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                           Sticks – A Golfer’s Tale
                                  By W. Sautter

I hope that you will enjoy meeting Bob Andrews and sharing
his adventure. I believe that anyone who has played the game
will see a bit of Bob in himself.
I wrote “Sticks” hoping that the reader could recognize some
of his own foolish fantasies, that is, the two hundred and fifty
dollar driver that you just knew would take ten strokes off your
game or the miracle swing trainer that you saw on TV which
would be your ticket to the perfect round.
If nothing else, I hope that “Sticks” puts an occasional grin
on your face and causes a now and then nod of self-recognition as
you read.
Enjoy and thanks for reading “Sticks”!
Walt Sautter
Frequently Used Golfing Terms
(For the uninitiated)
Par – the expected score on a hole
Birdie – one stroke lower than par
Eagle – two strokes lower than par
Bogey- one stroke over par
Double bogey – two strokes over par
Slice- a shot curving sharply away from the golfer
Hook - a shot curving sharply towards the golfer
Duffer – an average to below average player
Trap – a sand pit designed to make a shot difficult
Pinnacle – a brand of golf ball
Mulligan – an extra uncounted shot (cheating)
Chip – a short shot to the green
Wedge- a club used for chipping
Driver – a club used for long tee shots
Tee shot – the first shot of a hole
Irons – clubs used for shorter, intermediate shots
Woods – clubs used for longer shots
Rough – areas of longer grass adjacent to the fairway
Fairway – areas of shorter grass leading to the green
Round – a complete eighteen holes of play
Lie –
(1) the position of the ball before striking
(2) the score a golfer reports to his friends
Off The Books (OTB) – when a golfer refuses to
continue scoring during a round to avoid further
Clubhouse Trot – when poor performance causes
a golfer to terminate play early and walk back to the
clubhouse alone
The Fling – the throwing of a club after a missed shot
“Oh Shit!”* – indicates the first poor shot of a series
“Holy shit!!”* – indicates the second poor shot of a series
“This game sucks!”* – indicates the third poor shot of a
“I quit! I’m taking up fishing”* – indicates extremely poor
play indeed
Notes on Informational Sources
*These terms are excerpts from the ranting
of fellow duffers Chris Parish and Jack Parish.
I hear them so frequently that I assume they are part of
accepted golf terminology!
“Traffic and weather every fifteen minutes on KAQO, but
where’s the traffic today? There is none! Today’s Saturday and
it’s six A.M. on the Larry Fine Show and I’m sorry that you have
to be up to hear this – Well, not that sorry, otherwise I’d be outta
work and –.”
Bob opened one eye and peered hazily towards the clock
radio. Larry Fine was right. It was six A.M.!
He slowly reached over towards the clock, ignoring the pops
and crackles in his back as he moved. He moved the final two
inches and the room fell silent.
“In an hour and a half this torture will have been worth it
when he was standing on the first tee at Rocking Ridge,” he told
himself as he struggled towards full wakefulness.
Methodically, he stretched the other, still partially dormant
appendages, each one creating its own familiar little rhythm of
snaps and creaks. He slid one foot to the floor, then the other and
with what felt like super-human effort, he pulled himself to a
seated position on the edge of the bed. He stared aimlessly for a
moment and then exited the fading fog into consciousness.
“Today will be a great day he thought. I am going to really
kick some ass.”
“Today’s the day those guys are going to take a real
whipping,” he smirked.
He arose and walked straight downstairs, passing the
bathroom and the kitchen on the way and walked directly to the
garage. There they were, glittering in the early morning sunlight
as it poured through the window. Their beauty was blinding, all
twelve hundred and fifty dollars of it. The sun gleamed from the
nine iron, it danced from the seven and sparkled from the three.
The soft leather bag accented the brilliant display with a touch of
elegance that sent shivers down his spine. Even the head covers
on the woods cast their own special radiance completing the
grandeur of the scene.
All the extra hours that he had spent at work in order to buy
them now seemed a small price to pay for objects of such beauty
and perfection, he thought.
Reluctantly, he slowly closed the door and wandered back up
the stairs still somewhat awestruck, and began his preparation for
what he knew would be his greatest day ever. Mindlessly, he
shaved and showered, brushed his teeth and dressed, all the time
imagining the taste of triumph that soon would be his.
As he entered the kitchen, Maryanne sat sipping a cup of
coffee with the paper spread before her.
“Watson is in the lead at the seniors,” she announced.
“After today, I think he’ll have some problems.” She paused.
“Because, I read that the entire PGA was just issued a special
bulletin about Bob Andrew’s new golf clubs and that they better
be ready for some stiff competition,” she continued laughingly.
“Seriously Honey, I wish that I could go with you today to
see the look on Pete’s face. He’s sure not going to have that old
Pete smile on his face when you get done with him,” she
“I think you’re right,” Bob replied confidently.
“I know that those clubs cost a lot. I guess maybe we should
have bought a new dishwasher,” he added apologetically.
“But – well, it’s really wonderful of you to understand how
much this means to me,” he continued gratuitously.
“You’re a wonderful wife,” he added and kissed her just as a
car horn tooted in the driveway.
“By the way honey,” she shouted as he opened the door to
the garage, “remember that I’m going to that house sale over on
Houston Street this afternoon. If you get home before I do you
can come with me. It will probably be about two o’clock.”
“OK,” he replied hastily as he scurried into the garage.
He hurried over to the golf bag, hesitated admiringly for a
moment, and threw it over his shoulder. He pressed the garage
door button and it rose ever so slowly, like the curtain rising on a
Broadway stage, gradually revealing him in all his splendor to
those waiting in the van. He was a picture to behold, clad head to
toe in perfect attire. He wore a bright blue shirt decorated with
multicolored golf balls and tees with white pants and shoes to
match. He stood proudly with his sparkling new bag over his
shoulder, looking much like a page from “Golf Illustrated”.
He walked to the back of the van and Frank popped the door
open. He carefully placed his bag on the floor of the van next to
the other bags.
“A diamond among debris,” he thought as he stepped back
and closed the door. He walked around and slid into the van next
to Mike.
“Holy shit! You really went the whole route,” exclaimed
“I never thought you’d do it. I thought it was just a lot of
bullshit. I never thought you’d go for all that dough - but - they
sure do look like some fantastic clubs!” admitted Frank.
Frank put the van in gear and they pulled out of the driveway
and headed toward Rocking Ridge.
“How did Maryanne take it?” he asked.
“No problem at all,” boasted Bob.
“She says I deserve them and I do,” he added.
“What are we going to play today? Five-dollar Nassau?”
asked Frank.
“Five dollars on the front, five on the back and five over all,
plus a dollar on pars and two on birdies?” he continued as he
turned and look at the other three.
“I’m feeling pretty lucky today,” replied Bob. “Lets make it
ten, ten and ten, two fifty and five.”
There was a short pause in the conversation.
“OK, what the hell, I’ll go along with that,” answered Frank.
“Me too,” agreed Mike.
“All right by me,” added Pete.
“Maybe I can win enough today so that I can get a new set
of clubs like Bob.”
