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HOLE # 1, PAR 5, 516 YARDS, #3 HANDICAP, NOTE: WATER ON LEFT

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“Got some crazy pussy last night,” Tom shouted to us. He was standing on the first tee taking practice swings. Larry skidded our cart to a stop near the ball washer.

“Your wife went nuts in the sack, Tom?” asked Larry, sitting in the golf cart filling out the names on the scorecard.

“I’ve got an idea,” I said. I stepped out of the cart drew my driver out of my bag. “No one can talk bullshit ’til we get to the fourth hole.”

“Who made you the boss, Jack Riley?” asked Tom.

“Where’s EdBob?” asked Larry.

“He’s always late,” I said.

“You wouldn’t believe her nipples,” said Tom, as he took more practice swings. “And what does my wife have to do with it?”

“I thought you said you got crazy pussy,” Larry answered.

“I think I see EdBob coming,” I said. “Is that his cart?” I was straining to look out on the course at the cart path that led to the first tee.

Tom looked up. “That’s him. My wife’s out of town, Larry.”

When EdBob arrived at the tee, the first thing he said was, “She made me sleep in the garage again last night.”

“Who was it, Tom?” asked Larry.

“Slept in the fucking garage again,” EdBob repeated, as he stepped out of his blue and white golf cart. “They said it might thundershower.”

“I told you not to marry her,” said Tom.

“What game are we playing?” I asked, walking onto the tee box and swinging my driver and two other clubs.

“Let’s play Left-Right,” suggested Larry.

“How is the gay life treating you, Larry,” said Tom. “Left and Right is for homos.”

“We always play Wolf,” said EdBob. “What’s wrong with Wolf?”

“Maybe that’s why Larry wants to play Left-Right,” I said. “Change is good. We’re in a Wolf rut.”

“I think we should play Partners,” said Tom. “Change teams every six holes. Her nipples. Wow.”

“Who was it, Tom?” asked Larry. “Anyone I know? How come you say I’m queer all the time?”

EdBob said, “I have two or three drinks, and she tells me I’m drunk and can’t be in the house with her son, the idiot boy.”

“You’ve never had just three drinks, EdBob,” said Tom. “Why did you marry her, anyhow? Isn’t Cindy number three?”

“He likes being married,” I said. “Leave him alone.” I teed up my ball. “I’m teeing off before my clothes go out of style.”

“Too late,” said EdBob, and then laughed out loud at his own joke.

I swung and hooked the ball severely. It rolled to a stop just before going into the pond that bordered the left side of the fairway. “Nothing wrong with that,” I said.

Larry teed up next. “I’m going to focus on my golf today. I’ve worked out a lot of things in practice this week. Could we have quiet on the tee box?”

“I call bullshit on practicing,” said EdBob, as he cleaned the face of his driver with a wooden tee. “Just because you’re retired doesn’t mean you can practice.”

“Jack’s retired, too,” said Larry.

“Yea, but I don’t practice,” I said. “I wouldn’t be that chickenshit.”

“When this fog burns off, it’s going to get hotter than a sumbitch,” said Tom.

Larry sliced his ball right, over a line of trees and onto the eighteenth fairway.

“All that practice fucked you up,” I said. “This isn’t fog. It’s clouds.”

“I’m in transition, Jack,” Larry explained. “May take some time.”

Tom’s drive was long and down the middle, as usual. “You guys would play better golf if you got some strange pussy once in a while,” Tom surmised.

“It’s actually bad for you,” I said. “Takes away the legs.”

“Who was it, Tom,” asked Larry, again. “I haven’t had pussy for a long time. Maybe my pussy days are over.”

Back in Larry’s cart, driving down the cart path in search of balls, I said, “Larry, you’ve got two women and no pussy. There’s something wrong with that.”

“That’s a secret, you know.”

“I’ve been keeping that secret for almost thirty years. I think I know it’s a secret, Larry.”

“In fifth grade the kids used to call me ‘Larry the fairy.’ I didn’t know what a fairy was back then.”

When we were younger men, Larry was my college roommate for three years. We even went to high school together, but we didn’t spend any time together back then. I was a jock, and he was the smartest guy at Saint Joe’s High School for Boys. Our social circles excluded one another. Even at Saint Ambrose College for Men in Northern California, Larry excluded me. He taped a strip of masking tape down the middle of our room and ordered me to stay on my side. He was very neat and studious, and I was a sloppy pig, a student of marginal ability and motivation. I should have gone to Viet Nam, but I didn’t.

