FAIRWAYS

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Chapter 2-The Game

Jim is taking the car out of the garage for their short trip to the practice range. When Lani gets home from work, around 4:30, she has a snack and makes some minimal preparations for the dinner she will cook later. Almost every day, they go to the driving range to hit golf balls, while Jim plays a few holes.

When they lived in D.C., they went four or five times a week to Langston Golf Course. After several months, the expense and effort of driving through the town’s traffic became a bore. Their red Subaru station wagon started to smell like a sweaty boy’s locker room because of the golf shoes and socks that lived in the trunk. When the construction of the new building was done, Lani’s job at Smithsonian ended. She was offered an architectural consulting appointment with the office of the Mayor of Broad Oaks, Virginia. He was thrilled to share the responsibility of urban planning and architectural decisions for the county with a competent architect.

The idea of living on a golf course had been on their minds for a while. As a photographer, graphic artist, and web designer, Jim can work from anywhere if he has a good Internet connection. Pat became interested in astronomy and was looking for a school where he could follow his passion. When Lani got the job offer, it sealed the deal.

*

Ingo and Missy always go to the range with the humans and are waiting by the car. The dogs are ready for their ongoing training at the chipping green.

Lani and Pat putt while the two Cockers lie in the thick, fringe grass. The putts roll nicely and usually stop somewhere around the cup—no actual work for the dogs.

But when the humans come to drop off their putters and grab wedges for chipping, Ingo and Missy jump up, ready for their part. They love it. The chipping green is on a slight slope, enough to make any ball roll off the green into the rough fringe and do some popping jumps on

the concrete cart path. This is where their job comes into play—they must stop the balls before they land on the cart path. Of course, Lani and Pat—every now and then—hit the ball harder than needed to keep the golden training partners occupied. They are having fun.

Lani and Pat step away from the practice green to get their more lofted clubs to do some pitching, but they have company, so they take a break.

*

Willie, a tall young man—the golf course Pro—comes to talk to his new and favorite members.

“Hi, Miss Lani, hi, Pat,” he greets them while getting down to pet the dogs.

“Willie, do you have a minute for me? I have to talk to you about some important stuff,” says Pat, dropping his wedge by his bag.

“Sure, Pat. What is it?” Willie comes closer, and the two walk toward one of the nearby benches.

“Willie, see if there is anything you can do to help, please. We would be all indebted to you,” says Lani, showing Willie the adults support Pat’s ideas.

“Ingo, come here, boy,” Pat calls on Ingo. Ingo jumps up from his nest in the thick grass and comes to them.

“Ingo, please go pick up the wedge I dropped next to my bag, bring it here, and give it to Willie.” Just like a good and obedient little boy, Ingo executes.

Willie, first shocked by Pat’s instructions to the dog, didn’t get to say a thing, and now, with his jaw hanging, he’s holding Pat’s wedge in his hand. He shakes his head as if waking from a weird dream.

“Pat, what just happened here?” was all he could say. Lani, standing further away, is smirking, thoroughly amused by the scene and pretends not to have seen a thing.

“See, I tried before to tell people that Ingo can understand human speech, but nobody quite gets it. I find this to be the fastest way, just show them,” says Pat, proud of Ingo and of himself.

“Wow. That’s really something.” Willy goes quiet.

“I want to talk to you about two things. The first one is our goose problem. See, I can have Ingo train more dogs and assign them fairways close to the home where they live. They can go out twice a day for their ‘walkies’ and bark the geese off the course.”

“Very interesting and creative, but you know wild geese are protected by law. We may have to live with them.”

“I know, and the protected wetlands area will make a great wildlife preserve for them.” Pat had obviously given the problem a lot of thought.

“I can put lots of ‘out of bounds’ white posts to separate the wetlands from the course—”

“And I can have the kids collect one dollar per month from every house to buy cracked corn feed for the geese—”

“We can get the greenskeeper to buy and stockpile it in a huge container in the front left corner of the cart storage barn,” says Willie with a grin as they cut in on each other.

Lani comes over, having heard the last part.

“Tell me, Willie. These geese don’t migrate, right? Are they here all year round?”

“They sure don’t. They are full-time residents which, I guess, gives them a special status,” Willie says, half mockingly.

