Chapter SEVENTEEN by William Gens
Tyler ordered a seltzer with lime and retreated to a corner where Buckler’s lap top came to life as soon as he opened it. This is different, the laptop booted up. Strange no password or security encryption. Without any prompting on his own the computer suddenly displayed a fat old man with a pot belly in polka dot boxer shorts and black high top converses swinging or should say hacking and chasing a squash ball around the squash court. The old man seemed to resemble Buckler, himself. A bit strange going through a dead man’s laptop. “Hi Tyler, click the ball.”
Tyler knew his way around the directories by now. He went back to his directory to continue poking through it. He began looking through the document folders and documents. He came across even more astonishing things along the way, scanned photos in a folder named “BadAlleby, This was the best, photos, surveillance photos, taken of Allenby at some NYC gay bath house, some very compromising shots. He thought he could use these, “retire, my ass. Let’s see who retires first.” He saw his doping results again and the trail Shelley left inadvertently. Then he saw a folder with his name. He thought, that’s something, I actually warrant a folder with my name on it. He couldn’t imagine what Buckler would find interesting —
A waiter came by and placed another seltzer and lime on the table, Tyler looked up, he hadn’t ordered it, and the waiter nodded in the direction of the sultry blond at the bar. He smiled and hoisted cheers then looked away. Just my luck, “he thought, “I am about to get picked up by this stunning blond, but I’m playing fucking house detective with this Buckler laptop. He got this all the time from women mostly divorced and lonely who seemed to want to screw him then mother him. He liked the screwing but hated the mothering. He usually hi tailed it out of there as soon as the mothering started.
He looked away, rude, he thought, but he wasn’t interested. Shelley was totally on his mind and her predicament and he was playing and didn’t need this kind of distraction… He went back to the folder named “Tyler”. He opened it typical stuff about the anti-doping, but then his mouth dropped open. He looked up and around as if there were eyes everywhere, just the blond fixated on his like he was caught in a snare.
How the hell did he get the birth records and the family names? How? Impossible. What was he doing with these? He looked at the birth certificate of one Jeremy Tyler Wolf and then saw his name as the father and Naomi Coetzee as the mother, his heart sank. The birth certificate was issued by the South African National Government. He had met Naomi during the South African Open, it was not such a great time there, but she was working the concession in one of the clubs. He had never seen anyone so beautiful her skin the darkest ebony, her features high, her body sculpted like the Koreas of the Parthenon. She smiled at him and he was smitten. He played his match and when he showered and came by the concession was closed and she was gone. He couldn’t find her the entire time he was there. She wasn’t at the concession stand; he looked for her asked about her. Then someone had mentioned she was filling in for one of the ladies who fell sick. One thing leads to another and he finally was able to track her down. She lived in a very low income housing developed outside of Johannesburg. Not quite the horrible slums, but since her father was in the government, a low level clerk, the family could live very modestly.
He left the computer with the concierge and took a walk on the beach. Not since his ill-fated night when he was abducted di he even goes out of the hotel except to train and play squash. The day was beautiful, deep blue skies, warm, the sand not yet burning hot, high tide, the waves lolling him to a space he needed to be, he needed to think.
He remembered how he and Naomi talked and talked, she was a writer, and had published a few stories. They spent hours together the two weeks he was there and then they became lovers. He fell so in love with her, he tried to see her or send money for her to meet him in his travels, whenever whatever they could do to be together. He was still early on the tour and only partially sponsored. He knew he had to be very careful with her and his sponsors. There was still a lot prejudice in this world, especially in Australia from where most of his sponsors were. And his family would absolutely hit the roof.
He was playing in the Italian open, years back, he remembered it exactly, and when he received an urgent call from Naomi’s sister, Naomi was in labor. He had seen her early in her pregnancy and it was the happiest time for them. They were having a child together. Her father, cd called him son, her sister called him brother, and he was going to be a father.
But he had to keep the whole thing hidden and secretive; Naomi seemed to understand and rarely pushed for details. When he was on the phone with Naomi’s sister, he tried to explain that he just couldn’t leave the tournament. He would get there, he told her as soon as he could.
When he arrived a day later and met Naomi’s father and sister at the hospital, he had flowers and a stuffed toy and a look on his face, proud father. But when he saw her family, there were tears, sadness, and defeat. Naomi was gone, her heart gave out, was what they said. She was in labor for 20 hours. Tyler was dumbfounded. The hospital was packed with patients, mostly black, the air was thick with the rancid smell of blood, and he wanted to throw up. He sank in the chair, simply stunned; Naomi’s sister hugged him and they cried. He finally gathered himself and went to the nursery with Naomi’s father and her sister. The nursery must had had 100 swaddled babies, a sea of them and only two nurses who all they did was valet the carriers to change and diaper and feed the babies. And he knew his son immediately, the only seemingly white baby in the whole place. The big tag on the cart read Jeremy, she remembered, it was his grandfather’s name, the most important person in Tyler’s life.