Later in our lives we experienced success, each in our own way. He became a successful and profitable sports psychologists, teaching at San Diego State and writing books – The Psychology of Tennis, The Psychology of Skiing, The Psychology of Golf – Same book over and over again, but they sold like crazy. I taught high school English and coached football. We are still both married to our first wives, but Larry has a complication. Thirty years ago his wife got knocked up by one of his graduate school classmates, and twenty-eight years ago, Larry knocked up his married graduate assistant, a girl who put herself through college dancing at a topless bar. The resulting daughter is now a college graduate, courtesy of Larry, and a college P.E teacher and soccer coach. The “other women” also profited from Larry’s generosity. After she divorced her husband six years ago, she now lives in an up-scale, three bedroom condo, courtesy of Larry.

“But, you ought to be getting pussy, Larry,” I said, “from someone.”

On the first green Tom rolled in an eighteen foot put for a bogie.

“Way to go, partner,” said EdBob, giving Tom a high five. “Can’t win ’em all if you don’t win the first one.”

“That’s a good thought, EdBob,” I said, “but Tom’s not your partner. “We’re playing Left and Right like Larry said. Tom is my partner.”

“I thought we were playing Partners,” said Tom.

“What’s wrong with Wolf,” said EdBob.

HOLE # 2, PAR 3, 139 YARDS, HANDICAP #17, NOTE: SAND LEFT AND RIGHT. ..

“If I ever walk like those guys, I give you permission to shoot me,” said Tom, as we all waited on the tee for the foursome in front of us to clear the green. “They shouldn’t let those old fuckers out here on Saturday mornings.”

“We’re all going to be old fuckers some day,” I said.

“Someday?” questioned EdBob. “You and Larry are already there.” He laughed again at his own joke.

“At least you two don’t walk like old fuckers,” said Tom, nodding toward the second green where the old guys were finishing up their putting.

“We’re all afraid of getting old, Tom,” said Larry. “No one wants to walk like an old guy. That’s why Jack walks so fast all the time.”

“They’re walking off,” I said. “If you guys would shut up for a minute, I’d like to tee off.” I hit a seven iron just through the left sand trap onto the back fringe. “Easy up and down,” I said. “What do you mean, ‘That’s why Jack walks so fast’?”

“You want to look young, Jack,” said Larry, as he teed up his ball.

“Could maybe we stop all the psychological bullshit?” said EdBob. “Could maybe we just play a little golf?”

Larry’s shot was down the middle, but ten yards short of the green.

Back in the cart I asked Larry again, “What do you mean about the way I walk?”

“The older you get the faster you walk,” he answered. “What are you running away from?”

Fact is I’ve walked fast since I was in high school. There, I did everything I could to avoid going to classes. My best scam was to get elected or appointed to some nothing Student Body position – Assistant to the Athletic Director, Sophomore Class Vice President – and then always carry a clip board and WALK FAST. When a priest would inquire as to why I wasn’t in class, I would quicken my pace, wave my clip board at him, and say, “Student Body business, Father.” Worked every single time, and the fast walk habit stuck with me.

“So, Larry, I really want to know, why do you have two women and no pussy?”

“You know all about that. You know everything,” he answered.

“You ever take your wife anywhere? You never say anything about that?”

“Not for the past thirty years. That’s why I can still be a Catholic. I’m faithful to only one woman.” Silence for too long. “Okay,” he continued. “I know…my life is pretty fucked up.”

On the green EdBob putted a twelve foot putt that went fifteen feet past the hole.

You’re stabbing at the ball, EdBob,” said Tom.

“Don’t coach, Tom,” said EdBob. “If I wanted lessons, I’d go to the pro shop.”

“Just trying to help,” said Tom. “I think they got two inches tall.”

“What?” asked Larry.

“Her nipples,” answered Tom. “Isn’t that what we were talking about?”

Hole #3, Par 4, HANDICAP #15, NOTE: DOGLEG RIGHT/WATER LEFT. .

“So, you going to tell me who it was last night, Tom?” asked Larry , still sitting in his cart writing down scores from the second hole.

“Mary Stoop,” answered Tom, as he used the ball washer.

“Blonde? About forty something?”

“Yea,” said Tom.

“God,” shouted Larry, suddenly abandoning his scorekeeping duties. “She was a patient of mine. When I cleaned her teeth, she always wore a slinky blouse and no bra. She was married back then.”

“Yeah, she talked about you. Said you always tried to look down her blouse. She’s still married,” said Tom. “She doesn’t own one. A bra, I mean. She says her breasts have to breathe.”

“Republican, right wing bitch,” I said, nodding toward the house next to the third tee box, and thinking of Toni, the woman who lived inside.

“Why don’t you let it go, Jack,” said EdBob. “Every time you get here, your game goes to hell for two or three holes.”

Two or three months earlier I had gotten into a screaming match in the 19th Hole Lounge with Toni. I knew she had voted for Bush, and I made the mistake of asking her what she thought about Bush’s war we were losing.

