Short Story 

Back Nine

The grass looks like green cement, then as we get closer like a shaved old cheek and all I can think of is my dad cutting the backyard lawn, me running alongside the gas mower when a dog’s bone flies out cracking against my eight-year-old wrist; a thud like a shotgun and the dull instant pain of bone on bone, my little Timex glinting shrapnel on the fresh mown lawn, my dad and I staring at each other through a veil of pain.

Thirty years and half a lifetime ago. First half of mine, last of his.

Oh the shoes are essential, Cobb says, leading me into the clubhouse. The shirts and pants hang on spinning racks like cogs in a machine we navigate through. He translates everything to the proshop clerk for me. Size eight, I say. Size eight he tells him. Your dad wore a ten, you’d be swimming in ’em, no purchase on the green. They’ve got little poppy-like designs and leather frills. If I wasn’t so hung over I’d break into a tap dance, just to scare them.

Cobb’s daughter Tammy, friend and flame from my youth, and her fiancé Kent are perched on the front steps when we clop back out. Kent has one hand on his driver, the other around Tammy’s shoulder. The mountains tower in the background, alders at mid focus. It’s a Polo ad waiting for a photographer.

I struggle for a deep breath. Just eighteen holes, go through the motions. I pick up dad’s old golf bag, pull out the putter and try a practice putt. I don’t know the motions, that’s the problem. Holding the grip in the same place he did, maybe it’ll speak to me, tell me what he saw near the end, what I was too bullish to listen to while he was still around. I overshoot the putt by thirty feet.

I’m dad’s shadow again, like yesterday in the hotel lobby, the concierge looking at her screen – Ah, Mr. Griffin, we’re glad you could make it, and so sorry to hear about your father. If there’s anything we can do to make your stay more comfortable …The family deceased deal. Book in for free on your old man’s expired credit. Try to find little pieces of him along the way. In the hotel room, on the course, in the restaurant. Rebuild him from memory. Could you send up some more of that twelve-year-old Glenfiddich please. I think he’s in the bottom of the bottle. Spare no expense for the dead.

The cart rocks a bit when Cobb drives it to the first tee. Kent’s pants are grey and creased. He belongs in a bank, except for the shoes which are strictly ballroom. Whack, it sails impossibly up and forward, lofty. Cobb is next, standing like a sturdy sailor, gnarled and holding fast to the gunwale. Good purchase on the green. His ball crooks up and hooks to the left. Damn it to hell – ’least she’s on. Now Tammy, up at the women’s tee. No equality in golf. She takes her practice swings and I can envision the golf pro’s arms wrapped around her perfect frame. She’s got it. But on her real swing a glider swoops out of nowhere like a valkyrie and drags a shadow over her. The ball bounces off into a pond.

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