Silence, or Something Better, Part 2

Updated: June 20, 2019

First Witch: ‘When shall we three meet again?
In thunder, lightning or in rain?
Second Witch: When the hurlyburly’s done,
When the battle’s lost and won.
–Macbeth 1.1 1-4

In the cinematic world, the sound of a driver contacting a golf ball is subdued—like the whip of a willow stick—capped by a clean ‘pop.’ In reality, Ricky McCoy couldn’t help but correlate the clamor of a driver against the ball as nearly identical to the crack of a mid-caliber bullet breaking overhead. There was nothing calm or subdued about it—it was a dangerous and cracking violence. This was a special irony, on a cool, Florida morning, given the general allegory for warfare and projectile destruction whenever Ricky was forced onto a golf course with Jason Bong, his boss, and Jason York, his nemesis. A life consumed with shades of Jason. Faces the earth would summon like Greek titans to put a foul odor under the General Manager’s nose.

It was Saturday, February 12th, and the mist rolled over the Royal St. Augustine Golf Course like the tendrils of a forgotten god—as Shakespeare might say, hover through the fog and filthy air. Unseen, the winnow of branches bent behind the unending cracks of metal against surlyn resin and thermoplastic. It was a cold and liminal morning–somewhere between paradise and the grave. There could be no better metaphor for the paradoxical nature of the Duluth Warriors than golfing on a February morning in Florida.

“A real gentleman’s game,” croaked Jason York, the most insufferable Assistant GM on any continent, as he squinted through one eye to survey the upscale driving range. Still hungover from a night of (Ricky assumed) dehydrated debauchery, he let out an unceremonious belch and reached indifferently for the zipper of his bag.

The three men—the owner, the GM, and Assistant GM, stood under the shelter of the driving range. Only Ricky’s Assistant, Tania, braved the early hours of a February Florida to join the trio. She sat tersely at the benches behind the line, scrolling deliberately through BNN articles with a sort of silent wrath.

“Dad used to spend ours hitting balls into Lake Superior,” Jason Bong reminisced beneath his flat-top hat, delicately polishing the head of his driver with a small smile.

York grunted with a rusty cackle. “I remember that,” he said, rubbing his mustache with an off-glance to Ricky. “Those were the days.”

“I appreciate you coming down, Ricky,” the owner of the Duluth Warriors continued, breathing fog onto the driver and wiping it clean again. “Wish we had time to hit the whole eighteen. But I’ve got a lunch with Drew Streets my wife dragged me into. God help me. But these little get-togethers are good for staff morale.”

Tania cleared her throat, very subtly, from behind her ipad.

“Sure thing,” Ricky answered with a curt nod, looking to his own set of dilapidated clubs. It was an ancient and jaundiced bag—so much that one might think it was cut from roving mammoths, from the parts not respectable enough for lean-tos and drums. The zippers were oxidized and scratchy—barely seated to the leather—and inside they revealed the most motely collection of ancient rackets a man could fathom.

York took his driver behind his neck—like a man on the stocks—and began a confident and grotesque demonstration of stretching back and forth. His polo was unable to contain the hairy spillage of his bouncing midriff, and Ricky found himself subduing a frown. York, unconcerned, looked beyond Ricky to his clubs and let out a hoarse laugh.

“You ever gonna buy a new set of clubs, McCoy?”

“Lucky set,” Ricky answered, fitting his glove on and looking out over the range.

“Maybe you should ask Mr. Bong here for a raise,” York said, pleased with himself, and he chuckled—assuming some obscene, suburban version of the warrior pose. Ricky found that oddly poetic.

Jason Bong let the first drive sail from his tee—a hissing crack—a decent shot with a slight pull. He cursed under his breath. “So Mercer’s home in West Virginia.”

“Good riddance,” York said curtly, at last done with his unsightly ceremony as he rubbed his moustache and dumped a basket of yellow balls into the tray by his tee. “Now if someone over in the IL will sign Bothwell we’ll be free of the whole unholy trinity.” He strained at the end of his sentence to deliver a punishing crack to the yellow ball—a good drive sailing beyond the 270 yard marker.

Ricky looked down at his ball, his heart thumping. Straight arm. Feet even. Not a baseball. Thumb down. Front foot planted. Slight bend in the knees. Not a damn baseball.

He swung, hopelessly, and the ball hooked like a crashing Boeing across the 150 yard marker, tearing pathetically across the fairway. York let out a dull laugh. “Yep, they’re lucky alright.”

