Being together for the very first time, the women reveal far more of themselves during the weekend than they ever expected. Indeed, the humor is continuous-while tenderness, poignancy, and sorority will also pull at your emotions. There is much on multiple levels to draw one into the lives of these women-who are in effect, wedded to sports as well as to their men.
|Publisher:||Champlain Avenue Books, Incorporated|
|Product dimensions:||6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.67(d)|
About the Author
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All right, let's take stock. I am thirty-five years old. A reasonable, loving, and notoriously cautious woman. I am married to Gary Wulf, the current right fielder for the New York Mets. I am deeply in love with his agent. I have violated the Seventh Commandment. On several occasions. Other than that, I have no complications in my life.
Mary Wulf stood in her kitchen staring at her reflection in a bottle of tequila, wondering how much of the bottle would be consumed before the evening was out. She couldn't contain her delight at the prospect. The weekend series was about to begin--only minutes away now from the first pitcher ... of margaritas. Ha, ha.
Look, it's late August, and the Mets are only seven games out of first. They could still win the division; it's not too late. But I can't say the same thing about my marriage, can I? Nor would I want to. At least the Mets have a chance not to finish in the Eastern Division cellar, the way Philadelphia 's playing. Yes, the cellar. If Gary only knew what I have hidden in mine. Figuratively, I mean. The poor Mets. This will be their sixth straight losing season. How many have I had in a row with my husband? About the same? More than that? Up in Boston they were for forever saying that this year could be the year they'd win The Series. The Curse of the Bambino once and for all exorcised. And they finally had their year--twice. Here it's the curse of Mary Wulf. But this also could be the year. My year.
While Mary pondered her personal life in the context of Major League Baseball, she put the CD player in "Random" mode. For once the batting order of her Broadway CD mix would be shaken up, providing Mary some variety and surprise rather than disgorging once again the same tracks in the same familiar pattern — one long ago memorized. "Memory" from Cats was hitting second, instead of eighth as it usually did. Then again, this wasn't the song to come so early in the lineup — it seemed highly out of place in that position. It spoke too deeply to its listener; it was too emotional, too relevant for it simply to waft through a room without adequate preparation, without at least some expectation, without any anticipation from the woman in the house, who played it whenever she attempted to communicate with her soul.
Hearing the opening bars of the song, Mary came quickly into the room from the kitchen, where she had begun filling bowls with high-calorie, indefensible, and long-denied tortilla chips, pouring two kinds of salsa into "authentic" Mexican serving bowls, after having pulled down from the shelves of the liquor cabinet the accompanying tequila and margarita mix. She felt a bit startled moving from the gaiety south of the border to the tragic and poignant setting of Griselda the Glamor Cat among the piles of unwanted junk. Mary disliked sudden shifts of mood, sudden news of any kind, sudden demands on her time and emotions. And now one of her favorite songs was causing her sudden anxiety.
Six weeks into their relationship, eight months before they were married, she had given herself to Gary Wulf only because the tune was playing in the living room of her small apartment. She thought earlier in the evening that in spite of her physical attraction to the young and ardently insistent ballplayer, it was really too early in their relationship for sex. She just had too many questions about him as a man and as a potential husband. But the tune had begun to play at the exact moment he touched the top of her thigh with unmistakable amorous purpose — and there was little she could do or wanted to do to make him cease. The song stimulated her pity and understanding, and she felt more vulnerable every time she heard it. She had loved the song long before she had fallen in love with Gary Wulf, having sung it as part of a musical revue at a local community theatre, and she had frequently fantasized about making love while it provided the most erotic musical accompaniment she could have imagined. She wondered if she wanted a sexual encounter to purge the pain the song featured — the loneliness and regret as one's life sped off course to it's inevitable end. Her doubts after that night about what she had allowed to happen with Gary had absolutely no effect on her love for the song. She knew now, however, that her feelings for Gary were never the same afterward. And still she had married him. When she was only twenty and a far distance from the aging Glamor Cat.
Mary turned off the disc, felt her tension immediately lessening, and replaced the compilation with the other CD sitting on top of the player — Carole King's gift to the 1970's, the album Tapestry. Mary felt it almost a duty to listen to the CD at least once a month — that is, a duty to her mother, who found almost every cut an anthem worthy of respect if not devotion. Carole King was the first singer Mary could recall from her childhood. Her mother had loved the album for almost ten years before Mary was born, and Mary felt unashamedly wistful recalling how her mother wore her hair in King's curly mane as shown on the album cover and how from the ages of one and a half to seven she would dance to "Smackwater Jack" while her mother roared with delight, giving Mary a standing ovation after every performance. Mary put the CD in the player but this time did not want the "Random" mode dictating the lineup; no, what she needed now was familiarity and control. Of course she wanted to hear the album's opening song — after all, her closest friends would arrive soon, and they would surely make the earth move if Carole King couldn't. But more importantly, Mary wanted to know where that third cut on the album was. She wouldn't listen to it. She hadn't listened to it for months. She couldn't, even though she knew it was too late for her and Gary.
