The phone rang.
“Tabitha here”. I was wondering when I’d hear from her. Sometimes years would pass, sometimes we’d be crossing paths every few weeks, and there were a couple of vacations. But when I heard that she was on Tiger’s tail, or tails, at the Olympics (I know golf is not an Olympic sport, least of all at the winter games, but see my Breaking News post for the connection), and then the news that Tiger would be teeing up at the Masters, well, I suspected it wouldn’t be long.
“Tabby, so good to hear from you. Has it anything to do with Tiger at the Masters?”
“Dandy, I do think you’re getting more perceptive in your advancing years.” It was never easy to tell Tabitha’s compliments from her put-downs. I think she liked to blend them because she was never sure herself. At least, that’s the theory I’m running with for now. “Yes of course. This time I have a very hot lead.”
“But back up a ways. Weren’t you on to some story about Tiger impregnating one of the US gold medal women?” This is what we went over in our previous call.
“Well, it might have been true but I couldn’t pin it down. My source, as I told you, was not the greatest. I think he had sources even worse. But didn’t you think it...odd...that just after I got there, she started falling and broke her ankle, or something?”
“Tabby, are you really suggesting that she fell because she was so unnerved by your arrival at the games? Which of course she would have been immediately aware of?” Hey, sometimes I can give as good as I get.
“Enough of the past Dandy. You of all people should know that these pieces don’t always fall into place.” Danger. It was time to change the topic.
“So about the Masters Tabby. You were never one for a good walk spoiled.” She had this knack of bringing out my repartée. I don’t know why I couldn’t suppress it, though I should have. Usually I got pummelled in return.
“Still lunging at the obvious are we? You must know that it’s not the golf that interests me. It’s why now and why there?” Like I said, reparteéing with Tabitha usually had a downside.
“And you’re about to tell me, right?”
“Remember that fat old geezer who wanted me for a concubine or some such role?” Geez, like that narrowed it down. “Hmm Tabby, there’s been more than one.”
Now she sounded exasperated. She was one of those creatures who knew more than she thought she did and simply assumed that once she knew it, everyone else must. And if you didn’t, well, oh yes, exasperated. “The Hotlanta Olympics. Private box I wangled for us. Those minty drinks they kept foisting.”
Now it was coming back. I do remember downing several mint-flavored little drinks. They tasted like a perverse medicine. After a few of them you needed some of the real stuff. I was once a single malt guy. Nowadays it’s Night Train or Thunderbird. Somehow I passed by the minty drinks way-station, except for that afternoon. Oh, and the Derby weekend too. “Of course Tabby, we were watching one of those races and that big beefy old guy kept trying out his southern hospitality spiel. Boomer, or Bowser, no, Buster wasn’t it?”
“Busta from Augusta” she corrected me. There ought to be a rule about Brits trying Southern accents. “Well, when I heard that Tiger would emerge from his lair for the Masters, I started sniffing around. And who should turn up on the Masters board – Busta! So of course I called him.”
“But that was 14 years ago Tabby. He must be pushing 80 by now. He remembered you?” Oh oh, I could sense an affronted woman who didn’t take to it. Surprisingly, she continued with aplomb. “I wasn’t sure at first but I don’t think he’s tried his charms on too many classy ladies.” I coughed, subtly but significantly, I hoped. It had been just a few hours one afternoon of him being slighted, hadn’t it?
“At any rate, he has a tale to tell. I’m flying in to see him next week. Couldn’t get much over the phone, though enough to make it worth the trip.”
“And what would that be?” I couldn’t help asking. I like to think I’m above gossip and all things tawdry, but somehow I always find out about them. And with Tabitha, well, if Pravda had gotten their clutches into her back in the day, no one would have sneered at those tractor production reports.
“You know that all of the mistresses have yet to surface. And it seems that there’s one peachy Georgian whose fruit is, shall we say, ripening. Seems she’s close with Busta and voila, Tiger’s playing the Masters.”
“Interesting. But he had to come back sometime, and the Masters is as good a time as any. Are you sure that Buster, Busta’s not just tossing out some bait?”
“You would think that Dandy. But I know him better and how many have put one over on your girl Tabitha?” Too dangerous to offer a reply, but what was this with better? It had been just that afternoon back in 1996, or no? “Well,” I temporized.
“So I’m off tomorrow. I may stay down there right through to the tournament. You think you might be in the neighbourhood?” That was unexpected. But I had to think. I’m not made of money these days and I certainly couldn’t afford, what, three weeks of hotels and restaurants. So I started out in my best yes-but voice.
“Tabby, I’d love to see you again. But I’m freelancing (that’s what I like to call it) and there’s no story, no payoff for me”. Deft.
“Oh Dandy. If it looks like this story has legs after a couple of days, they’re going to put me up in a suite. Do come down. It’ll be like old times.” Hmm, old times. There’d been plenty of them, but which ones was she referring to?
“OK Tabs, call me when you’ve taken the lay of the land. I’m not promising that I can come but when have I ever said no to you?”
“Maybe you should have a couple of times, but I’m looking forward to seeing you. Speak to you in a few days. Ta-ta.”
This could be interesting. I reached for the Night Train and poured a large glass. I knew that I couldn’t pass up a chance of hanging out with Tabitha, never could. But I didn’t much like the sidekick role, though I should have gotten used to it long before. And what about that hippo dressed up like a southern gent? How well had she known him? And I never fit in with that southern crowd. I might be an ol’ boy but in their eyes, never a good one. And catching up with Tabitha. Last we spoke she said she had something for me. Gotta follow that up. And her John Mayer-Oscar Mayer weenie roast. Never saw anything on that. Lots more to talk about. And damn, still haven’t worked out that Tabby-Tiger witticism that’s just waiting to be articulated. We’d see in a few days.
Somehow I suspected that this sidekick-on-her-turf-in-hostile-territory role would not have a happy ending, at least for me. But I was curious and knew I couldn’t resist. Curiosity, cat, Tabby, Tiger, ..damn, almost had it.