What follows is an edited and slightly expanded version of a short-story I wrote some years ago for a fiction seminar I took as an undergrad, an attempt, I guess, to disprove Bernard Darwin’s now-century old claim that golf isn’t a rich medium for fiction and that, apart from P.J. Wodehouse, no one has successfully written about it. I recently re-discovered this story while going through the years and years of gathered word docs on my old laptop. For the life of me I can’t recall from where or from whom I got the inspiration for the opening scene, but I remember being haunted by that image and wanting to write a story with it as the beginning – my gut instinct says it came from an article or passage I’d read about a painter or piano prodigy. Perhaps it’ll come back to me; if so, I’ll edit this post. The second part, about a prodigy running around and winning things under a pseudonym, I borrowed from Bobby Ryan’s – or, to be more precise, Robert Stephenson’s – story. And there are also a few elements of Sean O’Hare’s life mixed in, likely the preeminent father-son, prodigal-horror story in golf. Regardless, I hope you all enjoy what comes next, even if it is slightly dark and morose in tone.
Somewhere South of Nowhere
The boy, his legs jangly, stands in front of a brick wall. He looks at his right hand, curls it into a fist, stares at the wall, and then again at his fisted hand.
The world is mute except for a faint buzz, which may or may not be a figment of his imagination.
He curls his right hand into a fist once again. He knows he has to do this, this act.
He lingers another few minutes, still unable to muster the courage to commit himself to it. He thinks of nothing, then everything, then nothing, then everything.
Suddenly, seemingly without forcing himself to, he goes through with it. Initially, the pain isn’t as bad as he expected it to be. But then it shoots up his hand, to his wrist, to his elbow, to his shoulder, up his neck, and into his brain, blurring his vision and sending him to his knees. There’s no one around to hear his cries of agony, his belches.
He’s only half done with it, though, the act. When the pain somewhat subsides, however many minutes later, he forces himself back to his feet. He must do it with his left hand now. He can hardly see the wall through his tear filled eyes.
Everybody wants a prodigy to fail, for it makes our own mediocrity more bearable.
The boy often thought of the night when his father roused him from his sleep, told him to pack his two favorite toys and a few outfits, dragged him by the arm through his childhood home, forced him into the back seat of his car, assured him that they’d be back in a little while to visit mom, and took off towards the Interstate, with hardly a regard for stop signs or the speed limit. He thought he’d heard his mother screaming, or maybe this was a detail he had retroactively added to his memory of that faithful night.
Subsequently he’d often wondered if his mother had searched for him afterwards – if she still was. Or perhaps she’d re-married, started a new family, and forgotten all about him, them, her former life.
However, he didn’t miss hearing his parents argue, seeing his mother’s blackened eyes, or her bruised arms. He could still vividly remember the pungent, strong scents her breath routinely emitted when she came to kiss him goodnight, and the weird aromas that lingered on her clothing and the glassy, deadpan eyes she reprimanded him with, usually for the most trivial of reasons, or sometimes for reasons she entirely made up – figments of the strange moods she got into, the reasons for which he didn’t yet understand back then.
They’d arrived one sunless afternoon, and, soon after, his father was in charge of maintaining the small nine-hole golf course in this dusty, one-horse town somewhere in very western Texas, thousands of miles and a world away from where they’d begun their journey a day and a half prior.
The town had one traffic light, a bank, a town-hall, a cafe cum gas station cum post-office, and a few boarded up stores still bearing the rusted signs of what they once peddled. Everyone around seemed aged to the boy. For the first few sweltering late summer weeks of his sojourn he did hardly more than linger in the cramped and musty-smelling room his father had rented above one of the abandoned stores, walk out back though not too far because he’d been warned that there were rattlesnakes around, read and re-read the three comic books he’d bought, and watch the two channels they got on the little TV – one from Lubbock, one from Dallas.
Eventually, his father told him that he’d found a place to stay nearer to the golf course. While they were transitioning there, the boy asked him about school, an inquiry that seemed to anger his father for some reason.
“Home-school, we’ll home-school you,” he finally answered.
