Andrew Nelson carried his iced tea from the bar, stepped out to the screened porch and searched for any familiar face. Being the club’s newest member, he recognized no one, and because of that he was drawn to the lone aging figure in one corner of the clubhouse porch, quietly gazing toward the first tee. He appeared to Nelson to be easily approachable, sitting as he was beside five empty chairs at a table for six.
“Do you mind if I sit here?” Nelson asked, drawing the old man’s attention away from the first tee.
“No, not at all,” the man replied, pointing a shaky finger toward a chair across the large table from him. “I’ve just been here a few minutes myself. There was a foursome sitting here, but they had to up and run soon after I arrived. So we have this big table to ourselves, Mister...”
“Nelson, Andrew Nelson.”
“Andrew, I’m Franklin Fitzgerald,” he said, rising slightly from his seat to shake Nelson’s hand. “I don’t know that I’ve seen you around the club?” the elder gentleman asked.
“I just joined – last week.”
The man’s sagging eyes grew wider. “Ah, a new member. It’s always nice to welcome a new member. And are you just finishing your round?”
“No, I haven’t played yet today. I was thinking I might try to get nine in before it gets too late. And you. Mr. Fitzgerald?”
“I’m here for lunch. And if I can muster the energy, I might play a few holes myself. And please call me Fitz. It’s what they’ve been calling me around here for over forty-two years,” he said proudly.
“Forty-two years, Fitz,” Nelson smiled. “That would make you one of the longest-standing members here,”
“Not a bad assumption, young man. But if you check the membership roll, you’ll find that Chester White has been a member now for 42 years and 9 months, whereas I have been here 42 years and 7 months. So you see Mr. White has me beat by 2 months. Well 62 days to be exact. Now I know some may say I’m guilty of rounding, but you see Mr. White joined July 1st and I joined September 1st, and we are separated by July and August, which both have 31 days. While some may call 62 days as 2 months and two days, incorrectly calculating based on a simple 30-day month, I have calculated based on the specific months involved.”
“Yes, I see,” said Nelson. “It certainly makes sense in that case to call it an even two months.”
“Of course it does, Andrew.”
“So, Chester White is the longest-standing member.”
“But I was told that Dr. Pindell was the longest-standing member.”
Fitzgerald’s pale round face began to redden, and his wide happy eyes narrowed. “Those who told you that are dead wrong, Nelson. I say again dead wrong. The good doctor, as we all know, joined in ’56, which to the less-knowledgeable member appears to give him seniority. But look deep into the records, young man, and you will see that he suspended him membership from ’60 to ’62, when he relocated briefly to Long Island. So you see, Andrew, how that gap in his tenure places him third among the ranks, squarely behind me, and even farther behind my good friend Chester White.”
“I thank you for clarifying that, Fitz. It certainly makes his tenure shorter.”
“Of course it does,” said Fitzgerald. “Understand that I say this with some modesty, but I am clearly second in line to the longest-standing member!”
Nelson did not know what to say at that moment, and so chose to say nothing, and instead stared out toward the first tee, pretending to admire the day.
“The truth is Nelson, I don’t harbor any ill will toward Dr. Pindell for failing to dispel the myth about his membership history. No, young man, you are not the first one to approach me with such an inaccurate account of his record. And clearly Pindell knows that many in this club consider him to be the longest-standing member. He could correct this fallacy very easily Nelson-perhaps make an announcement to the membership at its annual meeting, or have the Club President make a note of it in the newsletter – but he rather enjoys the honor, however disputed it may be.”
Andrew Nelson nodded politely.
“Of course, it not only affects me and my rightful title as second in line to the longest-standing member, but more importantly Chester Whites’. That is why I remain quite on the subject. It’s Chester White who is not given hid due on this matter. He is the longest-standing member here. I have urged my friend Chester to demand a clarification of the matter, but he dismisses it too easily.”
“Too easily, I tell you,” Fitzgerald snapped.
Andrew Nelson sat back in his chair. “I...I’ve never met Mr. White. He’s not the type to contest such a thing?”
