Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Back Nine Narrative By Matthew Dexter

Par 4: 413 Yards

It was weird golfing with Grandpa again after his throat surgery. He couldn’t offer any advice, so it was three hours of silence. Chopped ice cubes crunching against teeth--the only evidence of his existence--besides the wild swings, the pink Lacoste shirt with purple knickers like Payne Stewart and the white Titleist golf ball crashing through the brush. He flew me out to see him first class after his cancer surgery. He slams his seven iron into the barrel cactus and the ball drifts off toward the sand trap protecting the front of the green. Grandpa was a border patrol agent and sometimes his imagination makes him see Mexicans hiding in the desert fairways. My approach shot lands on the green, sets me up for an easy two-putt boogie. Grandpa scores a double boogie.

Par 3: 241 Yards

Grandpa’s sweat smells like mothballs. I can almost taste them in my backswing. I drive my orange ball over the artificial lake with a Big Bertha driver. He points to the green alligator on his heart, pounds his chest as he jumps into the golf cart and we drive down the emerald fairway toward the green. We both make par. I can almost hear him laughing, dancing like a gorilla--flag stick in one hand--golf glove in the other--but it’s the fountain spewing water and the feathers of the ducks. Not sure whether we are angels or merely spiritual men on a mission, the iceberg melts in his mouth as the sun breaks free from the clouds. Pulling his tiny yellow pencil and score sheet from his pocket, he circles his 3 and then turns it into a 2 as we smile as the wind blows off the lagoon.

Par 5: 551 Yards

Grandpa tees off, drives the Titleist straight down the fairway. He doesn’t know I’m gay, but slaps me on the backside and smiles. There’s nothing to say. We play in silence because words are nothing compared to what we’ve been through together: secrets I’ll never tell him, things I saw Grandma doing with the gardener, words he’ll never again speak, but I slice the orange Wilson into the desert and he smiles and that’s all that matters. Double boogie for me but Grandpa plays that hole like he was thirty, yearning for more he sinks his birdie and swallows the worry; everything will be fine--surgery was a success.

Par 3: 230 Yards

Washing balls in majestic green machine beside the tees, we dry them with the towel hanging on the chain. I tighten the Velcro on my golf glove, blisters bubbling between crusty fingers; Grandpa takes a dozen practice swings in the tee box. He points to the hole--like he always has. He studies the wind, picks up a piece of grass and watches it fall between his cleats, takes his stance and lines up the ball with the meticulous precision of a surgeon lining up lasers on a cluster of throat tumors. He strikes it and immediately I can hear the sweet spot and into the air it goes, higher until it gets lost in the whiteness of the sun and my vision gets hazy as I wait for it to land on the green. When next I catch sight of the Titleist it pounds the green and bounces a few yards in front of the cup and strikes the pin like a ballistic missile. We listen to the clank--but can’t tell if it went in. Grandpa is dancing. We hug. Minutes pass. The foursome on the seventeenth ignores us and focuses on their putts. I take a practice swing. Another. Line up my orange ball, shake my hips, ass, and strike it with the Big Bertha. Again I lose it in the clouds--a few seconds later Grandpa points it out on the corner of the green. We speed down the slope--madmen chasing a dream--that great final dream--the wildest of all. Grandpa hits the brakes and skids the golf cart onto the embankment leading up to the green--where we’re not permitted to drive. He chases butterflies toward the pin; he didn’t even bring a putter. Sunk it. White Titleist in his hand he rubs it and jumps like an acrobat.

19th Hole: Club House

I run my spikes with enchantment against the enthralling black-spiked brushes; those ethereal revolutions; fairies in my memories; the center of the universe. Grandpa tosses his scorecard in the air like a madman and kisses the ball. His few buddies still alive and everyone else splattered with excitement like a rogue wave of happiness soaking tourists sipping exotic drinks on a beach. Grandpa gets toasted, hoisted above tables, kissing his ball, he sticks it in his mouth and they laugh and Grandpa grabs his throat and it looks like a snake swallowing a birdie in the wild. They put him down on a glass table and he breaks it and sinks to the pavement. They pick him up again and doctors suggest the Heimlich; thirty seconds of red-faced horror on shards of blue glass. He’s still wearing his Wilson golf glove, purple veins on his neck turning a strange hue of turquoise that strangely completes the rainbow of his golf attire. Women are crying, Grandpa is dying, gasping for air, seconds away from riding the rainbow. Wet Titleist flies from his mouth and strikes me between the eyes. Grandpa falls to his knees and wheezes: “I can breathe!”

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