It had been the best of nights and the worst of nights. Dreams of sub par and nightmares of slinky slithering creatures in the dark, broken by intermittent snores, a screaming fox and the leaden mattress. And when dawn painted the sky blue grey and the blackbird sang from the birch tree, there was only one way to get out of bed. The wrong side.
“We have to change that bed or I am leaving”.
The Golf Police slept like a hibernating bear and woke slowly to the new day.
“Where will you go?
“Anywhere. Somewhere. Nowhere” I said heading for the shower.
The water was hot and soothing, the towels fluffy, the bathroom smelt of rosemary and green tea. Camomile, amber and coconut body butter. The radio blared out Lady Gaga and Annie Lennox sang a love song to a vampire.
There was just time to hang out the washing before an early tee time. With a mouthful of pegs, a bit player in the nightmare eyeballed me by the washing line. I turned a whiter shade of pale. Between the trailing runner beans, lupins, and odd socks. I left the pegs, shirts and beans and returned to the house.
I thought you had dealt with it” I said to the Golf Police.
“I did” he said.
Dealt as in DIY Golf Police style. Cupboard doors which hung off their hinges, pictures which fell off walls. An unco-operative rotary washing line which never released without a kick and flurry of expletives. A clock which needed a dab of glue and was now a clock of many parts. Timeless. Faceless. Beyond glue and beyond help.
“Is it the same one?” he said.
“Not something I majored in, but if it’s not gone by the time I get back, I am definitely packing my bags” I said. Jumped in the car and went to find the swindle.
The Golf Police sighed, sipped his coffee and checked his emails.
The ball drop was swift and fair. Pancake missed his birdie on the first hole and Sid lost his ball. Big Rich walked off with a point and The Busman topped his tee shot.
The fairways were parched and the green keepers fought to keep the greens green. After months of cloudless blue skies and parched fairways, the storm clouds hove into view.
“Will be lucky if we get round” said Pancake slotting another putt.
“Mind the Handicap Secretary doesn’t see that card” said The Busman from another bunker.
Pancake smiled. He pared the twelfth hole. Par five, stroke index four. Four hundred and eighty six. With his second ball off the tee.
“Easy game” he said. “Good greens. Hinge and turn. Simple”.
“The Handicap Secretary is definitely seeing that card” muttered The Busman.
It rained for three holes. The brolleys were up and the galvins out. Pancake still made par. The rain passed and the sun shone again.
I tried playing the simple game but the putts horse shoed and the fairway bounce was cruel. The Busman and I shared bunkers and stones. Tree roots and paths. The Busman hobbled and I thought about the garden and leaving home. I found my swing on the eighteenth tee. Moved the ball position and the club connected soft as butter.
Pancake continued to play the simple game and came in with 38 points. Big Rich got 36 points and lost the front nine, back nine and nearest the pin to Pancake.
“Sometimes it aint your day” said Pancake scooping up the money on the table.
“Same time Friday” said Big Rich.
“Suits me” said The Sheriff. The tee time was booked.
“I won’t be around for a while” I said to the Swindle. I looked round at the faces sat round the table.
I was always going to leave. Pack the rucksack and leave the clubs in the cupboard. Abandon the fairways and say goodbye to the swindle. Head west and find the moors, where the birds of prey hover and hunt their unsuspecting prey. Swing on ropes and climb walls. Abseil and sail. Push a swing. Let a child reach out to touch the sky. Paddle in canoes, hold a hand, find the bull’s eye with an arrow. A week of laughter and giving back. It was in the diary. Big black letters.
I looked at the familiar faces. I knew their swings. Their faults and their strengths. How many sugars they took in their tea. Their families. What paper they read. What programmes they watched and what car they drove. Who speeded and who had the cleanest boot. Who lagged their putts and who pulled their drives. Who cleaned their shoes and who wore the brightest colours. What shafts they had in their drivers and the make of their putters. The way they marked their balls and how they repaired their pitch marks. The ‘do or die’ Sheriff, Solid Sid and the banter of Big Rich. They were my crew. My fairway walkers.
“I am going to miss you. Guard those fairways”.
We traded hugs and said our farewells. Big Rich told me the best route, showed me how to salute and The Busman taught me some sign language.
“I’m gonna miss you, Babe” said Sid.
“Mind you don’t get lost” said Pancake.
“Have a game as soon as you get back” said the Sheriff.
Before Big Rich climbed into his car he said:
“Take care out there”. Sincerity and a swindle smile. One wave and he roared out of the car park.
I went home to pack and leave home. The golf clubs were put away. The rucksack was packed and the pillow ready, by the door, by the time the Golf Police got home from the office.
“What’s for supper?
“Depends. Have you dealt with the problem?”
“Yup” he said and crossed his fingers behind his back.
“And fixed the washing line?”
“Consider it done. Supper?”
“Steak, with chips, mushrooms and a bottle of wine. Apple pie and ice cream. Sort of last supper”.
The Golf Police smiled and uncrossed his fingers.
The alarm beat the blackbird the following morning. Another shower. More camomile and amber. More rosemary, green tea and fluffy towels.
The boot was packed and the car headed towards the motorway and the moors. Children, swings, glitter and glue.
On the kitchen table was a note for the Golf Police and his lieutenants.
Welcome to the kitchen. The thing in the corner is the hob and oven. You big white thing in the other corner is the fridge. If there is no food, they sell it in something called a supermarket. Please water the hanging baskets, bring in the post, put out the recycling. Ring the people you love. And miss me.
The Boss x
The clubs sat undisturbed in the quiet cupboard and the Golf Police turned over and went back to sleep. And in the garden, between the unco-operative washing line and the three rowed runner beans, the dead rat lay stiff in the parched grass.