A slender man with a square jaw and an Ashworth diamond-weave sweater walks into the Oak Terrace clubhouse, wiping an errant bead of sweat from his forehead with a handkerchief. As he walks up to the bar he notices a slightly stouter, slightly shorter, and slightly balder man sitting in an easy chair facing the eighteenth green. "Warren," he says to seated man, "how come you're not playing with the rest of us?"
Warren puts down a copy of the Condê Nast Traveler and an empty beer glass. "I won't play golf," he says.
The man in the Ashworth sweater smiles. "Oh come on, Warren. It's just a company outing. Nobody really cares how well you do. Besides, there are lots of beginners out there. Just because you've never played ..."
"What makes you assume I've never played?"
"You're just ... ah, well, I don't know," the young man says, fumbling with his handkerchief. "It's just you don't seem the type."
"The type? What sort of type is that?"
"I ... I just supposed ..."
"Well your supposition is incorrect. But if you agree to buy me another of these excellent Guinness Stouts, I will explain all and maybe find it in my heart to forgive your rudeness."
* * *
Things may have changed (says Warren), but at the time I was hired, our company required all new employees to undergo a complete physical examination. There are few things that I abhor more than being subject to the indignities of modern medicine. However I was in dire need of employment so I acquiesced.
After the hordes of subordinate practitioners had completed their prodding and probing, an M.D. with the look of a man who knows no superior cornered me in the changing room. "Mr. Borman," he said, addressing my exposed hindquarters, "do you live an active life?"
I pulled up my boxers and thought it over. "Yes, of course. I have numerous pursuits that keep me intellectually quite active."
"No. I'm talking about keeping physically active. Exercise. "
I was astonished. "Surely you're not referring to those repetitive tortures in which the self-obsessed indulge for the sake of their vanity."
"There are plenty of ways of being physically active without repetitive exercise," he said. "Sports, for example."
I had heard of sports. I knew that entire sections of daily newspapers were devoted to the subject. But I had never considered that normal people actually participated in such things. I told him so.
"Well, here's the straight story, Mr. Borman. Your weight, your blood pressure, and your cholesterol levels are unacceptable for a man your age. If you don't want to exercise, you must get involved in some sort of sport or I'll refuse to approve you for employment."
"But ..." I began.
"Come back in a week with evidence of a change of lifestyle or you'll get your exercise standing in the unemployment line."
* * *
The next day found me browsing through glossy magazines in the sports section of the newsstand at Market Street Station. The prospects appeared less than sanguine. Basketball required substantial height, a quality I have always been proud not to possess. Football players needed protuberant shoulders and Neanderthal foreheads. Boxing apparently involved inflicting pain on another to avoid having pain inflicted upon oneself, something that seemed needlessly unpleasant. Tennis, slightly more civilized, necessitated baring one's lower legs in public. Then, by chance, a copy of Golf Digest fell on the floor.
Picking it up with the intention of replacing it on the shelf, I began thumbing through it with increasing interest. It appeared that all one did in playing golf was to stand in one place and hit a ball with a stick. The inventors of the game had mercifully provided for self-propelled golf vehicles to carry the golfers from location to location. What could be easier?
According to a Mr. Nicklaus, the finest in equipment was a set of Callaway Fusion FT-5 clubs. And according to a Mr. Woods, a pair of Foot Joy Power Platform Total Traction shoes was essential for success. Three dollars and ninety-nine cents later I betook myself, magazine in hand, to the nearest sporting goods store. In a few moments I had reached my credit card spending limit but had acquired all that was necessary to become a first-rate golfer.
* * *
"I would like to make a reservation," I said, having reached the local golf professional on the phone.
"You mean a tee time?" he asked.
"Tea time?" I was bewildered. "I am not concerned with refreshments. "I wish to arrange to play golf."
"Aha. So when does your foursome want to tee off?"
I told him that I was so well equipped I didn't need a foursome.
"I'm sorry, sir," he said. "The only time we can accommodate a single player would be after five on a weekday."
"So be it," I said. "Put me down for tomorrow on your best first hole."
* * *
My initial swing was a slight disappointment. My most expensive and largest club failed to make contact with the ball. But we Bormans are known for our tenacity and commitment. By my fifth attempt I sent the ball flying in a most impressive arc that landed it several yards into a dense woods. The trouble I quickly determined was that the designer of the course had placed an obvious out of bounds terrain in range of a first swing.
Of course, I could not be blamed for his failing. So, not wishing to take the chance of soiling my Arnold Palmer 300 thread count, 100% cotton golf trousers, I chalked up the ball to an inevitable business loss.
