Tuesday, 27 October 2009

Open Season

A new piece of fiction, inspired (if that's the right word) by my muse Jenn Topper @revolucion0, who provided me a topic to share bile on and I just kind off riffed from there. Compositional soundtrack provided by Public Image Ltd.

* * *

A perfect day for a round over the golf course. Roiling grey clouds, a stiff breeze off the sea, that metallic tang of precipitation suspended in the air. Certain to clear out the cobwebs all right. Time for the full eighteen holes, or just the front nine? He would just have to see how things unwound. He donned his leather gloves and hoisted his golf bag over his shoulder like a soldier on the parade ground. Only the weight of it caused an imperceptible sag.

The Royal and Ancient course lived up to the venerable tradition implied in its name thank god. A proper links course using the natural features of a rugged coastal scarp, rather than pastoral landscape architecture commissioned to make Japanese businessmen feel at home. Unfortunately this did entail the Club rules were also hidebound by tradition. But today is Friday, within the first week of April, so he gets to break with stultifying tradition. It means he can play the course clockwise.

He exits the Clubhouse having signed in and having his credentials checked. Bona fide member, who would have thought given his family roots? Like all club members, he'd had to check his mobile phone in at the reception desk. One of the few real boons of the fustian rulebook. Golf was not to be relegated to a subsidiary of doing business. No deals cemented beneath horizontal sheets of briny rain, stood leaning on your club like a shooting stick, clad in ridiculous plus fours tucked into tartan socks thank you very much. People were gathered here just to play the game and no other purpose.

He marched past the first tee. Towards some shrub and high gorse just off to the left of it. The strap of his bag was beginning to carve a welt into the skin and he absently shifted it further away from his clavicle. He stepped daintily over the out of bounds rope and unshouldered arms with only a slight a purse of his lips indicating a release of taut breath. An insect disturbed from its pollen gathering, fretted around his shadowing mass. Its bombilation carried more conviction than the apologetic unzippering of his bag. Seven surgical scrub hatted clubs popped into view, like junior doctors crowding round to observe the operating table. Bumping and boring into one another as he delved in amongst them with a gloved hand. Reaching into the innards, to extract a thin metal tube. Feeding it upwards between the jealously jostling clubs, drawing free like a langorous rocket leaving its silo.

Next he almost had to thrust himself deep into the bag's interior as if he too were prospecting for pollen. But he emerged unscathed, bearing the stock which had nestled itself flat on the bag's floor. He brought the two metal planes together and snapped them into place within each other's receiving grooves. The other graphite clubs bowed their heads in mute acknowledgement. Mere cudgels, when this had an infinitely greater driving range.

He moistened his finger to determine the directionality of the wind. Pronouncing himself satisfied, he proceeded to remove the elongated loupe from his single breasted pocket. He brought it up to his eye and nonchalantly twizzled the shallow focus fluting. With a sudden surge, he craned his neck so that the scope was partitioning the sky. Crosshairs biopsying a little clump of grey-brown cirrus. The black outer frame around the lens curtaining off the rest of creation. Suddenly something prised open the circular screen and insinuated itself briefly across his vision. Just as the projectile threatened to pass from his line of sight, he locked on to it. A golf ball, with tightly turning revolutions. Another notch on the focus serrations and he could see its dimples, like the surface of the moon. Like the near symmetrical spacings of holes in the cardboard targets at the range. The ones he took home with him and hung up on threads of cotton. Just so as to filter and dice the light, creating lacerating chiaroscuro ribbons throughout his room. He retrained his eye to ground level just as the sphere plopped silently earthwards. The backspin carried the ball back past the hole as he secured the scope on to the rifle, his tongue just protruding from the corner of his mouth.

He relaxed into his stance and scoped the first green. The red pennant of the flag was billowing out away from the sea. Pointing him at the congregation before its blood red demand for sacrifice. Seemed to be a threesome. Who was going to make the cut and who wasn't? Simplicity enough, no less stacked than the voting for new Club members. Nominated and seconded. Didn't have to be eagle-eyed to drop this one with two shots to spare. Yellow should not be a colour ever to adorn the male of the species below his waist. Above the waist is honourable, the souwester of the trawlerman, the high visibility jacket of the coal miner or railway track engineer. So this one is for all those invisible men in their high visibility jackets. The mark tilts his head back, laughing at his playing partner's remotely unheard wit. As the mark settles over his putter, he synchronises with his own teeing off. His opening salvo for the day. The birds in the trees flap over the rifle's report. It's just Nature's way. Damn, whiffed completely. Shanked it badly to the right, both tee shot and putting green. He delicately adjusts the sights and reconvenes his grip. The mark is bending down to retrieve or maybe mark his ball. Coin or other marker he idly mused. The mark's companion is about to putt, when the (presumed) thud of the stiff collapsing to the ground brings a flaring turn of the head and an accusatory putter raised at chest level. Before it is slowly lowered. Still, two shot penalty for that breach of etiquette surely? He'd leave that for the scorecard Secretary to resolve as he picked up his bag and proceeded over towards the Second tee. Or more accurately, the high grass beyond it.

