”

“Is there an ‘us’?”

“You’re the one who told me Phil that was the man you wanted.  Just because he happens to be scum doesn’t me I’m ready to pinch hit for him, or for anybody just because you want to fall in love."  He smiled sadly, “I can strike out on my own, thank you very much.”

Her mouth drooped and her eyes filled, and suddenly it seemed as if there was no way out of the muck but to plunge forward.

"Oh Harry, please don't think I'm horrible, but I do love you  You, not Phil, not Gabe, not anyone else but you.  And even though I can’t yet howl, I can fight back and I can keep on keeping on.  Please, don’t think I’m horrible."

With a few deft movements and even fewer words, Harry gave Kathleen to understand that he did not think she was horrible.  Quite the contrary, in fact.

Now, a man kissing a woman under the canopy of summer moonglow by the shore of a little lake accompanied by the soft hum of crickets and toads and sprinklers is not so very extraordinary in the history of the world. But a woman returning that man's kisses a thousandfold with some of her own thrown in for good measure can begin to make the world spin just a little faster. In later years, Kathleen insisted that she saw constellations whiz overhead as the earth's rotation was accelerated by the power unleashed in love's embrace. Certainly the ground seemed to slip away beneath her feet as the increasing centrifugal force pulled her and Harry back down into the cool thick grass, unable and unwilling to resist the laws of physics any longer.

"Fly me to the moon?" she murmured into his ear as they left one orbit and careened through space on their way to another.

"We'd have to defy gravity to do that," he cautioned with a smile.

"And how do we do that?"

"I have a secret recipe up at Kenwood."

"Is that an invitation?"

He assured her that it was.

 

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