Mary decided to stay in the room until the second song finished; then she could skip to cut four and go back in the kitchen and begin mixing the margaritas. She swished her lips from side to side — her familiar though unconventional gesture of approval — as she thought how well the renovations of this room had gone this past March. Her spring training, as it were, while Gary was doing his with the Mets in Port St. Lucie. The room was so much brighter — yellow and white — so perfect for listening to her music, contemplating the backyard through the French doors, and entertaining friends and guests. And how perfectly the room would serve the purposes of this special weekend. The inaugural meeting of "Sports Wives" — the name Mary came up with in the middle of the summer for her and her four closest friends, all married to men with intimate connections to sports. Why not invite them all to come to her place and meet each other? Why not have them all here in Connecticut to help shove her toward a decision about terminating her marriage? It seemed like such a brilliant idea.
Mary made a final check for neatness — and for anything that might cause discomfort or embarrassment. As the song concluded, she noticed something lying behind the plush chair against the wall. She headed toward the chair at the moment the piano intro to "So Far Away" began. Halting, Mary felt an immediate and depressing realization that she didn't want to hear that selection either, so she walked to the CD player and turned it off. The silence in the room put its arms around her; it was what she needed--at least until her friends arrived. This silence did not chide her, as had her conscience the past several months.
Expelling a soft breath, she bent down and pulled from behind the chair a baseball bat and a vintage Brooklyn Dodger baseball cap — one of the many bits of sports memorabilia her husband just had to have but soon after discarded with indifference. Mary's face registered no disdain or pleasure; she simply laid the bat on the sofa and brought the cap closer to her face. She traced the classic white "B" on the blue cap with her finger and once more accepted the fact that she ought to think of herself as one lucky girl. Oh, absolutely--one lucky girl. But ... that's what the "B" stood for at this moment — the contradictory tag "But ..." After taking the bat and cap to her husband's game room, she heard the steps on her patio, followed by the sound of a platter breaking on the flagstones, and then the expected "Oh, Mother of Shit!" Yes, of course. Miranda Peterson. The weekend could now formally begin.
"Mary, Mary, the song canary — my, how your garbage grows!" Miranda Peterson had branded her claim to Mary's Wulf's friendship with the habitual pun on familiar nursery rhymes when she was inclined to make a grand entrance. "There was a young woman who lived in I-talian shoes. / She spent so much on sandals, her husband had no money left to lose" was one Mary particularly loved, as her neighbor-one of America's most successful authors of romance novels--didn't have enough of an ear for poetry to get the number of syllables right. On the other hand, Mary was highly embarrassed by "Little Miss Wulfit sat on a toilet, touching her curls so gray," because Miranda had thrice offered it while others were in the room. On the first two occasions, Mary protested with animation the unfair characterization; on the third, she merely smiled, recalling that she had in fact just celebrated the first anniversary of her touching-up the gray in her curls.
"Do you need a broom, Miranda?" Mary stuck her head out the French doors.
"I wouldn't want to borrow your favorite mode of transportation, Mary. Let's just leave it alone. Clams on the half-shell biodegrade, don't they?" That face — that puckish pretty face. Not the same austere and intimidating one that graced a good number of dust jackets and that garish website of hers.
Mary headed for the kitchen. "The clams biodegrade perhaps--not sure about the half-shells." Within thirty seconds she was out on the back patio helping Miranda dump the two-dozen clams with accompanying half-shells in a paper grocery bag. She complimented Miranda for at least having her heart in the right place.
"My heart may be, but unfortunately my heel got stuck between the flagstones on your patio. Right time, but wrong place."
Mary's face exploded like popcorn. "My God, Miranda. I just realized. You're actually on time! How does it feel?"
"Not bad. I think the heel will stay on. Seriously, Mary, I told you that I wouldn't be late for the first of what we hope will be many an annual meeting of 'Sports Wives.' I promised I'd be the first of the wives to check in, and--Voila! — here I am. Sans clams, sans shells, sans everything." Miranda was bouncing her heads from side to side in childlike excitement. Mary thought she looked like a little leaguer entering Yankee Stadium for the first time.
"Right, Miranda. Anyway, you're the first here, but not actually the first to check in." Miranda's face dropped and her lips bubbled forward in the classic pout that made her the darling of all her friends. "I am truly sorry, but Sherry McDuffie called me from New Rochelle, where she spent last night with a favorite cousin she hasn't seen in nearly fifteen years. She has a rental car and is on the way." Mary knew Sherry would be both the jaw dropper and the ultra sweetener the others would absolutely adore. She might also be the soft rod of stability Mary would require if she could conquer her fear and share her big news with the rest of the Sports Wives. But then again, the happily-married and traditional Sherry McDuffie would likely be the last one to sympathize. But then again. Yes, but then again. How tired Mary was of all the "Buts" and "But then agains" that more and more bedeviled her waking hours. For her part, Miranda lamented the fate of her best friend--the "poor, poor woman" who had to take that "horrific drive from parkway to parkway to parkway past golf course and golf course and another golf course until arriving at this little nineteenth hole" Mary called a home in Southeastern Connecticut.
