A Short Story
Alfred approached the tee and stood about 5 feet behind the ball. “Draw an imaginary line between the ball and the flag” he said to himself. “Now visualize the shot!” He read somewhere, probably in one of the golf books his girls had given him for Christmas that you should visualize the shot, and so he tried, but nothing came, it never did. Not that he lacked the imagination to conjure up a flight path for the ball; it’s just that he never knew which trajectory his ball would actually take, let alone which trajectory it should take. How high should it arc, should it go from left to right, right to left, straight? There were just too many possibilities to be able to settle on just one.
He moved into position over the ball. He shuffled crablike left then right then left again until he was satisfied that he was properly aligned; heels in line with the target, ball 3 inches back from a line perpendicular to target, extending from his left toe.
He then stepped back 6 inches, raised his club slowly stopping when the club head was a shoulder height , cocked his wrists and brought the club down with force, following through until the club’s shaft rested awkwardly on his back. He readjusted his stance and repeated his practice swing twice more. Now that he had completed his routine, he shuffled 6 inches forward in his stance. “Develop a routine” one of his books advised, “It will help you become more consistent”.
He hated this hole. A par 3, elevated tee, 167 yards to a green well protected by deep bunkers in front and on both sides. Tall pines lined the narrow fairway waiting to intercept his ball and sending it God knows where. Just don’t hit a tree he prayed to himself.
“Enough! Clear your mind of negative thoughts! Positive thinking is the key.” Positive thinking was a mantra also borrowed from one of the books. He visualized the hole, no longer hemmed in by the towering pines, wide open and inviting.
The rest of his foursome, Ed, Andy and Bill had already taken their shot. They were all dancing on the green, close enough to the pin for a good shot at birdie. He could hear the subtle tell tales signs of their eagerness, nothing however that would constitute a lack of courtesy or a breach of golf etiquette; just the hint of restlessness that accompanied testosterone driven excitement.
“Take you time, life is not that short ” he countered in his head. That mantra was a favorite of his wife’s yoga instructor. Alice had a habit of racing from one position to the next. That was never one of Alfred’s problems. In yoga as in life, he was slow and deliberate.
He had been playing with this same foursome every Wednesday morning for 5 years now. 5 Years, had it really been that long since he retired? He was amazed at how fast time had flown. Five years ago he had sold his practice, retired and took up golf. The girls were much more enthusiastic about his interest in golf that he was. It soothed them to think he had developed an interest in something other than work or in taking care of them. It also supplied them with a ready made theme for gifts. For the past 25 years, he had raised them on his own. He had made the center of their world, his. Their mother had died when Kathy, his eldest, had barely turned 5. He had never remarried, let alone dated anyone.
“Inhale, take a deep breath, let it out slowly. Relax your grip.”
Two women in his life were already two too many he would say jokingly when someone would try to set him up with a date. Well that was not quite true, he thought. He had gone out on a date once, well almost. It was with Kathy’s grade 3 teacher, Ms. Granger. He could not remember her first name, was it Mary? Martha? He was not quite sure how it had happened, but remembered that he had emerged from a parent-teacher interview with a date to take her to dinner the next night. Though he could no longer conjure up her face, he remembered that she had struck him as being very pretty. There was also something magical about her eyes, not so much the color but the sparkle; it warmed him just to think about it. She called the next morning to cancel the date. It was too awkward to date the parent of one of her students, she had said. She left him hanging with the suggestion that perhaps they could postpone the date till after the school year was over.
“Keep you eye on the ball and your head down”
He had not thought of ‘Mary’ in long, long while. He used to think about her often at first; wondering how he could bring into his life, his girls lives? How long should they date before he popped the question? Should they move to a new house, get a fresh start? How would the girls react? Would they reject her? Would they end up hating him? They never did go on that date. Summer came and she was gone. Left town, left teaching, left him without even knowing it.
“Raise the club slowly back ”
The girls had been his talisman against loneliness. Between work and the girls, there was never enough time to indulge in moments of self pity. He plodded on. Ballet, horseback ridding, scrapped knees, figure skating, high school, dances, boys, proms, college, cars, and weddings had kept him busy and out of trouble. So now it was golf and thoughts of grand children that kept him busy these days.
“Cock you wrists”
Then he thought of Alice, Alice and her crooked smile and ready laugh. He wondered where life would have taken them had she had not been killed by that drunk. The drunk who got off with only a 6 month suspended license, he had a young family and they needed him his lawyer had successfully pleaded. This was a bad thought to have when your club is on its downswing.
Tension flowed through his arms driving the club head down with an unnatural force, through to his hands locking his wrists, the club head pivoting in response and striking the ball well off the head’s sweet spot, giving the ball a forward spin and adrenalin induced momentum.
It plunged down below the elevated teeÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s embankment, disappearing from sight, pinging off a sprinkler head, abruptly changing course, reappearing as it flew in a gentle arc towards the green, landing on the far left fringe, rolling back ever so slowly towards the pin.
He caught sight of the ball as it began its decent on the green and watched mesmerized by the poetry of its flight. They all watched! Time stopped! Then Bill broke the spell by declaring Holy Shit! I think it went in!