“I’m telling you, Mike, golf sucks,” my dad says, as he quietly laughs under his breath. “Just come with me to play basketball like you usually do.”

“Don’t listen to that,” my brother-in-law, Jay, quickly fires back. “It’s going to be a beautiful day. We’ll bring some brews, ride around in a golf cart … you’ll love it.”

I never played a single hole of golf in my life. I have been to miniature golf courses and driving ranges, of course, but never played a round of golf. People seemed to absolutely love it, though, abandoning their families for entire weekends to play. I’m in Florida for Christmas break, and will probably never get a better opportunity to give it a shot than now. So against my father’s advice, I decide to hit the links.

“Alright, what the heck. Let’s golf,” I announce to the room. “Worst case scenario, I don’t like it and never play again, right?”

“Awesome. See you at 6 AM tomorrow morning,” Jay flippantly remarks.

Right from the start, I feel completely out of place. I am dressed in my Jordan basketball sneakers, Jordan basketball shorts, and a collared t-shirt (what, I’m not an animal), while my appropriately dressed brother-in-law is decked out in full golf gear. My sister and our friend, Ally, tag along as well, probably sensing they do not want to miss this impending disaster.

The first nine holes go about as well as you would expect it to go for a first-timer. Swings and misses, chunks of grass flying everywhere, shanks, etc … I start to just throw the ball from the tee. By the 10th hole, I call it quits to just hang out in the golf cart and sip some beer. That is until we reach the fateful 18th hole.

“You gonna play the 18th hole?” my sister taunts me from her golf cart.

“I guess so. Maybe I can finish this outing on a strong note,” I optimistically call back.

With a determined look on my face, I grab my driver, and step up to the tee. I clear my mind, pull the club back, and … shank. I smack the ball way off to the right side. It lands at the foot of a tree, right in the middle of this mini garden.

“Just take a mulligan,” Jay calls out.

“No can do. Gotta play the ball where it lies,” I respond. I am a man of principles, if nothing else.

I walk over to my ball, in the middle of this garden, and prepare to hit my way out of this conundrum. Jay, Ally, and my sister all gather around me to watch from a safe distance, with mocking looks on their faces.

This feeling of dread comes over me all of a sudden. I notice this small Crane (bird) about five feet away, just staring at me. And then I hear it.

“Cuh Caw! Cuh Caw! Cuh Caw!” comes a screeching battle cry from somewhere behind me.

I quickly turn around to see a giant, four-foot Crane swooping down from the sky, unmistakably aiming right for me. Her face adorns a blood red crown, as if she is wearing war paint.

I completely freeze, but mentally I am preparing to fight. The golf club being my only hope, I get ready to knock this thing back to where it came from when it gets in my wheelhouse (I’m much better at baseball than golf, thankfully). The last thing I want to do is hurt an animal, though, so I plan to hold off for as long as possible. The giant Crane lands just a few inches in front of me. She expands her enormous, five-foot wingspan in an extremely threatening manner, clearly letting me know it is time to leave. I very cautiously turn my back to the enormous bird, and slowly start to walk back toward the safety of my family and friends.

“It’s going to start pecking at your legs!” Ally cries out in terror, as they all run as far away from me as possible.

I fearfully peak behind me to see what is going on. The Crane, right on my heels, immediately unfurls her wings again, and starts to launch herself in flight right at me. Fuck the cautious approach! I put the jets on and sprint the hell out of there. After reaching the open fairway, I get the courage to turn back around. The Crane is holding her ground at the very edge of the garden, wings fully spread in a final warning. I drop to my knees in relief. Jay, Ally, and my sister fall to the ground as well, cackling uncontrollably in hysterical laughter.

“Get me out of this hell hole!” I yell to nobody in particular.

When we finally get back to the house, my dad is standing right by the door with a small smile on his face. “How’d it go?”

By Michael Halpern
Email: michaelhalpern@imaginarybrickwall.com

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