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Stymie Magazine

Issue Two

stymie MAGAZINE Summer 2009

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Stymie Magazine

Issue Two

Fodder Summer 2009

MASTHEAD Founding Editor: Erik Smetana Senior Editor: W. Todd Banks Editor: April Miller

COVER ART Photographer: Jay Simmons

NOTES All works – art, fiction, nonfiction and poetry – contained herein are copyright of the respective author and/or creator.

All artwork used in the following obtained as royalty free stock art, full credit provided where possible.

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Editorial Note Summer 2009 This issue is a special one, mainly because a second issue means we have survived for well over a year, which is something to be excited about (especially in the small press). Since our last issue, our makeup has changed a bit and we bade farewell to one member of our staff and welcomed another. In the last twelve or so months we also realized that with such a narrow thematic focus, publishing quarterly or even twice a year, might be a stretch and adjustments were made (as we are now presenting ourselves as an annual). And most importantly our team has had the great pleasure to read through another round of quality submissions (packed with some familiar names and many new ones) of which we were only able to select a few (some of which are more traditional while others not so much). So welcome readers (or welcome back as the case may be), we hope you enjoy reading the following as much we enjoyed putting it together. Erik, Todd & April The Editorial Team Stymie Magazine

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Table of Contents

Steven Tom – “A Friendly Little Round” .........................................................................................................05 G.C. Smith – “A Roundelay of Golf”.................................................................................................................19 Matt Ferrence – an essay, “Rules of the Game”...............................................................................................21 Holly Day – “Because”.........................................................................................................................................30 Kevin Wallis – “Killing Me”................................................................................................................................32 Beverly A. Jackson – “Tiger Woods”….............................................................................................................36 T.R. Healy – “Back on the Back Nine”..............................................................................................................38 Mary Baader Kaley – “Irish Blessings”...............................................................................................................43 Dawn Corrigan – “What Happened After We Put the Superhero Costumes On”.....................................47 Barry Napier – “Farewell, From the Eleventh Hole”.......................................................................................52 Contributor Notes..................................................................................................................................................57

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Title: “Buddhas 1” / Artist: Jenny Kennedy-Olsen

… You called upon the gods of golf… Who’d you expect…

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A Friendly Little Round by Steven Tom THWACK! Bob Hansen was all too familiar with that sound. His drive had sliced majestically over the edge of the fairway and slammed into a tree. Next, he heard the ball crash through the underbrush and plop into a ravine. First hole, first stroke, and already he was in trouble. “Oh, that’s too bad!” Brewster said with fake sincerity. “You’re in the rough.” He then proceeded to hit his own drive straight and long, down the middle of the fairway. The fact that he was an excellent golfer made the man even more insufferable. Tarkington hit his usual nondescript drive that drifted off to the left but stayed on the fairway. Bob picked up his golf bag and began trudging off toward the ravine while the other two sped down the fairway in a cart. Bob didn’t like carts and preferred to walk, but Brewster joked that he didn’t spend enough time on the fairway to make a cart worthwhile. Bob rummaged around in the weeds until he found his ball. It took him three shots to battle his way out of the woods and into a greenside bunker. He got out of the bunker and onto the green on his second attempt. His first putt brought him to within two feet of the cup, and a crisp second putt closed hole with an eight. Eight strokes on a par four hole. Brewster carded a four and Tarkington bogeyed with a five. The rest of the round didn’t go as badly, but Bob never quite managed to win a hole. He wasn’t a bad player – some of his individual shots were quite nice - but he never seemed to pull everything together. If he got a good drive, he muffed his approach shot. Once in a while he’d sink a spectacular putt, but only after bouncing on and off the green with multiple chip shots. Finally, on the 18th, it all came together. The 18th was a long, par four with a moderate dogleg to the right. Bob’s drive soared down the fairway, and a slight fade carried it around the dogleg. It dropped in the middle of the fairway, a good 30 yards beyond Brewster’s ball. Brewster topped his second shot, rolling it maybe 20 yards past Bob’s ball. Bob chose a five iron for his second shot and it arced gracefully through the air, dropping onto the green and rolling to within 18 inches of the cup. Brewster tried to reach with a seven iron but fell short, and had to chip onto the green. Tarkington also reached the green in four. Bob couldn’t believe his good fortune as he strode onto the green. He was on in two, with a short putt for birdie. He didn’t have to worry about his chip shot sailing over the green or falling short, because he was already here. He didn’t have to worry about the bunkers because he was already past them. Better still, the best Brewster could do was a bogey. Bob marked his ball and stood back to watch the others putt. Tarkington was out so he putted first. He came close, but the ball broke a little more than he’d expected and rolled past the hole. He tapped it in for a six. Brewster benefited from watching Tark’s putt, aimed a little more to the left, and dropped his putt for a five. Bob took his time replacing his ball, and looked up at Brewster to see if he was going to concede the putt. Brewster just turned his head toward Tark. “Five bucks says he’ll miss it.” Tarkington waved his hand dismissively. “Don’t want to take the bet? Can’t say that I blame you. You and I have watched him choke too many times when the pressure’s on to believe he’s gonna make this putt.” “No, it’s not that,” said Tarkington. “I just don’t think it’s good sportsmanship to bet against somebody like that. Forget about the bet, and just let him make the putt.” “I didn’t ask you to bet against him, Tark” Brewster replied. “I challenged you to bet for him. Of course, if you don’t think he can make it. . .”

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“All right. I’ll take the damned bet.” They both turned back to Bob and watched him intently. Bob took his time lining up the shot, a lot more time than he’d usually take for an 18-inch putt. It was a slight downhill lie, so he didn’t want to hit it too hard. “Hit it low” he told himself. “No topspin.” He relaxed his hands and held the putter loosely. He drew the club back slowly and very gently stroked it forward. The front of his putter stubbed the ground, the putter twisted in his hands, and the ball dribbled to the right of the hole. Disgusted, Bob walked over to tap it in. As he was walking, his left foot somehow kicked the putter into the ball, which skittered off to the edge of the green. Brewster laughed uproariously as Bob took two more putts to find the cup. He was still wiping tears from his eyes as he pocketed the five dollars Tarkington handed him. *** Fortunately, things were pretty hectic at work the next week. It helped Bob take his mind off Sunday’s game. He tried to give Tarkington five dollars, but Tark wouldn’t take it. Bob felt worse about Tark losing the five dollars than he did about losing the hole to Brewster. He lost holes to Brewster all the time, but letting Tark down was something else. He didn’t have much time to brood about it, though, as he was constantly on the phone to potential customers or driving to their office to show them the product in person. Things were a little tight, and the slowdown in construction certainly wasn’t helping things, but by Friday afternoon, he felt pretty good about the week. He was looking forward to the weekend as he walked down the hallway to turn in his sales numbers to Jennifer, Mr. Beeman’s secretary. Brewster was sitting in Jennifer’s guest chair when Bob walked in, leaning back and regaling her with some wild story. Brewster had a lot of time to talk, and he spent much of it in Jennifer’s office. He’d been with the company longer than any of the other salesman, and had arranged things so the three biggest customers were in his territory. They sent in the same order every month, allowing Brewster to make his quota without breaking a sweat. Bob dropped his numbers in Jennifer’s in-basket. “Why don’t you ask Bob to play?” Brewster said to Jennifer. “He’s quite the golfer.” “Are you?” Jennifer asked hopefully. She seemed genuinely interested in him, but it was hard to tell. She may have just been glad to have an excuse to turn her attention from Brewster. “Mr. Beeman is organizing a golf tournament for charity, and he really wants a good turnout.” Bob had been with the company long enough to know that “Mr. Beeman is organizing” meant Jennifer was doing all the work. He also knew that “he really wants a good turnout” meant it was almost, but not quite, mandatory for all salaried employees, even junior sales managers who depended heavily on commissions. Still, the memory of Sunday’s game festered in the back of his mind. The thought of screwing up like that in front of the whole company was more than he could take. “I, I don’t really play golf very well” he stammered. “Sure you do!” cried Brewster, rising out of the chair and putting his arm around Bob’s shoulder. “He’s just being modest,” he said to Jennifer. “You should have seen the putt he made last Sunday. I’ve never seen anything like it.” He turned back to Bob. “Why don’t you tell Jennifer all about it?” he grinned. “It was an incredibly bad putt,” Bob said to Jennifer. “Brewster’s just going on about it because he won five dollars betting I’d miss it, which I did. Which is exactly why I don’t think you want a duffer like me in your tournament.” Bob turned and walked out of the office, with Brewster’s laugh following him down the hall. Bob didn’t give the tournament another thought until the following Thursday, when Jennifer came to his office. “Are you sure you don’t want to change your mind about the tournament?” she asked. “All the other sales managers have signed up. Mr. Beeman says you don’t have to be a good golfer to play. He says it’s just a friendly little round of golf. And the money is going to a good cause.” She paused for a moment. “I have to turn in the sign-up sheet tomorrow.”

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Bob knew this last sentence meant, “Mr. Beeman doesn’t yet know you haven’t signed up, but tomorrow he’ll see that you’re not a team player.” He also realized for the first time that his not signing up reflected badly on Jennifer, as she was the one organizing the event. As far as he knew, this was the first time the company had ever held a golf tournament. With luck, this wouldn’t be something he’d have to do every year. “All right” he said. “Sign me up.” The following week Jennifer brought him the pairings sheet. He was surprised to see that Mr. Hutchinson, the Chairman of the Board, would be playing. He was even more surprised to see that he was paired in a foursome with Brewster, Mr. Beeman, and Mr. Hutchinson. Jennifer explained. “It turns out Mr. Hutchinson is an avid golfer. He signed up the minute Mr. Beeman told him about our tournament. And then when Mr. Beeman found out you and Mr. Brewster both had three handicaps, just like Mr. Hutchinson, he told me to put the four of you together.” “Who said I had a three handicap?” Bob asked. “Oh.” Jennifer looked flustered. “You weren’t at your desk, so I asked Mr. Brewster. Do I need to change something?” The look on her face showed that the last thing she wanted to do was go back to Mr. Beeman and change the pairings. Bob started to tell her he didn’t have a three handicap, but then he stopped. Getting face time with Mr. Beeman was difficult at best. Brewster was obviously trying to set him up for failure, but maybe he could turn this to his advantage. He didn’t play that much worse than Brewster, and the tournament was still a month away. He could practice. If he could just pick up one or two strokes per hole . . . Hell, he wasted at least that many strokes every hole. Look at the 18th hole the other week. He almost beat Brewster, except for that putting screw-up. All he had to do was practice enough so that he stopped screwing up. Stopped making those rank amateur mistakes. He didn’t need to win the tournament. All he needed to do was not make a fool of himself. Surely he could practice enough in a month to improve that much. And who knew where this could lead? Maybe Mr. Beeman would want to play every week. . . “No, you don’t need to change anything” he told Jennifer. “I just wondered who told you about my handicap.” *** “Sh--!” Bob swore as his ball sliced off into the woods. He hit buckets of balls at the range every night after work. He played 18 holes every Saturday and Sunday. He did sit-ups and push-ups every morning, and he spent his lunch hours reading books on golf. And now the tournament was only a week away, and he still wasn’t getting any better. He slashed away at the dead leaves with a 5-iron, looking for his ball. He found it hiding underneath a dead branch, next to a small bush. Angrily he tossed the branch out of the way and hacked at the ball with his 5-iron. His backswing tangled in the bush and the ball just dribbled a few feet. His next swing slammed the ball into an oak tree, and it bounced back almost to where he was standing. “Calm down. Hold your temper,” he told himself. He forced his breathing to slow down and carefully lined up his shot. “Take your time. Don’t try to kill it. Just an easy iron shot onto the green. Smooth. That’s the key word. Smooth.” He drew back his club as smoothly as he could, cocked his wrists, and swung forward through the ball. Follow-through. Twist body. Right heel off the ground. It felt good, and he was delighted to see his ball arc through the air, out of the woods, and toward the green. It landed right on the edge of the elevated green, right where he’d aimed it. Except, instead of rolling forward onto the green it bounced crazily off to the right and landed in a bunker. “Sh--!” he yelled again. He threw down his club in disgust and raised his arms to the sky. “Can’t the gods of golf take pity on me? Just this once?” “You need more than pity, kid. I’ve seen your swing.”

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Bob spun around to see who had spoken. A medium-sized man in an extraordinary outfit was sitting on a log, calmly smoking a cigarette. He was wearing a long-sleeve white shirt with a tie and a tan vest, brown plus-four trousers, argyle knee socks, and brown and white wing-tip golf shoes. He looked like a caricature of a golfer, except that somehow on him this outfit looked good. A roguish smile creased his deeply tanned face and his jet black hair was slicked straight back. He looked like the devil-may-care uncle your mother never quite trusted, like the president of the fraternity that always had the best parties on campus, like somebody Bob almost recognized. . . “Walter Hagen?!” The words escaped Bob’s lips before he realized how foolish they sounded. “I’m impressed” the man replied. “You’d be surprised at how many people don’t recognize me anymore.” “But what are you doing here?” Bob asked incredulously. “You called upon the gods of golf” Walter replied. “Who’d you expect?” “I, I don’t know” Bob replied, still in shock. “Tiger Woods? Arnold Palmer? I really didn’t expect anybody.” “Those guys are still alive?” Walter said as he stood up. “You can’t be a god while you’re alive.” “Harry Vardon?” asked Bob. “Harry’s got a weak stomach.” Walter said casually. “One look at your swing and he’d be off puking in the weeds. Besides. He’s busy with Tiger.” He dropped his cigarette on the ground and crushed it with his shoe. His face turned serious as he looked at Bob. “Look. Those guys are great at playing the fairways, but you don’t play the fairways. You need someone who knows how to recover from a shot that wanders off where God lost his overshoes. You need me. Now are you going to let me teach you how to play golf or are you going to stand around arguing that you want someone else?” “I, I’m not arguing.” Bob stammered. “I’ve just never met anyone who was . . .” his voice trailed off. “Dead?” asked Walter. “You need to get over that or we’ll never get anywhere. Look here, kiddo. You got yourself in a jam. You’ve got less than a week to learn how to play this game without looking like an idiot in front of your boss. I can’t work miracles, but maybe I can help. Let’s forget this hole and go on to the next. I want to see you drive.” Dazed, Bob followed Walter to the next tee. When they got there, he patted his pocket and then turned back toward the previous green. “Now just where are you going?” Walter asked. “I left my ball in the bunker” Bob replied. “Forget it” Walter told him. He reached in his pocket and tossed a ball to Bob. It was an autographed, Walter Hagen special. “I get them for free. Endorsements.” “Still?” Bob asked. “What can I say? I had a good agent. Now let me see you swing.” Hagen watched Bob’s drive and offered a few suggestions. After his next shot he made a few more suggestions. As the afternoon wore on, however, Walter offered fewer and fewer suggestions. After a while he just watched Bob play, with a puzzled look on his face. He didn’t speak again until after Bob finished the 18th hole. “I’m not certain where to start” Hagen said. “It’s hard to say what you’re doing wrong, because you never swing the same way twice. Sometimes your swing doesn’t look too bad, but I think that’s just a fluke. I’m going to have to think about this for a while. Meet me here tomorrow morning at 8:00.” “But tomorrow’s a Monday” Bob protested.