His father was a curt, cold, untalkative type, but he could babble on and on and on about the halcyon days he’d spent on tour, especially when he’d had a few Miller Lites. He could spin those yarns seemingly until the morning sun rose: driving the highways and byways from one event to the next, mingling with and even sometimes beating the names that the boy recognized from the TV and from the Golf magazines his father kept. When doing so, his father’s voice lost its no-nonsense, piercing edge and grew mellow and melancholic, until something snapped him back to reality and it regained its former manner.
The suited newsman on the TV revealed that it was Monday, September 3rd, which was when school usually started, the boy judged; yet they hadn’t bought textbooks or pencils or paper. His father, as usual, had already left for work, and he was alone again. It was raining slightly, the first time that had happened since they’d arrived. The bare soil of the yard turned muddy and he felt like going outside and playing in it, but he knew that his father would raise cain if he came home and all of his clothes were dirty and needed to be washed. That had been his mother’s job, as had cooking, cleaning the house, and helping with his homework – all of which his father had to do now, in addition to working from sun-rise to sun-set.
He wondered what his father did at the course on days like these, on most days in fact. Who could be playing golf out here, in a place like this, he wondered. And those who were around were old, and broken down, and decidedly not the golfing types. Seasoned farmers or rig-drivers, in trucker hats, plaid button-downs, Levi blue jeans, and brown cowboy boots, who wasted their last days sitting at the cafe, watching the world go by. The world, way out there, somewhere.
Occasionally, when the wind blew over the front yard, the boy could hear the sound of the trucks humming along the Interstate, which reminded him of how far from home he’d been dragged. Would he ever go back? Would he ever again see his mother, his grandparents, and his old friends? Had Claire, the girl whom he had once called his girlfriend, found a new boyfriend yet?
“Be athletic dammit, like when you play baseball. You play short-stop with your knees straight?” his father ordered as the boys awkwardly gripped his first golf club, an old Titleist. Attempting to adhere to the instruction the boy eyed the little white ball between his feet. It seemed so easy to launch high and straight, especially when compared to a moving, curving baseball coming from forty feet away. The golf club, its rubber grip bearing GolfPride at the bottom, felt foreign in his hands though; he wanted to grip it with ten fingers, rather than with his right pinky interlocked with his left index, which was how his father said he had to grip it, because “that’s how Hogan, Jack, and Tiger did it”.
He knew Tiger, who didn’t? But Hogan and Jack, who were they? He was afraid to ask, for his father tended to have no patience for trivial questions such as these. Figure it out for yourself, son, go look through them Golf Digests I brought; the answers are in them pages, the world ain’t gonna hand it all to ya, gotta go get it yourself, he’d probably answer.
At first he could hardly hit the thing, let alone get it airborne, which angered his father, who kept mumbling to himself and demonstrating to him how to properly swing by annoyingly grasping his pupil’s tired shoulders, or hips, or forearms. Their first range session was a miserable failure, and the boy never again wanted to play the darn sport. That night he mutely cried himself to sleep, so as to not alert his father, who was in his bed across the hall, through the paper thin walls of the home. He imagined his father thought him a failure, a dunce. He hoped the desolate hours of the night would unfold as slowly as that session had; that he wouldn’t fall asleep so that morning wouldn’t come too soon.
When he awoke he was alone in the house, which he normally hated and was scared of but didn’t mind on that occasion. His father kept some extra clubs in the back parlor, one of which he grabbed and took outside after eating his breakfast while watching the news. He took his cereal dry because he’d finished the quart of milk the night prior and his father hadn’t yet bought more of it.
