Me and Deke were down in my basement, talkin’. He worked the counter down at my shop, and I’d invited him over after closing.

“When I turned fifty, I told myself I was going to get a new set of golf clubs. Running a plumbing supply business is hard work, and I deserve a little reward now and then, you know? Plus my last set was over twenty years old.” I stood and picked up a sand wedge that was leaning against my chair. Gripped it as if I was about to blast a shot out of a greenside bunker. “Went for the game improvement clubs. Used to hit classic blades when I was a kid, but the technology in these things? Amazing. Sixty gram graphite shafts. Low kick point for higher ball trajectory. Tungsten weighting, thin top line, smooth hosel transition. Cost some serious cheddar, too. Going to have to sell a lot of toilets to pay for them. But they’re worth it.”

Deke looked as if he wanted to say something, but I barreled on. Bad habit of mine. People were always telling me to slow down, but when I talked about golf, I got carried away. “Sprang for the whole custom fitting. Tried different shafts, different club heads. Ten different brands. Hit dozens of balls with the Trackman, got all the computer results across all the important parameters: club speed, ball speed, spin rate, launch angle. They even have something called the smash factor. The higher the smash factor, the better.”

I glanced at Deke. Seemed like he was taking it all in. “You play,” I asked.

He shook his head.

“Great game. Meet some interesting characters, too, that’s for sure. I had a guy in my regular foursome a while back who referred to each of his clubs as a different weapon. His driver was his bazooka. He’d get up on the first tee and declare, ‘Time to launch the ol’ bazooka.’ Then he’d send a screamer down the fairway. His six-iron was his six-shooter, and after a good shot, he’d blow on the club’s grip like he was an Old West gunslinger cooling off the barrel of his revolver. He called his four-iron his rifle ’cause he always hit it straight and long. His wedge was a scalpel, for its pinpoint precision. He called his putter his sword and after he sank a long putt, he’d wave it around and slide it into an imaginary scabbard on his belt with a flourish, just like some old-time golfer used to do.” I got up and demonstrated with the wedge in my hand while Deke followed the entire act with wide eyes. “That guy was a trip, all right.”

I stared at Deke, and he stared back. Awkward silence.

I began again. “Did you know that in golf, players call their own penalties on themselves? That’s one reason it’s such a great game, that sense of honor. I like to think I’m an honorable guy. In fact, I try very hard to do the right thing, and it bothers me—a lot—when other people aren’t as honorable, you know?”

Deke nodded. I think he was trying to say something again, but it was hard to tell with the strip of duct tape across his mouth. I had the feeling he’d get up and leave, too, if only he wasn’t hog-tied to his chair.

“So it really pained me, deeply, when I found out you were skimming some of my profits down at the shop. My margins are slim enough without my employees ripping me off.”

I admired the sand wedge in my hand. Thirty five inches long. Fifty-six degrees of loft. Sixty-four degree lie angle. Three point two millimeter offset. Twelve degrees of bounce on the heavy metal head.

Sharp leading edge.

I took my stance. Found my rhythm with a couple of waggles. Backswing straight, then slightly inside the line. Full turn, pause at the top, followed by a powerful hip turn as I exploded through the hitting area, connecting with my target in a smooth stroke meant to maximize the smash factor.

Deke screamed as his left kneecap shattered.


~ fin ~

Alan Orloff headshot

Alan Orloff’s novel, Pray for the Innocent, won an ITW Thriller Award. His debut mystery, Diamonds for the Dead, was an Agatha Award finalist; his story “Dying in Dokesville” won a Derringer Award; and “Rule Number One” was selected for The Best American Mystery Stories. His YA thriller, I Play One on TV, will be published by Down & Out Books in July.