Missing a black SUV
A regular visitor to the petanqué courts at Depot Park in the late afternoon would notice a black SUV parked near the paved pathway leading to the courts.
The SUV was owned by Chuck Fleming, who arrived daily at the petanque courts between 4 and 4:30 p.m. to play his favorite sport. You couldn’t help but notice Chuck as he moved slowly to the courts carrying his boule bag and folding chair, and a bag containing a few Coronas, his favorite beer.
Chuck was a living testament to the ravages of cancer and the treatment he endured for years. His skin was discolored, his body anorexic looking, and he moved very slowly due to multiple amputations of his toes and feet that left him wearing sneakers specially outfitted to accommodate his disfigured feet.
Chuck sought no sympathy and no one gave him any. He joined about a dozen or so petanqué regulars every afternoon to team up and compete in two or three games of petanqué. He was exceptionally skilled in the sport, having won or come close to winning many tournaments in which he participated. When the boule that he played failed to do as he asked, you could hear a loud “God dammit,” accompanied by some of the choice four-letter words for which he was known.
If you were a close friend, he would greet you with a middle finger salute and refer to you by your rear orifice, all in good spirits and fun. If you were on his team in a petanqué match, he encouraged you to play beyond your capabilities, but he never criticized you for your failure to perform as he requested.
His jovial attitude and fun-seeking demeanor humbled you as you sought to understand how he was able to have an upbeat display of his personality in the face of his underlying physical condition.
Chuck was unique. Most days after playing petanqué, he would head for La Casa restaurant, plop down at the bar and order his favorite tequila drink over ice. The restaurant named the drink a “Chuck,” and anyone can order it by asking for it by his name.
Chuck died last Friday. He was 67 years old. I’m really going to miss seeing that black SUV show up at the petanqué courts.
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David Katz is a member of the Valley of the Moon Petanqué Club.