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A Friend for Life

by Martin Green

     My wife Sally was going over the list of neighbors to be invited to our party. “What do you think about that man who lives around the corner, you know, Sam Spivey?”

     “The ornery old coot?,” I said. “That’s what everyone calls him. Nobody asks him any more.   He’s dirty and foul-mouthed, they said. He also insults everybody.”

     “Can he be that bad?” Sally tends to think the best of people. “We’ve never even met him.”

     “I’m just as glad he wasn’t at the Campbell’s party. I’m not sure I want to meet him.”

     We had moved into the Northern California retirement community two months ago. The community was run by an association and every neighborhood in the community had its own association, which had monthly get-togethers. Sally had been so enthusiastic after going to the Campbell’s party that she’d volunteered to have the next one.

     “We should at least ask him. He probably won’t come anyway. I’m making flyers to announce the party. Someone should bring one over to Mr. Spivey.”.

     Uh, oh, I thought. “Who would that be?”

     “Well, you’re a man. It would be better coming from you.”

     I  knew better than to argue with his wife’s logic.

                                                                 *               *               *

     Good, I thought, it didn’t look as if anyone was home. I bent down and slipped the flyer under the doormat. The door opened and I found himself looking at the belly of a man dressed in an undershirt and shorts. The legs under the shorts were bowed.I straightened up. Sam Spivey was unshaven and unkempt. He had a large red nose and beady-looking eyes. “What are you selling?” he demanded in a wheezy voice.

     “Uh, I’m not selling anything. I’m Paul Lerner. My wife Sally and I moved in a couple of months ago. We’re hosting the neighborhood party next week.”

     “Hah. They stopped asking me to those things a long time ago. They know I have no use for them. Bunch of SOBs. You met the Campbells yet?”

     “Yes. They hosted the last neighborhood party.”

     “Bet they were all lovey-dovey. They fight all the time. How about the Masons?”

     “I think they were there, too.”

     “He’s carrying on with that widow up the street. Don’t blame him. Wife’s a nag.”

     I recalled the Masons as being a small, quiet couple who showed around pictures of their grandchildren. Spivey’s accusation didn’t seem likely.

     “How about the Bakers? He parks his big RV in the street all the time. She walks their dogs and doesn’t pick up after them. I don’t let them get near my front yard.”

     I could see why he was known as the ornery old coot. “Well, look at the flyer and see if you want to come to our party.”

     :Hah.” He slammed the door. That was that, I thought. 

     I told Sally about my encounter with Spivey. “I don’t think he’s coming. And he is an ornery old coot.”

     But, to our surprise, in the middle of our party, with a dozen or so of our neighbors circulating around the house, the doorbell rang and there was Sam Spivey. He had cleaned himself up but still had some beard stubble. “Thought I’d come and see what’s going on,” he said. Sally got him a drink and he went straight to the table and filled up a plate with food. Maybe that’s what he’d really come for, I thought. 

      I was distracted by having to get some more ice and when I returned I saw Spivey holding forth to a group of couples. I moved in closer and realized he was telling a joke, a dirty one. As soon as he finished, the couples moved away. He then went around the room talking to anyone who’d listen about how bad the governing association of the community was and how they’d ignored all the letters he’d sent them. He then approached one of the single ladies. I don’t know what he said to her, but she blushed and said something sharp to him. At this point, Sally rushed over to the rescue and led Spivey away. The party broke up soon after, much sooner, I expected, than if Spivey hadn’t come.

     The next afternoon, our doorbell rang. It was Spivey again. He had flowers and a box of chocolate, which he gave to Sally. “I appreciate your inviting me to your shindig,” he said. “Had a helluva time. You’re not like all those other SOB’s.”

     “That’s nice,” said Sally. “Uh, we have to go out now. Thanks for the flowers and candy.”

     As far as I knew, we weren’t going anywhere, but Spivey left and Sally looked at me. I shrugged.

     The next week I was in the Lodge, the center of all community activities. Among other things, it had a restaurant and a pool room with four tables. The pool room was empty so I went in. I hadn’t played for years and wondered if I might take it up again. I tried hitting a few balls. Someone came in. A wheezy voice said, “Thought that was you.” It was Spivey. “I was here to put in a complaint about that damned cat always peeing in my yard. You a pool player?”

     I explained I hadn’t played for years. Spivey grabbed a cue. “Come on,” he said. “Let’s see what you can do.’ 

     We played a game and he was surprisingly good. “Okay,” he said. “See I have to teach you a few things. I’ll meet you here next week, same time.”

     I said I wasn’t sure what I’d be doing next week, but he ignored my remark. “And I’m taking you and your missus out to dinner here. I’ll make a reservation for Friday night, six o’clock..”

     “I don’t know what we’re doing Friday.” He ignored this too and left, saying, “See you soon.”

     When I returned home I described this latest encounter to Sally. “What have we done?” she said.

     “I think we’ve made a friend for life.”

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