So, we snuck all the way back down to the storage room and just as we had finished getting ‘dressed’, we got busted. Appearing in front of us, blocking the exit, was this security guard, a very bulky and tall black man.
“What’re you boys doing in here?”
“Uh…we’re here to see our friend.”
“Your friend ain’t here.” (This much I knew)
“Uh…we got lost.”
The fact that we were dressed as hospital orderlies didn’t seem to amuse him. I deduced this instinctively and immediately. I decided “The Truth” would be our only best hope.
I explained we just wanted to come visit our friend who had been very sick and that, yes, we had been drinking a little, and yes we are sorry, but could you please take us to his room so we can say hello and then split, quietly.
Thank God he quickly developed a sense of humor and he did exactly that. He took us up to the room, left, and while we were visiting with Joe, the guard apparently found our bottle of wine in the storage room and actually brought it to us! I almost fell out of the chair I was sitting in. He brought us that wine. Unbelievable.
We stayed way too long in Joe’s room and realized it was now daylight when the nurse came in. We were just as drunk as when we had arrived hours earlier, and now didn’t have the dark of night conceal our escape. This was a bad situation. Our friendly night shift security guard was long since gone and we had to pull ourselves together long enough to get away without being arrested. In spite of all that, it really should have been easy.
But it wasn’t.
We left Joe’s room and did just fine until we exited the elevator on the ground floor. There were people everywhere! Kim decided a song was in order, so as I was helping him walk, our arms over each other’s shoulders, best-buddy-like, he burst into song. Perfect. I couldn’t make him shut up. People, who up until that point had been ignoring us, starting staring, pointing, and laughing. I hustled us out of there as quickly as possible, but I was certain there must have been someone who was not particularly amused by our antics. The police were bound to be summoned.
Once we got outside (mind you, we were dressed in gym shorts and t-shirts from the night before and really stuck out amongst all the hospital staff coming in from the parking area dressed for respectable work), I stopped holding onto Kim and turned to look for our car, actually Joe’s car, a Monte Carlo. We had ‘borrowed’ it while he was near death in the hospital; didn’t think he would be needing it anytime soon…if ever.
I could not for the life of me spot the damn car now that the parking lot was full and of course I couldn’t remember anything about where we had parked the night before. I turned back to ask Kim if he remembered, but he was gone!
I knew I had to get away from the entrance to the hospital quickly and find the damn car. I started walking all around the perimeter of the parking lot, looking now simultaneously for the car, Kim, and the cops. I turned a corner and saw a security guard. He spotted me and began pointing and yelling. I lit out in the direction I had come from and was really hauling ass. Directly in front of me was Kim, running just as full-force but directly toward me. And he was Naked!
He continued to head toward me, laughing and almost tripping on something as he ran. I had lost my sense of humor and did nothing to acknowledge his impromptu streaking other than to point back over my shoulder at the security guards or cops I was certain were right behind me. They must have been, because Kim’s smile disappeared instantly as he flew past me. I didn’t even risk turning around to see if he had run straight into them. I just kept running, now looking only for the car. I planned to find Kim again later. If I could.
I rounded another corner of the building and stopped under a little side entrance-way to look about and catch my breath. There appeared to be no one chasing me now. I figured once they saw Kim, running bare-ass naked through their parking lot at 7 a.m. on a weekday, I had become just a mediocre prize and they must now be focused solely on him.
As I stood there, panting, I looked up and saw The Car! It was parked under some trees kind of off by itself and a more beautiful sight I had not seen in some time. I walked briskly to it as I pulled out the keys, hopped in and started trying to navigate to the exit. I found it, but there was one of those wooden barriers across the road and one of those boxes you slide a card into. I did not recall that being there the night before and I certainly didn’t have a fucking card to slide into the box. So I simply drove through the barricade.
Having secured the car, I started driving around the hospital looking for Kim, while also looking for flashing lights and cop cars. No Kim to be seen. By the time I had made three laps around the hospital road I was about to give up and go home to give John the happy news that we might have to come up with some bail money. As I was driving on the road behind the building, (a narrow service road with the hospital on the left and a cemetery on the right) I saw that red ginger afro pop up from behind a tombstone. I stopped the car, leaned over, opened the passenger side door just in time for Kim to hurl himself in (He had put his clothes back on at this point).
I saw two police cars directly in front of us as they turned onto our road, but at least 40 yards away.
“Step on it!” He yelled.
Remaining calm, or at least trying to, I said, “Hold on. They’re looking for two guys on foot. If I don’t make any sudden moves, they’ll probably ignore us. Get down on the floor board and hang tight.”
I drove straight ahead slowly toward the cops and pulled onto a service entryway, allowing them to pass. As soon as they did, I pulled back out and drove off, pretty as you please.
“Well, that was slick, Mr. Cool,” Kim said as he positioned himself back in the seat.
“I know it is a Gentleman’s game, and I know I am a gentleman.”
“Pshaw Boy! You doan know anything about anything. I know about golf.”