When the two women entered the house, Mary headed for the kitchen with the bag of unusable clams and Miranda toward the CD player. As she dumped the clams in the trash container, Mary heard Miranda informing her that she forgotten to take the "Best Value" sticker from her Carole King CD--and then uttering some half-unintelligible remark about how impossible it was to open those "damned CD's" the way they have them wrapped. "The ancient Egyptians should have been so good. Anyway, when are you going to upgrade to MP3?" Miranda flipped the case over and began going down the song list as Mary returned from the kitchen. "Tell you what, Mary, let's put on 'You Make Me Feel Like a Natural Woman' and get naked on the couch when your friend Sherry comes in. What do you say?" Miranda began to unbutton her blouse. Again, one would not have imagined such behavior by looking at Miranda Peterson's website.
"Whoa, Tigress. Sherry wouldn't quite approve." Mary was therefore reminded of the single most glaring difference between the two of them. Miranda had seemingly never met that distasteful brood called The Inhibitions, whereas Mary had given them room and board for her entire life. Miranda would often brag to anyone who listened that she was one of the leaders of the short-lived "Streaking" craze in the early 70's. And even when Mary reminded her that she only five or six years old at the time, Miranda grinned and added, "Want me to show you?" Mary wondered whether her neighbor's effusive influence had finally begun to make inroads when she considered the changes she herself was making in her wardrobe since the spring. What made her uncomfortable about her new outfits and shoes, however, was any assumption that she was dressing to please Gary. She had claimed to friends on more than a few occasions that she was refitting herself to please herself and no one else. But she knew that to be a lie. There was most certainly someone else.
Miranda offered her characteristic mock horror at the possibility that Sherry McDuffie was a prude and would therefore ruin the entire weekend.
Mary countered, "No, she's not a prude, Miranda. She's a lot of fun. A lot of fun. She's just a bit more conservative than you are when it comes to the matter of ... you know." Miranda raised her eyes in a way any hard-working imp would have envied. "Then again, Miranda, the far left is more conservative than you are."
Miranda flung herself onto the sofa. "Now this fun-loving prude is just like me, right." Mary spent the next six seconds shaking her head back and forth. "No, no, Mary. I mean she's never met three of the five Sports Wives, right?"
"Right. She knows only me. You know only me. The other two know me and each other." Having noticed Miranda's expanding and examining eyes, Mary was now unhappy with the color of her blouse. Miranda thanked her for the clarification and asked if Sherry was married to the college football coach "Alan" McDuffie. Mary knew light blue, not the black she was wearing, would be the right color, especially since Miranda was wearing silver and black. "Alex McDuffie, Miranda. And he's the defensive coordinator for the University of Cincinnati Bearcats."
Miranda now lay completely stretched out on the sofa, appearing more fit for an interment or necrophiliac sex with Poe's Roderick Usher than a fun weekend with Mary's other friends. "Hmm. She should tell old Alan that he'd get a lot more coordinating done if he weren't so defensive. Do you have an apple, Mary?" Miranda lifted her left leg straight up — for a reason known only to her.
Perhaps red would be better, Mary thought. She ignored the apple request and informed her best friend that she'd get the chips and margaritas percolating just as soon as the others arrived.
"Wonder what it would be like to be married to a football coach. Think, old Alvin ..."
"... makes Sherry bend over and ..."
"Miranda, don't start with the lewd jokes now. You have no audience here for ..."
"... hand him his eggs and bacon ..."
"... through her legs like one of those centers?"
Yet, Miranda Peterson's brand of vulgarity was always sanitized by her infectious and playful spirit. She never wrote in a vulgar way — although her novels were surely far more than mildly stimulating — but her mouth was clearly sprightlier than her pen. At this moment, Mary couldn't help visualizing Gary Wulf, like Alex McDuffie, as a coach or manager when his playing days were over. And at thirty-seven, his days were surely numbered. The thought frightened her but only because she also saw herself standing next to him, older than she was now. Next to him. Having lost her chance at something to revitalize her spirits. She just couldn't tolerate the thought.
"Will you love me tomorrow?"
Miranda's intrusion startled Mary, but it at least swept away her disturbing vision of a lifeless future. "No, Miranda. I'm just in it for the quick and cheap thrill. What are you talking about?"(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Sports Wives"
Copyright © 2019 John Vance.
Excerpted by permission of Champlain Avenue Books, Inc.
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