Everyone laughed including Bob.
“Well, I’ve got to get the money to pay for them somehow
and I guess you guys are it,” he commented wryly.
After several more minutes the course loomed ahead.
“We’ve got a seven forty five tee time and it’s just seven
thirty. Perfect!” said Pete as they pulled into the parking lot.
Frank popped the rear door as they all quickly piled out of
the van and hurriedly collected their bags from the back. Bob led
the pack like a drum major eagerly strutting his steps towards the
clubhouse. Pete and Frank followed more leisurely while Mike
with his short, stocky legs struggled to keep up.
They reached the clubhouse, paid the greens fees and hustled
out to the first tee.
“How are you fellows doing today? You’re all ready to go”
said the starter in one breath.
“Good, Don,” replied Frank.
“Looks like you’re doing real good, Mr. Andrews. That’s a
beautiful set of clubs you’ve got there. They’ve got to be worth at
least five strokes,” Don remarked enthusiastically.
“The guy who sold them to me said ten,” Bob joked back
with a broad smile. “But - I hope he’s wrong. I’m looking for
fifteen,” he added as he walked ahead to catch the other three at
the first tee.
Mike was going through his usual calisthenics warm-up
routine looking as if he were preparing for the “Iron Man”
competition. Pete was doing his usual knee bends and grunting
out his usual moans and groans.
Frank rapidly swung his six and seven irons, which he held
in tandem, with a methodical back and forth motion.
Bob removed the head cover from the driver and pulled it
from the bag. As he did so, just for a single moment, he had a
fleeting thought of King Arthur drawing Excalibur from the
stone. He held the club tightly. It had a perfect grip, a perfect
balance, and a perfect feel.
“OK, lets flip the tee and see who leads off,” announced Pete
and with that he threw the tee into the air.
“Looks like me, then Mike, then Frank, and then you, Bob.”
He carefully placed his ball on its tee, took his customary
two practice wings and addressed the ball. He drew back the
club and swept the ball from its perch in one long, fluid motion.
“Straight and long. Beautiful!” cheered Mike.
“Hard act to follow,” said Frank as he stepped forward.
Frank’s lean frame rhythmically moved side to side as he
prepared for a shot. Then, he stepped forward to the ball and
gracefully struck it from the tee with a wide, arcing thrust. The
crack of the impact immediately announced the precision of the
“Two good ones in a row,” shouted Mike as he walked
towards the tee with his driver in hand.
He twisted his short stocky body sharply from left to right
again and again as he prepared for his shot. He then quickly
stepped up to the ball and struck the it soundly.
“Not as good as you guys. Straight OK, but a little short!
I’ll get you in the short game though. I always do,” he remarked
Now was Bob’s turn. He felt his heart speed up a little as he
took his place at the tee. He pulled a brand-new Pinnacle from
his pocket and placed it on the tee. Then, he eagerly whipped the
driver to and fro in long graceful arcs as he readied himself for a
shot. He stood motionless for a moment and then carefully drew
the club back from the ball. The sunlight reflected from its shaft
as it moved back over his shoulder. He reached the top of his
swing and the club flexed hard with the energy of a crushing
impact straining to be released.
Down it came in perfect symmetry with the back swing,
again catching and reflecting the sun’s flashing rays. A
millisecond later the head came slamming into the waiting ball.
An instant later, Bob looked up to see the ball rocketing
forward from the tee towards the distant fairway. He watched it
climb higher and higher in its flight. Then ever so slowly, it
began to move towards the right a little, then a little more and
then sharply right. Down it came. It struck the ground and
catapulted towards the bushes adjacent to the fairway.
Bob felt a heavy feeling in the pit of his stomach as he
helplessly watched it disappear under a clump of shrubs.
“Long but wrong.”
“Those slices will kill you every time,” sympathized Frank
as they all started to walk down the fairway.
Bob began to walk too, but a bit behind the others. He’d hit
many slices before but how could it have happened this time?
With these clubs? Was all the testing, the engineering, the
precision craftsmanship; the space age materials still no match
for his slice? How could this be possible?
He arrived at the point where his ball had vanished beneath
the bushes and began to probe the vegetation with his three iron
hoping to locate it. He jammed the club in and out attempting to
avoid the long, sharp thorns that protruded everywhere. In spite
of his best efforts, he felt their sting each time he thrust. After
repeated probes it finally appeared deep within the heavy growth.
“Looks like a drop Bobby. Can’t hit out of that,” advised
Pete who had been helping him look for the ball. By this time the
other two had taken their second shots. Mike made good his
promise of a good short game and had expertly lofted his ball
onto the green about two yards from the pin.
Frank was on the far edge of the green and Pete had a lie a in
the left fringe, closer to the cup than Frank but still just off the
Bob finished fishing the ball from the undergrowth, picked it
up, held it over the drop area and released it. It fell lightly into a
shortcut, grassy section of the rough. A perfect lie!
He looked towards the green.
“One fifty,” he thought. “Looks like a seven.”
He drew the shiny new seven iron from his bag. Then, he
purposefully aligned his shot, drew back and fired. The ball arose
high as a perfect projectile, higher and higher towards the green
and then began its descent. Bob watched its flight with every
muscle straining as if to influence its path. Down it came landing
amidst a gusher of sand spraying into the air.
“The God damn trap,” he said to himself out loud in disgust.
He jammed the club back into the bag and stamped off in the
direction of the bunker at the left side of the green. When he
reached the trap, he could barely see the ball, which had
embedded itself deep into the sand. Only the number four and
the “Pin” on the ball peered visibly from beneath the mound,
which had swallowed it.
He stared down at it for a long moment with his hands on his
hips. Then, he reached into the bag and ripped the sand wedge
from it. He firmly positioned his feet in the sand, drew the club
back and came down squarely on the ball driving it still deeper
into the bunker.
An audible groan arose, almost in unison, from all of them
on the green. Bob looked up. He could feel the flush in his face
and the muscles in his neck tighten. He repositioned himself over
the submerged ball and again hacked at it. This time he
successfully dislodged it from the sand and pitched it onto the
green. It landed by the pin and rolled twenty feet beyond.
By now, his stomach had begun to grind and he could feel a
fiery heat moving up into his chest. Disappointment was quickly
turning into anger.
Each member of the foursome began to putt. Mike, again
true to his prediction of good short play, lagged his ball to within
inches of the cup and then proceeded to par the hole.
Pete putted from the far fringe just a little too hard and
followed with two additional putts for a five.
Frank rolled his ball to within a foot of the cup and parred
the hole.
Bob carefully looked over the putting terrain noting the
subtle bends and weaves of its surface while trying to anticipate
every jog and turn that the ball might follow on its path to the
cup. Then, he stepped up to his ball, checked its alignment
several times and carefully tapped it on its way with the putter.
The ball moved forward curving to the right then to the left
just as he had thought but as it reached the cup it rolled again to
the right missing the lip. It continued to roll and stopped five feet
Bob again moved up to the ball this time muttering to
himself as he walked. Again, he aligned his shot with tortuous
precision. Again, he gently touched the ball with his putter. It
rolled to the cup, struck the left edge, rolled around the lip, tilted
sideways and finally fell into the cup.
