Carlo was waiting at the ninth hole with his business partner and his parish priest when a boy came out from the clubhouse with a slip of paper. “Allison?” asked James, seeing his expression, while Father O’Keefe circled his ball, trying to puzzle a clean shot out of the worst setup the longtime trio had ever seen.
Carlo nodded. Was it so much to ask her to leave him alone for the length of a golf game? “She wants me to invite you both to dinner.”
The hesitation was so slight, he might have imagined it. Then the big man smiled and pulled out a silk handkerchief to mop his dripping face. “Your wife’s the best cook I know. I’m not about to turn that down.”
Carlo managed a weak smile. “Wonderful.”
Fr. O’Keefe muttered suddenly; both men turned to him. “That’s a Hail Mary shot if I ever saw one,” called James.
The priest spared them a withering glance. “Oh, ye of little faith!”
“There’s no way you’re getting clear of that tree in one shot.”
O’Keefe, who had returned to his shot, swiveled back. “So sure of yourself! You’re a betting man, James. If I hit this shot, you come to church Sunday.”
James laughed and folded his arms. “So…how’s she doing, anyway?” he murmured. “Since…you know.”
“Since Jeremy died, you mean.” Carlo liked and respected his partner, but the man’s discomfort had been on full display ever since the Army brought the news of his son’s death. But Carlo reined in his irritation, allowing only a twitch in his jaw that could be interpreted as grief instead of anger. “She’s fine,” he lied. “Much better now.”
Actually, she barely left the house. She was so needy he sometimes considered making up a vineyard emergency just to get a breath of fresh air. He hadn’t, because she had been right about him: Jeremy’s entire life, Carlo’s focus had been vines and wines, not family. His regret on that account could not be articulated. So he tolerated her demands, her long-suffering resentment, and her perpetual sense of wounded, victimization.
But that didn’t mean he had to like it.
A club swooshed and contacted the ball with a satisfying clink. Carlo and James shaded their eyes against the bright sun and watched Father O’Keefe’s shot arc gracefully into the air, splitting the gap between two branches on its way to a soft, two-bounce landing on the green.
James whistled. “That was one in a million, Father.”
The priest smiled smugly. “A little help from the Communion of Saints never goes awry. Look what a prayer from a martyr or two can do!”
James laughed. “Nice try, Father. You’re not getting me in the pew just because you had a lucky shot.” He slapped the other man on the arm and went for his bag.
Martyr, thought Carlo. Yes, that was the perfect word. He shared his bed every night with a martyr.
Returning today to Carlo & Alison, whose story I’m exploring from different angles as I try to figure out a structure and plot for it. Other pieces in the series (unconnected snippets, not a coherent narrative):