“Have an opening for a single?” I said.
The young, dark-haired assistant golf professional separated from me by a square plastic barrier. He wore a greenish healthcare worker mask. The pro shop appeared like every golf pro shop scattered across planet earth with copious glove, golf balls, and hats, shirts emblazoned with the club logo available for a quick sale.
Outside the long horizontal windows the green grass course active with golfers driving white battery powered carts from the driving range, some parked near the practice putting surface and I scanned over at a group teeing off on the first tee.
“Sure thing,” he said. He examined the computer screen, his brown eyes searching what I assumed were the listed tee times. He looked over at me. “Got a two-some in twenty?”
“I’m in,” I said. I paid the green fee. “Call me over?”
“Will do,” he said.
I strapped my golf bag onto the back of the cart, put on my golf shoes, and drove the cart over to the driving range. It was abnormally hot, even by west coast of Florida standards. It did not take long for my middle-aged body to warm up and regain just enough flexibility to make my shoulders have a pleasant turn back and forth, strike the ball and finish with the club’s grip above my left ear.
The common dimpled range ball took flight from an almost effortless golf swing after finding its energy from the driving club’s metal sweet-spot. But then the next shot thudded off the toe of the club, the result, a classic golfism, worm-burner. Both swings defined life, I thought. Sometimes you find that Zen relationship with a pretty girl, other times its turbulence and misunderstanding. Either way, I’ll keep playing the game. I sighed. At my age I decided my swing was my swing and better to practice putting and make myself quickly available to join the two-some. I drove the cart back toward the pro shop.
Two putts into my practice and I heard my name over the loudspeaker. I perked up like a Meerkat peeking up outside its earthen hole. I loved going out to the golf club as a single and getting hooked up with a group. It was a fresh adventure to learn about people. Little did I know I was about to meet two characters that I can only define as peculiar. It was the reason I lived in St Petersburg, Florida. It has a pleasant town like feel bountifully sprinkled with eccentric characters. And if you are a creative spirit like me, you’ll never have writers-block.
“Hi,” I said. I had parked the cart behind two other golf carts near the first teeing ground. “The pro shop set me up with you all, I hope that’s okay?”
Both men were likely middle-aged, with amble bellies, and shorter than me. They dressed in typical golfer garb with white golf hats and were casually swinging their metal driver’s in preparation to tee off.
“Come on up,” he said. He wore tinted sunglasses with a gold rim. “I’m Reginald.”
“Don’t believe a word from this ass-hat,” the other said. “Jay Sean, like the Indian R&B singer.”
“Oh, I was not aware you sound more like a Brit,” I said. “Thanks, just call me Bobby. But you have, I mean no disrespect, Indian skin tones and hair.”
“Careful, Bobby,” Reginald said. He pointed over at Jay Sean with his golf club. “He’s gay, don’t turn your back on him, even out on the golf course.”
“Ah, Reginald is projecting again,” Jay Sean said. “I’m not a Brit, I’m Welsh. Mum and dad adopted me, I was a baby. Father is ex-military, Royal Marines. They stationed my parents in Mumbai. I’m an only child.”
“Sorry,” I said. “Didn’t mean to insult.”
“No matter,” Jay Sean said. He waved my words away. “What’s your line of business?”
It was the simple question that I always received after meeting an unknown person out at the golf club. But the question leads to other questions. A question I had learned to manage, but I still thought difficult to answer. And then every conversation would become quiet and pensive.
“I’m a writer,” I said. “Novels, short-stories and even poems.”
“What’s your genre,” Reginald asked. He leaned down and put his white golf ball on the wooden peg. He stepped back and allowed his grip to relax and waved the club head near the ball. “Got a best seller?”
I kept quiet. Reginald drove his golf shot down the finely mowed grass fairway that moved right to left toward the first green. It landed just short of a mound covered with deep grass. Jay Sean followed Reginald, his shot landed on the left side of the fairway. I tried to summon my youthful, effortless appearing swing. The result was modest. I realized I was not twenty-two anymore.
In the pandemic era, playing golf required social distancing. Each player has their own golf cart, and the separation minimizes a lot of aimless chit-chat. We played the next five holes with minor delay. I boogied three and par for the other two; I guessed Reginald and Jay Sean were at about the same score. But then the inevitable backup, a golfer, hit a stray shot into the woods and a search party assembled to retrieve the wayward ball hidden behind tall trees, shrubs and brown thicket. We stood together watching them on the sixth hole tee box.
“What are your novels about?” Reginald asked, again.
I sighed. I sucked in a deep breath. I wiped sweat from my eyebrows.
