We set up a drinks table near Billie and Allan’s and put out chairs and sofa pillows. Even Phoebe and Veronica were invited to join, which they did, from lawn chairs near the stairs.
When it was all over, Kate and I pieced the evening together me pretending to her that I do not feel like a total fool just because all my friends had known what I did not and had watched, curious, worried, entertained?
There were about nine or ten of us playing two games at once. Players with primary colors (red, blue, yellow) headed north. Secondary colors (orange, green, black) went south. Each team took its own turns, meeting in the middle. Once the teams intersected, one could croquet and send the other team’s balls as well as our own. We could poison players on both teams, as well. Peter, on the primary team reached the end pole first and was itching for poison. He had two free shots to reach it. Jacob and the rest of us were out to stop him. When Jacob took turn, he interrupted Peter’s free shots, which enabled him to croquet Peter before he could move safely away. The mix-up arose, according to Kate, because Peter took so long between his two free shots that Jacob could be forgiven for thinking his own turn had come. What I saw from my angle, about three feet behind Peter and facing Jacob, was Jacob hurrying to croquet Peter. But what Kate saw, from a distance than included both men, was Peter stalling and letting Jacob think his turn was up. One cheats because the other eggs him to do it. They’d muttered words several times this summer but never came to shouting. When Peter accused him of cheating, Jacob got right in his face.
“Don’t fuck with me.” Very dirty Harry.
“Play the ball,” said Peter, shaking his head in disgust. As if he were the better sport. “Just play the ball.”
“Don’t fuck with me.”
“Play the ball.”
Back and forth back and forth. But Jacob, and this may tell us something, played his shot very badly, as he does when he’s being dubious about play and got so mad he threw the mallet towards the verandah where it rolled head over heels --- a pretty sight--- until it hit the steps where Phoebe, Veronica and Lura were sitting in a group.