Jules and his friend Seamus reclined on Jules’ expansive gray couch, feet propped up on the matching ottoman. Seamus held a green bottle of Sierra Nevada and munched on popcorn, a few stray bits caught in his brown beard. Jules held his glass of gin and tonic. A squeezed-out section of lime floated on the top. A bowl of peanut-butter filled pretzel bites sat on his lap.
A week before Thanksgiving, and Jules eagerly anticipated the arrival of his daughter Reva, two granddaughters, Becca and Neve and Neve’s new boyfriend, James. Accompanying them would be Travis Bickle, the ornery old dachshund that took road trips with Neve. They were driving from Tucson.
For now, Jules and Seamus were enjoying some early-season basketball on Jules’ big-screen TV. After decades of watching games on a 26” Panasonic with increasingly strong glasses, the almost-elderly Jules was still mesmerized by the 56” Samsung Reva had bought him a few years ago. Seamus got up to use the bathroom. Jules muted the TV as the game went commercial. The Sixers had a 10-point lead on the Pacers, as the game headed into the fourth quarter. Jules chomped on another pretzel.
Seamus called out from the bathroom, “So when do they all arrive?”
Jules didn’t feel like shouting back, so he pretended not to hear Seamus.
Seamus washed his hands and went to the kitchen for another beer. “The girls all coming in on Tuesday? Wednesday?” he called out.
“Wednesday night. Reva gets to the airport and Becca times her drive to pick her up. Neve and her new guy and the dog come on Thursday at one or two. Driving from Arizona.”
Jules had to prepare himself for the change in energy. The slow pace of life in his 80s wasn’t noticeable until everyone else came into it and moved so quickly.
The game returned and Jules refocused. His Sixers got off to a decent start this year, but there was too much drama around the team, as one of the stars was temperamental and wanted to be traded. Jules enjoyed watching one of the younger players, Tyrese Maxey, because of his speed.
Seamus preferred soccer, but indulged Jules some basketball-watching every few weeks.
“What about you? Children coming back?” Jules asked.
Seamus sniffed and had more popcorn. “Kieran is coming Tuesday night. No Lilly this year. She and her husband are fighting. She’s working too much. Maybe for Christmas. Christ! They keep turning it over!” Seamus frowned at the television.
The lead was down to two. Embiid was getting triple-teamed and his teammates weren’t moving to get open.
Jules stewed. “Can’t lose to the damn Pacers!” He crunched another pretzel.
Jules turned to his friend. “How is Kieran doing? Any luck with the medication?”
Seamus sighed. “Hard to say. The Zoloft helps him keep it together, but he told me he probably feels like the horses I worked with. All dazed and not ready to run.”
Seamus had taken teeth out of tranquilized horses for 40 years before recently retiring.
“Does he exercise?” Jules asked.
Jules walked two miles in the morning and one mile after dinner. Usually around the sidewalks of his neighborhood. Occasionally on a flat trail or on the beach. The routine had been in place for nearly 30 years, with fewer miles since he turned 75.
“He used to do something at the YMCA. A class where they all spin around or some god-awful thing.” Seamus explained.
“What? They spin in circles for exercise?” Jules questioned.
“I don’t know. Something at the gym. Kieran said he stopped because he didn’t like the guy shouting at everyone.” Seamus explained.
“Maybe take him to the beach and walk with him?” Jules suggested.
“Maybe.” Seamus said, popcorn falling from his mouth.
Embiid was saving the Sixers again. Dunks in the paint. Then a trailing three-pointer off a Maxey steal. The lead was back to nine and the game appeared safe again with three minutes left.
Jules clapped his hands with satisfaction and finished his drink.
Seamus let out a whoop.
As the game ended, Jules went over to his refrigerator, where he kept the season schedule and wrote a little “W” in the box on the calendar November 15–IND.
The Sixers record was now 7-3. Eighty-two games and then the playoffs. Jules was happy to have the games again, after a summer where it seemed harder to find things to look forward to.
Seamus came over behind Jules and squeezed his butt, like a fool.
Jules turned with surprise, pretending to square up his fists.
“Come over with the girls on Friday, if you like,” Seamus said. “We’ll have leftover brisket.”
“Sure, maybe. I’ll let you know,” Jules said.
Seamus headed out the door, with his typical, “Again soon, my friend!”
Jules watched from the window as Seamus backed out of the driveway and headed home.
The girls would be back soon. A win was a win.