The ferry man gave me the creeps. He had these yellow eyes, jaundiced, from too much drink. His whiskers were thick and white. He wore a sailor’s cap and jeans, with a vest, exposing his tanned chest, with hair billowing out.
“Pay the toll,” he said.
My uncle reached for his credit card.
“No—cash only. And with the economy the way that it is, I might start asking for gold.”
My uncle was the type, prepared for disaster. He was sending me to the island. “Now, don’t worry. I phoned ahead. I got the butler. There wasn’t an answering machine—but, they’re expecting you.”
I looked at him. He knew I was desperate. This was the trip, to end all trips. Even LSD, wouldn’t do what the island would do to me. And, somehow, I knew this.
There were seagulls, diving into the tug boat. Screeching, like hungry birds. If they had teeth, they would’ve eaten us all.
“Don’t mind them. Them is sailors’ souls. Traitors. Mutineers. Trapped forever, until their neck is broke. I release one from time to time. Gives me something to do. Cast off.”
“Undo the rope, attached to the dock.”
“Aye, aye, sir.”
My clubs were safely on board. That’s all I needed. That, and a stiff drink. There was no island on the horizon, but according to the GPS, it was just hidden, on the other side. We hadn’t gone far, when it appeared.
“Why do they call it that?”
“Well, the rock looks like a skull.” And sure enough, I could see two inlets, that looked like sunken eyes.
We landed, and the butler was waiting for me. “Your name?”
“Well, master Andrew, Neb says there isn’t any time to lose. He wants you to change the cups on the course. Then, cut back the brush on the water hazard on 6. After that, he might allow you to mow the fairways.”
“How is this going to improve my golf game?”
“Another thing, Neb doesn’t want you asking questions.”
I stared at the butler. He stared at me, with big eyes that could hypnotize. His black hair, sunken cheeks, and sallow demeanor, made him look like a vampire.
I stared across the links course, with treacherous caverns, going down to the surf. I could smell the salty air, hideous with seaweed, gritty, like a scent smelled by the gods, unable to appreciate the meat of burnt sacrifices. There was a lighthouse, on the northside of the island, blinking, winking at me, like I had found the right place.
“I’ll show you to your room, and then, best to get-on with the list of things to do.”
I turned to thank the ferry boat man, but he was already out to sea. Apparently, he didn’t want to stay long.
Changing the course, took me back to the past. I shoved the plug, into the green, and rotated. Then I filled the previous cup, and stamped down the turf. There was satisfaction in getting the grass level. Cutting the grass, is like trimming your toenails. They’re going to grow back, but it feels good to cut them. I hacked the bamboo on number 6 with a scythe. When that was cleared and put on the bonfire, I went for the garage. There was a monster of a mower in there.
“I dieseled her up and oiled her,” the butler said. “Take her out and trim. You should be able to finish before sunset.”
I did as I was told, hoping to meet the greens keeper in the morning.
I began cutting. It felt like I was paving the roads of heaven, and the horizon opened up with pink hews, and the lighthouse kept me company, and I felt like there was no world—only this place, and who I was in a past life, didn’t matter. I pulled the mower in, and turned off the engine. It shuddered, and died. The butler led me to my quarters in a wooden shack, in the attic. He provided espresso on a tray and a kerosene lamp to read by.
“Harvey Penick’s Little Red Book—compliments of Neb.”
I drank in the darkness, and enjoyed the fundamentals of the game. I woke up, before I realized I was asleep, and a little man was watching me.
To be continued…