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“Better still” said Hagen. “We’ll have the place to ourselves.” “I have to work tomorrow” “Can’t you take the day off?” Hagen asked. “I mean, just how important is it to you to do well in this tournament? And I don’t want to sound like I’m bragging, but just how often has someone who won 16 majors offered to give you private lessons? You’re turning that down because you have to work?” “Well, I do have a couple of vacation days coming…” “Tell you what,” said Hagen. “We don’t want to wear you out before the tournament. Take off Monday and Tuesday and we’ll work on your drives and iron shots. The rest of the week you can go to work in the morning and we’ll spend the afternoons working on putting, chipping, and specialty shots.” “It would be easier for me to take the mornings off” Bob suggested. Hagen grinned. “I’m not a morning person. It will be tough enough for me to get up two mornings this week. I don’t have much need for an alarm clock anymore.” *** The next morning, true to his word, Hagen was waiting for Bob in the parking lot. Bob started to get his clubs out of the trunk but Hagen said “Leave ‘em. We’ll use my sticks.” He was carrying a skinny little tube of a golf bag with less than a dozen clubs in it. When they got to the driving range, Walter tossed an antique driver to Bob. It was a “Hagen Arrow” with a beautifully lacquered persimmon head, a hickory shaft, and a skinny handle with leather wrapping for a grip. It looked like a nice museum piece, but not something you’d want to hit a golf ball with. The head was less than half the size of Bob’s “Mighty Mildred XB70” titanium driver. “The trouble with your clubs” Hagen explained “is that they have a sweet spot the size of a grapefruit. As long as you swing those clubs in the same county your ball’s in, it’s going to go straight.” He paused for a moment, remembering Bob’s shots from the day before. “Well, sometimes they’ll go straight. Anyway, you don’t have to have a consistent swing to hit a good ball. That’s great when you’re just messing around, but when the pressure’s on and you get nervous your swing gets erratic. Since your swing wasn’t very consistent to begin with, that spells trouble.” Hagen pulled another club out of his bag. “These babies will let you know if your swing’s off. Swing ‘em right and you can do anything you want with your ball. “Swing ‘em carelessly, and they’ll turn around and bite you. Practice with these and you’ll learn the right way to swing. Then when you play with your clubs, if your swing gets a little loose you’ll still hit a good ball.” Bob nodded enthusiastically. The plan made perfect sense. At least, it made perfect sense until he hit his first ball. It felt like a good swing, but the ball flew off the heel of the club at about a 45-degree angle. The next ball careened off the toe of the club. Bob hit several dozen balls, but even the ones that went straight barely made it past 100 yards. Finally, he handed the club back to Walter. “I think maybe there’s something wrong with this club,” he said. Hagen examined the club carefully. “I don’t see anything wrong,” he said. He teed up a ball and took a smooth, easy swing. The ball sailed past the 300-yard marker. “That’s odd,” he said, as he watched the ball fly. “The club seems to be working fine.” He turned and looked at Bob. “Maybe the problem is with your swing?” he said thoughtfully. “Let’s start with the basics.” They spent the rest of the day working on Bob’s grip, his stance, his backswing – things he hadn’t worried about since his father taught him the game nearly 20 years ago. If he hadn’t been totally humiliated by how effortlessly Hagen had outdrove him, he would have resented spending all this time on things he thought he already knew. Instead, the memory of that drive made him willing to learn. By the end of the day, he couldn’t match Hagen’s drive, but he could consistently hit the ball straight for about 200 yards. He gained an appreciation for Walter’s clubs. They were a bitch to master, but because

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they were so difficult when Bob did hit them right they gave him a sense of satisfaction he’d never gotten from his own clubs. They also made a beautiful “tock” sound when he hit the ball. “Nothing sounds like hickory,” Walter agreed. “Those clubs of yours are impressive works of engineering and they’ll drive the ball a country mile, but they make that God-awful ‘dink’ noise when they do it. It’s like listening to an aluminum baseball bat when you’re used to a real one.” He chuckled. “If you want to get an earful some day, ask the Babe what he thinks about aluminum baseball bats.” “The Babe?” exclaimed Bob. “Do you know Babe Ruth?” “He’s an old friend,” said Hagen as he slid the clubs back into his bag. “Same time tomorrow” he announced. He walked off toward the clubhouse and faded into nothingness as he went. *** When Bob returned to work Wednesday morning his shoulders ached, his arms were sore, and his midriff was tender, but he felt like his game was coming together. The warm glow he felt lasted about 5 minutes, until Brewster strode into his cube and dropped into his guest chair. “What the hell have you been saying to old man Beeman about the golf tournament?” Brewster demanded. “I haven’t said a thing to him” Bob replied. “I’ve been out of the office since last Friday.” “Well somebody’s been filling his head with wild-ass ideas. Now he says we’re going to walk the course instead of using carts.” “That was Mr. Hutchinson’s idea.” Jennifer had walked up behind Brewster and was standing in the doorway. “He wants to make this like a PGA tournament.” “Whatever happened to a friendly little round of golf?” Bob asked. Jennifer ignored the question and looked at her notepad. “I’ve spent the last day and a half trying to get people to volunteer to caddie. Jimmy’s going to carry for you.” “Jimmy the stock boy?” “Only Jimmy we’ve got. Oh, and the clubhouse is booked for a wedding that night, so the cookout has been moved to lunch. You’ll play nine, eat lunch, and then play nine more.” She checked something off on her notepad and walked off. Brewster got up and followed her. Bob tried to imagine what Jimmy would be like as a caddie. He’d spoken to Jimmy a few times in passing, but he really didn’t know him. Jimmy pushed a cart from workstation to workstation in Production, refilling empty parts bins and hauling off the finished products. They called him a stock boy even though he was in his late twenties. On the other hand, he still dressed like a teenager and alternated between staring vacantly into space and grinning at some private joke. Rumor had it he spent most of his weekends getting wasted, but he was always polite and coherent when Bob spoke to him. Bob didn’t think he’d be particularly useful as a caddie, but since he’d never used a caddie before he didn’t think that would matter. *** By Friday afternoon, Walter was letting Bob use his own clubs again as they played 18 holes and discussed strategy on each hole. Walter would tell Bob how he ought to play a shot, and then he’d drop a ball and demonstrate. Bob would try to duplicate Walter’s shot, and then they’d play the next shot from wherever Bob’s ball landed. Most of the time Bob could come pretty close to matching Walter’s shot, and occasionally he even outdrove him. Once, after a particularly successful fairway wood, he felt cocky enough to point this out. “I guess these new clubs really do make a big difference,” he said. “What do you mean?” asked Walter.

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“I mean, by using newer clubs, I’m playing almost as well as you are. I outdrove you by a good twenty yards on that shot.” Without saying a word, Walter dropped another ball, pulled a brassie out of his bag, and sent it sailing down the fairway. It left the other two balls far behind and bounced up the side of the green, dead center on the pin. Bob’s jaw dropped in amazement. “I think you’re on the green.” “I’m better than on the green, kid” Walter replied. “If that’s not in the cup it’s not more than six inches from it. I’ve been setting ‘achievable goals’ for you today. You’re playing a lot better than you did on Sunday, but don’t get any crazy ideas about giving up your day job.” Bob decided to keep quiet and focus on learning as much as he could for the rest of the game. After they finished, Bob asked Walter if he’d care for a drink. He didn’t have to ask twice. They walked into the clubhouse bar, and Walter picked out a table while Bob bought a couple of beers. When he walked back to the table, he was amazed to see a couple of attractive women sitting on either side of Walter. Even on a Friday night, there weren’t many unattached women in the clubhouse bar. He couldn’t imagine how anyone could pick up two within seconds of walking into the place. Walter introduced his new friends as “Sugar” and “Honey.” Bob had already guessed that Walter wasn’t very good at remembering names. He also discovered that Walter had told the women he was Bob’s uncle, a sports writer who had written a couple of books on golf which by a strange coincidence neither one of the girls had ever read. That’s where the con artist ended, however. Back in his college days, Bob had occasionally had the misfortune to go bar hopping with schmoozy lounge lizards that used slick lies to chase anything in skirts. Walter wasn’t like that. He seemed genuinely interested in everyone he met, and he had a gift for keeping the whole table engrossed in conversation. As a matter of fact, he kept them engrossed in conversation throughout dinner at the restaurant they went to after they left the clubhouse, and when they went to a bar after dinner several more men and women joined their crowd. Walter didn’t dominate the conversation, but he was definitely holding court at the center of things. When the conversation turned to golf, he regaled everyone with his anecdotes about the great games and golfers of the past. Impulsively Bob called out “What about Walter Hagen?” “Who?” Walter asked innocently. “Walter Hagen. What was he like?” Bob replied. “Ah yes. Walter Hagen. He was a good golfer. He was a damn good golfer. Probably not the best golfer that ever lived, but he might take issue with that. You see, he was the first touring golf pro. He invented that role, and made it a respected profession. Before Walter, golf pros were looked down upon as the ‘hired hands’ at golf courses. They ran the pro shop, gave lessons, repaired clubs, oh and once in a while the members would give them a few days off to play in a tournament. They were always second-class citizens at these events, though. Even the best, like Harry Vardon, weren’t allowed to join the clubs. Usually they weren’t even allowed inside the clubhouse, and often they weren’t allowed to use the locker rooms. Those were reserved for members only, while the pros had to change clothes in the stables.” “Walter Hagen changed all that. He became the best golfer of his day, quit his job at a golf course, and devoted himself to playing tournaments and exhibition games. He built a larger than life reputation for himself, making certain he was always the best-dressed player on the course and living the elegant lifestyle of the 1920’s sports heroes like Babe Ruth. He went out of his way to draw attention to himself, but always in a way that promoted the idea that a golf pro was a man to be respected, an athlete who truly was the best in his field. When the golf club hosting the British Open refused to let pros enter the clubhouse, Hagen hired a chauffeur-driven Rolls-Royce to park in the club driveway. He used that as his locker room and had catered lunches of pheasant and champagne delivered to the car. Flamboyant yes, but it drew attention to the fact that the world’s best golfers had come from all over to play in the tournament, yet the club wouldn’t let these pros eat in the clubhouse. The final blow came when Hagen

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played golf with Prince Edward at the Royal Saint Something-or-other golf course, and the Prince invited him into the clubhouse for lunch afterward. A waiter actually had the audacity to tell the Prince, the future King of England, that he couldn’t serve them because they didn’t allow ‘professionals’ in their dining room. For once in his life, Hagen was going to leave quietly, as he didn’t want to embarrass the Prince, but the Prince wouldn’t hear of it. He told the waiter that they would be served immediately or the club would drop the word ‘Royal’ from its name. After that, a lot of barriers fell. There are golf superstars today who probably play a better game than Hagen did, but they’d all be changing in the stables if it weren’t for ‘Sir Walter.’” The table grew silent for a moment when Walter finished this story. Then somebody called out “What about Arnold Palmer?” and Walter was off on a new tale. Bob was enjoying the evening so much he was shocked when he looked at his watch and discovered it was almost 3:00 AM. He worked his way through the crowd to tell Walter how late it was, and Walter told him to go home and rest up for the tournament. “Don’t worry about me, kid.” He said. “I’ll find my own way home.” *** “Rise and shine, kiddo. We’ve got golf to play.” Bob shielded his eyes against the blinding sunlight that blasted through the curtains Walter had opened. For a confused moment, he wondered why the sun was shining in the middle of the night. Then he opened one eye enough to peer at his alarm clock and saw it was 8:15 in the morning. He sat up and squinted at Walter. Walter was still wearing the clothes he had on the night before. They looked a little the worse for wear, but Walter himself looked bright and chipper. He was holding a half-finished Bloody Mary in one hand, and offering Bob a full one with the other. Reluctantly Bob took the drink. His stomach roiled at the thought of swallowing anything, but his brain was willing to take the risk if only it would stop the pounding. By the time Bob finished his shower he felt well enough to eat a piece of toast. Walter harassed him a little when he put on shorts and a polo shirt (“Are you playing golf or tennis?”) but mostly he discussed strategy and worked on building Bob’s self-confidence. That made it all the more surprising when, as Bob walked out to his car; Walter stuck out his hand and said “Good luck, kid.” “Aren’t you coming?” Bob asked. “There’s nothing more I can do for you,” Walter answered. “The only person who can give you advice on the course is your caddie.” “Aren’t you even going to watch?” “Oh, I might drop by for a bit, but you won’t see me. Don’t worry kid. You’ll do just fine.” Confused, and feeling a little abandoned, Bob drove to the golf course. Mr. Beeman and Brewster were already there, and Jimmy shuffled up a few minutes later. Mr. Hutchinson arrived just before their tee time. He and Mr. Beeman hit reasonably good drives, and Brewster scorched his drive down the center of the fairway. Then it was Bob’s turn. Jimmy handed him his driver, and as he walked up to the tee, he suddenly realized there were 20 or 30 people watching. Not much of a crowd by PGA standards, but to Bob it seemed as though everyone in the company was staring at him as he teed up his ball. He took a few practice swings and then stepped up to the ball. Suddenly, he was filled with doubt. “Do I inhale, exhale, or hold my breath while I swing?” he thought. After years of playing golf and an intense week of practice, he couldn’t remember how to breathe during a swing. He couldn’t even remember thinking about it before. Somehow, it always came natural in the past, but nothing seemed natural now. He finally decided to inhale just before his backswing, and then hold his breath. He took a deep breath and hacked at the ball. A hook?! He never hooked a shot in his life, but this one started to the right and then took a sharp turn to the left. THWACK! It struck an oak tree off the left hand edge of the fairway, but then it miraculously bounced back to the right and came to rest in some ankle-high grass just off the edge of the