“Four! Par!” proclaimed Mike as he reached for the
“Likewise,” responded Frank.
“Five!” shouted Pete with somewhat less enthusiasm than
the other two.
Mike recorded the scores as they were announced. Then he
paused and looked at Bob.
Bob looked back and replied to his questioning stare with a
faint “Seven.”
The group walked towards the second tee. Bob dutifully
trudged along trying to appear interested in their conversation.
He feigned attention, while thoughts of the previous hole churned
over and over in his head.
“How could I have played all those shots so poorly?” he
asked himself.
He always played at least a six and most often better on that
hole, and now, a seven? Maybe it was just a streak of back-toback
bad luck shots.
“Even great players have a bad hole now and then,” he
In spite of his attempts at rationalization, he felt the burning
heat of anger begin to well up in him.
“Calm down,” he thought. “Don’t let yourself get upset and
blow the next hole too. Remember, it’s only a little bad luck.
Things will change. Probably on the next hole, if you just relax,”
he told himself again. He took a deep breath and held it for a few
seconds and exhaled fully. There, now he felt a bit better.
The other three continued their discussion with Mike and
Frank recounting the details of their play on the previous hole,
each boasting more than the other. Pete chimed in now and then
about how close he had come to also paring the hole.
Bob said little.
When they reached the next tee the sign read, “Three
hundred and sixty yards – par four.”
It was picture perfect, a lush fairway, tended by two large
traps on the left, trees on the right and a small pond behind the
green in the distance.
“Pars are up first,” announced Mike with an air of pride in
his voice.
“I’ll go first,” he added and stepped eagerly up to the tee.
He aimed carefully and swung. The ball was propelled
upwards, straight and long.
“Nice shot!” yelled Frank as he stepped up next.
He took several practice wings and moved to the ball. He
struck it cleanly with a long smooth stroke.
“Not real long and right. A little slice! It’s in the right rough
but it’s O.K.,” remarked Mike.
Then Pete moved into position at the tee. He hovered over
the ball for a second, drew his club back and pounded it solidly.
“Down the middle but too high and short. It’s only about
one seventy,” he commented to himself out loud.
He lightly thumped the club head on the ground as he left the
tee, less than satisfied with his performance.
It was Bob’s turn next. He teed up the ball and methodically
executed several practice wings. Then he moved to the ball,
stood over it, hesitated momentarily, pulled the club back and
fired. Down it came with full impact just cutting under the ball
and driving a large divot skyward.
The ball shot straight up from the tee, rising almost
vertically. Up and up it went. Finally, it stopped and fell to the
dead center of the fairway.
“A three hundred yard shot,” scoffed Frank. “A hundred up,
a hundred down and a hundred out,” he mocked.
Bob’s heart sank. “Son of a bitch,” he yelled and slammed
the club head sharply into the ground.
“Give the guy break,” quipped Mike. “He’s having a bad
day,” he added sympathetically.
Bob could feel his temples throbbing and his heart starting to
pound harder. He could feel his anger mounting, rising up from
the recesses of his gut and exploding into his head. He clenched
his jaw and tightened his fists. He threw the driver into the bag
so hard as to make all the other clubs vibrate together with a loud,
resounding, shuttering noise.
He grabbed the bag and stormed off in the direction of his
ball, unappreciative of Frank’s humor and without a word. He
walked in silence with head down, never glancing up from the
ground. When he reached the ball, he yanked the three wood
from his bag. He immediately squared his stance up to the ball
and without hesitation savagely swung at it. He topped the ball
and it dribbled about fifty yards down the fairway where it again
awaited his arrival.
He followed with the three wood in hand, marching in a
numb cadence toward its location.
Upon reaching it, he stopped and drew several slow, deep
breaths vainly trying to regain his composure.
“It’s still your shot,” shouted Pete from his forward position
by his own ball.
“I think I know that!” Bob snapped back.
He took his stance over the ball. Again, he sucked in several
more deep breaths. This time it seemed to help, at least a little.
He waggled the club behind the ball and then pulled back and
fired. He hit it clean and squarely. It leapt from the club like a
bullet, straight ahead, hitting the green in the distance and
bouncing out of sight.
“Great shot!” cried Pete. “Had to be two hundred and twenty
yards!” he added.
A faint smile broke over Bob’s face and he proceeded
towards the green with his head a bit more erect and his chin held
a little higher.
The other three continued their play. Pete played his second
shot to the green as did Frank. Mike landed in the trap on the left
and then all four walked up the hill to the green.
As they walked Bob strained to see his ball. He even walked
up on his toes a bit, trying to peer over the elevated lip attempting
to see it. They moved closer and the entire putting surface then
came into view. Two balls on the green, one in the trap and no
sign of the fourth!
Bob’s eyes scanned rapidly back and forth over the periphery
of the green and around the traps. It was nowhere to be seen.
Soon, everyone was milling about searching for the lost ball.
Suddenly, Pete shouted from the edge of the pond at the rear
of the green.
“Here it is. Bring your ball retriever.”
Bob’s stomach turned. That beautiful fairway shot had
landed and bounced off the green into the water.
“Some bullshit,” he muttered as he walked towards the pond.
“I can’t fuckin’ believe it,” he shouted as uncontrolled
obscenities deluged from his lips.
The words sprang from his mouth and the frustration within
him erupted completely. Frustration changed to anger and then
anger rapidly turned into blind rage. He stamped his feet in
heavier and heavier steps as he walked. He clenched his right fist
and hammered it repeatedly into the palm of his other hand as he
approached the submerged object.
There it was staring up at him from the murky bottom
through a foot water at about three yards from the bank. He
stood on the bank, peering down into the pond with the
humiliation and embarrassment crashing in on him. His vision
blurred, a dry hard lump swelled in his throat and he gritted his
teeth together.
Then, suddenly in a fit of uncontrollable rage, he reached
into his bag and ripped the driver from it. In the next moment
fragments of graphite showered everywhere, exploding from its
shattering shaft. He flung the broken handle and club head with
its protruding, splintered shaft high into the air. Both came down
in unison, landing with a resounding splash in the pond. Without
hesitation, he again tore another club from the bag, sharply
snapped its shaft over his knee and cast the broken pieces into the
pond. One club followed another and another each yielding an
ear splitting crack as the shafts flew into a thousand fragments
that sprayed everywhere over the surface of the water.
Pete, Mike, and Frank stood dumbfounded, with their
mouths opened and dazed stares as Bob continued his maniacal
rampage. After most of his clubs had been dispatched, he
grabbed the entire bag with its remaining contents and cast it too
into the water. It was done. The very thing that he had so highly
venerated just hours ago, now, by his own hand, was no more.
There he stood, hands hanging at his sides, breathing
heavily, and sweating profusely. He stumbled backward from the
edge of the pond and sank ankle deep into the soft mud near the
bank. Lost in the fatigue and confusion of the moment he hardly
even noticed.
