It took a lot to truly embarrass Norman Blackberry.
He had fallen off the stage during his Drama Class play. He had a
sweater shrink on him from the rain while he was wearing it. He
had misspelled his own name in a fit of nervousness when he had
to make a presentation in front of his class in high school. None
of this had bothered him. But tonight, he couldn't keep from
turning red. Running out of money on a date was more than just
embarrassing, it was mortifying. Norman had tried everything he
could to make his girlfriend, Vanessa, think he wasn't as much of
a klutz as everyone knew he was. Vanessa, who knew how unlucky
Norman was and loved him anyways, was always high-spirited and
paid for the fast food meal with a smile. "I'm so sorry,
Vanessa," Norman said, looking at the ground. "I guess I
should've counted my money before we left." Norman picked up the
tray of food and began walking towards a table. He never noticed
the "Wet Floor" sign, and his feet flew out from under him.
Vanessa caught the tray of food without spilling a drop of Coke.
Norman got up and noticed that his cowboy hat was ruined. This
was the third hat he had destroyed since he started dating
Vanessa about a little over a month ago. Vanessa looked at
Norman's shaved head and giggled. His head was shaved (and
stitched in one place) because of a freak accident at the
barber's a week earlier.
Norman and Vanessa ate their meal and he drove her
home. He walked her to her door, but he didn't dare go inside. He
was still pretty sure that he wasn't welcome in. "I can't tell
you how much fun I had tonight, Norman. After years of looking
for someone whose company I can enjoy and I can relax with, I
feel like I've finally found him."
Norman looked anything but relaxed. He had never
really had a steady girlfriend before, and even in his wildest
dreams he had never believed he would wind up with someone like
Vanessa. He was always certain he would say something stupid.
Sadly, he was right. "I think I found him, too….I mean her! I
mean, you! I feel like I can relax around you!"
Laughing, Vanessa replied, "Then you might want to
try it sometime. Goodnight, Norman." She leaned forward to kiss
him goodnight, but before she could her father coughed loudly
from inside. Vanessa rolled her eyes and walked inside. Norman
watched her go in, then quickly turned away when he saw her
father glaring at him through the open door while cleaning his
When Norman got back home, his mother was waiting up
as usual. "Hello, dear. Did you mess up another hat?"
Norman nodded. He had been thinking about it for the
entire drive home. His parents had always given him money for the
work he did around the house. It had always been enough for him
to get by. That was before he had spent over $300 on cowboy hats.
"Mom, I need to go out and get a job. After all, I'm 19 years old
and you never let me work. Every time I mention it, you change
Norman's mother answered without missing a beat.
"Would you like some cookies? I baked a fresh batch tonight. I
made sure to keep them gooey, just the way that you like them.
How does Vanessa like her cookies? You know, you can tell a lot
about a person by how they…"
"Mother!" Norman interrupted. "You're doing it
again…and, I would like a cookie please."
After getting Norman a cookie, she sat across the
table from him. "Norman, there is something that your father and
I hoped we would never have to tell you about yourself. Norm,
dear, you're a klutz."
Norman laughed so hard that the milk he was drinking
came out his nose. The milk sprayed onto an electrical outlet,
causing the lamp plugged into it to short out. His mother acted
like she didn't notice. Norman wiped his face off and looked at
her. "What tipped you off, Mom? The fact that I smack face first
into every closed door I come to? The fact that the Cub Scouts
kicked me out for that forest fire? Or could it have been that
judge who tried to have a special message put on my driver's
license that said 'Menace to Society'? Don't worry, Mom. I'll
find a job that doesn't require coordination. OK?" His mom slowly
nodded her head.
Norman started early the next day. It would have
helped if he had considered his choice of wardrobe first. He
quickly discovered that most department stores would not even
interview you if you were wearing boot-cut jeans and a ruined
cowboy hat. He had once heard that fast food restaurants would
hire almost anyone. He went to the closest one he could find. He
filled out the application and was asked to stay for an
interview. As he walked back towards the manager's office through
the kitchen, he looked around for any potential dangers.