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fairway. Jimmy took the club from his hand and stuck it back in the bag as Bob stood staring at the tree. Then they both trudged off toward the ball. With the opening drive behind him, Bob settled down and began to play decent golf. It soon became apparent that many years had passed since Mr. Beeman and Mr. Hutchinson had earned their three handicaps. Their game was OK, but the real contest was between Bob and Brewster. Bob was playing the best golf of his life, but unfortunately, Brewster was having an exceptional day too. They played neck and neck, with neither one ever-gaining more than a one-stroke lead over the other. Bob was pleasantly surprised to discover that Jimmy made an excellent caddie. He didn’t talk much, but occasionally he’d suggest a club or offer advice on how to play a shot. Early in the game, when Bob asked for his five iron, Jimmy suggested a seven might work better. Bob said he thought the five would be fine, and Jimmy just shrugged and handed it to him. Bob promptly hit the ball over the green and into a small grove of trees behind the hole. After that, Bob paid more attention to Jimmy’s suggestions. Brewster was also on his best behavior and didn’t do anything even mildly irritating, until the seventh hole. Bob had to sink a fairly long putt for par, but as he studied the green, he realized it was a dead straight shot. “Five bucks says he misses it.” Brewster said to no one in particular. Mr. Beeman looked shocked, but before he could say anything Jimmy spoke up. “I’ll take that,” he said in a matter-of-fact voice. Bob gave them both a withering look and they shut up. He carefully lined up the putt and confidently stroked it. It looked great at the start, but then the ball slowed down as though it was rolling through molasses. It finally ground to a halt just before it reached the cup. Bob tapped it in and Jimmy handed Brewster a five-dollar bill. On the eighth, Bob pulled his approach shot and wound up in a nasty greenside bunker. He knew it would be tough to lift his ball over the edge of the bunker, and tougher still to get it to roll close to the hole when it landed. While he was checking out the green, Jimmy spoke to Brewster. “I’d like a chance to win back my five-spot.” “What’d you have in mind?” “Five bucks says he’s up and down in two.” “Ten bucks.” Jimmy nodded in agreement as Bob stepped down into the bunker. His shot cleared the edge with room to spare, but it stopped dead when it landed on the green. That left him with a long putt across a sloping green. After careful study, he chose his aiming point and stroked the putt. The ball arced gracefully into the cup. Brewster rolled his eyes in amazement and handed $10 to Jimmy. Jimmy looked up at Bob and grinned as he pocketed the money. Bob realized it was the first time all day he’d seen Jimmy smile. It wasn’t Jimmy’s usual vacant grin, though. This was a captivating, mischievous smile. It looked strangely familiar. Bob’s drive on the ninth took him to within a medium iron shot of the green. He and Jimmy stood side by side and surveyed the shot. “Mashie” Bob announced. Jimmy reached into the bag and handed Bob a five iron. Bob finished the front nine tied with Brewster for the lead. He brooded as they walked back to the clubhouse, and Jimmy seemed to understand his need to be alone with his thoughts. They picked a table away from the crowd and ate in silence. When they finished Jimmy stared off across the room, apparently lost in a daydream. Bob noticed that Jimmy’s seemingly vacant stare just happened to be in the direction of Miriam, the femme fatale of Marketing. “Walter?” Bob said quietly.

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“Yeah kid?” Jimmy turned around and looked at Bob expectantly. Then he smiled sheepishly when he realized what he’d done. “How’d you know?” he asked. “You knew what a mashie was.” Bob kept his voice low so no one else could hear. “What the hell are you doing in Jimmy’s body?” “I’m just borrowing his brain for a couple of hours,” Walter answered. “It’s not like he was using it for anything. The only person who’s allowed to help you is your caddie, so it just made sense for me to be your caddie.” “You said my caddie was the only one who could give me advice. Now you say you’re helping me?” “Well, OK. Technically I can only give you advice.” “Technically? Have you done anything besides give me advice?” Walter hesitated before answering. “You’re playing great kid. All you’ve needed is advice. Except for that first drive. The one that went into the trees. I may have sort of wished that one back out of the woods.” “That’s cheating!” Bob hissed indignantly. “It would have been an unplayable lie. You’d have had to take a one-stroke penalty to move it away from the tree. Except that, it would have been more than one stroke, because it would have destroyed your confidence and you’d have played lousy for the rest of the day. I figured I could save you a stroke there, boost your confidence, and make it up later. It will all come out even in the end.” “Now what do I do?” Bob asked, putting his hands on either side of his head. “I’ve got to report this. I can’t win by cheating.” “Christ!” said Walter. “You’re worse than Bobby Jones. Always wanting to call a penalty on himself, Bobby was. I promise you it will all come out even in the end. Besides, how are you going to report this? Are you going to tell your boss that the ghost of Walter Hagen pulled your ball out of the trees?” Bob stared at Walter in silence. Walter continued speaking. “What did you expect when you asked the gods of golf to take pity on you? That they’d take pity, but not affect your game? No. You wanted them to give you the breaks. You wanted them to alter your shots, to save you from the consequences of your bad strokes. You just didn’t want to know about it. Well, I gave you a lucky break. It was exactly what you asked for.” He pulled a pack of cigarettes from his shirt pocket. “You can’t smoke in here.” Bob said flatly. “I can’t smoke in a clubhouse?” Walter asked in amazement. “Hell. I almost liked it better when we ate in the stables.” He stood up in disgust and walked outside. Bob sat fuming at the table. What really made him mad was the knowledge that Walter was right. A week ago, when his game was lousy, he was asking for a lucky break, asking for someone to save him from his mistakes. Walter had done much more than that. He’d spent a week teaching Bob how to avoid making mistakes in the first place. He’d taught Bob how to play golf. And in return, Bob had jumped down his throat for giving him the lucky break he’d asked for. But that didn’t make it right. Walter may have just been doing what Bob had asked him to do, but Bob couldn’t just ignore the fact that he hadn’t earned the score he’d reported for the first hole. He sat and thought for a long time before he headed back to the course. Outside, he found Walter sitting at a picnic table with Jennifer. He was surprised to hear Jennifer laugh. She had a reputation of being the “ice queen” in the office, but Walter seemed to be getting along famously with her. When Walter saw Bob he excused himself, picked up Bob’s golf bag, and walked over to join him. “Are you coming on to Jennifer?” Bob asked. “You’re only here for a short while, kid.” Walter replied. “You’ve got to make time to smell the roses along the way.”

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“What’s she going to think when the real Jimmy comes back?” Walter stopped walking, and looked Bob directly in the eye. “Don’t sell Jimmy short. People tend to live up or down to your expectations. Everybody treats Jimmy like a kid, so that’s how he acts. That doesn’t mean he likes it. Treat him with a little respect, and you just might be surprised at the change in him. Everyone deserves a little respect.” Bob was suddenly reminded of Walter’s story from the night before. “Even golf pros?” he asked with a smile. Walter returned the smile. “Damn right” he said as he started walking again. “Do you know why Jimmy volunteered to carry your clubs? Because you’re the only one in the office who doesn’t treat him like a kid. He respects you.” Bob was taken aback. He probably hadn’t spoken more than a dozen words to Jimmy in the past year. He certainly hadn’t gone out of his way to talk to Jimmy, and he wasn’t aware that he’d treated him any differently than anybody else. Whatever they’d talked about, it hadn’t made an impression on Bob. But apparently it had made an impression on Jimmy. It made Bob wonder how badly the rest of the people in the office must be treating Jimmy. Walter interrupted his thoughts as they approached the tenth tee. “Don’t start brooding about it. We have a tournament to finish. You need to get your head back in the game.” The back nine played out much like the front nine. Brewster and Bob traded the lead, while the others fell further behind. They finished the 16th hole in a tie. The 17th was a narrow par five with a lake off to the right and a grove of trees along the left border. Bob looked at the lake, and shifted his stance to the left. THWACK! Bob’s drive struck a tree and dropped down into the bushes. “I guess that makes up for my good luck on the first hole” he said to no one in particular. He strode off toward the trees with Walter following while the others followed Brewster’s ball down the middle of the fairway. “Did you do that on purpose?” Walter asked as soon as they were out of earshot. “Damn right I did.” Bob replied. “And I two-putted the last hole to make up for that shenanigan you pulled on the 8th.” “What shenanigan?” Walter demanded. “Up and down in two.” Bob answered. “I’ve never made a putt like that in my life.” “That’s great.” Walter said. “Very noble. The only trouble is I already took back that stroke I gave you on the first.” “What? When?” Bob demanded. “That putt that came up short on the 7th. You stroked it just right, but I stopped it. I told you everything would come out even in the end, but you didn’t believe me.” “But you lost five bucks on that putt!” Walter chuckled. “Actually, Jimmy lost five bucks on that putt. And anyway, I won it back for him on the 8th. But I swear I didn’t do anything on that hole. You got out of that bunker and made that putt all by yourself. I swear on Gene Sarazen’s bible.” Bob looked Walter in the eye and realized he believed him. “So now what do we do?” “Now we get out of these woods and beat that grinning bastard named Brewster.” Walter replied. “You’ve given up three strokes to atone for that one stroke I saved you on the first hole, so I think you can stop worrying about playing fair and start playing golf!”

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This proved to be easier said than done. The ball truly was unplayable, so Bob had to take a penalty stroke to move it to a playable position. Even then, there were too many trees in the way to try for the green, so the best Bob could do was to burn another stroke chipping out to the fairway. He played well from there, but finished the hole down two strokes to Brewster. Bob earned one stroke back on the 18th, when a blistering drive let him birdie the hole, but it wasn’t enough. Brewster dropped his putt for par and won the tournament. Bob shook his hand and congratulated him, and then looked at Jimmy. Jimmy stared back blankly, with the confused look of someone who doesn’t quite know where he is or how he got there. It wasn’t an unusual look for Jimmy, but Bob felt as though he’d just lost his best friend. *** After the match, Bob shared a couple of beers with Jimmy in the clubhouse. They talked about football, and Bob was surprised to learn that Jimmy had missed the last couple of Monday night games because he was going to night school to earn his GED. After that, he planned to attend a local community college to learn how to repair computers. Bob realized Walter had been right about Jimmy. There was more to him than met the eye. Jimmy’s attention wandered to a ball game playing on the TV over the bar, which gave Bob time to think. He really wasn’t upset over losing the tournament. For one thing, he knew he could have beaten Brewster by at least one stroke if he hadn’t intentionally two-putted the 16th and driven into the trees on the 17th. He also knew that Brewster had played the best game of his life, and Bob felt like he was just starting to get the hang of this game. He had no doubt that he’d continue to get better. Their Sunday afternoon games were going to get a little more interesting. He was also pleasantly surprised at how restrained Brewster had been when Mr. Beeman had handed him the trophy for winning the tournament. He thanked Mr. Beeman, thanked everyone who had worked so hard to put the tournament together, and even complimented Bob for having given him such stiff competition. Of course, that was while Mr. Beeman was still in the room. Now that Mr. Beeman had gone home and Brewster had a couple of beers in him, he was starting to crow about his victory. Now he was challenging everyone in the bar to a round of golf. Bob winced when he saw that Brewster was walking over to his table. “What do you say, Bobby boy? There’s still plenty of daylight left. Care for a rematch? Ten bucks a hole?” Brewster swayed a little as he spoke. Maybe he’d had more beers than Bob thought. “Not today, I’m afraid.” Bob answered. “I’ve had enough golf for one day. I was up late last night. I think I’ll just go back to the house and relax.” Brewster gave Bob a patronizing smile and shrugged his shoulders. He was starting to turn away when Jimmy spoke up. “I’ll play golf with you, Mr. Brewster.” Brewster raised his eyebrows in surprise. “Do you even know how to play golf, Jimmy?” “Sure I do” Jimmy answered. “My dad taught me. And anyway, I watched you guys play today. It didn’t look that hard.” Brewster hesitated for a moment, and then patted Jimmy on the shoulder. “Some other time, Jimmy. I think you need to practice a bit before you play me.” “I understand, Mr. Brewster.” Jimmy turned back toward the TV. “I’m up five bucks on you already, and you don’t want to lose any more money.” This was like waving a red flag at a bull. The smile vanished from Brewster’s face and he stared intently at Jimmy. “All right Jimmy. You’re on. Just remember that this was your idea.” “I’ve got my dad’s clubs out in the car,” Jimmy said. “I’ll get them and meet you out at... at the place where we start playing.” “The first tee?” Brewster asked. “Right. The first tee.”

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Brewster shook his head and walked out the door to get his clubs. Jimmy looked at Bob and gave him a conspiratorial grin. “Walter?” Bob said. “Don’t worry kid.” Walter answered. “I’m just going to earn a little respect for Jimmy. A little respect and a few bucks for his wallet.” “No funny business” Bob warned. “Of course not” Walter replied. “Just a friendly little round of golf. And don’t worry. I won’t beat him too badly.” He finished his beer and stood up. Then he leaned over and whispered to Bob. “If I beat him too badly, he won’t double his bet.” Whistling, he walked out the door. Bob sat back and sipped his beer. A few minutes later Tarkington came in. “You wouldn’t believe the clubs Jimmy has,” he said. “They must be at least a hundred years old! They’ve got wooden shafts, Bob. Wooden shafts!” He shook his head sadly. “Brewster’s gonna cream him!” Bob shrugged his shoulders. “Some people just have to learn things the hard way.” He finished his beer and stood up. “I really am tired. I think I’ll call it a day.” As he walked out the door, he decided to stop at a few antique stores on his way home. Maybe he could pick up a set of practice clubs. Walking across the parking lot, he heard the familiar “thwack” of a golf ball striking a tree. This time it was followed by the sound of Jimmy’s voice. “Gee Mr. Brewster. That’s too bad. You’re in the rough.”

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Title: “Doors of Insanity� / Artist: James Maskrey

... You'd sure think me addled, Believe my mind is bent...

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A Roundelay of Golf by G.C. Smith Surely my brain is scrambled Yup, for sure it's rent Because I've gambled Without a single cent For that reason I scrambled And won so was content Because I've gambled Without a single cent You'd sure think me addled Believe my mind is bent For that reason I scrambled And won so was content You'd sure think me addled Believe my mind is bent Yes, of course I must be nuts Of that there can be no buts For that reason I scrambled And won so was content

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Title: “Abandoned Playground 1� / Artist: Jorge Vicente

... We learn to play games early on, afternoons spent huddled around the bright cardboard and slick dice and rickety spinners of childhood...