He only had one golf ball. With the back of the 735cb 5-iron he’d grabbed he knocked up a clump of still slightly wet sand and teed the ball on it. He tried to recall the motion his father had shown him. The first shot dribbled to the fence, coming to rest at its base; unpertubed, he ran over to get it, returned to the shadow of the house, and teed it up again. This time, though, as if by some miracle, he hardly felt the Pinnacle come off the face of the club, and it went soaring over the fence. He never saw the path that the white dot traced against the clear blue sky, however, because he hadn’t yet trained his eyes to look up, rather than down at the ground, after impact. That felt rather easy, he thought, but now he had nothing to hit. Regardless, he wanted to run over and show his father what he’d learned to do, but then he judged that his father was likely occupied with some chore, cutting the grass or raking the bunkers or pruning a tree, and probably didn’t wish to be bothered. After all, how many thousands and thousands of folks could make contact with the ball and hit it in the air? Nothing to be too proud of yet, the boy judged.
“Next on the tee, Jack Smith,” a man in a ill-fitting polyester polo bearing the crest of the state golf association over his left breast announced to the handful of gathered parents, all of whom clapped politely, except his father, who stealthily pushed his son forward toward the tee markers. I’m not up, the boy was about to say as he pivoted slightly, but then he felt another trust to his spine.
“Just like we practiced, kid,” his father whispered. The boy didn’t understand what was happening around the task, but he understood the task.
For the past year, he’d been at the course practicing all day, from dusk to dawn, until his palms literally bled. His father had informed him, soon after he’d judged that his son could in fact hit a ball relatively though not satisfactorily straight and high, that they were beginning a ten year plan that would culminate with the boy being on tour, in the show, one step beyond where his own career had stalled.
“I know how to get there. Almost was, should’ve been, but wasn’t meant to be. Your gonna think i’m the goddamnest sonnafa bitch on god’s green earth, oh you will, but one day you’ll thank me.”
The boy progressed rapidly, to the point that he could break 90 within a few weeks of truly starting the game. It came naturally to him, then; he didn’t really think about what he was doing, or how he was trying to do it, or why he was doing it. He just saw the shot, felt it, and executed it, over and over and over again. Standing over the ball, he never considered anything but what could go right.
While he went about his menial daily tasks, his father usually kept an eye on the boy, occasionally coming over to examine his swing on the range, or his stroke on the putting green, or his technique out of the bunker, which he’d dug specifically for the boy. The vast majority of the other members were truck-slammer types, so the boy usually had a free run of the joint. The owner was in his mid-eighties and hardly came by anymore; meanwhile his wife ran the pro shop and tended the bar. She didn’t ask many questions and didn’t stick her nose where it shouldn’t go. And she liked her new employee, who showed up on time, worked hard, and similarly minded his own business.
After his shift, he began following the boy around the course; due to a nagging golfer’s elbow, he rarely played anymore, though he was still a skilful player. Furthermore, the game had been tainted by his failures, a love-hate affair. He only remained involved with it because he knew nothing else, had done nothing else to fall back upon. Running a golf-course was better than working construction, or as a janitor, or as a delivery man, he judged.
The boy could hardly steady his right hand enough to place his Titleist on the head of the tee. Eventually he managed to and began his pre-shot routine. The fairway was rather wide and, as he stood behind the ball and visualized the arching flight of the white dot against blue sky off which hung milky cumulonimbuses, a confidence washed over him. His nerves were still there, his gut a little jittery, his hands shaking a little, but it didn’t feel all that alien to the thousands and thousands of times he’d previously prepared to hit a drive. He stepped into his stance, drew his club halfway back to get a feel for his take-away, brought it back behind the ball, looked up once at the target, re-gripped his lower hand, and finally began his move.
He knew that gratifying feeling; he didn’t need to watch the Titleist take off somewhere up the left edge of the fairway and fade slightly back to the middle. All of the parents clapped his drive except for his father, who was already marching towards where his ball had ended.
What surprised the boy the most was that his playing partners, three kids from the Dallas-metro area, seemed more interested, more occupied with chatting and laughing and talking about other shit than with winning the event. They hardly seemed to care about their rounds. They didn’t have set pre-shot routines, and hardly even read their putts.
The boy only provided one or two word answers when they tried asking him about his life, which they stopped doing by about the 4th tee when it was clear that he had no interest in trying to become their friend. He wasn’t there for that. His father, a note-pad in one hand and an umbrella in the other, remained stone-faced all day, even when the boy knocked his 3 wood second on the 395 yard par 5 7th to a few inches, which brought him to 1 under on the day.