Unfortunately on Number Two I experienced a similar disappointment. This time the designer had apparently neglected to observe that a small pond lay between the starting point and the hole. It was an inexcusable mistake and one that I paid for with the loss of several balls that managed to make it as far as the water but no farther.
I had obviously chosen a defective course on which to play.
By the fifth hole I had only a single ball remaining. I had developed sufficient skill that a majority of the time I was able to make contact with it on my first attempt. The ball rose into high into the air and came to rest in the garden of a white Cape Cod style home perched on a small rise beside the course.
Being faced with a choice between playing the succeeding thirteen holes without a ball or retrieving mine, I drove up to the house. As I approached, my olfactory senses were met with a delicious aroma that was nothing less than intoxicating. I recognized it at once.
A slightly plump young woman was sitting at a glass-topped table on her veranda, enjoying an evening meal.
"A thousand pardons for this unseemly intrusion, madam, but by chance would that be Le Tian De Courgettes Aux Fruits De Mer upon which you are dining?"
She dabbed her mouth with the corner of a napkin. "Why, yes it is. How did you know?"
"French cuisine is one of my passions. I once had the pleasure of watching Mademoiselle Jacotte Brazier prepare that very dish on a television program."
"Isn't that something? I studied under Jacotte in Lyons for six months before I was married."
"Good Lord!" The pungent aroma of the seafood was making me lightheaded. "And here you are now living beside this very golf course," I said forcing my eyes from her plate to her face, which, I was discovering, was full but not unattractive. "You must be an aficionado of the sport."
"Not in the least. It was my husband who wanted to live here. My late husband, that is."
"Now I just enjoy watching the hordes of poor suckers drive themselves into fits over this silly game." She smiled. "No offense."
"None taken," I said, noticing a pleasant bright sparkle in her deep brown eyes. My heart quickened. I had never before been that close to someone who could prepare Le Tian De Courgettes.
"By the way," she said, "my name is Sylvia Hillman."
"Warren Borman," I said with a slight bow.
"Your ball, Warren."
"It rolled under the forsythia."
"Ah, yes. Well I won't detain you from your meal any further, Mrs. Hillman. The professional was adamant that I return the vehicle in time for him to attend his young son's scholastic theatrical debut."
"Well, good luck with your round, Warren," she said, lifting her fork with a full-fingered hand.
"Good bye, Mrs. Hillman." My heart joined my stomach in an ache of emptiness as I retrieved my ball. The encounter had awakened in me more than one appetite.
* * *
I reasoned that there was no reason to further risk losing my only remaining ball. I adopted a policy of driving right up to the hole, extending my arm, and dropping the ball. I was successful every time.
"So how was your score?" asked the professional as I returned to the clubhouse.
"Yes. How many strokes?" He studied my blank expression. "How many times did you hit the ball?"
I mentally made a tally. "Twelve," I said, a blush of shame rising to my cheeks. "Next time I'm certain I shall increase the number significantly."
He scratched his chin. "Listen, Mr. Borman. This weekend we're having a novice golfers' tournament. You might find it helpful to go out with other players. The entrance fee is only $36 and the prize for the fewest number of strokes is a trophy and two prime rib dinners at the clubhouse restaurant.
I considered it. With little effort I could easily miss the ball more frequently than hitting it. Bringing a trophy to show to that insufferable MD would secure my prospects for employment. And secondly but certainly no less, I hadn't had the pleasure of eating two prime ribs at one sitting since the previous New Years Eve.
"Where do I sign on?" I asked.
* * *
The following Saturday dawned full of sun and promise. I had been assiduously studying my copy of Golf Digest. I discovered an inventive method of hitting the ball close to the hole that a Mr. Mickelson liked to call a "putt." I also learned that the key to success on the golf course was a winning attitude. So, it was with such a frame of mind that I donned my stylish cap with several brand name emblems on the front, and arrived at the course.
"Ah, Mr. Borman." The professional buttonholed me in the throng. "I've put you in a special foursome. I'd like you to meet Mr. Weems, Mr. Smethurst, and Mr. Kowalick."
Weems, a fellow of slight proportions whose ninetieth birthday was a dim memory, gazed blankly into the distance through his spectacles and extended his hand, missing me by a good forty-five degrees. Smethurst was unable to shake my hand at all as his right arm was in a sling. Kowalick however, a man with a build resembling a concrete bunker, easily made up for the loss by squeezing my hand until the blood left my fingers.
"I've given you fellows the privilege of teeing off last," said the professional cheerfully. "That way you won't be bothered by other golfers behind you." He gave Weems a pat on the back that made the nonagenarian totter. "Have fun and may the best man win."