Then without a word, with head bowed and his eyes staring
straight at the ground, he took the first stumbling steps of the
long, trance-like walk back towards the first tee.
“Wait a minute! Wait!” shouted Frank.
“How are you going to get home?” he yelled.
Mike and Pete said nothing. They remained motionless, still
spellbound by the spectacle they had just witnessed.
Bob never looked back. He trudged step after step with the
squeak and squish of his mud filled shoes sounding a doleful beat
as he walked. He had left home that morning filled with
optimism and anticipation and now this is how it ended. He
continued to walk straight passed the starter and all those waiting
at the first tee, in silence. Everyone stared in bewilderment as he
tramped passed them.
It was a five-mile walk home but Bob didn’t care.
Somehow, this was to be part of the punishment for his
foolishness. He wasn’t quite sure which was more foolish, his
unwarranted belief that he could actually buy the skill that he
didn’t really have or his childlike tantrum when his expectations
failed to be fulfilled. In either case, he knew he was a fool and
that feeling was a heavy weight which he carried as he walked.
He thought back to what he had just done. How could he
ever face those guys again? How could he face Maryanne and
tell her what he had done? How was going to face himself, the
buffoon that he was?
But, as he thought back to the events that had just occurred,
he somehow felt, just for an instant, a flash of bittersweet
pleasure. He no longer would have to endure that nagging fear of
impending failure that sometimes welled up in him as he stepped
up to the tee. No more would he have to endure self-ridicule for
having missed a crucial putt. No more self-doubt plaguing his
every stroke. No more self-chastisement and despair. It was all
behind him now. In a strange way, just for the moment, he felt a
paradoxical sense of freedom.
But then again too, gone was the thrill of that great drive, the
really long one, and a beautiful seven iron to the green, the one
that lands two inches from the hole. Gone too, was the
excitement of the ten-yard putt that just creeps over the lip and
tumbles into the cup on its very last lazy turn. And the chip from
the fringe that hits the pin and drops into the cup for birdie. Gone
His emotions churned. Over and over tormenting thoughts
raced through his head as he plodded down the road towards
home. Mindless of his surroundings, he was living and reliving
every second of his actions as he walked.
Finally, after what seemed like hours, the long, painful
journey ended and he arrived home. He stopped in front of the
house, reluctant to enter, fearful of openly confronting his guilt
before Maryanne.
A car was missing from the driveway. She wasn’t home.
“Thank God! Thank God!” he thought.
He walked around the house into the backyard and sank into
a deck chair, exhausted physically and emotionally by the
morning’s events. He closed his eyes; eager to escape the torture
was nagging at his thoughts. He immediately fell into an uneasy
“What are you doing home so early?”
The voice came piercing through the sleepy shroud and
startled him into consciousness. He shot up with his back
straightened against the chair and snapped open his eyes. There
stood Maryanne.
“And what happened to your good shoes? It looks like
you’ve been doing construction work instead playing golf,” she
said quizzically.
“Well – I got home early,” Bob replied sheepishly.
He wasn’t really sure what to say next. Should he blurt it all
out and get it over with, he asked himself. Or should he just
pretend nothing had happened and postpone the inevitable misery
that was surely to come?
She sat down across from him.
“How did you play? How did the new clubs work out?” she
asked enthusiastically.
There was a long pause. To Bob, it seemed longer than the
waiting time in the dentist’s office. His thoughts raced through
his mind as random fragments, colliding with each other in
mental explosions, never solidifying into any complete logical
Should he tell her or shouldn’t he? Then, in an instant, the
conflict ended. Like a timid diver perched above icy water, he
finally summoned the courage and dove headlong.
“0h, what the hell, she’s going to find out anyway” he
thought and in the next moment the entire story with every
grotesque detail spewed from his lips.
He told the whole story from its hopeful beginning to its
miserable end in one long, nonstop, continuous stream of words
without even so much as a pause for breath.
She sat in stunned disbelief as he spoke. When he finished,
she sank back into her chair speechless, with a bewildered look
spread across her face. She remained seated there for a long
moment, with a muted, sullen stare in her eyes.
“Twelve hundred and fifty dollars! What a price to pay to
become the laughingstock of the neighborhood,” she wanted to
scream at the top of her voice. But then, she looked up at Bob.
She could see the embarrassment and anguish pouring from his
saddened gaze and somehow, as furious as she was she couldn’t
bring herself to torment him further.
She swallowed hard to stop herself from blurting it out.
Then, she looked straight into his eyes and mustered all the
compassion that she could find.
“I don’t know what to say,” she said in a soft, controlled
voice. “You’ll have to work this thing out yourself. You are an
adult, I think, and you should start acting like one,” she continued
within an admonishing tone, as if speaking to a child. She didn’t
know what else to say.
“Now let’s forget any of this ever happened,” she concluded
with a childish air. Then she rose and slowly walked into the
house leaving him alone with his agonizing thoughts.
Chapter 2
About a month or more had passed. Bob had swallowed
what little pride he had left and called the other three to
apologize. They, being longtime friends, readily accepted his
regrets and tried to laugh it off. Bob knew deep inside however,
that in spite of their best attempts to make light of the incident, he
would always wear the mark of a fool. And with that knowledge
he refused their every effort to convince him to play again.
All three had called, each assuring him that they understood
completely and that they themselves had often been tempted to
do the very same thing that he had done. Each pledged to never
mention the incident again if only he would reconsider. All three
had extended the courtesies and kindness of their friendship to
the limit.
He hadn’t touched a club or a ball or even watched a golf
match on TV since that day. He even found it impossible to
listen to the golf scores during the sports reports on the radio. He
found himself immediately changing the station the moment they
began. The very mentioned of the word “golf” sent shivers down
his spine and made his stomach roll.
“Golf Digest” arrived in the mail as usual. He didn’t even
tear off the wrapper. It went straight into the garbage can without
so much as a page turned.
It was strange to get up on a Saturday at eight thirty. It sure
felt better than six fifteen. He hadn’t slept this late on summer
Saturdays in years.
Maryanne too, took some pleasure in Bob’s newly found free
time. Many of the little chores that had gone undone for so long
and had been a continuous source of irritation to her, now became
an amusement for Bob. He lost himself painting the kitchen,
trimming the hedges and tidying up the garage, all of the things
that had taken a distant back seat on Saturday mornings of the
As time moved on, his memories of that sordid incident
drifted deeper and deeper into oblivion. Oh, there were still
times when he had nightmarish flashbacks but thankfully they
were becoming less and less frequent.
More often however, there were visions of what, he had to
admit, he still fondly missed. That perfect tee shot, the soaring
five iron to the green landing inches from the cup as if magically
guided there by an invisible hand. These haunting memories
were hard to readily forget. He missed the thrill of the long, low
three iron into the wind and the pride and exhilaration of the final
putt in a winning round.
When feelings such as these erupted, he consciously
attempted to erase them from his mind with a sudden recall of
that dreadful morning months ago. He would relive every
agonizing minute and instantly knew that no amount of pleasure
could ever be worth paying the price of that pain again.