“We need to stay the course,” she said.

“Why?” I asked her. “And what course?”

“It’s better to fight them over there than over here,” she said between sips of iced tea. She was so right-wing, she didn’t even drink regular booze.

“Toni,” I said, “I’m trying to be calm, here. One easy question – Why did we invade Iraq?”

“Helloooo,” she said. “Did you forget about Nine-Eleven? Did you forget they were building a newclear bomb to drop on us? Did you forget they were getting ready to send model airplanes to spray us with poison? Did you forget their, so called, god, Buddha, tells them to kill us all? Did you forget they were training Muslim terrorists?”

“Helloooo,” I answered. “Iraq had nothing to do with Nine-Eleven. There were no weapons. Iraqis don’t believe in Buddha. Saddam was killing all the Muslim terrorists. There were no model airplanes. Everyone who can read knows this now, Toni. No wonder Bush won the election. Idiots like you, who don’t know their ass from a manhole cover, voted for him. There must be a lot of you retarded bitches out there.”

Her husband, a retired San Diego policeman, then beat the shit out of me, and Lisa, the bartender, banned me from the bar for a month
.

“Let it go,” EdBob said again. “You’re going to screw up your round.” But, it was too late. I hit my tee shot out of bounds to the right, into a guy’s back yard.

“Lot of anger in that swing,” said Tom. “When you cleaned her teeth, did you see her nipples, Larry? Why didn’t you drug her up? You could have looked all you wanted?”

“You’re one, sick fucker,” said EdBob, after hitting his first good tee shot down the left side of the fairway.

“At least I’m not sleeping in my garage,” countered Tom. Moments later, after hitting his first bad drive of the day – high and short – Tom said, “Sorry I said that, Partner. That was chickenshit.

“You’re right, Tom,” said EdBob. “That was chickenshit. I may have to tell Jack to kick your fat ass.”

I didn’t laugh, but the three others almost fell down laughing. I knew they were remembering the ass whipping I took in the bar.

“That’s not funny,” I said, touching the small bump that remained under my left eye.

“Oh,” said Tom, gasping for breath, tears streaming down his cheeks. “We weren’t laughing at..”

He couldn’t finish. He was laughing too hard.

At the green, EdBob’s ball was in the fringe, and he chipped it in for a par. “I did that for you, Partner,” he said, pointing at me.

“Jack’s not your partner, EdBob,” said Larry. “We’re playing Left/Right. Remember?”

“I thought it was Partners,” said Tom

Hole #4, PAR 5, 486 YARDS, #7 HANDICAP, NOTE: NOTE: TREES AND HOUSES ON RIGHT/ UP HILL LAST 50 YARDS.

“So, everyone is clear on the game we’re playing?” said Larry, as he looked down the fourth fairway.

“All clear,” said Tom. “So, why don’t you divorce the bitch, EdBob?”

“You don’t call a guy’s wife a bitch,” I said, checking my scorecard. I was three over par after three holes. I was hoping for better after all the secret practicing I did during the week.

“He calls her bitch all the time,” said Tom.

“That doesn’t mean you can,” I said. “It’s like calling a black guy a nigger. If a black guy does it, it’s okay, but not you.”

“I agree with EdBob,” said Tom. “We need to stop all the philosophy bullshit. I was just wondering why EdBob won’t get a divorce. You don’t have to analyze everything all the time, Jack.”

Larry said, “What did you get on the last hole, EdBob.”

“Par,” said EdBob.

“Really?” said Tom.

“You questioning my integrity?” asked EdBob. “You think I’m cheating at golf?”

The code of golfers, even weekend hackers like us: You can cheat on your taxes, you can cheat on your wife, but, you never, never, never cheat at golf. All the guys with whom I played followed the code, no matter how they cheated off the golf course. Maybe if we never left the course, we’d all be eligible for heaven.

“Sorrreeeee,” said Tom. “I was just asking.”

“Well, don’t ask,” muttered EdBob.

EdBob didn’t speak to anyone until we reached the fourth green. Then his words were mechanical: “You want the flag out? Is my mark okay?”

A month or so earlier, Tom and EdBob almost got into an actual fistfight on the ninth tee. Tom’s false teeth stopped the fight before it began. He said he had to take them out before he could whip EdBob’s ass.

“If you have to take out your teeth before fighting, Tom,” I said, “maybe it’s a sign.”

“If you’re saying I’m too old, I’m not. I still get a lot of pussy, man. And, I can whip EdBob’s ass on my worst day. I was in the Golden Gloves.”

Looking at Tom’s plumb, squatty body, Larry and I were struck with the contrast between our vision and his words, and could not contain our laughter. It was contagious, and the bomb was diffused. Even Tom laughed, just not as much as we did.

