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"Some Call It Luck"


Chapter 1
Some Call It Luck

By Jim Wile

PART  I

 

Lester St. Claire

September, 1973
Butler, Pennsylvania

 
It was 3:30 in the afternoon, and my son Henry and I were unloading bags of urea-formaldehyde in back of St. Claire & Son Hardware when my eight-year-old granddaughter, Abby, came riding down the sidewalk on her bicycle, red pigtails flying in the breeze. She rode right up to the rear of the store, got off her bike, and leaned it against the side of the building. She loved to help out at the store and showed up most days for that very reason. Henry and I had started paying her a dollar each afternoon she came to help after school and two dollars on Saturdays. She rarely missed a day.

“Hi Daddy. Hi Grandpa. Unloading fertilizer, huh?”

I don’t know if she could read the words “Urea-Formaldehyde” on the cover of each bag and knew that it was a type of fertilizer or if she just knew this was fertilizer from the size and shape of these particular bags—probably both—but she was right, of course.

“So, who’s minding the store?” she asked.

“Well, I guess you are now that you’re here, Abby,” I said. “Don’t forget to put on your smock,” I reminded her.

“I won’t,” and she went inside the back door, which was propped open.

I watched her take off her sweater and put on the little kelly green smock we had made for her that was hanging on a hook in the storeroom at the rear of the store. She then headed out of the storeroom and over to the counter.

Our hardware store was small and crowded, with rows of bins and with every square inch of wall space covered with hooks containing garden tools, carpentry tools, plumbing and electrical supplies, and hundreds of other items. A few ceiling fans spread a thin layer of dust over everything. I’ve been the proprietor for over 35 years and brought my son Henry into the business when he finished high school. He and I are now partners.

On her way behind the counter, Abby passed Mrs. McCorkle, who had come in to buy a few hardware items. I stopped for a minute to witness this exchange:

“Why, hello, Abby. Wouldn’t you rather be out playing with friends on a beautiful afternoon like this instead of working in this dusty old hardware store?”

“Not really. I like working here. Do you need any help finding things, Mrs. M?”

“I think I’m all set, dear. Do you think you can call your dad or grandpa in to ring me up?”

“I can ring you up. Grandpa showed me how.”

I called Henry over to join me in spying on her. I’d seen this play out a number of times, and it never failed to amuse me.

“Well, okay I guess,” said Mrs. McCorkle doubtfully as she put her four or five items on the counter.

Abby pulled out a small stool we kept near the cash register for her to use. She was only a wee little thing and needed the extra height to work the register. She studied the items on the counter for fifteen or twenty seconds then said, “That’s going to be $8.22, Mrs. M.”

“Are you sure, dear? Perhaps you’d better ring up each item.”

“I will, but it’ll be $8.22,” she said as she began entering the price for each item on the cash register. “Needle-nose pliers, $2.45,” she said as she entered in the amount. “Two eye hooks at 9 cents each, a spool of wire for $1.49, and a search light for $3.78.” When she finished entering the price for each item and pressed the sub-total button, the register displayed $7.90.

Mrs. McCorkle looked at the register, tilted her head, and gave a kind little smile. “We all make mistakes, Abby. Don’t feel bad. You were close.”

“I haven’t applied the sales tax yet,” said Abby, matter of factly, as she pushed the sales tax button. The four-percent sales tax made the order come to exactly $8.22.

Mrs. McCorkle’s eyes popped open as her jaw dropped. “That was very impressive, young lady! I don’t think my high schooler could have done that the way you just did. And you’re only in the third grade!” she said as she reached in her purse for a $10 bill.

“I like to do calculations in my head,” Abby replied, as she made change and placed the items in a bag along with the receipt from the register. “Have a nice afternoon, Mrs. M.”

“Thank you, Abby. You too, dear.” She picked up her bag, smiled at Abby, shook her head, marveling, and left the store.

After that, Abby hopped down from the register, retrieved a broom, and began sweeping the store. It was a little dusty in there, as Mrs. McCorkle had pointed out.

I looked at Henry, who had joined me to witness this exchange. We just smiled, and I winked at him as we went back to work unloading fertilizer.
 

Author Notes This first chapter introduces us to Abby St. Claire--one of the two main characters in the story--through the eyes of her grandpa. She is 8 years old at the beginning of the story, which will end when she is age 41.


Chapter 2
Some Call It Luck - Chapter 2

By Jim Wile

                                                                           E.J. Budrowski

                                                                             The same day
                                                                          September, 1973
                                                                     DuBois, Pennsylvania


This was not one of my better days. I think I'll down a 6-pack and try to forget about it.

I'm 25 years old and work in a bottling plant. I should say "worked" in a bottling plant because I got fired today. When I punched the clock 15 minutes late, the boss collared me and said, "Budrowski, this is the fifth time you've been late this month. Do you have something more important to do in the mornings than show up to work on time?"

"No, boss. I had to get a jump for my car this morning, and it set me back a few minutes. I think it needs a new battery."

"I can't tell you how many times I've heard that excuse before or one just like it. I don't care about your supposed car problems. If you're going to be late one more time, don't bother even coming in!" He stormed out then.

Alright, so I was a little hung over this morning and overslept. Maybe I need a job where you don't have to punch a time clock.

I stuffed my earplugs in my ears then and sat down next to my bottle explosion machine. This is actually a pretty cool invention. It takes in all these plastic pre-forms that look like test tubes, heats them up, and explodes them into molds for two-liter bottles. That explosion is pretty loud, hence the ear plugs, which do a fair job of muffling the sound.

My job was to babysit this behemoth and make sure that when the 20 bottles came out of it on the conveyor belt, they were all standing up straight. If any of them had fallen down, I had to straighten them back up before they were funneled into the filling station where they got filled with soda pop.

This was not a very challenging job as you can imagine, and it afforded me plenty of time to take nips from the hip flask I always carry around in my back pocket. After a few hours, I was usually feeling pretty fine, but the downside was that it was very hard to stay awake. The muffled sound due to the ear plugs, the booze, and the lack of physical activity (as hardly any bottles ever need straightening up) tended to put me to sleep. It was all I could do to stay awake sometimes

I sat there musing about how I'd ended up in a job like this, and of course my thoughts went to my dad and what he would have thought about it. He's not around anymore to tell me, thank God, or he would have said something like, "Maybe you've finally found a job even you couldn't screw up!"

How many nights had I gone to bed thinking about what I had done that day to piss him off. I never did anything right in his eyes. Being an only child to a narcissistic surgeon created a lot of expectations. There was no room for making mistakes in his world.

As I drifted off, I thought about the time I had to pick him and Mom up from the airport after a cruise they took. This was at a time when you had both a door lock/ignition key as well as a separate trunk key for the car. For some reason, I had removed the trunk key from my key ring days before, and when I got there to pick them up, we couldn't get into the trunk to store their many pieces of luggage, and we ended up piling it all in the car with them sitting on top of it for an uncomfortable ride home.

"E.J., you're worthless!" I heard as I opened my eyes with a start. But it was not my dad standing over me screaming; it was my boss, and he appeared fit to be tied. There were knocked-over bottles everywhere--on the conveyor and all over the floor. Evidently several had fallen over on the conveyor belt, and because I was asleep and failed to straighten them up, this caused a clog further down the line. This shut down the line but not before causing a chain reaction of knocked-over bottles to spill everywhere.

I can't say this was the first time that had ever happened to me, but it was definitely the last time because the boss fired me on the spot. Coupled with my tardiness, this was the last straw.

(See Dad? I even managed to screw this one up.)

Guess I'll have to think about getting another job now. I've thought about it before, and maybe I'll try caddying. I used to play golf, but gave it up. I still like being on a golf course, though. Plus, caddies don't punch a time clock!

Author Notes The second chapter introduces us to the other main character, Edward Joseph (E.J.) Budrowski. He is 17 years older than Abby. They will meet in Part 2 of the novel.


Chapter 3
Some Call It Luck - Chapter 3

By Jim Wile

Abby St. Claire

4 days later
September, 1973

Age 8, 3rd grade

 

It makes me so mad! As I was riding my bike home from school, I noticed this big 4th grader named Tommy Boes talking to my little sister, Lisa, who was in the 1st grade. Lisa was born with a clubfoot and walked with a limp, and I was pretty sure what Tommy was saying to her. Then I watched him put out his foot and trip her, and she fell down and started to cry. He was laughing and calling her “gimpy,” so I rode my bike really fast right into him and knocked him down. I fell too, right on top of him, and the chain made a big greasy scrape on my leg.

“You leave her alone, Tommy!” I shouted at him, but he just stood up, brushed himself off, and kicked me in the face—not so hard that it broke anything, but hard enough to really sting.

“Take that, you little twerp!” he said and walked away.

My face hurt, and I could tell that the kick was going to leave a bruise. I pushed the bike off of me and got up, then reached out my hand to help Lisa up. She was still crying a little and said to me, “Why does he have to be so mean?”

I dusted some grass off her and told her that he was just a big jerk. I reached down and grabbed the handlebars of my bike, but they were all bent. I wasn’t able to straighten them because the bolt was too tight, so I lifted up the front end and wheeled it home on the back wheel.

Lisa was still whimpering a little as we walked, so to cheer her up, I told her about a funny thing my teacher said to one of the kids in my class today. “His name is Jimmy Ferris, and he’s kind of a daydreamer. He was just sitting looking out the window when my teacher, Mrs. Pickett, hollered at him, saying, ‘Jimmy Ferris, what are you doing?’ Jimmy said, ‘Nothing!’ so Mrs. Pickett said, ‘That’s exactly right—nothing! Now get to work!’”

That made Lisa smile, and by the time we got home she seemed a little better.

Mommy was out on the front porch of our two-story farmhouse and saw us coming up the long driveway with me pushing the bike on one wheel. She asked me what happened, so I had to tell her the whole story, including the part where I rammed my bike into Tommy, but I left out his name. When she asked me who tripped Lisa and kicked me, I said I didn’t know the kid’s name. She cocked her head and frowned a little when I said that, but she didn’t ask me again.

She said she was proud of me for looking out for my sister like that. She told me to go upstairs and that she would be up in a minute to help clean up my leg and my face, but I said I had to do something first. I went out into the tool shed to get a ¾” crescent wrench to loosen the bolt to try to straighten the handlebars, but it was so tight I couldn’t turn it. I’d have to get Daddy to straighten them for me.

By the time I went in and Mommy cleaned up the scrape on my leg, put some Mercurochrome and a couple of Band-Aids on it, and washed off my cheek, it was getting too late to go to the hardware store today, plus I couldn’t ride my bike. So, I headed to my room and decided to read instead.

I lay down on my bed and picked up the first book of The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien. This is a long book—the longest one I’ve ever read so far—and there are two more just like it after I finish this one. I didn’t understand all the words in it, but I think I got most of it. I really like it!

After dinner Daddy straightened my handlebars for me. I asked him if I could ride over to Grandpa’s house to see if he wanted to play Stratego with me. He told me to call him first to see if he was free, so I did, and Grandpa said to come on over.

Grandpa lived less than ten minutes away by bike. We lived out in the country in a little town called Butler, Pennsylvania. It was mostly dirt roads over to Grandpa’s house. I pulled into his driveway and leaned my bike against the big elm tree in his front yard. He was sitting on the front porch waiting for me. He lives in what he calls a craftsman house on a street with about 15 other houses. It’s painted a pretty yellow color.

“Missed you at the store today, Punkin’,” he said, as I climbed the steps up onto the porch. He calls me that a lot because my hair is the same color as a pumpkin.

“Yeah, I got home kinda late today, Grandpa. This great big kid was picking on Lisa. I saw him trip her, and he called her names.”

“Oh yeah? So what happened then?”

“I tried to stop him.”

“What did you do?”

“I ran my bike right into his back. He fell down with me and the bike on top of him. I told him to leave her alone. But he got up and kicked me in the face and called me a twerp.”

Grandpa noticed the bruise on my cheek. “Does it hurt?”

“A little,” I said, touching it gently. Then he noticed the Band-Aids on my leg. He thought for a minute, then he said, “Well, probably best not to pick a fight with a kid who’s bigger than you. I’m proud of you for sticking up for your sister, though.”

“Why are kids so mean, Grandpa? Why did he have to pick on a helpless first grader? I would never make fun of a kid just because she walks a little funny.”

“Well of course you wouldn’t. Your parents taught you better. See, bullies are bullies because they don’t feel so good about themselves. Their parents probably aren’t very nice to them, like your parents are, and don’t teach them the right things. Try not to pay them any mind if they ever pick on you, and just keep always being nice to people.”

“They do pick on me. I try to be nice, but I don’t think the kids in my class like me very much.”

“Aw, sweetie. What makes you say that?”

“Well, they never seem to want to play with me. If I suggest a game, no one wants to play it, and if I ask if I can join in a game, they say no. And they always tease me about my red hair and freckles. Also, it seems like whenever I give an answer in class, I always hear Dana Padgett whisper things like, “Smarty Pants.”

“Let me ask you something; do you always have the right answers when the teacher calls on you?”

“Yeah, but I hardly ever raise my hand anymore. A lot of times, though, Mrs. Pickett will ask a question, and nobody answers, so she calls on me, and I always know the answer.”

Grandpa nodded a few times. “I think kids like Dana might be a little jealous of you. I’ll tell you what,” he said. “If they tease you about your looks or anything really, just look them right in the eye and then walk away. Don’t feel bad about things you can’t control, and even if you do feel a little sad, don’t let them see that you do. Just learn to ignore those kinds of kids that tease you. If you don’t respond, they’ll eventually stop when they can’t get a rise out of you.”

I thought about that for a moment. “Well, should I have just ignored Tommy when he tripped Lisa?”

“When someone’s threatening you, it’s also important to stick up for yourself and others too who can’t—like your sister. Sounds like he deserved what you did.”

“Yeah, he did.”

Grandpa looked at me. “You still look a little bothered, sweetie.”

“I guess it’s because I’d like to have friends; I just don’t know what to do to make any.”

“You shouldn’t really have to do anything except be your kind, sweet self. When the right person comes along, you’ll make a friend.”

I didn’t tell him I was tired of waiting, but I gave him a big hug then and said, “I love you, Grandpa.”

“I love you too, Punk. Now, should we go inside and play Stratego?”

We did, and we both won one game. Stratego can take a long time to play, so by the time we finished the two games, it was getting pretty dark out, and Grandpa said I’d better be getting home now. He got his bike out of the shed and rode home with me.

When we reached my driveway, he said goodnight and turned around to leave. “Goodnight, Grandpa. See you at the store tomorrow!” I called to him as he rode away. He put up his hand and waved.
 

It was almost 8:00 when I got home, so Mommy told me to go up and get a bath and get ready for bed, then she would come in and read to Lisa and me.

Lisa and I shared the same bedroom, and when I was finished in the bathroom, I crawled into Lisa’s bed with her to hear the story. Mommy was reading Peter Pan to us. I’d heard it many times and read it myself, but I always loved hearing it again. Lisa and I clapped loudly to help save Tinker Bell after she drank the poisoned medicine to save Peter. We hugged each other because we helped to save her!

After that, Mommy put a bookmark in the book. I went over to my own bed then, and she tucked us in and kissed us goodnight. Daddy came in a few minutes later and kissed us goodnight too. He made sure to leave the door cracked with the hall light on because Lisa was still a little afraid of the dark.

We lay still for a while, then Lisa called over in a soft voice and said, “Abby, are you still awake?”

“Yeah, what’s up?”

“Do you think I’ll always be gimpy?”

“Are you still thinking about what that creep said to you this afternoon?”

“Why did he have to say that?” she asked, choking up a little.

I got out of bed then and walked over to her bed and got back in with her again. I put my arm around her.

“Grandpa told me his parents probably weren’t very nice to him, and he never learned how to be nice to other people. I feel kind of sorry for Tommy in a way because he’s not lucky enough to have nice parents like we do. It’s no excuse for picking on a little kid, though, but let’s just try to ignore him from now on.”

She hugged me then, and we stayed like that for a while. I told her that I overheard Mommy and Daddy talking about it once, and that they were saving money for an operation on her foot, and that when they had enough, she would get it fixed. I didn’t know if she heard me or not because it seemed like she’d fallen asleep. I was about to go back to my own bed when I heard a little sound outside the open window. I sat up, shook my sister, and said, “Lisa, did you hear that?”

She opened her eyes and blinked. “Hear what?” she said as she came fully awake.

“I don’t know. Let’s listen again.” Sure enough, a few seconds later, we heard it again. It was just a tiny, high-pitched sound, like a small animal crying. We both got out of bed and went over to the window to listen. We looked down into the yard but couldn’t see anything, and then we heard it again. It sounded like a soft “mew.”

We both ran out of the room then down the stairs, heading for the front door. Mommy saw us whiz by and shouted, “Girls, what are you doing up? Where are you going?” as we went out the front door. She and Daddy got up and followed us out.

“We heard a noise under the window,” I explained. “It sounded like a little animal, so we came down to see what it was.”

It was dark, but the moon was waxing gibbous (Daddy had taught me about the phases of the moon), so there was enough light to see a little. We all headed around to the side of the house, underneath our bedroom window, and looked around. We didn’t see or hear anything at first, but I started looking under the yew bushes there, and sure enough, there was a little black kitten hiding under a bush.

I reached in and pulled her out. She seemed scared and trembled in my hands. She mewed and mewed but didn’t try to get away. We all headed back inside with the kitten nestled against my chest. I softly stroked her little head and back, and she started purring!

Lisa said, “Aww… she’s so cute! Can I hold her?”

I gently handed her to Lisa, who cuddled her, and I told her to pet her softly—not too hard. She purred for Lisa too.

“Can we keep her?” we both asked at the same time.

Daddy picked her up out of Lisa’s arms right then and held her up to examine her. I saw him look over at Mommy and raise his eyebrows up, and she nodded her head slightly. He looked at us then and said, “Yes, you can keep her, but I’ve got some news for you. She’s a he, not a she. This is a boy kitten!”

He handed him back to me, and I buried my nose in him. “Thank you, thank you, thank you!” we shouted and danced all around.

“What shall we call him?” I asked.

“Why don’t you think about it tonight, and name him in the morning,” Mommy said, “but now it’s time to get back to bed.”

We started up the stairs with him, but Daddy said, “Hold on, girls. He’ll stay down here tonight in the bathroom. He might have fleas and ear mites, and we don’t want them getting into your beds. We’ll take him to the vet tomorrow morning and get him checked out. We’ll also have to get him a litter box and some kitten food. We’ll talk about it all tomorrow. So hand him over and get back to your room, please.”

“Awwww!” we both whined, but he snapped his fingers a couple of times and held out his hand, so I passed him to Daddy. The kitten let out a loud “Mew!” then, like maybe he wanted to stay with me.

I hesitated, but Daddy just pointed his finger up the stairs and said, “You’ll see him again in the morning, now up you both go.”

Back in our beds, Lisa said, “Why don’t we call her Blackie, because she’s so black.”

“Remember, it’s a him, not a her. Yeah, that’s a good possibility, but let’s keep thinking.”

I thought of a few names myself, but then my mind started wandering, and I thought about everything else that happened today. The last thing I can remember before I drifted off to sleep was talking to Grandpa and how I could always tell him everything. I really loved that guy.
 
 

Lisa and I went down early the next morning to play with the kitten. He was in the bathroom. We cornered him, got him out, and both of us took turns holding him for a while, but then he started mewing and scrambling to get down.

I thought he might be hungry, so I went into the pantry where I found a can of tuna fish. I opened it up with the can opener and put a little on a saucer, and boy, did he gobble that up! Lisa wanted to give him some too, so she scooped out a little more, and he ate that as well.

After that we took him into the living room to play with him. In a little while, Mommy and Daddy came down and watched us play with the kitten.

“Well, girls, did you happen to think up a good name for him yet?” asked Mommy.

I piped right in, “I want to call him Lester!”

Mommy looked at Daddy then with a funny look on her face, but she was smiling too. “Really? You want to name him after your grandpa?”

“Sure. Why not?”

“Pop will get a big kick out of that!” said Daddy. He looked at Lisa and asked, “Is that okay with you too, Lisa?”

“Yeah. I like Lester too.”

“Okay then. I guess Lester it is, by unanimous decision. Mommy and I are going to fix breakfast now, and after that we’ll take Lester down to Dr. Stringer’s house. He’s a friend of mine and a veterinarian. I called him last night, and he said to bring him in around 9:00 AM. I also called Grandpa and told him we’d be to the store a little late today, and he said not to worry about it. Wait ‘til he hears what we named the cat!”

“Daddy, is it okay if I don’t come to the store with you today? I want to stay home and play with Lester.”

“That’s fine, sweetie. We’ll just have to manage without you today,” he said with a little smile.

“But I’ll come back on Monday after school. Oh, and don’t tell Grandpa what we named him. I want to tell him.”

“Okay then.”
 
 

Monday came, and it was time for school again. I have to admit I wasn’t all that fond of third grade this year. The kids were mean to me. Plus, I seem to know everything already, and it’s kind of boring. I sit in the back and keep pretty quiet. Sometimes during an arithmetic lesson, I spend the time reading a book that I bring from home.

Today, Mrs. Pickett was teaching the times tables. I’d known all of those since first grade. She wrote a bunch of problems on the board and then would call on us to give the answers. When she called on me for 7 x 8, I said it was 56, but she looked at me kind of funny and asked Dana Padgett for the correct answer. Dana said it was 21, and that was right.

Dana, who sits in front of me, turned around and whispered in a mean voice, “Not so smart in arithmetic, are you, Abby?”
I didn’t know what to say to her, because I still thought the answer was 56.
 
 

Later that afternoon, when I was working at the hardware store, Mrs. Pickett came in to buy some stuff. I was helping another customer at the time who wanted to buy fertilizer for her lawn but didn’t know how much to buy.

“What you have to do is look at these three numbers on the bag,” I explained. “This one says 10-6-4. That means it has 10 percent nitrogen, 6 percent phosphorus and 4 percent potassium in it. The bag also says to apply it at the rate of 1 pound of nitrogen per thousand square feet. Do you happen to know how big your lawn is?”

“Not really, dear.”

“Well, how long is your lot across the front, and how wide is it from the street to your house?”

The lady thought for a minute and said, “It’s about 80 feet across the front, but subtract maybe 15 feet for the width of the driveway. Then it’s perhaps 40 feet from the street to the shrubs in front of the house.”

“Are you going to fertilize the backyard too?” I asked.

She said no, so I did the calculation in my head.

“Okay, so your front yard is 2,600 square feet and, since the bag contains 10 percent nitrogen, that means there are 3 pounds of nitrogen in this 30 pound bag, so it should cover 3,000 square feet. Looks like one bag should do it with a little left over.”

“Why thank you, dear. And you did all that in your head! What grade are you in?”

“I’m in third grade.”

“Well, you’re very smart, and you must have an amazing teacher.”

“Yeah, she’s nice,” I said, looking over at Mrs. Pickett to see if she’d heard that. She was looking right at us, smiling.

After I rang up the lady, Mrs. Pickett came up to me and said, “Abby, I overheard that entire conversation. That was amazing how you did all those calculations in your head. So what’s going on in class? Did you purposely give the wrong answer today for 7 x 3?”

“Huh? I thought it said 7 x 8. I couldn’t figure out why the correct answer was 21! I guess I thought the 3 was an 8.”

“Abby, let’s try something. Can you look out the front window and read that sign on the shop window across the street?”

I looked out there and squinted real hard, but it looked awfully blurry to me. “I think it says, ‘line bail soil hone.’ What does that mean?”

“It actually says, ‘live bait sold here’.”

Right then, Daddy walked up and said hi to Mrs. Pickett.

She said, “Henry, have you ever had Abby’s vision tested? I think she may be having a little trouble reading the board from where she sits in the back. I’ll be sure to move her up closer tomorrow, but you may want to have her doctor check her vision.”

“Thanks very much for letting me know about this, Ida. I’ll be sure to do that. What can we help you find today?”

After that, I said goodbye to Mrs. Pickett and left her with Daddy. I wandered into the back to find Grandpa. I was frowning when he saw me.
 
“Hey, Punkin’. What’s up?”

“I just found out I’m probably going to need glasses.”

“Yeah, what makes you think that?”

I then told him how I got the problem wrong in school today and how I really botched the sign across the street.

“Well, it’s not the end of the world. Lots of people need glasses. I wear them myself. Have since I was about 12. You’ll get used to them if it comes to that.”

“Yeah, but I’m only 8. The kids are going to tease me. I know they will.”

“Remember what we talked about the other night? If they tease you about your glasses, just look them in the eye, then walk away.

“I guess I could give that a try. Thanks, Grandpa.” Then I remembered something that snapped me out of my mood. “Oh, by the way, guess what I named our new kitten?”

“Hmm, let me think. What color is he?”

“He’s all black.”

“Then, Blackie?”

“Nope. That’s what Lisa suggested, but guess again?”

“Shadow? Smoky? I know—Midnight.”

“It’s Lester!”

“You’re kidding!”

“Nope. I named him after you.”

“I’m honored,” he said, grinning and shaking his head.

“Well, I gotta get back up front and straighten some shelves,” I said. “This place is looking kind of disorganized lately.”

“Okay, Punk. You’ll fix us up in no time. I know you will.”

“See you later, Lester!”
 

Author Notes Despite her confidence with adults, we begin to see how her relationships with her third grade peers serves to shake her confidence.


Chapter 4
Some Call It Luck-Chapter 4

By Jim Wile

                                                                          
 
                                                                           E.J. Budrowski

                                                                            Two years later
                                                                           September, 1975



I'm a caddie now and have been ever since my last job at the bottling plant. I have to say that this job suits me much better than my four previous jobs. For one thing, I can show up when I want to or not at all if I don't feel like working any particular day. For another thing, I like working on a golf course. It's pretty out here and peaceful.

So peaceful in fact, that going to the golf course was my only refuge from the constant turmoil around my house during my high school years. Back then, I sought the solace of the golf course whenever I could. It got me away from home and the incessant harangues of my father, aimed at both my mother and me. My mother turned to alcohol to dull the pain. I turned to golf.

I spent hours on the golf course, playing and practicing endlessly. I was smallish in size and not very well-built, but I was flexible and wiry and could hit the ball a long way. I would go to the course after school and often wouldn't return until it was too dark to see. I became quite good and played number one on my high school golf team.

With all the time away from the house, I never studied, and my grades were only mediocre--mostly Cs, occasional Bs, though always an A+ in math. Of course, this was another sore point with my father who claimed I would never get into college with such atrocious grades.