Coming off the 18th green, after they all awkwardly shook hands, the boy strutted jubilantly towards the clubhouse to sign his card, while his father darted towards the parking lot. Having watched his partners chop it around all day, he imagined that no one had come close to beating his 74.
They were the second last group in and, based on the quick glances back he’d taken, the three in the final one appeared no real threat to beat him. While reviewing their cards, the boy ran his eyes across the six-by-six foot scoreboard tacked to the wall behind the table and noticed that he, in fact, had had the lowest score so far, by 4 strokes. A dozen minutes later, he was crowned the champion and awarded the trophy, the first of what he presumed would be many. Like Tiger, he imagined that he would soon have an entire room in his house dedicated to housing his collection.
The fact that his father wasn’t in the hall worried him slightly. The drive back was long and his father had to work in the morning, so rather than linger around and help himself to a plate or two from the buffet, he exited the hall, grabbed his bag, and rounded the clubhouse. His father was leaning against the back bumper of the car; judging by the contorted look his face bore and the way he was brushing the dirt with his left foot, the boy could tell he was displeased. But he’d won, had lapped the field.
Unsure of what to do, he dropped his bag a few feet from the side of the car and tried passing his father the trophy. His father reacted by slapping it out of his hand, sending it clacking and thumbling under the BMW sedan that was parked near them.
“Good fucking job, you beat a bunch of thumb-sucking eejits. You think you played a good round, huh?” he asked the boy, who remained in a stunned silence. Erecting his posture, his father opened his note-book, “sloppy error on 2, unforced error on 5, hardly went through your pre-shot routine on the box on 6,” he began, his voice growing annoyed as he listed the litany of errors he’d noted. Eventually he stopped and slammed the pad down on the back hood of the car. “How many putts you miss inside five feet?”
“Two,” the boy answered.
“Grab your putter and go hit twenty straight three footers. Circle drill and if you miss one, you start at zero,” the father instructed him. It was getting dark, the boy thought, surely he wouldn’t have time to finish the drill, which he hated but knew was effective.
The sight of the father hawk-eyeing the champion grinding on the putting green startled and worried the other parents as they exited the clubhouse and made their journeys back towards their respective homes. Yet this would become a common sight over the next few years on the State’s junior circuit, as would the unsmiling, distant look the boy always gave whenever he held aloft the countless trophies he won.
Nearly every night, he’d begun to be afflicted with awful, stretching pains in his legs, usually in his calves or hamstrings, which awoke him and kept him tossing and turning and grasping for relief for hours on end sometimes. By then, at the age of fifteen, he stood five-foot five, still nearly seven inches shorter than his father, who didn’t believe in using drugs to alleviate, what he judged as, the natural process of the body – in fact, he held many such beliefs. The boy’s mother was also rather tall for a woman; strange, though, he couldn’t exactly recall her height anymore, he realized.
The letters and emails had been pouring in from colleges and coaches all over the country: Stanford, UCLA, Florida, Penn State, Ohio State. The fact he hadn’t been to school in four years worried the boy, but he presumed that his father had that handled. It worried him not because he felt he was falling behind, or that was missing out on something, or that he was stupid, but because he wondered how he would manage to become eligible for college. He was running around, winning things, and receiving all this acclaim under a name that wasn’t his. But so far his father’s plan had been faultless; one of the key points of instruction his father consistently reinforced was to “control the controllables”, so that was what the boy tried his best to do: put his head down and grind.
The previous weekend he’d managed to qualify for the U.S.G.A.’s Junior Amateur in Ridgewood, New Jersey, for the first time in his career, after having survived a twelve for three playoff at Barton Creek in Austin. His game hadn’t been especially great of late, but, he reassured himself, that was just a natural part of golf – ebbs and flows, ups and downs. He’d gone through such dryer spells before and had always managed to come out of them rather quickly.
