“The hazard on the 17th smells like shit, but it’s a veritable gold mine if you’re willing to work for it,” he said, tipping back what was left of his scotch and soda, “See, it’s just behind this nasty dogleg right and at the bottom of a pretty steep grade, so your first-timers will try to cut the corner and they just roll right in. Ka-ching.”
Trey flagged down the bartender for another round, while the tourist couple from Wisconsin (maybe) hung on his every word. He hadn’t asked where they were actually from, but they had the white legs and lumpy waists that hinted at a northern existence. He could usually peg a sucker to within a state or two; accents helped, but you could usually get a good read without hearing a word out of them. He’d spent the better part of the past half hour talking their ears off about golf ball diving.
“Of course, you gotta be careful on Number 12 – that’s Gator Alley. The water over there feeds in from the swamp and those big bastards will swim right in and take your leg off.”
The man’s plump wife gasped and pressed a hand to her chest, “Have you been attacked before?”
Trey shrugged, “Lots of times. It comes with the territory, you see. The secret is getting after their bellies – they’re soft down there. Couple good jabs and you make like hell for dry land.”
Her husband shook his head and made some down-home exclamation (“Dadgum,” or the like). He was losing interest in the talkative stranger, but Trey knew he still had his hooks in the woman. The bartender returned with a fresh drink, placing it on a small napkin that soaked through quickly with condensation. It was his fourth of the evening, and he was really starting to hit his stride.
“And all that for some golf balls? It hardly seems worth the risk.”
“Well my dear, we aren’t talking about a dozen Top Flights here. On a good day, I’m taking a couple hundred balls home from every course I hit. It adds up when you’re working every club in the county,” he said, raising his drink first to his good fortune, and then to the couple.
“Oh geez, well you’d make a fortune in Minnesota, we all stink at golf,” she laughed
He took a drink and chalked up another pretty close guess. The husband was now standing in front of his bar stool, leaning on the bar with his eyes on the bartender. It was the internationally recognized sign for, “I’m ready to pay, so hurry up, asshole.” Trey weighed the odds of scoring another drink, but decided it was best not to overextend his luck. He made a slow and showy reach for his wallet before Mrs. Minnesota waved him off.
“No, no. Please, let us pay for your drinks.” she said, “It’s not every day you get to meet somebody so…fascinating!”
“Why, I couldn’t possibly…” Trey trailed off expertly, never quite finishing the thought.
“Oh, but I insist! Please?”
Without waiting for an answer, she slapped three twenty-dollar bills on the bartop. The man clenched his jaw, likely unhappy at his wife blowing through a vacation budget that had probably taken him three years to save up.
“You are just too kind,” he said, shooting a toothy grin at her husband and then a more sincere one toward her, “we need more folks like you down here.”
She blushed and giggled like a much younger woman and dug through her purse for her card.
“Here, take this. If you’re ever up our direction, you just give us a ring!”
He nearly burst out laughing. The card’s edges were uneven – obviously cut with scissors – and the woman was an honest-to-goodness librarian.
“I might just do that, Mrs.…Albrecht is it? Lovely name.”
She collected her change and slung her purse over her shoulder. Trey bent down and gave her a kiss on her fat, pale cheek before extending a handshake to the man, who returned it stiffly and without a smile.
“You folks enjoy the rest of your vacation now,” he hollered at them as they made their way out of the bar and into the sticky hot evening.
Trey settled back onto his stool and turned his attention to the television across the room, enjoying the last dregs of his drink. A local news anchor on mute was recapping the day in sports, but he was too far away to make out the closed captions. He had just polished off the last of the scotch, and was crunching ice cubes when the door swung open again. A geezer in loafers and a blue ball cap shuffled inside and pulled up a seat a few feet down from him. The hat read, “USS Lake Champlain.” Trey cleared his throat.
“An Old Salt, eh?” he beamed, “I was an Air Force man, myself. Never could quite get my sea legs.”