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Rules of the Game by Matt Ferrence I. Rule 18-2, b: If a player’s ball in play moves after he has addressed it (other than as a result of a stroke), the player is deemed to have moved the ball and incurs a penalty of one stroke. USGA Rules of Golf Another shot offline, fluttering left of the 18th green before disappearing into a thicket of low trees and ground-level plants. A better miss, maybe, than the rest of the day, when I fought weak fades and ugly slices, when I rummaged in woodpiles and ducked under low-hanging braches to pitch out sideways, backwards, sometimes into more trouble. But still, it was a miss, and I faced another tough shot just to salvage bogey on a hole than shouldn’t have proven difficult. This time, I trudged into the undergrowth to find my ball lying atop a patch of heavy-lobed sedum plants, a thick succulent the locals call Cat’s Claw. On the green, my playing partners attended to their own shots. They paced the surface, bent over to hunt the break, waited for me to hack my way free. It wouldn’t be easy, since my ball seemed to hang in the air, suspended by the strength of the sedum. The position would make contact difficult, would change the way I had to bring the club head through the strike. Still, I had a clear shot, a forty-yard pitch to the large, undulated green. No amount of heroism would salvage this round, though, the worst I’d suffered in a week of one-day tune-up tournaments. While Germany and France, my home, endured the damp gray of February, the tour had come to coastal Spain for respite and—for those playing well—a jumpstart on the season. That first week, we switched off between two Valencia courses, inland El Bosque and coastal El Saler, where the salt air of the Mediterranean favored the kind of stubby trees that surrounded my ball. The next day, we’d all head down the Spanish coast to the first official tournament of the season, where money and ranking points would be on the line. There at El Saler, I had only to finish this last hole to end a week of heavy rain and heavy misses. Intended as a way to twist our winter games back into shape, for me Valencia had led only to a poor, misshapen golf swing, eroded confidence, and at that moment, another recovery shot from the jing. I settled in beside the ball, thinking about a miracle save, a high-lofted pitch that would arc toward the sea, then plunk softly near the hole. It would be something, I reasoned, a small moment to build on. I’d opened the week with a poor 82 that, at the time, I’d hoped would be a low point. Instead, it had proven to be my pinnacle of achievement, as each new round brought new ways to screw up, brought horrible hacks and gags, lost balls, lip-outs, three-putts, shanks, a litany of rank and putrid golf best left to weekend amateurs and purely embarrassing for a supposed professional. Up and down for 95, I thought, jiggling the club behind the ball. I was a good twenty strokes behind the final money-earning position, even if I properly executed the shot I imagined. Focus, too, had been a problem that week. And in the sedum, my mind fluttered just as my shot had, conjuring a conversation I’d had with another pro before leaving for Spain. I’d been working with him on my swing, trying to find a new, more reliable way to move the ball. At times, the work seemed worthwhile, when I found authority in my shots and, better, found a way to curve the ball left, always my weak point. We’d chatted about competition, too, how saving strokes in bad rounds can make the difference between making money and not. Better to shoot 74 than 75, he told me, even 80 rather than 81. Grind it out, he said, find a way to save strokes even when things are going poorly. I joked that 89 would be better than 90, following the line of conversation, and he laughed. Go for the big score then, he said, really meaning: what idiot would shoot 89, even on a third level circuit like the EPD Tour?

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I wished I was not that idiot, of course, that I’d found the will to salvage bogies, avoid doubles, that I’d kept my head in the game, that I could execute the swing we’d been working on all winter, or developed a back-up swing to bunt the ball into play when my real one failed. None of that would have helped at the 18th, however, as I shuffled into the sedum and watched my ball roll forward an inch, maybe two, in the moment before I drew my club away. My round had begun as a gathering at the first tee, where the two Dutchmen slated to play El Saler with me mingled with a few other players—European pros, all—and the bearded official starter. El Saler starts here with a straightforward opening hole, a slight dogleg that begins with a drive to a wide fairway flanked by low trees, then a straight second shot to a gently sloped green. There’s mercy in the first hole, since it offers soft entry into a course that, later, toughens. As the others chatted, catching up after a winter away, I hung back and watched the group ahead hurry down the fairway and sling their second shots toward the green. Each ball carved straight to the pin, the kind of unwavering trajectory that shows both confidence and mastery. I did not feel such confidence on the first tee, even when the other pros included me in the idle chat. I worried about the shape of my own drive, and the likelihood that I’d flub the second shot in atrocious fashion. The starter, perhaps sensing my unease and seeking to distract a mind racing toward disaster, asked about my grips, burnt-orange wraps that appear from a distance like leather. An old-school look, which he admired, and which the other players agreed looked sharp. Within the banality of the conversation lay acceptance, shoptalk among fellow craftsmen that included me in the fold. Still, I felt outside of them all, separated in part by nationality—one of only two North Americans in the field—but mostly by skill. They trusted their swings, or had at some point learned to pretend. I didn’t, and I figured everyone knew it. I’d come to the tour on a whim, or what felt that way to me. My wife and I had moved the fall before to Paris, where I spent my time reading mystery novels and revising a jumbled book manuscript, and where I decided that, with nothing better to do, I might as well become a professional golfer. I’d turned into a moderately successful club player while living in Arizona, one of the best at my golf course, but a head-case who tended to choke under the pressure of regional tournaments. Still, I had decided to dedicate myself to my swing, to chop away the rough parts and through physical mastery somehow find mental quiet. It worked, more or less, driving my handicap down so that, once we moved to France, I could shoot near par every day at my adopted home course. So I traveled to Germany in September and finished dead last—not counting those who were disqualified—in tour school. Undaunted, I practiced through the winter, paid my fees, and came to Spain for the Winter Series, determined to prove myself worthy, but convinced after two days of poor play that I was a fraud. When the starter called my name, introducing me as “professional from the United States M.J. Ferrence,” my stomach lurched. I leaned to plug my tee in the ground and hoped only for contact, to somehow knock the ball forward. I did, striking it well enough to find the middle of the fairway some thirty yards behind my fellow competitors. Relief eluded me, though. I stood over my second shot and squeezed hard on my grip, scared. A six-iron, a simple six-iron to the green. I’d used the same club two days ago, on this very hole, and smothered the ball into the ground, advancing it barely ten yards. Just a six-iron, but also a club that had been giving me fits, had produced some kind of mental block. Thus, I stubbed weakly at the ball and watched it shoot right, twenty yards off-line and straight for the woods, likely lost. I declared a provisional ball in accordance with the rules, though hoping I might find the first, and dropped a new one to the turf. I stood in again, taking my stance with the hated six-iron and drew back. As I shifted my weight into the forward swing, drove my hips toward the target and felt my arms change direction, one of my playing partners shouted—stop!—a physical impossibility that I nonetheless attempted. My ball dove again to the right, toward the woods. He’d meant no harm, I think, instead had attempted to prevent trouble. His fellow countryman, for reasons I’ve never understood, had decided to play his own approach shot as I stepped into my ball,

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even when it was clearly my turn. The yeller had seen the simultaneous address of two golfers and sought to keep one from screwing up the other. In the end, only I screwed up. The other golfer had not yet begun his downswing, was able to step away and, on his second chance, knock the ball on the green. The yeller, the best player of the threesome, knocked his short iron onto the green as well. I trudged alone toward the woods, muttering, annoyed, beaten already. II. Rule 1-3. Agreement to Waive Rules. Players must not agree to exclude the operation of any Rule or to waive any penalty incurred. USGA Rules of Golf In November, the highlands of Southern Arizona are a fine place for golf, when daytime temperatures reach the lower 60s and the skies are clear. But nights are cold, as warm air seeps away from the desert and flies spaceward. Morning frost delays are common that time of year, and golfers must wait in the clubhouse while ice melts from the greens. At Turquoise Valley Golf Course, a local track situated just a good tee shot from Mexico, November also marks the beginning of the busy season. On frost delay mornings, the retirees who winter in the course’s RV park gather with the locals outside the proshop, sipping coffee and complaining about the wait. Frequently, someone mentions how much warmer it is a mile up the road, or walks out to the practice green and returns to report that it, at least, is ice-free. Still, they wait, tethered until the course superintendent confirms that each green has thawed enough to prevent damage. Then, the first lucky group motors down the fairway, leaving behind a cluster of anxious men. The course is slow on these days, packed to the brim until mid-afternoon. Even then, the tail end of the morning’s play lingers on the back nine, road blocking late-day golfers who hope to scurry quickly around the course before the sun slips behind the mountains at five or six. These are short golfing days, only eight hours or so between the end of the frost and the beginning of twilight. Still, in a season when much of America suffers snow and cold, and when even the bleak Southwest begins to feel a little deader, the green of a golf course offers a fine escape. Among the men playing most mornings, Turquoise Valley’s resident pro sticks out. A professional baseball player in his youth, even in his 70’s he’s maintained the leanness of an athlete. Retired from a job coaching ball and teaching P.E. at the local community college, he turned pro and latched on to Turquoise Valley. They don’t pay him, other than with free golf, and he doesn’t work for them, other than by being available for lessons. Mostly, he plays golf, usually with his son, a lanky forty-something who used to be a hotshot local junior player. They ride the course in an old golf cart, a refurbished jalopy from the 1970s, stylish in a retro way. They often team-up for club events, and they often win. And this stirs anger in the other members. Mostly, they don’t trust the handicap of the son, a long-hitter capable of shooting terrific scores. He inconveniently carries the reputation of sandbagger at Turquoise Valley, despite his father’s constant defense. Following a sequence of timely golf brilliance in the previous spring, the grumbles and innuendo of his critics turned to indignation. The other players took issue with a magical 74, a fine round that appeared on the suspect’s scoring record and then, mysteriously, vanished. Good enough for a win, they said of the score, but too good to post for handicap. Understanding this kind of potential problem, the golf organizations that oversee handicapping carefully monitor the standard deviation of individual golfer’s scores. When an atypically good or dismally bad round appears, the system takes note. When those anomalies coincide with tournaments, the system gets angry. When a pattern of extraordinary tournament golf emerges, the system gets even, automatically lowering the suspect golfer’s handicap and emblazing it with a scarlet R, standing for “reduced.” The 74 revealed such a pattern, and the handicapping computer automatically applied the R.

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For the pro, this visible stain could not be accepted. Publicly, he claimed the 74 was inaccurate, that his son had picked up his ball on holes he’d been butchering—a common occurrence in two-man best ball matches like the tournament in question—and that his son’s fellow competitors had penciled in scores that did not reflect his likely final tally. They did it to be nice, the pro said. But it resulted in the 74, and the reduced handicap. So the pro logged in to the system and removed the score, thereby tearing the R free. I played often with the pro and his son in the year following the controversy. And it was through them that, for the first time in ten years of golf, I learned about cheating or, in more generous terms, taking advantage. In part, I learned from listening to their complaints, as both considered the golf course a den of thieves prone to seeding the course with golf balls. Want to never lose a ball, they told me often, play a Top-Flite. Both felt cheated by opponents who sliced shots into the desert, but who impossibly found a ball of the same brand in a convenient spot. As a cheap, and therefore popular golf ball, Top-Flites proved easiest for such deception, they said. But I learned more from playing with them, and most of all from the handicap negotiations on the first tee. I don’t remember ever winning money playing matches against the two, but I do remember the careful subtraction of strokes from my allotment. I played even against the son most every time— meaning I received no strokes at all—even when his handicap was typically two or three shots better than my own. Nonetheless, the pro himself considered the rules as sacrosanct, at least publicly. He wrote an occasional column for the local newspaper, where he sometimes ranted against the players who took advantage of others by grace of ill-earned handicaps. And on a day following a tense encounter with the course’s tournament director—the man most responsible for the scarlet R having been applied—the pro addressed a group of golf students at the local community college with a lengthy decree against the evils of sandbagging. In November, months after the question of the 74 and a dozen trips into my wallet after matches, the son’s handicap settled in at 1, a marker of fine achievement and better, even, than his father’s. Also in November, that handicap moved, and far more quickly than typical. Over the course of two weeks—the period of time between official revisions of handicap indexes—his game worsened from a 1 to a 13, from brilliant to mediocre, from shooting near par to shooting in the mid-80s. In a time of year that presents a crowded golf course, slow rounds, and waning daylight, the handicap computer showed the son often playing two or three rounds a day, each score between 84 and 91. Twenty rounds in fourteen days, enough to push away the good scores and leave only the poor for handicap calculation. I learned to play golf from reading an Arnold Palmer book over and over again. I remember snippets from that book, particularly a section on how to hit a high flop shot over a tall tree—something I practiced often in my parents’ backyard. I remember, also, a general sentiment of honor, that Palmer himself seemed surrounded by an aura of propriety. Play fairly, don’t throw clubs, don’t ever cheat. These seemed like the foundations of the game, and seemed also to be messages repeated by the game’s most famous. In high school, a friend and I took a golf class at the local university, where a squat P.E. teacher, and former ladies tour pro, showed us the basics. I remember the pleasure I felt after sinking a few putts during a drill, much to the annoyance of a fellow classmate who wondered aloud if I was Arnold Palmer’s grandson. I remember my friend earning suspicion from the teacher when he first took divots out of the artificial turf practice pads we used to hit plastic balls in the gymnasium and, later, when we first ventured to the football fields to hit real balls. His face carried the frightened look of a child when he somehow broke the head off his borrowed golf club in the simple act of taking a practice swing. And I remember sitting in a darkened room watching an old film on golf etiquette, which made a point of explaining the rules and how crucial they were to the game.

