May 2, Wednesday
The game tonight felt more like tug-of-war than croquet. Peter’s back and it shows. He and Jacob bickered non-stop over rules and conduct. It was stupid too, because Lura had brought a box of restaurant candles and set them up next to each wicket. The effect was pretty and added to the silliness of the game. But the boys would not play a silly game. Have no idea what Jacob was mad about tonight, but he seems to keep a low boil going generally, and most of the time no one pays him any mind.
Lura’s candles were the squat red kind with plastic fishnet cozies. Jacob used them like bumpers with great luck, though that only seemed to make him more aggressive. At Peter’s example, we croqueted him every time he rearranged a candle to suit, but he wouldn’t admit he was cheating.
When someone has an interesting shot up, it is a good idea for the others to offer sincere, well considered, but unsolicited advice, seconds before one’s opponent makes the play. The boys do this so often, it’s become part of our ritual.
At one wicket, Jacob lined himself up, measuring the length between his ball and the wicket (about three feet), brushed some cut grass and a few twigs from the path his ball would need to take and bent slightly, only to stop, adjust his shorts and regain his stance. The second he went to take his shot, Allen coughed. Jake grinned, re-adjusted his shorts with some display and made his stoke. Just as his mallet made contact, Peter, standing next to Veronica, shook the ice in his glass and laughed, as if at something she’d said. Jake’s wrist wobbled and the ball, instead of receiving the confident thwack it required, was merely nudged along a scant foot.
“Cut it out,” said Jake, glaring at Peter.
“Huh?” he said.
“I wanted to make that shot.” He spoke with such loathing, we all looked at each other in surprise. He seemed to hear the anger in his voice after that. Or caught Kate’s look of alarm, because he skulked off the field and stood at the drinks table with his back to us.
I don’t know what would have happened next. Peter, a fresh gin and tonic gripped in his hand, seemed ready for a fight when Lura, instead of lining up her play, suddenly flung herself down on the ground near her ball, flipped her mallet and knocked her ball through the hoop as if she were playing pool. The distraction worked. She bounced to her feet and curtseyed. Even Jacob laughed.
But the evening ended early. Kate, with Jacob stalking next to her, left their casseroles behind. Peter followed Veronica upstairs with some plates we had borrowed, while Billie and I cleared the table. We worked quickly. Allan put away the croquet.
“What was that all about?” I asked Billie shrugged.
“Jacob’s…kind of judgmental.”
“About what? Peter?”
Again she shrugged and looked so uncomfortable it was almost more than I could stand to persist.
“Does it have something to do with me?”
“No!” she said, glancing up at Veronica’s window. I looked too. I’d seen Peter follow his aunt, but I had not noticed Lura join them. I’d had the hazy idea that she’d taken trash out to the dumpster. Now Billie and I saw Lura and Peter at the window, looking down at us. I waved.
“Is he angry about Lura?” I asked. “What about Lura?” But when I turned, Billie had gone and the door to her apartment was shut.