Thursday Andersen, Black Duchess of Golf

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Humor  |  House: Booksie Classic
Thursday doesn’t know it yet, but she will try to fix Serge more than once in her life. Turns out she will be successful in almost everything else she tries.

Tales From Dirt Mountain, Part 8.

Submitted: March 22, 2015

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Submitted: March 22, 2015

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I am a complete idiot.  I don’t know what I was thinking.  Both Mom and Dad told me I’d never get Serge Wlodarski to do what I want him to.  Even Dad said that isn’t how people work.  Mom is always right.  If Dad is also right, then I’m really wrong.  How often are guys right, when it comes to these kinds of things?

I should have known that getting Serge Wlodarski and Earl Saunders to teach me how to play golf wouldn’t turn me into Serge’s girlfriend.  Serge has never even had a girlfriend.  The funny thing is, I ended up really liking golf.  And I’m good at it.  I may be the only 15 year old Goth girl on the planet with a 7 handicap.  I’m the only golfer I know, male or female, young or old, that plays golf wearing a full length black dress.  And black fingernail polish.

I have to make one compromise to my look while I’m on the course.  I found out the first day at Dirt Mountain that pigtails will beat your face to death during a properly executed golf swing.  Now, they get curled and pinned above my ears, in the bathroom at the pro shop before the golf day begins.  It looks goofy, but who notices?  Usually, people have finished judging me after they see the dress. 

Well, at least one person noticed.  Serge’s best friend Earl.  He’s a real character.  I wouldn’t mind being Earl’s girlfriend.  But Mary Anne Filer has him completely wrapped around her finger.  She’s really pretty, and popular.  I couldn’t compete with her.  But I spend more time with her boyfriend on the golf course than she does off of it, that is something.

Earl noticed my tightly wrapped pigtails.  He said, “Hello, Princess Leia” when I walked out of the bathroom before my second lesson.  Two lessons from Earl and Serge, three nicknames.

During the first lesson, he said, “I dub thee Yvonne de Carlo.”  Because of the dress.  I told him I’d rather be Elvira.  He laughed and said, “You can be both.”

I’ve been given more than one nickname walking down the halls at Maynard County High School.  I never liked any of those.  But I like the nicknames Earl comes up with.

There is a photograph of Carrie Fisher as Princess Leia in a full length white dress.  She’s holding a serious weapon and sporting a “this girl will shoot your ass” look on her face.  If you make the dress and the hair black, and replace the weapon with a 7 iron, that is me, on the golf course.  I let my clubs do my shooting.  I am a relentless competitor, there is no golf shot I am afraid of trying.  If you are dumb enough to gamble with me, I will take your money. 

That wasn’t true those early days when the two skinny boys were imparting their golf wisdom to the skinny Goth girl.  But they were good teachers, and my game progressed quickly.  Earl said from the start that I had a natural swing.  The first time I broke 80, he gave me the best compliment anyone has ever given me on a golf course.  He said, “I’ve learned to pay attention to your course management skills and your shot selection.  You make good decisions and you hit some really creative shots.” 

Serge always teases Earl about saying dumb things, but Serge could learn a thing or two from his friend.

My plan to improve my love life through golf was a failure.  But in the coming years, the game of golf would impact my life in unpredictable ways.  Like getting a college scholarship.  That happened partly because I met Judge Lester Phelps. 

You wouldn’t think someone like him would take a liking to a Goth girl.  He is an imposing man.  He looks like he is 8 feet tall and 4 feet wide.  I had read in the paper about bad men who died in the electric chair after standing in front of Judge Phelps. 

The Judge was boyhood friends with Earl’s father George.  Almost every Friday afternoon, Earl had to run the pro shop while George and Lester drank beer and told lies to each other on the patio.  It didn’t occur to me that the Judge would also be paying attention to the girl in the black dress, working on her short game on the chipping green.

When the large shadow moved into my field of view, and I heard that booming voice, I was expecting some kind of admonition about my clothes.  I got a lot of comments and looks from people.  Instead, he asked, “Thursday, have you ever heard of the Texas Wedge?”

I had no idea he even knew my name!

I said, “Yes sir, I use my putter from off the green whenever I can.”  He laughed, and said, “Well I guess there probably isn’t much I can teach you about golf.  I could see when you were on the driving range your technique is already beyond my best.  And I’m twenty years beyond my best.”

