FAIRWAYS

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Chapter 15—The Cloud’s Silver Lining

Willie opens the restaurant doors for everybody sheltering from the storm to take a seat. Coach Yung announces the six qualifying boy’s names, congratulates them and shake their hands. The boys come to the front and accept their certificates.

“I want to use this opportunity to thank all the competitors for the effort put into training sessions and to welcome the other three boys to participate in the practice and playing sessions at Broad Oaks.”

Then, Willie announces Pat as the overall winner and presents him with his prize. It’s a custom set of clubs for which he was fitted the week before and a certificate. Pat thanks Willie, takes the certificate, shakes the other five boys’ hands, and joins his family and dogs sitting at a table. He gets hugs and kisses from the family and the dogs. Big Bertha sits between Pat and Ingo, leaning against Pat’s legs. At over seventy pounds, BB slides Pat’s chair slightly on the restaurant’s polished stone floor.

“Thank you, BB,” says Pat and gives her a good petting.

“I’ll tell you what I’ll do. I am happy with the clubs I have, and I am growing fast, so I will tell Willie that he should order the set of clubs for Cliff, not me. What do you think?” Pat’s face lights up.

“I am so proud of you, kid. You’re doing the right thing. This game is teaching you many things, including how to be a good human being,” says Jim.

“And next year, if you do well and stick with it, we’ll get you a newly fitted set. You’ll need a totally different set next time.” Lani looks at Jim and winks in approval.

Pat excuses himself and joins Willie, who is talking to the waiters, to offer coffee and a drink to the people in the room.

“Willie, may I have just a second of your time?”

“Sure, Pat. What is it?”

“I don’t want it public, but I would like you to order the custom clubs for Cliff, not for me. Jim and Lani agree and told me that next year they’ll get me a new set.”

“Pat, you never cease to amaze me. That’s a swell idea. Thank you, and congrats, again,” says Willie, deeply touched by the selfless kid’s gesture.

Willie calls the vendor on his cell and orders Cliff’s set. The clubs will be ready by the middle of the coming week.

*

Hard rain and wind threaten to come in through the large restaurant windows. Flashes of bright light crack the sky so close to the course they hear the rumbling booms of thunder at nearly the same time. The storm doesn’t let up, and it’s getting closer by the minute.

Willie is getting the Pro Shop guys to come with the large golf umbrellas they have for sale and take people to their cars and send them home.

Unexpectedly, the rain stops. It may be over. People run to the parking lot and leave, just as the storm begins again with more strength. The Queenans take advantage of the break and run home.

*

The storm gets stronger late at night.

Cliff is watching from the dormer window of his nest at the top of Angus’ House. Isa and Jasmin are both in Jasmin’s bed.

“I’m not afraid, Mom. I just think you’ll feel better if I’m here with you,” says Isa, all nestled in her mom’s ‘spoon,’ with little Bobo curled up under her chin.

Lani watches the storm through the large window of their day room. Feeling cozy and with her loved ones around, she thinks about the architectural and construction tradition of ‘topping off parties’ when a building’s structure is finished. Drops of rain on it are considered a Christening and blessing from God.

“The Angus’ House is blessed now,” says Lani, explaining to Jim and Pat what that means.

Big Bertha is in the loft with Cliff, who’s sitting at his desk, elbows on the writing surface, holding his head. Cliff realizes that BB is not afraid of the storm. Most dogs are. She tries to look out the window. Pat brings another chair, sets it next to him, and BB hops on it.

“Oh, that’s so much better, master,” Big Bertha seems to say to Cliff while she’s licking his forearm.

Soon after midnight, a deafening noise makes their insides vibrate, a massive flash of light and the earth trembles, shaking them all up.

A bolt of lightning hits a tree next to the clubhouse.

In seconds, the tree falls on top of the new shop and cart storage building. Immediately, an electrical fire starts, and its light makes visible the collapsed corner of the storage building. Cliff and Big Bertha get up and run outside. Cliff knows from his father how to put out an electrical fire, but he is concerned about the rainwater. He knows the cart storage building, where the fire extinguishers are. He needs to stop the fire, which could easily reach the kitchen area. That may cause a gas explosion. He first calls police and firefighters, then calls Pat to tell him what’s happening.

With just a hat and a flimsy raincoat on, Jasmin is outside taking photos of the events.

Cliff gets the fire under control and turns off the main electrical disconnect switch of the building.

When the fire is just smoldering, they hug in relief, still looking in the direction of the damage. They can’t see but sense something moving in the dark, coming toward them. What could it be?

A soft whining at their feet, and they see Big Bertha with Stray in her mouth. They run inside, and BB follows them. The cat is slightly scorched. In her usual sleeping spot, she had been in the storage corner, next to the geese’ cracked corn feed. Stray made it her job to hunt field mice if they came to the abundant food reserve and to eat the cart’s electrical wires. Big Bertha puts her gently down, and Jasmin offers Stray some milk and tries to clean her up. Just her fur and whiskers are singed. Bobo comes to see her. Big Bertha gets a big bowl of milk, too, and Jasmin photographs the scene.

The Queenans and Ingo arrive running, just as the fire trucks arrive. The fire is out, but they have procedures to follow and ensure it’s out entirely, and they write up a report. The fire chief congratulates Cliff for his heroism and fire-fighting knowledge.