As usual, his alarm went off at 6 am sharp, when the blood-orange sun was about ready to crest the hazy range of bald, rocky hills beyond the expanse of low shrub and sandy flatland, which he took a moment to eye from his bedroom window. There was a certain desolate beauty in this dead landscape, he judged. While going over the practice agenda his father had devised for the rest of the day, he ate a banana, a yogurt with granola, and drank a glass of water. Rarely was he hungry this early in the morning, but he forced himself to gouge it down, knowing he’d need the energy. Fifteen minutes later, he took out his yoga carpet and proceeded through his stretching routine. “Flexibility and range of motion are what makes you hit it long. Look at the way Rory loads and unloads. Back in the 90s, we used to just lift weights and not stretch, and we all started getting back aches.” All in all, though, the boy liked stretching, because it wasn’t too strenuous, especially when his father wasn’t around to watch.
Afterward, he went to his room, threw on a pair of mesh gym shorts and a faded Philadelphia Eagles T-shirt, stuffed his golf clothes in his State Golf Association logoed duffel bag, brushed his teeth, and mainlined a protein shake before stepping outside. The golf course was about a fourteen minute run from door to door, depending on how quickly he strided. Of course, his father checked his stats on the monitor the boy wore on his right wrist.
Mornings were dedicated to short game and putting, afternoons to the long-game, and evenings to playing before nightfall came. Each stroke over par meant a mile the boy was forced to run after the round with strap-on weights tied to his ankles, while his father tailed him in his car, honking or shouting when the boy’s pace fell below his standard or when he started looking around the scenery.
He arrived fourteen and a half minutes later, and, as usual, headed right to the men’s locker to change into his golf clothes. The locker room was empty; there were a few sweat-stained hats and bags placed atop the metal lockers and some dirty, wrinkled Footjoys tucked beneath the bench that split the room in half.
The day unfolded normally, his swing felt good on the range, his stroke smooth on the greens, his chipping motion crisp. His father occasionally stopped by to eye him, before rushing off to his next task. At 3:30 pm, as the shadows began to elongate and a cool evening breeze kicked up the days’ sentiments, rendering an air of still, desolate melancholy to the scene, the boy walked over to the first tee, where his father was waiting.
“Worst ball today,” he instructed the boy, a game where you play two shots from each position, select the worst one, then play two more from there, until you hole out. They played this game a few times a week and the boy didn’t mind it.
The first few holes, a short par 4 that ran along the south boundary fence followed by a non-descript par 3, went smoothly. He played all of his shots rather well, making two pars, which, considering the difficulty of the game, was good.
On the third, a long par 4 back into the wind, he was forced to play his third shot from the greenside bunker, which he failed to get up and down. One over par, which meant a mile to run after the round. The 4th, however, was an easy, downhill and rightward doglegging par 5 around a murky holding from which the club drew its water to hose the greens. The boy grabbed his driver, teed the ball to the left hand side of the tee deck, went through his practice routine, picked his target line way out in the distance up the left edge of the fairway, settled into his stance, and pulled the driver. At the top of his backswing, he felt something strange, a position he’d never been in before: laid off, too long, his spine tilted back. From there, he tried his best to save it, by attempting to flip his hands as quickly as possible, knowing, by instinct, that the clubface was bound to be open when it came to impact. Still, despite his best effort, his ball took off almost forty-five degrees to the right, ending up in the middle of the parallel-running fairway.
Halfway up his through-swing, he released his right hand from the grip and eyed the slicing flight of the ball with eyes of shock, horror, and disbelief. Usually, upon seeing such a shot, his father would make a snarky comment, but this time, he remained in a similarly stunned silence; what could you say to that, to a shot that bad, his shake of his head seemed to convey.
“Wow, okay, uhm,” the boy said, picking up his driver from the ground. He reached into his bag for another ball.
“I don’t think you’re gonna hit the second one any worse than that, but go ahead, cleanse your pallet off with another one,” his father remarked, brushing some dirt with the toe of his right shoe, still stunned.
