Thursday, 23 November 2017

F Fic, Non-fic

Birdie and Chip

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By Nidhi Singh


 

BirdieChipThe sun was up, the chips were down, the golfers had left, and Regina was right.

"About golf. I was mentioning about golf when I said it's a game of intergalactic champions." The wife of the President of Dagwood Veterans' Golf Club sipped contentedly from a stunning Japanese porcelain teacup from which Dominatrix hadn't been able to yank away her eyeballs all morning. "And how –" Regina continued with her revelations, " the sport takes precedence over even us wives; and is surpassed by nothing."

"So true," said Dominatrix, squinting to make out whether the blossoms curling up the sides of the teapot were white or an extremely pale shade of gold.

"It's not Chinese – it's Japanese – imported," Regina said, unable to hold it in any longer. "The Club got two of these tea sets. You know –" she leaned in conspiratorially and whispered to the little circle of golf wives, "one of these will be given to the winner of the Dagwood Cup this month."

"To the winner then." Dominatrix raised the lovely indigo teacup in toast, approving of its flawless hues in the sunlight.

~~~

"So, how was the score this morning," Dominatrix asked her husband, Maj. Birdie, the Captain of the Course, as soon as he returned to the clubhouse after the game.

"Six-over-par," he lied; he'd barely managed an 18-over-par. He was a scratch golfer at the best of times, but lately, with Dominatrix unhappy with him for buying that Ping Driver he'd been eyeing for the Dagwood Cup, and not the fur coat from Harvey Nichols, he was hardly full of the joys of spring. His irons swung in tandem with her moods, and right now, for all the whacking he'd given that rock-like, white, little ball around the ample real estate, he'd gotten only bogeys and more double bogeys.

The couple waved their goodbyes to his four-ball friends and their wives and walked to the parking lot. In the mornings, while the men were out on the course, the ladies, determined not to let them have so much fun alone, sauntered around the park, putted a few balls, and drank elderflower tea.

It was a man lost deep in thought who shoved his golf kit into the car's boot and slammed down the lid: to the best of his knowledge his wife cared as much for golf as she did a rabid dog bite. Birdie braced himself for the unknown: unhappy women had an appetite for restorative vengeance that often exceeded purpose and reason.

"The driver wasn't any good, then," she asked, with the cutting edge of a sand wedge to her voice.

Her logic was unbeatable. He had no defense: "It's not the driver, it's –"

"If it's not the driver then why did you buy it?"

"I thought –" he fumbled and failed.

"Well, stop thinking. Put the wasted money to some use. I want – I demand that you win the Cup!"

The Major chuckled; nay, it was the relieved gurgle of a schoolboy who'd just been spared the rod. "Really – that's all you want? I could get that – if you were with me on this one."

"Am I not always –?" She checked herself from adding, 'indulging your odd shopping tastes.' The need of the hour was to keep the calf fattened. In her mind, she had already cleared a place in her glass crockery unit for the Japanese, indigo tea set with the pale golden blossoms, and had a delightful vision of the envy on the faces of the other golf wives she was going to invite for tea and toast.

"Is it okay if I play eighteen holes every day, instead of the usual nine?" Birdie hazarded, with a little recklessness.

His surprise knew no bounds when she agreed.

"And may I bring along Chip, too?" It was such a waste spending money on caddies and electric buggies when you had a bespectacled small boy at home who badly needed the exercise. Birdie employed the solitude and intimacy the vasty fairways afforded to teach his kid a thing or two about stance and swing, and how the Beautiful Game made you a better man.

"Him as well," she said. "And while he's at it, why not enter his name in the Junior Champs? As it is, the boy keeps swinging your clubs in the backyard all the time, and won't play football like the others."

"Yeah, why not. Maybe I could teach him a trick or two on the holes."

She frowned but chose to say nothing about queer, uncivilized golf terms.

~~~

It was a nippy fall morning when the impatient steeds of war gathered at the clubhouse, which, after a night of heavy showers, had just begun to drip and dry out. The senses were assaulted by a smell of sweet decay as auburn leaves turned to mush on the ground beneath the mustered golfers. Deer grass on the moors had rolled russet red, clattering antlers had marshaled in the sheltered glens for the annual rut, and whoopers were circling overhead in sheer delight. It was a propitious hour to sound the bugle and march off the four-ball units in tight formations on the tempting fairways for the parry and thrust of combat.

