I arrive at 7:00 AM and drink three beers. I carry my clubs to the first hole and stretch—opening up my hips with a squat, windmilling my arms, using my three iron to flex my lats. My movements are ordered into ten second intervals. The sun rises orange against the grass, vibrant above the slopes where the night denies defeat. I put on my hat.
The Men arrive late and with chatter. I found them on Craigslist. I am patient. I am polite. If not for the Lady’s demands, I would abandon them. I do not know why She wants them. They are loud, battling Her voice. They are consumed with their materials; their money draped across their bodies, hauled upon their shoulders, present in their minds like sap in a tree. I do not know why the Lady wants them, but I know better than to deny Her.
I tell the Men that I will go first. They do not deny me.
I approach the tee box. I stick my orange tee into the ground and set my best orange ball (013) atop it. I address the ball, feet slightly wider than shoulder width apart. I put 60% of my weight on my left leg, set my shoulders back, straighten my left arm, tighten my core, wind my driver with a twist of my torso and snap back, leading with my hips, making contact with 013.
He hooks hard to the left, into a copse of pines.
Mulligan. I tee up my second best ball (004).
“Got ahold of that one!” shout the Men. I deny them.
I close my eyes and wait for the Lady to speak. The wind is gentle. The trees rustle, brushing against one another. There’s a lawnmower in the distance. Someone shouts a curse. I listen past everything, seeking the Lady.
Some call Her Lady Luck. She is not so humble. She is luck, and life, and existence, and all that ever has been and ever will be. When I am hungry, the Lady allows me bread. When I am tired, the Lady allows me rest. She would be God, if God were not so small an idea. To hear Her is my desperation. To understand Her is my purpose. To accept Her is my salvation.
The first time She spoke was in a dream. I was thirteen again. There was a pool gone sideways, an orange sunset shimmered through, the Lady spoke from within the water, Her voice rippled the surface, I touched Her and my tension drained, I was afloat in orange, sweet water filled my mouth, I drowned, I breathed, I was the pool and filled with sunset.
I awoke as if from a thousand year slumber.
In this way the Lady taught me to be afraid. To listen. To heed.
I am brought to the present by birdsongs: the sweet voice of a cardinal, a robin making its demands, a starling darting through its litany. The Lady speaks, and I listen. She tells me that it is time for Her gift.
“You gonna hit or what?” shout the Men. I deny them.
My golf bag has many pockets. I unzip the biggest one and retrieve Peter, the dove. I clamp him between my hands. He’s alert but docile, his head darting, taking in his new surroundings.
“Is that a bird?” shout the Men. I deny them.
Today’s the day, Peter. The Lady wills it.
It took months of patience. I raised Peter from a fledgling, feeding him a delicate blend of pigeon milk and sage. His feathers were fur, a gray that belied the cream he would become. He was a quiet child, content to sit in a bundle of fresh towels, watching me. My pigeon milk was strong and fresh. He grew quickly. I preened Peter with tweezers. I bought him his own space, a cage, and lined it with the whitest coffee filters. I fed him the finest millet. I spoiled him with candied apricots. I bought him an evening with a lady dove and he became a man. Blue rings formed around his eyes. I taught him the ways of life as the Lady Herself would have taught me, and Peter pecked grain from my palm, thankful to have such a steward.
Peter knows his purpose, for I told him: he is my momentary talisman, my guiding grace in a time of crisis, my ultimate gift to the Lady. Peter understands, and is grateful.
The breeze picks up. The tree limbs rise and fall, encouraging me. The Men shout indistinctly. I deny them. I hold Peter in one hand, bracing his body against mine. He pecks at my ribs, thankful that his purpose has arrived. I take out my pocket knife and flick it open. The Men shout louder. I deny them. I walk Peter to the tee, twisting my body to position him over 004. Peter flits in anticipation. I squeeze him. I put the knife to his breast.
The price will be paid.
“What the fuck are you doing?”
The knife tip scrapes through Peter’s feathers.
The Lady will be appeased.
“Holy shit, dude! Put the bird down!”
Peter pecks at the knife, urging me. I hold him tighter.
The wind gusts. The birds sing.
Wait, says the Lady. You have to kiss him first.
I do. I kiss Peter’s head.
Kiss him and show the Men.
I allow the shouting Men my gaze, kiss Peter, and spill his blood across my golf ball. I toss Peter’s writhing body at the Men’s feet and drive the ball 250 yards. 004 lands on the green, mere feet from the pin. His backspin is beautiful.
Thank you for your sacrifice, Peter. The Lady laughs through the leaves. The Men are gone, their voices becoming one with the Lady. The sun has routed the darkness from the hillsides. The Lady wills me to drink another beer. I do not deny her. I take up Peter and return him to my bag. I take up my bag and move on.
So by the Lady's grace goes Her steward.