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From the beginning, then, I always tried to play as the rulebook demanded: not rolling the ball over to improve my lie, levying the proper penalty strokes when I hit out of bounds, carefully marking my ball on the putting green. Later in life, grown and supposedly aware of the grayness of general ethics, I was nonetheless surprised to witness the way professionals worked the rules. In Arizona, before a professional event, I rode along with the superintendent while he painted a white out of bounds line around the entire perimeter of the course, redundantly marking what was already designated by permanent white stakes. It’s gotta be clear, he told me, or these pros will argue all day about a borderline case. In Spain, the week after El Saler and El Bosque, I saw a fellow professional make such an argument, belligerently demanding that he be able to move his ball on the green to avoid putting through a small section of bad turf. He pushed until the official on hand threatened to penalize him for unsportsmanlike conduct, even though nothing within the rules of golf gave the player a right to a free drop. Worth the effort, I imagine he’d decided. If he could earn the drop through aggression, if not through the actual interpretation of rules, he could save himself a stroke. III. Rule 1-1. General: The Game of Golf consists of playing a ball with a club from the teeing ground into the hole by a stroke or successive strokes in accordance with the Rules. USGA Rules of Golf I’ve spent many afternoons playing with casual golfers who take a casual attitude toward the finite guidelines of the game. Guys roll the ball over in the rough to get better lies, or take an occasional mulligan, or rake a still-moving putt into the hole after a short whiff on the green. But while technically violations, each of these actions seems innocent to me. Purists—sticklers, really—rage against such activity, against the weekend players who they feel somehow erode the foundations of the game by refusing to adhere to the strictures of the rulebook. Just as bad to the rules-mongers are the ignorant breeches, the poorly placed drop after an out-of-bounds shot, the misapplication of the Byzantine water hazard guidelines, the inadvertent failure to declare an extra tee ball as provisional. These rules are explained in detail in two volumes: the relatively slender Rules of Golf and the six hundred-plus page tome Decisions on the Rules of Golf. For the stickler, ignorance of these pages is ignorance of the game itself. I disagree, partly because of the volume of material involved, and mostly because the average golfer plays for reasons different than the rules imply. The rules repeatedly refer to conditions of competition, to fellow competitors and opponents, to the committee in charge of the competition, in general to a type of game that assumes players are competing for a tangible prize. The rules are less a guideline for the activity of striking a golf ball with a club than they are the specific tenets of a well-organized and serious competitive event. For the mass of average golfers out there, who come to the course to spend a few bucks and four hours playing a game with friends, exact adherence to the rules comes across as a bit too serious for the occasion, like pulling out the official rules of badminton at a backyard barbeque. The rules matter, of course, and I must admit to knowing them fairly well, even to carrying a copy in my golf bag every time I play. This, for the weekend golfer, could be construed as the ultimate act of priggishness. But just as the strict application of the rules seems unjust for casual rounds, failure to do so becomes a violation in actual competition. In tournaments, whether professional or amateur, the rules are the only mechanism to guarantee common conditions of play. And each golfer must understand them well, since an event that includes a hundred players will probably have only one or two rules officials on-site. The golfers themselves make most of the interpretations, in accordance with their fellow competitors—a term defined in the rules as “any person with whom the competitor plays,” “competitor” itself defined elsewhere, along with many other common words that become more serious in application to golf. These rules are precise in language, carefully worded to avoid misinterpretation, clumsy and artless like a legal contract.

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Of the insults an average golfer can receive, “sandbagger” likely marks the most common and, if seriously applied, the worst. For the amateur who enjoys friendly matches, golf’s system of handicapping evens the field for players of different abilities. Based on a complex mathematical system, and intended to determine the “potential” ability of each player, the handicap adjusts scores to offer weaker players a chance against better ones. But the system can be manipulated, since each golfer is responsible for turning in his or her own scores for calculation. Sandbaggers don’t turn in the right scores, usually opting to post bad rounds in an effort to appear weaker on paper. Then, when handicap negotiations appear before the match, the sandbagger already has the upper hand. The less logical sandbagger posts only low scores, in an effort to carry a low-digit handicap that makes him appear better than reality. Pure vanity, and generally a crime only against self. Sandbagging itself is a dark art, achieved in many ways, some graceful and cunning, others crude and obvious. The easiest method, perhaps, is to conveniently forget or ignore those days when the golfing goes well. In variation, some golfers reason away the good rounds, argue that course conditions or the style of play rendered the score invalid. While a weak defense, such practice is defended in the handicapping guidelines, which stipulate that only rounds played according to the Rules of Golf may be submitted for the calculation of handicaps. In a sense, the broader cheating of sandbagging may be sanctioned by the action of minor cheating. Craftier sandbaggers choose to manipulate their play, instead of their posting. They find ways to tank rounds of golf late, after matches are won, so that bad scores are actually shot and therefore “honestly” posted. They learn how to three-putt from close range on a day when every other putt has gone in, learn how to fan a drive out of bounds when every other drive has been down the middle, learn how to land an approach shot in a bunker when their iron play has otherwise been superb. Some sandbaggers merely post random scores—the most brazen and least clever method—punching numbers into the handicap computer with intent only to change their official indexes, each number bearing no relation to actual rounds of golf. We learn to play games early on, afternoons spent huddled around the bright cardboard and slick dice and rickety spinners of childhood. We learn the rules, also, in these early stages, even as they sometimes adopt creative house variations, minor alterations that only apply in one basement, but that apply strictly and forever. Children take the rules seriously, and they balk and suffer if ever accused of violation, even in jest. Yet at the same time, children quickly learn to ignore rules, test the limits of adult playmates when a game goes badly, sometimes even just to make a winning occasion more so. I wonder what urges strike in the early years, why the imposition of rules seems both intoxicating and restrictive. It is as if children recognize the construction of the rules as unnatural, as if they see how the world itself changes the rules to fit its own unknowable purposes. Why not, then, in a game? Yet that is also the attraction of the rules, that we can control the path toward outcome. Rules govern the ungovernable, apply boundaries to the chaos that might otherwise unfold. IV. The Spirit of the Game: Unlike many sports, golf is played, for the most part, without the supervision of a referee or umpire. The game relies on the integrity of the individual to show consideration for other players and to abide by the Rules. All players should conduct themselves in a disciplined manner, demonstrating courtesy and sportsmanship at all times, irrespective of how competitive they may be. This is the spirit of the game of golf. USGA Rules of Golf Arnold Palmer. 1958. The Masters. On the 155-yard, par 3 12th, Palmer hit a ball that plugged in its own pitchmark beyond the green. Though the current rules of golf are clear and fair on this situation—the

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player may remove the ball from the indentation, clean the ball, and drop it back into play—in 1958 that rule was not generally in effect. Instead, it was considered a local rule, up to each competition committee. At the Masters, a nearby rules official errantly told Palmer he would have to play the ball as it lay, from the pitchmark. Palmer disagreed, and therefore played out of the pitchmark and made double, then dropped a second ball, chipped close and made par. Ken Venturi, playing with Palmer, disagreed with the process, claiming to this day that Palmer never announced his intention to play a second ball, the practice the rules demand when a player is unsure of the proper interpretation. In such a case, the committee in charge of the competition decides which of the two balls was played according to the rules, thereby validating the score made with that ball. Palmer argues that he followed the rules of the game back in 1958. The committee agreed, later accepting the score made with the second ball, and Palmer went on to win the tournament—his first major—by one, jumpstarting a career that included seven major wins and more personal respect than perhaps any other golfer. Vijay Singh. 1985. Indonesian Open. Then 22 and at the beginning of his career, Singh was accused of changing his scorecard after the second round of the golf tournament. Though evidence has always been unclear, someone claimed he lowered the score of a hole so he would make the cut and qualify to play on the weekend, where money is made. Whether guilty or not, Singh was ultimately suspended from the Asian Tour, where he then played. He went into exile as a club-pro, beat thousands of golf balls a day to hone his swing, and returned a few years later to top-level golf. In 2000, when he won the Master’s for his second career major victory, the cheating allegations emerged again in the form of oblique questions from reporters. At least one fellow Tour player was quoted as saying, “Once a cheater, always a cheater.” February 2004. EPD Tour Winter Series. Later in the day at El Saler, my round had deteriorated to an embarrassment, as had the day of the weaker of my two playing companions. On the short par 4 16th, I twice hit my ball into a large thicket right of the fairway, then eventually found myself on the green with a long putt for double-bogey. I marked my ball as I had been doing all week, sliding a coin behind it, then placing the ball behind the coin while I lined up the putt. I wanted to see the ball while I made my calculations, to get a better feel for distance. Then, before putting, I picked up my ball again and replaced it in the original position in front of the coin. “Ehk, ehk,” the other struggling player in my threesome shouted. I froze, looked up, the ball clutched in my hand. “You marked the ball one way and placed it another,” he said. I sputtered my explanation, about my method, which I had adopted after watching a PGA Tour pro do the same thing. The third player in the group piped up in support, agreed I’d been marking my ball that way all day, legitimately. My accuser nodded, frowned, and I proceeded to putt my way to a psychecrushing quadruple bogey. But the accusation stung, being called a cheater of all things. No doubt, the other player was as disgusted with his poor play as I was with mine, and no doubt part of his motivation had been that disgust. Wounded, he struck out. A cheater. Me. At the next tee, a long par-3, the two chatted in Dutch. I recognized numbers, their language’s combo of English and German: fifteen is vijftien, sounding similar to fifteen and fünfzehn both. But while I knew enough to recognize numbers, I couldn’t tell whether they were discussing yardage or club-selection, whether they were breaking the rules or not. In my anger, I was sure they were cheating, but said nothing. I seethed, then chunked my tee shot into a deep bunker in front of the green, on my way to a double. V.

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Rule 6-6, b: The competitor is responsible for the correctness of the score recorded for each hole on his scorecard. If he returns a score for any hole lower than actually taken, he is disqualified. USGA Rules of Golf Measurement itself intrigues me, the motivation we feel to hold our activity up to a standard and, more often than not, find ourselves wanting. Cruelty and golf are inseparable: a perfect drive, struck hard down the middle, winds up in an old divot. The shot must be played there, from a small crater, despite the perfection of the drive. It’s called the rub of the green, the tiny imperfections of nature and universe that render perfect action imperfect, the bad kicks and unlucky breaks that, in the end, must be counted. Golf measures itself against par, the established target score for each hole, a number based almost solely on another number—yardage—and that fails to consider the potential injustices of a hole’s design. Golfers begin each round at even par, then proceed through the holes dropping shots against its standard until, in the end, most fail to measure up. Yet golfers understand the futility of the goal, understand that even as this barometer of success is printed on each golf card, par resists seduction, maintains itself as a nirvana that cannot be earned by most who try. Outside of golf, “par” has come to mean average. It designates the baseline of what should be done to be complete or typical. Those who do not feel up to par are not feeling good. A job that is not up to par is a job poorly executed. Par functions in the domain of finance, used in comparison of monetary systems or in valuing stock. Par, there, suggests equanimity, a beautiful space of balance and harmony. In golf, par can feel unmerciful, a constant measure of success that resists attack. Par never moves, instead maintains a lofty standard of excellence that, thanks to its other lexical use, feels like the average all golfers should seek. Failure of par is failure of execution, is golf’s own indictment of the soul, is a mechanism to expose weakness and unworthiness. It is inescapable, but largely unattainable. Par takes the form of cruel religion: it preaches degradation of the soul without hope of redemption. I watched my ball roll on the sedum plants, tumble from one leaf to another, then settle again. It seemed fitting in a week of bad shots, when horrendous putting came together with worse iron play, when wimpy drives and questionable strategy marked my strengths. The highlight of the week had been the day before, when torrential rain forced the cancellation of the round immediately after I tapped in for a front-nine 50. I’d done nothing to move the ball, only took my stance. This, above all else, seemed unfair, particularly when all I wanted to do was finish the round, hop in the car, and drive down the road to the next tournament. I clung to the idea of myself as a pro, imagined that I could rebound from this week to shoot lights out in the next event. Inside, I considered my poor play not as evidence of my limited skills but, instead, as anomaly. All I had to do, then, was finish the round. But some sequence of transferred energy through plant matter conspired to produce enough force to topple my ball, presenting in front of me another obstacle. On the scorecard, that simple roll would count just as if I’d reached down, plucked my ball free of the sedum, and tossed it clear of the trouble. Somewhere in my brain, no doubt, the proper synapses fired, accessing pages from the books of rules I’d long ago read and learned. Consciously, too, I knew what the game required, that I needed to place the ball back on its perch, hang it back in the air, before continuing. Otherwise, I’d be charged with another infraction, for playing from an incorrect spot. Instead, I stood over the ball, the club hovering, wind blowing lightly from the sea across the sedum, into my face. Somewhere out of sight, my playing partners waited on the green. I swung my wedge back waist high, clipped the ball from its violate space, flipped it toward the green. As I walked from the thatch, blank face revealing nothing, the ball waited silently in the fringe, ready for me to chip on, two putt for a closing 96, sign a faulty scorecard, and fulfill an accusation.

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Title: “Old Man Walking” / Artist: Scott Liddell

... And now, he’s learning golf because he’s too afraid of death...

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Because by Holly Day My father is learning golf because that’s what his Father did when he retired. The last time he rode His bicycle, he fell and shattered his ankle, And now, he’s learning golf because he’s too afraid Of death. I never did grow to be as tall as He did, or even as tall as my mother, so He’s never really gotten any smaller with time Or perspective. I practice what I’ll say At his funeral, some day too close to today. I practice what I’ll tell my children about him. He hunkers down over the tiny golf tee, broad Shoulders squaring for the swing, I still remember How smart he used to make my sister and I feel So strong when he let us beat him at wrestling, or Racing down the street to the park. We must have felt Like puppies or kittens crawling around on his Back. He was so patient with us. I can’t be here.

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Title: “FCC� / Artist: Chris Mallepalle

... A beam of light blasts from the television...

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Killing Me by Kevin Wallis I want to beat my best friend’s wife. No, no, no, not like that. I’m not a monster. I want to beat her at golf. She owns me. She owns all of us. I practice and I practice, denying my body the sleep it craves. I swing over and over until my hips burn and my bad knees quiver, trying to master muscle memory until I can chip one in from any bunker, anywhere, anytime. And still she wins. By one stroke or ten, it doesn’t matter. She’s killing me. Now don’t misunderstand me again. I’m not talking about getting up at the crack of dawn, walking for five hours under a 110-degree heat index, and trying to hit an actual tiny ball into an actual tiny hole. That’s just unhealthy, and more than a little ridiculous. No, I’m talking video golf. You know, man golf. Man golf. Where you’re at the unflinching mercy of the microchip, subject to fairways shaped like the carcasses of roadkilled snakes, greens that slope beyond the natural laws laid down by Newton, and hurricane-force winds that carry your balls to the next state. Golf balls, I should say. My friend’s wife, Jen, carries all of our God-given balls in her virtual golf bag. But that all ends tonight. I’ve found the secret to her doom. Rather, I bought the secret. A madman cackle fights to escape my mouth, but I restrain it as I take out my new remote. Joe is busy grabbing a few brews from the fridge, while Jen and my wife Sheryl sit on the sofa discussing the literary genius and post-modern cultural significance of Twilight. “All right, chumps,” I say. “Let’s go.” I sneak a peek at Jen through my periphery. A smirk steals across her face. A full-blown grin creeps across mine. You have no idea. . . Joe hands me my beer, I kiss Sheryl as she comes over to sit on my lap, and it’s game on. Joe’s up first. I don’t worry too much. By the ninth hole, this will be two games in one. Jen and I will fight for the win, while Joe and Sheryl will watch from the dungeons of golfdom. Besides, the ninth eats Joe up like a lion on a crippled antelope. Bogey. Not bad. Jen’s reading her book on the couch, feigning disinterest, but I know she’s watching. Competition festers in her bones. My wife steps up. After performing her usual silly, sexy warm-up dance, she swings from her breathtaking backside. Our laughter lights the room. As Jen takes her place before the TV, I start the yapping. “Feel free to move a joint,” I say, referring to her straight-armed, straight-legged swing. “Feel free to win a point.” Good God. “Not point, Jen. Shots. You score by number of shots.” “Like this?” She shoots me the bird. I look at Joe. “You gonna check your woman?” “I’ve been trying for almost twenty years, brother. She’s uncheckable.” He raises his bottle. We clink Newcastle necks. “Way to go, girl!” Sheryl shrieks as Jen sinks a shot from the fairway with a four-iron. A four-iron! Who uses a four-iron?