Then he said, “I am a Christian, but in the event my Hindu associates are correct about reincarnation, and I come back as a girl, I’m certain I will play golf.  Now, I’ll also have consider the possibility of playing in a black dress.”

“I’ll leave you with this.  When I was in the army, they didn’t ask me what clothes I wanted to wear.  We all wore green.  If by chance, you ever find yourself playing golf on a college team, you’ll have to ditch the black dress and wear a different kind of uniform.  Here at Dirt Mountain though, there isn’t much of a dress code.  Black is good.  Gary Player is the Black Knight.  This evening at supper I’ll tell Gladys that I watched the Black Duchess of Golf work on her short game today.”

Wow!  I was accumulating new nicknames at a rapid pace.  Happy ones at that.

It was soon after that I solved the biggest mystery so far in my detective career.  I actually got compliments from both Judge Phelps and Sheriff Newby for my work. 

And even though Serge is useless as boyfriend material, it was one of his golf shots that got the whole thing started.

Everyone had nicknames as I mentioned.  In addition to being Charles Atlas, Serge was also known as Dr. Spray.  Earl had christened him that due to Serge’s proclivity for hitting shots wildly left or right.

Earl noted that he often trod through parts of Dirt Mountain he’d never seen before as he helped Serge look for his balls. 

I’d never heard Earl call him Dr. Spray to his face.  He would only whisper that to me when Serge couldn’t hear.  We both know how easy it is to hurt Serge’s feelings.  I don’t want to do that so I will never say it.  Even though Serge is a jerk and deserves it.

The 16th hole at Dirt Mountain is on the side of the property that ends at Highway 84.  Once a trucker honked his horn in the middle of Serge’s backswing.  He hit a terrible shot, then threw his driver almost as far down the fairway as the shot went.

One of the many important aspects of the golf swing is the transition from the backswing to the downswing.  In the backswing, a right handed golfer shifts her weight and twists her body to the right.  At the top of the backswing, there is a momentary pause, then she shifts her weight and twists her body to the left to begin the downswing.

That transition is a common place for mistakes to creep into the swing.  Think of it like a competitive swimmer who has to turn around and swim the other direction when she reaches the wall.  Any inefficiency their will cost the swimmer valuable time. 

When a golfer makes a mistake in that transition, the head of the club will get out of alignment in some way and the shot will be affected.  It only takes a tiny deviation to turn a long drive down the center of the fairway into highway bait.

When Serge got to the top of his backswing, sometimes he would let the thumb and index finger of his right hand come off of the grip.  When the two digits resumed contact, they would be in a slightly different spot on the grip.  A little to the right.  That caused a particularly nasty kind of golf shot called a duck hook.  You don’t want your hooks to be bad enough to be duck hooks.  If you’re not a golfer, take my word for it.

If Serge had been hitting his driver on the 16th tee that day, the duck hook he produced would have been a low shot that would not have penetrated very far into the trees before it bounced off of one of them.  But he teed off with his 5 wood.  Which meant the duck hook was high enough to clear the tops of the trees and go deep into the forest.  That one could have made it to the edge of the property, just 20 feet or so before you get to the highway.

We began our search for Serge’s ball.  We didn’t look for very long.  Earl had gone the farthest toward the highway, and after a minute shouted, “Hey ya’ll, come look at this!”

When we caught up to Earl he was standing next to what looked like a pile of garbage.  Some of it was garbage.  But why would someone throw three unopened packs of diapers on the side of the road?  And a backpack with girl’s clothes, books and a small portable chess set, the kind where the board folds up and holds the chessmen inside.  There were several sacks worth of groceries and other items among the mess. 

The lightbulb went on in my head when I found an empty wallet.  I walked a few more steps and came out of the woods.  I could see where a car had driven off the road, through the weeds, and stopped here while the driver dumped these items. 

We had stumbled on evidence that pointed to a stolen car.  The perpetrator had stopped here to get rid of items considered to be clutter.  The owner must have been shopping when the car got swiped.

When I realized we were walking all over a crime scene, I told the boys, “Don’t touch anything else.  We need to get back to the pro shop and call the Sheriff.”

That was one of the few times we started a round of golf that we didn’t finish.  Usually that only happened when there was bad weather.  Or when we could hear Mrs. Saunders ringing the bell by the first tee.  That either meant it was suppertime and Earl had better run if he wanted to eat.  Or that Earl had been bad and Dorothy just figured it out.

