A Day at the Pond

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Literary Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic

A day in the life of two young boys, scouting for lost golf balls in the local country club's pond. Together they learn a little about life and to face their greatest fear : The Dunn, a pro-golfer who's reputation is to cut trespassers ears off.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It was a fresh morning. The sun was poking its way through the deep-green leaves of the poplars and making the dew-covered grass glitter. The glow from the porch was painting the kitchen walls a peaceful orange. A cool breeze was flowing through the screen door and filling the house with a delicious summer-morning scent. Just below the open door, cuddled in its woollen blanket, the cat lay sleeping peacefully.

 

Michael sat on his bed rubbing his eyes; today was pond day. The evening before, he had carefully selected the clothing he would wear for this event. First, there were his jean shorts — you had to wear jean when you were going to do a full day’s work and get dirty in the process —, then his dark-green t-shirt in which he would blend in the vegetation if he had to hide from any oncoming golfers, and finally his old, blue, Adidas sneakers, fine for quick escapes if that ever became necessary. Gradually getting more and more excited, he dressed while planning his day. He walked to the kitchen, opened the cupboard, took a bowl, set it on the table, and then looked through the porch window to Paul’s house to make sure his best friend hadn’t started any preparations without him.

 

He ate two heaping bowls of Cheerios, stopping every two or three spoonfuls to lean awkwardly from his chair and check if Paul was outside. It was on his twenty-third scoop that he heard the screeching sound of the door spring at his neighbour’s house. The spoon dropped and clanged as it hit the bowl, the chair nearly fell backward, the Adidas squealed, the cat gave out a startled meow as it dashed out of the doorway and the porch door banged behind him; Paul was out.

 

He was shorter than Michael and a year younger. Paul had a round, chubby face, chubby arms, chubby fingers, chubby legs and chubby toes. He wasn’t overweight, simply chubby. His brown hair was cut straight above his eyebrows and unevenly on each side of his head; his mother cut his hair. Paul had put on his 4H t-shirt, jean shorts and his black Woolworth sneakers that let the plump big toe of each foot show through. Paul’s family was poor. Michael had told him that once and it had led to a three-day fight between the two.

 

« We’re not poor! We have everything we need! » Paul had cried out, repeating the very words his mother carefully formulated to the family whenever the touchy subject was brought up. Nevertheless, Michael had great respect for him. Paul knew the most amazing things! It was he who had first told Michael about the pond.

 

« There was a women’s tournament yesterday, » Paul said, squinting as the morning sun jabbed his eyes.

 

Michael’s mouth popped open. « Are you sure? »

 

« Yep! The Dunn told me. » said Paul with a distinct air of superiority.

 

Mr. Dunn was the pro-golfer at the Saint-Emile Golf Club, and just the mention of his name sent chills running down the back of every boy who went golf ball hunting; he cut boys’ ears off with his pocket knife. 

 

Michael stood stunned, the wind blowing his hair to one side. He watched Paul gather the plastic bread bags to put the golf balls in and finally spoke. « When did you talk to the Dunn? »

 

« We should get at least fifty today, » Paul said solemnly, purposely pretending nor to have heard the question.

 

« Did he take out his knife? »

 

« Did who take out his knife? »

 

« The Dunn! » Michael cried out, secretly checking Paul’s ears.

 

Paul started toward the vegetable garden, Michael followed, still waiting for his answer.

 

« No, » Paul finally answered, squinting again as he gazed toward the end of the garden where the golf course began. « My father knows him. »

 

That explained it, Michael thought, because otherwise it was the end of his chubby little ears.

 

The sun was now higher and getting stronger. The two boys walked between the tall corn stalks toward the cow-wire fence that secured them form the fifteenth hole and the Dunn. They leaned through the hole which they had cut the previous summer, looked out for any incomers, and then proceeded toward the twelfth hole, where the pond was.

 

« There was a women’s tournament yesterday, » Paul repeated, this time whispering while his eyes continuously and warily circled the area.

 

Michael knew all too well what this meant. After a women’s tournament, there were always at least twenty golf balls swung directly into the pond. Michael felt a wave of excitement flow through him. Today would be unreal, he concluded.

