I walked into the pro shop, and the boy minding the store
looked at me.
“Can I get out?” I asked.
“It’s wide open,” he said.
Suddenly, a giant rose from behind the clearance rack.
It was Bill. “Andrewooooo!”
He said my name, the way people do
when they’re happy to see me.
The problem was, I couldn’t think of anything to say to him.
“Is that it?” He asked.
“That’s it,” I said.
“Have a great round of golf!”
It was silent on the first tee. There was a warm wind blowing. The grass smelled like nitrogen.
I teed-off, rolling my ball down the brown fairway.
The green was dying, like it always did, each year, in August.
Neat suburban homes, with perfect lawns, and wind chimes, lined the golf course.
Residents sit on their decks, and watch weekend warriors make fools of themselves.
It gets dangerous for them, because balls don’t obey bad golfers.
Musical notes of metal, added to my Zen experience.
My ball wasn’t obeying me, but I didn’t mind.
I finished 9, and walked to the back 9. That’s when I heard, “Do you want some company?”
It was a brown man; he was tanned, the same shade as his amber sunglasses. He wore a navy cap on his head, and his shoes were new. They looked like light-weight foam space shoes.
I couldn’t tell if one of his legs was shorter than the other.
He was a quiet man, but still, the usual conversation began.
“Do you play out here, much?” I asked.
“Sure, I do. I played a lot of courses when I was in the Navy. I’ve been to Saudi Arabia, Porto Rico, the Philippines, Hong Kong—you name it—I’ve been there.”
I began to play really well—to the point where I couldn’t believe it, but I pretended like it was normal for me. Sometimes, I get a kick out of making golfers insecure. They think I’m a hotshot, but it’s just a string of random luck.
I kept asking him questions, to see if he would give me the seeds of a good story. He did.
“I commanded an aircraft carrier in the gulf. The guy who was doing it, walked off the job, and I got his job. They shot F-18s off the deck.”
“Wow, that’s something,” I said.
On the next hole, two black ladies with pink golf bags, picked up his ball.
“They got my ball,” Rick said.
That’s another thing—I was trying to remember his name by word association. Initially, I thought of Rick the Prick, but he turned out to be the nicest guy.
I told the black ladies, “You took Rick’s ball.”
“No, it’s ours,” they said.
It turned-out, they were telling the truth.
There were two balls down there, close together. They neutered one, and kept it for themselves.
Rick started to loosen up. He asked me if I wanted to ride in his golf cart to the next hole.
“Sure,” I said.
You can always tell when formality turns into friendship, because the ice is broken with swear words.
“I saw the craziest fuckin shit—you wouldn’t believe, in the navy,” Rick said. “When we integrated the genders, we had problems. This one time, I walked into my superior’s office, and a woman was crouched under his desk, with his pants down. He got promoted. Can you believe that?”
“What happened to her?”
“I don’t know. Then I got put in charge of boot camp in Orlando. It was 1994, and the government decided to make men and women work together. The problem was, they didn’t have a plan. If you put the genders together, they start mounting each other.”
We got to the last hole, and I had played a perfect game.
“You should turn-out for the men’s club,” Rick said. “You have one hell of a swing.”
He started to give me fatherly advice, while his golf game went to shit.
After the final hole, he shook my hand three times.
“Let me give you a ride to the pro shop, Andrew.” We met two guys in the parking lot.
“This is Andrew,” Rick said.
I shook their hands.
“I’ll introduce you to the men’s club on Tuesday.”
All I wanted was a story, but I got a good friend, because I was interested in his story.