He took a swig from his pewter hip flask as he strode across the wild grass, making a mental note to avoid shooting in the chest area, lest the target have a miraculous stroke of luck and be saved by a hip flask of their own absorbing the bullet and leaking malt instead of blood. Twenty bullets for a par round on the front nine should suffice. In order to win the notional Claret Jug. The Third hole had a nasty dog leg that meant he could not possibly have a clear bead to anyone on the green. So dropping a shot into a bullseye knot on the gnarled trunk of a specific tree, (which if you stared at long enough you could mistake it for a human face from a distance) entitled him to a Mulligan. Advancing from the tee to behind a high mound of earth around the fairway to continue. It was only fair to proceed in this manner. He had his rules too you know. But the Second was no "gimmie" either.

He settled himself into position just in time to catch sight of a behemoth of a man in checkered knickerbockers slowly lower himself to the grass in incremental stages. As the man finally levered himself flush, he himself felt the earth tilting just a smidgeon on its axis beneath where he stood. The thud of dead or soon to be dead weight, seems to have reverberated all the way back to him here in the Rough. The man's chin on the grass seemed to suggest he was communing with the worms as to the lie of the hole. Which would be true enough in a few seconds or so. He shook his head clear and winked one eye shut again in order to realign the cosmos. Yet in that interim, the beast had turned with all the elegance of a dreadnought, so as currently to be presenting his red checked posterior to the crosshairs like a monkey on heat. Now the eclipser of planets removed his baseball cap and still holding it in his hand, brought the ensemble round to scratch his voluminous rear. Oh to plug the cap straight into that mound of flesh. But no, rules are rules, besides there was no telling if that amount of blubber wouldn't sap the bullet of all velocity before it could burrow into a sweet spot of carnage within the body. Whatever the beached whale was sizing up seemed to be taking an inordinate amount of time. Bristling with impatience to play through, he squeezed off a round into the man's playing partner who was stood there holding the pin. He toppled to the ground with just a hint of fade to the left of the pin. Another golfer scratched. The behemoth's cap was suspended in midair, the peak just kissing the twill of his trousers.

The twin parts of the tricky dog leg had proved easy enough to negotiate. Pressed there against the earthen mound, he was trying to weigh up the lie. The victim had half fallen into a bunker, head wedged into the sand and out of sight, like a pot-holer too big for the aperture. But visibly he was still alive, since his leg was twitching and thrashing the green beyond the bunker. A last outpost of protest before the oncoming tsunami of blackness? Get in the hole, get in the damn hole! Of course the other three from his convivial fourball had scarpered for the trees. Even pranging a buggy in their genteely electrified haste. But their lack of indication of a gimmie through any ministrations made to their stricken friend, left him none the wiser as to whether to wait for him to drop into the hole. Or whether a further inside the leather putt, putt, putt was required to get this albatross off his neck. This is when you really need a caddie to help you out.

He could at least prevent that leg from twitching. But that would mean a bogey. He took a quick check of the four cardinal compass points and saw no trace of any handicappers. So he strode out from beyond the mound and on to the fairway. The gun down by his side, he moved as jauntily as if he'd just hit a peach of a shot straight down the middle. Stepping on to the apron, he started to address the awkward lie. He neared the man sprawled over the bunker, stopping only to replace a divot where the man's putter had incised some of the turf in its sudden fall. He surveyed that the overhanging ridge of the bunker was sufficiently high to swallow him up to any viewer from a southerly direction. He had to figure that there would be no fresh players teeing off from holes one and two, so those directions ought to be safe as well. The carry of the gunshot might be a problem, but if he timed it with the squalling wind, he should be able to cover it up. And any explosion of sand thrown up by the force of the bullet could be a genuine sand trap phenomenon. He swivelled the man's legs round so they folded into the bunker. "Winter rules old chap" he said. As he removed the man's limbs from the green, he saw the blood glaze on the manicured carpet. Double bogey he thought to himself, but his hands still didn't waggle as he loosed off a round into the back of the man's head. He raked the bunker with a few more rounds, then headed off to the Fourth with its water hazard. Three down, six to play.

No comments: