He knew he would have to go. There was just no getting around it. DampAss had been dreading this moment for months, ever since The Maestro had earned a 13th Slam. DampAss’ spirits had lifted temporarily after Nadal crushed him in Australia. But alas, along came Paris, and Nadal’s surprising announcement that he would not be defending. Suddenly DampAss found himself in a tie for the G.O.A.T. And now it looked like things were about to get worse.
The hardest part was figuring out a way to convince Mrs. DampAss that she would have to come with him. He put off talking about it for as long as he could. His wife walked around with a pinched face. At night she slept facing the wall, her silence a more effective barrier than any diaphragm. The help moved permanently back to the East Wing.
The tension was broken by a call from the All England Club. The members of the Royal Committee wished to know if Mr. DampAss would grace them with his presence. They had not seen him since 2002, and although his membership was lifetime, they would be honored if he would attend this particular year. He said that he wasn’t sure as he had a number of projects on the fire. They replied that Mr. GaGassi had done the honor of showing up in Paris. The All England would be similarly honored if Mr. DampAss would close the loop as it were.
He could avoid it no longer. He would have to travel to Wimbledon and watch Federer win # 15. Worse, he would have to ask his wife to come with him.
“I got an important call just now. Do you know who that was?”, he broached the topic gingerly.
“I’m not going. You can go if you want. Take the children with you. But I’m not going anywhere.”
“You have to come sweetheart. We have no choice. If GaGassi hadn't gone to Paris I might be able to get away with it again. But GaGassi went so now I have to go. And I need you to be there with me. If you don't come, what would the paparazzi say?”
DampAss hated having to play the paparazzi card, but the truth was that it always worked. This time was no different. She still refused to speak to him, but he heard her making appointments for waxing and dyeing. She ordered new dresses. She went on a diet. She even made an appointment for him to get some hair plugs. He suffered in silence, grateful to the core. He would kiss her feet if she allowed it. Oh how he missed the days of serving her. DampAss sighed heavily and trudged off to his own appointments.
She delayed leaving for England. With each round, she remained convinced that the Big-Nosed One would lose and they would not have to go. When he beat Haas in the semi-finals, she grudgingly started making travel arrangements.
“Why don’t you call up Ploddick and give him some suggestions on how to beat Noseman?”, she suggested offhandedly. DampAss was happy to comply. He stayed on the phone late into the night, plotting and planning with McInRaw and others over how Ploddick might have a fighting chance. His record was at stake.
He would have preferred to be seated well before the match started. It was the polite thing to do. She insisted on arriving fashionably late. If she was being forced to go, well then everyone would notice her. He couldn’t believe it when The Maestro waved to him from the court. The nerve of the man.
His spirits soared during the first set. Ploddick executed to the letter the plan they had concocted. And when the second set went to a tie-break, his stomach started unclenching. Surely Ploddick now had the advantage!
But after The Maestro won six straight points to win the second set, the feeling of cold heaviness in his stomach returned. If he could name it, he would say that it felt like a sense of the inevitable, a deep abiding dread. But he was never a man given to reflection. It was a quality that annoyed the crap out of him during the GaGassi era. That man would go on and on boring him to tears with his philosophizing.
But now here was that damn Ploddick losing chance after chance to save his record. The ordeal lasted over four hours. DampAss thought his jaws would break from having to keep smiling. His wife’s face remained closed and pinched. When at last The Maestro broke Ploddick to win the match, DampAss had to dig deep to remain calm. He wanted to choke Ploddick for apologizing to him. Their conversation was supposed to be secret! And then he had to endure posing with The Maestro dressed up like Elvis, and his false modesty about them sharing the G.O.A.T. title, when he knew damn well that it was his.
All of that was painful enough. But dealing with Mrs. DampAss from here on in was going to be so much more.