This time, someone else had been bad.  We explained the situation to George and he called the sheriff’s office.  George was running the pro shop so Dorothy drove the pickup out to the highway to meet the deputy.  I rode in the cab while Earl and Serge truck-surfed in the back.  Earl would have fallen out if Serge didn’t kick him and tell him to sit down.  Why did God make boys both cute and stupid?  Couldn’t he have stopped at cute?

Speaking of stupid, the deputy made my two boys look like adults.  He obviously thought the whole thing was a joke.  He started throwing the evidence in the trunk of his patrol car like he was playing basketball. 

I asked him, “Shouldn’t you be more careful with that?  You might be damaging fingerprint evidence.”

He glared at me and said, “Ain’t nobody reported a stolen car in Maynard County.  If this came out of a stolen car, it’s long gone.  Nothing we can do about it.  Shouldn’t you be writing some poem about being depressed and committing suicide instead of worrying about backpacks and diapers?”

Goths aren’t known for committing cold blooded murder, but if the gun in that deputy’s holster had been in my hand at that moment…

We just stood there while the deputy loaded the rest of the items, tipped his hat, and drove off.

I knew the Sheriff’s office wasn’t going to investigate, not with a deputy with that kind of attitude.  I knew there was nothing I could do about the stolen car.  But there was the matter of personal items that could be returned to the owner.

I was really mad, but I didn’t know what to do. 

Until Friday, when I finished up on the driving range and there was Judge Phelps, drinking beer on the patio with George.  Then I knew what to do.

I didn’t quite know what to say, but it didn’t matter.  The Judge knew what to say.  As I walked up, he said, “If the Black Duchess of Golf wants a beer, she’s going to have to show some ID.  If you’re looking for advice on your golf game, you are in the wrong place.  But you could entertain me with a trick golf shot, or perhaps a story.”

I told the Judge a story about a stolen car and personal items that may never get returned to their owner.  I told him I was an amateur detective and if there was even one clue in that pile of stuff, I could figure it out.  All I needed was a chance.

When I finished, the Judge said, “Let me think about it.  This is an unusual situation, but maybe we can come up with something.  I’ll get back in touch with you.”

The Judge must have done some quick thinking.  The next morning, a different deputy knocked on our door. 

“Are you Miss Thursday Andersen?”  I said yes. 

He unloaded several boxes on my porch and handed me a business card.  He said, “The Sheriff says to call this number if you need any assistance.”

It pays to have friends like Judge Phelps.

I hauled the boxes inside and piled everything on my bed.  I started going through it.  I was looking for anything handwritten, a receipt, anything that could be linked to a person.  I turned the backpack inside out, and went through all the books.  Nothing. Then realized I had not opened the chess set. 

I looked over all the chess pieces, nothing unusual.  But on the inside of the case, someone had scratched a name.  Phoebe.  Just a first name.  Not much to go on.  Then I looked at the pile of books again.  One was obviously a school book for an English class.  Had to be a high school text.  With some sleuthing, I might be able to find out which school.  Maybe she is in the chess club.  Maybe some leg work will put a last name to a girl named Phoebe.

To rule out the obvious, I went through my yearbook.  Maynard County High is not that big.  Only one Phoebe, and I knew her.  She wasn’t the chess type.  Mom took me to the library and I went through the Pritchard Academy yearbook.  No Phoebes at all.

Back home I got out the Georgia state map and folded it in thirds so I could see the route Highway 84 takes through the very southern part of the state.  I worked east from State 364, the nearest marked road to Dirt Mountain.  I thought about a road trip going to the libraries in each town, looking at yearbooks.  Then realized, the thieves didn’t have to go straight down Highway 84.  They could have come from up north, or even south from Florida.

The thought that Phoebe may be in a different state gave me a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach.  I began to worry I was in over my head.

All the detective work I’d done so far was small potatoes.  Finding Serge’s cat.  Figuring out it was a deer that was eating Mrs. Lettuce’s garden.  This time a real human had committed a real crime.  It was time for me to step up my game or go home. 

I took a deep breath and said to myself, “Let’s do this.”

I folded up the map.  The brute force method was not going to work.  If there is a needle in the haystack, you’ll find it a lot faster if you have a big magnet.

After some thinking, the next step came clear to me.  Mrs. Hailey at school.  She was the sponsor of our chess club.  If Phoebe was in the chess club at her school, and if she played in tournaments, her name would be on a list in someone’s office.  Mrs. Hailey may even know her.

