Before he died, my husband and his dad, Marty, were building a miniature golf course in our backyard. Some men build cars and some men build sheds. I guess my husband wanted to build a tiny golf course. Together, they’d finished fifteen holes. Had drawn plans for three more. There’s a windmill; a castle with a moat; a drawbridge; an alligator who opens and closes his maw, etc. They’d all been constructed on these cheap, handmade platforms carpeted in green turf, which he had bought, my husband told me, on sale. At night it looks like a graveyard. Kids in the neighborhood have started to come by and take selfies. Tomorrow, Marty’s going to help me tear it down. It was meant to come down today, but he’s made some last-ditch efforts to save it. His back hurts, he’s misplaced his tools. The kind of thing a guy in his sixties can get away with.
Today, Marty parked in the driveway, walked around to the backyard, stood there a moment before he let himself in the back door. “We have to stick together” he likes to say. His wife isn’t dead, but left him a few years ago for another man. He calls himself a widower.
“How about you and me finish that thing, Vic?” Marty says now.
“How about no.” I had a cold beer on a coaster at the table for him.
“Are you sure?”
“I’m sure. Can’t sell the house with that thing out there. Like we’re a carnival attraction.”
“You never know. There might be a market for that sort of thing.” Marty cracks his knuckles on the table.
“Sometimes I think I want to set it on fire.”
Marty plinks his empty beer can. I grab another from the fridge. “Don’t get rid of it, please.” He would take it to his house, he tells me, load it up in the bed of his truck one hole at a time and haul it out, but his landlord won’t let him.
“I hate looking at it,” I say.
“Don’t let all that hard work go to waste. It would give me a reason to visit.”
“You need a reason?” I dump the rest of my beer in the sink.
* * *
Later, we stand in front of the closet in my bedroom. My husband and I kept our clothes separate. Marty doesn’t know the difference. He pulls out a sleeve and holds it like a hand.
“This was my son’s.”
“You should take it,” I say.
He takes the sweater from the hanger and folds it across his arm.
“You can’t wait to get rid of everything,” he says.
“Think of it this way: I’m not getting rid of it, I’m giving it to you.”
I’ve given him books, pairs of socks, DVDs, CDs, pens, mugs. Homemade Christmas ornaments with waxy glued joints, grocery lists I find folded up in coat pockets. Most of it mine. Like a priceless heirloom that turns out to be a fake. How could I say no? It starts raining. I can hear the plink of tomorrow’s excuse on the windows. All right, one more day and then it’s got to come down. Maybe tomorrow Marty will surprise me, the way he does now as he hangs the sweater up and says, as if to God, “I’ll let you keep this one.”