“Bob,” Maryanne called to him as he readied himself for his
now familiar, weekly regiment of yard work and household
“I’m going to that house sale over on Monroe Street this
afternoon. Why don’t you come along with me?”
Maryanne had been a house sale fanatic most of her life. She
started as a child in her mother’s arms and had never stopped.
She and her mother used to make a ritual of reading the ads in the
newspaper every Friday night in preparation for the next day’s
adventure. They would set up a schedule for every Saturday
extending from early morning into the late afternoon. Often, they
would travel hours to satisfy their “house sale appetite.” They
never really bought much. They were hopelessly addicted to
browsing, many times covering four and five house basements
and attics in a single day.
Maryanne’s mother had died two years earlier but Maryanne
continued alone to make the weekend pilgrimages regularly. It
was as if somehow, she was keeping part of her mother’s spirit
alive by doing so.
Bob hesitated. He had gone with her many times during
winter months, especially just after her mother had died but that
was simply to help ease her pain. It really wasn’t the kind of
thing that interested him. After a short time he became bored, a
condition which he found difficult to conceal from her.
“Come on! ” she insisted. “We’ll only stay a little while,”
she prodded. “I’ll buy you whatever you like,” she continued to
coax convincingly.
“Well - alright!”
He finally surrendered. It wasn’t as if he had other plans
It was an old two-story, with a large, open, wraparound front
porch, bounded by an old spindled railing with missing spokes.
It had several large peaked gables and was clad in dark brown,
wooden siding in need of painting.
Its gutters clung desperately to the edge of the roof and
several of the downspouts, having become detached from the
house, swung freely in the light breeze. It was circa nineteen
twenty or earlier but it still managed to retain some of its bygone
elegance even through a deteriorated exterior. The long, steep,
stairs creaked ominously as they walked up, sounding as if they
were threatening to collapse at any instant. They made their way,
timidly, to the porch with Maryanne in the lead.
As they reached the top, they encountered a small frail
figure, seated in an antiquated rocker, gliding back and forth with
a slow measured rhythm. He appeared every bit of eighty if not
more. His weathered hands were darkened with age spots and
protruding veins. His long, gaunt, unshaven face was covered
with coarse, gray stubble and his severely receded white, hairline
exposed clusters of brown patches above his forehead. He sat
quietly with his hands folded in his lap, dressed in clothes that
although clean, had long outlived their usefulness. His eyes were
sunken in their sockets but a bright glimmer radiated from their
recesses when he spoke.
“How are you folks today? ” his voice quaked slowly.
“Here for the sale?” he queried. “It’s been pretty slow. Just
go and look around for yourselves. Let me know if you see
anything you like. I’ll be right here,” he continued without even
waiting for the replies to his questions.
Bob and Maryanne nodded politely and entered the house.
The place was neat and clean but furnished in the style of the
forties with heavy draperies over the living room windows and
large overstuffed chairs and sofa as of the era. They moved
through the dining room brushing passed the high-backed chairs
with faded cushions that surrounded the table. Maryanne’s eye
darted to and fro as they walked, noting the items, which she
planned to examine more carefully upon her return. The kitchen
too, looked like a page from a nineteen forty-eight “Life”
magazine advertisement. Again, it was neat and clean but sorely
lacked all the basic modern conveniences. Throughout were the
signs of constant care amidst the scars of many years of use. The
newly waxed linoleum on the floor bore a deep strip of wear
down its center and long cracks extended across the vinyl
surfaces of the sparkling clean kitchen chair seats. The faded
pink, Formica on the counter surfaces had long lost its shine and
the wooden cabinets bore dozens of retouching marks.
Maryanne meandered and poked about the place in her usual
painstakingly, deliberate manner. Bob wandered down into the
basement. The treads flexed and groaned as he descended. The
place was heavy with the smell of age. A single, naked light bulb
at the foot of the stairs cast a dim light over a pile of ancient paint
cans, newspapers, and magazines. Off in the far corner, hardly
visible in the shadows he noticed what looked like a small
workshop. He carefully made his way closer, eyes squinting and
occasionally stumbling in the dark, all the while diligently
searching for an unseen light switch. Then, what felt like a pull
string gently slid across his face. He reached up, grasped it, and
sharply snapped the light on above him. The illumination
flooded the area revealing an assortment of vises and tools
carefully positioned over two, long narrow workbenches. Lying
on benches, along with the tools were several golf clubs in
various stages of construction. One vise held an old wooden
driver with the sole plate removed while another clamped a shaft
fitted with neither a club head nor grip. Several aged golf bags in
the corner held collections of random clubs in each.
Bob looked over the workshop with keen curiosity. “All this
stuff belongs in an antique shop,” he thought.
There wasn’t a fiberglass or graphite shaft in the place. All
of the woods were made of the old persimmons; no metal woods
were to be found. Even the irons were old, solid construction.
There wasn’t one cavity back or perimeter weighed iron in the
“It’s the kind of stuff you’d expect to see in the forties and
fifties, I guess,” he thought to himself.
In spite of its obvious antiquity, he found himself intensely
interested as he continued to examine the contents of the shop.
He inspected each and every item on the bench and as he did, he
found himself becoming more and more curious. Soon, his
curiosity drew him deeper and deeper and found himself digging
through the contents of every cabinet and shelf, every closet and
drawer. Each was packed more tightly that the one before with
the odds and ends of an obvious craftsmen. He drew forth one
tool after another, holding each up to the light, trying to guess its
use as he examined it. After an hour or so, his fascination
exhausted, he ended his investigation and returned to the first
floor. Maryanne was still roaming about the second floor
bedrooms. He should have known better, he told himself. This
was going to be a lot longer than she had led him to anticipate.
Resigned to his fate, he walked out to the front porch and
seated himself in a chair adjacent to the old man. The old man
continued to methodically rock back and forth, appearing almost
oblivious to Bob’s presence.
After a silence the old man spoke.
“See anything you like? ” he asked.
“That’s really my wife’s department. I’m just along for the
ride if you know what I mean? ” Bob replied.
“Oh yeah, I know. I was married forty years. I know,” he
answered. There was another long silence.
“Are you a club maker? Golf clubs I mean? ” Bob asked,
trying to twist the silence into a conversation.
“Saw my workshop down there, huh?”
The old man turned and looked at him as he spoke.
“Yes,” Bob replied.
“Used to be. Can’t even get downstairs anymore. The legs
you know, they aren’t the best anymore. I don’t think the hands
would work too good either and besides everything is different
now. Metal woods, graphite, and all. You know what I mean,”
he continued.
“I thought it was pretty interesting, kinda almost like a golf
history lesson of sorts – like a museum,” Bob said flatteringly.
“You play?” asked the old man.
“I used too,” he answered.
“What do you mean - used to? ”
“Well,” it’s a long story,” said Bob hoping to discourage any
further inquiry.
There was a long silence.
“Looks like we’re going to have plenty of time. I haven’t
seen your wife for over an hour. Go ahead. Shoot!” the old man
“By the way young man my name’s Merle Arthur. What’s
yours?” he added and reached over extending his long, thin hand
in Bob’s direction.
