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Paul and Arnie

by Martin Green
 



     Paul was on the patio when the phone rang. It was his friend Arnie from New York. Paul was 80 and lived in a Northern California retirement community. Arnie lived in an apartment in Queens. He was two years older than Paul and was his oldest and best friend.

     “How ya doin’?” asked Arnie, sounding like a New Yorker.

     “Not bad. Where are you?” Arnie had a habit of calling at odd times, in an interval at a play, walking in a park, waiting in a doctor’s office.   

     “The apartment. Goin’ to watch the game in a little while.”

     Paul knew the game was the Packers at the Giants. They were both football Giant fans from way back.

     “Yeah, I’ll watch it, too.”

     “How’s the family?”

     “Not bad. Craig is negotiating to pay off his second mortgage.”  Paul’s oldest son had unwisely bought a house at the peak of California’s housing bubble. “I’ll probably end up paying.”

     “Sure, you’re the father. How are the finances?”

     “The bonds are holding up so I’ll sell some off and be able to handle it.” Arnie was one of the few people he discussed his money situation with. “How’s the stock market?”

     “Still going up. I’m going to see the doctor tomorrow. They saw something in my last exam and want to take a look at it. “ 

     A shiver ran through Paul. Now he knew why Arnie had called. “Not the you-know what?”

     “Probably benign, but you never know.”

     “You’ll call me, no matter what?”

     “Sure.”

     Arnie was two years behind Paul at high school. In Paul’s senior year the school formed its first handball team. Paul, who’d been playing handball since he was ten, became captain. He could have played number one singles, but he knew he was a little slow so he and Arnie played number one doubles and had won all their games except one, losing 21-20. They were still commiserating with each other about that game.   

     They’d kept in touch during college and Arnie had been there for him when Paul’s girl friend had broken off their engagement. Then Paul had gone to San Francisco, one reason being the break-up, and they’d lost touch for a long time while each one went about building their separate lives. Paul though he was somewhere in his sixties when he’d gotten a call from Arnie.

     “I thought we should get back in touch,” Arnie had said. Paul knew what he meant. When you got to a certain age you started to think back on old times, and old friends. They’d been calling back and forth since then.

       “I finally got my cortisone shot,” said Paul. He had arthritis in his right hip, maybe at least in part from all the years playing handball.

     “Did it do any good?”

     “A little, I think. But I’m a prime candidate for a hip replacement. I think half the people here have had it done.”

     “Yeah. I know a lot of guys, too. How’s everything else?”

     “I had a little accident last week, couldn’t make it to the bathroom in time.” Paul wouldn’t have told this to anyone else.

     Arnie laughed. “I’ve had those, too. Guess we’re just a couple of old farts.”

     “Speak for yourself. You still seeing that rich widow?”

    “Yeah, on and off. How’s the rest of the family?”

     Arnie’s wife had died, in fact, just before Arnie had called him that first time. He had no children. Paul had two sons besides Craig and four grandchildren. They talked for another 15 or so minutes, then Arnie said, “It’s about time for the game.”

     “Go, Eli.” Eli Manning was the Giants’ quarterback. “So you’ll be calling me.”

     “Right. Good talking to you.”

     “Thanks for calling.”

     Paul put down the phone It was probably benign. But what if it wasn’t benign?  Arnie was younger than him. He had to be okay. He couldn’t imagine not calling back and forth with Arnie. Well, he wouldn’t think about it. It would be benign. He turned on the game.          

 

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