I putted in from four feet for a bogie (another bogie). “What’s the game score?” I asked Larry.

“I think we’re all square. No blood.”

“Bullshit,” said Tom. “EdBob parred the last hole. Didn’t that put us ahead?”

“No,” said Larry. “Jack and I had strokes.”

“Oh, that’s right,” said Tom.

“Are you questioning my integrity?” asked Larry, mocking EdBob, making an effort at humor. No one laughed.

Hole #5, 404 YARDS, PAR 4, #1 HANDICAP. NOTE: NEED A LONG DRIVE.

I told myself to swing easy – hit hard, but it didn’t work. At the top of my takeaway, I had the thought that that I could get my first 250 yard drive if I gave it just a little extra. I topped the ball. It dribbled forward just past the women’s tee.

“At least you don’t have to take your dick out,” said Tom.

“Real Man Rules,” stated that if you did not drive your ball past the women’s tee, you had to hang your wanger out for the rest of the round to show that you were not a woman.

I was angry. At myself. “At least if I hung it, it would be visible,” I said to Tom.

“You want to play ‘Whip It Out’ right now?” asked Tom.

“Whip It Out” was an old grammar school game in which seventh grade boys compared their manhood with their peers.

“Jesus, Tom,” said Larry. “Grow up, man.”

“First you tell me I’m old, then you tell me to grow up. What the fuck.”

“I didn’t say you were too old, Tom,” said Larry.”

“Jack did. He said I had a little dick.”

“Could we maybe get some golf in between all this bullshit?” asked EdBob, just before he made his second good drive in a row.

Back in the cart, Larry asked me why no one ever laughed at anything he said. I got the idea it bothered him.

“I don’t know,” I said. “I still want to know why you take care of two women and get no pussy.”

“Jack, we’re almost sixty-five. Guy’s sixty-five don’t have sex. And, Rachel’s almost as old as I am. Remember when we were young guys? We thought old people screwing was really sick.

“That’s because we were young and dumb.”

“I still think like that. How come EdBob got so quiet?”

“You don’t have to tell old women what to do. They have all that experience. They know everything.” I said. “EdBob’s afraid of being alone, like all the rest of us.”

I’ve known EdBob for almost twenty years. His history with women has been rocky. wife, Carol, a counselor at the high school where EdBob teaches. I liked Carol, kind of. I wouldn’t have chosen her as a wife, but I thought she was okay for EdBob. She left EdBob because of EdBob. EdBob drinks. Carol told my wife that EdBob wasn’t a husband at all during their last few years of marriage. He drank and went out to his workshop where he made fishing lures.

The woman he is now married to (her name is Cindy) is a complete nut ball. Everything I know is second hand. She’s got one of those disorders that make her go crazy when she has even a drop of alcohol. She’s done violent things to EdBob. He has bite marks all over him. She beat on his golf cart with a seven iron. She smashed his car windshield with a hammer. I’ve seen all the damage, but I get only EdBob’s side of the story. Maybe Cindy has a story too, but I’ll never know.

Hole #6, 329 YARDS, PAR 4, HANDICAP #9. NOTE: BLIND TEE SHOT UP HILL. OUR OF BOUNDS AND SAND TRAP RIGHT, FOREST OF OAKS ON LEFT. I HATE THIS HOLE.

“I hate this hole,” said EdBob, as he stopped his cart next to the tee.

“You’ve got to love it, EdBob,” I said. “As long as you have to play it, you might as well love it.”

“Shut up, Jack,” said Tom. “I’ll bet you’ve never had bad sex.”

“The worst sex I’ve ever had was sensational,” I answered.

“I’m hitting,” said Larry, teeing up his ball. “It’s pretty hard for me to concentrate with all this bullshit going on all the time.”

“It’s only golf, Larry,” I said.

“Golf is the most fun thing in my life,” said Larry.

“You like golf better than pussy?” asked EdBob.

“Shut up, EdBob,” said Larry, before hitting his shot into the oaks on the left.

“At least you’re not out of bounds,” I said.

“Shut up, Jack,” said Larry.

I hit a good one, right down the middle to the top of the hill. “Perfect,” I said.

“You think every shot you hit is perfect,” said Tom.

Sometimes I make myself sick. Tom was right. I tend to look for the silver lining. Find it even when it is not there. Maybe I’ve always been that way, or maybe I learned that as a high school football coach for forty years. During the bad years, when my teams were losing more than winning, I had to keep the kids hopeful. I had to come up with new goals and forget the old ones. I had to say things to them like, “We’re going to play this last game for pride,” and “The next game is the only one that counts.” Okay, it was kind of bullshit, but why make things worse than they have to be?