“Chester White is a nice man, a humble man. And I’m afraid the blunt truth is that he has not aged well. No disrespect intended. I think of him as my brother, of course. But an older brother that will be laid to rest before I am, God willing. And 62 days beyond his passing, the responsibility of clarifying Pindell’s record will rest squarely on me.”
“I guess in that event, you would become the longest-standing member.”
“Of course I would!” Fitzgerald boomed. “And Pindell knows this, you see. He knows that I will insist on accountability. The truth is it doesn’t much matter to me that I would be the longest-standing member. It is an unofficial title really, not even recognized in the by-laws. Oh, I guess to some it would be a high honor, certainly worthy of mention in the club history. And I suppose if they want to dote on me when I...well, if I become the longest-standing member – if they want to bestow some special honor on me, then I will, of course, accept it. But only because it would be the will of the membership to do such a thing. I’m not looking for any accolades, mind you. Just being second in line to the longest-standing member-well, that’s an honor in itself.”
“Yes, yes, I’m sure,” answered Nelson.
“It’s more the principal of the thing really. A man should not claim to be something he’s not. And that charlatan Pindell is not the longest-standing member of this club.”
“I suppose it’s good to set these matters straight, so that there’s no misunderstanding,” said Nelson.
“Exactly!” cried Fitzgerald pounding his bony hand on the table. “My point exactly! So you see what I’m saying, Nelson. This man, Pindell, undermines the very fabric of this club by his behavior.”
Andrew Nelson raised his glass of iced tea to his lips, then lowered it to just below his chin. There was a sense of security in holding that glass. It gave him something to do while he wondered what would spew forth form the fold man next. The friendly figure that appeared so approachable just minutes before had become prickly and feisty. After a few more quite seconds, he took another slow sip. This seemed to have a calming effect on Franklin Fitzgerald, for he slid back in his chair and studies Andrew Nelson sipping his ice tea.
“I sense from your silence Nelson that you are uneasy regarding this subject. Perhaps a little uncomfortable?”
“Well, I don’t...”
“Blast it, Nelson, we can be men about this!” Fitzgerald shot forward once more
“I don’t understa...”
“You’ve no doubt been told of the history between us.”
“Pindell and myself. I’m sure the rumors run rampant around here. The gossip. The innuendo.”
“I really haven’t heard a...”
“No need to hide it Nelson. I’m sure the other members have told you some of the stories. Some would say my view of the good doctor is somewhat tainted, with the indiscretions I have witnessed. But I don’t need to get into club history. I’m sure you’ve heard enough about it.”
“I’m afraid I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Nelson shrugged.
“Surely you jest young man? Surely it was part of your membership orientation? I would think the less than savory actions of a certain Dr. Pindell would be a necessary part of your club education.”
“Um, no,” said Nelson, “I don’t believe anyone has told me a thing about Dr. Pindell.”
“What? The Membership Chair said nothing?”
“I’m afraid I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“You are truly serious. You know nothing about last year’s Memorial Day Two-Ball–his serious infraction?”
Andrew Nelson shrugged.
“Pindell repaired a spike mark in his line.”
Nelson shook his head. “I’ve never heard about it.”
“Good God, man. I would think any new member would be told about someone who chooses to play the game light-handed when it comes to the rules.”
“I’m afraid no such information was provided, Fitz.”
“Then I must talk to the Membership Chair. Something like this should be part of every new member’s orientation.” Fitzgerald moved closer to the new member, bowing his head low to the table. “He claimed it was a loose impediment, but any fool could see he was plucking a tiny tuft of grass raised by a spike mark. No one witnessed the infraction but me. His partner, of course, claimed to have seen nothing. The Tournament Committee, faced with my word against his, sided with Pindell, citing his longstanding membership without any prior infractions. It was scandalous if you ask me.”
“And so they didn’t penalize him?” asked Nelson.
“Of course they didn’t! It was my word against his, man. My word against his!”
“It must have been difficult for the Committee.”