They call Willie to let him know what happened and that the fire is out, thanks to Cliff’s prompt and courageous work. The fire engines leave, and they all enter the Angus’ House. Jim picks up Stray.

“I will take her home with us and get her to the vet tomorrow to make sure she’s fine.” The Queenans and Ingo return home with the Mama cat in Jim’s arms.

*

On Sunday morning at 6 am, Willie meets Cliff outside the Clubhouse, and Big Bertha joins them. On this occasion, Willie finds out that Mama mouser’s home was behind the geese feed container. Willie already knows that ‘the universe’ is paying him back for his good deeds. He thanks Cliff and gives his family free club membership privileges.

The fire damage is limited to the fronts of a few golf cart plastic covers, and the tree damage can be repaired. Cliff’s prompt actions had avoided a possible full-scale tragedy.

On Monday, the staff cleans up all the fallen trees and branches on the course, and the Broad Oaks Golf Club resumes operation on Tuesday—business as usual but no school golf lesson this week.

It’s also the children’s last week of school before summer vacation. On Wednesday, June 14, Willie sees Lani and her boys on the range in the afternoon. She is showing them how to keep a ball low in the wind.

Willie walks toward them with a new golf bag on his shoulder full of new and shiny clubs.

“Lani, better late than never.” Lani knows he’s talking about her teaching them too late how to play in the wind. She turns to him and laughs. Willie sets the golf bag standing up on one of the fake grass driving range mats.

“Cliff, it is my pleasure to offer you, in our gratitude, this golf bag with your fitted clubs. Your friend, Pat, donated his winning gift to you, and I am hiring you full-time, with your dog Big Bertha as night guards of the Clubhouse area. As compensation for your ‘night guard services,’ we will pay the rent for the Angus’ House for as long as you work here.”

Cliff can’t take his eyes off the clubs and bag, but when he hears that guarding with Big Bertha pays for the rent, he hugs Willie and bursts into tears.

“I will not let you down, Willie. Thank you.”

“That, I know. Enjoy, my friend.” And Willie returns slowly to his office, admiring the nature around him and filling his lungs with the fresh, after-storm air.

“Dude, you are my hero,” says Cliff, hugging his friend. “I can never thank you enough for what you’ve done for me, you and your family.”

Cliff had never in his life imagined he would have his own fitted golf clubs. He hugs the bag, takes a 3-wood out, and hits a few balls.

“Wow, what do you think, Lani?” He is so pleased with the ball flight, although he went just a bit left. He’s ready to jump out of his skin.

“Much better because they fit you. The shafts are just a little stiffer and made just one point five inches longer, so they’ll fit you for several years. Just grip down two finger- widths and hit.” Lani replies.

There is a notable improvement in the ball’s flight.

*

In the evening, right after dinner, Cliff and Big Bertha, who are now inseparable, come to Jim’s house looking for Pat. He has a hand-made hardcover book in his hand and gives it to Pat.

“Mom made this for you, at my request,” says Cliff and hugs his friend.

The title of the book is Friendship for Life. The dedication reads—

Good FRIENDS,

Hard to find,

Harder to leave,

Impossible to forget.

*

August 2006

Summer break is almost over, and the heat is at its mightiest. The humidity keeps pace with it. The best time for hitting balls at the range is late in the evening. For the Queenans, late, means evening.

Jim had a big job keeping him busy all summer, so he only had time to play early in the morning.

Lani is home, getting the chicken paprikash ready for dinner. Her girl companion, Missy, and Doogie, the cat, are ‘helping her’ and hope she drops some food on the floor. Pat, Jim, and Ingo are at the range.

Jim hears the rumbling cart of the picker on the range. He gets set and says to Pat, “Get your 120-yard club, and let’s get him.” Jim drops a ball on the mat and hits a short iron to the cage cart but just misses it.

“Dad, Cliff is the range picker.” Pat can’t believe his own father would stoop to this.

“So what? Go ahead, son, see if you can hit him. This is how it’s done; you have to get the cage cart. It’s a golf tradition. That’s how for generations, we golfers pay respects to the guy who gets us more balls.”

From the dark of the range, Cliff’s voice comes through, “I don’t think you guys can get me. Try again. Do your worst.” Cliff laughs wholeheartedly.

*

June 2013

Jim wants to surprise Lani for their seventh anniversary. He talks to Pat about it, and he hears at the other end of the line, “Got it, Dad. I’ll take care of it.”

Pat hangs up the phone, looks up in his contacts, dials, and hears at the other end,

“Broad Oaks Pro Shop, how may I help you?”

“Hi, this is Pat Queenan. May I speak to Cliff, the Assistant Pro?”

“Just a minute, please.”

After a short pause, he hears in the receiver,

“Hi, Cliff Holley speaking. How may I help you?

“Hi, dude, it’s Pat.

“Hi, Pat, where are you?

“I’m still on campus, but we’re coming up North soon. I need a tee time for four, on Sunday, June 2nd, at two o’clock, for Dad, Lani, me, and you.”

“Why on the second, not on the third?”

“So, you remember the date! The third is on a Monday this year, and you’re closed.

“Says who? Not for the Queenans, we’re not!”

The End

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