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December 2009, vol 5 no 4

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Glenn G. Coats

 

Glittering Prizes

It is a small crowd at the retirement dinner, all the tables squeezed in a small section of the Elks. Everyone is talking at our table and I cannot hear a single conversation. It is like the beach when my ears fill with water—nothing is clear. There is little room to dance so my wife and I rock on the same spot in order not to bump anyone. The bartender keeps bringing drinks to our table. “Compliments of the gentleman,” she says. We look around the tables and search the dance floor for a face nodding with recognition, there is no one. What gentleman?

Finally, one of the other teachers says, “Your old man is buying the drinks, he’s on the other side of the bar shooting pool.” I knew my father shot pool after work at the Lebanon Hotel. After I started to drive, I would stop in and surprise him when I saw his Ford parked outside. I spoke with several of his friends and watched him sink a few balls. I was a distraction. My father would order me a soda then I’d be on my way. I never knew he played at the Elks.

Several couples join us in a visit to see my father. He is grinning with a pool stick in his hand. “Been mowing us down for hours,” one of his buddies says. They convince him that he should give his son a try.

I take off my suit jacket and rub my glasses on my shirt. My father’s eyes are glassy and his legs have a wobble to them. “I am not a pool player,” I say with everyone watching. It is a long slow game of eight ball with neither of us playing well.

My father’s friends are quiet when I call the pocket and sink the eight ball. My father and I shake hands like we did when I left for college and when I graduated. My wife and I return to the dance floor where a slow dance is playing. The crowd is thin as some have gone home. I think about my father, how he could dive perfectly off a board and send the pins flying at the bowling alley, how he sends golf balls across water, and bangs the pin with his horseshoes. My father is just worn out tonight, not playing his best—not seeing me clearly.

midday
father’s golden football
among the cufflinks

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