Eventually he managed even to ruin golf for me. I was playing in the last pairing in the finals of the state championship during my senior year.
Whether my team won or lost depended on the results of this final match, as both teams were tied at this point. It came down to the 18th hole where I needed to sink a 5-foot putt to halve the hole and extend the match to a playoff. As I prepared for the putt, I glanced at the crowd of onlookers around the green and spotted my father among them. My heart was pounding in my chest, and I could hardly breathe. I had never before felt such pressure on the golf course. When I settled over the ball, I froze for a few seconds. When I was finally able to stroke it, I tensed up and left the ball hanging on the lip of the cup, but it never dropped.

That night at home, my father said to me with disgust, "The only thing you're halfway good at, you find a way to blow. How will you ever manage to succeed in life if you can't stand a little pressure?" How indeed? I never played again after that.




Today I was caddying for an old fart named Bertram Olsen. I was still hung over from the previous night's excursion to the bar and was perhaps a little wobbly on my feet. As we were passing by the pond on the second hole, there was a clump of grass clippings in my way that was left by a mower on this dewy morning, so I kicked at it. My foot came down wrong and caused me to lose my balance. I started to topple, but Olsen grabbed my arm to keep me from falling into the pond. I stayed dry, but unfortunately his clubs didn't; his bag slid off my shoulder and landed in the pond where it promptly sank to the bottom.

"I'm so sorry Dad... uh, Mr. Olsen." Boy, was he pissed! He berated me for my clumsiness and swore I'd never caddie for him again. He then hollered at me to go in there and get his clubs out. Fortunately, the pond wasn't too deep right on the edge, so the clubs were only about two feet down. I took my shoes off, rolled up my pant legs and stepped in. It was squishy on the bottom, and I nearly slipped. The bag was full of water now and was quite heavy, but I managed to lug it out and lay it on the side of the pond to drain.

Olsen ordered me to go back to the Pro Shop to get some towels to dry everything off, so I rinsed the mud off my feet in the edge of the pond, put my shoes back on, and hoofed it back there. I had to tell the caddie master what the towels were for, and he was not pleased to hear it. He drove me back down to the second hole in a cart so as not to hold up my group any longer than necessary. He apologized to Olsen for the mishap and offered to replace the bag if it ended up being ruined after it dried out.

Right then a frog crawled out of the bag and hopped back into the pond. I thought that was pretty funny, but no one else seemed amused at the time. I proceeded to take out each club and dry it off as best I could.

When the round was over, Olsen gave me the required minimum for the loop with no tip. Guess I couldn't really blame him.
 

Author Notes E.J.'s woes continue after becoming a caddie. We learn more of his backstory.


Chapter 5
Some Call It Luck - Chapter 5

By Jim Wile

Abby St. Claire

7th grade
December, 1977
 
 
Looks like I’ve got a new nickname now, thanks to Dana Padgett.
 
I came into my 7th grade homeroom this morning dressed in my old corduroy jumper. I also had on my brown sweater, and there was a hole in the sleeve so you could see my yellow shirt poking through. Mom had pointed that out to me earlier this morning and told me I should go up and change, but I told her I didn’t care. Maybe Mom was right, though.

As I passed by Dana’s desk, I heard her say to Marla Preuss, “Look, she’s wearing that same outfit again, and look at that hole in her sweater. Going to have to start calling her ‘Shabby St. Claire!’“
 
“Hey, yeah, that’s clever,” said Marla. “Morning, Shabby!”
 
And that’s all it took. When I walked into the lunchroom later that morning, everyone started greeting me with “Hi, Shabby.”

It’s not like they’ve ever said hi to me before. Except for a few girls who like to tease me, no one hardly said “boo” to me until today.

I looked around for an empty table to sit at. There was nothing except for one in the back, where just one boy was sitting and eating alone. I’ve never seen that boy before; I guess he’s new. I walked up to his table and sat down at the far end from him.

As I started opening my sack and pulling out my tuna fish sandwich and apple, he said to me, “My name is F-F-Fred D-DeNapoli. I think we’re in the same science class.”

I looked over at him. He had dark hair and a friendly face. “I haven’t noticed you before. Are you new here?”

“I j-just started yesterday. M-mind if I come join you?”

“Um, okay. My name is Abby St. Claire. Where are you from?”

He picked up his tray, moved it down, and sat across from me. “M-my family just moved here from P-Pittsburgh. My dad’s a salesman for Wesco Distribution.”

“I’ve lived here in Butler all my life. My dad and grandpa own St. Claire & Son Hardware. I work there too.”

“Really? W-what do you do there?”

“Pretty much everything. I wait on customers and show them where stuff is. I stock the shelves and ring up sales. I also clean up a lot around there; it gets pretty dirty!”

We kept talking together, and I noticed that, after a while, he hardly stuttered at all.

It was right then when Tommy Boes came over to our table and said, “Well, if it isn’t F-F-F-Fred and Shabby! How’s things, kids? Are you enjoying your lunch?”

I just looked down, but Fred said, “We were until y-you came. Why don’t you j-just leave us alone?”

Tommy picked up my apple and took a bite out of it then. “Hmm… not my favorite kind,” he said, and put it back on the table.

Right then, Mr. Campbell, my natural science teacher, came over and told Tommy to take a hike. He then turned to Fred and me and said he’d see us both later in 7th period.

“How does Tommy know you? He’s not even in our grade,” I asked Fred.

“My locker is next to his in the hall. I said hi to him yesterday and st-stuttered a little when I told him my name.”

“Well, I’ve known him for years, and he’s always been a bully.”

“Say, Abby, you may not have noticed me, b-but I noticed you yesterday,” said Fred. You seemed to know a lot of answers to Mr. Campbell’s questions.”

“Yeah, science and math are my favorite subjects. I like to read a lot about them both. What’s your favorite subject?”

“Probably art.”

“Really? What do you like to do in art?”

“Mostly draw. I like to ice skate too. D-do you skate?”

“A little. My Great Aunt Helen taught me and my sister how to skate a couple years ago when we visited them in DuBois. She’s my grandpa’s sister. She and my Uncle Bert have a little pond in their backyard they call Olsen’s Pond. That’s their name--Olsen. We learned to skate on that pond.”

“Is there a good place to skate around here?”

“Yeah, my sister and I usually skate at the mill pond down off Cumberland Avenue. It’s frozen over now, so you can skate on it. Do you know where that is?”

“No, but my mom probably does. She used to live here in B-Butler.”

Right about then, the bell rang for 6th period, so we got up and threw our trash away, including the half-eaten apple that I wouldn’t touch after that hyena took a bite out of it. I told Fred I’d see him later in 7th period, and we said goodbye to each other. I left the cafeteria smiling.

I might have made a friend!
 
 
 

Next morning at breakfast, I was reading a book at the table. When Mom came in with a pot of oatmeal, I was so absorbed in it that I kind of tuned her out. I kept reading when she said in a loud voice, “Abby, now! Meals are family time.”

Dad came in right then from the kitchen, holding a plate of bacon and eggs for himself, when Lester, who was now a big 12-pound cat, suddenly ran right for his legs. Dad lost his balance trying to avoid him, and the plate of food went flying as Lester bounded over to the back door and meowed loudly to be let out.

“Damn it!” shouted Dad as the plate hit the floor and his breakfast spilled everywhere. “I’m tired of that damn cat! He’s always tripping me up and meowing to go in and out. Plus, he bites you if you try to put your hand on him. I’m getting sick of him and have half a mind to get rid of him.”

“Don’t say that, Dad! I’ll let him out and clean up the mess,” I said as I got up from the table. I opened the door to let him out and started choking up at the thought of losing my cat.

He really is my cat. He isn’t friendly to anyone else, not even Lisa—just me. Maybe it's because I’m the only one who plays with him. He sleeps on my bed at night, and I’m the one who feeds him too. I also clean out his litter box.

After I let him out the back door, I got out the kitchen garbage can and a broom and dustpan to clean up the mess on the floor. Dad could see how upset I still was, so he reached out and pulled me in for a hug. I didn’t feel like hugging, so I just shrugged him off and went back to cleaning. I could tell he felt sorry about what he’d said, but I wasn’t going to let him off that easily. We didn’t talk to each other during breakfast.

In the pickup truck on the way to school, I said to Dad, “I’ve been thinking… how about if I build Lester a cat door so he can go in and out of the back door by himself?”

He thought about this for a minute, then said, “You know, that’s a great idea. I could help you build it.”

“I won’t need any help; I know how to do it.”

He looked at me doubtfully. “You think you can get that heavy door off by yourself to cut a hole in the bottom?”

“Well… maybe I’ll need your help for that. But once we get it up on some sawhorses, I can do the rest.”

“Okay, you draw it up first for me to approve, and if it looks like a good design, I’ll let you do it.”

“Thanks, Dad. I’ll sketch it out for you soon.”

By this time, we had arrived at my junior high school. He pulled me in for a hug and a kiss goodbye, and I let him this time.

Later that day at lunchtime, I walked into the cafeteria and saw Fred sitting by himself again, so I went over to his table and sat down across from him, and we started talking as we both ate our lunches. I told him all about what happened at breakfast today. He told me he had a dog who sometimes gets into trouble too.

Fred was real easy to talk to. He didn’t even stutter that much when we were talking. It would have been a perfect lunch hour until Dana Padgett and some other “cool girls” came over to the table and sat down with us.

Dana said, “Hi Shabby. Looks like you’ve got a b-b-b-boyfriend now. Aren’t you a cute couple?”

Fred jumped right in. “W-why don’t you j-j-just leave, D-D-D-Dana.”

“Good idea, F-F-F-Fred. I’m dying of boredom here listening to you get a sentence out. Let’s g-g-g-go, girls,” she said, getting up to leave. The others laughed as they got up too and followed her out.

“Morons,” I said.

“Idiots,” Fred said.

“Nimrods!”

“Dummkopfs!”

We laughed and laughed as we came up with more and more names for them. Pretty soon the bell rang for 6th period, and it was time to go. Fred said to me, “Hey, Abby, would you like to go skating together this Saturday at the m-mill pond?”
 
“Sure. That’ll be fun. What time should we meet?”

“My mom could probably pick you up after lunch. Maybe 1:00?”

“Okay. I’ll be at St. Claire & Son Hardware. Do you know where that is?”

“My mom will know. Okay then!”

“Okay then! See you at 7th period.”

“Bye, Abby.”

We both walked away, smiling. Maybe Dana was right. Maybe I do have a boyfriend.
 
 

Author Notes Abby's woes with her classmates continue in 7th grade, but she has finally found a friend in Fred.


Chapter 6
Some Call It Luck - Chapter 6

By Jim Wile

Abby St. Claire

3 days later
December, 1977
 
 
After church and lunch today, I went up to my room to start sketching my plans for Lester’s cat door. The hardware store was closed on Sundays, so I had the whole afternoon to myself. I had a big piece of white construction paper that I used to draw my plans. I also had a ruler and a pencil.

Lester came up with me, so the first thing I did was to measure him, or try to anyway.

“Lester, stand still, would’ja?” He kept moving around and trying to bite the ruler. “You’re a pest, do you know that?”

It took a while, but I finally decided that an 8” x 12” opening at the bottom of the door would work for him.

It was a solid wood door, and I had measured the width before coming upstairs so that I could make the drawing to scale. The door was 32” wide. On my construction paper, I drew the width of the door as 8”, making the scale 1:4.

Then I drew the outline of the opening, 2” from the bottom of the door (or ½” in my drawing.) I figured that would be necessary so the door would remain sturdy. I would need to drill ¾“ holes at the four corners so that I could position a jigsaw blade to cut out the opening.

I was so absorbed in my plans that I didn’t notice when Mom came in to see what I was up to. “Abby, this room is a pigsty! There are clothes all over the floor and books and papers everywhere.”

Lisa and I had separate bedrooms now, and I guess I wasn’t that neat about mine. “I know, Mom, I’m sorry. I just get so busy with stuff, and I forget to put things away. Right now, I’m designing a cat door for Lester at the bottom of the back door.”

“Well, that’s very industrious. Did you ask Dad if it’s okay to cut a hole in the door?”

“Yeah, he thought it was a great idea, but he wanted to see the plans first. That’s what I’m drawing up now.”

“That’s fine, but see if you can’t straighten up some before coming down again. I don’t know how you can function in such a mess!”

“Okaaay, Mom.”

“Don’t use that tone with me, young lady!”

“Sorry,” I said contritely. Mom was a family court judge in Butler County and could be pretty strict sometimes. She left then, and I went back to work.

I now designed a flap made out of thick rubber that would be attached by two hinges screwed in at the top of the opening with wood screws. It would be able to swing both ways, so Lester could go out or in, and would fit just inside the opening so that it wouldn’t rub and so it would prevent drafts. I would attach this to the hinges with little threaded machine screws and nuts.

Then I thought it would look better if I put some trim around the hole on both the outside and inside of the door, so I made a note to use flat-head screws for the hinges, so the trim would be able to lay flat over the top of them.

I went downstairs then and showed the plan to Dad. He studied it for a while then said, “This looks very good, but I have one suggestion: I think you should chisel out the outline of the hinges to make them slightly recessed so that the trim that goes over the top of them, will lay perfectly flat against the door. I could help you with that part if you need it.”

“Thanks, Dad. That’s a good idea.”

Lester had come down with me and started meowing at the back door to be let out while I was showing the plans to Dad. “You’ll be able let yourself out in a few days after I install your new cat door,” I said to him when I got up and opened the door for him. He just scooted out.
 
 

As I was lying in bed later that night before falling asleep, I thought again about the good time I had yesterday skating with Fred. He’s a really good skater. He told me he took lessons in Pittsburgh, where he used to live, and that he was going to start taking them again after the New Year. Pittsburgh is only about 40 minutes from here, so the drive isn’t too long to the rink where he has his lessons, he said.

I’m not that good a skater and fell down a few times. After one fall he helped me up and held my hand for a while because I was a little shaky. I liked holding his hand, but then some kids started making fun of us, and I pulled my hand away. Fred just took it again and told the kids to bug-off.

I wish those dumb kids would leave us alone. Fred doesn’t seem too bothered by them. He stutters more when they come around, but he seems pretty confident otherwise. I wish I could be like that. I usually just try to ignore them, but it still hurts. Maybe I’ll get over it someday.

Fred and I promised to go skating together again over Christmas vacation, which starts next weekend. I can hardly wait for that!
 


Chapter 7
Some Call It Luck - Chapter 7

By Jim Wile

Abby St. Claire

1 week later
Christmas Eve, 1977
 
 
This was the best Christmas Eve ever! I don’t even know how Christmas Day tomorrow can top this day. I invited Fred over to have dinner and to go caroling with us over in Grandpa’s neighborhood after dinner. Lisa also invited a friend for dinner and caroling.

Before dinner I got to show Fred the cat door I made for Lester. “Wow, Abby. You built this all by yourself?”

“Well, Dad helped a little with getting the back door off and back on, but I designed it and did pretty much everything else. I had to make a modification to the original plan yesterday because Lester kept bringing dead mice and birds into the house and depositing them on the kitchen floor. Mom suggested that I make a rigid door to slide up and down in front of the flap. She suggested we put it down after Lester went out so that he couldn’t come back in until he meowed to be let in. I would crack open the door to make sure he didn’t have an animal in his jaws before letting him in. Mom thought that if we did this enough, he would learn he couldn’t come in on his own unless he dropped his catch first. I don’t know if it’ll work, but I agreed to try it and made the sliding door.”

“Looks like you did a great job on the whole thing.”

“Thanks. Hey, Fred. I’ve got a present I’d like to give you before we go out caroling tonight. I think you might need it.”

“Oh yeah? Well, I’ve g-got one for you too which you may also need.”

I went and got his from under the Christmas tree where all the presents were, while he got mine from a shelf in the coat closet where he had hung his coat. He opened my present to him first.

It was a soft, red scarf. “I noticed that you didn’t wear one the couple times we went ice skating together, and I thought maybe you might need one.”

“It’s beautiful, Abby, and so soft too. Most scarfs are itchy, but this one looks like it will be really comfortable. Thank you!”
 
He reached down and picked up the present for me that he had laid on a table. “Here’s yours.” He then handed me a package that was beautifully wrapped in silvery paper with light blue and white ribbons that spilled over the edges and reminded me of icicles. “I wrapped it myself,” he said.

It was almost too pretty to open, but I did, eventually. In it was a long, pointed white snow cap—the kind an elf might wear. It had green trim around the bottom and a green pom-pom on the end that matched my green eyes, and it looked really cute when I put it on and looked at myself in the mirror on the side of the coat closet. My red hair looked good against it.

“I love it, Fred! It’s so cute.”

After a dinner of pot roast with potatoes and carrots, buttered green beans, and apple cobbler for dessert, we all piled into our station wagon and headed over to Grandpa’s house. He had put Christmas lights in all the bushes in front of his house and up and down the columns on his front porch. It looked pretty when we came driving up in the dark.

I introduced him to Fred, who he hadn’t met before, and they shook hands. After settling down in his living room, Grandpa handed out little booklets of Christmas carols that we would use tonight. He and Mom and Dad were going to go caroling with us kids. The seven of us practiced some songs first before heading out, so we could all agree on the right key to sing in. Grandpa had a little tuning thingy that he would blow softly to start us out right. I sang very softly because I tended to sing a bit offkey. Fred had a nice voice, and he didn’t seem to stutter when he sang.

After a couple of songs, we were eager to get started. Our first stop was the Huffnagles next door. The front of their house was brightly lit with lots of colored bulbs too, like Grandpa’s. They both stood at the door and listened to us sing “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” while we stood on their front porch. They thanked us when it was over and wished us all a Merry Christmas.

We went up and down the street, stopping at every house to sing—even at the Steins’, who were Jewish, where we sang “Frosty the Snowman.” Some of the folks decided to join us in our roving troupe of singers. There was a small park just around the corner, and we all gathered there to keep singing.

By the time we got to the park, there were maybe 14 of us—about half kids and half adults. Grandpa had brought extra song booklets, which he passed out to the new folks.

It had started to snow gently, and it looked really pretty when lit up by the lights in the park. We set up beneath one of the overhead lights so the singers could read the song books.

Lots of people came out that night to stroll through the park and listen to our little choir, and we encouraged them to join in. Fred and I stood next to each other. I wore my new hat, and Fred wore his new scarf. We held hands while we sang.

When it got to be about 9:00 PM, we were getting pretty cold, so we all said good night and Merry Christmas to each other and headed home. Our original seven headed back to Grandpa’s house.

He made a big fire in his fireplace, and we all sat around it to warm our hands and faces. We kept our coats on until we started to warm up. Grandpa also made a big pot of hot cocoa, and we each had a cup of that with marshmallows.

We reminisced about past Christmases we’d had while we enjoyed our cocoa. After a while, the talk died down. Grandpa had turned off the lights, so the room was only lit by the Christmas tree and the crackling fire in the fireplace. We just sat there staring into the fire and thinking our own thoughts, when Lisa began singing “Silent Night” very softly. It was beautiful, and we all started to join in.

Yup, this was the best Christmas Eve ever.
 

Author Notes Friends and family help make this a memorable Christmas eve for Abby. In the next chapter we see how E.J. spends a very different Christmas eve.


Chapter 8
Some Call It Luck - Chapter 8

By Jim Wile

 
E.J. Budrowski

The same day
Christmas Eve, 1977
 
 
I’ve been going down to Florida to caddie these last couple of winters because there isn’t much golf in Pennsylvania from late October to about mid-March.

A few of my fellow caddies are planning to hit the bars tonight to celebrate tomorrow being Christmas and a day off from work. They asked me to join them, but I declined. I was not at all in a festive mood, as the memories of Christmas Eve are just too painful. I think I’ll stay in my motel room, drink alone, and try to forget the fact that it’s Christmas Eve.

I put the TV on while downing my first scotch, but all I could find were Christmas movies. I watched Ebenezer Scrooge declare Christmas to be a humbug and found myself agreeing with him. I turned the TV off.

How had it come to this? Eleven years ago, despite my father’s prognostication to the contrary, I did get accepted to college. Although my grades in high school had been mediocre, I had scored 1,560 out of 1,600 on the SAT exams, when most of my friends were in the 1,000 to 1,200 range, and on the strength of this, I was accepted to a small college in Ohio.

That first semester was a rude awakening for me. Because I never did any homework in high school, I never developed any study habits. I thought I could just skate through college the way I had skated through high school. I didn’t bother reading the assignments, and although I paid attention in class, many of the exam questions came from the textbooks. My midterm exam results were awful, and with the exception of Calculus, I got mostly Ds and an F.

Now the pressure was really on to catch up. We had five books to read for my English Lit class this semester, and I hadn’t read any of them yet. I also had three term papers to write by the end of the semester in English Lit and Western Civ, and I hadn’t started any of those.

This was a hell of a lot tougher than high school! I got really anxious, and to settle down I began drinking. I wasn’t alone in this and got in with a bunch of guys in similar circumstances to my own. We began partying together to try to forget the pressures we faced. That helped to dull the anxiety, but did nothing to help me catch up with my work, and by the end of the semester, my grades were an A (Calculus), a C, two Ds, and an F.

During the semester, I found out from my mother that she had left my father. She just packed up one day and moved out to live with her sister in Colorado. My dad’s constant verbal abuse had driven her first to drink, and then eventually to leave him—and me.

The semester break began on December 22 that year. I would have preferred to fly to Colorado to spend it with Mom, but I didn’t have the money for a plane ticket, and I knew Dad wouldn’t pay for it, so I just went home to DuBois.

I spent a miserable couple of days with just my father. He castigated me for my poor grades, and told me I’d better shape up by the end of the year and bring those grades way up, or he would refuse to pay for another year. All he did was snipe at me, and he never mentioned my mother once during the entire time. She was a non-entity as far as he was concerned.

It was a joyless Christmas Eve dinner, and we silently sat there eating, while he read one of his medical journals, when the phone rang. He got up to answer it. It was my Aunt Phyllis in Colorado, and I watched him as he took the call. He said very little, just listened to my aunt with no expression on his face. When he said goodbye to her, he turned to me and said, “Your mother killed herself. The funeral is on the 29th if you want to go. I’ll buy you a plane ticket, but you’ll have to go by yourself.” He then sat down and resumed eating his dinner and reading his journal.

I was devastated. I looked at my father sitting there reading, as not only grief but anger welled inside me. “How can you just sit there like that as if nothing has happened?” I shouted at him.

“Whatever feelings I had for her departed the moment she walked out that door. She was a drunk and a weak woman.”

There were many things I could have said to him at that point, but I chickened out. I just left him sitting at the table, went to a number of bars using a fake ID, and got horribly drunk that night.

The next day I called my aunt.

“Hello, E.J. I’m just sick about your mom. She was unhappy, but I just didn’t see this coming.”

“I didn’t either. Last month, I was glad to hear that she finally left him. I thought it would be a relief to her, but I had no idea how miserable she must have been. I didn’t think she'd.... Can I ask how she did it?”

“I found her in her bedroom with an empty bottle of vodka and an empty bottle of sleeping pills on her nightstand. She didn’t seem depressed, but she must have hidden it well.”

 “Well, Dad told me the funeral is planned for the 29th? He won’t be coming, but I plan to. Would I be able to stay with you?”

“Of course you can, E.J. You let me know when you’ve made your flight arrangements, and I’ll pick you up at the airport.”

“Thanks, Aunt Phyllis—for this and for taking care of the funeral arrangements. Is there anything I can do to help?”

“I think we’ve got it covered here. If you’d like to prepare something to say, that would be wonderful. But don’t feel that you have to.”

“I will, though. I’ll talk to you in a couple days when I’ve made my flight reservation.”

Shortly after I arrived, my aunt handed me a note left to me by my mother. It said the following:

 “My Dearest Edward,

I am so sorry to burden you with my death. It’s just another way that I have failed you. When you left to go to college, it was just your father and me in that big house. You were my only source of joy, and when you were gone, I could no longer stand living there with him.

I thought that leaving him would ease my pain, but I have since found no peace in my life, as I came to realize how weak a person I really am. I’m an alcoholic with no real skills and am unable to support myself.

I am so sorry for not protecting you from your father’s outbursts and for letting him talk to you the way he did. I should have stood up for you, but I lacked the courage to do it.

I love you, Edward, and I hope you find a way to have a happy life. I hope one day that you’ll have it in your heart to forgive me for my failings.

 Love to you always, my dear son,

 Mom”

When the funeral was over, I stayed with my aunt for another couple of weeks until it was time to head back to school for the second semester. I didn’t see my father again until the end of the school year in June.
 
 

Just as the same Christmas movies come on every Christmas Eve, so too does this movie play through in my mind each Christmas Eve. I downed a few more scotches and decided to just listen to some music on the radio. The last song I remember as I drifted off to sleep in my chair was “Silent Night.”
 

Author Notes We learn a lot about E.J.'s past and the roots of his alcoholism in this chapter.

Both this and the previous chapter, in which Abby spent an ideal Christmas Eve, end with the singing of "Silent Night."


Chapter 9
Some Call It Luck - Chapter 9

By Jim Wile

 
Abby St. Claire

Two years later – 9th grade
December, 1979
 
 
What a fantastic night Fred and I just had. I know it sounds braggadocious, but we were great! That was the best time we ever skated that routine together, and it was in front of all those people at the Civic Arena.

I keep thinking about how it all began. It was during Christmas break two years ago when Fred and I went skating together at the mill pond all those times. I enjoyed it so much that I asked Mom and Dad if I could start taking lessons too, like Fred did. They said yes, and Mom started driving me to lessons in Pittsburgh on Saturday mornings. In fact, we carpooled on alternate Saturdays with Fred and his mom because he took his lessons then too.

I improved a lot that first year and practiced whenever I could. I think it was Fred’s mom who suggested that we might make a good ice dancing team together. Fred and I both loved the idea. His mom said that we should probably take some ballroom dance lessons together first, before attempting ice dancing, because they are so similar.

There was a dance studio right in Butler that was run by Mrs. Reid, and we started taking dance lessons together from her. We took lessons after school on Wednesdays for about five months and learned a whole bunch of dance steps like the waltz, and foxtrot, and tango, and cha-cha. We both liked them a lot, and it was good preparation for ice dancing lessons, which we began taking after that.

In addition to our individual lessons on Saturday mornings, we stayed around for ice dancing lessons together. We began with basic dance moves, but then our teacher started putting together routines for us.

