Eventually I happened on a wall cooler with a beat up surfboard listing casually against its side. I pulled out a root beer and made my way back to the counter, which was manned by an acne-ravaged teen-ager who had watched my progress through the store with interest.
"That all, mister?" the kid asked, clearly implying that only a fool would leave the place with nothing but a soda pop, especially with Errol's rug of iniquity just waiting to be snatched up for a song.
"Yeah. How much?"
I handed a buck across the counter and stepped back onto the porch. As I surveyed the street, I noticed a woman approaching from the far end of town. She was both very tall, and very young, no more than nineteen or twenty, and even from a block away I could tell that she was striking. Her auburn hair shone in the bright sun as she strode toward me clad in nothing more than a pair of denim cut-offs and a men's gray T-shirt with "NEBRASKA FOOTBALL" stretched across her chest in faded red letters.
She had the greenest eyes I had ever seen. Not the dull pigment found in so many, but vivid, like the bright green of a summer leaf when held up to the sunlight. Maybe I had met more beautiful girls in my twenty-nine years, but at that moment I couldn't recall a single one. The spark of confidence I caught in her amazing eyes, and the way she seemed to glide over the gravel, drew me to her like a moth to flame. It wasn't until she was almost past that I noticed the old hickory shaft driver dangling loosely from her right hand.
There is only one thing that I love as much as women, and that's golf. I stepped off the porch and began to follow her without giving it a second thought. When she turned a corner at the end of town, I edged one eye around the local coffee shop and waited for her to get well down the road before continuing. I noticed that she was not quite as tall as she seemed from the porch, falling an inch or two shorter than my own height of six foot three. Her long hair, tied with a rawhide cord at the nape of her neck, swung hypnotically in rhythm to her pace, luring me onward as the insects droned in the hot fields.
About a half mile out of town she stepped off the road and disappeared into an abandoned apple orchard. By the time I entered the trees there was no trace of her. I searched the grove thoroughly, stopping to look both ways down the criss-crossing rows. Just as I was about to give up and head back to town I heard the faint, yet unmistakable sound of a wooden golf club slicing through the air and striking something hard. I followed the intermittent sound until I came up against a high, overgrown hedgerow planted at the edge of the orchard. The whoosh-crack of the club came again and I realized that the source lay just beyond the leafy barrier.
Moving to my left, I found a small break in the hedge that, if I crouched on my knees, offered a filtered view of a huge walnut tree standing hard on the banks of an irrigation pond. The girl stood in the shade of a sweeping limb, poking at something on the ground with the end of her driver. It took me a few moments to realize that she was bumping a fallen walnut onto a better lie. When she was satisfied with its position, she casually addressed the hardened fruit, glanced down the length of the pond, coiled in a perfect take back...and unfurled the most beautiful swing I had ever seen. The nut sailed far out over the water and landed with a silent splash.
I wasn't sure how long I knelt there in the dirt and watched, or whether it was after the first swing or the next that I fell helplessly in love with her. I was wondering what to do about it when she leaned on the club and turned in my direction.
"Are you gonna hide in the bushes all day, or are you gonna come out where's I can see ya?" she asked sternly.
Stifling an urge to flee, I sheepishly fought my way through the hole in the hedge and joined her beneath the tree. "How did you know I was there?" I asked.
Copyright Gregory G Barton 2001. All rights reserved.
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