“Die! Die!” he shouted.
Screaming from defeat, he had almost sailed into the bay when the fan belt broke coming over the bridge at 90mph. A churning sea would have come up at him with death in its foam.
“Did you hear what I said?” the golfer said.
“Of course.” His caddy, who had been dozing, shook himself awake. “It was my fault,” he said.
“I blame myself,” the golfer said, pulling into a gas station.
“Don’t blame yourself.”
“That I didn’t read the putt myself.”
“Don’t blame yourself,” the caddy repeated.
“That I listened to you is why I’m blaming myself!” he shot at him. “That the ball didn’t even come near the hole. Missed by 6 inches. I five-putted a green! How could you mis-read a putt so badly?! Five putts! I wasn’t supposed to ever lose. Ever!”
The fan belt was fixed and they left the gas station. They were on the bridge again.
“Don’t do this to yourself,” the caddy said. “It was my fault.”
“I blame myself for trusting you. This is the first match I’ve ever lost. I wasn’t supposed to lose.”
The golfer blasted his caddy with his eyes.
“It’s not over yet. Not by a long shot. Your life is all ahead of you.”
The golfer looked at his caddy, gorging himself on his anger.
“You’ve got to get over the sulks,” the caddy said uneasily.
The golfer pulled into the country club’s parking lot. When they got out of the car he attacked the caddy again with his eyes.
“You’ve just got to,” his caddy said. He didn’t look into the golfer’s eyes.
The backstory: One autumn day long before the golfer had become the golfer, he went downtown with his mother. It was lunch hour and the streets were full. They passed a bookstore with a display of old stained maps in wooden stands.
The golfer looked at the maps and suddenly inside of him there was a rush of a feeling of greatness. He looked up at his mother and told her that one day he would be famous. “That’s nice, darling.”
“And when I’m famous,” said the little boy, “I’ll never do anything wrong. I’ll always win.”
“I’m sure you won’t,” said his mother.” I’m sure you will.”
Time flew by and soon he was taking his first golf lesson in a dilapidated room in the back of a sporting goods store. The dashing golf professional was talking to some people in the room. What he said about the golf swing was this:
“When you are very young, like this little boy here, you don’t need to have someone teach you the structure of the golf swing. You don’t need to think. You just need to have someone show you how to swing. And then you imitate exactly how they swing.” And the dashing golf pro thumped six or seven balls into the canvas net ten yards away, holding his follow-through a self-admiring beat too long. Then he gave the golfer a small golf club. “Now you do what I just did,” he said. And the golfer imitated the golf pro for all he was worth, and thumped the ball flush into the net, holding the proud follow-through just like the golf pro had. And he thought, “So golf is going to be what makes me famous.”
The golf pro smiled and cocked his head to the side. “This young man is never going to lose a golf tournament. You just wait and see.”
Now they were back in the present and the golfer had just lost the first match of his eight-year career.
They were at the triumphal dais, a victory dinner in his honor. Shadows came and went on the candlelit heaps of fresh baked bread, logs of butter, platters of smoked fish, bowls of caviar, salmon, ceviche, roast bison, boneless fried chicken, organic black and red carrots, broccoli, green beans with bacon, pork tenderloin, mashed potatoes, zucchini. Soup and hot pumpkin pie were all ahead of them, all yet to come.
“I can’t look at this food,” the golfer muttered as he approached the dais, decked out with food and flowers in his honor. “I just can’t.”
If things had gone right, had gone as they were supposed to, he would have been sitting on the dais exchanging looks of triumph with his caddy. Instead, he stood limply in front of the table of triumph, heaped with food and flowers.
And suddenly, in his despair, his appetite unleashed itself on the golfer. It rose up riotously against him. He grabbed a wooden spoon and stood in front of the dais, joylessly gulping Beluga caviar. The outside world receded. It was just the caviar and him. His caddy nudged him but he glared at him. The vice-president of the club tugged at his arm, but he pushed him away. The golfer ate all the caviar, and there was a pound of it in each of the two crystal bowls. Years later no one, including the golfer, remembered his five-putt that day or his first loss ever, but they still remembered the caviar that he ate greedily, sulkily.