Turns out, my Grandfather did, in fact, know a lot about golf. He had actually almost convinced his neighbor to combine his one hundred twenty adjoining acres with his and build a golf course for Winnsboro. Granddad was somewhat of an entrepreneur, having been in the Grocery Business, the Appliance Store business, the Catfish Restaurant Business (on the Tennessee river), the Worm Ranch business (selling red-worms to the bait shops at the area lakes), and pretty much had failed at all of them.
The following Friday I got off the school bus and noticed two little flags poking up from two little golf greens in our huge front yard. The ‘yard’ was about sixty ‘yards’ deep. There was a green next to the Farm-to-Market road just behind the bar ditch, nestled between the two Crepe Myrtles, and another green just in front of the house. Granddad found me as I was rummaging the fridge for left-over cornbread and sweet milk.
“Boy! I dun built you a golf course.”
“Yes, Granddaddy, I saw.”
He disappeared for a few minutes and returned with a golf club and some golf balls.
“Come on, I gonna see how much golfin’ that coach dun taught you.”
Eagerly I followed him out to the front yard. He dropped the balls in front of the porch and handed me the nine iron.
“See if’n you can hit that green yonder.”
I tee’d her up. Took a few practice strokes, remembering to keep my head down, and then I addressed the ball. My back swing was perfect. The downswing weren’t. I hit the ball and watched it sail over the barb-wire fence into the deep pasture.
“Sheeit Boy! You damn sure ain’t no natural.”
He coached me all that afternoon and after I finally managed to at least find the ‘fairway’ he went into the house and got drunk.
For the next several weeks, I played golf on my private course. But I had a major problem: I had no putter. Try putting with a nine iron. Even Phil Mickelson won’t do this. Granddad crafted a putter for me out of some scrap lumber. It was too light, so he drilled it out and poured lead into it. Then it was perfect. My putting skills improved instantly.
Summer now and I was growing unhappy with my greens. I wanted greens resembling those at Augusta. Mine were one notch above cow pasture cut short. I spent a week or two pulling weeds and planting fresh Bermuda grass. My tender mercies eventually produced two greens Jack Nicklaus would have been honored to putt upon. They were smooth, silky smooth, and wonderfully… green. Lush green. In contrast to the rest of the yard (fairway) which was somewhat brown, with some grass burrs serving as hazards. Hazards to my feet. Young’uns in Texas never wear shoes in summertime, but of course you’d know that.
I watered my greens every day. I mowed them every other day. Being a sometime gardener, I loved green things. My golf greens were my pride. I loved the way the Bermuda grass had thrived and how smoothly the golf ball would travel on its way to the pin.
In golf you will make maybe one or two shots in your lifetime that you never forget. I made my first unforgettable shot that summer. I had clipped my ‘Tee Shot’ from the tee next to the road. It had travelled about fifteen feet. I needed a great second shot (my course was of course a par three), to have any hope of making par. (I had fantasy tournaments with imaginary friends in my head—going head to head with Arnold and Jack). My second shot was from about fifty yards. I had a good lie. No grass burrs to distract me. I addressed the ball. Took several looks up to the flag. Did my waggle to set my stance. Backswing. Fore swing. Clean crisp hit. Watched my ball bounce twice on the green and roll straight at the flag. It disappeared.
“Hole in One!” My grandfather shouted from the porch. (Until then, I had not realized I had an audience, or a color commentator, a slightly nose painted color commentator.)
“Yeah!” I shouted. I saw no need to inform him it was my second shot.
One morning about mid-summer I went out to water my greens. There were small holes in the one closest to the house. Holes! Holes the size of tea cups! “Fuckin’ ‘dillo!” was my first thought. My dog Spot would never disfigure my green. Nope. Was an armadillo. No doubt about it. This armadillo had made a fatal mistake.
I was resolved to terminate him.
Don’t Shoot! I am only the Piano-Player
With extreme prejudice.
I dragged my sleeping bag onto my belov’d green that night and with my .22 rifle under my arm I lay in wait.
Fell asleep on watch around midnight. Woke up with the sun to discover more holes in my green. Further enraged now.
This MEANS WAR!
Made repairs to the ‘dillo divets and played a few rounds that day. Close to sunset, I downed some strong black coffee and filled a thermos with more. Camped out again on my green. Feigning sleep, I waited with my rifle and a flashlight. Sometime in the night, I heard him. Grubbing for grubs on MY Green. The moon was half. I did not need the flashlight. I spied him on the edge of my green, mockingly desecrating my pride and joy. Ever so slowly I turned toward him while resting on my side cradling my rifle. Took aim and shot him square in his armadillo ass. Bam! ‘Run tell that, fuckin’ ‘dillo!” He did (run) and I am quite certain he did tell all his ‘dillo friends not to fuck with my golf course. Ever again. I suppose he died, or not. Actually, I probably only clipped him, but that was sufficient; he never came back, and I continued my golfing career. It would be five years before I actually set foot on a real golf course, but I did impress the hell outta my peers with my ‘short game’, as that was all I had known. Took me two years to learn how to drive golf balls (and cars and trains and such other things.)
But Coach was right: I wish I could find him now to tell him just how right he was, per his prophesy.