Realizing that there were so many, he decided it would be easier
to look for things that he couldn't screw up. He was having to
look around so much that he didn't pay attention to where he was
going. He knocked a mop handle into the grill, starting a small
fire. The manager threw him out, using language that Norman
wasn't even sure was English. After that, no fast food restaurant
within twenty miles would let him apply for a job, and three
refused to let him eat there. Norman finally managed to get hired
for a job that even he was sure that he couldn't screw up. He
became a golf caddy.
Norman showed up for work bright and early. He
rejected his normal clothes for something a little more
acceptable. He discovered that after a month of wearing jeans and
western shirts, regular clothes made him itch. His boss finally
had to ask him if he had fleas. Norman laughed like it was a joke
and checked the assignment board. He was already assigned to
caddy for someone. He was about to go and find them, but when he
turned around, they had already found him. It was Vanessa's
father. "Uhhh….Hello Mr. Humphries," Norman stammered. There were
few people that Norman was truly, honestly, deathly afraid of.
Phillip Humphries was one of them. Six-foot-four, 220lbs, and a
face that looked like it had never smiled and might break if it
tried. To make matters worse, he had never acted like he liked
Norman. This was especially true since one of Norman's previous
dates with Vanessa had ended when they had both received
citations for trespassing on the SWAT team training grounds.
Norman had never tried to explain why they were there. He kept
waiting for Mr. Humphries to grow horns and breathe fire because
Norman had tried to kiss his little girl.
Without a smile, Mr. Humphries pointed towards his
bag. "Come on, Norman. Grab my clubs and let's go." Norman picked
up the bag. He had never picked up a bag full of golf clubs
before. The weight surprised him, and he fell over backwards. Mr.
Humphries didn't seem to notice as he continued walking towards
the first tee.
Fortunately for Norman, the club provided golf carts
for the players, so he didn't have to lug the bag far. He finally
managed to shove the golf bag into the back and drove Mr.
Humphries to the first tee. He got out and handed him a driver.
Hr. Humphries hit the ball perfectly, landing about 20 yards from
the hole. Norman prepared to drive towards where the ball landed,
but Mr. Humphries did not start walking towards the cart.
Instead, he placed another tee and put a ball on it. He held his
driver out to Norman. "I didn't bring my golf partner this time,
and I can't play golf alone. You can use my clubs." Norman wasn't
sure if he should feel privalaged or concerned. He didn't have
the guts to admit that he had never played golf before in his
life. The closest he had ever came to it were games of putt-putt.
He looked around quickly, but didn't see any clowns heads to hit
the ball into. Sheepishly, he accepted the outstretched driver.
He lined himself up, rared back, and hit the ball with all of his
strength. Being his first time, he swung the club too far inside.
The ball flew off to the right, clearing the trees. A few seconds
later, he heard several old men cursing on the fifth hole about
getting hit by a rogue ball. Mr. Humphries just shook his head.
"I wouldn't play that one through," he mumbled.
The second hole proved just as interesting. Mr.
Humphries shot was another perfect drive. Norman tried to line
himself up better this time and concentrated as he swung. He was
rewarded with the feeling of a good, solid hit on the ball. It
soared into the sky, flying a straight and almost perfect path.
Norman was truly amazed. Even Mr. Humphries showed the slightest
sign of admiration. Then, at the height of its flight, the ball
hit a bird. The bird did a nose-dive to the ground, and the ball
landed right next to it. Norman gasped at the thought of killing
a bird. He ran over to it and bent down to check and see what had
happened. The bird, shocked but not dead, jumped up and flew
away, narrowly missing Norman's nose. Norman jumped back and
barely managed to stifle a high-pitched scream. He looked over at
Mr. Humphries. He was an unsmiling statue. Norman proceeded to
stare at the ground, shyly chose another club, and played
through. Mr. Humphries, ironically, finished the hole with a
birdie. Norman finished six over par.
After putting the clubs back into the cart, Norman
began driving to the next hole. He never saw the golf ball
sitting on the trail. As it ran over it, the weight of the cart
busted the golf ball. A sharp splinter from the ball punctured
the tire of the golf cart. The tire blew with a loud bang.
Norman, not quite sure what was going on, thought someone had
just shot at them. He jumped out of the side of the cart and
ducked beside it for cover, wondering why anyone would want to
shoot him. Then he had flashbacks of all of the people who had
been injured over the years because of his clumsiness. Could it
be the chemistry teacher whose eyebrows never quite grew back?
Was it the parking lot attendant that now had a permanent limp?
Maybe it was his entire high school marching band that he tripped
up during a half-time routine. That one tuba player had been
really ticked off once they had pulled his leg out of the tuba.
All of these possibilities and more flashed before Normans eyes.
He was brought back to reality by the strangest noise he had ever
Still sitting in the cart, Mr. Humphries was
laughing. In fact, he was on the verge of tears. For a moment,
Norman thought his mind had snapped. Then Mr. Humphries looked
over at him with tears streaming down his face and said, "Norman,
you are incredible! I have never had someone try to make me laugh
so hard! Now I see why my daughter looks forward to seeing you so
much." Mr. Humphries laughed even harder, mumbling something
about a bird, a ball, and some old men.
Norman couldn't find it in himself to tell Mr.
Humphries that he had not been doing all of these things to try
and make him laugh. Instead, he got back up into the cart and
said, "Mr. Humphries, I want to apologize for the incident with
Mr. Humphries put his hand on Norman's shoulder.
"Call me Phil. Vanessa explained the whole thing to me. I trust
my girl to not let herself get into anything bad. I think I can
trust you to do the same." Phil laughed. "But if you ever do it
again, I'll use you as my next golf tee. Understand?" He was
still smiling, but Norman knew that he very serious. He nodded
Norman and Mr. Humphries played the rest of the
course. While Phil's mood had improved, Norman's game had not.
Phil set a new course record. Norman lost three golf balls,
injured a squirrel (it was just a flesh wound), left a divit in
the putting green (he never figured out how he managed that one),
and finished forty-six over par. Mr. Humphries gave Norman a
hefty tip with the understanding that the money would be spent on
Vanessa on their next date.
A week later, Norman went to pick up Vanessa for a
date. Much to his surprise, Mr. Humphries invited him in to wait
for her. In over a month, he had never actually been in Vanessa's
house. To Norman's delight, Mr. Humphries wasn't cleaning a gun
this time. The wait was short. Vanessa came walking down the
hallway with her usual enthusiasm, and they departed. On his way
out the door, Norman heard Mr. Humphries say, "Norm, could you do
me a favor?" Norman turned around smiling. Mr. Humphries was like
a statue. "Don't run over the dang mailbox." That's when Norman
noticed that he wasn't cleaning a gun this time; he was
sharpening a knife.
"Yes, sir," Norman replied shakily. He walked out of
the door, looking somewhat frightened.
Vanessa, on the other hand, couldn't have looked more
overjoyed. "Oh, Norman! This is great!" Norman couldn't figure
out for the life of him what she meant, so he asked her. With a
smile as bright as the sun, she answered, "Can't you tell? My
father likes you! He really likes you!"
Norman almost asked how she could tell, but decided
not to. He held the car door for her and bit back a scream after
almost slamming his finger in it. As he walked to the driver's
side door, he realized that his clumsiness had one him the love
of a wonderful young lady and the friendship of her father. That
meant that they were either the nicest family in the world, or
they were all nuttier than he was. As he sat down and looked over
at Vanessa, he decided that it didn't matter. They were his kind