A drive as bad as it was hard to forget, to put out of mind. During his practice swings in preparation for his next drive, the boy tried his best to feel where his clubhead needed to be, how his body was supposed to move, how his hands were supposed to react, but the feeling lingered, haunted him. Natural instinct was suddenly overwhelmed by thought, by mechanics. So scared he was of repeating that laid off motion that he completely over-compensated on his next real swing and pulled his drive into the left rough. The feeling, the shock of that drive wouldn’t dissipate the rest of the round; he missed shots both ways, never being able to find the correct slot, the needed tempo, the timing of the release. So bad was his score that his father mustered an ounce of mercy and decreed that he need not run his usual miles of punishment. “Burn the tape, come back fresh tomorrow, son. Sometimes that’s what’s needed,” he offered as they sauntered through the overgrown and weedy front yard of their home.
It was a late summer day but there was something of fall in the air. An auguring of November in its cool wind. What had begun as a mere isolated germ had spread and festered, lingering and tending to rear its ugly head at the most inopportune of times. Pressure acted as carburant. The misses and failures piled up, one after another, beginning with a disastrous stint at the U.S. Junior Amateur, which culminated in a completely muted 26 hour drive through the night back to Texas. Then a number of similar ones came next. A number of coaches, experts of the game’s ever fickle mechanics, had been summoned to apply their elixirs but to no avail – one prescribed a certain remedy, then the next would prescribe a completely opposite one.
The other boys and their parents gleamed at the sight of this fallen Icarius who, in a matter of mere months, had fallen from heights unseen to the depths of commonality, merely another one amongst them all suddenly. With a mix of bewilderment and vindication they watched him lumber from rough to rough, bunker to bunker, green to tee, venue to venue, cutting a hopeless, wandering figure whose swing seemed, at least to the naked eye, just as it had always been, though it had stopped producing its once reliable product. With a mix of satisfaction and commiseration they watched him try to rediscover the secret hidden in the dirt – rather than rediscover it, however, further confusion and discomfiture were unearthed. Rather than improve as the sessions wore on, he hit it worse.
“What’d you make there, bro,” his competitor asked him, eyes sunken, feeling guilty that he hadn’t been able to track the total himself.
“Triple,” the boy answered solemnly, knowing that he’d in fact made a quadruple, but considering that he was twelve over par through sixteen holes, did it really matter? No it didn’t, he told himself. Still, he felt guilty.
His competitor penciled in his score and they walked towards the seventeen tee. His father had disappeared from sight sometime just after the turn, being unable to muster the courage to watch any longer. This boy, his boy, into and onto whom he had transferred all of his dreams, all of his failures – this boy who was supposed to vicariously redeem his own failed career. Now it had all come crashing down, those teenaged shoulders that could no longer bear what often felt like the weight of the world. The seventeenth was a par 3 over a small, dry creek bed, measuring one hundred and seventy yards, a yardage the boy normally disliked, for it was perfectly between his six and seven irons. He opted for the shorter club of the two, thinking that he might as well just hit it as hard as he could, rather than try to finesse a shot. Strangely the triple bogey he’d just recorded seemed to alleviate all of the pent up pressure with which he normally played tournament golf, and the feat with which he’d been straddled for months was gone. He aimed slightly left and took a lash with the seven, knowing that where it ended didn’t matter in the slightest. Free of care, he produced a good shot that landed twenty feet from the flag; from there, he two putted and similarly played the final hole solidly, recording a fairway, a green in regulation, and a two putt par. He signed for an eighty-three, his worst score ever, but he felt at ease with it.
“You playing in Denton,” his competitor, Jake, with whom he had yakked it up most of the back asked as they gathered their bags and headed towards the parking lot.
“I think so. I’m playing like shit, but I may as well.”
“Hopefully we’re paired together there. I enjoyed playing with you bro,” Jake answered, offering his fist to be dumped.
“Me too bro. See ya soon.”
“Maybe we could play a round sometime, for fun. Come to Dallas and we can play my course.”
“For sure, I’d love to,” the boy responded.
“You got insta or facebook?”
“Nah my dad doesn’t let me.”
“A cell phone?”
“Ya, my number is 817-001-0001,” the boy answered, a number he made up since he wasn’t allowed to have one but was too embarrassed to admit it.