The prospects of that best man being myself became immediately apparent. Weems, when he was able to determine the approximate direction of the hole, hit his ball a good eight or ten feet. Smethurst, using only his left arm, reached distances approaching half that. And Kowalick, who I had expected to be the best of the group, seemed to unable to hit the ball at all. The man had arms of massive girth that expanded as he bore down on his swing, a swing that gouged a swath in the earth the size of a soldier's foxhole. The ball, however, remained stoically where he had placed it. Swearing loudly at the ball and himself, he would repeat the action with yet more energy, the effect being a wider and even deeper hole.
I must admit that my recent studies along with my winning attitude had given me enough skill at the game to have little patience with these incompetents. In a brief twenty strokes I had placed the ball in the hole and sat waiting for the others to catch up, thinking long, hard thoughts on the rules that permitted bumblers to play with superior players.
I therefore took it upon myself to forge onward on foot. I had the foresight to bring extra balls with me and lost fewer than six or eight on each of the second, third, and fourth holes. I could hear the intermittent bass curses of Kowalick far behind me as I strode up to take my first swing at the fifth. At the very top of my swing, the Callaway Fusion F5 Number 2 fell from my hand. Unmistakably, my nostrils were being seduced by the delicate saffron aroma of Le Carré D'Agneau au Safran, Échalotes Confites. I abandoned my clubs and trod to the white Cape Cod house on the hill.
There she was, the slightly rotund but ravishing figure of Mrs. Hillman -- perhaps the only woman in a radius of two hundred miles capable of creating such a dish. "Oh, Warren," she said, visibly brightening at my approach. "I was hoping that was you. I'm afraid I've made far more Le Carré D'Agneau than I can possibly eat. Would you care to join me?"
My eyes filled to extent that I was afraid I might weep. "Mrs. Hillman, there is nothing in this world that would give me more pleasure. Are you certain it would not be an imposition?"
"Not at all. I was frustrated my entire married life. My husband's idea of haute cuisine was McDonald's special sauce. Sharing my cooking talents with a man who appreciates fine French food is a real pleasure. Here, let me get you a plate."
She returned from the house, the slight waddle in her stride exciting my passion. She placed a portion of her creation onto a pink porcelain plate and set it in front of me. I loathe to attempt to describe the ecstatic state my first bite brought me. It was pure ambrosia, should ambrosia be made from lamb, saffron, and shallots.
"Do you like it?" she asked. I was touched at the expression of hopeful expectation on her angelic face.
"My dear lady, no man with an ounce of gustatory sensitivity could help but be swept in utter infatuation with a woman of your consummate skill." I took off my cap and held it over my left breast. "I must be honest with you. I am but a currently unemployed accountant, but my prospects are good. Mrs. Hillman -- Sylvia -- I realize I may be exceeding the boundaries of social propriety, but one day, might you consider plighting your troth with mine?"
She stood beside me, heaping more lamb on my plate. "Oh, Warren, I've longed to meet a man who would appreciate me with such passion. And don't worry about money. My husband left me a bundle. We can travel the world together sampling the finest food from every culture and continent." With that she leaned over me, her soft breath coming ever closer to the bald spot on my head until I could fairly feel her moistened lips poised to kiss my waiting pate.
Just then there was a sound that rent the expectant stillness as if with a butcher's knife. A small white object hurled through the air with the force of a missile, rising from the fairway below and making instant impact with the back of Sylvia's neck. Kowalick had finally made contact with the ball.
* * *
"I sat with her until the ambulance arrived and rode with her to the hospital," says Warren to the man in the Ashworth sweater. "The emergency room physician gave me the tragic news. Sylvia would be just fine, but would remember nothing past the time of her high school junior prom. She would not recognize me and, worst of all, never be able to cook a French meal again."
"Oh, come on, Warren. Do you expect me ..."
"I was unspeakably heartbroken. I went home and immediately donated my Callaway Fusion FT-5 clubs, my Foot Joy Power Platform Total Traction shoes, my Arnold Palmer 300 thread count golf trousers, my cap, and my two remaining balls to the Boy Scouts. I've never been able to set foot upon a golf course again."
The man in the Ashworth sweater shakes his head. "I don't know, Warren. It sounds pretty bizarre to me. Of course, if it did happen, I'm awfully sorry."
"It still runs deep," says Warren, handing his companion an empty glass. "But if you would care to buy me another of these excellent Guinness Stouts, I'm sure the pain would be substantially ameliorated."
-- Jonathan D. Scott