Ice dancing routines take a lot of practice. Our moms couldn’t spend a huge amount of time away from home in Pittsburgh, so we found a place closer to home at the ice rink at Butler County Community College.

Fred and I would ride our bikes there on Monday, Tuesday and Thursday afternoons when the college would let us skate for a couple of hours. We’d been working on “Scheherazade,” and our teacher gave us a tape of the music that they would put on for us, and we would practice together for about two and a half hours on each of those days and again at our lessons on Saturdays. By three months, we had it down pat and jumped at the chance to perform when our teacher mentioned that we could participate in an exhibition at the Civic Arena right after Christmas.

The only problem was that my glasses had a tendency to slip down my nose when doing some of the spins, so Mom and Dad agreed to let me get contact lenses. I had just gotten them right at the beginning of Christmas break, and it took a week or so to get used to them, but I skated with them the last few days before the exhibition, and it went well.

Our moms really got into it too and designed our costumes for us. My costume consisted of a long dress with slits all the way up my legs and a transparent fabric over my belly like you’d see on a belly-dancer. I wore my hair up in a turban and had on makeup. I liked the way I looked without glasses. When Fred saw me, he just stared.

“Wow, Abby! You have a really good figure. You look breathless.”

He reddened a little when he said it. I think he meant breath-taking, but I got the point. I had never really thought about my figure before. Also, he had always known me wearing glasses, but I could tell he really liked seeing me without them.

We were a little nervous because we had never performed for a big crowd, but we knew the routine so well that we weren’t all that worried about messing it up.

It came off beautifully! We had skated our hearts out, and the audience cheered and cheered for us. We were so proud of ourselves. When we skated over to sit down after our performance, I thought I might have seen Dana Padgett and her mom up in the stands, but when I looked around a little later, they weren’t there. Maybe it wasn’t them.

When the performance was over, we went into the locker rooms and changed into some nice clothes, since our parents and my grandpa were going to take us out to dinner. I put on a really pretty, short dress that Mom and I had bought a couple of days ago. Fred came out wearing a dark suit.

After that we met at a fancy restaurant a few blocks away. I had never eaten lobster before, so that’s what I ordered. I loved it! We had chocolate mousse for dessert, and I loved that too.

After dinner, we all walked back to our cars. Fred and I kind of lagged behind and held hands on the way. We stopped together in the parking lot, out of sight of the others, to hug each other, and then kiss goodnight.

We have been kissing for a while now. I guess you could call us boyfriend and girlfriend; we really like each other. On the way home, I couldn’t stop thinking about the magical day we had just spent.
 
 

The day after New Year’s, on January 2nd, Fred and I went skating together at the mill pond. I had gotten some cute, tight green corduroy pants for Christmas, and I wore those with my new, white winter coat with a belt around the waist. I am starting to dress a little more stylishly now. I still wore the long, white and green cap he had given me two Christmases ago.

There was a speaker system now, and they played music while folks skated around the mill pond. We were having a good time skating together and even doing parts of our ice dancing routine when we spotted Dana, Jody, and Marla coming our way.

“Let’s just ignore them,” I said to Fred, but they skated right over to us, and Dana said, “Hiya, Shabby. Hi, F-F-F-Fred.”

Jody grabbed the pom-pom of my hat and pulled it off, then threw it down on the ice.

“Real m-mature, J-Jody,” Fred said as he reached down, picked it up, and gave it back to me. Why don’t you just g-g-g… leave!”

“Okay, kids, we’ll g-g-g-leave. You have a g-g-g-swell time together!” said Jody as they skated away, laughing.

“Jerks,” said Fred as I stood there, pulling my cap back on.

“Numbskulls,” I said.

“Morons!”

“Buffoons!”

They couldn’t hear us, but we laughed as we called them more and more names. It was a favorite game of ours. We started skating again.

It was a few minutes later, when I was doing a layback spin, that all of a sudden, my free leg crashed into something, and I started falling. My arms went immediately down to break my fall, and I came down hard on my left wrist. We heard a snap, and the pain shot into my arm.

Fred rushed over to see how I was. We looked at my wrist, and it looked dented in. I knew it was broken. I started crying because it really hurt.

Fred charged over to Dana, Jody, and Marla, who were all gathered around and laughing. He had seen Dana skating backwards, pretending not to see where she was going when she skated right into me.

He screamed at them, “Look what you did, you idiots! She’s broken her wrist now because you thought it was funny to crash into her! You’ve always been jealous of her because she’s smarter than you, and nicer than you, and she’s even prettier than you! She doesn’t care about that, but I know you do, you worthless twits. Now scram before I come and kick your little asses!”

Everybody just stopped skating then and gaped at this scene. The girls were speechless. I stopped crying and just stared at Fred in amazement. Then I even smiled. I couldn’t get over how he stood up for me and let those girls have it. The look on their faces was priceless. They seemed to slink away after that.

Fred helped me up and off the ice. People were clapping for him. There was a pay phone down a ways, and he called my mom to come pick us up.

She drove me right to an orthopedist’s office, and he x-rayed my wrist. He confirmed that it was indeed broken and put me in a cast that went up above my elbow, which was bent at a 90-degree angle. I would have to wear it for about six weeks. That put an end to skating for a while.
 


Chapter 10
Some Call It Luck - Chapter 10

By Jim Wile

 
Abby St. Claire

Five weeks later
February, 1980
 
 
Fred called me last night and asked me if he could come over this afternoon around 1:00. I thought I detected a note of sadness in his voice, and I asked him if everything was alright. He said yes, but that he just wanted to see me. Of course, I said yes, but after we hung up the phone, a twinge of uneasiness went through me. I didn’t like the way he sounded.
 
 

I saw him arrive on his bike (we were in the middle of a thaw), and greeted him at the door before he even rang the doorbell. I reached up and gave him an awkward hug because my left arm was still in the cast.

“Just one more week ‘til I get this stupid cast off and we can give each other a proper hug.”

“Yeah, that’s great,” he said without much enthusiasm. I could tell immediately that something was off.

“What’s wrong, Fred?”

He took my hand then and led us into the living room where we sat down on the sofa. He turned to face me and said, “I’ve g-got something to tell you that I know you aren’t going to like, and I wish it wasn’t true, but I’m going to be moving in three weeks to Seattle, Washington.”

My mouth dropped open when he said this, and I muttered a quiet, “Oh, no.” Tears started forming in my eyes.

“Yeah, my dad just got a promotion at work, and they want him to head up a new branch in Washington State starting in three weeks.” He started choking up as he said this. He took both my hands in his and we just sat there looking at each other, trying to hold back the tears.

“Will I ever get to see you again?” I asked, my voice trembling. “Seattle is so far away.”

“I don’t know. I hope so. Abby, I don’t want to go. I want to stay here where you are, but I don’t have any say in the matter.”

“I guess you’ve got to go where your family goes. I’m just going to miss you so much,” I said as the tears came streaming down now.

We agreed that we’d write each other letters to try to stay in touch, but I knew letters would be a poor substitute.

“I’ve got something I want to give you before I leave,” he said, “But it won’t be ready for at least a couple of weeks.”

I’m going to make something special for him too, I thought.

He put his arm around me, and we just sat there for a while not saying anything.

It would have been nice to go ice skating again, but the ice on the mill pond was too thin to skate on now due to the thaw, and I still had my cast on, so we decided to take a long walk together instead. We walked into town and had some Cokes and French fries at the diner and listened to some records on the jukebox. Then it was time to go home.

Back at my house we kissed goodbye, and he told me he’d see me at school on Monday. I know he was as sad as I was right then. He got on his bike and pedaled home.
 

Three weeks later
March, 1980
 
My cast came off a couple of weeks ago, and I’m happy about that but still really down. Today was Fred’s last full day in Butler, and he would be leaving in the morning from Pittsburgh on a flight out to Seattle. He came over this afternoon to say goodbye. Mom and Dad were there when he came in, and we all sat down in the living room to talk about the coming move.

He had walked in carrying a roll of something wrapped in brown paper under his arm, and he gave that to me when the conversation died down. I took off the brown paper and carefully unrolled the paper beneath.

It was a pen and ink drawing of me performing “Scheherazade” at the exhibition in December. You could just see a little of him in the foreground, but I mostly filled the frame. I was bent forward, and my arms were stretched out straight from my sides as my right leg was raised high in the air following a flying camel spin. It was an exquisite picture of me, captured just at the perfect moment. He had colored it with water colors.

I had seen his work plenty of times before, but nothing compared to this. He had put his heart and soul into it, and it brought tears to my eyes.

“I love it, Fred.” I couldn’t say much more than that without completely breaking down right then.

“I drew it from a picture my dad had taken during our performance.”

Mom reached for the picture right then, and she and Dad studied it closely.

“This is very elegant, Fred. You captured the moment perfectly,” she said. “You’re a very talented artist.”

“Thank you, Mrs. St. Claire.”

I then gave Fred a present that I had made for him. It was a mahogany box, stained dark, with his initials on the hinged lid in gold leaf. It was perfectly smooth, and there were no nail holes in sight. It had a felt interior.

“You can keep my letters to you in there if you’d like, although you might run out of room because I intend to write you a lot.”

“I love this, Abby.” He ran his hands all over the smooth surface and traced his initials with his index finger. “The craftsmanship is beautiful. Thank you so much. I will treasure this forever.”

We talked for a while more, and then Mom and Dad got up to leave.

“You’ve been a great friend to Abby and our whole family, Fred,” said Mom as she pulled him in for a hug. “We will surely miss you.”

Dad gave him a hug too and wished him well.

“Thanks, Mr. and Mrs. St. Claire. You’ve been so nice to me, and I’ll miss you too.”

They left then and Fred sat down next to me again on the sofa and put his arm around me. I snuggled in close. We began reminiscing about the wonderful times we had spent together—about how we had met, and began skating together, and those awful girls the way they teased us, and how Fred had put an end to that.

Eventually we ran out of words and just sat snuggled up together for a while without talking. We both had tears in our eyes. Then he said it was time for him to go. I lifted my face up, and we kissed before he stood up and faced me for the last time.

“Goodbye for now, Abby. Hopefully not forever.”

“Bye, Fred. I’ll write to you soon,” I said as my voice cracked. I couldn’t say any more and just hugged him one last time.

Outside, he got on his bike and waved to me as he passed by the big picture window in front. As the tears flowed down, I waved back at him, and just like that, he was gone.
 

Author Notes With Part 1 nearing the end, how will Abby cope with losing her one friend? Will she be successful in making new friends once she gets to high school?


Chapter 11
Some Call It Luck - Chapter 11

By Jim Wile

 
E.J. Budrowski

Six months later
September, 1980
 
 
For many years now, I’ve felt a pang of anxiety as September rolled around. While driving to Brentwood Country Club to caddie this morning, I thought back to 14 years ago when I would have been starting my sophomore year of college around this time. It never came to pass.

My mother’s suicide the previous year on Christmas Eve had left my mind in turmoil. When I returned to school for the second semester, I was in no shape to drastically turn my study habits around and knuckle down. The second semester courses were as tough as those of the first semester, and I immediately started falling behind again. I couldn’t concentrate on my studies, and continued drinking to relieve the pressure I felt. I began spiraling out of control and partied hard to forget the predicament I was in. I managed a B in Calculus II, but the rest of my grades were Ds and Fs. By the end of the year, I had finished with a miserable 1.3 GPA, and the school told me not to come back in the fall.

When I returned home after the semester was over, my father kicked me out of the house. He gave me a week to find my own place to live and move out. He told me that if I wanted to ruin my life, I could do it on my own dime and refused to support me in any way.

I actually welcomed the split; I couldn’t stand to be around him anymore—he who never once acknowledged any responsibility for my mother’s leaving him or her death. Let him rot in that big old house by himself, for all I cared. I found a cheap apartment and moved out within the week.

I was my own man now, I thought at the time, to sink or swim on my own. Turned out it was mostly sink.
 

Author Notes As Part 1 winds down, we now have E.J.'s backstory. Part 2 will center on E.J., and we'll see whether or not he can dig himself out of the hole he's put himself in as well as what part Abby plays in this.


Chapter 12
Some Call It Luck - Chapter 12

By Jim Wile

 
Abby St. Claire

Two months later
November, 1980
 
 
Fred and I wrote each other letters, often two or three times a week at first, but as the weeks and then the months went by, they became less and less frequent, at least his letters did. I think he realized that we probably wouldn’t see each other again, and soon his letters stopped altogether.

In his last letter to me, he told me something I’ll never forget. He said,

“I’m doing well in school—not only in my classes—but in my interactions with the kids. I’ve made a few good friends, and no one teases me about my stutter. In fact, I hardly ever stutter anymore, and I have you to thank for it. It was your friendship and kindness that helped me overcome the anxiety I used to feel when speaking. You accepted me and liked me for who I was, not for how I talked. I will never forget that, Abby. And I will never forget you.”

I was so touched by that, and it made me feel wonderful that I had had such a profoundly positive effect on someone else’s life. But then he stopped writing. I continued to write him, but I never heard from him again. I felt abandoned and a little betrayed, like maybe he was one of the “cool kids” now and wouldn’t give me the time of day if he were to have met me now. I know that’s silly, but I couldn’t help feeling disappointed.

I also envied the fact that he was making friends because I wasn’t. I just never really connected with any other kids after Fred left. The girls, especially, tended to avoid me—which was better than teasing me—and the boys, it felt like, were a bit intimidated by me. They seemed to think I was some kind of brainiac—certainly a nerd.

I’d have to say that my best friend now, besides the humans in my family, is my cat Lester. He’s the only one I can talk to or confide in. True, he doesn’t talk back, but he loves it when I talk to him. He will lie on my bed and purr while I scratch his head and back and tell him about my day.

As far as skating went, I continued taking individual lessons, but my heart wasn’t in it the same way it was when Fred was part of my life. I never really looked for another ice dancing partner, and just as Fred had slipped out of my life, ice skating began to slip away as well.
 

Author Notes Just as Abby begins building some confidence in herself, she loses her only friend. This is a real setback for her as she resumes her struggles to be accepted.


Chapter 13
Some Call It Luck - Chapter 13

By Jim Wile

 
Abby St. Claire

Two months later
November, 1980
 
 
After dinner tonight, Mom and Dad have to go to a parent-teacher conference for Lisa. They said they would be taking her with them because there was a program of some sort for the kids, while the parents had their conferences.
 
“Do you think I can go over to Grandpa’s house instead?” I asked them. They said it was okay with them, so I called Grandpa and asked if I could come over tonight.

“I’m playing bridge with some friends tonight, Abby. If you don’t think you’d be bored, you’re welcome to come and kibitz.”

“That’s a funny word. What does that mean?”

“That’s a Yiddish word for ‘watch us play cards.’

“Sure, I’d love to come kibitz.”

“One thing, though: You have to promise not to interrupt the game with a lot of questions.”

“Okay. I’ll keep my lips zipped.”

 So, Dad and Mom dropped me off around 6:30 at his house before going to the conference. Grandpa met us at the door and told them he would bring me home after the game at around 9:00. That was fine with them.

When I arrived, Grandpa was already in the middle of a game with his next-door neighbors, the Huffnagles, and his good friend Mr. Alderman. He used to play bridge with my grandma, but she died when I was only two. I didn’t remember her at all.

They were all seated at a card table in Grandpa’s living room, and everybody greeted me and invited me to come watch them play. Grandpa reminded me not to ask a lot of questions.

I didn’t… at first, but after they quit what they call the bidding, Grandpa played a card, and Mrs. Huffnagle put her whole hand face up on the table and showed everyone her cards. I forgot to keep quiet and said, “Why did you do that, Mrs. H?”

“That’s because I’m the dummy for this hand.”

“Why? Because you don’t know how to play it? That’s no reason to call yourself a dummy.” They all cracked up at that.

“No dear, not a dummy. The dummy. That’s the bridge term for the hand that goes down on the table for everyone to see. Mr. Huffnagle is going to play my cards for me. It’s not because I don’t know how to play them; that’s just the way the game is played.”

“But doesn’t that give your team an advantage because he can see both hands and know what to play?”

“Well, yes. It does. But that’s the reward you get for your side winning the auction.”

“The auction?”

“Yes. That’s what you call all the bidding. It’s just like a real auction where each bid you make has to be higher than the last bid. You’re actually bidding for the right to gain that advantage you so astutely pointed out: to be able to see and play both hands. The highest bid becomes the final contract, and when the next three people pass, the auction is over. You have to fulfill the contract to win points, and if you don’t make it, the other team wins points.”

“Okay, Abby. That’s enough questions for now,” said Grandpa. “Remember the deal we made.”

“Sorry, Grandpa. I just forgot.”

I watched them bid and play three or four hands without saying a word, but then I couldn’t take it any longer and just had to ask a few questions again.

“So, when your final bid is four hearts, for example, does that mean you only have to take four tricks, or four heart tricks? And why is it that when the others are playing clubs and you don’t have any clubs but play a heart instead, you win the trick? This is awfully confusing!”

“It sure is!” said Grandpa. “Those are all good questions, but it will take too long to explain it all to you. I’ll tell you what… I’ve got a good book in my library that explains all the fundamentals. If you’re really interested, I’ll lend it to you. It’s a great book for beginners and should answer all your questions, so let’s see if you can fulfill your contract and just watch for now. Okay?”

“Okay. Sorry, Grandpa. I keep forgetting to be quiet.”

“That’s okay, Abby,” said Mr. Huffnagle. “It’s hard to just watch when you have so many questions.”

“Hey, kiddo, how about going into the kitchen and filling a bowl with those potato chips that are on the counter. Then bring it out here along with the dip you’ll see in a bowl in the frig. You can have a few too. And bring some napkins with you, please.”

“Sure, Grandpa,” so I went into the kitchen to make myself useful.

This game seemed mighty intriguing, and I thought I’d definitely take him up on his offer to lend me the book. Maybe they’d let me play sometime if I got good at it.

The game ended around 9:15, and we said goodbye to Grandpa’s friends.

“Abby, come into the den for a minute and let me get that bridge book for you.”

I followed him into his den where he had several big bookshelves full of all kinds of books. One whole section was devoted to just bridge books. He pulled down a black paperback book called Contract Bridge for Beginners by Charles Goren.

“This is the book I was telling you about,” he said as he handed it to me.

“Thanks. I’ll start reading it tomorrow.”

“You know, if you really like it, I’ve got lots of others here too. Playing a lot and doing some reading about it is the best way to get good at the game.”

“I think I’m going to like it, Grandpa.”

When he dropped me off at home a few minutes later, I gave him a kiss goodnight and thanked him for letting me kibitz. I just love that word.
When I finally went in, Mom and Dad asked how the bridge game went. I told them I didn’t understand all that much, but Grandpa gave me a book to read to learn it. I held it up for them to see. I said goodnight and headed up to get ready for bed.
 
 
 
Lester St. Claire

Four days later
November, 1980
 
 
“Abby, you did very well tonight. It’s hard to believe you just started learning the game less than a week ago.”

“Thanks, Grandpa. I had a good time playing. I like this game!”

“I still can’t get over Art Huffnagle’s expression when you explained your reasoning after you dropped his queen on that 4-spade hand. Your explanation for the play was perfect.”

“Huh. I didn’t think it was anything special; I just tried to reason it out.”

“Well, after less than a week of learning the game, you’re probably playing at a level that many may never reach after years of playing. I think we may have to start calling on you regularly to play if you want to and if it’s okay with Mom and Dad.”

“Cool! I’ll see you at the store tomorrow.”

“Okay, then.” She kissed me goodnight and hopped out. I watched her run into the house and waved at her before she went in the door.
 
 

Earlier this afternoon Abby had come to the store after school, and because it was kind of slow, she sat in the office in back with her feet up on the desk reading a book. I had to fuss at her for dirtying up some papers that she had put her feet on, but a little later she came out and said she had just finished the bridge book I had lent her and was eager to try playing in a game.

I told her that Tom Alderman wasn’t going to be able to play tonight and that she could fill in for him if she felt ready. I told her I was sure the Huffnagles would be very accommodating to a new player and that she shouldn’t feel nervous about playing for the first time with experienced players. I needn’t have worried.

She seemed to have picked the game up very fast and played beautifully. On one particular hand that she played, while I was the dummy, she made a surprising play to make a difficult 4-spade contract. When Art Huffnagle asked her why she played it the way she did, she gave him a perfect explanation for it.

My goodness, what a kid! I was so proud of her then for her impeccable reasoning. Art just smiled and shook his head in awe. “I think you’ve been playing for years, young lady, and are sand-bagging us,” he said with a chuckle.

“What does that mean?” asked Abby.

“It means pretending to be less of a player than you really are.”

“Nope. This is my first time playing. I read a book about it that Grandpa lent me, though.”

“Well, I think you’re going to be a real good player someday, sweetie,” said Mary Lou.

“Thanks, Mrs. H.”

I thought she was already pretty darn good.
 

Author Notes With Fred's departure, Abby lost not only her sole friend but also her enthusiasm for skating. Still an outcast with her age group, she turns to a new activity in the world of adults who she seems to be more comfortable with.


Chapter 14
Some Call It Luck - Chapter 14

By Jim Wile

 
Abby St. Claire

High School years
1980-1983
 
 
After that first bridge game at Grandpa’s house, I started borrowing more and more books from him. I was fascinated with the game and couldn’t read enough about it. He invited me to play a number of other times with his friends, and then he introduced me to duplicate bridge, which we played together at a bridge club near Pittsburgh. We became quite a good partnership and did very well together. Bridge playing sure helped fill the void in my life after Fred left.

At the beginning of 10th grade, I joined the science club. I was the only girl in the club. At first, those guys seemed thrilled to have me there and fell all over themselves trying to show me around. But it wasn’t very well supervised, and most of the guys mainly wanted to make things that exploded. I wasn’t as interested in chemistry as I was in physics and things mechanical, and I kept suggesting projects to build with that in mind.

I was always good with tools and fabricating things, and I got lots of ideas for projects from reading Popular Mechanics magazine, to which I had a subscription. One project I read about was called a Hilsch Vortex Tube, which used the principle of inertia to both cool and heat air at the same time. I thought it was pretty cool, but I couldn’t get anyone else interested in constructing one.

After that initial flurry of interest, the guys largely ignored me the rest of sophomore year, but during junior year, we built a few of the projects I suggested, and by senior year, I was one of the old-timers in the club and had a little more influence. We even built the Hilsch Vortex Tube, which we actually used to cool off our tools when grinding metal.

I volunteered to help the faculty advisor arrange for us to participate in some state-wide science fairs that year, and although we didn’t have the experience of some of the larger schools, who had been participating for a number of years, we still did pretty well.

My family always came to watch and cheer the club on, but I still didn’t have any real friends that I could hang around with. Those kids in the club could see how competent I was with tools, with building things, and with all the ideas I came up with, and I think it just turned them off.

I long for the day when people can accept me and like me for who I am. Maybe things will change when I start college in the fall.
 
 

Author Notes Abby's dream of acceptance and friendship remains unfulfilled as Part 1 comes to a close.

In Part 2 she meets E.J. -- a turning point in both their lives.


Chapter 15
Some Call It Luck - Chapter 15

By Jim Wile

Warning: The author has noted that this contains the highest level of language.

 
E.J. Budrowski

Three years later
July, 1986
 
 
The day began pretty much like many days for me—with a raging hangover. I had partied hard last night because I’d had a huge payday yesterday. Although I’d been fired off the bag on the 16th hole and didn’t receive a dime from my player, his opponent actually paid me $100 for my efforts.

I’d better explain that. See, I was caddying for two guys who had a big-money match going against two of my favorite players. Though I may have cost my guys a hole or two, they didn’t have to cuss me out and fire me the way they did, even though I might have been a little blotto.

Anyway, today would end up being quite different. I’d fallen asleep in my clothes, so I didn’t bother changing them, just wiped off a little bit of vomit I found on my shirt. After grabbing a quick cup of instant coffee and a couple of chocolate-covered donuts, I headed to the bus stop to catch a ride out to Brentwood Country Club. When the bus arrived, I got in and sat down next to old Rafe, another caddie who was also headed to Brentwood this Monday morning. Rafe was my best friend among the caddies at Brentwood. He was a big, black fellow in his mid-50s with a perennial smile on his round face.

“Mornin’, E.J. How’s it hangin’?”

“To the left this morning, Rafe. How you doing?”

“Oh, fair to middlin’. Say, I heard you was fired off da bag yest’day. Whadju do?”

“I don’t even remember now. Bastard didn’t pay me a dime either, but I made out alright. He and my other guy were playing against Eddie Phillips and Jeremy Daniel, who ended up winning and taking four grand off my guys. After the match, Eddie comes up and gives me 100 bucks, just like he’d paid me to screw up.”

“Well, you don’t need no payment to screw up, E.J. You da worse caddie I ever did see, an’ I seen a few.”

“Well, thanks, Rafe. I’ll remember you in my will.”

We went back and forth like this all the way to the bus stop about a quarter-mile from Brentwood and continued it the rest of the way there to the club.

Brentwood Country Club was a beautiful old place, dating back to 1926. It had a large, Tudor-style clubhouse with a big, circular driveway that led up to the front door and enclosed a perfectly manicured lawn surrounded by beds of red canna flowers. Flower boxes adorned the windows on the ground floor.

The caddie yard was next to the Pro Shop, behind and to the left of the clubhouse, and that’s where Rafe and I headed. No sooner had we come into the yard and were about to sit down on one of the long wooden benches, when Tony Colosi, the caddie master, spotted me. He came out of his office and was immediately in my face. Tony was a short little Italian guy, about fifty years old, wearing a red baseball cap and with a cigar permanently affixed to the corner of his mouth. He had a high, raspy voice and a quick temper, and he started right in on me.

“Jesus Christ, E.J! I got a mouthful from your player yesterday. He cussed you up and down, sayin’ you caused him to lose his match. Said you was also drunk on the bag. I ever catch you drinkin’ on the job, you’re outta here. Capiche?”

I reeled slightly from this onslaught. “Uh, sure, won’t happen again, Tone.”

“Well, it better not. You screw up like that one more time, I’ll make sure you don’t caddie here or any place else around here!” and with that, he stormed off back inside.

I don’t know whether it was the remnants of the hangover or the ass-chewing I just received from Tony, but my head was pounding, and I felt like crap. “Jesus, Rafe, I think he meant it.”

“Sure he meant it. You don’ mess around wit dat li’l guy. You betta straighten up an’ fly right from now on.”

We sat down, and he put his arm around my shoulder. We just sat there like that for a while. “Here, I’ll tell you a joke, cheer y’up some,” said Rafe.
 
