George and Sally walk down the beach, not close as you might expect, but not far apart. The wet sand recedes under each footstep; at times they have to dodge an encroaching wave.
“Let’s play some tennis, today,” he says, invitingly.
She avoids responding, turning away to watch a seagull’s swooping pass overhead.
He repeats, no, demands, again.
“I don’t like to play with you,” she says tentatively, brushing a wisp of hair away from her mouth.
He squawks, aggressively, “What?”
“It’s just that you always want to bet on the game, and I don’t want to play to win,” she says, unsure how to defend herself.
“Well, you have to bet,” he says. “That’s what makes it fun.”
Her “not for me,” is lost in the wind.
“So what do you want to bet?” he says, unyielding.
Her shoulders slump as she gives in. “I’ll bet $5.” Her voice is flat.
“You can’t bet money,” he says. “All the money you have you get from me.”
This is a blow deeper than the half-jesting conversation. Her stories, popular in 1942, haven't been selling since the war was over.
He finally settles for blueberry muffins, his favorite. Pressed, she says she’ll make them if she loses.
Noting her look, he decides not to mention that the money for the ingredients would be his.
They approach the rocks at the end of the beach and stare into the tidepool at their feet.
At the approach of his stick, a sea anemone folds in upon itself.