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I put on a pained look. “Hey, sweetie, whose side are you on?” Sheryl laughs. She doesn’t answer, though. Traitor. And so it goes. We laugh until our sides cramp. We talk trash, invent words to describe each other’s ineptitude, and enjoy the company of friends become family. But soon my stomach clenches. I check the leaderboard. Jen and I were tied at five under heading into the ninth, but I birdied the hole. So now, I sit one up on her, while our spouses sit comfortably around the pressure-free neighborhood of par. I look at my remote. It’s served me well tonight. Six under is normally good enough for at least a sniff of the win. But its secrets remain locked, and it’s time to unleash them. Jen steps up, and I remember the preteen Asian kid at Game Geek after I spilled my golf woes to him this morning. “You wanna beat her?” he asked. “Sure.” “No. You really wanna destroy her? Teach her a lesson fo’ sho’?” “Uh, yeah, man. Fo’ sho’.” What a tool. “Follow me, brah.” I followed him, wondering if he really just called me a bra. We walked through the back of the store and into the alley behind the strip mall. The kid took two or three or fifty discreet looks around, then pulled out a game remote from his cargo pants pocket. “This is the shizzle.” Unsure how Webster defined “shizzle,” but not wanting to sound too thirtysomething, I nodded. “OK.” “This is new, from the deep, deep underground of the Japanese gaming world. I’m talking black magic, ancient sorcery type stuff, brah. I’ve heard even the Yakuza use these bad boys.” “Well, then, if the Yakuza use ‘em—“ ”Hey, man, I’m trying to help you. You don’t want it? That’s tight, brah. I’ll just go back in—“ ”No, no, tell me more. If I can finally beat her just once, I’m in.” “OK, check this out. There’s this green button...” So a month’s mortgage later, here I am. Hopefully, Sheryl will understand when we’re living under the 59 overpass next month. I open a concealed compartment on the back of the remote and locate the green button. I wait. The timing’s gotta be just right, the back-alley-brah told me. Jen is only twenty yards from the green, looking at an eagle and the win if she chips this in. Her ball sits in the rough, though, tucked behind two towering, digital oaks. Sheryl shouts encouragement for her “girl” from the couch. Joe bends his first two fingers into the universal sign for vagina, places it on his forehead, and glares at me. Jen readies her remote, goes through her robotic practice swings. . . I push the button. It happens immediately. A beam of light blasts from the television’s digital representation of Jen, engulfs the human facsimile, then blinds us all. I hear screams in the light - the high-pitched squeak of my wife, followed by the surprisingly higherpitched squeal of my buddy. Fear squeezes my spine.

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What have I done? The light dims. The shouts fade. When my eyes adjust to the normalcy of lamplight, my spine finally cracks under the pressure. Jen stands six-inches tall, shimmering like a hologram. Her usually well-proportioned head has ballooned to thrice its normal size, sitting atop a thin, androgynous body dressed in a flat green shirt and rigid white skirt. Her shoes resemble gargantuan half-ovals, enormous enough to make even the boldest of clowns envious. She has become her video counterpart. A thin line of beer-drool slinks from Joe’s frozen mouth. Sheryl stares at me, back at Jen, at me, at Jen, like a human metronome. They stay that way for hours. From the television, from inside the screen, Jen faces us, as human as she appeared ten seconds ago. She raps on the screen and points at me. Once she knows I see her, she fires her middle finger at me once more and points me to a spot behind her. Her shot went in. Good God, she’s competitive. I stand up, toss my remote in the trash, and step over the dancing, taunting, computerized dwarf-woman on the floor. She’s freakin’ killing me.

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Title: “Gandolf 5” / Artist: Zoe Shear

... Explodes like a horse set free after gelding...

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Tiger Woods by Beverly A. Jackson Words chafe, but the child is gifted, tough, taught the obligations success can bring. Prepared for interviews – irons, traps and roughs, jackets (green), greens and sporting things. The child must mime an adult attitude, mind his father, nod, and never cry, give to the poor, mouth gratitude like other men. Meanwhile, some sly, sweating spirit within gathers glee and grace, practices the game until he towers in silence, studies grass and sky, explodes like a horse set free after gelding –- winged Pegasus powers – masters air, lifted by the gods to myth.

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Title: “Painted by Numbers� / Artist: Dimitri Castrique

... Go through an intricate progression of divisions and subtractions and multiplications...

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Back on the Back Nine by T.R. Healy Neil looked at the flagstick, some ninety yards away, then looked back at his stained ball, which was nestled behind a pinecone. Breathing shallowly, he closed his eyes, picturing the swing he wanted to execute. Then, just as he imagined, he drew his wedge back until his chin brushed the sleeve of his windbreaker, brought it down at the same pace, and drove the club head into the ball. It sprang through the light drizzle, a pale dot against the dark clouds, landing four feet from the cup. "That'll do," he muttered to himself, slapping his thigh with satisfaction. So far, this afternoon, he had played two holes on Glenhaven's long back nine, bogeying both of them, but he believed he had a pretty good chance to par this one. If he wasn't tentative with his stroke, as he was on the previous greens, he was confident he would knock the ball right in the heart of the cup. But then, out of the corner of his eye, he spotted the familiar demon red golf cart circling the tee box of the hole he had just played. It was the marshal's cart, its orange aerial waving frantically from its roof. Because it was Wednesday, he assumed Mean Max, Jr. was marshaling the course today. At once, he lengthened his stride, causing the irons in his bag to bang together. He sounded like a calliope, he thought. But with each step he moved a little faster, well aware he had to get to his ball before Max roared up beside him and asked to see his ticket because he didn't have one. The last time Max caught him sneaking on was earlier this summer when he and his close friend Casey snuck on half an hour before dusk to play a few holes. As always, Max was livid and threatened to report them to the police for trespassing. He was as much of a martinet as his father, Mean Max, Sr., a cranky old Scotsman who often wore a Sam Browne belt around his ample belly when he patrolled the course in the marshal's cart on weekends. Without removing his bag from his shoulder, he took out his putter and hurriedly stroked his ball. It appeared as if it was going to drop in but at the last moment curled away from the cup. "Damn," he groaned. He was tempted to look around to see if Max was out on the fairway but, instead, picked up his ball and slipped behind a thick oak tree. And there he waited, hoping Max hadn't spotted him. *** He had known Casey since they met at Glenhaven while working as caddies one summer. Neither of them got many loops, however, because they were so slight and small few golfers trusted them to carry their bags for more than a couple of holes. O'Grady, the caddy master, suggested they not wear shortsleeved shirts like the other caddies so club members didn't see how skinny their arms were. Consequently, even on afternoons that soared into the nineties, they wore sleeves to their wrists. Still, they seldom got hired and spent most of the time polishing their Schwinn Phantoms, and when no one was around, smoking Marlboros behind the caddy shack. Casey was the smartest person he ever met, always able, seemingly, to come up with solutions to problems. He was so comfortable with numbers that you could give him a three-digit figure then go through an intricate progression of divisions and subtractions and multiplications and Casey was always able to provide the correct answer. Time and again, over the years, he sought his advice on personal matters as well as financial concerns. "How does it feel to be the smartest guy in the room?" O'Grady asked him one morning after leading him through a long series of calculations. "Lonely."

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Trudging to the blue markers on the next hole, the rain now slashing into his face, Neil pulled down his drenched Titleist cap almost to his eyes. The fairway was clear, indeed, wherever he looked, the course was empty. The rain was just too severe. He was surprised Max was even out today, knowing how he seldom ventured out of the clubhouse when there was any hint of bad weather. There must not be anyone to play cards with this afternoon. He waggled over his ball for an instant then crushed his drive down the left side of the fairway. Almost as far as Casey would've hit his if he were playing today, he thought, hoisting his bag across his shoulder. Quickly a smile appeared in the corners of his mouth as he thought of all the driving contests he had with his friend. Often the loser had to wear his boxer shorts over his pants, and more often than not, he was the one who finished the round dressed like a clown. *** Neil, as usual, approached the fifteenth with trepidation because it was the hardest par four on the course. A tight, sloping dogleg that ran alongside a narrow creek, it was known as the "Snowman" because of all the eights recorded on it. He had played it countless times with Casey but the time he remembered as if it were only the other week was nearly eighteen years ago when they were about to be juniors in high school and got paired with two college players. Their swings were identical, as smooth as they were powerful, and their scores almost as perfect. Somehow, despite a drive that landed him in the rough, Casey beat them on the treacherous fifteenth. "If those guys can play college ball, so can I," he said to him after the round. "All I have to do is practice some more." "A lot more, partner." He nodded. "I'm willing to make the commitment if I can get a scholarship out of it." "Hell, you should get one anyway with the melon on your shoulders." He laughed. "I don't have the grades, Neil. And I doubt if I ever will because school is just so damn boring." *** Casey did indeed start to take the game more seriously. After school let out at three, he went straight to the driving range across the street from the Glenhaven clubhouse. He couldn't afford to buy more than a couple of buckets of range balls so he spent most of his time at the old practice tee at the east end of the course hitting shag balls. On weekends he was at the practice tee nearly all day, determined to make his swing as effortless as the swings of any college player. All the practicing he did definitely made him a much better player, far superior to Neil and his other playing partners. But it also began to trouble his hands, so that sometimes the pain in his fingers was so intense he could barely grip his clubs. He was advised by his family physician to stop swinging a club for at least four months but he refused, confident the pain would eventually subside. It never did, though, so on the recommendation of an older golfer he got to know at the driving range he soaked some raisins with his father's gin then nibbled on them to ease the pain while he hit balls. It helped a little but not enough to keep his swing from slowly unraveling. Consequently, despite all his hard work, he never was offered a golf scholarship, though he was invited to try out for the team at a community college in the western part of the state. *** Neil, soaked to the bone, huddled under the willow tree just in back of the sixteenth tee, waiting for the rain to let up a fraction. No one but an imbecile would play golf in these conditions, he thought,

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tempted to call it a day and return to his car but he knew that wasn't possible. He was playing today in memory of Casey. It was his friend's idea, a few summers back, to sneak onto Glenhaven a couple times a year. He was reluctant but Casey insisted, his eyes narrowing with indignation. "We're entitled to some free golf at that cow pasture." "How do you figure that?" "Because of all the loops we missed out on that summer we were caddies," he explained. "Both of us were strong enough to carry two bags but hardly anyone gave us a chance to carry one." "What if we're caught?" "What if we are?" "We could get banned from the course for good." "So what? What did it do for us?" "Max will go ballistic if he catches us." "Good. He needs to get some blood racing through his veins." *** His hands were so wet, he snap-hooked his drive on seventeen into the trees that lined half the fairway. He was surprised he didn't lose his club, almost wished he had as he slammed it back into his bag. "Son of a bitch," he growled, doubting if he would ever find it. Moments later, searching for his Maxfli, he was reminded of one of the last times he snuck on the course with Casey when his friend crushed a drive into these trees. He was stunned. It was one of the worst drives he had ever seen him hit so he assumed something must have distracted him during his downswing because he was almost always in the middle of the fairway. After locating his ball, he went to help Casey find his. He got only a few feet into the trees when he spotted him, nearly concealed behind a huckleberry bush, sipping from a flask. Once again, he was stunned that afternoon, having believed his friend when he told him a month earlier that he had stopped drinking after he received his second citation for driving while intoxicated. "If I don't," he said, "I know something awful will happen to me." Quickly he turned away and went back to his ball, feeling more embarrassed for his friend than angry. He wondered then if Casey had deliberately hit his drive into the trees so he could sneak a drink. *** The eighteenth hole was a long par three with a carry of about a hundred and forty yards over a manmade pond. It was Casey's favorite because he had made two hole-in-ones there. Always, after he struck his drive, he leaped up on the huge mossy boulder behind the tee box so he could watch his ball land on the green. Just for a moment, as the rain continued to pelt down on him, Neil got up on the boulder and looked at the flagstick weaving in the wind. Then he dug out of his pocket the Irish halfpenny he used to mark his ball. It was a gift from Casey who had a jarful of the obsolete coins he got from his grandfather when he was a boy. He had long used one as a marker, and when he noticed how interested Neil was in it, he gave him one to use as well. After he got down from the boulder, he took his five iron out of his bag, knelt down beside the boulder, and started to dig a small hole in which to bury the halfpenny. He wasn't sure why but he thought the gesture was appropriate somehow since this would probably be the last time he played Glenhaven. It just

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wouldn't feel right to play it without Casey who died three nights ago when he lost control of his pickup truck and slammed into a utility pole.

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Title: “Puff” / Artist: Chris Chidsey

... Run beside you in a sky that's always blue...

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Irish Blessings by Mary Baader Kaley May flowers always line your path and sunshine light your day. My first downtown office was icebox cold, requiring a space heater to avoid frostbite. The space heater frequently shorted out the electricity in my office and the file room. I was always saving my files to keep from losing work. And there were no windows – just industrial fluorescent lights that chattered above me. My rebellion? I set my computer password to “SunLight7” and brought in plastic plants. About two months after I started, I read an email from my boss. He had reviewed my draft policy on allocating project costs. JerryThis is great stuff. Your best-practice research is solid, this policy is flawless. Thanks for your efforts. I am going to send it to the president as-is for approval. Let's go to lunch and celebrate, I’ll swing by. –Rich I called Betty right away. She worked two blocks away. “Hey, I’ve got some good news and some bad news.” “Okay, give me the bad.” “Bad News? I can’t go to lunch with you today.” I held my breath. “That totally sucks! I told everyone I was busy for lunch, and they’ve already left.” “Sorry. Hands-down, I’d prefer going with you.” Pause. I imagine her pulling on her auburn bangs. “It’s okay. I’ll run to the cafeteria. The good news?” “Rich liked my output on that policy project.” “Great.” “He invited me to lunch today.” “No way! Congratulations.” “Thanks,” I said, wanting to propose to her right then. But I decided it was better to wait until Friday and go with the whole romantic evening I planned. Plus I had to pick up the ring yet. When I checked about lunch with Rich’s assistant at 1:45 p.m., she said he was detained in a meeting. At 2:30 p.m., I bought a bag of Doritos from the vending machine. *** May songbirds serenade you every step along the way. The first two years of my career zipped by quickly. Betty realized I had to prove myself at work, so she was mostly patient with me. After being married for a year, we were hoping to have enough money saved in another month for a down payment on our own place. She asked what time I’d get home while she poured my coffee. “Not sure. Why?”