“A rabbit an’ a bear be takin’ a dump together side by side in da woods. When dey get done, bear say to da rabbit, ‘You ever have a problem wid shit stickin’ to yo fur after you take a dump?’ Rabbit say, ‘No, I don’ guess I do.’ So da bear pick him up an wipe his ass wid ‘em.”
 
Despite my mood, I had to laugh at that one. “Not bad, Rafe, not bad. Hey, I got one for you too.” By this time, some of the other caddies began gathering around, since I had somewhat of a reputation as a joke teller.
 
“Okay, these three old Jewish ladies were talking together on a park bench in New York City, reminiscing about their dearly departed husbands.

First one said, ‘My Sol was a high-class doctor. He had the wealthiest patients on all of the west side, including many Broadway stars.’

Second one said, ‘Well, my Hyman was an investment banker. He used to handle the biggest clients on Wall Street.’

The third one said, ‘My Abie wasn’t no doctor or banker, but he had a pecker so long, nine pigeons could stand side by side on it.’

After a while, their consciences got the best of them for stretching the truth a bit. The first one said, ‘I wasn’t totally honest about my Sol. Actually, he was just a pharmacist in a little shop on 53rd Street.’

The second one said, ‘Actually, my Hyman was only an accountant and did taxes for people in the old neighborhood.’

After a bit, the third one said, ‘Since you’re both being so honest, I have to tell you that the ninth pigeon—he had to stand on one leg.’”
 
This caused the caddie yard to erupt with hoots of laughter that immediately drew the ire of Tony, who came storming out of his office again. “Jesus Christ, fellas, keep it down out here. There’s golfers on the tee!” As he turned around and left, I flapped my fingers and thumbs open and closed and said softly, “Blah, blah, blah,” which added a few more snickers from the dispersing caddies.

When the merriment died down, and the temporary lift the jokes had given me wore off, I resumed feeling my general malaise. It was starting to heat up, and there was very little airflow in the caddie yard, plus no one was catching a round of golf (or “loop” as we caddies call it.) It was Monday, and many of the members chose not to play because the grounds crew did a lot of work on the course on Mondays. This could be a long day with no promise of a loop by the end
 

Author Notes Part 2 begins three years later with E.J. waking up to the start of a seemingly typical day. But this day will end up being anything but typical for him.


Chapter 16
Some Call It Luck - Chapter 16

By Jim Wile

Continuation of the chapter:
 
E.J. Budrowski

Three years later
July, 1986
 
 
After a couple of hours of just sitting around and shooting the bull, I decided to wander down to the snack bar between the 9th and 10th holes. Caddies weren’t supposed to patronize it since we had our own snack bar in the caddie yard, but I needed to stretch my legs, and besides, there was a really nice girl I knew a little who worked there most days, and maybe she’d be there today.

There was a group just leaving as I walked up to the counter. Sure enough, Abby was there. She was a college kid who went to Penn State. She was about 20, with long, red hair and beautiful green eyes. God, was she pretty, but not only that—she was nice too, in a way that made you feel like you weren’t just a scruffy-looking caddie who looked like Ratso Rizzo from the movie Midnight Cowboy, but a friend of hers.

“Hi, E.J. How are you doing today?”

“I’m okay, I guess. How about you?”

“I’m fine—just sitting back here, reading my book. It’s kind of slow today; not too many golfers coming through. It’s a Monday. Probably the heat too.”

“Yeah, probably. How about an iced tea? I’ll take a ham sandwich too if you have one of those.”

She looked around first, and when she was satisfied there were no members around, she said, “Sure thing.” She retrieved a pitcher of tea from the refrigerator and poured it into a cup of ice. She put a pre-made ham sandwich on a paper plate as well as a couple packets of mustard. I paid her and sat down at one of the tables.

“Just for a few minutes, okay, E.J? Just until the next group comes?”

“No problem. I’m already in enough hot water around here. I won’t get you in trouble too.”

As soon as I sat down, took a swig of the iced tea and unwrapped the sandwich, a scrawny little cat appeared out of nowhere and made its way over to my table. It had tortoise-shell markings and seemed very timid despite coming over to my table. It didn’t get too close, though, and sat down about three feet away, looking up at me longingly.

“Hello, little fellow. You look hungry.” I tore off a piece of ham and tossed it to the cat who gobbled it down in short order. It looked up at me then. “Would you like some more?” I said as I tore off another piece and threw it a little closer, and it gobbled that down too. I kept on tearing off pieces of ham and throwing them closer and closer until the cat was right next to me. I reached down with another piece of ham, and it ate it right out of my hand.

“There’s a good fellow. You were hungry, weren’t you?” I ended up giving it the rest of the ham from my sandwich. When the last piece was gone, the cat let me stroke its head and under its chin, and I could hear a gentle purring coming from wherever purrs come from.

After a while it wandered off, and I just sat there, downed about half the cup of iced tea, then slumped back in my chair and closed my eyes. I began reflecting on how I’d gotten to this point in my life. Abby came over after a few minutes with the pitcher of tea and refilled my cup. She then set the pitcher down on the table and sat down next to me.

“I saw you with Minnie just now. She’s a stray who comes around occasionally. We call her Minnie because she’s such a little thing. She’s usually very timid, but she sure seemed to take to you.”

“Probably just the food I gave her.” I then lapsed into silence.

“Are you okay, E.J?” she asked me gently after a few seconds had passed.

“I don’t know. I’ve just been brooding about my life in general.”

“You want to talk about it? It’s so slow today, it’ll be a while before another group comes through. We’ve got some time.”

“You really want to hear about it?”

“If you feel comfortable sharing it, I do.”

I don’t know why, but she seemed genuinely interested, so I paused for a long moment to gather my thoughts and see if I could give her an answer that made sense—to her as well as me.

“Alright,” I began. “In high school my grades were only mediocre because I never studied or turned in my homework, yet I scored 1,560 on the SAT exams.” Abby’s eyebrows raised at that.

“I played a lot of golf back then, and instead of studying, I spent way too much time on the golf course—mainly to stay out of the house. My dad worked long hours and wasn’t around much, and my mom was an alcoholic who stayed home. When my dad was home, my folks were unbearable to be around. He berated her—and me for that matter—constantly, and she was too cowed by him to argue. It was pathetic to watch.

“So, when it came time for college, I was able to get in based on my SAT scores, and I jumped at the chance to be out of the house and away from my parents. But with my newfound freedom, instead of knuckling down and applying myself, I began drinking and partying hard and managed to flunk out after a year. It’s kind of been steadily downhill ever since. I never really found anything to excite me. Even playing golf lost its appeal for me. So here I am, years later; I’m a lousy caddie, I live in a dump, and every day just seems like the day before.”

After this brief summary, Abby sat there for a long time, looking at me and digesting what she’d heard of my life.

“Wow, I really unloaded on you. Aren’t you glad you asked?”

Then she finally said, “You know, E.J., I think you probably already know what it will take to dig yourself out of this hole… if you really want to. You just need to find the right shovel.” She looked up, over my shoulder then. “Hey, I’ve got to get back to the snack bar right now; there’s a group coming up. Let’s talk some more later, okay?” And with that, she got up and left.
 
 
 

That was my cue to leave too. I picked up my cup of tea, threw the remnants of my sandwich away, and headed back up the path to the caddie yard. Thinking about what Abby just said, I wasn’t quite ready to go back yet, so I sat down on a bench for a few minutes in a quiet, shaded area that overlooked the golf course. The clubhouse and surrounding buildings were located at a high point on the property and commanded a view of most of the back 9. With the Allegheny Mountains off in the distance, it was quite an impressive view. The members called this area of the property “The Overlook.”

While I sat and looked out at the back 9, a strange feeling suddenly came over me. My spine started to prickle, and I thought I saw a little spark of light down in the direction of the 15th hole where there was a pond. Perhaps it was just a stray beam of light from the sun coming out from behind a cloud that happened to catch my eye, but seeing this spark of light sent a jolt to my system and left me feeling uneasy. But not like I felt when I woke up this morning. It was more like a feeling of pleasant anticipation, the way you might feel getting a test back in school if you thought you did well on it. It was there and gone in an instant.

What was that? Weird! I sat there for a few more minutes, sipping my tea and starting to feel calm for the first time that day. Then it was finally time to head back to the caddie yard.

Almost as soon as I got back and sat down again, Tony came out and told me and Rafe to take the four bags at the end of the bag rack. “Rafe, you take Mr. Parry and Mr. Jennings, and E.J., you take Mr. Young and Mr. Phillips. Believe it or not, he asked for you!”

Mr. Phillips was Eddie—the fellow who’d paid me the hundred bucks yesterday after my screwups had helped him beat my guys.

“Hi, E.J.,” he greeted me as I grabbed the two bags. “Ready to do it again today? Maybe we’ll finish the full 18 this time,” he gently needled me as we began our walk to the first tee.

“Yeah, we will if you don’t fire me for screwing up.”

“Don’t worry, I’m used to it. I was sort of counting on that yesterday when I asked Tony to assign you to our opponents.”

“Gee, thanks. Nice to know I’m wanted around here for something.”

“You know Todd Young here, don’t you?” asked Eddie.

“Yeah, we’ve been around together a couple of times. Hello, Mr. Young.”

“E.J.,” he nodded.

They told me to call them Eddie and Todd, being that they were both over a decade younger than me. By this time, we had arrived at the first tee. I gave them their drivers, and they both proceeded to hit good drives. Rafe had a couple of old guys, and they bunted their drives down the fairway on this short, tight driving hole. We were off, and after this routine start, little did I know that I had just begun the most momentous loop of my life.
 

Author Notes The scene is now set. Something is about to happen to E.J. that will alter the course of his life.


Chapter 17
Some Call It Luck - Chapter 17

By Jim Wile

 
continuation of the chapter:
 
E.J. Budrowski
 
July, 1986
 
 
Eddie and Todd had both played well by the time we reached the 15th hole; Eddie was at 2-over par, and Todd was 3-over. As far as I knew, I hadn’t screwed up yet. The 15th is a par-5 with a pond in the driving area on the right. On this hole, the caddies went up ahead while the players walked back and climbed uphill to an elevated tee.  My players both hit good drives into the fairway, but one of Rafe’s players, Jennings I think, hit a tee shot that dribbled into the pond. Rafe and I started looking for the ball on the edge of the pond while the players made their way down to help us look.

After a minute or so, I spotted a ball through the murky water. It barely showed, and when I fished it out, I could see why. As I picked it up to examine it, a tremor went right up my arm, which gave me a start. It reminded me of the feeling I’d had earlier after I’d left the snack bar and was looking out over the course. Then I remembered seeing that sudden glint of light, and come to think of it, it had issued from this pond here on the 15th. What was going on?

When I cleared some of the mud off the ball, I could barely make out the label that had mostly worn off. It looked like it said Lucky 1. I had never heard of that brand. I felt silly asking Jennings if this was his ball because it appeared to have been in the pond for some time, but, as no one had found another, I asked him if he was playing a Lucky 1?

“Say what, E.J? Did you say a Lucky 1? Never heard of that brand before. You sure it doesn’t say Titleist 1? That’s what I was playing.”

“No, it says Lucky 1,” and I showed it to him.

“Huh! Looks like that one’s been in there a while,” he laughed. “You might as well keep it, or throw it back.”

We looked for another minute or so but didn’t find another ball, so Jennings just dropped a new one, took a penalty stroke, and played on. As I shouldered my bags and left the pond, I almost tossed the dirty old ball back in, but something made me shove it into my pocket instead. It made me think of Bilbo Baggins from Tolkien’s The Hobbit, finding his magic ring in the dark underground tunnel and shoving it in his pocket. At least it didn’t turn me invisible when I held it.

Eddie and Todd both parred the hole, and we moved on to the 16th. This was a sharp dogleg-right par-4, bordered by trees on both sides, and once again the caddies went out in front on the right side to the corner of the dogleg while the players took their drivers and walked quite a ways back to the tee. There was a holdup here because the group in front was searching for balls in the woods on the left. Rafe and I had a little time until our players hit, so we stood there and shot the breeze for a while. I still hadn’t gotten over the tingly feeling that seemed to have settled in my chest, and I pulled the ball out of my pocket. Rafe saw me studying it.

“Say, E.J., I gotta idea,” said Rafe as he reached down into a side compartment of Parry’s bag and pulled out an old ball. “S’pose we try to hit dat practice green over dere in da woods wi’ dese balls? It look to be ‘bout a hunert fitty yard or so. You think you could hit dat green from here? You use ta play golf when you was younga, right?”

I hesitated for a beat. “I don’t know, Rafe. I’ve been doing good so far today. I’d hate for Eddie or Todd to see me using one of their clubs to hit a ball.”

“Dat don’t sound like you, E.J. What come ova you? Dey busy talkin’ back dere. Dey ain’t watchin’ us.”

“Alright, alright, I’ll give it a try.” I looked at the green in the distance. It was an old green that belonged to the original 18th hole before it was redesigned to accommodate the new clubhouse. Rather than get rid of it, the club turned it into a practice par-3 hole that some of the members would occasionally use. The grounds crew mowed it once a week, and there was still a cup and a flagstick over on the left side of the green. From here we would have to shoot over some 6-foot saplings, but with a decent shot, we should be able to clear them easily.

Rafe dropped his ball and went first after pulling out a 5-iron from Parry’s bag. After a practice swing or two, he lashed at the ball and half-topped it short of the little trees in front. “Not too good. See if you could do betta.”

I hadn’t hit a ball in almost 20 years and didn’t expect much. I studied the hole a bit longer and pulled out a 7-iron from Todd’s bag. I set the Lucky 1 on a tuft of grass, flexed my shoulders a couple of times, then settled over the ball and made a few waggles to stay loose. As I gazed back at the green, everything slowly seemed to melt away. My focus became so sharp that it was just me, the club, the ball, and the green. Time seemed to stop, and all sound just receded into nothingness. It was like being in a vacuum or in outer space, except that it was bright out, and the distant green was as clear as could be. I felt weightless as I swung back and down and felt as though I was swinging in slow motion, but I could feel that ultimate, exquisite feeling as the center of the clubface contacted the ball. It shot away with a solid thwack that reverberated in my ears. The Lucky 1 was headed straight for the flagstick when everything came back into focus, normal time resumed, and the ball seemingly disappeared.

“Holy motha a god!” shouted an incredulous Rafe. “Dat ball landed right in da hole!”

I was baffled. “What? No way. It must have flown over the green.”

“Ah’m tellin’ you, E.J. Dat ball in da hole! Didn’t know you could hit a ball like dat.”

I still didn’t believe it, but there was no time to dwell on it, for right then I glanced over at the tee in the distance and saw that our guys were getting ready to hit. It was time to start watching their shots. I put the 7-iron back in the bag after wiping the face off and turned my attention to the tee.
 

Author Notes Who can tell at the time what seemingly unimportant events in your life, like finding a dirty old golf ball, may alter the path your life takes?

One day, when I was in college, I went down to the cafeteria in my dorm to eat dinner, only to find that it was closed due to a plumbing problem. So, my buddies and I walked down to a girl's dorm to eat in their cafeteria. On the end of the food line was a cute girl who I started talking with. Little did I know then that, because of that plumbing problem, I had just met my future wife.


Chapter 18
Some Call It Luck - Chapter 18

By Jim Wile

(Recap of previous chapter: E.J. just found an old golf ball with the label Lucky 1 on it, and decided to hit it toward an old green in the woods. In a mystical moment, the ball appeared to have landed right in the hole, but did it?)
 
Oh my God, what a feeling coursed through my body! It was all I could do to focus on the task at hand, and it took some time before I settled down again and could pay proper attention to my players. In the hole? Couldn’t be, but I had to put that out of my mind for now.

The last few holes flew by with birdies and pars by my players. Eddie ended up shooting 1-over, while Todd was 2-over par. Parry and Jennings were both somewhere in the low 90s. I got an extra good tip from Eddie for shooting his low round of the year so far.

“I have to say, E.J., you did a great job today. You deserve every dollar for your effort.”

“Well, thanks, Eddie. You played great, and I really didn’t have to do that much. You kept the ball in play, and your putting was fantastic as usual. Todd played well too. I think between the two of you, you weren’t in but one bunker all day. Was an easy loop.”

I said goodbye. It was about 3:30 by now, and I headed down to the snack bar to see if Abby was still there to continue our conversation from earlier. As I made my way down to the snack bar, I could see her wiping off the tables and straightening the chairs. She looked to be finishing up for the day.

“Hey, Abby,” I called out as I strolled into the area. She looked up from her work and watched me come.

“Hey, E.J. Looks like you’ve got a little more pep in your step now. Did you have a good round?”

“Yeah, I caddied for Eddie Phillips today. You know him?”

“Uh, yes, I do know Eddie. He’s quite a character.”

“Well, he really played well today and gave me a nice tip. You got time to talk a little more?”

“Let me finish up here.” She glanced up at the clock inside the snack bar. “I’ll be off at 4:00, so why don’t you sit down and relax. There won’t be any more members coming through today.”

“Well, I’ve got something I’d like to do first. How about if we meet at The Overlook. There’s something I want to tell you about that happened today.”

She studied me for a few seconds. “Oooh, this sounds intriguing! Alright, I’ll meet you there at 4:00,” and she went back to wiping the tables.

I’d been thinking about that possible hole-in-one since it happened, and I had to find out one way or another. In the hole? No way. It had to be over the green; we just couldn’t see it… and yet something was telling me that wasn’t the case. I made my way back through the course, heading to the site of the old green in the woods. I had to pass by a few groups of players to get there, and the members I passed must have wondered what I was doing out there with no bags on my shoulders. Probably thought I’d lost one of my player’s clubs and had gone back out to look for it. I had that kind of reputation around here.

I started by searching the area behind the green where the ball would have ended up if it had gone over. After a few minutes of this, I’d found a couple of others but no Lucky 1. Finally, I screwed up my courage to head to the green and check the cup. As I made my way onto the green, the light flickered. The sun had been moving in and out of the clouds all afternoon, and until I stepped onto the green, it was in total shade. Now a single beam of light crossed the surface and ended right at the hole. My heart started beating harder as I slowly walked down that beam of sunlight, as if in a trance, and I stopped at the edge of the hole. My heart was really pounding now. I slowly peered down into the cup, and there was a ball in there! I bent down and reached my fingers in and slowly drew the ball out of the hole. It was dirty, and I could hardly read the label, but it was the Lucky 1! Oh man, Rafe had been right. It must have flown right into the cup. We never saw it bounce; it had just vanished.

I pocketed the ball and headed back to The Overlook.
 
 

I climbed the long set of stairs that led up to The Overlook and sat down. I still had a few minutes until Abby joined me. My mind was in a whirl, thinking about what had happened this afternoon and what it might mean. Was it pure luck, or was it something more?
 
To take my mind off it for a few minutes, I glanced around and spotted a discarded newspaper in a wire mesh trash can near the bench I was sitting on. I reached in and pulled it out. It wasn’t the entire paper—just the sports and entertainment sections. I wasn’t really into any team sports, so I folded that up and concentrated on the entertainment section. I turned to the back page where the crossword puzzle was, but someone had already filled most of it in. So I looked at the bridge column.

I hadn’t played bridge in years. My parents had tried to teach me when I was 12 years old, but they were such lousy explainers that the game made no sense to me. They ended up contradicting each other, and my dad started shouting, so I just got up and left then. I learned a little more in high school and played a few times during lunch hour, but that was about the extent of it.

I needed something to take my mind out of the jumble it was in, so I read it anyway. It was by Alfred Sheinwold, and what he said kind of made sense. I didn’t fully understand the bidding, but I followed the description of the play quite easily. I looked up and there was Abby watching me. I hadn’t heard her approach.

“Are you reading the bridge column, E.J?”

“Well, yeah, I guess.”

“Do you play bridge?”

“I played a few times in high school, but I’ve forgotten most everything I used to know about it. I always liked it, though.”

“Well, I play bridge,” said Abby. She was pensive for a moment. “You know, I’ve got some books on the subject. You think you’d like to give it another try?”

“Uh… maybe,” I said non-committally.

“I’ve got a good starting book called Charles Goren’s Contract Bridge for Beginners. That was the first bridge book I read when I learned to play. It would help refresh your memory. I could bring it tomorrow and lend it to you?”

“Uh, sure, Abby.”

“You know, if you’re not really interested, I won’t be insulted. It’s just that I don’t know many people around here who play, and I’d kind of like to get a game together.”

“Well, I’m flattered you’d even think to include me. Yeah, I’d like to maybe try it again. It always seemed like a challenging game. I like puzzles and brain teasers. Bring the book. I’ll take a look at it.”

I closed my eyes for a second and shook my head quickly back and forth. “Man, I’ve had the strangest day today!”

“Yeah, you kind of hinted at that earlier. What’s going on?”

“You know I was in a real funk when I left you this morning. I came up here to sit and think about what you’d said about ‘the right shovel.’ And just then I saw this glint on the pond way down there on the 15th hole.” I pointed to it, and she gazed down at it. I was quiet for a moment.

“Yeah, go on.”

“Well, it sent a shock through my system, kind of like I’d stuck my finger into an electrical socket. And later, when we got to the 15th hole, I found this ball on the edge of the pond.” I reached in my pocket and pulled out the old ball and handed it to her.

She turned it over in her hand, studied the label, and looked at me kind of funny. “Lucky 1?”

“Strange name for a ball, isn’t it?” I said. “But that’s not the strange part. When we got to the 16th hole, while Rafe and I were waiting for our group to hit, we were down there at the corner of the dogleg, and you’ll probably frown on this, but we both pulled out a club and hit a ball toward the old 18th green in the woods down there. I hit this one here. It was a good shot, but it disappeared on me. Rafe thought it went in the hole, but I thought it was over the green. We finished the loop, then I came down to find you, and when you told me to meet you at 4:00, I had some time on my hands. I kept thinking about that shot, so I went back out to look for the ball. Sure enough, Rafe was right; it was in the hole. First shot I’d hit in 20 years, and I holed it from 150 yards away! I still can’t believe it.”

“Huh! That’s an amazing story.”

“It sure got me out of my funk from earlier. I feel really good right now. Invigorated. Best I’ve felt in a long time.”

“Well, ride the high while it lasts. Maybe this means you should give golf another try.”

“Yeah, maybe. I’ll think about it. Look, I’m sure you’ve got stuff to do tonight, so I won’t take up any more of your time. I’m going to head out now. Thanks for listening.”

“Sure thing. Stop by again tomorrow. I’ll have that bridge book for you.”

“Oh… yeah. Okay, I will. See you tomorrow,” and with that, we both went our separate ways.
 

Author Notes E.J. doesn't know it yet, but the finding of both the ball and the newspaper are about to effect major changes in his life.


Chapter 19
Some Call It Luck - Chapter 19

By Jim Wile

Recap of recent events: While caddying earlier today, E.J. found an old golf ball on the edge of a pond with the label Lucky 1. Later while his players weren't watching, he hit the ball towards a distant green 150 yards away and sank the shot. This was the first ball he had hit in 20 years.
 
E.J. Budrowski

Later that evening
July, 1986
 
 
I got home around 6:00 after a stop for a hamburger at the lunch counter of Greenfield’s Pharmacy, then a quick stop at Cowley’s Liquors where I purchased a fifth of bourbon.

I climbed the stairs to my little apartment over the Chinese laundry, opened the unlocked door—no need to lock it, as there was nothing worth stealing inside—and went in for the night. My apartment consisted of only one room with a small section walled off for the bathroom. My “kitchen” was just a sink with a small counter on each side, plus a stove and refrigerator, all in a line on one wall of the room. My “dining room” was a card table with two chairs set up on the opposite wall. An easy chair facing a cheap TV stand, a small bookcase, a footlocker for my clothes, and my bed over in the corner completed my meager furnishings.

Before doing anything else, I grabbed a flyswatter I kept handy and smacked a few cockroaches. This was pretty much a nightly event when I returned from work. Then I poured myself a glass of bourbon, flipped on the little portable TV, and sat down in my chair to watch the news.

After a minute when nothing happened, I remembered that the TV had quit working after I’d accidentally knocked it to the floor the other night when I’d tripped over the little stand it sat on. So, I picked up a book I’d bought from the paperback stand at Greenfield’s Pharmacy the other day and tried to read it. I got through a few pages, but my mind kept going back to the strange events of the day, and I couldn’t concentrate on the story.

I put the book down. I had no trouble getting through the bourbon though, and as I sat there, certain phrases kept going through my head—“dat ball landed right in da hole!”, “give golf another try”, “find the right shovel.”

I drifted off into an uncomfortable sleep right there in my chair, and these thoughts turned into a disturbing dream. It was similar to what had happened today, but different in key respects. In the dream, the ball I’d found was so worn and dirty that you couldn’t read the label anymore. When I hit my shot with it, it flew true and landed on the green, but there was no flagstick, no cup, and when the ball came to a stop, it was just sitting on the surface of the green. We could see it there from where we stood 150 yards away. A good shot that hit the green, but nothing special.

I woke up around 2:00 AM feeling deflated. I got up and stumbled to the bathroom then into my bed and tried to fall asleep again, but sleep wouldn’t come. I tossed and turned for about an hour then decided to get up and go for a late-night walk. Maybe it would settle me down again, and I could get some more sleep.

No such luck. I walked for a couple of miles through the darkened town, but I couldn’t get the dream out of my mind. The more I replayed what happened, or what I thought happened yesterday, the more agitated I became. Maybe what had really happened was like in the dream, and I’d somehow inflated it into something special. I had to get back home and call Rafe, but then I remembered that I didn’t have a phone. I didn’t know Rafe’s phone number or have a phonebook to look it up. And it was still only about 4:00 AM.

When I got back and started up the stairs to my apartment, I happened to meet my neighbor, Chuck Fraley, coming down the stairs. He worked an early morning paper route over on the east side of town and was heading down to his car to go get his papers and deliver them, when I had a sudden idea and made a snap decision.

“Hey, Chuck.”

“Hey, E.J. What you doin’ up so early?”

“Couldn’t sleep anymore. Thought I’d take a walk. Say Chuck, you work on the east side, don’t you? You think I could grab a lift with you over near the vicinity of Brentwood Country Club?”

“Yeah, sure. I don’t mind droppin’ you off, but it’s a little early to be going to work there, isn’t it?”

“Yeah, but I won’t be working right away; I’ve got something else to do first. Hey, could you give me just a minute or two? There’s some things I have to get inside.”

