John D MacDonald – Barrier Island

“Was there something in particular you wanted?” she asked.

“I guess not. I was going to ask your advice about something, but I’ve decided it’s an imposition.”

“Wade, my advice about anything isn’t worth much, but feel free to ask.”

He searched his mind for a reasonable question and could not find one. “No. I’ll give it some more thought and maybe get back to you later.”

As she left his office she turned and gave him a puzzled look. He could not blame her. It had been a dumb performance. He had planned to try to get her talking about Tuck Loomis, but had been unable to think of any way to get it started. He wanted to hear that Tuck was a fine fellow, honest as the day is long. But he knew he would never hear that. There would be a wink, a nudge, a sly whisper. “They don’t put much over on of’ Tuck.” But that didn’t mean he was dishonest, did it? He was shrewd. No law against that.

On Friday, July eighteenth, a hundred and fifty miles from West Bay, the foursome teed off on the number-two course at Longleaf at two-thirty. It was a blinding hot day,

the air thick as smoke, the fairways baked to fuzzy concrete. The canopies on the electric carts were essential. Usually Judge D. Henry Swane of the U.S. District Court was paired with Stu Persons, the builder, and Billy De Vine the Mercedes dealer, was paired with Doc Crocker, the neurologist. But in mid-morning Stu Persons had phoned the Judge and said he couldn’t make their Friday game and he was sending out a fellow to take his place, a fellow named Dennis Short from West Bay, in the construction business, a nice guy, claiming a handicap of twelve, same as Stu Persons.

The three regulars watched the newcomer narrowly as he took his practice swings on the first tee. He was younger than the rest of them, a thin chap with big hands, a knit shirt, pink slacks and a golf hat with AUGUSTA NATIONAL embroidered on it. His was a controlled swing, slow and easy, with a brisk clack of club face on ball, a carry of over a hundred and sixty yards and a bounding rollout past two hundred. Down the middle.

Billy and Doc and the Judge felt irritable. Their regular session was a lot of fun. They enjoyed the press bets and the most that ever changed hands was six or seven dollars. This young fellow seemed to be out of their class. He rode along with the Judge in Stu Persons’ cart, and the Judge drove. Dennis Short pushed his iron off to the right beyond the trap into some scrub, scuffed his approach and took three putts for a six. The Judge had a five, and Billy and Doc had a four and a seven. So the teams split the hole, and Billy took low ball, and they felt better about the stranger among them. He was affable and polite, expressing admiration of a good shot and sympathy for a bad one. He didn’t stand in anyone’s way, and he didn’t fiddle about aimlessly or talk when he shouldn’t. And best of all, he didn’t play as well as they had at first feared.

The long lack of rain, very unusual for this time of year,

helped the Judge’s game. He always hit low balls down the middle, and used pitch and run on his approaches. In marshy conditions, he picked up too many double bogeys. On these baked lands he got an incredible roll, and had to be wary of rolling over the greens. He was playing far better than his handicap of fifteen, and it cheered him.

They were able to move along briskly until they made the clubhouse turn and came up on slower players at the eleventh hole. The Judge pulled over into the shade of a big yellow pine at the right side of the fairway. Doc and Billy were over in the far rough, waiting. The foursome ahead had just begun to putt out.

“When he heard I was coming over here, Warner Ellen-son said to say hello if I happened to run into you, Judge.”

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