“Sick. We’ll arrange that,” Jake said and passed through a row of parked cars towards his father’s black GMC suburban. The boy watched him.
His father was at the far end of the lot, parked near the maintenance shed, and he was sitting in silence. Usually the boy dreaded the rides home, but he felt free of care this time. He packed his clubs into the trunk and opened the passenger side door. They kept quiet until he reached the city limit. “You are a pathetic disgrace,” his father finally blurted, then looked over his shoulder to make a lane change.
The boy chuckled quietly though just loud enough for his father to hear it. “What was that?”
“Nothing,” the boy said, looking straight ahead, a wry smirk on his mouth.
“Ya, it was nothing.”
“So I’m making things up now?”
“Ya,” the boy answered, which caused his father to launch himself into his typical monologue, which the boy had heard so many times by now that the procession of curses and insults went into one ear and right out the other, like the hum of a furnace in a home. “Stop the car,” he finally said once his father was finished.
“What? I’ve got work tomorrow, you think I got more time to waste on you? Walking back through the parking lot and laughing and smiling with the kid that embarrassed and humbled you, you pathetic failure.”
“Stop the goddamn car,” the boy nodded his head and then repeated in a tone he never before had the bravery to muster. He was behaving in a quasi-trance now; it was almost as if a foreign being had taken control of his body, as if he was watching himself as a third-party spectator. Oddly, though, he didn’t feel mad.
Confused and annoyed, his father obliged and pulled over onto the shoulder. The boy opened the door, rounded the car as an eighteen wheeler rumbled by doing seventy-five, smacked the top of the closed trunk, and it popped open. He removed his bag, grabbed his driver, and broke it over his knee; then he grabbed his putter and broke it as well. He wasn’t sure if his father wasn’t paying attention or if he was simply too stunned to react. Regardless, he grabbed an iron, turned the toe of the clubhead towards the car, and smashed it into the back driver-side window. The engine roared and he watched the taillights disappear into the dusk.
And that’s that, was about the deepest impression the boy could surmise about what had just transpired. They’d passed through a town not that long ago and he began back that way. Perhaps a car would stop and pick him up, he hoped. He should’ve felt scared but he wasn’t.
The town was virtually identical to the one he lived in, a town that made no noticeable impression. Nearly all of the lights were off, but there was a twenty-four-hour diner that was still open. Inside there were a few elderly men sitting in a booth by the front windows, drinking lukewarm coffee, picking at pieces of apple pie, as they slouched into the red vinyl benches. The boy sauntered across the baby-blue and white checkered floor towards the counter which ran the width of the restaurant; behind it, a woman, who did double duty as the waitress and nighttime-cook, eyed him wearily.
“Can I help you?” she asked him.
“Y’all have a phone I can use?” he responded.
She pointed with her chin towards the end of the counter nearest to the jukebox and bathrooms, and the boy headed that way. He glanced at an unfolded newspaper that was resting in front of an aluminum napkin container and then dialed 9-1-1. He hadn’t thought of the consequences, of what would happen to his father, of what would happen to him, but nevertheless he spilled his guts, told the sergeant the whole story. Anticipating the police cars that would, at any moment, simultaneously descend upon the diner and upon his father, he flicked the newspaper to the sports section, glanced over it, absent-mindedly thanked the waitress, exited the diner, and ran his finger along the silver aluminum siding. He hadn’t yet computed that his whole world had suddenly changed in an instant. But he felt calm, felt good, felt at ease.
He got up again and crossed the vacant street. There was a two story red brick building with an old-western style false front roof. He anticipated that the police were bound to show up soon to take him home, whatever home would be from now on. He thought of his mother, of maybe having to go back there, which didn’t seem the worst option in the world.
The boy, his legs jangly, stands in front of a brick wall. He looks at his right hand, curls it into a fist, stares at the wall, and then again at his fisted hand.
The world is mute except for a faint buzz, which may or may not be a figment of his imagination.
He curls his right hand into a fist once again. He knows he has to do this, this act, to put that part of his life behind him.