“Okay, but don’t be long. I’m already runnin’ a little late,” he called after me as I bounded up the stairs back to my apartment. I grabbed the Lucky 1, which I’d set on the TV stand, and shoved it in my pocket. Then I ran back down two flights of stairs, past Chuck, and into the basement, where I had a small storage unit for my junk. From there, I pulled out my old 7-iron from my dusty golf bag that had stood there in the corner unused for the last 20 years and ran back up the stairs to join Chuck. He looked at me kind of funny.

“You plannin’ to play some golf there today? I didn’t think they let the caddies play there.”

“No, I’m just planning to hit one shot. No one will ever know. Sorry to keep you waiting.”

I got into the front seat with him, and he started up the car. Soon into the drive, he asked me about the shot I was going to hit, but I told him I’d tell him all about it another time and changed the subject.

When we got in the vicinity of Brentwood, he looked at his watch and told me he would have to drop me off near the bus stop because he had only a couple of minutes before he needed to pick up his papers. I told him that was fine and thanked him for the ride.

I walked the half-mile or so up to Brentwood, up the long drive, past the clubhouse, and down onto the back 9. It was quite dark out. The sun wouldn’t rise for maybe 45 minutes, and I might have to wait around a bit before doing what I felt compelled to do. I was heading to the corner of the dogleg on 16, dodging my way through sprinklers, when a bright light appeared, coming straight toward me. It was the night waterman, Kirby Stuart, who drove up in his Cushman, stopped, and turned the motor off.

“E.J? Is that you? What are you doing out here at this hour?”

“Getting wet from your damn sprinklers! Just got shot in the back with one of ‘em.”

Kirby laughed. “Is that a golf club you’ve got there? You planning to play golf in the dark? I’ve known you to do some stupid things, but this is even a little weird for you.”

“Yeah, well, I’ve done stupider things. Hey Kirby, you won’t tell anyone about this little encounter, will ya? I get enough grief from the folks around here as it is. I just have one shot to make and I’ll be outta here. Mum’s the word, okay?”

“Yeah, sure, E.J. I know nothing!” he said in a Sergeant Schultz accent from Hogan’s Heroes, before starting up the Cushman, turning on his headlights, and driving off again. I watched him head up the 17th fairway, stopping every so often to move a sprinkler. I was stalling a bit to wait for some light to come into the sky. I needed at least a little to see what I had to see.

It was quiet and peaceful out here—just the sound of the sprinklers, the chirping of the crickets, and the unique smell of the Austrian Pines on a warm summer night to fill my senses. The warmth of the air at this hour portended another steaming day ahead of us. I walked slowly, just taking it all in, and made my way over to my destination on the 16th. I found the spot where Rafe and I had hit from the previous afternoon. I could just make out the divot I had taken with Todd Young’s 7-iron. I peered across to the site of the old 18th green and could barely make it out as there was just the beginning of light coming up in the eastern sky.

I waited a few more minutes for the light to grow and loosened up by doing some shoulder stretches and making a few practice swings. When I felt sufficiently loose, I looked over again at the green site. I could just make it out, although I didn’t see the flagstick. I searched all over, but there appeared to be no pin on the green. I began to get a sinking feeling in my chest because I remembered that there was no pin and no hole on the green in my dream.

What the hell was I doing out here anyway? Trying to re-create the same amazing shot that I had made yesterday, or at least thought I did? Why couldn’t I have just waited until I saw Rafe to ask him about it? But no, I was impulsive; I had to have the answer right away, and I thought if I was able to sink the shot again, that would prove yesterday wasn’t just my imagination. Stupid, huh? If I didn’t sink the one-in-a-million shot again, would that prove it hadn’t happened yesterday? What kind of logic was that? Man, my brain was a muddle. Well… I’d come this far. Might as well finish this ‘stupid thing’ as Kirby called it.

I pulled the Lucky 1 out of my pocket and set it on the ground near yesterday’s divot. I took aim at where I thought the pin was yesterday, for I still couldn’t see one today. And once again, time seemed to stop, and everything else besides me, the club, the ball, and the green just melted away. The air was dead still, and all sound ceased. It was surreal—like a dream itself—as I began my swing.

The entire sequence felt like it was in slow motion while I took the club back to the top, began my forward weight shift with my lower body, then swung down and into the ball and through to the finish. The ball rocketed away. I couldn’t really follow it or see where it landed because there still wasn’t enough light, but I knew it was a good shot just by the feel of the club contacting the ball.

Now for the moment of truth as this stupid plan neared its fruition. I made my way the 150 yards to the green in the woods to see what happened to the ball. As I passed through the little saplings in front, my heart sank. I didn’t see a pin, but I could see my ball clearly resting on the green—just like in my nightmare. Might as well call it that now. A good shot, maybe, but nothing particularly special.

I walked onto the green and bent down to pick up the ball, but I stopped suddenly because I noticed something peculiar. The ball was sitting right in the middle of the round plug of turf that filled in the old cup hole. I could tell from the edges that this plug was recently cut. I looked up and over to the right and there was the pin after all; I just hadn’t seen it in the dark with the flag hanging straight down because of the stillness. The hole was not over there yesterday; I know that for sure. The green was probably mowed and the cup moved late yesterday afternoon, which is the kind of thing the grounds crew did on Mondays. That meant my ball was resting exactly where it had flown into the cup yesterday—the exact place I had been aiming for! For all intents and purposes, a second hole-in-one on the same hole in two days!

I didn’t need Rafe’s confirmation anymore to know that something amazing had happened yesterday, as well as today! This confirmed it in my mind; I had a very special ball here that I proceeded to pick up and place in my pocket again. Lucky 1, indeed! I would never be without it again.
 

Author Notes If you think two hole-in-ones is too incredible, remember that it took visits from THREE ghosts to convince Ebeneezer Scrooge to change his ways.

What exactly is this lucky ball that E.J. found?


Chapter 20
Some Call It Luck - Chapter 20

By Jim Wile

Synopsis of the previous chapter: To prove to himself that yesterday's hole-in-one with the Lucky 1 ball that he had found was no fluke, he tried the same shot again in the early morning light. He could not see the flagstick in the dim light, but he aimed where he thought it had been yesterday. The hole had actually been moved after his shot yesterday, but he finds the ball sitting directly over the hole from yesterday, in effect two hole-in-ones on the same hole on two consecutive days.
 
 
 
I was exhilarated! The buzz from last night’s fifth of bourbon was long gone, to be replaced by an even better feeling of pure joy at what I had just done. In a buoyant mood, I set off for the clubhouse, but as I got near, I realized I was suddenly famished. I passed by the clubhouse, back down the long entry drive, and back onto Astor Lane. I actually jogged the mile back into town to Maudie’s Place, which opened at 6:00 AM.

I ordered a big breakfast of chicken and waffles and a few cups of coffee. I bought a newspaper from the stand out front and came back in to sip coffee and read. I still had plenty of time before heading back to Brentwood to caddie, because I usually didn’t get there until after 9:00 most days, and it was only 6:30 now. After reading the headlines and an article or two, I turned to the entertainment section and looked at the bridge column.

Like yesterday, the bidding was strange to me, but I again followed the play of the hand quite easily. Then I remembered Abby had promised to bring in a bridge book for me to read, and I made a mental note to go visit her at the snack bar sometime today to get it from her.

I sat there reading the paper and drinking coffee for another 45 minutes or so until the place started filling up. I didn’t want to take up table space on a busy morning, so I got up, paid my bill, and headed back to Brentwood.

By the time I got back and settled down on a bench in the caddie yard, it was almost 8:00. In a little while Rafe showed up, came in, and sat down next to me.

“Mornin’ E.J. I kinda’ surprise to see you here.  You don’ usually beat me in.”

“Morning, Rafe. Yeah, I woke up early and kept thinking about what happened yesterday and couldn’t get back to sleep, so I just decided to come in early.”

“What happen yest’day?”

“What do you mean, ‘what happened?’ You know, the hole-in-one.”

“What you talkin’ ‘bout?”

“Ah, c’mon, Rafe. You saw it happen. It was your idea to hit those balls on 16.”

“I don’ know what you talkin’ bout, E.J. I warn’t even here, yest’day.”

I was baffled and my face clearly showed it.  Was it all my imagination? After a few seconds, Rafe could no longer keep a straight face. He laughed and clapped me on the shoulder.

“Man, I got you! You shoulda’ seen yo face jus’ now. Dat was rich, E.J. I be chucklin’ bout dat all day!”

“Yeah, yeah. You got me.” I punched him in his beefy arm.

I didn’t feel like telling him about the second hole-in-one just yet; I wanted to tell Abby first. So, we went into our normal routine of chatter and smack talk and later played a little cards with some of the other caddies while we waited around for a loop.

It did end up being another very slow day, and by 1:00 PM I still hadn’t gotten out again. I was certainly not high up on the list of desirable caddies, so there was no guarantee of another round today. I decided to head down to the snack bar and see if Abby had any time to talk.

She was sitting and reading a book behind the counter and sweating. There was a fan overhead, but it was just moving the hot air around. She greeted me and told me that only four groups had come through all morning, and it was really slow. The heat was keeping almost everyone in today. She reached under the counter then and pulled out a thin, black book and handed it to me: Contract Bridge for Beginners by Charles Goren.

“This is the book I told you about yesterday. You sure you’re interested in borrowing it? I don’t want you just humoring me to be polite.”

“I’m not. I’ll give it a legitimate try.”

“Okay, then. After you’ve learned a little, and if you decide you like it, I could probably arrange a game. I know a couple of other people who play.”

“Well, let’s see how it goes first.”

“I have a feeling once you start playing again, you might really like it.”

“We’ll see.”

“It’s so hot out here. Feel like a Coke or something?”

“Yeah, that would be great. A big, tall one with lots of ice.”

As she prepared my drink, I asked her if she had a few minutes to talk. I said there was more to the story from yesterday that I had to tell her.

She handed me the drink, and I paid her for it. She followed me over to a table in the shade, reminding me I’d have to leave if another group came up. I downed about half the Coke before resuming the story.

“Alright, I had this disturbing dream last night about my miracle shot yesterday. I dreamt that when I got to the green, there was no flagstick, no hole, and the ball was just sitting on the wide-open green. Nothing special at all. I woke up so deflated and wondered if it had really happened the way I’d told you. My mind does some strange things sometimes.

“I thought of calling Rafe, but it was 4:00 in the morning. I couldn’t wait until I saw him again; I had to know right then if what I did was real, so I got this ‘brilliant’ idea that if I could do it again, that would prove it was no fluke. Not my best thinking, but like I said, my mind does some strange things sometimes.

I then related to her everything that happened when I got back to the club, ending with the ball sitting right atop the old cup from yesterday.

Abby looked at me with growing astonishment as I related the last part of my tale. “I don’t know what to say. That is truly amazing! That really happened?”

“I wouldn’t kid you about that. It really did. I don’t know exactly what it means, but at least it proves that yesterday wasn’t a total fluke.”

“Well, both days are a total fluke if you ask me. E.J., you’ve got to start golfing again. You could be so good!”

“I don’t know; maybe it’s just this ball here,” I said as I dug it out of my pocket and handed it to her.

“What, a magic ball with homing powers? You don’t believe that, do you?”

“What else would explain it? I mean, you can go your whole life and never get a hole-in-one. But to get two of them in two days on the same hole? What are the odds?”

“Well, they’d be astronomical… but not impossible. You ought to send that in to Guinness.”

“Yeah, they’d never believe it. I’ve got Rafe to vouch for the first one, but the second one isn’t really official because there was no longer a hole there, just a plug of turf. Plus, I’m the only one who saw it. They’d think I was making it all up.”

“Well, I said you needed to find the right shovel to dig yourself out: Maybe this is it? Maybe you should really consider golfing again. Who knows? Maybe bridge will grab you as well. Better than sitting at home getting bombed all the time.”

I could tell she immediately regretted those words. “I’m sorry, E.J. That was uncalled for. I really apologize.”

“Don’t worry. You’re not wrong about that. Maybe you’re right about using the shovel that’s been placed in my hands.”

I picked up the book and told her I would read it. I thanked her for lending it to me and listening to my tale, finished my Coke, and then headed back to the caddie yard to see if there might be another loop this afternoon.

I sat there awhile, and since there was no apparent action, I picked up the book she lent me and started reading it. Wonderful little book. And very logical. It started with bidding and then talked about playing the hand. It was very clear, and I became so engrossed in it that I finished the whole thing in about an hour and a half. Still no loop by 3:00 PM, so I decided to call it a day. I walked back to the snack bar and handed Abby the book.

“What, not for you?” she said, kind of disappointedly.

“Au contraire, ma chéri,” I said in a phony French accent. “I just finished it. It was very good.”

“You finished it already?”

“Yeah, there weren’t any bags to carry, so I just sat there and read it. Sure passed the time. I really enjoyed it and feel like I’d like to try a game.”

“Well, alright then! I’ll see what I can do to get a game together. Are you free in the evenings?”

“Yeah, pretty much every night. You pick the time and place; I’ll be there. May need a ride though. I don’t have a car anymore.”

“That’s okay. I can pick you up. That’s great, E.J. I look forward to it. By the way, I’ve got other bridge books too if you’d like to borrow some more.”

“Mais oui, oui!” again with the French. “You pick me out another one and I’ll read it. Speaking of ‘oui oui,’ I gotta hit the head, then I’m heading out. See you tomorrow.”

“Bye, E.J.,” she said, shaking her head and chuckling.
 

Author Notes E.J.'s life has been stagnant for a long time, but all of a sudden, the wind is shifting as new things begin coming in or back into his life. Perhaps most important of all is his budding friendship with Abby.


Chapter 21
Some Call It Luck - Chapter 21

By Jim Wile

Abby St. Claire

That evening
August, 1986
 
 
I got home around 4:30, parked my car in the driveway, and headed inside the house to talk to my great Aunt Helen. She’s the one who told me about the summer job at Brentwood and was kind enough to offer to let me stay at their house. With free room and board for the summer, how could I pass it up? I’ll be starting my senior year at Penn State in the fall, and the money I’ll be earning at Brentwood (plus saving by living with Aunt Helen and Uncle Bert) will enable me to complete my mathematics degree.

She and Uncle Bert were in the kitchen.  Uncle Bert was reading the newspaper while Aunt Helen was just beginning to fix dinner.

“Hi sweetie. How was your day?” she asked me when I walked over to give her a kiss.

“It was good, though kind of hot. I think I’ve made a new friend there.”

“One of the members? There are some handsome young men there now that they are selling junior memberships.”

“No, actually he’s one of the caddies. Maybe you know him? His name is E.J.”

Uncle Bert put his paper down and looked up sharply when I said that. “You’re kidding. That guy?”

“Yeah. He’s a bit, uh…  unkempt I guess, but he’s really nice and seems quite intelligent.”

“He never gave me that impression. He’s the worst caddie there. I think he’s drunk half the time.”

“Well, I don’t know. He’s interesting to talk to. I gave him a bridge book to read yesterday, and he finished it in an hour and a half, he said. He wants to borrow another one now.”

“He’s caddied for me before,” said Aunt Helen. “I think he’s a nice fellow, if a little distracted sometimes.”

“He seems anxious to play in a bridge game. He used to play a little bit in high school, so he’s not a rank beginner. Would you be willing to play with him, Aunt Helen?”

“Of course. When were you thinking about playing?”

“Maybe tomorrow night? How about you, Uncle Bert?”

“No way, not with that guy! I don’t even want him in my house!”

“Oh, hush, Bert. I’ll bet my friend Marj would want to play,” Aunt Helen said to me.

“Okay, I’ll let you know tomorrow after I ask him. I’m going to go take a shower now because I’m really sweaty, but I’ll be back down around 5:30.”

“Take your time. We probably won’t be eating until 6:00.”

“Okay, see you later,” I said as I went out the back door and over to the stairs leading up to my apartment over the garage.
 
 

As I mounted the stairs, there was Lester waiting on the landing. He was often there when I returned from work. Sometimes there was a dead bird or rodent by his side, but not today. “Hi Lester! How’s my best boy?” I said as I knelt down to scratch his head and neck. I put my head close to his and he gave me a few head bumps. “Let’s go in where it’s a lot cooler. Did you catch any mice today? ….. Just two? So, you must be kind of hungry now, huh? ….. You say you want Ocean Fish in Creamed Gravy tonight? Okay, I’ll see if we’ve got some.”

Even though he had slowly gone deaf over the years and couldn’t hear me, I often conversed with Lester, providing both sides of the conversation—a holdover from my grade school years when I didn’t have any friends to talk to. Except for Fred, of course. I still think about him from time to time and wonder what he’s doing now. I haven’t had any boyfriends since him. I’ve had a few dates in college, but nothing very serious yet. I’ve been hit on quite a lot, but I don’t really respond too well to that. The few guys I’ve agreed to go out with were nice enough, and I’ve remained friendly with them, but that’s about all.

My thoughts then turned to E.J. There’s nothing romantic there, but he sure is an interesting guy. He seems like he has a lot of baggage and certainly a drinking problem, but I sense real potential in him if he can somehow cast away whatever is holding him back. I’d like to get to know him better as a friend. I’m happy he has taken to bridge so. I haven’t played in a few months, and I miss playing. I hope he feels comfortable enough to join us for a game tomorrow.
 

Author Notes Abby hopes that, with bridge, E.J. will find another shovel, besides golf, that he can use to dig himself out of the hole he's been in for some time. He fascinates her and she feels real friend potential there.


Chapter 22
Some Call It Luck - Chapter 22

By Jim Wile

E.J. Budrowski

The same evening
August, 1986
 
 
What another day this has been! Despite the heat and lack of work (that part I didn’t mind so much), I felt really good. I hadn’t had anything to eat since that early breakfast at Maudie’s, and I was famished again, so I stopped in at Greenfield’s lunch counter and ordered the “Blue Plate Special”: an open-faced roast beef sandwich served with mashed potatoes, gravy, and peas, served on real blue Wedgewood plates. That sure hit the spot!

For “dessert,” I made my way to Cowley’s and picked up a couple bottles of bourbon. Along with dinner, that blew about half of my earnings for the day. I’d never get rich caddying, but it did provide enough for my food and liquor needs, with enough left over to pay my rent to Mr. Lee, who owned the building and was the proprietor of the laundry below. My needs were simple, plus I still had a little bit in the bank from my inheritance. My dad had passed away several years ago and, incredibly, left me a few thousand, although I had gradually whittled that down to only a few hundred bucks.

Before going up to my apartment, though, I decided to go down to the basement and fetch my clubs from the storage bin. I was honestly thinking about giving golf another try. There’s nothing like that incomparable feeling of hitting a ball right on the sweet spot to get your juices flowing again. Maybe later I’d hitch a ride over to the driving range and try hitting a bucket, but first I had some “dessert” to partake of.

As I sat in my apartment drinking, my mind kept wandering to the events of the day. I suddenly felt for the ball in my pocket to assure myself again that it had been real. It was still there—my lucky ball. Now I just had to figure out what to do with this newfound luck.

I gulped down the rest of my drink and decided: No time like the present. I got up, grabbed my clubs from the corner where I had set them, and headed back down the stairs and out to the street. I walked about a quarter-mile out of the downtown area with my clubs on my shoulder, then stuck out my thumb to hitch a ride to Bud’s Driving Range another mile or so down on the right. Pretty soon a guy in a pickup truck stopped and gave me a lift. He said he was a golfer too, and the bag looked heavy. He dropped me off right in front of Bud’s. I went in and bought a bucket of balls for $3 from Bud himself and headed out to the range.

It was kind of a crummy range with only 10 stalls. You had to hit off mats, and they were pretty old and worn. The range itself was only perhaps 230 yards long. When I was younger, I could probably have hit balls over the tall fence that marked the back of the range. Now, probably not. I spilled the balls into the little trough beside the mat and decided to do some stretches before attempting any shots. Once I got limber, I started with my pitching wedge, just lofting a few out there to get the feel of the swing. Most of the shots were pretty good. Then I moved up to the 8-iron, then the 6, then the 4. The shots were getting more consistent now, with a nice little right-to-left draw, as my swing sped up and lengthened.

A little kid, who I’d seen hitting balls a few stalls over, came up behind me to watch. After seeing me nail a couple of 4-irons, he said, “Wow, mister, you’re pretty good! Wish I could hit ‘em like that.”

“Keep practicing, and one day you may,” I said as I put the 4-iron back in my bag and pulled out my driver. “Let’s see what we can do with this one.” The first two rolled up to the bottom of the fence, but the next couple hit it on a fly. 230 yards in the air with crummy driving range balls! Even I was impressed.

By this time Bud had come out and joined the kid behind me. The next one hit near the top of the fence and dropped down, but the next one we lost sight of as it went clear over. I apologized to Bud for losing his ball, but he just laughed and shook his head. “Man, I haven’t seen anybody hit ‘em like that out here in a long time. It’s a pleasure to watch.”

I thought I’d end on a good note. I still had a few balls left, but I gave them to the kid to hit. Then I packed up my clubs and headed back out to the road to hitch a ride back into town.

Man, that was fun! Like I said, there’s nothing like hitting the sweet spot—in this case over and over again—to put you in a really good mood.
 
 

I got to the caddie yard by around 9:30 the next morning, and within half an hour, I caught a loop: a couple of old guys I didn’t know too well. I did a reasonably good job, for me anyway, and got an average tip. It was 2:30 when I finished up and headed down to see Abby at the snack bar. She was pretty busy, but she did reach under the counter to hand me a new book. I told her I’d probably be reading it up at The Overlook, and she said she’d come up to see me after she got off at 4:00.

The book was called 5 Weeks to Winning Bridge by Alfred Sheinwold, the same one who wrote the bridge column in the paper. By the time Abby joined me at 4:00, I’d gotten through the first week and a half’s lessons in the book. I was captivated by it!

“So how do you like this book?” she asked me when she came up and saw I was reading it.

“I think it’s well laid out and teaches the beginner the game in a very orderly fashion.”

“Do you think you’ve learned enough yet to try an actual game?”

“Yes, I think so, and I’m dying to give it a try.”

“Well, then if you’re free tonight, let’s plan on a game around 7:00 over at my place. I think I can find a couple others to play. My Great Aunt Helen, who I live with for the summer, will want to play, and we’ll dig up another. You said you don’t have a car, so why don’t I come pick you up around maybe 6:45?”

“That’s asking too much of you. You’re already hosting the game. I’m sure I can hitch a ride over to your place.”

“I don’t mind at all. Just tell me where you live, and I’ll give you a lift.”

“Well, that’s awfully nice of you. You know where Lee’s Laundry is: at the corner of Main and Hubbard Street downtown? I live just above that. I’ll be waiting for you down on the street out front.”

“Sure, I know where that is. I’ll meet you there at 6:45.”

“Sounds good. Hey, Abby, this is great. Thanks for inviting me. I’m really looking forward to it.”

“Yeah, me too. I’d better get going to get this game arranged. See you later,” she said, then turned around and left.
 
 
 

Author Notes The two "aces" weren't a complete fluke as E.J. is still a good golfer, even though he hasn't played in 20 years. He's also fascinated by bridge and looks forward to the first game since high school. With Abby by his side, maybe there's hope for him yet.


Chapter 23
Some Call It Luck - Chapter 23

By Jim Wile

continuation of the chapter E.J. Budrowski - August, 1986
 
(E.J. feels ready to try an actual game of bridge after reading Abby's books, and she has just left to go set up the game.)
 
I watched her walk away. I couldn’t help being attracted to her beauty, but I could never act on it. I’m almost twice her age, and way out of her league in terms of desirability. She deserves someone who doesn’t have all my baggage and has a better future in store for him. Plus, I wouldn’t want to jeopardize our budding friendship in any way. I’m content just to look.

After I took the bus home, I ran upstairs to take a shower and neaten myself up. As I said before, I look a little like Ratso Rizzo, but he was able to clean up in the movie, so I tried to improve my appearance. After my shower, I did my best to comb out my longish hair. Tomorrow, I promised myself to go get a haircut since this mop was difficult to make look very good. I ended up putting a lot of grease in it and combing it straight back. I shaved my three days’ worth of stubble, then put on my cleanest shirt and pants and some old penny loafers I kept in the bottom of my footlocker. I was barely presentable, but it would have to do.

I still had about 15 minutes before Abby would be here, so I headed down and out of the building. I made my way over to Bohack’s food store on the next block and picked up a bag of potato chips to bring over to Abby’s, then I headed back to Lee’s Laundry to wait for her. In about two minutes she drove up, and we rode over to her place.

She lived in an august old neighborhood near Brentwood. She had an apartment for the summer months over the garage of her Aunt Helen’s house. It turned out that her great aunt was Helen Olsen who, along with her husband, were members at Brentwood. I had caddied for them both. It was her husband whose clubs I had lost in the pond that time, and I wasn’t so sure Mrs. Olsen would want to be socializing with me at the bridge game tonight; she was so above my station in life. But she proved to be very gracious and welcomed me to the game.

I handed Abby the bag of potato chips when we got in. She thanked me and put them in a bowl for us to snack on while we played. She had some other things to munch on too.

Pretty soon, the other member of our group arrived. “E.J., this is my friend, Marj,” said Mrs. Olsen. “Marj, this is E.J. Budrowski. He’s new to the game of bridge.

“Hello, E.J. It’s nice to meet you.”

“Thanks, Mrs…. ”

“It’s Honeywell, but Marj is just fine.”

“For that matter, you can call me Helen too,” said Mrs. Olsen.

“I feel kind of funny about that, Mrs. Olsen. If I slip up and call you that at the club, it could be very uncomfortable for us.”

“Well, call me whatever you want, E.J.”

“Marj is just fine with me,” said Marj. “What does E.J. stand for anyway?”

“Edward Joseph, but I’ve always been just E.J.”

With introductions out of the way, we sat down then and cut for partners. I knew nothing about the etiquette of the game and had to be taught almost everything: about dealing and shuffling, where to place the cards after shuffling the deck just played with while the dealer deals out the other deck, how to stack the tricks so you can tell the status of the hand, and all sorts of other things like that. But it all made sense, and after a while, I got the hang of it.

We switched partners after each rubber (which sounds awfully risqué unless you know bridge parlance. A rubber is a pair of games: another unit of play.) Thus, we got to play with each other three separate times that night.

Abby and I seemed to play the best together, which is understandable, because she was a really good player. When we totaled up the points for the night, she came in first by a long shot, and, surprisingly, I came in second. I couldn’t believe how fast the time went, and it was 10:30 by the time we were done. I’d been so absorbed in the game that I didn’t think even once about having a drink, but now that it was over, I began getting that craving again.