“Bob. Bob Andrews,” he replied as he grasped it and
squeezed gently.
“Alright Bob then let’s hear it.”
Bob hesitated. He didn’t want to recount his story to anyone,
much less a stranger. But somehow the old man’s face drew the
words from his lips. Reluctantly, he began to speak, slowly at
first and then more and more freely as his tale unfolded. Soon,
he found himself confessing every lurid moment of the entire
experience from start to finish, omitting not even the smallest
detail. He told about the new clubs he had bought, his marvelous
expectations and how the whole thing had ended in catastrophe.
It was as if he was a repentant sinner and the old man was a
priest. The more he spoke, the better he felt, relieved of his
foolishness, as if shedding his burden of embarrassment.
Merle sat silently and expressionless as he listened to Bob’s
tale, never indicating approval or disapproval, sympathy or
disdain, but instead absorbing and digesting every word.
“I always wanted to play the game well and I guess when I
bought those clubs I tried to buy the skill I didn’t really have. I
should have known that you can’t just buy talent off the shelf. I
didn’t really appreciate that then but now I sure do. I wish I had
known. I could have saved myself a lot of suffering,” he
concluded somberly.
Finally he finished, feeling fatigued by the narration and
wrenching emotions it conjured up.
After a short pause the old man spoke.
“I always wanted to be a good player too. I mean really
good, and then finally when I had the chance it was too late for
me. I just ran out of time. I got too damn old just when I could
have done it, I mean done it big,” he said in a melancholy tone.
He stopped and stared into space for a moment. Then he
“I’m ninety two years old now. I’ve been taking care of
myself since I was sixteen. My wife’s gone. She’s been gone for
ten years now. We had a boy but he never made it back from
Vietnam. All my friends and my brothers and sisters are gone
too. It’s just me and me now, I guess.”
Again he paused with an idle gaze.
“I’m to the point where I can’t handle being alone anymore.
I just can’t do it. That’s why I’m selling this place. I’m going
to, I guess you’d call it, an old age home. You know, where I
can get some help with the stuff I can’t do anymore. I hate to
admit it but it looks like the body went before brain, if you know
what I mean? I guess it’s better than the other way, the brain
first I mean.”
“Oh shit! You don’t want to hear all this crap about me,” he
suddenly admonished himself for his ramblings.
Then he paused and turned his head towards Bob and peered
straight to his eyes.
“Like I said before it’s too late for me,” he mused.
“But maybe it’s not for you,” he added with a mysterious
“Go down the cellar. In the back, by my workshop, in one of
those cabinets on the right, on the bottom, you’ll find a gray golf
bag with clubs in it. Bring it up here,” he instructed in a sturdy
commanding voice.
Bob knew exactly the bag he was talking about. He had
inspected the entire shop, top to bottom and he had especially
noticed the bag and its contents. The clubs in it seemed to be
different, different from any of the others he’d ever seen, but he
couldn’t say exactly how or why.
Without a word, Bob rose dutifully at Merle’s command and
walked to the basement. He found his way to the cabinets at the
rear of the shop and removed the old but well preserved leather
bag from it. The club set it contained was from the fifties, like
most of the other items in the shop but again he noticed an
unexplainable uniqueness about it.
As he lifted the bag, he could tell that there was something
special about them in spite of their age. They were not special in
appearance but special in the sensation he felt when he touched
the bag. Bob pick them from their resting place and carried them
up to the porch. He placed them against the railing in front of
the old man.
Merle reached over, drew the driver from the bag, slipped
the cover from the club head and cradled the club gently in his
“Son, these don’t look like much. They’re old and out of
date but they’re different. When I say different, I mean there’s
none other like them, anywhere.”
He held the club up closer for Bob to examine as he
continued to speak.
“Here, let me show ya. See this shaft and head. Look at it
real close,” he demanded.
Bob leaned even closer to look at it more carefully, as the old
man instructed. It was a metal club head and a metal shaft.
That’s odd he thought. Metal woods didn’t even exist until the
eighties as far as he knew. Well, maybe the old man just put a
new head on an old shaft. So what!
The old man thrust the club up closer to him and bid that he
looked again more carefully. He obliged and to his surprise he
noticed, that upon closer inspection, it did indeed look different
than anything ever seen. It wasn’t just a new metal head on old
shaft. The metal, or what looked like it might be metal, had a
faint purple cast to it and a very light gold fleck embedded in it
just under its deep, lustrous surface. Bob took the club in his
hands and searched meticulously for other oddities as Merle
began to speak.
“Back about fifty eight a guy came to me to get a set of clubs
made. At the time, I was one of the best-known craftsmen
around. I would make them from scratch. I had a lathe in the
basement and I would machine the heads out of stock, right to
specs. Not many guys can do that. Most of them, they just got
the heads from a manufacturer and maybe they trim ‘em up a bit
and then they just stick ‘em on the shaft. Put a grip on it and
you’re done, you know what I mean? I was different though, I
was a club maker not club assembler.
I made sets for lots of the pros in the old days. I made sets
for Sarazin, Parkes and even Nelson one time. They all knew me
and what I could do and they came here. All those guys, some of
the greatest, sat on this very porch with me like you’re doin’ right
now,” he said waving his thin, bony finger excitedly.
Then, he paused for a moment, regained his composure and
“Well, anyway, like I was saying, this guy came to me, he
said his name was Max Goodhoff. He wanted me to make him a
set of clubs. He said he heard about my work and that’s why he
came to me. He wanted me to use this special material that he
brought with him. He had some small blocks and some small
round pieces of it.
I wasn’t sure how the stock would work. I didn’t even know
what it was. I never saw anything like it before. And besides, I
thought the guy was nuts. Nobody ever brought their own
materials to me before.
The first thing I told him it was going to cost him a bundle
and if he wasn’t a pro, well, what’s the point of spending all that
money? But that didn’t seem to bother him any. He didn’t even
flinch. He said he wasn’t any pro but whatever it costs, he was
good for it.
Now, I thought that was a little strange but then when I ask
him about the kind of club he wanted me to make for him, it got
really strange. He said he didn’t care! Just make the best kind I
could. Make a set that I would like. That was weird! Any guy
that I ever met, that was going to pay what he was paying, would
always tell me down to the last detail what he wanted. This guy
just says, ‘Make whatever you want!’
After we went through this stuff in the basement, we went
upstairs and I offered him a beer. Ever know a Kraut that didn’t
want a beer?
We had one beer, then another and another. You know what
I mean? Pretty soon we were both shot.
Then, he starts tellin’ me this crazy story. He said he was a
Jew and he escaped from Germany at the start of the war. He
was a scientist over there, a ‘polymer chemist’ he called himself.
Then, he says the stuff that he gave me was a top-secret,
experimental material that he’d been working on for Hitler in the
old country. When he left, he took it and old formulas, with him.
He said this stuff had, what he called a ‘memory’. He said it
could actually learn and remember?”
“Learn and remember what? ” interrupted Bob.