“They dismissed the matter quickly, Nelson. And this despite Pindell’s prior indiscretions.”
“His prior what?”
“This was not the first time I caught him. Not the first time at all.”
“So Dr. Pindell has broken the rules before?”
“Of course he has! But despite my complaints to the Committee, they have done nothing.”
“But how many times have you caught him breaking the...”
“Pardon me?” said Nelson
“1992. The annual Turkey Shoot. He set his cigar next to his ball before he played his approach on number thirteen.”
“And that’s an infraction?”
“He was using it to line up his shot, placing that cigar along his target line.” Aiding his argument, Fitzgerald picked up a spoon and turned it to demonstrate. “Claimed he was innocent, mind you, but I know better of this man. He’s a scoundrel, I tell you. A scoundrel!”
“And the Committee sided with Pindell?”
“They would not even take up the matter. I’m sure he greased a few palms on the Committee. You watch him like a hawk when you’re playing him. Like a hawk, I tell you.”
“He’s that bad?”
“Oh, he has his fans, Nelson. Some will never speak ill of him.”
“I don’t know, Fitz,” Nelson cocked his head bashfully, not wanting to upset the old man further. “It does sound innocent enough.”
“Innocence has nothing to do with it. Nothing to do with it. They won’t take action on my accusations simply because that weasel Pindell won a few Club Championships.”
Andrew Nelson straightened. “You mean Dr. Pindell is the Frederick Pindell?”
“Let’s not dwell on this, Nelson, but he is.”
“I’ve seen his name on the plaque in the lobby.”
“Of course you have. Perhaps we should move on.”
“He won the Club Championship for something like eight years straight.”
Fitzgerald whispered. “Nine.”
“Nine,” gawked Nelson.
“From ’63 to ’71.” Fitzgerald said quietly.
“Yes, yes, Fitz. Now I remember. I think the Membership Chair did tell me something about his.”
“Ahhah! So that Membership Chair is not as incompetent as I though. He did tell you of Pindell’s cheating, his lack of character. Surely, it’s coming back to you,” wondered Fitzgerald, “How he warned you about him?”
“He said he was one of the best amateurs to ever play the game here. He said he could have been a professional.”
“Nothing of the cigar? Nothing of the tuft of grass? Nothing of his illegitimate claim of longest-standing member?”
He said Pindell was dominating in match play.”
“Dominating?” barked Fitzgerald. “Nonsense. The man was not dominating!”
“He said he closed out one final with eight holes still to play. 1963, I think. He said he had his opponent nine up with eight to play.”
“Well then he was wrong, Nelson. Dead wrong I tell you. The Membership Chair is an imbecile. The truth is Pindell closed me out seven-and-six.
“You, Mr. Fitzgerald?”
“Seven-and-six! Seven-and-six! Not nine-and-eight. You see how this man has skewed club history in his favor! Is it no wonder that I spend so much effort trying to hold this man accountable. The malfeasant closed me out in 1963 with six holes to play, not eight.”
“Well then, Fitz.” smiled Nelson, “you must have been quite a player in your own right to be runner-up in 1963.”
“I was not at my best then, I tell you. Not at my best! I had an ailing back that year. Sure, he beat me by the same margin in ’64 and ’65, but I narrowed the gap in ’66. He only beat me four-and-three that year.”
“You were runner-up for four years?”
“Honestly, Nelson, my record was better than that. I was a fine player in my own right, you know. I was runner-up in ’67, ’68, ’69, ’70, and ’71.”
“You were runner-up for those same nine years that Pindell was Champion?”
“Of course I was, Nelson. Isn’t that what I just said? But they don’t have a plaque in the lobby for the runners-up now, do they?”
“Well, who could blame you for feeling a little bitter.” No sooner had the words left his mouth than Andrew Nelson wished to retrieve them. For Fitzgerald rose from his chair a few inches as if he were ready to lunge across the table.