“I work at the mayor’s land-use office; I will enquire about the legalities of the whole thing. Pat, I wish you had talked to me about it before.”

“Very interesting. This could solve multiple complaints of the players stepping in goose manure, the smell, the cleaning needed before every grass cutting, the accidents—”

“What accidents, Willie?” asks Lani.

“Last year, in the last round of the Club championship, Mr. Gordon’s drive on the seventh hole hit a goose in flight, in the head. The goose dropped dead, and so did Mr. Gordon’s ball,” says Willie.

“That’s a “rub of the green” situation. I am sure Gordon was upset—”

“Upset is the understatement of the year,” Willie interrupts. “He made such a stink they had to replay the hole.”

Lani and Pat have a good laugh. Gordon had recently invited Jim to be his partner in the course’s Wednesday golf league.

“Pat, what’s the other thing you want to talk to me about?”

“Did you see that horrible tanker truck explosion on TV last night?” Pat asks Willie.

“I didn’t, but my wife told me about it.”

“My best friend’s dad was in the second car behind that truck and died on the spot. Cliff’s mom doesn’t have a job, and I am worried about them. Is there any kind of job he can do here for a few hours a day to earn a little money?”

“I know Cliff. He’s the tall, black youngster who’s come with you and Lani sometimes, right?” asks Willie.

“Yes, and his family needs help. Please think about it and let me know. I would appreciate it.”

“I’ve known Cliff by sight since he was little. His dad, Malcolm, was an avid golfer, and he often brought the little tyke along with him. I will think about it, I promise. I remember once Malcolm told me that he hoped little Cliff could be a golf pro someday.”

“Thank you, Willie.”

Pat picks up his bag and goes to the driving range where Lani is hitting some irons. The dogs see Jim walking down the ninth hole and run to him. Such is their routine and soon they go home.

*

Once home, Lani feeds the little beasts, washes her hands, and jumps on cooking dinner. The chicken tenders and frozen vegetables she’d pulled out of the freezer are defrosted enough. She gets out the spices, pots, and pans.

Pat keeps her company while having a cold drink. The day’s dramatic events affect him in unexpected ways. He realizes that although Lani is not his mom, she will most likely be his stepmom one day, and he doesn’t know yet what makes her tick. The thought that children take for granted their parents and siblings crosses his mind again. He will do something about it.

“Lani, you’ve never told me about your golfing experiences. How did you start playing and why?” Pat respects Lani and knows that she not only likes the game, but she also loves it. He hopes to know more about Lani and get a deeper understanding of the game and its meaning.

“How I started and why? That’s easy and actually funny. What I think about the game, that’s a bit more complicated; one day, when we have the time, I’ll dive into it for you,” she says and continues with her cooking prep.

“Then tell me the easy part, the how and the why.”

“I think it was the second or the third week after starting work in New York. Bruno Místico—the boss—invited me out to lunch to talk and get to know each other better. The office was on the Westside in Midtown Manhattan, and he took me to the Chelsea Piers area. He bought two large clam chowders, and we walked and talked by the river. One of the facilities he showed me was the golf range.”

“They have a driving range in the City? I didn’t know that.”

“Well, it’s quite unique and well worth seeing the next time we go to New York. It’s an old, wide four-story brick building on the Hudson River, with the façade removed and facing the river. On the water, they have a huge floating artificial turf deck surrounded by tall nets. There are about sixty stalls for hitting balls equipped with a pneumatic system, perching a new ball automatically on top of a short, white rubber hose tee.”

“Wow, that must be fantastic. How much does it cost?”

“I could only go at peak-time because of work , and that was 170 balls, for fifty-five minutes—whichever comes first. It was twenty-eight dollars off-peak and forty peak-time.

“Wow, that’s a lot of money.”

“But there’s more. I expressed interest in it, so Bruno took me inside to see what it was all about and bought me a videotape called “Golf for Women.” On the box was a young lady pictured with a broom painted white on one side and black on the other. That was all it took. I didn’t have a VCR those days, but he let me watch it on the office’s machine. It made all the sense in the world to me. All physics, geometry, and mind control—right up my alley.”

“Dad, you need to come and hear this. This is unbelievable.”

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