“Well, he said that it could remember what he did before and
do it better and better each time it did it again. Like, he said, if
you made car springs out of it, the more you rode, the better they
would work and after awhile, the car would ride with no bumps
at all, perfectly smooth, all the time. It would learn how to take
all the bumps perfectly.
I asked him, it was such great stuff, why didn’t he just sell it
to some company or the government and make a lot of money?
When I asked him that, he got a scared look on his face.
He said he couldn’t because the other scientists he was
working with back in Germany were Nazis. They thought this
material was going to help them win the war and they were
plenty mad when he took off with it and the formulas. He heard
through the grapevine that all during the war they were trying to
find him, to get it back and kill him for taking it. He said he
changed his name and laid low. He told me he was still scared
even then and that was an easy fifteen years after the war was
over. He said he thought that they were still after him.
He said he was getting tired of being afraid all the time. He
said he didn’t have enough guts to let anybody know about the
stuff but then again he wasn’t going to just throw it in the
garbage either. He said he really liked to play golf and he
thought maybe clubs made out of this material could eventually
learn the right swing like car springs would learn how to take the
It was kind of a crazy experiment he said. You know, those
scientist guys are always experimenting, and besides what else
was he going to do with it anyway?”
“If he was so afraid, how come he told you all this? ” asked
“That’s what I asked him. He just said he had to tell
somebody. He’d been carrying this in his mind for years and had
to tell somebody and I was it. He just trusted me I guess. And, of
course, the beers helped I’m sure.
I guess it’s kinda like the reason I’m telling you right now.
Everybody’s got to unload once awhile.”
“And you believed all this crap?” asked Bob incredulously.
“Are you kiddin’? Of course I didn’t. I thought the guy was
nuts or maybe just drunk, but then I thought, he’s a scientist, a
German scientist at that, like that rocket guy, Werner von Braun,
you know. And then too, there was two thousand dollars in it for
me and back in the fifties, you know how much money that
would be today, maybe ten thousand. I sure wasn’t going to
argue with the guy and tell him I thought he was nuts, even
though I did. Would you?” answered the old man emphatically.
“Not really,” agreed Bob.
“He left a deposit of a thousand bucks that night and I started
the very next day, early. It took me more than a month. I worked
sometimes day and night. I went through a bunch of blades on
that lathe but look at that club.” He pointed with a touch of pride
to the driver, which Bob was still holding.
“I bet I made the first wood ever that wasn’t wood.”
He took the three wood from the bag and slowly rotated in
his fingers, allowing the bright sunlight dance over its surface.
“Beautiful! ” responded Bob, admiring the workmanship.
“I finally got them all done. I was ready to call him and
deliver the job.
That very morning, I picked up the paper and what do I see?
He’s dead! The son of a bitch is dead!
There it was, right in the obits. I always read the obits the
first thing. It’s a habit. Done it for years.
There I see it, ‘Max Goodhoff, German Refugee, Dead of
Suicide at 61’. I gotta tell ya, I about died too.
First of all, I didn’t believe he committed suicide. I think
they finally got him and now I’m a little scared. Well, a lot
What if they come after me? I mean I got the stuff they
killed him over. And second, now I’m out a thousand bucks and
like I said, a thousand bucks was a lot of money in those days,
and besides I’m stuck with a set of clubs that I don’t even really
I tried callin’ his number to find out a little bit more about
what really happened to him but all I got was his wife and she
didn’t speak any English. I was stuck. So, I figured I’d just have
to take my chances, try to forget it and hope for the best.
I put the set away, right in the cabinet where you found them
and I didn’t bother with them for, I bet, five years. I gotta tell
you though, I was pretty nervous for a long time.
I couldn’t sell them. I was afraid to let anybody know that I
even had them for fear that, whoever did in Max, would get me
next. Maybe I was paranoid, I don’t know. Maybe it was my
imagination and the guy really did kill himself. Who knows?
Well, anyway, even after I wasn’t so afraid anymore, I was
still stuck with the clubs. I still couldn’t sell them. In those days
everyone wanted high polished persimmons woods and irons like
Ben Hogan irons. I could never have sold these things and even
if I could, I knew that I would never get the money for the
amount of work that I put into them. I would probably wind up
almost giving them away and I just couldn’t do that.
I knew, I sure couldn’t tell anybody the crazy story that I just
told you. They’d think I was nuts. So I just chalked the whole
thing up to experience.”
“So why are you telling me this crazy story, as you call it,
now?” asked Bob sarcastically.
“Like I told you before, there are some things, that after
awhile you just have to tell somebody, whether they believe you
or not. I’m ninety-three years old next year, God willing, and
now I don’t give a damn anymore what anybody thinks,
including you. Either you believe me or you don’t, but I got to
get it out,” he snapped back and turned away from Bob
There was a silence. Then, the old man slowly turned back
towards Bob and continued.
“One day for some reason, I still don’t know why, I said to
myself, you put all that time and effort into those clubs and
they’re just in the basement. Why not at least try them?
So I took them to the driving range that used to be over on
Route twenty-three, and I tried ‘em. At first, they were like any
other real good club. Nothing was really different about them.
They did have a good feel. Why shouldn’t they, I made them, I
thought to myself. So I kept hittin’. I hadn’t hit balls in years
and it was fun.
Then, I started to notice something a little different. On
every shot I took, the ball got a little bit straighter and a little bit
longer too. Not a whole lot to start with, but a tiny bit better and
better each time.
I hit one bucket of balls then I got a second. A big bucket
was only fifty cents in those days.
On the second bucket, I was maybe five yards longer than
the first, I mean, every shot. ‘Well, on the second one you were
warmed up’, I thought to myself, ‘that’s why you did better. So,
big deal!’
I went home and I was feeling tired and my hip was acting
up. Now it’s shot but it was just startin’ in those days. Arthritis,
you know, sometimes I had the sciatica for a couple of days at a
time and then it would go away for a stretch.
You see, I really couldn’t get out and work the clubs like I
wanted to and give them a true test. Then too, my wife was
getting sick about that time. She had diabetes. It started when
she was in her fifties and it took twenty years to kill her.
Anyway, I finally got a chance to go back to the range and
try the driver again. I started right where I left off the time before,
I mean with distance and being straight, and mind ya, I’d been
away for almost two months. By the time I left this time, I got
even better yet. I musta gone back there at least a dozen times
and by the time I was done, I was hitting two eighty sometimes
three hundred, one after another. I got so good, that guys would
stop their hitting just to watch me, and I was well over sixty-five
years old then!
After working the driver, I started to think to myself, ‘I’m
pretty damn good at this game after all. As a matter of fact, I’m
Then, I decided I was going to go to the course and play a
great round. At this point, I didn’t play that much anymore
because of what I told you before, about my arthritis and my
wife’s problems, but anyway I decided to play. I figured, the
way I hit those tee shots at the range, I’d probably be in the low
seventies at least.”
“How did you do?” interrupted Bob, trying to show interest
in the old man’s fantastic tale.
“Eighty-seven,” replied Merle in a disgusted tone.
“Are you kidding?” answered Bob in surprise, humoring the
old man.