I thanked Abby and Mrs. Olsen and Marj for having me over, and they all agreed we should do it again soon—perhaps next week. We said goodbye and Abby and I headed down to her car.

On the way back home, we discussed the game. Abby said, “I can’t believe how quickly you’ve picked it up, E.J. And you just started reading about it yesterday. Incredible!”

“Yeah, I just love the logic of it. You have to plan out each hand. Then you have to really concentrate on what’s being played and draw inferences from it. It’s a terrific game.”

“Keep reading the books. There’s a whole lot more to learn. I have a feeling you’re going to become really good at it.”

“Well, thanks. I sure appreciate your letting me play with you tonight. You’re a whole lot better company than I usually keep.”

“That’s okay. We were happy to have you join us. We could try to make this a regular game if you think you’d like to do that? I know I would.”

“Yeah, I think I would like that.”

We spent the rest of the ride talking about different things. She told me about the types of courses she took for her math major, and I shared with her my love of mathematics too. We talked so easily together.

We finally arrived at my place. I thanked her again for the ride and for hosting the game. We said goodnight, and I headed upstairs to my apartment. I was starting to miss the alcohol now and headed straight for the bourbon, but soon realized I had finished the last bit earlier before the game. The liquor store was long since closed, so I had to make due with a couple of beers I kept in the refrigerator for just such “emergencies.”

I finished the beers, which helped settle my edginess, got undressed, and went to bed. I replayed one of the hands in my head on which I had gone down 2, but in thinking it over, I realized the mistake I’d made that cost me the contract. Dumb! Oh well, I was learning. I fell asleep thinking about another hand and slept soundly.
 

Author Notes So, golf first and now bridge--two "shovels" to help him dig himself out of the hole he's been in for years. And, more importantly, a new friend in Abby.


Chapter 24
Some Call It Luck - Chapter 24

By Jim Wile

(A continuation of the chapter: E.J. Budrowski - August, 1986)
 
 
 
The next morning, following my loop, I made my way down to the snack bar to speak with Abby before I headed home. I planned to play nine holes this afternoon.

“Hi E.J.,” she greeted me. “That was really fun last night. I’m so glad you could join us for bridge. You did very well, you know!”

“Thanks, I had a lot of fun too. Hey, that’s a great book you lent me. You know, Sheinwold’s book? But I’m almost up to day five now, and I’m going to need another pretty soon. You said you’ve got some more?”

“You made it that far—in one day? That’s really incredible! It took me two weeks to read it the first time. Are you getting all of it?”

“Yeah, I think so. It all makes sense. Some of the bidding seems a little arbitrary, but I guess you’ve got to have some system to communicate with your partner, and it appears to work. The play, though, is what really fascinates me. Nothing arbitrary about that.”

“Well, if you like the play so much, I’ve got the perfect book for you. It’s called Watson’s Classic Book on the Play of the Hand at Bridge. What a great title, huh? It’s all about the play of the cards—no bidding.”

“Yeah, that sounds perfect, but is there really enough there for a whole book about it?”

“Yes, there is; you’d be surprised. He starts simple but gets into a lot of advanced techniques by the end. You’ll learn about some really cool plays. They don’t come up all that often, but when they do, they really can distinguish between a good player and a really good player who can recognize the situations and employ them.”

“Well, that sounds like just the book for me. Yeah, if you wouldn’t mind bringing it in tomorrow, I’ll have finished the other one and will exchange it with you.”

“Okay, I will. Hey, I’m really excited that you seem to genuinely like bridge.”

“I do! Who’d a thunk it just a few days ago?"

“You know, E.J., I haven’t quite gotten you figured out. You seem so intelligent, and yet… ”

“And yet, I’m just a caddie who lives in a dump over a laundry.”

“Well… yeah. I wouldn’t have put it quite like that, but I guess you know what I mean.”

“I’ve asked myself that a few times over the years, and I haven’t exactly figured it out. I know that I tend to freeze up under pressure, and that’s why I tend to go after jobs that aren’t too challenging. Let me ask you something, Abby. What makes you want to befriend a guy like me? And why does someone with your obvious intelligence work behind a snack bar for a summer job?”

“Well, I’ll answer your second question first: Aunt Helen told me about the job and offered me free room and board for the summer. It seemed perfect. But I also really like working here. There’s plenty of downtime, and I get to do a lot of reading on the job between groups coming through. Plus, there are large lulls when no groups come through at all—like right now, for instance.

“As to why I consider you a friend: I haven’t had many friends over the years, and”

“So you take what you can get?” I interrupted.

“No, it’s not that. I had an unpleasant time at school growing up. I was this short little, funny-looking, red-haired girl with glasses, who always had her head in a book, and always had the answers in class. The kids resented me and made fun of me—especially the girls. I only had one friend in junior high, and he moved away after two years. High school wasn’t much better. They were very small schools, and there just wasn’t anyone who I connected with.

“Probably my only friend, besides my parents and sister, was my grandpa. He taught me always to be nice, and to treat people the way I wanted to be treated. You know, the ‘Golden Rule?’ He’s the one who taught me to play bridge, by the way.”

“So how did things change for you? You certainly don’t seem at all bitter.”

“Well, I don’t know about that. I still have some bitterness in me; I just try not to show it. In college there are very few women in the math and science courses I’m taking, and I’m continually underestimated by many of the guys. It pisses me off, but I try to ignore them and show them with my test scores that I’m smarter than most of them. I try to follow Grandpa’s advice and always be nice, but sometimes it’s awfully hard.

“So, E.J., in answer to your question about why I want to be friends with you: It’s really very simple. I just like you. You’re interesting, and kind, and non-judgmental. I feel very comfortable talking to you, unlike with many people. Do I need a better reason than that?”

“I guess not. Well, thank you. We can all use friends. Now I’ve got to run. I just wanted to stop and thank you for last night and for lending me the books. I’ve got to get home and get ready to go play golf this afternoon. First time in 20 years. Wish me luck!”

“That’s great! Good luck and have fun. I’ll see you tomorrow.”

“Bye, Abby.” Gosh, what a kid: so smart and pretty and just so nice. Don’t know if I deserve a friend like that.

 
 
The next few days seemed to fly by as I developed a pretty consistent routine—caddie in the morning, practice at Bud’s range in the afternoon, have a few drinks, and study bridge at night.

Abby asked me if I’d like to play bridge again the following night, and of course, I jumped at the chance. I couldn’t wait to try out my new skills from all the reading I’d done. She told me the same time, same place, and that she’d come and pick me up again at 6:45.

“You don’t need to do that. I can get to your place by 7:00.”

“It’s no problem. I really don’t mind.”

“One of these days I’m going to buy a car. Hitching to the driving range is getting kind of old. I don’t always get a ride there. Plus, I hate putting you out so—giving me rides all the time. I’ve got a few hundred in the bank. As soon as I save a little more, I’m going to go out and buy a clunker. I figure with double loops on Saturdays and Sundays, I’ll be able to save enough in about a month’s time.”

“Well, until then, don’t worry. I can give you a ride. I’d like to turn this into a weekly game."
 
“Abby, you’re a peach. That’s really nice of you. Alright, I’ll be waiting down in front at 6:45. And thanks!”
 
 

Abby arrived as promised. I got in her car, and we started talking about the upcoming game. I told her I’d finished Watson’s Classic Book and confirmed that it really was a terrific book. I couldn’t wait to try out a double squeeze or grand coup. She again warned me that they don’t come up that often, and I shouldn’t feel disappointed if I didn’t see the chance for one tonight.

We got to Abby’s place a few minutes before 7:00. I had brought a bag of Fritos this time, which she placed in a bowl for later. Soon, Mrs. Olsen and Marj arrived.

We cut for partners, and Abby and I were together first. Like last week, we changed partners after each rubber.

We played for several hours. Toward the end of the night, I was only a couple hundred points behind Abby, and we were both well ahead of Mrs. Olsen and Marj in the scoring. I really wanted to try to come in first to impress Abby with how far I had come. I hadn’t had a drink in a while now, and I was feeling quite out of sorts. Perhaps that explained what happened next.

Marj and I were partners for the final rubber. Together we bid to a slam—a high-level contract that gets big bonuses if you make it—and Marj was playing the hand while I was the dummy. Marj started out well enough, taking the first eight tricks, but then she made a big mistake and lost three of the last five tricks for down-2. I couldn’t take it and said in a peeved voice, “Maarrrj! Why didn’t you overtake your jack of diamonds with the ace on the table? Then you could have run the rest of the tricks from the table and made it! Jeez. So simple!”

Marj looked stricken. Abby glared at me. Oh my God, what had I done? As she gathered up the cards, Marj said, “You’re right E.J. That was pretty dumb. I’m sorry for messing it up.”

Suddenly I felt terrible about what I had just said. “Oh, Marj, no need to apologize. I’m the one who needs to apologize for my rudeness. I am so sorry. I just get too wrapped up in the game, but that’s no excuse. I am really sorry.”

She was very forgiving, but I could tell the vibe of the night had changed. We finished in another ten minutes or so, and it was time to leave. Once again, I apologized to Marj for my incredible insensitivity and told her I hoped she would be willing to play with me again sometime. She assured me she would like that, but that did little to assuage my sense of shame at what I’d said, particularly at how I’d said it.

As we drove home in silence, I sat, stewing. Finally, I said, “I am such an idiot! None of you are going to want to play with me again. That was so stupid of me.”

“Don’t fret so much, E.J. It happens. How Marj played that hand was pretty bad. Just remember, though, it’s only a game, and we’re there to have fun. We’re not playing for money or anything, so how we end up doesn’t really matter. I know you wanted to win tonight, and you like competing, but this is just a casual game among friends. If you really like competition, let’s try some duplicate bridge together soon. You’ll meet a lot of good players there and can really test your abilities.”

“Duplicate bridge? What’s that?”

“We would play as partners together for the whole session. We play the same pre-arranged hands as many of the other partnerships, and our score is based on how well we do on each hand versus everyone else playing the same cards.”

“Well that sounds confusing. I guess I’d have to see it in action… if you’re still willing to play with me, that is.”

“Of course I am. I’ve got a competitive nature, myself. Duplicate’s a whole different animal. I think you’d really enjoy it. Let’s think seriously about trying it soon.”

“Sounds good. Thanks. If you’ve got any more books, could you lend them to me? I’ll return Watson’s book tomorrow.”

When we finally arrived at my place, I said goodbye and thanked her for the ride and the evening. I apologized for my behavior once again, but she just shooed me away, said goodbye herself, and drove off.

Well, that was a lesson in humility. I tried not to fret about it anymore, but the feeling of unease just wouldn’t abate. Back in my apartment, I poured myself a big glass of bourbon and sat down to drink it. I tried to settle down.

Despite the last few minutes of the game, I really did enjoy the night otherwise. Although there wasn’t an opportunity for a squeeze play, I was able to employ a good play called an endplay successfully to make a difficult 4-spade contract. I was pretty proud of that, and Abby had complimented me on it. I was also intrigued by her mention of duplicate bridge.
 

Author Notes For those of you who are neither bridge nor golf enthusiasts, I hope these few scenes won't put you off the story. I've tried to keep them brief and not too technical. Hopefully there will be enough human interest to keep you going.


Chapter 25
Some Call It Luck - Chapter 25

By Jim Wile

(A continuation of the chapter E.J. Budrowski - August, 1986)
 
There were only a few weeks left in the summer, and Abby would be going back to school for her senior year at Penn State soon. I hoped to get in a few sessions of duplicate bridge with her before she had to go back.

Aside from bridge, I discovered we had a great deal more in common. One day I went down to visit her after she got off work at the snack bar. We got to talking and discovered we both were readers and liked a lot of the same books and authors. J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings, which we had both read several times, was a favorite book of ours, but we also liked some classical works like the novels of Victor Hugo and even Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre.

Abby said, “You know, I can identify with Jane, in that she’d had a rough start during her childhood. I just hope I have her forbearance to find success and happiness. She seemed so confident by the end.”

“But you already seem so relaxed and confident at such a young age.”

“Well, I’m not as confident as you think. I’m pretty much of an introvert and often clam up around people. I’m not very good at small talk. I feel very comfortable talking with you, though.”

I saw her again on Thursday afternoon, and she asked me if I would like to play some duplicate bridge with her that very night. I jumped at the offer! She said she would come to pick me up around 6:30 PM and drive us to Temple Beth Israel where a duplicate game was held every Thursday night.

Abby picked me up at 6:30 as promised. I got in her car, and on the way there, she started talking about what to expect that night.

“You’re going to meet all kinds of players tonight, E.J. They’ll run the gamut from not so good to very good. All of them take it seriously, though, and it’s very quiet during the play. If you’re not sure what to do, just do what the other players are doing, and you’ll be fine. You’ll get the hang of it in no time.”

We arrived at the temple and went inside to the multi-purpose room. The director, who was in charge of the game, recorded our names, took the modest $3 fee from each of us, and assigned us to sit east-west for the night, starting at table 8. There were 12 tables in use tonight. When 7:00 PM came around, the director told us to begin.

Abby was right. By the end of the first set of hands, I knew just what to do. It was hard to tell how well we were doing. I felt like we played well, but you never really know until the end.

By the end of the night, we had played at 8 of the 12 tables for a total of 24 hands. It took about 2 ½ hours to complete them.

I could only think of one obvious mistake I’d made (there were probably others I wasn’t aware of), and Abby seemed to have played perfectly. I was hopeful we had a good score. Imagine my dismay when I found out we had only averaged 71.5% for the night, but to my utter amazement, the director announced that we had come in first place for the east-west teams!

I said to Abby, “How can that be? These folks here must not be all that good. In school, a 71% was just barely a C, but here that was good enough for first place?”

Abby cracked up at that. “E.J., in duplicate bridge, 71.5% is considered an extremely good score. Heck, a 65% is a darned good score and will often yield first place. See, 50% is an average score for the night. 71.5% is phenomenal, especially for your first time playing!”

Some of the other teams came up and congratulated us on such a fine score. Boy, that felt good! Abby seemed very proud of me and complimented me on my bidding and play. She even bragged to the others that I only learned bridge about a month ago. They were duly impressed. What a great first experience playing duplicate bridge this had been!

As I lay in bed that night thinking about these last few weeks, I couldn’t get over all the praise I’d been getting lately. I wasn’t used to it. From Bud complimenting my golf game, to all the recent compliments from the folks at the duplicate game, I just couldn’t accept it. I’d never done much of anything in my life worth complimenting. It was a little disquieting. Then I happened to glance over at the Lucky 1 sitting on top of my footlocker where I always kept it at night, and I wondered: Was that really the thing that was responsible for my newfound skills? Would I be a nothing again without it? What would happen if I lost it? I didn’t care to find out.
 
 
 

Abby and I played duplicate bridge together two more times before she had to return to college. We did very well, grabbing first and second place.

On her last day in early September, I went down to the snack bar after my loop to say goodbye and to return the last of the bridge books she had lent me. I’d read all of them.

It was the end of the day for her too. She finished cleaning up, locked up the snack bar, and together we headed up to The Overlook to sit down and say a proper goodbye.

“I’m going to miss our bridge games together,” I said to Abby. “You really helped open up another world for me.”

“You should try to keep playing. Don’t stop just because I won’t be here. I’m pretty sure Mrs. Olsen and Marj will keep wanting to play, and I’m sure they know some other players. Also, you can probably find another duplicate partner at the bridge club. I’m sure lots of people would want to play with you rather than against you, you’ve become so good.”

“Well, maybe. We’ll see.” I was silent for a moment. Then I looked at her and said, “Abby, I’m just really going to miss you, is all. You’re like the little sister I never had, although it kind of feels like you’re my big sister—going off to college and leaving me behind. You’ve helped me in so many ways, I don’t know how it’s going to be when you’re not here.”

She picked up my hand in both of hers, looked right at me with those beautiful green eyes, and said, “You’ve become a great friend to me, E.J., and I’ve cherished the times we’ve spent together lately. Do you remember we talked once about the right shovel? I think you’ve found two. Please keep up your golf and bridge; they could be a stepping stone to your future. You have so much potential you haven’t realized yet. Maybe you’ll even think about going back to school one day. Who knows? It’s not too late.”

“How did you get so wise, kiddo? You’re only 20, right? I was such a screw-up at 20 and still haven’t grown much since then.” I broke eye contact and stared off at the mountains for a few seconds. Then I turned back to look at her. She was still holding my hand between hers, and I added my other hand to the pile and said, “I’ll think about what you said concerning school; I really will. And I’ll try to keep up both golf and bridge. I’ll be heading to Florida soon for the winter months to caddie and will return in March. Do you think you’ll be back here next summer?”

“Maybe. I’m thinking about it. I haven’t quite decided yet what I’m going to do when I graduate next spring. I might try to find a job right away, but I might also decide to go for an advanced degree, which will mean at least a couple more years of school. In that case, I’ll be back to earn money for that. The club told me they’d hold the job for me next summer if I decide to come back.”

“Selfishly, I sure hope you do, but you’ve got to decide what’s best for you. Anyway, can I call you once in a while when you’re at school, just to talk?”

“I’d love that. Let me give you my phone number at school.” She released her hands and opened her purse, pulled out a little pad and pen, and wrote it down for me. I thanked her, and we stood up to say goodbye. We gave each other a good, long hug, then went our separate ways.
 

Author Notes How will E.J. do without Abby's continued presence? Will he really consider going back to school, or is this just a pipe dream? And will Abby even be back next year to continue their friendship?


Chapter 26
Some Call It Luck - Chapter 26

By Jim Wile

 
E.J. Budrowski

Fall/Winter, 1986-87
 
 
I did indeed continue to play bridge on Tuesday nights with Mrs. Olsen, Marj, another of their friends, and even once or twice with Mr. Olsen, who didn’t have a very high opinion of me from the time I’d caddied for him and dropped his bag of clubs in the pond. I got the feeling that he didn’t approve of my being there, but I was on my best manners, and it went well enough.

Occasionally I hitched a ride to Temple Beth Israel on a Thursday night and found a partner to play with, but none came close to Abby in their ability, and it just wasn’t as much fun as it was with her.

I also continued to practice my swing at Bud’s Driving Range, frequently under the tutelage of Bud, who got to really understand my swing and gave me some invaluable tips. He taught me how to hit the ball with different trajectories and curvatures and had me practice many different combinations of shots. He and I would often play golf together at a few different courses in the area on Fridays, and I began shooting around par and occasionally broke par for 18 holes, always with the Lucky 1 in my pocket. I never used it to play, for fear of losing it, but it stayed close to me in my pocket at all times.

By late October the weather started getting chilly. We’d had a pleasant Indian summer, but now the leaves were falling as the nights got colder. Fewer and fewer loops were available, so it was time to head south for the winter.

I had managed to save some money from caddying and, combined with a couple hundred from my savings account, I had enough to buy a dented-up Datsun B210 with 160,000 miles on it. It wasn’t much to look at, but it got good mileage and got me where I wanted to go.

So, the next morning I packed up the car and picked up Rafe who would accompany me to Fort Lauderdale where we both had caddied for a number of winters. We always shared a suite in a cheap efficiency motel. The suite contained a small kitchen area with a little stove and frig. We saved a lot of money by eating most of our meals in.

Following my loops in the mornings, I spent the afternoons both practicing and playing golf. These were money matches—sometimes for stakes as high as a thousand bucks. I did very well, and by the time we headed back north again in March, between caddying and my golf winnings, I had netted about 15 grand.

I’ve just got to relate one story because it typifies how I won some of this money.

I was playing in a match with a guy named Mo against two guys named Billy and Ricky. We were playing this match with no gimmes, meaning we had to putt everything out. The match was tied as we came to the 18th green. I was on the green in two. Everyone was in the hole already except me, who still had a 10-footer. If I holed the putt, Mo and I would win the match. If I got down in two putts, we would tie. Anything more than that, and we would lose.

We were playing this match for $1,000 dollars, so the pressure was on. I stroked the putt, and it started on a line straight for the hole. It looked like it might go in, but as it neared the hole, it slowed down and came to a stop six inches short. Now it would be a tie, and we would probably have to figure out some sort of playoff. As I walked up to tap it in, I had a sudden idea. In a feigned fit of anger, I swatted it with my putter over the green, down the hill in back and into deep rough where it sank down in the grass so deeply that you couldn’t even see it.

“E.J., what the hell are you doing?” screamed Mo. “Don’t you remember we have to putt everything out—no gimmes? You just lost the match for us, you idiot!”

I had, indeed. Anything more than a 4 and we lose. I already lay 4 and wasn’t in the hole yet.

I slapped my forehead hard. “You’re right. I’m sorry, Mo. Jesus, what was I thinking? I slapped my forehead again. I looked over at Billy, inquiringly. He just shrugged and said, “The rules are the rules.”

As I walked over to Billy and Ricky, I shook my head in disgust at what I had just done. “Okay then,” I said to them, not able to look them in the eye. “You guys win fair and square. We owe you a grand.”

Steam was coming out of Mo’s ears as he reached for his wallet and started walking over. I hung my head for a bit.

“I’ll tell you what, though,” I said suddenly, looking right at Billy and Ricky. “We’ll pay you the grand, but I’ll bet you two grand I can get down in two with that ball for a six on the hole,” and I pointed to the ball over there somewhere in the rough down the hill behind the green.

“What?” said an incredulous Mo, behind me. “You already lie four. You think you can get the ball in the hole with a six from that lie to an uphill green with the pin at the back and on a steep downhill slope? How are you gonna do that?”

“Look, Mo, I’ve got a great flop shot; I could maybe even hole it from there. You’ll see.”

Billy looked at Ricky and smiled. “You in?”

“I’m in!” said Ricky.

Then Billy said to me, “We’ll take the bet. $2,000 bucks says you can’t do it.”

“Okay, we’re on!” I said. Mo just shook his head and said, “That two grand’s totally on you, E.J. If you lose, you’re paying up—not me.” I gave him a nod.

I walked over to the edge of the green and looked back and forth from the hole to where the ball was in the rough. Then I walked down, found the ball, picked it up and walked back to the green.

“So, you convinced yourself you couldn’t make the shot, huh? You still owe us the two grand for the bet, ya know,” said Billy with a smirk.

“Not yet I don’t.” When I got back to the hole, I said, “I’m declaring that ball to be unplayable, and I’m going to play it from where I hit the last shot. I think it was right about here, wasn’t it?” and I proceeded to put it down on the green six inches below the cup. They were all speechless for a moment so I just tapped it in. “Okay, there’s my six.”

“Wait a damn minute!” hollered Billy. You can’t do that! Whadda you mean that’s a six?”

Mo started smiling as it dawned on him what I had just done.

I said to Billy, “Rule 28 in the Rules of Golf says that the player can deem any ball unplayable anywhere on the course except in a hazard, and that rough behind the green ain’t no hazard. One of my options under the rule is to replay the shot from its original lie and take a penalty stroke, so that’s what I did.”

Billy said with acrimony, “But you told us you were going to hit it from there!” and he pointed to the spot in the rough.

“I never said that. I said I could get down in two with this ball for a score of six, and that’s what I did.”

At that point, Billy realized he’d been had. He was a bit of a hustler himself, and his look of acrimony gradually turned into a broad smile as he shook his head back and forth, reached into his pocket, took out his wallet, and handed me ten crisp hundred dollar bills—the difference between the match amount, which we lost, and this new bet amount of $2,000. He was a good-natured guy and knew when he’d been bested. He also vowed to put that trick in his repertoire of hustles.

As fun as that had been and as lucrative, I couldn’t picture myself doing this for the rest of my life. For now, it was just a means to an end.

I had been thinking a lot about Abby’s idea of returning to school to resume my education. We had talked a few times during the months I was in Florida, and I told her it was a serious possibility. She had been delighted for me. She also told me she had decided on grad school and would be back to Brentwood to earn money for it. I was equally delighted at this news.

Rafe had once asked me why I wanted to earn all that money I was raking in, and I actually confessed to him that I was saving it for a possible return to college. He hooted and laughed at that, thinking I was trying to pull his leg, but when I didn’t laugh along with him, he realized I was serious about it. I asked him not to tell anyone else because I didn’t want to be teased when we got back to Brentwood, and he promised he wouldn’t.

On our return to DuBois, I decided that this season would be different. I promised myself I would take my caddying seriously and no longer be such a screw-up. I would not drink on the job anymore. I would change my clothes more often and shower more often too. I would get regular haircuts. I was tired of being a laughing-stock around Brentwood and being imitated behind my back. I had a lot more confidence in myself, and this was going to be a good year for me. Abby and I would get to play a lot of bridge together, and I would continue to earn more through money matches and save more for my future plan of returning to school.

That was the plan anyway.
 
 

Author Notes With Abby back at college now for her senior year, E.J. is on his own with his two new skills--bridge and golf, the latter paying off in a big way to help him earn money for a return to college.

Will he be able to accomplish the goals he's set for himself for the coming season back at Brentwood?


Chapter 27
Some Call It Luck - Chapter 27

By Jim Wile

 
Abby St. Claire

March, 1987
 
 
A couple of weeks ago, I finally made my decision, after a lot of agonizing, about whether to look for a job or go to grad school next year. Although money was the major stumbling block to grad school, the fact that the school offered me a sizable scholarship if I continued my education there made the decision pretty simple in the end. I talked to E.J. last week, and he was really happy about it. I’m actually pretty happy about it for the same reason. We’ll get to spend another summer together, playing bridge and just being good friends.

Last night was a Friday night, and I somehow ended up at a fraternity party. Parties are really not my thing—even less so after last night—although there was something interesting that happened.

A guy I knew a little asked me out to a movie. I liked the guy and wanted to see the movie, so I agreed to the date. When he came to pick me up, he said he had the wrong night for the movie, but maybe I’d like to go to a party with him instead. I wouldn’t have felt right turning him down at that point, so I told him sure.

Big mistake. When we got inside, the music was blaring, and the place was crowded with inebriated people. He got a beer for himself and asked me if I wanted one, but I passed on that and got a Coke instead. He wandered off after that and joined some fellow drinkers. I tried making conversation with another girl who was there, but it was so loud in there we had to shout. I looked around for my “date” and didn’t see him anywhere. That was it for me; I got my coat and headed out the front door.

As I was walking down the front walk, in a bit of a huff, a guy sitting on a bench out front looked up at me and said, “So you couldn’t take it anymore either?”