“Bitter? Bitter? I am not a bitter man, Nelson. This has nothing to do with bitterness, Nelson. This has to do with honor and integrity and playing by the rules and who is rightfully the second in line to the longest-standing member.”
“Yes, yes,” offered Nelson, eager to calm the elder member. “And you are obviously second in line to the longest-standing member.”
“Of course I am!” he answered, thrusting himself back into his chair.
And at this point Andrew Nelson sensed an opportunity, a natural break in the conversation during which he could excuse himself. He did, after all, hope to get in a quick nine before sun down. “Well, Fitz, I really have to...”
“The truth is I’m a competitive man,” Fitzgerald said calmly. I know I don’t readily show it, but perhaps I take these things more seriously than others.”
“I see the first tee is open. I really should...”
“Oh damn it, Nelson, I’m in no mood to play.”
“Well, I’m going to try to squeeze nine in...”
“Pindell has been a worthy adversary. A bit loose with the rules, as I’ve mentioned, but I like to think that he respects my standing up to him. Others may be in awe of him, what with this myth about him being the longest-standing member and his many championships. But I am not. Not one bit, I tell you.”
And Andrew Nelson, who had begun to slide from the table, settled back firmly to his seat and resigned himself to the possibility of not playing today.
“We have wagered much during the years. Pindell and I have been competing since the day we first met. Some members might say there is a rivalry between us. But they would be dead wrong. Dead wrong, I tell you! A rivalry implies some sort of animosity or bitterness toward one another. We are merely competitive, mind you. We like to compete against one another. There is nothing wrong with that.”
“Not at all,” said Nelson. “Nothing wrong with a little competitive golf.”
“If only it were just golf, Nelson. No, Dr. Pindell and I have challenged each other in many forums. Poker, gin, even tried tennis one year. Swimming races in the club pool, who could swim the farthest under water, who could make the biggest splash with a belly-flop. We took two carts out one night in ’75 and raced around all 18 holes. He beat me after I spun out on the seventeenth fairway. We were younger then, of course. I guess I’m a little old for that now, what, with me being second in line to the longest-standing member.”
“That’s understandable, Fitz.
“Yes, I suppose. And I’m man enough to admit that Pindell has bettered me in all of our contests. The bastard has always found a way to beat me, but I suspect I shall have the last word when it comes to the bridge jump.”
“Pardon me,” asked Nelson, “but I though you said bridge jump?”
“That’s what I said! The bridge jump for heaven’s sake. And now that I know our Membership Chair is truly a dolt, I’m going to assume that he told you nothing about this little contest Pindell and I still have: the sixth hole bridge jump. Now, you do know the sixth hole?” he said.
“I’ve played it several times since joining.”
“Then you know about the bridge over the brook – the bridge you cross to get back to the men’s tee?”
“Yes, of course. The narrow bridge.” Nelson smiled.
“Yes, yes, the narrow bridge. You have to park the cart on the fairway side and walk across to the tee. Well then, you’ve seen the tree that rises next to the bridge?” Fitzgerald asked.
“The large maple.”
“Yes, Nelson. The large maple. The maple with the bare limb hanging over the brook. Been that way since lightening hit the tree in ’58. That’s the limb we jump to. Pindell and I try to jump from the bridge to the limb.”
“And if you miss the branch?” asked Nelson.
“We fall in the water of course. Oh, it’s not as bad as it sounds there, Nelson. Even after the heaviest rains, the water is only about three feet deep. The key is to get you arms outstretched as much as possible and get a good grip on the branch.”
“And if you grab the branch, then what?
“We hold on, of course. Hold on like hell. First one to let go it the loser.”
“And falls in the brook?”
“Well, there’s nowhere else to fall to, Nelson.”
“And you’ve been doing this every year?”
“Since ’65,” Fitzgerald boasted. “He dared me to try it. Dared me, I tell you! Well of course I couldn’t back down, not to that pompous swine. Thirty-four years we’ve been doing the bridge jump. Pindell got of to a good start the first few years, winning most of the time. But I’ve come on strong this decade and that’s killing Pindell, you see. Killing him, I tell you. He suggested ending our annual rite – says we’re getting too old for such childish games – but I refused. I finally evened the score last year and I’m not about to quit now. Oh, I admit, I’m getting a little long in the tooth for such a thing, but I won’t stop until I take the lead. There’s nothing childish about that, Nelson.”
