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Dean's "Novel", a lesson to be learned. . .


I was driving back from a bad match at the club. I'd been ahead 5-1 in the first set when it all fell apart, and my opponent, Eric, who's actually a guy I play with a couple times a week and who's one of my best friends when he's not beating me, came alive. I say "came alive" because we're usually pretty close, and my leading by that much meant either I was playing hot, or he wasn't. In this case, he wasn't. But there are few things I know that are more dynamic than a tennis match, and suddenly the wind, or the stars, possibly the force that maintains the Universe came to his side. And it never left. Somewhere along the line, in the next 6 games, I must have gotten a point, but I don't remember it. What I do remember was general panic at the feeling I was under assault, trying to hang on to the lead I'd thought was mine. Every player, every time-to-time, has these moments, just as every opponent to every player hates them for it.

Whether by Zen, Karma, blind luck, or because he secretly hated me, his game just got better, and less than an hour later I was shaking his hand and congratulating him. I didn't like congratulating my opponent, but they say that grace in the face of defeat is a virtue, and I needed all the virtue I could get. "They" probably didn't have to suffer through Eric's subsequent thumbs up to everyone we passed on the way back to the clubhouse, and I'm sure I got extra virtue-points for not clubbing him when I overheard "Kicked ass!" when a young blonde he'd been after asked how he'd done. She wriggled and smiled and congratulated him, and he said they should get together to hit sometime before she skipped off. Eric, who's quite a few years younger than me, turned back, entranced. "I think she's coming around," he said grinning even more. "Yeah," I said. I was feeling defeated and Eric's Good Day was becoming tiresome. Actually, it had gotten tiresome when he hit his zillionth down-the-line winner in the first set. "Well, you think I should ask her out, maybe to the fair next week?." "You mean the River Festival?" I said. He'd moved here from some mid-western city just over a year ago and considered every event in Boise to be "The fair." City picnics, Alive-after-Five, and the River Festival were all the same to him, and I sometimes wondered just how small a town he'd come from. Chinden boulevard, where it turns into a 2-lane highway on the west side, has a 55 mph speed limit, and he always referred to it as "the freeway." One of these days I'd have to ask him about his hometown. "Yeah, the River Festival. You think I should ask her to that?" Eric had been asking her out, mostly to play tennis, for about 6 months, and never gotten past her saying, "Okay, but I can't next week, I'll call you," which she never followed up. He was looking at me now and I could see there was a little of the edge taken off of his good mood, because he'd forgotten about the match and was remembering his less than stellar success asking out little Jeanie, or whatever her name was. I was starting to like Jeanie better because of it. I looked at him and said, "Sure Eric, ask her out. . . again," and I gave him my knowing smirk and looked down at the steps leading to the clubhouse. "Cute, Dave," he said and clapped me on the back. "Yeah, I'll give it one more shot," and he laughed as we came up the stairs into the clubhouse, adding "What with the winning streak I'm on today, I should ask her right now," and smiled to himself. I held open the door and told him he could buy me two beers for that crack, and we walked inside together, smiling.

Eric was good for the two beers, and an hour later I was on my way home. I'd gotten to bed late, and the combination of the lack of sleep, the typical Boise August 95 degree temperature, and, of course, the beer, was making me consider postponing the 1001 things I had to do around the house to take a nap instead. I drove down Orchard to the connector, down that to Main, and up to Highland View. On the way I came down Harrison Boulevard, part of Boise's historic district, and tried to notice the houses I hadn't noticed before. I'd been down this street a thousand times, but I was always surprised when I noticed a house I'd overlooked before. There are maybe 35 houses on the street, and of those perhaps 10 are Old-World elegant, the type with solid rock walls that would do a castle proud. With ornate front yards and beautiful terraced gardens just right for watching from the enclosed porch. I had no idea what they looked like inside, but everything about the outside suggested space and dignity. Those 10 or so houses I knew, it was the other, "lesser" houses that I kept finding, and today I saw one that wasn't really a house, it seemed to be an apartment building. U-shaped with maybe four apartments. It fit well within the landscape and you knew it'd been built back when the land could be adapted to the building, rather than the other way around. I liked the houses on Harrison, although I wouldn't like to live there myself because of the traffic. I liked quiet, and quiet was the overriding reason why I lived near the end of a foothills street.

I turned right at Hill and drove to Highland, going up into the hills the mile-and-a-half to my house. Pulling into the drive I saw TC, my cat, in the garden on the far side of the house, looking for someone to come home and play with, and he jumped over a bush and hid under it to watch my car pull in. I'd planned on cutting my lawn but now, with visions of a nice, quiet, Saturday afternoon nap dancing in my head, I decided my grass looked fine. Better than fine, in fact, and I realized that cutting it in this heat would do it irreparable harm. Better to let it grow for another couple of days, so it could get fuller and greener. I pulled into the garage, got out, and decided I had the energy to turn the sprinklers on -- to help the lawn yet more -- and was going to call to TC but he was already rubbing against my legs and meowing. I always wanted to know what a cat was saying, or thought they were saying when they meowed, but there really wasn't anyone to talk to about that, so I'd taken to talking to TC. The nice thing about talking to a cat is that, no matter what they say, you can decide for yourself what they meant. I went into the house, TC following, and walked. . .


The "lesson" here is that it's pointless to write a "novel" when you have no plan, plot, or even outline. It's always nice to know where you might be going. Maybe some day. . .


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copyright © 1997-2010 dean cashen    06-22-2010 

Copyright 1997-2008 Dean Cashen