 

The pond was calm and mirrored the sun, the blue sky and the few scattered clouds. Tall grass circled its entire edge and hid the sunbathing frogs that peeked over the water with their round bulgy eyes. Above the water surface, dragonflies hovered while scanning in search of preys. The pond was approximately sixty feet in length, twenty feet in width and as deep as the distance between Paul’s feet and nose — when he tiptoed —. To all golfers, this stretch of water was a nightmare; it stood between the tee-off and the green and seemed to supernaturally lure golf balls. Its water was always cloudy, so when a ball was pulled in, it was lost forever, or at least until pond-day. The pond was fed by a tiny stream that originated in a mountain a mile away, passed through three properties without any public sewerage systems, and on the side of an oil-slicked garage. This caused the water to be very turbid, to show large, glistening, rainbow-coloured rings on its surface, and to emit a strange odour of methane and oil. In all, it was very repulsive to all golfers but just part of the work conditions for Michael and Paul.

Paul was the first to take off his sneakers and set them, with the plastic bags, on the edge of the course where the grass stood tall. In the meantime, Michael circled the pond to check for any golf balls that might be seen; these would be the first ones to be picked up. As Michael reached the opposite end of the pond, Paul shouted at him to check for any oncoming golfers on the eleventh hole. There weren’t any.

 

Paul then proceeded to dip his feet into the pond. The water was cold, and instinctively, he wrapped his arms around his body. He started into the pond, his feet slowly sinking as the thick dark mud squirted between his chubby toes. He walked slowly and awkwardly. The trick was to scan the most ground he could with his feet. When he stepped on a ball, he would bend and pick it up. Now, he had water up to his knees, his arms still tightly hugging his chest. He concentrated, analyzing the data that flowed from his soles.

 

Michael had diminished his inspection of the pond; he had not been able to spot any golf balls. He ran to the edge of the course, took off his sneakers, placed them neatly next to Paul’s and ran back to the pond. Quickly, he plunged both feet into the water; shivering; he reached Paul whose eyes suddenly popped open.

 

« I feel one! » he exclaimed.

 

He leaned forward and with his hand, groped the mud around his right foot. Satisfied, he grabbed the ball, and shook it vigorously in the water to remove the dirt that stuck to it. Michael’s teeth were chattering impatiently.

 

« It’s a Nicklaus » Paul said with a hint of disappointment in his voice.

 

It was what was considered a woman’s golf ball; they couldn’t get more than twenty-five cents for it. Nevertheless, Paul threw it toward the sneakers and the plastic bags; one never disposed of golf balls. For nearly one hour, with the water just below their waist, they circled the pond, their feet probing the bottom. Every step meant more squirming mud between their toes and a faint suction sound as they pulled their feet out. They worked silently and systematically; they would scan all of the pond’s bottom. Every two or three minutes, they stopped all motion, listened carefully for any oncoming golfers and returned to their task.

 

Twenty-three balls had been found now: thirteen shagged balls, four Nicklaus, three Canada Cups, two Top Flites and one Titless. As time went by, the boys had to get deeper into the pond. To collect balls now, their cheeks would nearly touch the water and their noses would get closer to the nauseating smell of the methane bubbles that snaked their way to the surface.

 

Paul had boosted his courage to do it. Tiptoeing and holding his hands above his head like a ballerina, he now had water up to his much contracted nipples. Michael watched intently. Paul’s face suddenly lit up.

 

« I can feel two balls under the same foot. » he exclaimed.

 

It was as he looked right through Michael. Paul brought his arms down slowly, took a sudden deep breath, shut his eyes tightly, and plunged his head into the water, sending circular rainbow-coloured ripples through the pond. When he finally came out again, he grimaced heavily and wiped his algae covered face with one hand and held the two balls in the other. Michael, still in awe of what he had witnessed, stood motionless, staring at the spot where Paul had gone down.

 

« It’s fun! » Paul cried out, spitting frequently and trying hard to suppress any grimaces.

 

Michael had stopped looking for balls for a while now. He was deep into observing tadpoles shake their whole bodies forward as they slid between the blades of grass. Tadpoles were amazing. Hard to believe they became frogs.

 

« I hear they eat their own tails. That must be painful. » said Michael to his friend still scanning for balls.

 

«  That’s a myth. » answered Paul without looking up. «  The tail is absorbed by body. »

 

Michael was impressed. His friend knew so many amazing things.

