Put Put Course

By Barbara Holm

Abby leaned against the metal railing and chewed on one of her pigtail braids. Go do something fun, her psychiatrist had said. Go do something for yourself. She sighed and grasped the cool metal club, rubbing it up and down her hairy calf that peaked out from baggy capri pants. They used to be called flood pants when she was in middle school. Now no one wore them but her. She pushed her glasses up her nose, watching the children laugh over bubble gum and comic books. Her lips parted and she scratched her arm. She could remember so clearly that idyllic temperament of childhood. Not joy, but a feeling of urgency and intensity accompanies youth. Juvenesence so easily slips through the thick stew of hot emotions and obligations surrounding her.

Spitting her pigtail out of her mouth, Abby stepped through the short fake grass, past the shiny clown faces and tiny windmills. Her flip flops smacked against the soles of her feet as she crouched in front of the four foot lighthouse. After dropping her pink ball onto the astroturf, she shook her head to try to loosen the happy chirping of tiny birds from her consciousness. Perspiration soaked her shirt in the uncomfortable summer air. She swung the club behind her back, far up into the creamy blue picturesque sky. The gleam of metal cut into the otherwise idyllic glass ceiling above her.

At the concerned gaze of several parents, she froze midswing and examined herself. No one swings the club like this, idiot! Her cheeks burned bright red and her shoulders shook. Abby dropped the club down closer to her feet, remembering the graceful gentle putting motion that she had learned in the golf lessons her parents had forced her to take. She rigidly locked her elbows and drove the putter against the pink ball. It cracked against the thing with a loud smack, still much too hard.

The pink golf ball bounced angrily across the poky fake grass. What were golf balls made of, anyway? Rubber bands and old gum and plastic and tiny mouse bones? When Abby was a little kid she had found one of her dad’s that had a crack in it, with tempting secrets and magic poking out, teasingly enticing her towards adventure. Remembering the wondrous joy she had experienced when she got to see the insides of a baseball, Six year old Abby had ran to the kitchen and begun digging through what she at that age called “the weapons.”

Her parents were in the backyard reading paperback mystery novels on lounge chairs and drinking beer. They had music going and were generally enjoying a summer evening. Abby sat on her kitchen floor with her father’s golf ball and the giant serrated knife her mom used to cut tomatoes. Her turquoise corduroy overalls hindered her ability to sit criss cross apple sauce and the six year old uncomfortably leaned against the wooden kitchen counter. She held the golf ball between her knees and pinched it between two fingers of her left hand. The gleam of the metal knife sparkled as she began to saw at the hard, shiny white plastic. The little dimples of the ball slipped against her now sweaty fingers. The knife failed to saw into the golf ball and slid down the sphere.

She didn’t even feel the stabbing sensation. Nothing hurt that she was aware of. It happened too quickly to register. The scream she uttered was solely in reaction to seeing her own watery blood flowing so freely and easily across her high top sneakers. The river of red blood gushed in a messy stream over her tiny, bony knees.

Adult Abby searched for her ball in the area behind the lighthouse. She stepped over the short yellow rope that was supposed to fence in the miniature golf course. The black thick hair of her calves poked out of her pant hem as she bent over in the less maintained wild forest of the kiddie put put park. This hadn’t been her best idea. Clearly this was the sort of thing you are supposed to do with other people, with family and friends, but who knew? No one bothered to tell her that.

She waded through increasingly thick grass away from the yelling families and smell of cotton candy. She traipsed further from the lighthouse until she had descended a small hill and was out of sight of the horrid fist dates pretending not to hate themselves. She was in a vacant lot of some sort, filled with old trash thrown down the hill. At this point she could easily give up the golf ball and go home. The bright sun glinted off something white and red. She shielded her eyes with her hand, squinting into the glare.

Twenty feet from her sat an old, cracked antique clown head. It must have been an old miniature golf apparatus that they discarded. She walked towards it and stared into the red flat eyes. The hard plaster tongue hung out, leading a pathway for a ball to sink into. Abby knelt in front of the clown and peered inside the oval gaping lips. The red paint was cracked and flaking from the clowns lips. Squinting, she could clearly see her pink ball, sitting patiently and proudly in the center of the clown’s mouth. It calmly looked back out at her, as if it knew all along that this is where it belonged.

Abby looked over her shoulder at the dead grass waving around her. She couldn’t see the top of the hill where she had left the bright, plastic golf course. Drowned out were the noises of the family fun area. She could hear the sounds of cars somewhere and she knew she must be close to a freeway. There were old beer bottles and used condoms lying in the vacant lot around her. She was careful not to rest her knees on the ground.

Her hand trembled as it reached out in front of her. Her eyes widened as her plaid sleeve slid up, revealing the disgusting marks. She frowned, blotting out the sounds of children mocking their invulnerability and joy at her. Had she been that happy as a child? She couldn’t remember it.

She closed her eyes and said goodbye to no one at all, to the desperate and anxious feeling of her life sliding by slowly and inevitably toward nothing. She said goodbye to her lack of boyfriend, the pointless day job, the zero messages on her answering machine, to the stupid fact that she still had an answering machine. A few thin salty tears fell from her eyes. They didn’t sit on her cheeks but because of the angle she was squatting fell to her crouched pant legs. She would never be held and be able to make anyone laugh in the early morning. She would never coax out a charmed smile over coffee. She was never that girl and that was fair enough by her standards.

The freeing feeling of delighted abandon drowned her isolation. Her dreams blurred into reality in a dark tornado across the vacant lot. She reached inside the clown mouth for her ball, crying heavily and openly now. She couldn’t see through her tears as she reached forward, pulled by a magnetic force toward the plaster clown. Her fingers slid inside, and then her arm, and then her head, and then her torso. She tumbled deep into herself and into the abyss of nothing and everything. Her skin prickled and then shrank inwards onto her bones. She slid all the way into the clown mouth and disappeared.

The vacant lot was empty besides the trash. The tiny pink ball rolled out of the clown’s mouth and bounced passed used condoms and old soda cans. A crow flew overhead and soared across the golf course above. A manic soft laugh could be heard cackling into the summer evening.

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