Friday, June 29, 2012

I Remembered How To Play Golf, And Then Something Happened by CD Carter

A golf obsessive rediscovers his youthful talent, but doesn't get to appreciate it for long; by CD Carter

Lights out.

That's all I remembered from before I woke up in that lush, freshly mowed driving range grass. I was my old self one minute, absolutely striping six-iron shots at the one-hundred-eighty-yard flag. Then I committed a driving range faux pas and, out of absolutely nowhere, whack.

I was out. Like a light.

It had been a long time since I swung a golf club with such confidence. No hitches or twitches interrupted the flow of my arch - the reverse-C, they call it - and I was able to repeat that wonderfully fluid motion with the precision of a properly programmed machine. Muscle memory had taken over, and it made me so very happy to know that my body remembered how to hit a golf ball with such unapologetic power.

God, it felt so good.

There was a time in my life - we'll call that time high school, even though it extended into my freshman year of college - when golf was my full-time job from May through August. Taking advantage of my father's golf club membership, I arrived at the course an hour after the sun cascaded over everything, and I stayed there, playing and practicing, until the sun fizzled out and told me to go the hell back home. I said golf was my job, but it was certainly not a nine-to-five gig. Every day was a glorious eleven-hour slog.

So I got good. I didn't know just how good, but pretty damn good. Then college happened, and then I met a girl, and then we got married and moved far away from my father's golf course, and then we had a kid, a little girl.

Golf, as you see, took a back seat, before it was tossed in the trunk, before it was thrown out of the whole damn car at cruising speed. I used to play eighteen holes of golf twenty times a month. Suddenly, I was playing three miserable rounds a year.

It happens. My dad said so. But that doesn't make it any easier when I'm forced, during my infrequent driving range forays, to see in horrid detail just how much my swing has eroded through all these years. It stung my ego to know that people no longer stopped and gawked at my flawless move through the helpless golf ball, teed up and ready to be compressed by my pitching wedge or seven iron or driver.

But on the day the lights went out, it was all there.

On a sunny Saturday in late May, I became eighteen years old again. Not even the forty pounds I had gained since then, or the mortgage and two car payments, or the private school tuition, could weigh me down. Like I said, I was striping the ball. I hadn't heard the golf ball hiss off the grooves of my clubface for twelve years. The sound was pure melody. Orchestral, even.

And dammit if I had to go mess it up. I had hit the last of the ninety-seven golf balls piled in my plastic green bucket when, still high from the feel of perfect contact, over and over, I left my driving range mat and took three steps onto the grassy range. There a stray ball lay, just calling for me to scoop it up, bring it to my mat, and hit another beautiful six iron, just for one more high.

You know, if you've ever been to a driving range, that stepping onto the range is a preeminent no-no, as it should be. There are dozens of truly terrible golfers sending golf balls flying every which way, shanking shots, skulling shots, topping shots, chunking shots, hitting the hosel, spraying the damn ball everywhere. I knew that when I stepped into that driving range grass and bent down to pick up the golf ball I yearned to hit.

That's when it happened. I heard the thwack of a metal-wood from somewhere close, a woman shrieked, and just like that, lights out. When my eyes opened next, there was an elderly woman with cropped white hair taking my pulse and shaking her head disapprovingly at a group of onlookers surrounding me, bent over me. I was lying on my back.

"Nope," the pulse-taker said, speaking just loudly enough to be heard over someone sobbing.

Screams followed her sobering declaration because, I presume, my eyes were wide open and I sat up. All the commotion was annoying. I just wanted to take my last swing, head home, and tell my wife that she had married a golfer of superb skill and grace.

I walked to my mat, placed my last golf ball on the turf, and ripped at it with my six iron. Off it went, with an ever-so-soft fade, a gorgeous fluttering thing against the deep blue sky. The contact felt so pure. Whatever happened to make the lights go out, mercifully it hadn't messed with my rejuvenated swing.

And just like the old days, people were gawking. Two little boys in matching golf shirts and visors were slack jawed. An Asian guy backed away from me until he tripped over his golf bag. The white-haired woman cupped her hands over her mouth and muttered, "Oh my God, oh my God, oh my God."

I headed back home, and here I sit, not wanting to sleep, and fighting a hunger so deep I can hardly finish this retelling. My hunger screams out, and I'm afraid to write what exactly it is that I crave.

6 comments:

  1. michael mccarthy
    i´ve heard that golf is supposed to be addictive
    this seems to prove the point, or does it?
    interesting, ending not clear, which i like.
    i´ll look out for more of this author´s stories.

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  2. "Nope," the pulse-taker said, speaking just loudly enough to be heard over someone sobbing.

    The ending was very clear imo. Well done, Michael.

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  3. Great pacing, lavish descriptions and an ending that comes out of left field ... or the high rough, as it were. What more could you want. Nice work!

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  4. Thanks for the nice words, everyone. I try to write what I know, and more than anything, I know golf and I know zombies. The man in this story -- and sorry if this ruins the end for anyone -- is undead. An expanded version of this story could be in an anthology next fall.

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  5. Clever, nine-iron-in-cheek stuff. As golf fanatics go, this character is only about halfway up the scale. Very good.

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  6. As a golf fanatic myself I can really relate! Great story.

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