He left 2 days later for a tournament in Germany; they held a simple service and burial for which Tyler paid. The family agreed to look after the baby. Tyler sent them money and more money as he became more and more successful, he gave them enough money to move to a better place He played his heart out, he played always for Jeremy and Naomi.
He signed his tab and went to leave the computer with the concierge and take a walk on the beach, leaving his shoes and shirt on the railing along the path leading to the hotel. He hadn’t been to the beach — not since that ill-fated night when he was abducted did he even venture out of the hotel except to train and play squash. The day was beautiful, deep blue skies, warm, the sand not yet burning hot, high tide, the waves lolling him to a space he needed to be, he needed to think….
He walked for about a half hour and then out of nowhere “Olá! Olá!
He looked over and there were two young men, Brazilians, and a beautiful girl waving frantically to him. They ran up to him.
“Olá senhor “
“Englis, please, yes?” Tyler was too distracted to concentrate on speaking and hearing Portuguese.
“Ok, in Englis’, one of them quipped. “Funny to see you again — again. Sir”
Tyler said, “Again?”
“Si, we saw you other day play sqawsh, you very good, too bad your friend
falls and hurts himself.”
“Yeah, too bad”, said Tyler.
“But my friend you no look very happy when you play such a magnificent sport, why you not happy to have opportunity, how you say, to cherish the O Momento?”
The girl smiled, that smile struck Tyler like a ton of bricks, her smile, Naomi’s smile, her look, the eyes the way she looked at him, and she couldn’t be more than 15, her smile and the sparkle in her. It also just dawned on him that they were the very same teenagers he saw the other day when he came to on the beach after having been abducted. He remembered them and how they sort of laughed at his predicament.
Allenby tried to gather himself; he could see the photos now all over the internet, great and successful impresario of squash, in his grand moment of triumph — these lurid and seedy photos of the bathhouse. The sponsors think of the sponsors and the scandal. He wondered if he should go to Phillip Sanderson and Special Agent Donald McDiarmid with this, what the hell, they told him to come to them and not try and resolve shit like this. He thought of his family, all the years hiding this from them, his mother always bragging about what a ladies man he was, how would she face those betties’ at the women’s club. He had to get those photos at whatever cost. The hell with the squash it was his reputation and humiliation before his family that mattered most. He picked up his phone and called Michelson, this was really his only chance; he couldn’t get into a blackmail scene, he had the cash, but he knew they would bleed him for the rest of his life and they knew the one thing that could really bring him to his knees, well, he smiled, one of the things was to humiliate him in the eyes of his parents, grandparents the whole family.
After Naomi died, Tyler knew he couldn’t take care of Jeremy, his sister and father were more than happy to take care of the baby. Tyler loved Jeremy, saw him whenever he could, and sent money called weekly no matter how much he travelled. And the Coetzee’s were wonderful sending pictures of Jeremy, films from the camcorder, they eventually, built a website jeremywolf.com Tyler looked at the website constantly, left comments with an alias. He was so much a part of Jeremy’s life, but no one, not even Shelley knew about Jeremy. He never regretted for a moment his love for Naomi and their child.
“You come, we show you squash Brazilian style, maybe you have fun with that,” the other young man said, the girl smiled again, Tyler figured it might take his mind off f all this craziness. He followed them to their jeep, convertible as they drove from the beach along the shore eventually leaving the hotel district and going into the suburbs and then into the jungle. Tyler just let the warm sun on his face; the teenagers chattered incessantly in Portuguese so fast he caught only glimpses. They had to get the jeep back soon, they were hungry, someone named Miguel was coming over, and the girl occasionally looked back at Tyler and smiled. Tyler closed his eyes, imagining he was with Naomi and Jeremy and being happy.
The jeep came into this village, strange village in the middle of nowhere they must have been driving for over an hour, Tyler drifted in and out of awareness. Strangely he didn’t seem bothered by where he didn’t know he was or really who these kids were. He somehow felt contented. The thoughts of Naomi and Jeremy didn’t cause him any of the usual pain and anxiety.
The village people stared at him and the young man with the English yelled at them in Portuguese to mind their business. Mr. Tyler is a famous man, a great athlete in ‘squawsh’. They all just stared and looked at him and then went about their business.