Tom had a bad sixth hole. He hit his tee shot out of bounds and then hit his second tee shot out of bounds. Then he said, “Fuck it. I don’t give a shit,” before stomping back to EdBob’s cart, sitting down in the passenger seat, folding his arms across his chest, and pouting. “I’m out of the hole,” he muttered.

“Jesus, Tom. It’s only golf, man,” I said

“Yeah,” said EdBob.

Tom said, “Why do you let her treat you that way?”

“He likes being treated that way,” I said. “Leave him alone.”

“Why do you think you always have all the answers, Jack?” said Tom, still pouting in the cart.

“Okay, I’ll shut up,” I said, vowing to say nothing else for the rest of the round.

Larry, driving me up the hill to where my ball lay, said, “Hope I can find my ball. I wonder why Tom is so pissed.”

“You’ll find it,” I said, hoping I would not have to help him look. I hated looking for missing balls unless they were mine. I am selfish that way. “Tom’s pissed because he’s Tom. After his next good shot, he’ll be fine. He doesn’t get all the women he says he gets.”

“How do you know?”

“If he did, he wouldn’t talk about it all the time.”

Even though Tom was out of the hole, it took a long time for us to complete number six. We looked for Larry’s ball for more than five minutes, which is the limit according to golf rules, but no one called a penalty. When we finally found it, Larry had no shot, but he tried anyhow and ended up with a triple bogie.

“All that practice,” said Larry, scowling and writing down his score.

Hole #7, Par 4, 372 yards, #11 handicap. Notes: flat, not much trouble right or left. Almost boring.

Tom teed off on number seven even before we were off the number six green. “We need to pick up the pace,” he called, after hitting a good shot. He was looking at the foursome behind us who were standing on the top of the hill, looking down at the green. They all had their hands on their hips – the universal golf sign for “Get a move on.”

“Excuse me,” said Larry. “I lost a ball. Am I the only golfer to ever have to look for a ball?”

“It’s time to change partners,” said Tom.

“We’re not playing partners,” I said. “We’re playing Left and Right.”

“I thought we were playing Wolf,” said EdBob.

“I’m keeping score for Left and Right,” said Larry, “but anything is okay with me.” He drove his ball down the right side into the rough.

“You and Jack were partners for the first six holes,” said Tom. “Now I’ll toss a tee to see who my partner is now.” Tom tossed the tee. It pointed at Larry.

I took my bag off of Larry’s cart and strapped it onto EdBob’s. EdBob drove his ball left into the fairway bunker.

“Who won the first six holes?” I asked.

“I don’t know,” said Larry. “I’ll have to figure that out. I was keeping score for Left and Right.”

I popped my ball up. Very short, but down the middle.

Tom loaded his bag onto Larry’s cart and hopped in the passenger seat. “How can anyone play with EdBob?” he asked Larry, loud enough for EdBob to hear. “I feel an ass kickin’ coming on now that I have a real partner.”

“We’ll see about that,” I said. “EdBob and I are the A Team.”

“A for assholes,” said Tom, laughing, as Larry sped away.

“Don’t let Tom get back into my cart,” said EdBob, as he drove me to my ball.

“How come?” I asked.

“He gives advice. He tells me to divorce Cindy, just because she beats up my cart and my car and bites me all over. She’s getting better, Jack. Swear to God.”

“I don’t give advice, EdBob.”

“I know. That’s why I like you riding in my cart. Jack, if you wanted to give me advice, what would you tell me about Cindy?”

“I don’t even know Cindy. I don’t know your wife, EdBob.”

“She’s a real bitch, Jack.”

“Well, I’ve heard she’s done some evil things to you.”

“She told me she was going to come on the golf course and fuck up our round today.”

“No way.”

“Way,” said EdBob.

“Well, let’s not worry about it right now. Let’s just focus on golf.”

“That’s what we’re here for, right?”

EdBob’s second shot went way off line to the right, into the street where it struck a passing UPS truck, rocketed back toward the green, and stopped in the short fringe just ten feet from the flag stick.

“I call major bullshit on that,” said Tom. “There’s got to be a rule about that. Your ball was out of bounds, EdBob.”

“Was, is the key word, Tom,” I said, defending my partner.

“It hit a moving vehicle. I’m checking this out when we make the turn.”

“I know it’s okay, Tom,” said Larry. “It’s the same as if it hit a house out of bounds.”

“Houses don’t speed down the fucking road at sixty miles an hour, for christsakes,” said Tom. “This is major bullshit.”

“I think it’s bullshit too,” said Larry, “but I think it’s minor. Let’s just keep playing, Tom.”

At the green EdBob putted his ball to within six inches, turned to Tom and said, “That good?”

Tom would normally “give” a putt that short, but now he said, “Mark it or putt it.”