“Well, Fitz, I have to admit...”
“Nothing childish about it. It’s just Pindell’s way of avoiding defeat. He’s won seventeen times and I’ve won seventeen, including the last five years in a row. That’s why Pindell has wanted to stop these last few years. He senses the momentum shifted and that I’ll finally beat him. Gave me all this malarkey about being too old for the bridge jump. It’s a sham.”
“But you are second in line to the longest-standing member, Fitz. That’s not a young man’s honor.”
“True. So true, Nelson. But I have trained well for the bridge jump, mind you. Chin ups everyday through the winter. Why I could hang on longer now than I could twenty years ago. And Pindell knows I can finally beat him. Oh sure, Pindell has his nine Club Championships. And the truth is, he’s a better card player and better swimmer than me, too. But the bridge jump...well, the bridge jump shall be mine.”
“I see,” said Nelson
“Only then will I quit!”
“Well, I guess if you’re determined to...”
“Speak of the devil!” Fitzgerald gasped, looking over Nelson’s shoulder. “There he is.”
“Who?” said Nelson.
“Pindell. The scoundrel is over by the bar.”
Nelson turned and surveyed the men gathered “Which one is he,” he asked.
“You mean you’ve never met Pindell?”
“No,” said Nelson, as he considered what a nine-time Club Champion, one of the finest amateurs to play the game, would look like. “Is he the tall one with the yellow shirt?”
“You mean Grimm! No, no, young man. Pindell’s over at the other end with the blue shirt and long khaki shorts.”
Nelson scanned the group. “But the only one with a blue shit is that crippled old man leaning against the chair.”
Nelson’s shoulder’s sagged with disappointment, for Pindell looked neither strong, nor athletic. “You mean that crooked old man?”
“Crooked is right! He’s as crooked as they come! Oh great,” Fitzgerald whined, “now, he’s coming our way.”
“But he can hardly walk.”
“Don’t let his gait fool you.”
“But he’s barely five-feet tall.”
“Bent over, I suppose,” said Fitzgerald, “but if you could take the curve out of that spine of his, you might get him to five-foot-four.”
Nelson turned to Fitzgerald with a startled look. “You can’t tell me that man is still doing the bridge jump?”
Fitzgerald displayed a devilish grin. “It’s not so much a jump for him anymore as it is a drop. Last year I had to extend my ball retriever out for him to grab onto. I had a hell of a time getting him out,” he chuckled.
“I can see why some would consider him to be the longest-standing member, Fitz. He looks as old as dirt.”
Fitzgerald’s smile disappeared. “But he’s not the longest-standing member. Not at all! That’s just what he wants you to think, that shriveled prune.”
Before Nelson could utter a reply, Frederick Pindell had shuffled his way over to their table.
“Andrew Nelson,” said Fitzgerald, “allow me to introduce Dr. Frederick Pindell.”
The doctor slowly raised his drooping head until his gaze had made its way to Nelson’s chin. Unable to tilt his head further, he rolled his eyes above the frames of his thick glasses, which had slid halfway down his nose, until he had finally scaled the last few inches of Andrew Nelson’s face. He stared at the new member as his tongue slid over his dry upper lip. Andrew Nelson stood awkwardly waiting, unsure if Dr. Pindell was going to say anything.
“Chester White is dead!” Pindell shouted.
“I beg your pardon?” a startled Nelson asked.
Dr. Pindell slid his withered hand from Nelson’s loose grip and turned to Fitzgerald. “Chester White is dead, Fitz!”
“Chester White is dead?” said Fitzgerald.
“Didn’t you hear me!” he shouted louder, causing all porch chatter to cease “CHESTER WHITE IS DEAD!” Then Dr. Pindell dropped straight into a chair and gazed lazily to the bar. “Where’s my chowder?” he yelled to no one in particular.
