John D MacDonald – Barrier Island

Judge Henry Swane turned his head quite slowly and studied the man sitting beside him, as if seeing him for the first time.

“And how is Warner these days?”

“Very well. I’ll tell him you asked about him. He said to tell you he’s been following a little Colorado company called Maxim Engineering listed on the National. They’ve done some interesting work on cellular telephone techniques. It goes for about nine dollars a share. He thinks there’s going to be a fat buy out.”

“Warner has a lot of luck in the market.”

The green was clear. The Judge hit first, scuffed the ball slightly, but got a roll which took it right to the edge of the green.

“Very nice!” Dennis Short said, and addressed the ball with a six iron, lofted it high and far, a soft shot that landed like feathers and curled on back toward the cup.

“A lot nicer!” said the Judge.

“A little luck here and there,” said Dennis Short.

When, even though there was ample opportunity to chat,

Dennis Short made no further mention of Warner Ellenson, Judge Swane knew it was up to him to raise the subject. He found himself admiring Short’s tact and reserve.

On the long fourteenth when they were waiting while Billy and Doc looked for Doc’s slice in the right rough, the Judge said, “What’s Warner doing lately?”

“This and that. You know how he is. He’s been into a situation with the man I work for. Woody Daggs, Regal Construction. They each bought a couple of lots on Bernard Island. A man named Tucker Loomis was developing the island, and all of a sudden the Park Service came along and grabbed it for a very low dollar. Woody and Warner think Mr. Loomis is being jerked around.”

“What does this Loomis think?”

“He thinks the Park Service will have to come up with a lot more money after it’s heard in court. He’s told my boss that he thinks the U. S. Attorney will have a very weak case. That’s why he wants a nonjury trial. Of course, nobody can build on the island now. My boss was going to put up a super-deluxe lodge out there behind the dunes. Too bad. But I guess the government has to stop the development of the barrier islands. Look what the last couple of hurricanes did out there.”

“They found it. Billy’s about to hit. He’s off his game today.”

“Very nice guy. Both of them. Fun to play with.”

As they drove toward the Judge’s ball, he said, “I need this kind of relaxation. I never play with lawyers and I never play with anybody who has a pending action that might be in my courtroom.”

“That’s very wise, Judge. A man in your position can’t afford to take chances.”

“There are always people looking for any opportunity to snipe at you,” said the Judge. He decided to try a wood off the fairway. He was two hundred yards from the green, and a few feet from the left rough. He took his three wood. As he waggled, he gave himself messages. Knees slightly bent, right hand far enough over, keep the head steady, turn the hips first, slight pause at the top, swing at it don’t scoop it. On the downswing he realized he had given himself too many orders, confusing the body, locking up the swing. He lunged and hit it off the heel of the club. Not enough toward the heel to create a darter that would bolt into the shrubbery, but enough to slam the ball left at a low sizzling angle, whipping the tops of tall grasses, chunking a thick tree about two feet from ground level, hitting it at a slight angle which corrected the flight of the ball and sent it toward the green. It rolled swiftly through a shallow trap and the far lip of the trap sent it high in the air. It fell onto the green and rolled dead about five feet from the cup. He realized that had he hit it squarely, he would have been fifty yards over the green.

He beamed at Dennis Short. “You can be good, or you can be lucky,” he said. “Me, I’ll take lucky.”

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