“Fuck you, Tom,” said EdBob, before tapping in his putt. He then turned to me and said “We’ve been partners for one hole, and we’re already ahead by one.” He then laughed. Tom’s putt ended about two feet from the hole. “Mark it or putt it,” said EdBob.

“It’s for a five,” said Tom. “It doesn’t matter.”

“Mark it or putt it,” EdBob repeated.

“Can’t we all just get along,” said Larry.

After missing his short putt, Tom said, “I’ll never be able to get along with that penis head.”

Hole #8, PAR 3, 178 YARDS, #13 HANDICAP. NOTE: SANDTRAPS LEFT AND RIGHT AND BACK.

No one hit the eighth green, the way the good golfers do. I was in the sand trap on the right. EdBob was down the middle but fifty yards short.

“One up, one in, and you’ve got your par, EdBob,” I said to my partner.

“With my luck, I’ll probably hit in the sand trap,” said EdBob. EdBob’s next shot went into the sand trap on the left. “See what I mean?”

“Well, if you have those negative thoughts, it screws up your swing.”

“Wouldn’t you have negative thoughts if you had Cindy for a wife? What if you had to sleep in the garage? Wouldn’t you be a little negative?”

EdBob drove me to the green. “I should probably divorce her,” he said to me. “What do you think?”

“I don’t know,” I said, looking at my ball in the sand trap and thinking about my shot. “I don’t even know her, EdBob.”

“You know she’s a bitch. I told you what a bitch she is.”

When I was over my ball, EdBob shut up. I hit the shot to thin. It skidded across the green and into the sand trap on the opposite side.

“At least you don’t have to change clubs,” said Tom. He turned to Larry, hoping Larry was laughing. He wasn’t.

Larry said, “He probably feels bad enough.”

“Oh, Jesus,” said Tom. “What are we doing here, playing the U.S. fucking Open? It’s only golf, for christsakes.”

Tom chipped his ball to within six inches. I said, “That’s good, Tom.” Tom picked up the ball.

“I didn’t give you that putt,” said EdBob.

“Your partner gave it to me,” said Tom.

Larry putted from off the green and went way past the hole.

“But I didn’t give it to you. Both guys on the opponent’s team have to give it to you.”

“I gave him the putt, EdBob,” I said. “Shut up and let me hit my ball.” I made a better sand shot this time but still had to putt twice and took a double bogie.

EdBob also ended with a double bogie.

“Good ass whipping,” Tom said to Larry, as the two walked off the green. “We’re tied. I knew I’d start playing better when I got a partner who wasn’t a fuck face.”

When we got back to EdBob’s cart, all four tires were flat
.

“All your tires are flat, EdBob,” said Larry.

“The bitch,” shouted EdBob. “She told me she was going to foul up our round.”

“What are you going to do about it, EdBob?” asked Tom.

“Maybe it wasn’t her,” said EdBob.

“It was her, EdBob,” said Larry, pulling an ice pick from the back tire. “She left the ice pick in the back tire. Who else?”

“That does it for me. I’m going to have to confront her on this one.”

Larry called the pro shop on his cell phone. Jason, one of the assistant pros, came out with a cart for EdBob and me, and the marshal, Dave, said he could fix the ice pick damage. He towed EdBob’s cart and Jason back to the cart barn.

Hole #9, PAR 4, 375 YARDS, #5 HANDICAP. NOTE: SECOND SHOT OVER A STREAM, SAND TRAPS ALL AROUND THE GREEN. .

Tom and I hit our tee shots close to one another. EdBob dropped me off at my ball and took off in search of his, which he had pulled to the left. So, Tom and I were standing by our respective balls waiting for the old gentlemen to clear the green.

“Marilyn Stoop knows you, Jack,” said Tom. “She told me last night.”

“Yea,” I said. “I know Marilyn Stoop. I coached her kid. Look at those thunderheads. I think they’re coming our way.” Why can’t women keep their mouths shut about their excursions off the reservation? It was just one afternoon. Not even the night. And, that was five or six years ago.

Everyone thought I was a saint because I never talked about sex very much. In an almost imperceptible way, I displayed disdain toward my three golf buddies because of their women problems. I was above all that.

Okay, it’s hard to be perfect. My wife was on a trip with her girlfriend to Alaska, on a cruise ship, for ten days. I was lonely. I was horny. I wanted to be young again.

At three o’clock on a Monday afternoon, Marilyn Stoop and I were the only two in the 19th Hole Lounge. Lisa had already served me two beers and had served Marilyn Stoop two martinis “in a bucket, on ice.” I paid for her second drink.

We talked.

We went to my house.

We fucked.

I asked her to stay the night, but she said she had to get home to fix dinner.