There’s a peculiar transcendence of social history made present in the game of golf—a sort of silent warfare—proxy in handicaps and cuts and hooking drives. The shame of failure, while present in all corners of a modern man’s life, are magnified infinitely on the golf course, where he must account for his entire being in the space between a ball and bit of blunt metal. It really is the perfect game for mankind.

“I’m not sold on Kanno as a starter,” Bong continued, ignoring Ricky’s drive and launching another respectable shot toward Elysium.

Kim was worth the loss,” Ricky answered, rolling his shoulders out in some futile hope it might improve his swing. Plant your feet. Straight line. Thumb pointed. “Ten and a half to flirt all summer with the Mendoza line…no thanks.” He swung again, hard, and pulled his rear foot. The ball sailed dramatically like a rocket far and to the right. York grunted again.

“Folks don’t seem to miss him much,” Bong granted with a shrug. “I don’t know what PR put in the commercials this year—but fan interest is off the charts.”

“That’ll be gone in fifteen games when our second baseman can’t hit the damn ball,” York said curtly, launching another perfect drive into orbit.

“Worth the loss,” McCoy echoed, breathing out and settling his club against the ball. Another swing—another pull—and an arc toward the lateral netting. He cursed under his breath, his ears hot. “We’ll get our second baseman.”

Thumbs down. Relax the rear arm. Shake it out. Not a baseball. Another miss.

“I’ve got a friend with the league,” Bong began, slicing a clean shot that drifted just barely left at the end of a long, powerful arc, “who says we should have sold off and started the rebuild the day we went into offseason.”

“You’re friend’s a moron,” McCoy answered—another terrible drive. Bong chuckled at that.

“He may have a point, Ricky,” York said with a patronizing ichor, pulling up his khaki shorts. “Coulda had the sixth pick in the draft. A whole cohort of prospects ready for service in four, five years. Real contenders.”

“Not on the table,” Ricky replied, standing upright and looking at York. Chewing on his cheek a moment, York puffed his moustache and turned, delivering his best and most powerful drive yet, vanishing into the mist beyond the fairway.

“You’re too far up on the ball,” York told Ricky with a nod, his cheeks glistening in the morning fog. “Relax, let your hips do the work.”

Cheeks burning, Ricky let another loose—better, but still arcing and short of the 200 marker.

“York,” Jason Bong said after another drive—his best yet—“go see if they’re ready for us. I’d like to move that tee time up, if we can.” He removed his glove with a nod. With an almost disgruntled gesture, York paused, looking between the two. He threw his driver unceremoniously back into his bag and wheeled off on a heel toward the exit and out of sight, slamming the door behind him. Tania hid a small grin from her bench as he left.

“You’re a terrible fucking golfer, Ricky,” Bong said, once York was gone. He took his towel from the rack and patted his receding hairline. “You want to hit the ball too much.”

Ricky cocked his head with a raised brow.

“Technique,” Jason said, “patience. It takes time, McCoy. Ages, sometimes. Can’t force it.” He sighed, looking out again over the beautiful, emerald course. The sun was due to rise any minute—the last stages of nautical twilight burning westward. “My dad used to line us up and make us hit into the lawn for hours each morning. He was adamant about it.”

“Rich kid problems,” McCoy said with a small nod. Bong chuckled again.

“I see the angle, Ricky. I do. Big names, big interest, start the rebuild on your own terms. But one can’t help but wonder if you’re too afraid of losing to make the right calls.”

“Mr. Bong,” Ricky replied, “If the point of baseball isn’t to win games, I don’t know what the hell we’re doing here.” Bong smiled again, sliding his driver neatly into his bag.

“That’s just the thing, Ricky,” he tossed his towel at his GM. “this isn’t baseball.” He turned, collecting his bag. With a polite farewell to Tania, he marched off toward the clubhouse.

When Bong was gone, Ricky shook his head and looked back at his assistant, who looked on with a concerned expression.

“You make any sense of that mystical white-collar bullshit?”

Tania tapped her pen against her chin and leaned forward, looking at her ipad. “it says here you’re not swinging with the right arc.”

Ricky rolled his eyes. “You too?”

“Just trying to be helpful, Mr. McCoy.”

“Silence,” the General Manager quoted stubbornly, swinging hard once again, “or something better.”

Rising, Tania sighed softly. “I’ll go get you a couple more buckets.”

McCoy nodded, removing his Warriors ballcap and wiping his brow. Thumb down, handshake grip.

“Mr. Bong’s not wrong, you know,” Tania said, pausing tenuously with a hand on the doorway. “It’s not baseball.”

“No,” Ricky said sadly, keeping his eyes forward and watching another ball pull miserably to the left. “Nothing ever is.”