Fitzgerald pulled his chair toward the frail man, drawing closer to his head. “Chester White is dead?” he called into the doctor’s ear.
“But how?” asked Fitzgerald.
“In his sleep,” barked Pindell. “Three nights ago. The neighbor checked on him after she saw the newspapers piling up.”
A waiter approached and set a bowl of clam chowder in front of Pindell.
“What about those little crackers?” he screamed down at the bowl.
“Right here, sir,” the waiter answered, placing two small bags of oyster crackers on the table.
Pindell fumbled with the soup spoon, his hand shaking as he dipped into the steaming chowder.
“The Tuesday paper was in the garbage. The Wednesday paper was still on the stoop, along with Thursday’s and Friday’s. So they figure he died sometime Tuesday night. Maybe Wednesday morning.”
“How tragic,” muttered Nelson, but the old man said nothing, his face bent low over the chowder. Nelson cocked his head toward Fitzgerald, feeling the need to say something respectful. “I’m sorry I never got a chance to meet him” he thought. But instead he was struck silent by the thin smile on Franklin Fitzgerald’s face.
Fitzgerald leaned across the table, guarding his mouth with one hand from the view of Pindell.
“Do you believe this, Nelson?” he said softly. “Here we were just talking about Chester White, and now the man is dead.”
“I know,” Nelson whispered. “I would have liked to have met him. It must be tough for you being his good friend and all? How ironic.”
“Not just ironic,” answered Fitzgerald, “but fortuitous.”
“Fortuitous?” said Nelson. But Fitzgerald did not reply. He was instead whispering to his fingers. Counting, Nelson concluded, as if he were solving some difficult math problem. “I said ‘it must be tough for you.”’
“Huh?” Fitzgerald mumbled, still counting with his fingers.
“Chester White’s death. It must be difficult for you.”
“Of course it is, Nelson. Such ambiguity is maddening. Tell me, what do you think the authorities would designate as the day of death.”
“The day of death?”
“Yes, Nelson. The man died in his sleep. Would the authorities rule that he died on Tuesday evening or Wednesday morning?”
“What difference does it make?”
“Good God, Nelson. Have you even heard one word I said today? Have you been listening at all? White outranked me by 62 days. That means I become the longest standing member on either September 18th or 19th.”
“The man is dead, Fitz.”
“Easy, Nelson. Let’s not get too giddy about this. We have to be discreet here.”
“Giddy? I’m certainly not giddy. You’re the one counting the days on your fingers. I think we should show a little more respect that that. After all, you did refer to him as a brother.”
“And so he was, man! So he was. And he more than anyone would understand my position on this. After all, he bore the brunt of Pindell’s unfounded claim of seniority.”
“Shhh,” urged Nelson.
“The man’s deaf as a door nail, man. He doesn’t hear a word. Now, as I was saying, Chester White was the victim here, just as I am. Well, I tell you sir, all of that will change. Now, I’m going to assume they’ll place the day of death as Tuesday. Let’s see,” Fitzgerald mused, “62 less Wednesday, Thursday, Friday. 59 days, Nelson 59 days and then I will be the longest-standing member.”
“I think you’re missing the point here, Fitz. Your friend is dead.”
“Don’t get me wrong, Nelson. Chester White will be given his due, a just memorial by this club I’m sure. In fact, I will talk to the Club President and see that it happens. Yes, yes. Chester White deserves it.”
“Now you’re talking, Fitz.”
“Get all the members assembled.”
“Yes,” urged Nelson, “a club memorial.”
“Have an address from the Club President.”
“Maybe even invite the papers. This is just the type of human interest thing they like to cover.”
“Yes, absolutely,” Nelson agreed. “Surely this passing deserves coverage.”
“Yes, yes. You’re right, Nelson. Let’s get this out in the public. And I’ll deliver some remarks.”
“Well, it’s only natural. After all, you were his close friend.”