That was it. That was all there was. I’ve been a saint ever since, although I still have fantasies about those crazy, elevating nipples.

“How about those nipples?” asked Tom.

“I’m thinking about my shot, Tom. Would you shut the fuck up?”

We tied the hole. No blood. Match still even.

At the turn, EdBob and Tom went to the snack bar, and Larry and I went into the pro shop to check on our Tuesday tee time. The assistant pro, Leon, was behind the counter.

“You have seven twenty-two,” he told us, before we asked. “And, tell EdBob his wife rented a cart this morning. Charged it to EdBob. She only had it for fifteen minutes. I’m not going to charge him.”

“Thanks, Leon,” said Larry. “I’ll tell him.”

HOLE #10, PAR 4, 351 YARDS, HANDICAP # 12 NOTE: THIS SHOULD BE AN EASY HOLD. WATER WAY LEFT, FAIRWAY SAN RIGHT, WIDE FAIRWAY.

To Tom’s credit he didn’t tell everyone about me and Marilyn Stoop, but now he knew I couldn’t say anything about him. Nothing negative. Nothing about him being a womanizer.

“How come you’re such a womanizer, Tom?” asked EdBob, as he teed up on the tenth. “Don’t you get good poon at home?”

“Jesus,” said Larry,” is that all you guys ever talk about? Why can’t we talk about movies or books or cars once in a while?”

“EdBob can’t read,” explained Tom. Then he laughed.

“I read,” said EdBob, “if there’s something worth reading. All the books Jack gives me are bullshit.” He looked at me. “I don’t mean they’re bullshit for you, Jack, but for me they’re bullshit. All the Grisham books are movies. And the other stuff, like 1776, I already know we won the fucking war.”

I don’t blame EdBob. When I read something that fires me up, I want everyone else to be fired up too. It never works. I like a lot of things my golf buds don’t like, and they like a lot of things I don’t like. EdBob does the New York Times crossword puzzle every day. Tom reads the fish report every day and takes overnight trips on boats to catch albacore. Larry is into cars. He just bought a Ferrari. Cost him over one hundred thousand dollars. I like reading books. When I talk about books, when Larry talks about fast cars, when EdBob talks about his crosswords, when Tom talks about fishing, everyone ends up telling every one else to shut the fuck up and play golf. Maybe that’s why the major topic of conversation always reverts to pussy. All of us agree that pussy is a good thing. Some of us still like it. Some of us can only think back to the time when it was our religion.

“I get good poon at home,” said Tom, before teeing off and pulling his ball way left and almost into the water. “Why would you even ask such a dumb question, EdBob?”

“Just wondered why you’re out chasing poontang all the time.”

Back in the cart EdBob said to me, “Tom’s pretty fucked up, and he doesn’t know how fucked up he is.”

“We’re all a little fucked up, EdBob,” I said.

“I’m not,” said EdBob. “Not when I get things worked out with Cindy.”

“I’d like to win this hole,” I said. “I like our chances. Tom’s in trouble over there by the water. I think I felt a rain drop.

EdBob’s second shot was ugly. It never got off the ground, but it rolled and rolled and stopped just off the front of the green. “I like it,” said EdBob. “Easy par from there.”

My second shot was a good one. It landed on the green and rolled about fifteen feet past the hole. I would have a downhill putt for birdie.

Larry shanked his second far right and almost out of bounds. “Fuck me blue,” he shouted, as he slammed his six iron into the turf. “I hit these great in practice.”

Tom hit into the water and started pouting again.

EdBob and I won the hole to go one up.

HOLE #11, PAR 5, 496 YARDS, #2 HANDICAP, NOTE: HIT SECOND SHOT OVER WATER, OR PLAY IT SAFE AND LAY UP.

“These teams aren’t fair,” I said to EdBob. “Too easy for us.” I made sure I spoke loudly enough for Tom and Larry to hear.

Tom stopped pouting and became aggressive.

“I’m getting a little tired of your ‘I’m above it all’ attitude, Jack,” said Tom, glaring at me. “I know you’re not perfect, if you know what I mean.”

“What does he mean?” asked Larry, as he followed us to the tee.

“Ask Tom,” I said. “Tom knows everything.” Larry didn’t ask, at least not right then.

Back in the cart, after all of us hit acceptable tee shots, EdBob asked me, “What did Tom mean?”

“I never know what Tom means. I agree with you; Tom’s fucked up.”

And that’s true. I knew he was a mess the day I met him nine or ten years ago. He and I were just a twosome late on a weekday afternoon. We were standing on the same eleventh tee. Suddenly, Tom ran off the tee and hid behind an oleander bush. He stayed there for two or three minutes. When he returned, he teed off, got back into the cart, and said nothing. Because I had just met him, I didn’t inquire as to his behavior, but I was thinking, This guy is pretty fucked up.