 

« Found any balls, kids? » said a deep, low eerie voice.

 

Startled, Michael jumped. The tadpoles, shaking their bodies in a frenzy, dashed in every direction for shelter. He turned around and looked up. His stomach tightened and his knees almost gave under him. He felt like he was going to be sick. It was the Dunn.

 

« What’s your name kid? » asked the imposing figure.

 

Michael was terrified. He felt like crying. He looked in back of him, the pond was still, reflecting only a gray cloud that now blocked the sun. Paul was nowhere to be seen. He was alone. ‘Never give your real name’ their older friend Charles had once said. He would lie. That’s it, he would lie! He looked back at the Dunn who was standing tall with his threatening belly, his dark sunglasses, his wide hat, and his large brown cigar.

 

« Michael… Michael Jones, » he heard his shivering voice sat truthfully.

 

« You know, you’re not supposed to be here, » said the Dunn, his teeth biting into his cigar and his hand slowly moving toward his pant pocket.

 

‘That’s it ,’ thought Michael, his heart pounding. ‘He’s going for the knife!’

 

With both feet anchored to the bottom of the muddy pond, he felt paralyzed. The Dunn’s hand was coming back out. Michael felt the blood drain from his body. A flicker of light came from the object in the Dunn’s had and stabbed Michael’s eyes. The Dunn relit his cigar with the silver lighter.

 

« You Jim’s son? »

 

« Ya… Yes… Huh-uh… Yes, sir! That’s right, I am. » said Michael relieved. If the Dunn knew his father that meant he should be safe or at least safer.

 

The Dunn squatted.

 

« Listen, kid. It’s dangerous for you to be here at this time of day. Besides, it’s lunch time. I’ll tell you what. If you promise to be careful, you can come around eight tonight. There won’t be any golfers then, and you’ll have an hour or so before sunset to fetch all the balls you want. Okay? »

 

« Yes sir. Thank you sir! »

 

Michael almost fell forward when he unplugged his feet. He walked awkwardly, almost tripping at every step, as he stared at the Dunn who was returning to his game. Once out of the pond, he walked to the edge of the course where Paul was still lying flat on his stomach, his cheek against the ground. He was visibly nervous.

 

« What did he say? What did he say? »

 

« How many Canada Cups do we have? » asked Michael pretending nothing had happened.

 

« Come on, Mike. What did he say? » insisted Paul.

 

« He told me to go to him so he could cut my ears off. » Michael said as he gathered the golf balls into one pile.

 

Paul nervously and slowly sat up, periodically staring at where the Dunn had been.

 

« I told him I knew what he did to boys, and that had I left a note at home to be opened if I was not back by lunch time. It included all the details about his heinous crimes. I told him that my father was the chief of police and that he would spend the rest of his days in a penitentiary. And finale, I told him to leave me alone. I called him Fatso, »

 

Paul sat, his eyes scanning Michael for any hint of a lie. There wasn’t one. He was speechless.

 

Michael finished filling the bags and stood up.

 

« Let’s go. It’s lunch time anyway. We’ll come back tonight around eight; there will be more golf balls then. »

 

With Paul not yet snapped out of his trance, they headed home. Every how and then, Michael looked from the corner of his eyes to check if Paul still went for it; he did. He would tell him the truth, but not just yet. They walked slowly, their wet shorts still dripping, the bumpy bread-bags full of balls nearly dragging on the grass, and the sun making their hair glitter in the wind.

 

The Dunn, with his cigar clenched between his teeth, leaned against a huge pine tree and watched the boys shrink into the scenery. The sun reflected in his dark glasses. He gazed at the pond and at the boys again. He smiled, slowly shaking his head. He reached into his pant pocket, a jab of light came from the metallic object in his hand. He glanced at his watch, grinned and proceeded to clean his fingernails with the sharp, pointed blade of his pocket knife.

 

THE END


Submitted: April 25, 2021

© Copyright 2021 Matt Sappler. All rights reserved.

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Comments

Serge Wlodarski

Dunn should use the pocket knife on golfers who spend too much time reading their putts. Good story.

Sun, April 25th, 2021 12:14pm

Author
Reply

Thanks for reading. I enjoyed your short "Golf is not a sport.". You're funny! Good job!

Sun, April 25th, 2021 7:49am

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