Wednesday at 11

Deborah Hendrick on Tuesday, July 22nd, 2008

Finally, the men were in agreement, and Skeet gave each of them an index card to write the rules on.

    1. every Wednesday, unless snow, rain or holiday (discuss rain as needed)
    2. meet at 11 A.M.
    3. cancel in temperatures or wind chill index below 45 degrees (Elmer has arthritis in hip)
    4. cancel in winds greater than 18 knots (Rory will check his weather station at home)
    5. no keeping score
    6. no betting
    7. walk the front nine, rent a cart for the back nine

Bill, Elmer, and Rory had retired within a few months of each other, and Skeet just told his son one day, “The company is yours come Monday. I’ve had enough,” because he was long past retirement age. They would meet occasionally on the course, and played together in odd pairings until one day Skeet called them each and said, “Meet me for coffee at the drugstore tomorrow at ten o’clock.”

He proposed that they meet every Wednesday for golf. No wives, no kids or grand kids. No doctor’s appointments or trips to the city could interfere. It took very little time for the men to talk through the rules and come to an agreement, and they shook on it.

They carried those skinny little bags, with a clutch of clubs, to cut down on the weight. Bill was a beginner, but the others never offered him advice on how to play the game. If he wanted lessons he could play with the club pro (and sometimes he did). Rory was the best, with a smooth easy swing that made you think of Freddie Couples.

But none of that was important. All that mattered was the course—mean and treeless, carved out dry creek breaks on the hard prairie—with fast greens, devious sand traps, and elephant grass that was wild and native.

They played for over year, with very few missed games. Not all the wives understood. Bill’s wife took it hard, and a half year was gone before she realized that on the issue of his Wednesday game—she could force no issue.

Rory’s wife didn’t mind at all. Wednesday was her beauty shop day, and grocery-shopping day. She’d married Rory for better or worse, but not lunch every day. On Wednesday each week, he had a late breakfast at the cafe, then hit the links with his friends. It was ideal for her. He came home rosy-cheeked and hungry; she came home prettied up, with a special supper planned.

On the day Elmer didn’t show up, it never occurred to them to begin without him, and the weather was marginal anyway. Bill and Skeet had driven out to the course together, and because Bill felt a sense of unease, Skeet detoured by the hospital on the way back into town. He didn’t see Elmer’s car, but he spotted Elmer’s son’s pickup in the emergency room parking lot, on the backside of the hospital.

Rory, Bill, and Skeet were pall bearers at Elmer’s funeral, and afterward Elmer’s wife wrote each of them a sweet note thanking them, and to tell them how much the Wednesday game had meant to Elmer.

The next Wednesday, Bill, Skeet, and Rory played but it was too soon. Their rhythm was off, and the game went too fast. But they pushed themselves to play; no way was Bill giving up his hard-won Wednesday, and Rory couldn’t bear the idea of pushing the shopping cart around, or waiting while his wife took five minutes deciding if she wanted Amaretto flavored non-fat coffee creamer or the hazelnut.

The next few weeks were lumpy and bumpy, and not much fun actually. Standing in the club house on a misty October morning, the course manager asked it they’d like a fourth player to join them. Warily, the men said yes, and were introduced to Mr. Donald Moffett, newly moved to town to live with his daughter.

The men fell silent when Donald began speaking, not believing their ears at first. Because Donald’s Scottish accent was a thick as Skeet’s Texas drawl. Rory stepped in, believing himself the most capable of communicating with Donald, himself but four generations removed from the old country, because he could see on Skeet and Bill’s faces—they couldn’t understand a word the man was saying.

Donald, sensing that the manager had blundered by pushing them together, quickly explained that they probably would not want to play with him because he was too old to keep score and he didn’t like to bet—with Rory translating. Skeet began laughing and pounding Donald on the back. “Bill, you stuck the rules in your bag. Show Don here the rules.”

Donald didn’t tell them that he was a retired professional golfer. There was time enough for that.  And they moved out on the hard course, with the cold mist falling, because that was not at all the same as rain.

Topics: Short stories

7 Responses to “Wednesday at 11”

Eric Says:
July 23rd, 2008 at 2:41 pm

The group my dad played with for years had similar rules, although unwritten, differing in only a few areas: no playing in colder than 50; winds are irrelevant (this is West Texas, you know); and God wouldn’t have created golf carts if he didn’t want you to use them.

That group is gone; only my dad is left, although he has found another playing partner. At 85, he can make only nine holes, and generally just once a week, but there’s no telling the good that time does him.

As far as I know, none of them had a Scottish brogue, but I somehow think that they’d welcome with open arms anyone with the good sense to both play golf and retire in West Texas.

Deborah Hendrick Says:
July 23rd, 2008 at 3:37 pm

One thing about playing golf in West Texas, you must love the game beyond all reason. I’m glad to know your Dad is still playing.

Donna B. Says:
July 26th, 2008 at 12:34 am

I don’t like golf. I find it boring. But this story isn’t about golf, it’s about men. Older men. I like older men and my husband is grateful that I do. :-)

Deborah Hendrick Says:
July 26th, 2008 at 9:28 am

I hear you Donna. I like those old men, too.

Neil Smith Says:
July 26th, 2008 at 11:35 am

Eric turned me on to you and being a semi-West Texan your story and his comment hit very close to home. I travel between Austin and Fort Davis every few weeks and stop in Ozona for dinner each way. There are five, sometimes six and even sometimes just three old men that come in for coffee at five o’clock each day, rain or shine. The waitress knows to save them the big round table and has a glass cookie jar on that table before the first guy comes in. I have watched these guys with a feeling of reverence and respect and one day I realized that I don’t have a group like that to be with. So sad. Maybe some day.

Deborah Hendrick Says:
July 26th, 2008 at 12:44 pm

Neil—old friends are precious indeed. I think all of us would like a seat at the table like the one in Ozona.

Krystal Says:
January 23rd, 2009 at 2:45 am

This made me relize how greatfull I should be for the strong friendships that I have!
Great story!


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