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“I don’t know,” she said, handing me the mug. “I was thinking we could celebrate.” “Celebrate?” I looked up and saw her eyes moisten and her lip quiver. I thought a second, but no, it wasn’t her birthday or our anniversary. She smiled timidly and handed me what looked like a digital thermometer. I saw a plus sign. “You’re going to be a Dad.” “A Dad?” My hand went to my mouth, and then I looked down into her perfect face. I hugged her, one hand behind her neck and the other behind her back. I kissed her cheek, silently thanking God for everything, praying I wouldn’t mess it up. My workload exploded that day. Rich was too aggressive with his project timeline promises; I had to compensate somehow. Ted, our department’s organizer of happy, never stressed about these things. “Hey, Jerry, come out for drinks after work? First round is on me in honor of your promotion. We’re meeting at Delaney’s at 5:15.” “Love to, can’t. I gotta finish my project write-up and get back to some of these damn e-mails.” “Catch you next time?” “Cool,” I responded, barely lifting my eyes from the computer screen. The message that caught my eye first was from the president. Jerry, Congratulations on your promotion! I know I can expect great things from you in the future. – John I printed the message and slid it into my ‘Jerry McEvans’ folder, along with my performance reviews and pay raise notices. Betty wouldn’t speak to me when I got home so late. The base of her neck crimsoned as soon as I spoke. I apologized and told her about the raise and the deadlines. She was determined to be silent. Maybe it was the hormones. I apologized again. I was even sorry about that. *** May a rainbow run beside you in a sky that's always blue. My colleagues stopped going out after work. Happy Ted left the company a year ago. I was golfing with Rich the day he told me his plans for a company-wide improvement program. He practiced the pitch on me prior to his meeting with the “big guys”. “So whatcha think? I know it’s a little rough, but I think it’ll work.” He swung and landed just short of the green. I willed the lines of my face to stay as straight as possible as I turned words over in my mind to find an acceptable spin. I swung my driver and landed within putting distance of the seventh hole. I finally asked him about his plans to implement the program. “Whaddya mean?” He pinched the bridge of his nose.

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My mouth was dry. As I praised his ideas, I tried to make him see that the average employee would not buy in to the program very readily. Rich’s forehead looked like a fleshy accordion, and his eyes were round, staring at me. “We need buy-in at the manager’s level, Jerry. It’s the manager’s job to get his employees to do the work.” Then I asked him if we were going to do mandatory manager presentations to explain our goals. Rich laughed, and said he’d re-think the details. Asked me to shoot him some ideas on Monday. “I’ll postpone my meeting and we’ll vet it out some more. Don’t let me down.” I got it, too. Part of my job was to make sure Rich looked good no matter what. But as much as I helped him, I also sensed he thought I was a threat. My co-workers started to follow my example by putting in more hours at the office. I got home at 9:45 p.m. on Monday. I was stunned to see Betty had packed a suitcase. Her face was blank but her eyes were bloodshot. “I don’t want to talk and I don’t want any apologies.” Her voice was shaky. “I just want to go -- away -so that I’m not here. Always waiting for you. The twins and I can stay with my mom for a while.” I knew she’d been angry for a while, but hoped she’d hold on. “Betty, I’m trying so hard to do everything right. I know I’ve screwed up. It’s all on me.” My hands were sweating. “Please don’t leave. You guys -- you mean more to me than anything.” She stopped looking for her keys and turned to face me. “You’re not perfect, Jerry. Everything your boss demands from you doesn’t come out of some infinite fountain of time. It is pulled out from under us -- the kids and me.” She caught her breath. “We miss out.” I reached behind her and grabbed her keys from the counter, next to the cookie jar, the spot she always placed them but could never find them. “I know.” I handed her the keys without letting go. “I’ll change.” Rich had a heart attack the next day and required life support. I picked up the slack at work. *** AND may happiness fill your heart each day your whole life through. I wake, pushing my face off the desk. The dusty mock-dieffenbachia comes into focus. The flickering lights remind me of a haunted house. It’s 10:07 p.m. I need to get home. Betty is in bed when I arrive. “I’m quitting.” I say into the darkness. No response. “I’ll give my two weeks on Friday.” “Wha-a?” She fumbles for the light switch. “What?” My heart is at triple speed. “I’m quitting. I can’t keep it up; the job isn’t – isn’t good for us. I’ll find something else. I have contacts.” I sit on the bed next to her. “Okay. Yeah, you’ll find something else.” She pulls me into an embrace. I breathe out and my shoulders relax. My head drops to the warmth of her lap. She plays with the hair at my temple where the first specks of gray have sprouted. “I’m really gonna miss the company car, though.” We try to muffle our laughter so we don’t wake the kids, and then tiptoe down the hall to the kitchen. I take out two bottles of light beer. Betty makes us some ice cream sandwiches with her mom’s huge fresh-baked chocolate chip cookies. In her pajamas, no makeup, her sleep hair, and after seven years of marriage, she’s still so beautiful. I know she wants to talk so I withstand the urge to pull her back to the bedroom.

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Title: “Superman Imposter 2� / Artist: Laura Glover

... He always had an exquisite capacity for detail. Maybe that was one of his super powers...

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What Happened After We Put the Superhero Costumes On by Dawn Corrigan When we entered the kitchen, Myra had her back to us, stirring the tea. She turned, and just for a moment, I saw a flash of emotion on her face: surprise, and something else I couldn’t read. A split second later whatever I’d seen was gone, and she wore a wry smile instead. “Look at the Wonder Twins, all grown up,” she said. “What shall I call you now?” “We’re Fag and Fag Hag,” Forest blurted, slurping his tea. Myra raised an eyebrow at me. “It was a nonnegotiable condition,” I said. “I see,” said Myra. “I’m trying to think of it in a defiant, ‘You go, Girl!’ sort of way,” I said. “I’m not,” said Forest. After we had our tea, I felt antsy to get outside. Antsy, and a little afraid that if we didn’t go out right away, we’d lose our nerve and never put the costumes on again. Therefore, I asked, “Shall we venture out?” when Forest looked likely to become engrossed in a Letter to the Editor Myra was working on. It was just after dusk when we went outside, with some lighter sky still visible in the west. It was early spring, and the evening air had a chill to it. “By bike, by Segway, or on foot?” I asked Forest. “Oh, by all means, let’s take the Segways,” he said. “Anything we can do to look even more ridiculous.” I was a little disheartened by Forest’s attitude, but I was afraid to call him on it. Plus, I secretly thought we’d look even more ridiculous riding bikes in our outfits than we would on the scooters. At least there was something sort of Inspector-Gadget cool about them. We hopped on the Segways and, without consulting each other, headed south, in the opposite direction of downtown. I guess we were both thinking the fewer people who saw us, the better. In fact, the night was dark and cool enough that we didn’t encounter many people at all. Once, I thought someone standing on his front porch gave us a startled glance, but we rode past quickly and he didn’t say anything. I’d worried the mask would be a hindrance, but after a few minutes, I practically forgot I was wearing it. Forest had made the eyeholes larger than the ones in store-bought masks. He always had an exquisite capacity for detail. Maybe that was one of his super powers. After about ten minutes we found ourselves approaching the remnants of Nibley Park, Salt Lake City’s oldest golf course. The golf courses were all closed now, of course, and Nibley Park had become a sort of wilderness area during the decade after the Changes first took effect, overgrown with the pines, spruces, junipers, oaks, maples, and willows that had been planted by landscapers decades before. Forest and I used to ride down there and go exploring as kids. Once, in early spring, at the end of an unusually hard winter, we saw a moose. More often it was ducks and geese and jackrabbits, and the occasional deer. As we got closer, it was evident that something had changed at Nibley since our last visit. A strange light, faint but clearly discernable, was glowing from the center of the park. Forest and I exchanged puzzled glances and continued toward the park without saying anything.

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We rode the Segways right up to the tangled undergrowth that formed the perimeter of the old golf course. The light was more clearly visible now. We stood the Segways up among the trees and started through the underbrush on foot. Without even checking with each other, we were both being very stealthy, which I thought was very superheroish. Suddenly Forest veered to the right a bit. A moment later he was back. “There’s a path,” he whispered. I followed him over to the right. Sure enough, a dirt path about two feet wide pointed directly into the center of the park. It definitely hadn’t been there on our last visit. Looking down the path, we could see that the light was much brighter at the end of it. There was a sound, too—a kind of humming noise. “This way,” Forest said, and he headed back into the wooded area until we had cover, then started forward again, parallel to the path. We tiptoed through scrub oak and juniper. In front of me, Forest stopped abruptly. “What the hell,” I heard him breathe. I pushed my way up to him and peeked over his shoulder. Before us, the wilderness we’d known as children had disappeared. A huge section in the center of the park had been cleared, with thick growth still surrounding the clearing on all four sides so it would remain hidden from the street. In this clearing four men stood, gathered in a loose huddle around something on the ground. An arc lamp lit up the sky around them, powered by a large battery that sat on a cart off to one side. As Forest and I looked on in amazement, I realized I could hear the voices of the men, which easily carried over to us in the quiet of the night, along with the arc light’s hum. “I don’t know, Bob,” one of them was saying. “It looks to me like Troy is definitely closer.” He took a slug of beer off a can he was holding. “No way,” said another man. “Bob’s ball is at least two inches closer than Troy’s.” “You’re hallucinating!” said the first guy. “Let’s just get on with it!” said the third man. “Bob, you go ahead,” he added, so I deduced he was Troy. “I’ll tell you one thing, Mountain Dell this is not.” “You’re just saying that because you haven’t made par all night,” chuckled the fourth man. As the other three stepped back toward the cart, he bent over and fiddled with something on the ground. Then he reached into a bag, which I hadn’t noticed before now, and pulled out a long metal club. As the others watched silently, he positioned himself with the club. He sort of hunched his shoulders over it, and wiggled a bit. Then, suddenly, he swung. In the arc light I saw a little white ball gleam briefly before it disappeared into the night. The four men stared deeper into the park. After a moment, Bob said, “Shit. Hook shot.” “Ah, it’s all right, Bob,” said the man named Troy. “After all, it’s just a game.” The men laughed uproariously. Nibley Park was a golf course again! I had never seen a golf course before. In fact, I’d barely ever seen a grass lawn. When I was a little girl, there were still a few around, and sometimes I thought I could faintly remember wiggling my toes in grass. In fact, one of my earliest memories was of running through grass. Someone was chasing me, and I could hear her voice saying “Get back here, jackrabbit! I’m going to catch you and eat you up!” After that, the memory breaks up, but I’m pretty sure it’s my mother’s voice. It’s a wonderful memory. But after the Changes, people stopped having lawns around their houses. The Salt Lake Valley is part of a desert, after all. In 2035, decorative grass lawns were banned, and in 2037, the government stepped in and closed all golf courses, even the privately owned ones.

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Golf courses were illegal, in other words, and associated with the worst sort of wastefulness in my mind. And yet, someone had come to Nibley Park, torn the trees at the center out, and covered the ground with a lush carpet of grass. I looked at the grass with a mixture of—I don’t know how else to describe it—revulsion and lust. On the one hand, golf courses represented much of what was worst about the New Dark Ages in my mind: squandering millions of gallons of water, and acres of land, on a game, while millions of people suffered and died for lack of food and potable water. But now that the horrible, wasteful activity of golf was being played right before my eyes … I found I couldn’t take those eyes off the grass. Even with only the arc light to go by, it looked immensely appealing. It was like a living carpet. I found myself wanting to run across it, or roll on it. “Look at all the grass!” I whispered to Forest. “Yeah,” he said. “They must have laid sod. Sh,” he added, before I could ask what sod was. “I want to hear what they’re saying.” But the men just pulled from their beers, and then the second guy, who I figured was Troy, swung his golf club, and they stared off into the distance for a moment, and commented on his stroke, and then the third one got into position. “This is a really stupid game,” I said to Forest. “No kidding,” he said. “And it’s illegal!” Suddenly I was filled with indignation at what these men had done. To hollow out Nibley Park, so their crime was absent from view! And come here and play in the dark! And that wasn’t even the worst of it. They must be stealing water, to keep the grass alive. I turned away from Forest and started back up the path toward the edge of the park, where we’d left the Segways. When Forest realized what I was doing, he hurried after me. “Where are you going? What are you doing?” “I’m making a citizen’s arrest!” I said. “Jenny, don’t!” Forest said, but I started running, and quickly reached the parked Segways. I hopped up on one and turned back toward the park and Forest, who was blocking my path. He looked like he was about to say something else, but suddenly he stepped aside. “All right,” he said, waving me on. I headed straight back down the path, leaning forward over the handlebar, gathering speed as I went. Because of the arc light’s hum, the men didn’t even hear me until I was practically in their midst. The two closest to me spun around as I whooshed down upon them. I charged into their center and made a turning stop. “Citizens,” I said, using what I imagined was the proper language and tone for a citizen’s arrest, “You’re under arrest for breaking the law. Surrender your golf clubs!” I looked at them sternly. The one named Troy turned toward the little cart. Suddenly we were plunged into darkness. Troy had cut the arc light. My eyes, which had not even fully adjusted to the light yet, were completely confused by the quick return to darkness, and I couldn’t see a thing. There was a tumult of noises all around me. I shut my eyes, and immediately I understood better what was going on. The four men were running away, headed straight up the path toward Forest. “Forest! Stop them!” I shouted, but a moment later I realized he was standing beside me, laughing. I opened my eyes. After a second, my pupils readjusted to the dark. “So much for our secret identities,” he said.

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“Shit!” I said. In the heat of the moment, I’d completely forgotten not to use his real name. “Sorry!” “It’s okay,” he said. “You had those guys so freaked out, I don’t think they heard anything but their flabby hearts beating in their chests as they booked out of here.” “Recognize any of them?” I asked. “No.” I could hear the speculation in his voice, even in the dark. “But did you hear what they said about Mountain Dell?” “Yeah. What’s that?” “It was an old golf course up Parley’s Canyon.” “How do you know this stuff?” I asked in amazement. “I like to read old phone books,” he said. “It’s amazing what you can learn from the Yellow Pages.” I looked at my friend with admiration. He really was like a superhero, at least in terms of his store of arcane and seemingly useless information that could come in handy at the most unexpected times. “I think our next move is clear, don’t you?” Forest said. “To Mountain Dell?” I asked, pleased that Forest’s reservations seemed to have dissipated. It was amazing that we found a real mystery to explore on our first night out. “That’s right,” Forest said. “To the Fagmobile!” he added, and he started running up the path. “Wait!” I said. I hopped off the Segway and threw myself down on the grass, where I proceeded to roll around. As I expected, it felt wonderful. After a moment, Forest joined me.

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Title: “Gimme� / Artist: Brad Harrison

... He gazed into that hole almost lovingly, waiting for the sound of the ball to drop...

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Farewell, From the Eleventh Hole by Barry Napier Until now, the closest that Tony Laggerty had ever come to playing golf was when he and a few of his friends had gotten drunk on a Sunday afternoon and headed over to the local driving range. They had gone with a set of clubs that had been setting in Tony’s basement ever since his father died and had passed them on to him in his will. Twenty minutes into their session, as the result of a drunken tee-off, his driver had bent at its shaft and thus ended the afternoon. The memories he had of the afternoon seemed hazy at best, like a flickering mirage that rose up from the green and ignited a manual form of déjà vu. As he stood at the tee for the par 4 eleventh hole of McDougall Greens, he wondered what those friends were doing right now. God, it seemed like forever ago. He didn’t necessarily miss his friends from that time in his life (in all honesty, they had mostly been losers), but he did miss the fact that at that age—the blur of years between fifteen and twenty—you were still allowed to be naïve about everything life threw at you. But those thoughts were too much for him, so he shut them down. He focused on the tee and the rolling green ahead of him. The sun beamed down on him with a heat that seemed spiteful. Sweat rolled down his brow and he could also feel it trickling down his back. He felt the fabric of his Nike polo soaking it up. What was he doing wearing a polo anyway? For that matter, why was he out here at all? Then he heard the voice of Dr. Gorban, his voice like the sound of teeth scraping across ice cream: Most people—men especially—deal with death in unique ways. Don’t stay cooped up in your house. Get out, go fishing. And if fishing isn’t your thing, maybe you should try golf. So he had. He’d always wanted to try it out and besides that, there was something about the way the expanses of green rolled out along a perfectly designed route that spoke to him. There was a delightful symmetry to the course, but there was also chaos to be found in its midst in the form of bunkers and brilliantly placed water hazards. Still, as he gripped his driver and settled into the stance he had learned from the single lesson he had taken three days ago, he wondered what Debra would think of him. If there was a Heaven—and Tony liked to believe that there was—and if she was looking down on him, she was no doubt having a laugh over seeing him in a polo and a sun visor. And the goofy shorts. God, he felt stupid. But if Dr. Hobart was right, then it was worth it. Ten months had passed since Debra had passed away and he had not gone a single day without crying for fifteen minutes on end. Sometimes when he woke up in the morning, he would roll over and still feel her there. The imprint she had left on the pillow during her last night of life had lost its shape since then but Tony would find himself trying to recreate it with his hands and his elbows. He knew it was pathetic and he was willing to do anything to get beyond it. So, here he was. And he hoped he didn’t look as stupid as he felt. With a smile, that was half enjoyment and half sadness, Tony took his swing. His approach and aim were solid, something the instructor had been impressed with right away. He watched the ball sail into the air until it became nothing more than a white speck against the baby blues of the sky. Squinting against the sun, he followed it and watched it slowly drop. “I’ll be damned,” he muttered, when he realized how accurate the shot was going to be. He watched it drop and could barely see the ball as it hit the ground two hundred and seventy yards ahead of him. It took a few bounces and then rolled.

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Stymie Magazine

Issue Two

Surely, his eyes were being tricked by the glare of the sun. From what he could see, his ball was no more than fifteen yards away from the hole. He had never shot with such accuracy on anything other than a par 3. And even then—when he had been only twelve yards shy of a hole-in-one—he had convinced himself it had been nothing more than luck. Tony marched slowly towards the hole and his ball, lugging his meager club set with him. He didn’t see the point in using golf carts or caddies. Part of the reason he was beginning to enjoy golf was because of the scenery and he preferred to walk the course. Of course, his back would complain about it later on, especially from carrying the clubs over his shoulder. He thought of Debra as he neared the ball. He tried to imagine her on a golf course, her strawberry blonde hair in a ponytail with a pink visor wrapped around her head. It wasn’t hard to imagine her settling in for a putt, slightly tilting her butt in the air in a purposeful pose. Sighing, he looked around. He heard voices behind him but nothing ahead of him. There were other players two holes behind him but from what he could tell, McDougall Greens were pretty slow today. He liked it that way. In a small community such as this, the chances of him running into someone he knew were pretty good and he was hardly ever in the mood to talk anymore. Especially about Debra. And oddly, she was the topic everyone wanted to speak about at all times. We sure miss Debra. Debra was a great woman. Oh, I remember that amazing casserole Debra made last Thanksgiving. Tony tried to shake it all out of his head. He selected his putter, lined up with the ball and struck it without much aim. Still, to his amazement, the ball curved slightly to the left and fell squarely in the hole. My first eagle, Tony thought. Look at that… With a slight sense of pride, he bent down and retrieved the ball. When his hand fell upon it, a voice came out of nowhere and Tony nearly screamed. “…and you can’t afford to miss this sale as we cut our entire inventory in half!” He looked around frantically, but there was no one within sight. He could barely hear the muffled voices of the party two holes behind him; none of those voices were loud enough to be mistaken for what he had just heard. The voice had been firm, crisp, and had sounded as if the voice from which it had come had been directly beside him. In all honesty, it sounded like it had come from the cup. Tony found himself looking into it as if it were a well. But it was only several inches deep, a standard and totally unremarkable hole. His ball still sat there, waiting to be pulled out. He gave the hole a confused look, certain the voice had come from inside of it. It had been crystal clear and the more he thought about it, he began to think of those tacky putt-putt courses where speakers were rigged all along the course: maniacal laughter after sinking a putt on the hole adorned by a clown; the roaring of a lion from the hole that was decorated as a safari. Was there some sort of odd advertising campaign going on for local companies around McDougall Greens? And even if so,—even if what he had heard had been a strangely conveyed commercial for a local company—why had it frightened him so badly? Why was his heart still stammering? And why had he only caught a fragment of it? Tony shook it off as best he could. He retrieved his ball, returned the putter to the bag and walked onwards towards the twelfth hole. He knew that when he thought of Debra so intensely he often managed to depress himself. Perhaps this time some other trigger had been pulled. Maybe he was finally losing it, giving in to the grief that had been pulling at him like a tide trying to drag him out into a depthless sea.

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Stymie Magazine

Issue Two

He bogeyed the twelfth hole, pared the thirteenth and sped through the remainder of the course without even paying attention to his score. After all, he was out here as a form of therapy, not as a pointless competition with himself. As he made his way through the course, he caught himself peeking into each hole, awaiting that odd commercial-like voice to come to him again. Of course, it never did. Done with the course, he headed to the clubhouse where he had a beer by himself at the end of the bar. He paid his tab and headed out to the parking lot. As he walked towards his car, he kept hearing the segment of conversation he had heard from the cup of the eleventh hole. …and you can’t afford to miss this sale as we cut our entire inventory in half! As he pulled his keys out of his pocket, Tony saw Wes Anderson getting out of his car on the other end of the lot. He and Wes had been pretty close at one point. Tony and Debra had often spent many Saturday nights with the Andersons, going out to eat or to bars. After Debra had died, Wes and his wife had come by to visit him twice a week. Wes still called him from time to time. After a while, Tony stopped answering the calls. Tony walked to the left, away from his own car. He didn’t want Wes to see him; he really didn’t feel like having an obligatory conversation about his dead wife with someone who wanted to make sure that he was “doing okay”. Tony lugged his clubs all the way to the opposite end of the parking lot and then walked slowly back towards his car when he was sure that Wes Anderson was out of sight. When Wes was gone, Tony hurried to his car, tossed his clubs in the trunk and sped out of the McDougall Green parking lot. *** He felt the tears coming and he knew that when they decided to spill, he would not be able to stop them. He was only ten minutes away from home and he prayed that he’d be able to hold it in until then. He came to a stoplight and idled behind a truck with a loud exhaust. Tony messed with the radio, trying to find a station with an upbeat song. Hopefully a familiar and catchy song would get his mind off of Debra and trick his body into not wanting to cry. He shuffled through a classic rock station playing “Stairway to Heaven,” and then through a pop station playing a terrible teenybopper love song, then past a crazed right-wing radio host ranting about foreign policy. The light turned green. The loud truck ahead of him slowly rolled forward. Tony pressed the SCAN button on the radio and let the radio look for stations on its own as he drove ahead. In front of him, the truck was moving at a turtle’s pace. Peering ahead, Tony could see that the driver was talking on a cell phone. Tony lifted his hand to honk his horn. To his left, a blaring sound tore through the filtering of radio stations from within Tony’s car. With a sudden jump, Tony quickly looked in that direction. He saw a van speeding down the road, hurtling towards the intersection with its hazard lights blinking. The van’s driver was pushing down on the horn frantically. His mouth was opened in a misshapen O of alarm. Tony froze for a second. His brain tried to register what in the hell was going on and by the time he put the pieces together, it was too late. Tony’s body finally unfroze itself and he reached out to throw his car into reverse in order to allow the panicked driver of the van full access through the intersection. “Maniac,” Tony muttered nervously as his hand fell on the gearshift.

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Stymie Magazine

Issue Two

But even then, he knew there was no use. As he pulled at his gearshift, he heard the squealing of the van’s brakes over the insistent blaring of the horn. Tony looked to his left and saw the van’s orange hazard lights zooming in on him. For a single moment, Tony’s world was nothing but a glowing orange void, blinking in and then out of existence. The radio rifled through more stations: country western, a clichéd modern rock band, another classic rock station… When the van plowed into the side of his car, the orange that was Tony’s world somehow became the rolling grounds of McDougall Greens. Shades of green and blue stretched on forever. Plump white clouds rolled by and every blade of grass seemed perfectly aligned. A sudden sharp pain tore him away from this illusion and when the real world was there again he was somehow lying half-in and half-out of the driver’s seat. His head was a mound of nothing but pain and he could feel his own warm blood gushing down his face, down his neck, and it seemed to never stop coming. Broken glass lay scattered around his head and he could feel flecks of it on his face. He heard the ticking of his engine and the steam from something that had busted under the hood. He tried to lift his head, to move his body, but there was nothing. He opened his mouth to scream but all that came out was blood, a piece of tooth and a strained breath. The radio went on and on, looping the same stations back through the demolished car. Tony thought of the whacking sound a perfectly placed drive made, thought of how the golf ball became a speck of white nothing as the sky claimed it for its own for just a single moment. He thought of Debra as the darkness approached him. He thought of the Heaven that he hoped beyond hope was there. He thought of Debra waiting for him and of the expansive greenery and endless skies that surely awaited him there. He then thought of the eleventh hole on McDougall Greens. Not because it was on his mind as he died, but because of what came on the radio as the SCAN function continued to do its duty. Through the pain and the rapidly gathering darkness, Tony heard it well, blaring from his speakers: “…and you can’t afford to miss this sale as we cut our entire inventory in half!” Then the station changed and there was only darkness. And as it came, Tony still saw that simple hole, the eleventh hole, the hole that had spoken to him, the hole that had given him a glimpse of his future, the hole that had let him prematurely hear the sound that would mean his death. He thought of that hole and admired the way it was perfectly cut out of the ground. Everything about golf, after all, had seemed perfectly symmetrical to him. It was part of its allure. He gazed into that hole almost lovingly, waiting for the sound of the ball to drop.

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Contributor Notes Summer 2009 Dawn Corrigan has published poems, short fiction, nonfiction and miscellany in a number of print and online journals. She's currently working on a novel while she shops another novel and a novella around, serving as an associate editor of the newly revived online journal Girls with Insurance, and taking golf lessons on the Florida panhandle. Holly Day is a travel-writing instructor living in Minneapolis, Minnesota, with her husband and two children. Her newest book is Walking Twin Cities, Music Theory for Dummies, and Music Composition for Dummies. Matt Ferrence played golf professionally on the German-based EPD Tour before turning academic. His golf essays, part of a collection-in-progress, have been recently published in Blue Mesa Review and Concho River Review, with another forthcoming in Crab Orchard Review. He teaches writing at Indiana University of Pennsylvania. T.R. Healy was born and raised in the Pacific Northwest, and his stories have appeared in such publications as the Boston Literary Review, Faraway Journal, Freight Train, and Limestone. Beverly A. Jackson is a poet, writer and painter living in Asheville, N.C. Her work can be found in over 70 venues, both online and in print. She is the former founder/editor-in-chief of Lit Pot Press and Ink Pot literary journal. Her artwork is at www.artshackstudio.com and her blog is www.beverlyajackson.com. Mary Baader Kaley worked in corporate America for 15 years, but is now happily writing short fiction and poetry. Her work can be found in Salome Magazine and The Shine Journal. Barry Napier has had fiction and poetry appear in more than 20 online and print publications, most recently The First Line, Sand, The Edge of Propinquity and the horror poetry anthology Death in Common. He works as a freelance writer in Lynchburg, Virginia. You can learn more about his darker side at www.barrynapierwriting.wordpress.com. Jay Simmons is a photographer, graphic designer, interface designer and front-end engineer from the Netherlands. He is married with one son, the cover photo was shot on the playground of his son's school. G.C. Smith is a southerner. He writes novels, short stories, flash fiction, and poetry. Sometimes he plays with dialect, either Cajun or Gullah-Geechee ways of speaking. Smith's work can be found in Gator Springs Gazette, F F Magazine, Iguanaland, Dead Mule School of Southern Literature, Naked Humorists, The GLUT, Flask Fiction Magazine, N.O.L.A. Spleen, NFG Magazine, Cellar Door and The Beat among others. He has completed and is shopping a novel, White Lightning: Murder in the World of Stock Car Racing. Steven Tom is an engineer who writes short stories as a hobby. He has published many technical articles that would be of negligible interest to non-engineers with occasional fiction or humor pieces appearing in obscure publications like British Car. Recently addicted to golf, he enjoys playing with hickory clubs as it seems less humiliating to screw up when you’re playing with 80-year-old sticks. Steve lives with his wife and kids in a suburb of Atlanta. Kevin Wallis usually writes horror stories. He has had a dozen or so published or pending publication. However, he decided to prove to his wife and kids that he was not an honest-to-God sociopath and could write a story that didn't revolve around dismembered corpses or face-eating monsters. “Killing Me,” based on realish events, is his first attempt at a humor story.

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Stymie Magazine - Summer 2009