“Yeah! Eighty-seven. The driver was the only club that
worked. Every tee shot was fantastic. Three hundred, three ten,
right down the middle. I even could fade and draw the ball
whenever I wanted to, but all the other clubs were terrible. I
played my usual game, except for the driver. I was a great club
maker but I never was a good player. I always wanted to be, but
I never was,” he said with a faint sigh.
“So what happened? ” asked Bob with feigned curiosity.
“I know what happened,” answered the old man. “The other
clubs hadn’t learned how to play yet. I didn’t work them enough.
Oh, they got a little better as the round went on because I was
using them during the game, but that wasn’t enough. Then, I
began to understand. I knew what the problem was. I knew what
Max was talking about.
That round killed me. My hip was out of shape for a couple
of weeks. I could hardly walk. I felt terrible for the longest time.
It must have been two months before I got back into the kind of
shape so I could go back to the range again.
When I went back I worked on the three wood. I started off
like usual, nothing special. You know, slices, a dub now and
then, but again, the more I worked the club, the better it got and
after a few times at the range it was just like the driver. I
couldn’t miss with it, two sixty, two seventy every time. Then, I
started working every club in the bag. After awhile, I got all of
them to be perfect, right down to the putter. It took a long time
though. With all the problems I had like I told you, it took a lot
of my time and I couldn’t get to the range every day like I wanted
to. It must have taken two years and a couple of hundred dollars
at the range and the pitch and putt courses to finally get
everything right.” He paused.
“Then, just when I’m ready to put it altogether on the course,
I had this stroke,” and he pointed to his left hand resting on the
arm of the rocker. He reached over with his right hand and lifted
it an inch or so above its resting place and released it. It fell
lifelessly back to its original spot.
“See what I mean. It wasn’t as bad as it could have been
though. Strokes can really be nasty, but it was just enough to
ruin my dreams. I took it pretty hard at first. I bet I was
depressed for six months, I mean ‘Get the gun the depressed’.
All I could do was sit and look at those clubs in front of me and
wonder what would have happened if I didn’t have the goddamn
stroke. That was all I could think about, day after day, a week in
and week out.
Then one day, I don’t know why, I said to myself, ‘Christ
you better snap out of this stupid self-pity crap. Your wife needs
you and you better start taking care of what you have to take care
of, and like magic I snapped out of it.
I took those clubs right downstairs and put them where you
found them and I haven’t seen them again until right today.
I asked you to bring them up here because I want you to have
them. I want you to do with ‘em what I wanted to do and
couldn’t,” said the old man and he reached out and grasped Bob’s
hand with his.
“That’s very kind of you,” replied Bob appreciatively.
“But, why do you want to give them to me? You don’t even
know me,” he added with sensitive curiosity.
“Well,” said Merle, “I’m going to Restful Pines next week.
It’s a nursing home. They like to tell me that it’s a senior citizens
living center, but I know it’s a goddamn nursing home. I said I’d
never go to one, but I can’t make it on my own anymore. I lasted
as long as I could and maybe a little longer than I really should
have, but you know what I mean, it’s over now!”
“Don’t you have a son you could give them to?” asked Bob
“Like I told you, my boy never came back from Vietnam,”
he replied tersely.
Bob didn’t replied. He didn’t know what to say. There was
a long lull in the conversation. Then the old man began to speak
“About ten years ago, I told my nephew that same story that
I just told you and I offered to give them to him. He said he
always thought that I was kind of “eccentric”. I guess it was a
nice way to say the he thought I was a little nuts. I could tell by
the look on his face when I told the story, he thought I was over
the edge.
Well, anyway, he said he would take them to give them a try.
I suppose he said it to humor me, because he was supposed to
pick them up the next day but never did.
After that, I thought, what the hell if my own nephew doesn’t
believe me and thinks I’m crazy, then who else would? So after
that, I just decided not saying anything to anybody again and I
didn’t, not until now anyway.”
“Why now? Why me?” asked Bob.
“I kinda figured that you’re my last chance. I can’t just
throw magic like this in the garbage can and ride away.
When you told me your story about how much you ached to
really play well, I thought to myself, here’s a guy who deserves a
break. You’ve got a sincere look about you too. You’ve got the
look of someone who will give an old man’s dream a chance and
when you give my dream a chance, you will give yourself the
chance of a lifetime. Trust me, I’m telling you the truth.”
Then, he looked straight into Bob’s eyes and gripped his
hand firmly.
“Am I right young man? Do you trust me? Do you believe
me?” he asked sternly.
Bob mustered all the sincerity that he could and responded
“I believe you, Merle. I promise to help take care of the
clubs and I’ll do the best that I can do by you. I’ll let you know
how I do.”
“If you’re telling the truth son, you won’t have to let me
know. I’ll read about you in the newspapers,” remarked the old
man soberly.
How could he destroy the old man’s fantasy? What purpose
would be served by that kind of cruelty? What would it cost him
to take the clubs home and put them in the garage with all the
other assorted house sale trash that Maryanne picked up weekly?
Merle would be pleased and he’d feel better for not having
crushed the last dying hope out of an old man.
Just at that moment, Maryanne appeared on the porch,
carrying a picture and a large brass lamp.
“How much for these?” she asked.
“Marked right on the bottom there. Mrs. Alom said that she
marked everything on the bottom.
She’s my neighbor across the street. She’s helped me for the
past ten years. Without her I would have quit a long time ago.”
“What’s it say?” he asked as he bent over looking at the tag
on the back of the picture that Maryanne was holding.
“Oh, there it is. Eight for the picture and.” She turned the
lamp over and faced the bottom towards him.
“Fourteen for the lamp,” he announced.
She reached into her purse and pulled out the money.
“Twenty-two, even,” and she handed it to him.
Then, she looked up and spied the clubs against the railing,
just as Bob reached for the bag. She hesitated for a moment.
“How much are those?” she asks slowly pointing to the bag.
“Nothing,” responded Merle instantly.
“Nothing! They’re something I’m giving your husband.”
“Are you sure?” she asked.
“I won’t take a dime for them. Just promise that you’ll do
with them what I couldn’t. That’s all,” he answered.
“I promise,” said Bob and he picked up the bag, swung it
over his shoulder and left with Maryanne.
They put the items in the trunk of the car and got in.
“What was that all about? ” she asked inquisitively.
Bob started the car, slowly pulled from the parking place and
immediately began to tell her the old man’s story. Maryanne
listened and marveled at the absurdity of the tale, as he related it
from start to finish.
When they arrived home, Maryanne hung the picture on the
wall in the den and put the lamp in the garage with her
accumulated house sale hoard. Bob put the bag in the far corner
of the garage, in the exact same spot where his prized, new clubs
had once stood.
He turned and began to walk away. Then, suddenly he
stopped and looked back at the bag. He recalled the sincerity in
the old man’s eyes as he had told his story and just for a fleeting
moment, Bob wondered.
He paused, shook his head slowly, turned and walked out of
the garage leaving the clubs standing in the corner.
Read the entire story atSMASHWORDS & AMAZON

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