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Excerpt from SETTLING:

            The young couple played hard, running each other mercilessly from one side to the other. All at once the young man hit a shot that bounced so high in front of his opponent that she tried a killing lob. She looked high, golden hair flowing, and smashed down on the ball.  It made a false bounce against something on the ground, struck the brick wall next to it, and ricocheted over the man's head, over the fence, and into the street.

            Without thinking, Ruth chased it and retrieved it from the opposite gutter. When she turned back toward the players with it in her hand, both were waiting, and the fat proprietor of the courts was holding the gate open. She trotted over, extending the ball toward the dark young man, who was holding his racquet out to take it.

            Ruth’s breath caught, and she stepped back when she saw his face. It was the one she had seen long ago in Tony’s bar.

            “Thanks very much”

            “You’re welcome,” Ruth managed to get out. His eyes held hers. Though he reached his racquet out for her to drop the ball on the strings, she stood motionless, eyes wide. “Do I know you?”

            “Oh—no!”  She felt herself grow pale. “No, I don’t think so. Oh, I’m sorry.”  She dropped the ball hastily onto the racquet, as if it were hot, and backed up, quivering.

            The young man took the ball. “Do you play?”

            Still mesmerized by his face, her voice sounding distant inside her head, she replied, “Yes, a little.”

            “Why don’t you join us some Sunday? Do you live around here?”

            “A few blocks away. But I’m not good enough to play with you. I could see that.”

            “I’ll bet you are.”  He smiled. Ruth’s eyes wavered, dazzled by the beauty of his face.

            The blonde girl was calling from the other side of the net. He answered, “Coming, Sandy.”  With a wave to Ruth, he turned back to his game.

            She turned away, numb. The remembered image in the smoky twilight of Tony’s superimposed itself on the image she had just seen so closely, tanned and shiny with sweat, moist curls breaking the perfect hairline. She walked along the pavement, oblivious of other pedestrians, of the sunlight and shade, the yellowing leaves and the church bells, even of an organ-grinder with his audience of tots, of everything she had noticed with such pleasure just a few minutes before. She was disoriented, displaced from all objects and familiar impressions. A furious blast from an automobile horn and a shriek of tires brought her to her senses. She found herself with one foot on the curb and the other in the gutter. The driver  was leaning out his window and making an obscene gesture as he rolled across the intersection. She had nearly walked in front of him.




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