I was in the locker room, taking off my shoes, humming a Procol Harum song, and thinking about how I should have passed the ball off rather than taken that final shot when Bob walked in, clearing his throat like he had something to say. Bob’s a bluff little guy with a marine cut who loves to be the one with news. “Hey,” he said. “Guess what? Pete was saying that you have a secret agenda.”
I laughed thinly.
“Yeah,” he said. “Can you believe it? He was saying it over by the squash courts. To everyone.”
Bob went to the shower, and I sat down and stared at the pattern in the tile. Up until that moment, I had accounted Pete an idiot. An idiot who I pretended to be friends with at the gym, maybe, but still an idiot. This, however, made me reconsider. How could he know about my hidden agenda?
I’m sure I’m not the only guy in the world harboring secret plans. But it puts me up a tree to be exposed that way, over by the squash courts. If I’m going to be accused, I’d rather just confess. That’s how I like it. So sue me.
For starters, I have spent the last three months persuading my brother and his wife, Ellen, who are music snobs, that the new Shania Twain record is not just a guilty pleasure but a really good album. After a few false starts, it worked like a charm. Just last weekend, Ellen called me up to thank me for buying it for them. “At first I thought two copies was a little crazy,” she said, “but now we have one for the car and one for the house. You’re right. It’s great. It pushed the new Springsteen right out of heavy rotation.” All this is just the top layer of the agenda onion, though, because what lies beneath is the fact that I want Ellen, who works for a regional electronics company, to get me a new DVD player. I figure that if I start giving them presents they appreciate, it’s only a matter of time before they respond in kind. Along those lines, I also managed to get Fiesta Bowl tickets for this friend of a friend who always has good stock tips, even though it involved a bit of deceit; I had to pretend to like my new neighbor Eric, when in fact I can’t stand the way he smokes a pipe like he’s goddamn Fred McMurray or something. It was way worth it, though. Eric said that I could use his grill any time I wanted, and his friend, the guy I got the Fiesta Bowl tickets for, is considering tipping me off to some biotech stocks.
So that’s part of it. I can’t say I’m particularly ashamed. I’m getting some positive results. The rest of the agenda, though, is a mess. I have been trying to convince this woman who works at the bank to go on a date with me. Once I sauntered up the counter and said, “Where can a guy get a drink around here?” She just said, “Water fountain in the corner, sir.” She didn’t even look up. There’s also this small matter of staying friends, but not close friends, with a woman I dated last year for a little while. It didn’t work out. But she’s a fantastic cook, and if I could somehow finagle a dinner invitation once a month or so I’d be in heaven. The last time I called her up and hinted that I’d like to see her, she was suspicious and then angry. Both, I thought, were overreactions, and both made me despair for future meals.
That’s just the snout of the pig, as they say. My son, who is seventeen, has a new girlfriend, and I can’t say that I approve, although it’s really my ex-wife’s fault: she didn’t tell me that he was spending three or four nights a week at the girlfriend’s house until it was too late. I wish that would stop. I want Eric to recognize that if I wanted to go over to his house and watch hockey, I would have done so already, and to lay off all future invitations. Oh, and one more thing: I also need my sister and her rich husband to buy themselves a new car so I can take the old one off their hands. It’s a ninety-six, I think, but a BMW is a BMW.
Well, that’s it. I hope Pete’s happy now.