They walked down a maze of alley ways, he could see women hanging clothes to dry in the hot Brazilian sun, he heard babies crying, children laughing, the occasional husband and wife yelling at each other. There seemed to be chickens and roosters and goats everywhere, he was constantly avoiding stepping on them Then he heard this high pitched chatter and that familiar sound of the rhythmic gunshot, repeatedly, rhythmically, Tyler’s senses came alive, it was music to his ears, all he heard was that sound pop ….pop …pop …pop like a heartbeat, a pounding in his chest. “What the fuck”, he said when they came upon this court, outside court, like the ones he saw in South Africa and the one he saw in the U.S. once.
There two lean, barefoot scruffy players were snapping the ball with such ease, half the time he couldn’t figure out what or where they were hitting the ball. The players were so quick and on the ball which was very slow off the floor that they had an eternity to try and deceive their opponent. There were faded lines on the court; the court seemed about a foot bigger. The court was definitely a foot or so wider, the tin shorter, the ball was fast off the wall but slow on the floor. At the end of what must have been the match the two boys playing came off the court drenched in sweat arms around each other laughing, their pants ragged and dirty, they wreaked of sweat, acrid, acidic sweat. They were barefooted, bloody stubby toes. They looked at Tyler without expression, challenging, but then his host said, “Tyler, here, great “sqawsh” player number 1 in world, he comes to watch and maybeee hit some with us.”
Tyler nodded, other players came over, the girls continued to smile at him, he was ok they just wanted to hit with a professional. He was barefoot in shorts at least and no shirt, just like them. He hadn’t bothered to wear shoes or anything. He looked at the ball it was some strange concoction of varied colored rubber, something he’d seen before, but not really, it was a bit heavier for the cement walls, very spongy and when he squeezed it in his hand the color of the ball exploded into this bright green, orange, a color which might be seen for miles. There was a box of them and other equipment. The racquets were a little shorter and the head smaller and heavier, felt like his grandfather’s old wooden racket. He picked a racket, it didn’t much matter, could have been a shovel and he’d still play a match with a shovel for a racket.
He bounced the ball a bit and went onto the court. The roof was color corrugated plastic, like you see in the ghetto shanty towns, the sun shone through but wasn’t as hot if they were to play without the covering.
The floor was concrete, was coated with a rubberized sealant that had worn down. His feet felt good, he liked the feel. He stretched a bit, swing the racket and took the ball and started striking it. He began getting a feel for all the components, he realized the game was at once faster but then when the ball struck the floor it sort of died, he realized just how quick and agile these young boys had to be to retrieve the shots, the ball only came out of the back very rarely he noticed. The players stood watching, expressionless.
Then a young boy maybe 13, the girl with the smile called out to him, “Miguel”, as she called him he came running toward her and turned to Tyler and smiled before he stepped onto the court.
“Ola signor, we play, you serve.”
By the time Tyler had played two games which he won narrowly he was completely drenched and spent, the young boy who did most of the retrieving was fresh, he wanted more. Tyler waved him off and they all laughed. He sat down, the offered him some tea, a flavored matte, and as he sat there, he realized it was either a flashback, or hallucination, but there stepped out from the nearby shadows, Fritz, the great ,great entrepreneur and Tyler recognized him from the I-Cares endorsement days. Fritz Malison smiled. Tyler couldn’t move he was slumped against the back wall of the court he never felt such peace in his life, it was like the first time he saw Naomi, he knew there was no place on the planet where he could be happier than on this court right now, his heart filled with Naomi and Jeremy. He knew what he had to do, he knew what he had to do, he knew what he had to do, and he kept repeating it over and over.
Tyler woke with a start, on the beach under the same palm near where he was when abducted back what seemed a lifetime ago. He was in a dream, but it was different, it was beautiful, he heard the sound of the rhythmic gunshot just like he heard in his dream? It was so real. He would figure this out, even if it killed him, he’d play again like he played today, don’t’ know, played in my dream, but they were real…and Fritz, Fritz Maliinson was there.”
WILL GENS writes the blog SquashDashersbashers.blogspot.com.
He is passionate about poetry and squash. He is pursuing a graduate degree in Poetry at Adelphi University, writes about squash, coaches squash and when not on the court is working on Wall Street in software testing.
He lives with his wife, Shyamala, and his son, Kyle, a semi-professional squash pro and classics student at Hunter college. He also has a daughter, Alexandra, living in Florida and planning to attend medical school.
He would someday in this lifetime love to see both a U.S. born player reach the top 10 on the world squash tour and witness the total elimination of petroleum driven cars.
Next Up: Chapter 18 by John Nimick