Finally, he said, “You probably think I’m pretty fucked up. But, my wife can’t see me here. I think I saw her car coming up the road.”

“Why can’t she see you?” I asked

“Because I can never lie to her. I told her I would never lie to her again. I told her that in front of the counselor. So, shit.”

“Okay,” I said. And that’s as far as that conversation got.

Since then, I’ve gotten to know a lot about Tom, because Tom tells everything. Tom makes a lot of money selling insulation to big housing contractors. When in college he was on the USC golf team. He’s got a love hate thing going with his wife. She looks Asian to me. He and his wife go to marriage counselors. Four or five years ago he fell in love with a girl he met at a sales convention. His wife found out and left him. He was devastated. When he had her name tattooed on his ass, she returned. They are still together, but they still go to a marriage counselor.

As we reached the eleventh green, large, dark clouds gathered over us, and the wind blew off EdBob’s hat and took it fifty yards up the fairway. We were all able to blame our missed putts on the weather. “Tiger Woods couldn’t putt in this wind,” said Tom, when he missed his putt.

HOLE #12, PAR 3, 130 YARDS, #18 HANDICAP (easiest hole on the course), NOTE: TEE SHOT ACROSS WATER.

The rain became serious as the four of us approached the twelfth tee.

“A little rain never hurt anyone,” said Larry. “Rain is like part of nature. We’re meant to thrive in rain.”

“Jesus,” said EdBob. He was putting on his rain gear he carried in his golf bag. “Could we give the touchy feely bullshit a little break?”

Then we saw the first lightning, and moments later heard a horrendous thunder clap.

“I’m getting the fuck out of here,” said Tom, moving off the tee and toward his cart.

“These things usually last just a few minutes, Tom.” I said. “Let’s wait a while. You don’t want to quit just because you’re behind, do you, Tom?”

“We’re not behind,” said Tom. Another flash of lightning. The rain increased. More thunder.

“We’d better get out of here,” said Larry. “You know what happens if you get struck by lightning?”

“You guys are pussies,” said EdBob, in full rain garb, teeing up his ball. The wind blew his ball off the tee.

The next lightning struck an oak tree near the twelfth green. A large limb fell to the ground and smoke rose from the injured tree.

EdBob ran to his cart without retrieving his ball that had blown to the back of the tee box. “Tom’s right,” he said. “We’d better go.”

By the time we got into the 19th Hole Lounge, all of us, except EdBob, were soaked to the skin.

“If it stops, we’re going to finish,” I said, after sitting down at the bar and asking Lisa to pour me a brandy. Lisa was still my friend, even though she eighty-sixed me for what I said to Toni.

“I’m not going back out,” said Tom. “Miller Light, Lisa?”

“Not until you say please,” said Lisa, after putting my brandy in front of me.

“Please,” said Tom.

Larry sat to my left and EdBob to my right. Tom sat next to EdBob. I had the best seat, right over the sink. That’s where Lisa leaned over to wash glasses.

“If you don’t go back out, you forfeit the match,” said EdBob. “My regular, Lisa, please.” EdBob’s regular was bourbon and diet coke.

“I’m calling bullshit on that right now,” said Tom, before taking his first sip of beer.

“That would only be fair, Tom,” said Larry, after ordering a ginger ale.

“You’re the only man in the whole club who drinks ginger ale,” said Lisa.

“How is the gay life treating you, Larry?” asked Tom.

“Don’t start, Tom,” said Larry. “You know I’m not queer, don’t you, Lisa?”

“I know, Larry,” said Lisa, smiling. “Tom just babbles.” She leaned over to wash a glass.

“How did the matches end up, Larry?” asked EdBob.

“Scorecard got pretty wet,” said Larry after sipping his ginger ale. “I think EdBob and I won the first six holes when we were playing Left and Right” Larry was dabbing the soaked scorecard with a paper napkin.

“I didn’t think we were ever playing Left and Right,” I said.

“We were playing Partners,” said Tom.

“Not until the seventh hole,” said Larry. “I thought that was when we switched.”

EdBob said, “Am I the only guy who can keep anything straight around here? We were playing Wolf.”

“I’m not paying,” said Tom, as he finished his beer. “And, I’m going home. See you boys next Saturday,” said Tom, patting each of us on the back before leaving.

“Talk about your poor losers,” said EdBob, after Tom left. “Give me another, Lisa?”

“I’m out of here, too,” I said, after tossing down the last of my drink. “What’s our time for next week?”

“He’ll call,” said EdBob, nodding at Larry.

“I’ll call everyone,” confirmed Larry.

When I got the parking lot, the rain had stopped.

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