“It’s almost Milton time,” says Gracie, and she’s already pulling on her shoes and her coat and looking in vain for her mittens; Paul is watching cartoons, and seems unconcerned, and has to be coaxed away.
It costs $5 plus the four-block walk, but Daddy pays. Most of the others won’t play kids, but Milton will play anyone of any age once, calls it ‘fishing’; he plays Paul once a week, and usually wins. Usually.
“I didn’t play well as him, maybe ‘til I was twenty-five, maybe thirty. And I ain’t gettin’ no better. He’ll beat me often as not, he gets to driving age.”
Daddy asked Milton once if he’d like to come for dinner. Milton looked at him like he was crazy. Paul shakes Milton’s hand after every game, very grown-up, because that’s what you do when you’re part of that club and Paul is part of that club. Gracie watches the game, sometimes, especially if Paul is winning, but is sometimes distracted away by pigeons or dog-walkers. Daddy watches the game always.
On the walk back, Paul will talk about the game, if it’s close; if he wins, it’s a breathless torrent of excited recapitulation. If he loses badly, he doesn’t talk about it until bed-time, and then only in low, humble whispers from the under safety of his comforter, as Daddy listens and nods and pats him on the shoulder.
Sunday afternoons, spring, through summer and fall, and to the first snowfall at least, maybe longer.