Dédé, Part 2

All characters appearing in this essay are fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.


But first, he had to secure the services of one of these two fellows.

He knew that Le Gros Robert was a serious eater and he thought that he would be easier to seduce him than the Corsican, so he decided to approach him first.
Since Dédé’s wife was an excellent cook, he resolved to entice le Gros Robert through his stomach.
-Hey Robert, he asked him one day, do you like pheasant? I got a couple of them and if you are available next Sunday, I’d be happy to share them with you.

Le Gros Robert was a little surprised by this unexpected invitation, but he was not a man to pass up a good meal.
OK he said. Very kind of you. Thank you.
-What are friends for? My wife will be very pleased to see you, said Dédé grinning like a Cheshire cat.

Next, Dédé decided to focus his attention on a female partner.
Good female players were also well aware of their talents and as much in demand as their male counterparts. But they were also more difficult to read… and they could keep a grudge for a very longtime…
Damned women!

He approached Pauline first. She was an excellent player but she also had a sharp tongue.
-Hey Pauline, he said, you look good today. Is that a new haircut? If you were not married, I would make a pass at you.
-Dédé, if I didn’t know you any better, I would think that you meant it.
-I meant it Pauline, I meant it.
-OK Dédé, what do you want? You are not buttering me up for nothing… You must want something…
-Pauline you are unkind. Can’t a guy pay a compliment to a lady without having any second thought?
-A normal guy yes, but coming from you it sounds a little odd… So again, what is it that I have that you want?
-You are a little harsh Pauline… but since you ask… How would you like to play with me at the Cup tournament?
-The Cup?
-Yes Pauline, the Cup. I am looking for a good female partner and I thought of you first.
-I see.
-I’ll probably play with Le Gros Robert… If you join our team we’ll have a dynamite formation…
-Very kind of you, but I don’t care much for Le Gros Robert… and frankly Dédé you get on my nerves…
-How is that?
-You talk too much Dédé, and this is one of the reasons why I won’t play with you.
-Pauline, I promise to keep my mouth shut. Let bygones be bygones… play with me and you won’t regret it.
-No Dédé I am sorry… I won’t play with you!
-OK Pauline, I understand your reluctance to play with Le Gros Robert. But I am pretty sure that I can get the Corsican to play with us instead. You don’t have anything against him, do you?
-All right then, if I get the Corsican will you play with us?
-I don’t know… You caught me off guard…
-Don’t you want to win Pauline? Don’t you want to see your name on the Cup?
-All right, all right… if you get the Corsican, I’ll play with you guys.
-OK Pauline, it’s a deal. I’ll get Pasqualini. But promise to turn down any other proposition…
-I promise.
-You won’t be sorry Pauline, I promise you. The three of us will be unbeatable.

It had not been as hard as he thought, but now he would have to dump Le Gros Robert and entice the Corsican instead. After all, he had not formally asked the Gros Robert yet. He simply invited him for dinner.

But the Corsican was a touchy fellow, and any careless comment could be taken the wrong way. He would have to be very, very careful…

A few days later, he approached Pasqualini who was practicing his shooting on the pétanque field.
Dédé couldn’t help but admire the little fellow’s dexterity. I absolutely need to have him on my side, he thought.

Hey Nunzio, he called out, that was a great shot!
-Thank you.
-I wish I could shoot like you.
-It’s a question of practice. The more you practice and the better you’ll get at it.
-Still, it is a gift Nunzio, and you have it. By the way, how is your mother?
-She is fine. A little arthritis, but otherwise she is OK. Thank you for asking.
-Family is important Nunzio.
-Yes it is.

A little silence ensued.
After a while the Corsican stopped playing and asked:
-Do you want something Dédé?
-Me? No… I was just admiring your shooting… But actually yes…
-Yes. I wanted to ask you if you would be willing to play with me in the Cup Tournament?
-The Cup hé? You are not the first to come calling…
-Did somebody else ask you?
-What do you think Dédé? Am I not good enough?
-That’s not what I meant Nunzio… Everybody knows that you are a great shooter. But you should not play with just anybody… You need good partners. Guys you can count on…
-Like you maybe?
-Yes like me. I am a good player Nunzio, you know that. And I have already been asked…
-By whom?
-By whom? By Le Gros Robert for one.
-But I’d rather play with you. You and I are “paisanos” Nunzio, we understand each other…
-That’s true… but I have to think about it…
-Take your time Nunzio, take your time… but I need to know fairly shortly.
-If you are in hurry Dédé, you can go with le Gros Robert.
-But I’d rather play with you Nunzio.
-OK then, I’ll let you know in a few days.
-Capisco Nunzio, capisco.

Well, he thought, this guy is not a pushover. He knows his worth. I might have to sweeten the pot to get him to play with us. But what is his soft spot?

The Corsican was a rather ascetic fellow who had no known vices… I hate this kind of guys thought Dédé, but there must be a chink in his armor and I’ll find it. Everybody has a weakness, or a price.

To be continued…


Dead Leaves Festival

I prefer the word Autumn to the word Fall, but Fall better describes the post-summer period when aging leaves break off from trees and “fall” to the ground.

