The Ballad of Lawrence Graves (a short story)

Lawrence Graves had been a golf pro for most of his adult life. “It’s a tremendously boring game,” he always said, “but I’m very good at it.” It was on his 45th birthday, however, that he became a bit more than just a golfer and that is what this story is about.

***

Sometime in his early teens, golf became more than just a sport to Lawrence Graves. It became a lifestyle. He began to wear the clothes all the time- you know the ones. The knickerbocker pants, the collared t-shirts, the big, Irish-style hats. He looked outrageous walking down the street in such clothes, but he hardly cared. His image was all golfer.

He also began carrying a putter everywhere he went, frightening people from time to time, with them often thinking he was about to swing it at any moment.

Not only was his appearance all golfer, but his vernacular as well, speaking in the lingo as often as possible…as in, “a hole in one,” and “par for the course” the latter of which was his response for nearly every time someone asked him how he was. “Par for the course,” he’d say, to the annoyance of whomever he was talking to. One time he was on a date and it went pretty well, and they ended up going back to his place. He forewent the usual baseball terms and went straight for an “eagle” which earned him a stiff kick in the shin.

Needless to say, no one liked Lawrence all that much – even that woman who ended up letting him “putt in” – but he was an above-average golfer. Indeed, that’s pretty much all he was. But not on his 45th birthday. That day turned him into a legend.

***

It was a warm, cloudless day and Lawrence was getting ready for his usual performance in the Smithen Open- a small town version of a prestigious golf tournament in which he was set to compete. He was in the locker room when a man approached him.

“Happy Birthday, Lawrence, my man! What’s your handicap these days?” said Tiny, the overweight caddy whom Lawrence often employed when his own, personal, professional caddy was sick. As it happened, Lawrence’s own, personal, professional caddy was never sick, but sometimes decided to pretend to be sick so he wouldn’t have to put up with Lawrence. Today was one of those days.

“I’m the best going, Tiny. You know I haven’t got a handicap.”

“Bustin’ chops, my friend!”

“You’re busted, alright.”

Tiny sat down beside Lawrence in the locker room. It was almost tee time for Lawrence, and Tiny was eager to get out onto that expanse of green, just to time and again suggest clubs Lawrence would refuse on the principle that he always thought Tiny to be wrong. It was a certain amount of funny to witness if you knew what was happening. Tiny would suggest, for example, a 9 iron, and Lawrence would go with a 5; Tiny would suggest a long putt, and Lawrence would chip. Heck, even when Lawrence knew Tiny was correct in his choice, Lawrence, 9 times out of 10, would go with something else just to spite him.

“Do you know who’s playing today?” Lawrence asked Tiny.

“I know you are, buddy, and that’s enough for me. Man, I love caddying for you. You keep me honest; keep me guessing. Hell, I’ve never learned more about golf from anybody but you, man. You’re the best I ever saw. No kiddin’.”

“You’re right, Tiny. I am the best.”

Lawrence had decided long ago that humility was beneath him. If someone ever told him he was the best, he would respond in this same way. He knew he wasn’t the best. He knew he had work to do always. But he still agreed, and especially with Tiny, to whom he felt well above in stature.

Oddly, everyone else who Tiny worked for thought him a top-notch caddy, who almost always chose the club they were going for anyway. And maybe that’s why Tiny thought Lawrence so good. Either way, it was a love-hate relationship for Lawrence- he needed someone to carry his clubs, at the very least, and Tiny was good at carrying his clubs.

“Ready, steady Eddy?” said Tiny.

“Indeed,” answered Lawrence. And they left for the outdoors.

***

Not far away from Lawrence, as he climbed toward his tee, was a woman named Slim, aptly named, for she was tall and lanky. What her bone structure hid from the world, however, was a mind of pure evil. She had, at the age of 32, already been in 94 bar fights, killing 6 people along the way. As fate would have it, she was quite the fan of golf, and knew Lawrence by reputation. And she wanted to see him play. That is, she wanted to see him play before she took his life.

***

“You should be using the driver, buddy,” Tiny was saying to Lawrence. “The driver is the only club for these sorts of tee shots.

“When you’re right, you’re right,” answered Lawrence, to his chagrin, putting the 5 iron back in the bag. It was the last hole, and he had grown tired of Tiny being too correct on every one of his suggestions. He was growing tired of Tiny, and thought to himself that he would rather never play another round of golf than have him be his caddy every time. Again, this was odd as Tiny was quite a good caddy, and a rather nice guy too.

Slim was standing close by, in the crowd of people gathered just out of the way of the golfers, and had been watching Lawrence eagerly the entire afternoon. She had been waiting for a chance to kill a famous person. This was her chance. She wasn’t gonna blow it. She took out the handgun that had been hidden beneath her dress, took aim, and fired, hitting Tiny square in the gut.

“I missed!” exclaimed Slim as chaos ensued around her. Lawrence reacted like a true athlete, catching Tiny as he fell. With his life seemingly leaving him quickly, Tiny looked up at Lawrence and winced, before saying:

“I always hated you, you sonofabitch,” said Tiny through gasps for air. “If it’s one last thing I ever get to say, it’s that you’re a blowhard and a mediocre golfer at best. May god rain down upon you anything but blessings.”

Lawrence laughed, dropping Tiny to the ground.

Quickly, and without hesitation, Lawrence grabbed the putter from his bag, and raced into the crowd, which had mostly dispersed. He saw Slim standing motionless, gun still in her hand, and he swung, striking her in the chin. She screamed, falling to the ground in a heap.

***

The police had gotten there rather quickly; they caught Slim, who hadn’t even moved from the spot where she shot Tiny. The paramedics were able to remove the bullet from his stomach, for it was a rather small one, and stop the bleeding quickly enough that Tiny was to make a full recovery. As they wheeled him off on the stretcher, he caught a glimpse of Lawrence – who had been shell-shocked rather badly – and asked the paramedics to speak with him briefly.

“You know, I stand by what I mentioned before,” said Tiny. “But you’ll always be remembered for what you did today- a lowly caddy being stuck-up-for by one of the greatest in the sport. Time will paint your picture of heroism. And all I wanna say to you in this moment, is that you should’ve used a 3 iron to knock her in the jaw.”

“You’ll always be my caddy, won’t you, Tiny,” said Lawrence.

“Over my dead body,” said Tiny.

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