I explained the situation to Mrs. Hailey.  She said the name didn’t ring any bells, but she could pull whatever phone numbers she had for her counterparts at other area schools.  She pointed out that the schools we competed against were the closest to us.  I should ask each person I talk to if they know other people I can call.

When I left Mrs. Hailey’s office, I had a list of 12 names and phone numbers.  I felt that was a good start.  I realized I may have to call a lot more people than that.  But I had some great leads. 

And a new problem.  Long distance phone calls.

Today, in 2015, I’d wiggle my fingers over my iPhone and start talking to people.  This was the 1970s.  The next county was a long distance call, which meant you paid by the minute.

I didn’t want to ask Mom or Dad about making a lot of calls.  I was expecting I’d be waiting on hold on each call, while someone thumbed their way through a filing cabinet.  I could see the minutes racking up.

Then I remembered hearing Judge Phelps bragging to George one day at Dirt Mountain about the WATS line in his office.  That is a pre-paid long distance line that some businesses use.

This time, when I approached the Judge on his Friday afternoon powwow with George, I knew exactly what to say.  I told the Judge I owed him an update on my investigation.  I explained what I had done so far and asked if there was any way I could use the line to make the calls.

He did me one better than that.  He pointed out that the phone numbers I had were school numbers.  If I didn’t call during the school day, it was unlikely anyone would answer.  And of course, I was supposed to be in school during school hours.

The Judge pulled some strings with the principal and arranged a “field day” for me.His secretary set me up in a conference room and showed me how to make the calls.  I dove in.

It was a long day of talking on the phone.  That’s one part of detective work they won’t show much of on a TV show.  You won’t see Jack Bauer dialing a telephone for hours.  The first Phoebe I found was in a chess club but she didn’t know anything about a stolen car.

The second Phoebe was the right one.  Phoebe Stowers.  That was amazing.  I spoke to Mrs. Stowers first.  They lived on route 31, just on the other side of Valdosta.  About an hour away.  She couldn’t believe I’d tracked them down.  And I was right.  Money was tight at the Stowers household, and they were down one car.  They were very grateful I would be able to return what we had found.

When I told the judge what happened, he asked, “Would you like to deliver the goods in person?  In a friendly deputy’s car?”  I said, “Sounds like a plan to me!”

That Saturday Deputy Peterson drove me halfway across southern Georgia to the Stowers’ house.  We talked and took photographs and cried and hugged, then drove back.  It was a nice day, and it was case closed. 

EPILOGUE

I had no idea at the time, but one of Judge Phelps’ hobbies was getting college scholarships for kids like me.  A year before me, he helped Serge get a scholarship to Emory University. 

I continued with my detective work and my school work, and I kept refining my golf game.  By the time I graduated from Maynard High, there was not a female golfer of any age in the county that could beat me, and only a few men.  I could beat both Serge and Earl, even playing from the men’s tees.

They don’t keep statistics like this, but I am fairly certain I am the only person ever to play in the Georgia Amateur in a full length black dress.  It was my senior year at Maynard and I finished third.  That, combined with having Judge Phelps in my corner, was enough to get me a full golf scholarship to the University of Alabama.  The Black Duchess is going Crimson and White.

Now it made sense, the comment the Judge made about wearing a uniform, the day I met him.  The old coot knows how think ahead.  And the criminal justice degree will be just what I need to get Andersen Detective Agency going and take the Kid part off of Thursday Andersen, Kid Detective.  Speaking of thinking ahead…

When it’s time for my senior internship I’m going to give the Judge my best sales pitch to let me do it at his office.  I can’t think of anywhere else I could learn more.  I’ll ask him some Friday afternoon after he’s had a few and George has had time to tell him some good lies…

AUTHOR’S NOTE

Not actually being a girl indicates that this is almost completely fictional.  However, I was Charles Atlas and Dr. Spray.  I still use the Texas Wedge, and hit duck hooks occasionally.  I am a relentless competitor…

But seriously, no one would wear a full length black dress on a golf course in southern Georgia in the summertime.  We’re talking 98 degrees and 99% humidity.  And I’m not a Goth.  They weren’t even around in the 1970s.  That’s what I get for writing a story without doing any research.


© Copyright 2017 Serge Wlodarski. All rights reserved.

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