In Marin County, our pétanque field is protected from the sun by a dense canopy, but at the end of the summer our canopy disintegrates and dry leaves flutter down to earth.
For some it is a sight of beauty, but this new carpeting can also become a nuisance, especially when overrunning gardens or playpens.

And talking about this, our field is now entirely covered with a thick carpet of dead leaves and will need some sprucing up before our next tournament.

When I was a young lad, I remember how much fun it was playing in this carpet of colorful leaves. Later we would gather them in big piles and set them afire in a pagan-like ritual.
In California, I don’t believe that you are authorized to burn anything.
To dispose of leaves, you have to collect them and dump them in some obscure “dead leaves” cemetery.

Instead of coaxing club members to help cleaning the field, I envision a Dead Leaves Festival where people would be enticed to congregate and frolic among the autumn leaves.
We could even have something similar to a pillow fight… or the Spanish Tomatina Festival of Bunol where thousands of people assemble each year and pelt each other with overripe tomatoes. Wouldn’t that be fun?

The Dead Leaves Festival that I envision could feature munchies and glögg, and after kicking the leaves for a while (and being fortified by the glögg) our captive audience could easily be cajoled into grabbing a rake and helping to clean the field.

It is just a thought mind you, but it is easier to catch flies with honey than vinegar and I see great potential in this festival and its outcome.

What do ya say?


Dédé and the Cup

All characters appearing in this essay are fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.


Dédé always dreamed of seeing his name on the Cup. He came tantalizing close, but something always got in the way. Bad partners, biased umpires, rotten luck… Sometimes Dédé felt cursed.
This year though, he was determined to succeed. But this would require some planning and Dédé knew that it was not going to be a cakewalk.

This particular tournament was billed as a “select mixed triplette” event and it meant that at least one woman was to be part of any competing team.
Winning that cup was no small achievement, and contenders came from far and wide to vie for the honor of having their names engraved on the golden trophy.
There would be no cash prizes, but money was of little importance when compared with the glory of being recognized by your peers.

To achieve his goal, Dédé had to secure solid partners, and this would require a lot of finesse.
Dédé was a good player but this was not enough. Not only did he have to obtain the services of a solid “shooter”, but he also had to entice a woman to play with him, and this was one of the many challenges he had to overcome.
The “misogynous” label that stubbornly clung to his back didn’t help. Females had the unfortunate knack of remembering past slights, and only a precious few would be disposed to forgive and forget.
But Dédé was a reliable player he told himself, and some women might be willing to put up with past insults to achieve ambitions of their own.

Securing a good “shooter” would also be difficult. In the small world of pétanque good shooters were celebrities, and very conscious of their lofty status.
They also had a sizable ego and didn’t care to endanger their reputation by associating with minor players.
This indeed could be difficult… Just like asking a pretty girl for a date. And then there was always the prospect of being turned down… it could be very humiliating… but sometimes you have to eat crow to become top dog.

And hell with humiliation! Nothing ventured, nothing gained. He could be charming with a female player if the situation demanded it, and he could be very persuasive with male contestants, even if their stars shone brighter than his.
So he started his stealth campaign.

In the club, there were four very good “shooters”, but he ruled out two of them right off the bat. There was too much bad blood between them.  That left only two: “Le Gros Robert” and “The Corsican”.

Le Gros Robert, as his name indicated, was a stout, taciturn fellow endowed with astonishing skills. Unlike some other renowned pitchers, he didn’t need any undue concentration before firing his shots. He would simply step to the plate and let his “boules” fly. He was admired, and loathed at the same time for his uncouth demeanor.

The Corsican on the other hand, was an irascible, wiry little fellow who could hit a fly forty feet away. No small accomplishment when the average player struggled to hit a target only thirty feet away.
Both of these fellows would make excellent partners but the problem was their testy nature.

Traditionally, the “shooter” is the playmaker, the man who orchestrates the team’s strategy. He tells each player what and when to do it. He is the boss and you rarely second-guess him.
Dédé was not a shooter per se, but he liked to have a say on the strategy to follow and this propensity of his was not always well taken by his partners.

In the game of pétanque, when playing in a “triplette” formation, each player is allocated two “boules” and has a specific role to fulfill.
The “pointer” plays first. His job is to position his boules as closely as possible to the “cochonnet”, the little wooden jack that is the target.
When the pointer has played his two boules, the “milieu” (middle player) takes over. He will try to position his boules closer to the cochonnet than those of the opposing team.
If the situation demands it, he should also be able to act as a relief shooter.

The “shooter” is basically the gunslinger, the enforcer.
His task is to neutralize the opposition with surgical strikes. But since he has only two shots in his quiver, he must use his boules judiciously. He must decide when to shoot and when to show restraint and only he will make that decision.

Le Gros Robert was an aggressive player who never hesitated to shoot. The Corsican on the other hand, was a more cautious fellow who would think twice before squandering his boules. But none of these two fellows took suggestions kindly. Their decisions were not open to discussion.
Dédé unfortunately couldn’t help second-guessing the captain’s decisions and this had led to spirited exchanges in the past. He would have to control himself and keep his mouth shut… even if he knew better.

To be continued…