“No,” said Fitzgerald. “I was more than that. I was his closest peer as second in liner to the longest-standing member. I can see it now; photos of me standing in tribute, the rightful heir to the title of longest-standing member.” Fitzgerald cocked his head toward Pindell, “with a certain unsavory character left to sit among the shadows. Surely he will not dare contest my rightful place during such a public ceremony.”
“Oh, damn,” Pindell blurted. “I gotta go pee again.” He pushed his palms against the table top and slowly raised himself from the chair.
“Pindell,” Fitzgerald shouted. “It’s such a lovely day out. What do you way we try the bridge jump?”
“The what?” Pindell screeched.
“The bridge jump man. The bridge jump! You’re looking as fit as ever, mind you, but I think I can give you a good match today.”
“The bridge jump? Today?”
“C’mon,” Fitzgerald urged, “we’ll do it just one more time – to finally decided the contest. After all, we are tied, seventeen wins apiece.”
“Tied?” said Pindell. “I lost count years ago.”
“Trust me,” Fitzgerald smiled, “we are definitely deadlocked here. Let’s decide this once and for all.”
“But I’m eighty-seven years old, Fitz.”
“And looking great, my friend. Looking great. Perhaps you’re a bit fearful of the challenge, what a man of your age...”
“You calling me chicken?” Pindell scowled.
“Well, it would be the first year you’ve backed down.”
“Nobody calls me chicken!”
“Dr. Pindell,” Nelson interceded, “I don’t think he was implying you were anything.”
“Nobody calls me chicken!”
“But sir,” Nelson said, “he didn’t call you a chicken. And I don’t think a man in your condition should...”
“Save it, son,” Pindell squawked, “my bladder’s bursting. Fitz, you’ll get a cart and meet me by the pro shop?”
“Honestly, sir, I implore you,” said Nelson. “You could seriously injure yourself.” But Pindell said nothing, ignoring Andrew Nelson as he shuffled off to the men’s room.
“Now see here, Fitz.” Andrew Nelson rose from his chair. “Surely you can’t be serious about the bridge jump?”
“I’ve waited years to finally get this man, I tell you. And now that day has come. It’s a day of reckoning, Nelson. A day of reckoning.”
“But it’s dangerous.”
“I appreciate your concern, Nelson, but I’ll be fine. I’m feeling very strong today, with Chester White dead and everything. This surely is a splendid day. I imagine I could jump to the very top of that maple tree. The very top, I tell you!”
“I’m not talking about you, Fitz. I’m talking about Dr. Pindell. The man can barely get out of his chair.”
“Don’t think that wasn’t on my mind. I’m lucky he accepted the challenge, the old coot. I knew a little needling would get him going. Just think, Nelson, today I finally beat that weasel at something – the bridge jump,” Fitzgerald straightened his back and smiled broadly. “And soon I’ll be the longest-standing member.”
“But he can’t do that jump,” cried Nelson.
“He accepted the challenge.”
“H can barely walk.”
“You heard me say I’d get a cart.”
“I’m not talking about that,” pleaded Nelson. “The man will fall flat into the brook.”
“I’m counting on it, man. Counting on it, I tell you.”
“But you can’t let him do that.”
“I see what’s going on here, Nelson. You think I’m insensitive to the condition of my adversary here. You think I’m heartless perhaps?”
“Well, I just think...”
“Honestly, Nelson. You think I’m that cruel?”
“Of course I’m not. The truth is I have a warm spot in my heart for Pindell. I don’t wish him any harm.”
“Thank God,” sighed Nelson.
“I’ll bring my ball retriever and fish him out like I did last year. Now good day. It’s been a pleasure.”
And before Andrew Nelson could say another word, the aging Fitzgerald sprang around the table and skipped to the screen door. He paused as he pulled it open and turned to Andrew Nelson. “Fifty-nine days and counting, young man. Fifty-nine days! Then I’ll take my place in history and that sorry Frederick Pindell will be nothing more than second in line to the longest-standing member!”