Since Dagwood had only a nine-hole course instead of the usual eighteen, the men were launched on hole-one, the juniors on hole-three, and the women, being slow players more keen on their outfits and decorations than where the shots went, or vanished, were asked to bring up the yakking rear from hole-nine. It was for the best because Birdie was bound to cross his son on the fairways and could keep an eye on how he faired.

~~~

On hole-four, he saw his son tee off from number three. Birdie noticed he'd chosen the wrong club – a five-iron instead of a three. It was a dogleg left hole, and with the smaller iron, Chip was unlikely to reach the bend. Birdie waved his arms frantically but his son had already swung and teed off. Birdie's concentration was disturbed, and he failed to keep his eye on the ball while swinging. As a result, the ball flew left into a leaning juniper branch in the rough, bounced off, and hit a ruminating seagull smack in the middle of his dome, bringing the poor bird down, lifeless, like Mount Vesuvius upon the city of Pompeii.

"Hey Birdie, you didn't warn the bird by shouting 'fore' before taking the shot," the president remarked.

"You should have aimed for an eagle instead of a seagull," piped Colonel Stingray, chuckling loudly.

Meanwhile, Chip's ball had landed comfortably short of the bend, from where he hit a beautiful recovery shot that landed him bang on the green. The President's son in Chip's four-ball made the discovery of the hitherto unknown, lurking water hazard on the side of the fairway, while others, who'd tried too hard, landed in the sand bunk just beyond the bend.

On hole-seven, Birdie noticed Chip setting up a fairway shot. Seeing his own four-ball headed for the president's ball in the rough, he seized the opportunity to leap undetected over the divider hedge and give counsel to his son. "Open your stance, son. That's no way to address the ball. Come on, loosen your wrists and flex your knees. And the ball is sitting too close to your left foot…"

"Silence please, sir…" Chip's caddy had to intervene as the quiet boy shifted uncomfortably.

On hearing a whoop behind him, Birdie realized the president had found the ball and taken a drop; he vaulted over the hedgerow and darted back to where his own ball lay, all the while looking over his shoulder.

On hole-thirteen, Birdie was aghast to see his son's caddy sneaking out a three-wood – Chip was going to tempt the capricious goddesses of golf by trying a 230-yard, hole-in-one over a water-hazard and the tall clump of pines that sat right in the middle of the bend! Birdie didn't know how the shot came off, but he wasn't even looking at his own ball when he made a lightening slash at it and lost it forever in the pond.

~~~

The game went from bad to worse for Birdie. Like a broken man, with all hope shattered – of his son ever making it to a respectable handicap on the golf course – it was with a heavy heart and leaden steps that the Captain of the Course shot a shameful 12-over-par and headed back to the clubhouse. He didn't have the heart to tell his wife he hadn't won the Cup, so he leaned against a pine and smoked, and dwelt on the flippancy of fate.

From the cheers and announcements that came from the club lawns, he knew the winners had been announced. Since his wife already knew, there was no point in hiding from her wrath; he might as well face her and get it over with quickly. He mentally calculated the worldly assets he could call his own and figured he'd have to sell the Evoque if he were to earn a truce by buying the fur coat before the pension arrived in the bank.

As he shuffled back to the building, he could make out the slim outline of his wife engaged in animated chatter with her friends. As he neared, the other ladies nodded in his direction and Dominatrix came hurrying over to him. The end is near, Birdie thought, but that his beaming wife should thus rejoice in it seemed a tad unchristian; after all, he'd tried to win the Cup, but got distracted by his son's foolhardy adventures on the course.

Like a merry cowgirl, on horseback with a lasso aloft, in a one-sided chase of a spindly calf on the rolling green hills, she galloped towards him. "Don't tell me you lost the Cup deliberately?"

"Yes…I might have," he mumbled after some thought, surprised at the sudden turn of events; one moment people asked you to do this, and the next, they seemed disquietingly thrilled that you didn't. It was too much for a man used to a lifetime of obeying orders unquestioningly.

"Because, all they were giving away to the seniors as a sorry prize was a blazer – trust Regina to mislead me thus. And who has space in the wardrobe for a moth-eaten, pilling, tweed jacket when a fur coat is coming on the next payday!"

"I thought so, too," murmured Birdie, finding his voice, suddenly espying the silver lining to which he'd so far been blind.

"You are such a dear – always putting others ahead of yourself. Oh Birdie – I do love you so!" She rose on her toes and kissed him long and passionately.

"And what's that box you have in your hands," he asked. Surely it was not a lasso which he'd mistaken it for while in panic from afar.

"This, my love, is the prize for the Juniors Cup – which your son – our Chip has won! He was tied with Regina's son till the 13th when he took that bold Albatross shot with a three-wood! Can you believe it? He takes after his father – I knew he was going to become a great golfer one day. Didn't I always tell you so? And guess what's the prize?"

"What," asked Birdie, feeling faint.

"A Japanese tea set – a porcelain marvel with pale golden blossoms on an indigo background," she squealed.

"Hello elders!" a perky boyish voice sounded from behind them.

Birdie turned and scooped up his son in his arms and showered wet, teary kisses on him till the boy was breathless.

"Here Dad, let me get your golf bag," Chip said, when he was finally set down, and reached for his father's kit out of habit.

"No sir!" Major Birdie, proud Captain of the Course, wiped a tear away with his sleeve and shouldered both the bags. "I salute you. From now on, it is I, your father, your humble caddy, who will carry your bag for you on the course!"

The End.



 

Nidhi attended American International School, Kabul, before moving to Delhi University for BA English Honors. Currently, she lives with her husband near McLeodganj (abode of the Holy Dalai Lama) in the Dhauladhar mountain ranges.

Her short work has appeared in Indie Authors Press, Flyleaf Journal, Liquid Imagination, Digital Fiction Publishing Co, LA Review of LA, Flame Tree Publishing, Four Ties Lit Review, The Insignia Series, Inwood Indiana Press, Bards and Sages Publishing, Scarlet Leaf Review, Bewildering Stories, Down in the Dirt, Mulberry Fork Review, tNY.Press, Fabula Argentea, Aerogram, Fiction Magazines, Flash Fiction Press, The Dirty Pool, Asvamegha, etc.

Her translations of Sikh Holy Scriptures, essays on Bollywood and a few novels are available in print and online.

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