He was a nice-looking guy with blondish hair and a ready smile, and I stopped to answer him. “It’s just a little too loud in there for me,” I said. “Plus, I’m not much of a drinker either.”

“Yeah, me neither. What would you rather do than attend a frat party?”
 
What to make of this? Was he asking me out? All of a sudden, a little shyness crept over me. “Um, I was supposed to be going to a movie tonight, but my date got the wrong night, so we ended up here, and then he wandered off.”

“What were you supposed to see?”
 
“One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.”

“I saw that. It’s much better than this party, that’s for sure. Jack Nicholson was superb as McMurphy. Have you read the book?”

“I did, and I really enjoyed it. But I actually liked Ken Kesey’s Sometimes a Great Notion even better.”

“You know, I did too,” he agreed. “It was almost like a Greek tragedy with all the rivalries and betrayals. I also liked the way the Stampers stood up to the unions.”

“I admire intransigence.” (Now that came off sounding a little weird.)

He looked at me for a while without saying anything, like he was sizing me up. I started feeling awkward. Then he asked me, “So where is your date now?”

“Your guess is as good as mine.”

“Guy must be a real putz to let you get away.”

“Hey! Whatcha doin’ out here, Kenyon?” said a guy standing at the open front door? “C’mon back in here and talk to your old buddy who you came to visit.”

He turned to me and said, “I guess I’d better go back in there. Haven’t seen him in a while, and I did come to visit him. It was nice talking to you,” and with that he got up and went back in.
 
I was tempted to follow him back inside, but it seemed like he wanted to be with his friend, so I just left and walked the two miles back to my apartment. He was an interesting guy who I would like to have gotten to know better. Maybe I would run into him again, but then again, probably not; he said he was here visiting, so it sounded like he wasn’t a student here.

My roommates weren’t in when I got back, so I told Lester all about my interesting evening. “Hey, Buddy, I never did make it to the movies tonight, and I ended up at this terrible frat party. What did you say? ….. No, not ‘rat’ party, ‘frat’ party. It was at the Phi Kappa Psi frat house. What? ….. No, not ‘mouse,’ ‘house.’ Get the wax out of your ears. Well, my date kind of left me to go drinking, and it was really loud in there, so I left the party then, but outside I met this nice guy. He didn’t like the party either and we got to talking about movies and books, and did I mention he was very good-looking too? .….. No,  not quite as handsome as you. Hey, are you a little jealous? ….. I think you are!”

I picked him up then and we rubbed faces together. “You’re still my best boy, Lester. Let’s get ready for bed.”
 

Author Notes The decision is made, and Abby will be returning to Brentwood for another summer to earn money for grad school. She finally meets someone she's attracted to, but it appears to be just a chance encounter with little hope of seeing him again.


Chapter 28
Some Call It Luck - Chapter 28

By Jim Wile

Abby St. Claire: Age 20. She is in her senior year at Penn State University where she is a math major. She is intelligent and beautiful, yet shy and awkward with most people her age, having been picked on quite a lot while growing up. She works at the snack bar at Brentwood Country Club during the summers.

E.J. Budrowski: Age 37. An alcoholic with a traumatic past (an abusive father and a mother driven to suicide) who is a caddie at Brentwood CC. One day he finds a dirty old golf ball on the edge of pond that seems to have unusual powers, for he makes two holes-in-one with it. He and Abby become friends when she encourages him to take up both golf and bridge again after long layoffs. Life is beginning to look up for E.J.

Tony Colosi: The caddie master
 
Eddie Phillips: A young member at Brentwood known for his extremely good putting and ability to hustle his opponents.
 
E.J. Budrowski
Spring, 1987
 
 
I returned to Brentwood Country Club the day after we got back from Florida, arriving there at 8:00 AM. I made my way over to the caddie yard and sat down on the bench. Tony Colosi spotted me and came out to greet me, still wearing his red cap and with a cigar in the corner of his mouth. Some things never change.

“That you, E.J? That don’t look like you much.”

I had shaved and combed my much-shortened hair this morning as well as put on some of the new clothes I’d recently bought in Florida—khaki pants and a collared shirt. I’d also bought a new pair of sneakers and a new jacket.

“Hey, Tone. Yeah, it’s me. Just decided to change my image some this year. Also thought I’d try a little harder to be a good caddie from now on.”

“You planning on staying off the booze too?”

“Absolutely. You won’t ever catch me drinking on the job, and I won’t come in drunk either.”

“Well, that sounds good. Let’s see if you can keep to that. You look good.”

“Hey, Tony, I’m going to start coming in earlier too—around 8:00. You think I could get some of those early loops? I’ve got some things I like to do in the afternoon now.”

“What kind of things?”

“Well, mostly practicing and playing golf.”

“You play golf?” he asked skeptically. “What do you shoot?”

“I play about scratch now, Tone. I break par maybe every third round.”

“No kidding! How’d you get that good?”

“I was always pretty good as a kid. Last fall I started working with Bud Hastings over at his driving range. You know Bud?”

“Sure I know him. He used to play out here several years back. Haven’t seen him in a while, though. Was a good golfer as I recall.”

“Yeah, pretty good teacher too. He taught me a lot. I also got to play quite often down in Florida.”

“E.J. Budrowski, a scratch golfer,” he said as he shook his head in wonder. “Sure, I’ll start puttin’ you out early. These early groups like to move, though. Think you can keep up?”

“Yeah, I can do it. I’m telling you, Tone. I’ve turned over a new leaf.”

“Well, I’ll believe it when I see it. I’ve got Nahles and Wynn going out at 8:20. Their bags are over there on the left. You take ‘em.”

“Okay, Tone. I won’t let you down. Nothing but good reports from now on.”

“We’ll see,” he said as he made his way back inside.
 
 

I lived up to my word, and my caddying took an immediate turn for the better. I was much more aware of where my players’ shots went and far better at anticipating their needs and performing tasks without having to be asked. Many good reports filtered back to Tony, and the frequent chewing-outs I used to receive from him became a thing of the past, replaced instead by an occasional compliment.

I resumed my sessions at Bud’s Driving Range, and Bud was impressed with my improvement. Before long, he told me there wasn’t really anything left for him to teach me. My swing was very repeatable now, and all my different shot shapes and trajectories looked good, he said. I just needed to find some money matches to get in. Bud couldn’t help me with that, but I knew someone who could.
 
 

One evening in early April, I gave Eddie Phillips a call. Since I’d become so flush with cash from all my winnings in Florida, I’d gotten my own phone service, and I no longer had to use the payphone outside the pharmacy. Eddie knew a thing or two about hustling and big money matches, and I was sure he’d have some suggestions for me.

He answered the phone, and I said, “Hello, Eddie. This is E.J. Budrowski calling.”

“Hey, Sport. What’s up?”

“I’ve been practicing and playing golf quite a lot lately and I'm shooting around par pretty regularly now.”

“No kidding! I didn’t even know you played golf.”

“Yeah, I made a lot of money playing down in Florida this winter, and I was hoping to start doing the same up here. Problem is, I don’t know anybody to play for big money. I figured you might.”

“You’ve come to the right guy, Sport. I know a lot of players around, willing to let me take money off ‘em. Did you want to team up on this or go it alone?”

“Yeah, I’d love to team up with you if you’re interested.”

“Alright, let me try to arrange something. Can you play this Friday afternoon?”

“Yep. That’s one of my days off.”

“Okay. Gimme your phone number, and I’ll call you later after I’ve set something up.”

“Sounds good.” I gave him my phone number then. “Thanks, Eddie. Talk to you soon.”
 
 

Over the course of the next few months, Eddie and I played often together. Our matches went well, and we won a lot of money together. I also played some solo matches against individual opponents whom I’d met. By the time Abby got back to Brentwood after her graduation, I was up about eight grand, not including what I’d also earned in Florida.
 
 

Author Notes On E.J.'s return from Florida, where he caddied during the winter, he picks up where he left off--playing matches for money and earning money for a return to college.


Chapter 29
Some Call It Luck - Chapter 29

By Jim Wile

(See the Author Notes for a description of the major characters.)
 
Recap: E.J.’s renewed interest in golf led him to practice and play a lot before his trip to Florida where he caddied during the winter. He won some major money down there playing matches in his off-time with the goal of financing a return to college at Abby’s suggestion. He returns north where he continues caddying and making more money through golf matches. Meanwhile, Abby has just completed her senior year of college and is coming back to Brentwood CC to work at the snack bar again this summer. Abby does not have a boyfriend, but a few months back, she had met an interesting guy who she never saw again.
 
Abby St. Claire

June, 1987
 
 
E.J. came down to see me yesterday on my first day back at Brentwood where I got my old job back. He looked great! No longer the disshevelled caddie from last summer, he now looked like he was taking some pride in his appearance. It was so good to see him and talk to him again. We had talked a few times on the phone during the school year, but seeing him again in person made me realize how much I had missed him.
 
I was working at the snack bar today, and around 2:00, up walked Eddie Phillips and his playing partner for the day.

“Hiya, Doll!” exclaimed Eddie as they approached the counter. He then walked around the side and came in behind the counter via the side door. Eddie sidled up behind me and put his arms around my waist with his head over my shoulder. “How’s my favorite little chili-dipper?” he asked me.

I wriggled out of his grasp and said sternly, “Eddie, cut it out. You know you’re not supposed to be back here,” but I couldn’t suppress a little smile as I said it. I had been out with Eddie a couple of times last year. He was loud and funny and made me laugh, but he really wasn’t my type, and we’re just friends now.

“Abby, this is my good friend Kenny Payne,” he said, as we turned our attention to his playing partner standing at the counter. “Kenny, meet Abby St. Claire, the cutest little waitress around this joint.”

“Hi Abby. It’s nice to see you again.”

I couldn’t believe it. It was that guy I talked to at the frat party a few months ago. My pulse quickened as we looked at each other. Maybe it was because he wasn’t sitting on a bench now, but he was taller than I remembered and better-looking in the light of day.

“Oh, hi,” I managed to say.

“So, you two have already met, huh?” asked Eddie.

“Yeah, but not where you might think,” said Kenny. “It was at a frat party at Penn State where I was visiting an old buddy of mine.”

“Huh, small world,” said Eddie.

“So, Abby, are you new here?” Kenny asked, smiling at me. “I’ve only been here about a month, myself, but I haven’t seen you before.”

“I, um, just started yesterday…. Well, I was here last week, I mean last summer too.” That’s all I was able to say, and I felt myself blushing.

After an uncomfortable pause, Eddie chimed in, “Hey Abby, how about a Pabst and a couple of chili dogs loaded with extra onions for me. Kenny, what’ll you have?”

Kenny looked up at the menu posted on the wall inside and said, “I’ll just have a Coke and an egg salad sandwich, please.”

I shooed Eddie out and began filling the order. When he was back outside again, I overheard him say to Kenny as they went to find a table, “So, Sport, hubba-hubba, huh? Ever seen a pair of legs like that?”

“Hubba-hubba?” I thought. Who says that anymore?

I didn’t catch what Kenny said to him, but then I overheard Eddie say “Oh boy! You’ll be thinking about her the rest of the day. Now maybe I’ll have a chance on the back 9.”

In a few minutes I had finished preparing the food and brought it out to them. I served Eddie first, then I set down Kenny’s Coke. When I went to set down his sandwich, I accidentally knocked over the Coke, and it spilled all over the table and down his leg.

“Oh, no. I’m so sorry!” I said to him and started blushing again. “Let me go and get you another one and some towels to wipe that up.”

“Don’t worry, it’s no big deal,” he said as I turned away to go back to the snack bar.

God, what a klutz! I see this cute, interesting guy again, and I immediately fall apart. What is the matter with me?

I got him a new drink and grabbed some towels. I also wet a dishcloth. When I got back to the table, I set his drink down on a dry spot and began wiping up the spill. “I’m so sorry about that. It was so clumsy of me. I brought you a wet cloth to wipe off your leg,” I said and handed it to him. “I know Coke can be pretty sticky.”

He thanked me for it and told me again not to worry about it and that there was no harm done.

They told me then that they were playing against each other in the finals of the men’s club championship and they had actually just met that day.

Before they left, they purchased a couple of drinks for the caddies. After they paid their bill, I said, “Bye Eddie, Kevin. Hit ‘em straight.”

“What-what?” said Eddie, cupping a hand to his ear.

“I said, hit ‘em straight.”

“Hit what straight?”

“Your balls, of course.”

“I love hearing you talk about my balls, Dollface!”

“Eddie!” I said, shaking my head and blushing again.

After they left I thought to myself, did I just call that guy “Kevin?” Jeez, I can’t believe how rattled I was by him. I had to try to make it up to him now.

A little over an hour later, it was almost closing time at the snack bar. I decided to bring some drinks out to his group. I borrowed a golf cart, loaded it up with a variety of drinks, and set out to find them on the back 9. I found them about to hit on the 17th tee.

They took a break then to have a drink: Kenny, Eddie, their caddies, and the rules officials following them. After the brief respite, they thanked me, and Kenny and Eddie headed over to the tee. They had told me that Eddie was 1-up in the match to this point, so I decided to stay with them and watch the final two holes.

Eddie was the first to hit, and he proceeded to top his ball. He nonchalantly picked up his tee and strode over to stand beside me. Now it was Kenny’s turn. As he was about to make his backswing, “Pfffftttttttttttt!” came a noxious sound from Eddie. Kenny stopped and looked over at us with a little smile on his face.

“Eddie, that wasn’t nice,” I scolded him.

“I’m sorry, Sport. Must have been those extra onions Abby put on my hotdogs. Won’t happen again,” he said to Kenny.

Indignantly, I said, “Hey, don’t blame me for that. You asked for them.” He just smiled.

Kenny took his stance again, wiggled his club back and forth a couple of times, and once again, just as he was about to start his backswing, “PPPFFFFFFTTTTTTTT!”

“Eddie, give Kenny a break, would ya? There must be a rule about that!” I looked inquiringly at the rules official.

“Uh, there’s no rule about, er, flatulence,” said the head official, trying to keep a straight face. That would be covered under the etiquette of the game. No penalties involved.”

“I really am sorry, old boy. I’ll just go stand over there,” said Eddie sheepishly, as he ducked behind some bushes about twenty yards away.

Once again, Kenny took his stance, and waited… and waited… and sure enough, “Pffftt, Pffftt, Pfffttttt,” came three short blasts only slightly muffled by the foliage. Kenny cracked up! I started shaking hard, but no sound came out of my mouth just yet as I was building up to a huge explosion of laughter. Even the officials couldn’t avoid laughing.

When I finally quit laughing and caught my breath, I pulled Eddie into the cart beside me and took off down the rough on the right side of the fairway. With him out of earshot, Kenny was finally able to hit his tee shot—a good, long one down the middle of the fairway.

By the time Kenny reached his ball, Eddie had already hit his second and third shots and still hadn’t quite reached the green. Kenny’s second shot landed on the front edge of the green. Eddie hit a short shot up near the hole, and Kenny gave him the putt for a five. Kenny putted up close to the hole, and Eddie gave him his putt for a four, so Kenny won the hole, and the match was now tied.

The 18th is a par-3 hole. Having won the previous hole, Kenny got to hit first. A few of the members had wandered out to watch the conclusion of the match and lined the left side of the green. He stepped up to the tee, and after a practice swing and two deep breaths, he unleashed a beautiful, high iron shot that landed on the green and rolled up a few feet short and just right of the flagstick. He caught my eye then as I smiled and quietly applauded his beautiful shot.

Now it was Eddie’s turn. With his iron, he took a mammoth swipe at the ball, and it took off low and hard. It hit the front of the long, narrow green and ran up toward the flagstick. But it was going way too fast and looked like it would surely pass the flag and shoot over the back of the green and down a hill to the trees below… except that it collided with Kenny’s ball… and ricocheted left… and into the hole!

And just like that, it was over. Eddie had won. He let out a whoop and started strutting around the tee, bellowing “Oh yeah, oh yeah!” As Eddie passed by him, Kenny grinned broadly and gave him a high-5; what else could he do, really? Much to Kenny’s surprise, Eddie grabbed him by the neck, jumped up into his arms, put his legs around his waist, and wouldn’t let go while he pumped his fist in the air and continued bellowing. What a character! You had to love him. Kenny ended up carrying Eddie off the tee and set him down on the cart beside me.

“Did you see that, Red?” he exclaimed.

“I saw it, Eddie. I wouldn’t have believed it if you’d told me about it, but I saw it.” I looked over at Kenny, ruefully. “C’mon, boys, I’ll give you both a ride back to the clubhouse. I’ve got to wait tables in the restaurant now, and Eddie, I believe you owe everyone a round of drinks.”

“That is certainly true, thanks to my good buddy, Kenny here. Come on in, folks. Drinks on me!” he shouted to the members who witnessed his miracle shot as we headed up the path to the clubhouse to celebrate the 1987 club champion.
 

Author Notes Abby St. Claire: Age 20. She has just graduated from Penn State University where she was a math major and has decided to go for a master's degree there next year. She is intelligent and beautiful, yet shy and awkward with most people her age, having been picked on quite a lot while growing up. She works at the snack bar at Brentwood Country Club during the summers.

E.J. Budrowski: Age 37. An alcoholic with a traumatic past (an abusive father and a mother driven to suicide) who is a caddie at Brentwood CC. One day he finds a dirty old golf ball on the edge of pond that seems to have unusual powers, for he makes two holes-in-one with it. He and Abby become friends when she encourages him to take up both golf and bridge again after long layoffs.

Eddie Phillips: A young member at Brentwood known for his extremely good putting and ability to hustle his opponents. Eddie is friends with Abby.


Chapter 30
Some Call It Luck - Chapter 30

By Jim Wile

(See the Author Notes for a description of the main characters.)
 
We leave E.J. for a bit and return to Abby who has just completed her senior year of college and has returned to Brentwood CC to work at the snack bar again this summer to earn money for grad school. While at school a few months back, she had met an interesting guy who she never saw again until he walks up to the snack bar with her friend Eddie. They are playing in the finals of the club championship. Abby is visibly flustered by Kenny’s reappearance and spills coke on him while serving him. Later she brings drinks out to the group and watches them play the final two holes. On the final hole, a par-3, Eddie caroms his ball off Kenny’s and into the hole for an unlikely hole-in-one and the win. Abby drives them back to the clubhouse.

A continuation of the chapter Abby St. Claire - June, 1987

I dropped the boys off at the clubhouse before returning to the snack bar to unload the remaining drinks and to lock up, then I returned the cart and headed into the clubhouse to get ready for my waitressing shift.

I took a few minutes to freshen up, change into my waitressing outfit—a black skirt and white top—put my hair up, and apply a little makeup. Then I went into the kitchen to learn about the specials of the day.

About an hour into my shift, who should come in for dinner but Kenny and Eddie? The hostess guided them over to my section of the dining room. Right away my heartbeat sped up.

I grabbed a pitcher of ice water and walked over to their table. “Hi, guys. Can I get you something to drink besides the water?”

“As a matter of fact, I’d like to order a bottle of champagne to celebrate my new friend’s brilliant victory today,” said Kenny.

“I’d say it was more lucky than brilliant, but whatever,” I said to him as I poured their water.

“Hey, you didn’t see all those putts I sank before that,” said Eddie. “Gimme some credit here.”

I just smiled then went to retrieve the champagne. I grabbed a bottle from the refrigerator, a cork screw, and two flutes and headed back to the table. I had never actually opened a bottle of champagne before, but I’ve opened wine bottles. How different could it be? I removed the foil that surrounded the top and saw this wire thingy. What was that for? So, I untwisted the wires and slipped it off.

All of a sudden, the cork flew up from the bottle and hit me in the forehead, and the champagne started shooting up and drenched my blouse. I shrieked.

Eddie and Kenny immediately grabbed their napkins and hopped up to try to give me a hand in drying things off. Kenny helped blot my face and handed me the napkin to take care of my chest.

“Are you okay? It’s a good thing that didn’t catch you in the eye,” he said as he inspected my forehead. I put my finger up and felt a little dent where the cork had struck. I felt myself really blushing now. I looked down, and the champagne had soaked through my blouse which made it quite revealing.

“Yes, I’m okay, just embarrassed. I’m so sorry about that,” I said to them. I’ll go back and get some towels to clean up the mess and see if I can find another blouse to change into. I’ll be right back,” and I hurried away.

I was so thoroughly humiliated, that I just couldn’t go back there. I asked another girl if she could take over my table, changed into my regular clothes and left. What is it about that guy that turns me into such a walking disaster area? What can he possibly think of me?

I went home, got ready for bed, pulled out a book to read, and just tried to forget what a fool I had made of myself, but I couldn’t concentrate on a word.
 
 

E.J. came down to the snack bar to see me at noon the next day. He knew that I had a lunch break from 12:00 to 12:30, and he would often come down if he’d had an early morning loop. We walked up to The Overlook together and sat down. I brought my lunch with me.

“E.J., I feel like such a fool. I was introduced to this really nice guy out here yesterday who I’d actually talked to briefly a few months ago, and from the moment I saw him again, I felt tongue-tied and acted like a complete klutz. I don’t think I can ever face him again.”

E.J. had a momentary wistful expression on his face when I said this, but then he brightened and said, “Oh yeah? What was his name?”

“It was Kenny something. I don’t even remember his last name now.”

“Kenny Payne, perhaps? Tall, young, good-looking guy?”

“Yeah, that’s him.”

“Nice guy. I’ve caddied for him once or twice. He just lost the club championship to Eddie Phillips yesterday from what I understand. So, tell me what happened with him?”

“He and Eddie walk up to the snack bar between 9s, and Eddie introduces us. Right away my heart starts pounding and I start blithering and feeling the blood rush to my face. They put in their order and go sit down. When I bring it out, I set Kenny’s drink down, then I proceed to knock it over when I put his sandwich down, and it runs all over the table and down his leg. I am so embarrassed. I apologize like crazy and go and get some towels to wipe everything up. He’s very gracious and forgiving, but I feel like such a fool, and of course, I’m blushing again. Then when they’re ready to go, I call him Kevin by mistake.”

E.J. patted me on the shoulder. “Relax, would you? Kenny is such a nice guy; he won’t hold that against you.”

“But there’s more.”

“Oh, boy. I can’t wait to hear this,” E.J. said, chuckling. “What else happened?”

“Quit laughing, will you? It’s not funny. Well, maybe it is, kind of. So, they come in to have dinner after the round and sit down in my section. I was waitressing last night, you see. Kenny orders a bottle of champagne to celebrate Eddie’s victory. Now, I’ve never opened a bottle of champagne before, and I”

“Oh no, I can picture it now.”

“And I take the foil wrapper off then the wire thingy that holds the cork on and remove it, and next thing I know, the cork shoots up and hits me in the forehead, and champagne explodes everywhere and gets all over my face and blouse, soaking me right through.”

E.J. just closed his eyes, smiled, and shook his head back and forth as he pictured this scene.

“So, of course, both Kenny and Eddie hop up to help me dry off with napkins, but you can see right through my blouse now, so I go back in the kitchen to get some towels, but I’m so embarrassed, I just can’t go back out there. I ask another girl if she could take over my table and finish out for me, and I head home after that. God, what can that guy think of me?”

“That’s a great story, but you know what? I wouldn’t worry. You have so many good qualities: you’re smart, you’re pretty, and you’re probably the nicest person I’ve ever known. He’ll see these things in you one day.”

“I don’t feel so dang smart. I feel like a complete idiot.”

“Believe me, he doesn’t think that. I’ll bet he finds it kind of endearing.”

“Well then he’s an idiot.”

“Maybe so, but he’s no different than any guy I know. Here he sees this pretty girl who acts shy and clumsy around him. I guarantee you he will have found that to be cute and kind of flattering. You and he are going to laugh about it one day. You wait and see. I bet he asks you out before next weekend. I can really picture the two of you together.”

“Thanks, E.J. I hope you’re not just saying that to make me feel better.”

“I’m not. Just relax, and the next time you see him, just be your wonderful, intelligent, charming self. He’ll see that; I guarantee it.”
 

Author Notes Abby St. Claire: Age 20. She has just graduated from Penn State University where she was a math major and has decided to go for a master's degree there next year. She is intelligent and beautiful, yet shy and awkward with most people her age, having been picked on quite a lot while growing up. She works at the snack bar at Brentwood Country Club during the summers.

E.J. Budrowski: Age 37. An alcoholic with a traumatic past (an abusive father and a mother driven to suicide) who is a caddie at Brentwood CC. One day he finds a dirty old golf ball on the edge of a pond that seems to have unusual powers, for he makes two holes-in-one with it. He and Abby become friends when she encourages him to take up both golf and bridge again after long layoffs.

Kenny Payne: Abby met him briefly at a frat party in her senior year and was intrigued by him, then she sees him again when he walks up to the snack bar several months later.

Eddie Phillips: A young member at Brentwood known for his extremely good putting and ability to hustle his opponents. Eddie is friends with Abby and beats Kenny in the club championship with a miracle shot. He and Kenny become best friends after that.


Chapter 31
Some Call It Luck - Chapter 31

By Jim Wile

(See the Author Notes for a description of the main characters.)

 Recap: Abby has just completed her senior year of college and has returned to Brentwood CC to work at the snack bar again this summer to earn money for grad school. While at school a few months back, she had met an interesting guy who she never saw again until he walks up to the snack bar with her friend Eddie. They are playing in the finals of the club championship. Abby is visibly flustered by Kenny’s reappearance and spills coke on him while serving him. Later that evening, her discomfiture around Kenny increases as she is drenched by champagne when she opens a bottle for Kenny and Eddie while waitressing in the clubhouse. She confides in E.J. who tells her not to worry about it and predicts that Kenny will ask her out within the week.

A continuation of the chapter Abby St. Claire - June, 1987

Later that afternoon, by around 3:00, things had slowed down at the snack bar. I would be off in about an hour, and I just sat behind the counter reading when Kenny walked up. My heart jumped a little as he said, “Hi, Abby.”

“Hi, Kenny. What can I get you?”

“How about a hotdog and a Coke. No onions, though!” We both laughed at that, thinking about the fiasco on the 17th tee yesterday. As I poured the Coke and prepared the hotdog, he started telling me about the match yesterday. He told me all about Eddie’s phenomenal putting and how he just couldn’t shake the little guy.

“Yeah, I’ve heard that about him before. He’s quite a character, isn’t he?” I said, to which he readily agreed.

We just kept on talking. Nobody else was coming up to the snack bar, so I suggested that we sit down at a table so he wouldn’t have to stand there at the counter, eating.

“So, will you be going back to school in the fall?” he asked me.