“Family saga,” I said. I decided a little subterfuge might eliminate any more digging from Reginald.
“Ah, mate,” Jay Sean said. His left gloved hand atop the golf club black grip. “What does that mean? You Americans shouldn’t venture into The Queen’s proper English. Subterfuge is a fancy word.”
Keenly aware just over an hour ago I met Reginald and Jay Sean. I shrugged as my authorship effort was out in the open. I just wished I had some real success to show from my work.
“My first novel was about child sexual abuse,” I said. I coughed even though I did not need to cough. “And the epi genetic link to young adult suicide.”
Reginald and Jay Sean were quiet and reflective. They stared forward at the palm and oak trees behind me. At the golfers ahead cleaning up the mess. They inspected the pond and the weak current frothing the black waters away from us.
“I did not expect that,” Reginald said. “I think Jay Sean would say, in his Welsh accent, bloody-hell.”
“Bloody-hell, indeed,” Jay Sean said.
“I know,” I said. “I hoped that if it became a best-seller, I know, I know, I was dreaming. Anyway, we might create a way for teenagers and parents to learn and perhaps – talk. Just getting a conversation going might save someone’s life. It’s toxic. It’s my primary goal for the project.”
“From you experiences?” Reginald said. He glanced over at the next green. The foursome walking toward their golf carts and clearing the playing surface. “Not trying to pry, just curious.”
“Yes,” I said, flatly. I thought it time to lighten the mood for the three of us. “I had an ugly childhood, I guess I should lie next time and tell you all I write porn. It sells, would have made my journey easier. But I’d have sold my soul to Satan.”
Reginald teed-up his golf ball. He walked behind it and lined up his shot.
“I prefer porn,” Jay Sean said. He pursed his lips and nodded.
“You mean gay porn,” Reginald said. He smiled and let out a throaty, deep laugh. He acknowledged me. “Good on you brother, nothing wrong with looking out for children.”
“On behalf of my alleged gayness,” Jay Sean said. “I prefer big bosomed woman, curvy or the occasional exotic. It keeps things fresh.”
”I’ll note that for my next manuscript,” I said.
Reginald made a full turn from the golf ball, and sort of hopped around with both feet, catching the ball square in the club’s sweet-spot. A cool trick, I thought, as the ball took flight and somehow landed on the putting surface maybe ten feet from the flag.
“Nice shot,” Jay Sean said. He strolled forward. “Ass-hat.”
“You two have such a caring relationship,” I said. I grinned at them.
“You must understand, Bobby,” Jay Sean said. He teed-up his golf ball. “At our combined ages being past a hundred, we prefer to remain aged fourteen.”
“Yes,” Reginald said. “I like fourteen. Out here I don’t do any adulting, I think that’s how my teenagers would describe it.”
Jay Sean stood next to his golf ball. He waggled the metal hybrid and methodically turned his wide shoulders. He returned the club face almost square and created a balanced follow through. The ball ended its journey near the left front sand trap.
“Way to go,” I said. “Pitch and a putt, you’ll get your par.”
“Thanks, mate,” Jay Sean said. “I hope so.”
“I should tell you,” Reginald said. “I love kids, I am happiest looking after them. Anything that helps children I support.”
“And supporting your ex-wives?” Jay Sean said. He smirked over at me.
“I have one of those,” I said. I dug into my right pants pocked, my fingers clutching for a wooden tee.
Reginald shook his head and he flipped off Jay Sean.
“You should know,” Reginald said. “I’m kind of, a big deal, I have ex-wives, a business and many leather-bound books.”
“And you’re an ass-hat,” Jay Sean said.
“Seriously, if I can help with your project,” Reginald said. He stopped smiling and pushed his sunglasses up the bridge of his nose. “I know people and protecting kids is important.”
“I second that,” Jay Sean said.
“Thanks,” I said. I pointed over at them. “You never know. I’m just happy to be alive.”
Hanging out with anyone for several hours without distractions, I think you begin too understand that human being. People a lot smarter than me know your instinct whispers inside your brain to share their truth.
If you take a quiet moment and listen, you can feel deep down what type of person – are they honest, caring, kind or evil? The truth buzzes about their genuine nature. It’s all in front of you, but you cannot see it.
The truth being about that day; I liked them. At first, I thought it would be an interminable day. But then sometimes magic happens and you view someone through an honest prism and see where their kind heart beats.
I think we all put up self imposed defenses, but being vulnerable allows us to heal and feel. It takes courage to let your walls down, and from the experiences we learn to communicate honestly.
Wonderful. Moving. Kind.