Friday, May 30, 2008

BIG MONEY, Chapter 43

My monster tee-shot splits the eighteenth fairway. Two-sixty-five, maybe two-hundred and seventy yards. Not long enough for the rankest of professional golf tours, but sufficiently distant and pretty to impress the members of any local men’s club. Present company included.

“They serve drinks on that flight?” Bluefish says.

True, my child has been kidnapped. And worrying about Beth--I imagine her alone, sick with fear--well, this father can barely consider outside stimulus, let alone enjoy golf or the thematic white verbena and azalea of the Navasquan River Country Club. Yet as any good golfer will tell you, not thinking about our physical actions is exactly how we Golf Legends earn the extra attention. We turn loose our muscle-memory. Shut off the mind’s calculations and let our bodies, training, and instincts take control.

I bend over to pick up my tee. “Only beer and wine on that flight. The stews don’t have enough time to serve ice.”

“Ha ha ha.” Bluefish’s laugh possesses a certain bullfrog quality. Kind of a wet croak.

Such good buddies, Bluefish and I. Playing friendly golf. Joking on the back nine. Enjoying the outdoors together. Trust me, I don’t forget one second this scaley bastard had my little girl kidnapped. At least two or three times a hole, I imagine myself spinning suddenly and burying the business end of my aluminum putter deep inside one of Bluefish’s eye cavities.

But so far I’ve suppressed my murderous impulses. I mean, the results of such conduct would hardly improve Beth’s situation, or mine, and might include some kind of gruesome death for both of us. But every once and a while, just for a split second, I get the irrational notion that Bluefish wearing a putter in his face would somehow be worth any consequence.

Actually, that’s insane, not irrational. I might need to improve my grip.

I wave to my cart partner, Bluefish, that I want to stroll this hole. He can have the freaking cart to himself. The less time I spend next to Bluefish, the less chance there is I’ll attack and spoil my chance to get Beth back safely.

Bluefish drives our electric geezer-mobile on ahead to help my golf game partner Al look for his ball, maybe watch to make sure Al doesn’t cheat. I’ll walk with Jerry, who like me put his drive in the fairway. See, Bluefish and I each have best-ball partners for this big money match. A $2,000 Nassau with unlimited presses, plus $500 birdies, sandies and one-putts. The winners could go home with enough loot for a beach front condo.

Bluefish’s partner is Creeper’s pal from that Brooklyn spaghetti bar, the solid-shouldered gentleman with a diamond earring. Jerry. He can’t drive well consistently, or hit his irons, but Mr. Diamond Earlobe can sure the hell putt. Sank a thirty-foot twister on the seventeenth to once again tie the Bluefish-Carr Cup championship.

Al, my partner, is a nervous grandfather. Big stomach, big ass, no hair. A decent golfer, and won a few holes early. But not much help lately. His soft brown eyes grow shiftier, his golf swing jerkier with every hole since we had a beer at the halfway house. He sweats a lot lately, too. Seems there’s something more than money at stake for bald, round Al.

I asked Bluefish last hole why my partner’s so nervous. But like every time I bring up the subject of my daughter, Bluefish says we’ll talk about that stuff later, over a Cuban cigar and brandy in the clubhouse.

“You didn’t know Bluefish was such a good golfer, did you?” Jerry says.

The close-cropped Bent grass under my feet succumbs to my weight like the carpet in a Ritz-Carlton lobby. “You’re the one giving your team a chance to win, not Bluefish. All day long.”

“You’re not too shabby yourself,” Jerry says. “What are you? Like one or two over?”

I shake my head. “More like six. I’ll be lucky to break eighty.”


On this, the final hole, with water and trees down the right, my partner Al’s tee shot soared into the lakeside forest like a migrating bird. So now, when I see Al roll from the electric cart to go find his errant bird, Bluefish right behind him, I give up my stroll in the fairway to help my partner search.

Al discovers his ball tucked against the base of a tree trunk, the ball glued to the bark by a serious clump of twelve-inch crabgrass. This is what you call your basic bad lie, probably unplayable, and thus Bluefish’s dream, the reason he came along to observe. With bookie-man watching, Al will not be tempted to use the old foot-wedge. He’ll have to take the penalty.

Me and Bluefish staring at him, Al calls the lie unplayable, picks up his ball, takes a drop, then selects a four-wood from his bag and lines up directly toward the green. He’s planning to hit his next shot straight through the trees. Maybe Al thinks he can steer it like a Cruise missile.

“Geez, Al. Can you even see the green?” I ask.

He shrugs. “I’m lying two with the penalty. If I don’t get this on, I’m out of the hole.”

Tiger Woods couldn’t put that ball on the green.

Me shaking my head, Al whacks his third shot into the trunk of another pine. Like an angry bumble bee, the ball whizzes dead right, ricocheting into a long pond of black murky water.

Nice shot, pard.

Bluefish saying, “Looks like the match is riding on you, Carr.”

Funny, I don’t feel any extra weight. Not with Beth still missing.

Al drops his four-wood onto the pine needles like it’s a cigarette butt. Something he’s finished with forever. He waddles closer to me. His lips are white.

“Don’t let him win,” he says. “Please. Don’t let Bluefish win.”

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