“Well, I just graduated this spring with a degree in mathematics, but I will be going back to Penn State in the fall to begin a master’s program in applied mathematics.” I saw his eyebrows raise a little when I told him this. “This summer I’m planning to relax and have fun.”

“Sounds like you deserve it. That was probably a pretty grueling major.”

“Yeah, it was, but I’ve always loved math and science. I’m kind of a nerd that way. So, are you a student there too?”

“No, I was just visiting a friend that day we met. I graduated from college last year and got my first job as a mechanical engineer for a mid-size company named Wingate Industries that manufactures dryers for the food industry.”

“Oh. Are they gas-heated or steam-heated dryers?”

“Uh, both, actually.”

“What’s the method of energy transfer? Convection? Jet tubes?”

“Mainly convection. How do you know so much about dryers, Abby? I’m very impressed with your questions.”

“I also studied engineering and physics before deciding I wanted to major in mathematics. We learned about thermodynamics.”

The conversation went on for a good while but eventually came to a halt, and right then he asked me if I’d like to join him for some coffee after I got off work or perhaps dinner a little later.

“I get off at 4:00. Maybe we could do dinner?”

“Okay, nothing fancy—just Maudie’s Place downtown. What do you think?” he asked me.

“That sounds great.” I then gave him directions to my apartment and told him to come around 6:00. Some more golfers were approaching right then, and I got up to go back to the counter. We said goodbye, and he left.

Son of a gun; E.J. was right, and his prediction came true. I couldn’t stop smiling.
 
 

When work was over, I hurried home to get ready for our date. I stopped in and told Aunt Helen that Kenny Payne would be coming over around 6:00 to pick me up for dinner. I told her I wanted to put my hair in a French braid and asked her if she could help me with that. She beamed at me then and told me she’d be glad to help and would come up in about an hour.

I went up the stairs to my apartment then and looked around for Lester, but he was nowhere to be found. I put some food out for him and went into the bathroom to take a shower.

After the shower, I stewed about what to wear. I tried a few things on and finally settled on a pair of short shorts and a pretty, flowered blouse. Aunt Helen came up then, and we worked on my hair for about 20 minutes. Then I chose a pair of earrings and a few dangly bracelets and put them on. Aunt Helen told me I looked smashing, and I thanked her for helping me with my hair.

The last step was to put on a little makeup. I never wore too much, but I wanted to look my best for Kenny.

I saw him pull up a few minutes before 6:00 as I was applying my lipstick. It looked like he stopped to chat with Aunt Helen and Uncle Bert who were probably out on the front porch sipping cocktails. Pretty soon I heard him come up the stairs and ring the bell. Right before I got to the door, Lester came bounding in through the cat door and startled me.

“Lester!! You scared the bejesus out of me! Can’t you come in a little calmer than that?” I opened the door and greeted Kenny a little breathlessly. “That was Lester who you probably saw for a second or two. He’s not particularly friendly to strangers, but he’s my buddy. I’ve had him since I was a kid.”

Kenny couldn’t take his eyes off me. “Abby, you look great!”

“Thanks. You look nice too.” He had on a pair of khaki shorts and a very smart-looking shirt.

I grabbed my purse, called goodbye to Lester, who had disappeared somewhere, and we headed out the door and down the stairs to his car. As we walked down the driveway, Aunt Helen called out, “Have a good time, dear. This one looks a lot more promising than that other one. So tall and handsome!”

“I think so, too, Aunt Helen,” I called back. Now it was Kenny’s turn to blush. He walked around to the passenger side and opened the door for me.

“And such manners!” came back Aunt Helen. He smiled at her and continued to blush, gave them a little wave goodbye, and got into the driver’s seat.

As we headed downtown to Maudie’s, he asked me, “So who is ‘that other one?’”

“Who do you think?”

“Oh, yeah, he mentioned that he had been out with you a few times.”

“Yes, twice to be exact. Let’s just say he’s not quite my type.”

“What is your type?”

“Tall and handsome and polite, I guess,” I replied with a grin
 

Author Notes Abby St. Claire: Age 20. She has just graduated from Penn State University where she was a math major and has decided to go for a master's degree there next year. She is intelligent and beautiful, yet shy and awkward with most people her age, having been picked on quite a lot while growing up. She works at the snack bar at Brentwood Country Club during the summers.

E.J. Budrowski: Age 37. An alcoholic with a traumatic past (an abusive father and a mother driven to suicide) who is a caddie at Brentwood CC. One day he finds a dirty old golf ball on the edge of a pond that seems to have unusual powers, for he makes two holes-in-one with it. He and Abby become friends when she encourages him to take up both golf and bridge again after long layoffs.

Kenny Payne: Abby met him briefly at a frat party in her senior year and was intrigued by him, then she sees him again when he walks up to the snack bar several months later.

Eddie Phillips: A young member at Brentwood known for his extremely good putting and ability to hustle his opponents. Eddie is friends with Abby and beats Kenny in the club championship with a miracle shot. He and Kenny become best friends after that.


Chapter 32
Some Call It Luck - Chapter 32

By Jim Wile

(See the Author Notes for a description of the main characters.)

Recap: Abby has returned to Brentwood CC to work at the snack bar again this summer to earn money for grad school. While at school a few months back, she had met an interesting guy who she never saw again until he walks up to the snack bar with her friend Eddie. Abby is visibly flustered by Kenny’s reappearance and spills coke on him while serving him. Later that evening, her discomfiture around Kenny increases as she is drenched by champagne when she opens a bottle for Kenny and Eddie while waitressing in the clubhouse. She confides in E.J. who tells her not to worry about it and predicts that Kenny will ask her out within the week. He does, and they have their first date.

A contination of the chapter Abby St. Claire - June, 1987
 
Dinner at Maudie’s Place went splendidly; I didn’t even spill anything. We talked easily about all sorts of things. He loved to read, like me, and asked me what my favorite book was. I told him The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand—a favorite of his too, he said. “What did you like so much about it?” he asked me.

“Well, it wasn’t because the main character, Howard Roark, had red hair! I loved his vision and his refusal to let others stop him from achieving it. He didn’t care what others thought of him; he just did things his own way and stayed true to himself. I wish I were more like that.”

“Have you ever faced the kind of challenges in your life that he had to overcome?” he asked me.

“Only to a small extent. When I was growing up, I didn’t really fit in that well at school. I was this funny-looking kid with glasses and was a real bookworm. Kids tended to pick on me, and it bothered me a lot. When I got to college, there were very few women in my major, and most of the guys looked down on me. A few even told me I’d never make it in the job market. But I’ve always loved math and science. If it means having a tougher time finding a job, I guess I’ll have to deal with it then.

“One other small challenge: my parents often wanted to get rid of Lester because he was so unfriendly—mean, really—but I loved him and took over his feeding and care. They didn’t have to do anything except take him to the vet once a year.”

“Why do you love a mean cat?”

“Well, he’s not mean to me. He just seems to be a one-person cat whose loyalty I had to earn.”

“Do you think he’d ever make room in his life for a second person?”

“I don’t know, but I hope so.”

We talked some more about Eddie.

“You know, I actually really like the guy,” Kenny said. “Yeah, he’s loud and crude, but he makes me laugh. Maybe it’s just my puerile sense of humor, but I enjoy being around him.”

“Deep down, somewhere in there, he’s really a sweet guy,” I said. “He’d give you the shirt off his back, especially if he got a chance to check you out while doing it. For real, on our second date, he spilled his beer all over my blouse. See? I’m not the only one who spills stuff. We were having a picnic, if you can believe it, and he accidentally spilled his beer down the front of my shirt.”

“Maybe it wasn’t so accidental.”

“Well, you could be right because he insisted that I wear his golf shirt since he had a T-shirt on beneath it. And even though I went around behind some bushes to change, he found an excuse to come back there and check me out.”

“Couldn’t really blame him there.”

“Kenny! You guys!”

“Whatsa matter, Dollface? Don’t you know how crazy you’re driving me with this kind of talk?” he said in a good Eddie impersonation.

That cracked me up. We talked some more, but soon it was time to go. We walked around downtown for a while, and he took my hand. I was starting to feel comfortable with him now, and it felt wonderful walking around holding hands with him.

When we got back to my place, I asked him if he’d like to come up for a while. Without hesitation he said yes.

I offered him something to drink. “All I have is milk and water. No champagne, unfortunately.”

We both laughed at that. “Water’s fine.”

As we sat down on the sofa, he took my hand again. Lester suddenly appeared and jumped up to settle on my lap. When he saw that we were holding hands, he let out a soft growl. “Settle down, Lester. You’re still my best boy.”

Kenny tried reaching out to pet him with his other hand, but a loud hiss stopped him right there. “Okay, Lester, we’ll just take it slow,” he said. Lester jumped down then and retreated to the bedroom.

“I guess I didn’t make much of an impression on him,” Kenny said then.

“Oh, he’ll get used to you eventually.”

“Does that mean I can ask you out again?”

“Well, I was kind of hoping you would.”

He smiled at that. We talked for a while more, and then it was time to go. He asked me if he could see me again tomorrow and suggested maybe a picnic dinner in the park. “Only if you promise not to spill any beer on me,” I said.

“If you promise not to spill anything on me, it’s a deal,” and we both laughed. We made arrangements then to pick up the food and drinks at the deli downtown before going to the park.

We said goodbye at the door, but he hesitated before turning around to leave. He gently put his hands on my face and gave me a soft kiss on the mouth. I put my hands around his waist and closed my eyes. And then it was over, and he went down the stairs and out to his car.

Oh, my goodness! I’m head over heels for this guy, and I hope he feels the same about me.
 

Author Notes Abby St. Claire: Age 20. She has just graduated from Penn State University where she was a math major and has decided to go for a masters degree there next year. She is intelligent and beautiful, yet shy and awkward with most people her age, having been picked on quite a lot while growing up. She works at the snack bar at Brentwood Country Club during the summers.

Kenny Payne: Abby met him briefly at a frat party in her senior year and was intrigued by him, then she sees him again when he walks up to the snack bar several months later. Tall, good looking, and an all-around nice guy.


Chapter 33
Some Call It Luck - Chapter 33

By Jim Wile

(See the Author Notes for a description of the main characters.)
 
Recap: Abby has returned to Brentwood CC to work at the snack bar again this summer to earn money for grad school. While at school a few months back, she had met an interesting guy who she never saw again until he walks up to the snack bar with her friend Eddie. Abby is visibly flustered by Kenny’s reappearance and spills coke on him while serving him. Later that evening, her discomfiture around Kenny increases as she is drenched by champagne when she opens a bottle for Kenny and Eddie while waitressing in the clubhouse. She confides in E.J. who tells her not to worry about it and predicts that Kenny will ask her out within the week. He does, and they have their first date, which goes well.
 
Abby St. Claire
 
Summer, 1987
 
For the past few weeks, Kenny and I continued to see each other almost every day. We both worked during the day, but we got together for dinner every night except for Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays. Thursday nights I would have dinner with E.J., and then we would play duplicate bridge at the temple. On Fridays and Saturdays, I had to wait tables in the clubhouse, but Kenny and Eddie would have dinner at the club those nights, and I would see them there and often wait on them.

So far, Kenny’s relationship with Lester remained relatively unchanged. Though they’d gotten beyond the hissing stage, Lester would largely ignore him, despite Kenny’s attempts to befriend him. He would toss a ball across the rug for him to chase, but Lester just sat there and looked at Kenny or started washing himself. When we sat together on the couch holding hands, Lester would be right there on my lap, purring away, but if Kenny tried to pet him, he’d let out a soft growl. “Lester, be nice,” I implored him.

“It’s okay, Lester. In your own time,” Kenny told him.

It went on like this for another couple of weeks until one night when it finally got resolved. It was usually when Kenny arrived and mounted the stairs to my apartment over the garage that Lester made his appearance, bounding up the stairs behind him. He sometimes had a dead bird or a small rodent in his mouth, which he would deposit on the stoop before going in through his cat door.

This particular evening, I heard Kenny from down below shouting, “Abby! Come down here quickly! Lester’s in trouble!”

I flew down the stairs in a panic and saw Lester writhing on the ground, sort of choking. “Kenny, he can’t breathe!” I started to try to pry his mouth open, but he fought me, and I couldn’t get a good hold on him. “What do we do?” I cried.

Kenny quickly grabbed Lester and pulled him to his chest. He placed his hands under his ribcage and gave a few quick upward thrusts. Out came whatever it was he’d been trying to swallow. Kenny put him down gently, but Lester turned and quickly bit him on the hand, then ran off.
“Jeez!” he said as he grabbed his stricken hand with the other one. It was starting to bleed a lot. “You’re welcome, Lester!” he shouted.

I told him to raise his arm up, and led him upstairs to wash his hand off and put on some peroxide and a bandage. “I’m sorry he did that to you. He was scared.”

“I know. It’s okay. I’ll live.”

“Thank you for saving him. I didn’t know what to do,” I said as tears welled up in my eyes. He put his arms around me, and I buried my face in his chest and just started sobbing. He tried comforting me, but I was inconsolable. His shirt was getting pretty drenched from my tears.
Eventually, I stopped sobbing and started pulling myself together.

“You really love that guy, don’t you?” he asked me.

“Yes, I do. I was eight when we got him. He was just a kitten. He was a lot friendlier then, but over the years he just wanted to be my cat. Sometimes he was my only friend. That choking really scared me!”

I sniffled a few more times. “How did you know what to do to save him like that?”

“My brother is a doctor, and he told me once about a technique discovered a few years back called the ‘Heimlich Maneuver.’ I didn’t know if it would work on cats, but apparently it does. Let’s try to forget about it and go have some dinner. He’s going to be alright.”
 
 

Later, after we returned from dinner, I decided to change into some warmer clothes. The evenings were getting cooler now as summer was waning, and I had worn shorts and a sleeveless shirt to dinner. After changing in the bedroom, I came out and saw Lester sitting on the rug looking up at Kenny sitting on the couch. He then jumped up onto Kenny’s legs, turned a few circles and arranged himself on his lap. He then started licking his front paws as if this were just another typical evening. Kenny started slowly stroking his back, and Lester actually began purring.

“Well, look at you two! I guess he’s forgiven you.”

“He’s forgiven me? What do you think goes on in those pea-brains of theirs?”

“We’ll never know. But it looks like you two have come to an understanding.” I sat down with them, and, amazingly, Lester stayed on Kenny’s lap, purring.

“My two favorite guys are friends at last.”
 

Author Notes Abby St. Claire: Age 20. She has just graduated from Penn State University where she was a math major and has decided to go for a masters degree there next year. She is intelligent and beautiful, yet shy and awkward with most people her age, having been picked on quite a lot while growing up. She works at the snack bar and as a waitress at Brentwood Country Club during the summers. She has just started dating Kenny who she met at the snack bar.

Kenny Payne: Abby met him briefly at a frat party in her senior year and was intrigued by him, then she sees him again when he walks up to the snack bar several months later. Tall, good looking, and an all-around nice guy.

Lester: Abby's big, black cat who she raised as a kitten from the time she was eight. He provided much needed friendship to Abby while she was growing up.


Chapter 34
Some Call It Luck - Chapter 34

By Jim Wile

(See the Author Notes for a description of the main characters.)
 
Recap: Abby has returned to Brentwood CC to work at the snack bar again this summer to earn money for grad school. While at school a few months back, she had met an interesting guy who she never saw again until he walks up to the snack bar with her friend Eddie. Kenny is a member at Brentwood, and after a rocky start, they begin dating. Kenny is finally able to befriend Abby’s stand-offish cat, Lester, who warms to him after Kenny saved him from choking to death.
 
A continuation of the chapter, Abby St. Claire - Summer, 1987
 
About a week later on a Friday night, I finished my shift at the snack bar at 5:00 PM. We stayed open an hour later than usual because of an outing that afternoon. Kenny came down to meet me right at closing time. They didn’t need me to wait tables that night, so we had the whole evening to ourselves. We left together in his car and drove to Maudie’s for an early dinner.
 
At dinner, Kenny just seemed to pick at his food and wasn’t very talkative. In fact, he looked kind of anxious.

“Kenny, what’s eating you?”

“So, you could tell, huh? This afternoon Eddie and I met these two guys who are thinking about becoming members here at Brentwood. They said they wanted to play the course first, and we agreed to play with them tomorrow. The thing is, they suggested a money match. I don’t know; I just have a bad feeling about it. I’m thinking Eddie will want to commit us to some pretty high stakes, and these guys might be trying to hustle us.”

“You don’t have to go along with it if you don’t feel comfortable about it, you know.”

“Easier said than done. You know how persuasive Eddie can be.”

He continued to stew, and while we were finishing up with some ice cream, I had a sudden idea to help get his mind off it. “Kenny, teach me to play golf!”

“What—now?”

“Why not? You got anything better to do?”

“Well, I can think of a few other things we might do together,” he said, twitching his eyebrows up and down a couple of times.

“No, I want you to teach me to play golf. We can just go back to the club.”

“Well, sweetie, what you’re wearing doesn’t quite fit the dress code there on the golf course.”

I had on a pair of short shorts. “Hardly anyone is going to be out on the course at 6:30, and we still have to go back there for my car.”

“Alright then, let’s do it,” he said, and we left Maudie’s and headed to his car. On the way there, I got to thinking about how I had wanted to learn to skate when Fred started showing interest in me back in junior high school. I became good at it, and I loved skating with him. That’s how I felt now; I wanted to share this with Kenny.

We got back to the club and entered the Pro Shop. Tony the caddie master was still there—boy, that guy put in some long hours—and gave us a shag bag of balls and a set of lady’s clubs for me to use.

Kenny grabbed his bag from the bag room, and we headed over to the practice tee. On the way, he asked me if I’d ever swung a golf club before.

“In high school gym class, we did a two-week rotation of golf. That’s the only time.”

“That’s great, then. You won’t have any bad habits to undo.”

“Well, I do bite my nails occasionally.”

“I meant swing habits.”

“I know, I’m just kidding around.”

When we got to the tee, he dumped the balls out of the shag bag, then pulled a 7-iron out of my bag. “Okay, let’s see you address the ball,” he said as he handed me the club.

I grabbed it from him, took a stance, and said, “Hello, ball!”

He cracked up at that. “So, you saw that episode of The Honeymooners huh, when Ralph was teaching Norton to play?”

“Yeah, I saw it. I liked Ralph’s golfing duds, too. He looked something like Eddie.”

“Yeah, that was pretty funny. Alright, let me see your grip.”

I took his hand then and squeezed hard.

“I meant on the club, you clown! Are you going to be serious about this, or what?”

“I’ll be Serious if you’ll be Roebuck.”

“Oh, c’mon, Abby!”

“I’m just trying to lighten your mood a little, Kenny. You seemed pretty preoccupied at the restaurant back there.”

“Yeah, I know. You’re doing a good job of it too, by the way. So, do you really want to learn to play?”

“Yes, I really do. This is how I grip it,” I said as I took the club in my hands.

Kenny studied it for a few seconds. “Well, your grip’s not bad but perhaps a little too strong.” He moved my hands more on the top of the club.

“Alright, let me see a practice swing.”

I settled into my stance, then took the club back quickly, turning my hips and shoulders way around to the right. My left heel came high off the ground. I swung down with a lot of force and followed through. I kind of lost my balance at the end and fell back on my right foot.

“Wow! You’ve got some power, girl. Not too bad, but a little loose overall. Let’s try to tighten things up a bit.”

“Let me try to hit a few balls first.”

“Okay, but don’t be disappointed if they’re not that great,” he warned.

The first one I missed entirely. The next one I barely nicked, and it scooted forward on the ground about five yards. “Alright, never mind. Show me what to do.”

He then launched into a detailed explanation of the posture and stance and takeaway. I frowned. “You know, Kenny. I’m more of a visual learner. Maybe you could just hit a few balls for me, and I’ll try to imitate you.”

“Sure.” He pulled his own 7-iron from his bag, took a couple of practice swings, and then stepped up to a ball. He took the club back slowly only about ¾ of the way back, then with a gentle transfer of weight over to his left side, the club glided down slowly at first and then whooshed through quickly at the bottom. The ball soared into the air and came down softly way down the range.

“Wow! How did you do that? You hardly swung at all at the ball, and it just seemed to rocket away.”

“It’s all in the timing. Okay, try this. We’re just going to get a feel for the rhythm of the swing. Take your club and just swing it back and forth slowly—just little half-swings like this—kind of like a pendulum.”

He demonstrated with a lazy back and forth motion of the club. “Just a slight weight transfer to the back foot on the way back and the forward foot on the way down. Just back-and-forth, back-and-forth. Brush the top of the grass with the club.”

I imitated him and got into the flow of it.

“Alright, now try swinging it back a little further, and make your weight transfer a little more pronounced. Still, just back-and-forth, back-and-forth, nice and easy, back-and-forth.”

“You’re going to hypnotize me,” I said as I continued swinging the club. I had a nice rhythm going now.

“Okay, now keep it going. But this time, on the way down, start with your hips only, and hold your arms and shoulders back a little before starting down with them—like this.”

He demonstrated a slight hip thrust and a little lag in the shoulders.

I continued the back-and-forth motion but with a little lag of my upper body.

“Good, keep it going.” While I continued to swing, he said to me, “Now without stopping or changing anything at all, just hit this ball,” and he pushed a ball over right where my club was contacting the grass. Smack! And the ball soared away into the evening sky.

“Kenny, look at that! I did it!”

“You sure did, babe!”

“I want to do it again.”

“Okay!” We followed the same procedure, and I hit shot after shot into the air with only a few mis-hits.

“Alright, now see if you can do it starting from a standstill,” he said. “Just keep that same rhythm, and don’t force anything.”

I tried it and hit five good ones and only two bad ones.

“That’s terrific, sweetie. You’re a natural.”

“I’ve got a good teacher!”

“Aw, shucks…. Now are you up for a little putting? We’ve got about half an hour before it gets too dark.”

“Yes, Master,” I intoned, sounding like Caine from the TV show Kung Fu.

“Very good, Grasshoppa’.”
 
(I hate to end the scene here, but it's getting too long. Tomorrow we'll continue with the putting lesson and a surprise ending to the evening.)
 

Author Notes Abby St. Claire: Age 20. She has just graduated from Penn State University where she was a math major and has decided to go for a masters degree there next year. She is intelligent and beautiful, yet shy and awkward with most people her age, having been picked on quite a lot while growing up. She works at the snack bar and as a waitress at Brentwood Country Club during the summers. She has just started dating Kenny who she met at the snack bar.

Kenny Payne: Abby met him briefly at a frat party in her senior year and was intrigued by him, then she sees him again when he walks up to the snack bar several months later. Tall, good looking, and an all-around nice guy who is a member at Brentwood.


Chapter 35
Some Call It Luck - Chapter 35

By Jim Wile

(See the Author Notes for a description of the main characters.)
 
Recap: Abby has returned to Brentwood CC to work at the snack bar again this summer to earn money for grad school. While at school a few months back, she had met an interesting guy who she never saw again until he walks up to the snack bar with her friend Eddie. Kenny is a member at Brentwood, and after a rocky start, they begin dating. Kenny is finally able to befriend Abby’s stand-offish cat, Lester, who warms to him after Kenny saved him from choking to death. To help Kenny take his mind off his worries about an upcoming golf match, Abby gets him to teach her the golf swing. Now for a putting lesson too.
 
We carried our bags over to the putting green and laid them down. We pulled out our putters, and he reached into one of the side pockets of his bag, pulled out three balls, and threw them down on the green. “Okay, aim at that hole over there, and let’s see what your putting stroke looks like,” he told me.

I bent over a ball and without hesitating started taking the putter back to ¾, just like he had taught me on the range.

“Stop!”

“Just kidding!” I said, laughing at his distress.

“Phew! I thought you were going to send it right through that window over there,” he said pointing to the big picture window in the bar that overlooked the putting green. We looked up and saw a bunch of guys in the bar laughing at us.

“Okay, babe, let’s see a real putting stroke. Try to make it as rhythmic as the 7-iron swing—just a lot shorter! And hold the putter more in your palms rather than the fingers.”

I then hit the three balls, not particularly close to the hole, but he said my stroke looked pretty good. We walked over to the balls, and he demonstrated by hitting them back the other way. Back and forth I went stroking putt after putt, and eventually I sank one. I jumped up and down a few times in exultation. We glanced up at the bar to see if anyone had noticed, and they were all in there giving me a thumbs up or applauding. I gave them a little curtsey and mouthed, “Thank you, thank you.”

Then I putted the three balls again. I noticed Kenny looking up at the guys in the bar, who were gesturing for him to move out of the way. I knew they were checking out my derriere in those tight shorts. He waved them off and deliberately stayed rooted where he was, blocking their view. We heard some faint boos through the picture window, and I asked Kenny if they were booing my putting.

“No, they were booing me for blocking the view.”

“What, so they couldn’t see my good form?”

“Uh, yeah, I guess you could say that.”

I smiled at him knowingly and gave a little wave to the guys at the window. They applauded wildly.

“Kenny, this isn’t quite as much fun as hitting balls on the range. I really liked doing that better.”

“Well, it’s a different part of the game, to be sure. I also prefer practicing my long game. Eddie, on the other hand, only practices his putting. Oh, I forgot to tell you that I’ve started helping him with his putter designs. He’s an inventor, you know, and he’s been working on putter designs for a few years now. He never studied physics and doesn’t really know why some of his putters work better than others. I told him I understood force vectors and moments of inertia and things and that I thought I could really help him understand the physics involved. He loved the idea.”

“Sounds like you and he are becoming pretty good friends now, aren’t you?”

“Yeah, I’m actually thinking of working with him, at least part-time.”

“Really? Well, just be careful. He seems to be a bit of a gambler, and I wouldn’t want to see you lose a lot of money on some venture that doesn’t work out.”

“Well, you’re right. That’s kind of what I was worried about with the match tomorrow. I hope we don’t get in over our heads.”

“Just don’t let him speak for you. You can assert yourself.” (Jeez, listen to me talking about being assertive!)

“I know I can… I guess.”

By this time it was getting pretty dark, so we decided to call it a night. We waved to the guys in the bar as we headed back to the Pro Shop and deposited our clubs inside. My car was still there from earlier, so we kissed goodbye in the parking lot and drove home separately.

Soon after I got home, he called me. “Abby, thanks for tonight. You sure helped take my mind off tomorrow. Did you really want to learn golf, or was it just a ploy to help me relax?”

“Well, actually it was both. I like doing everything with you.”

After a few seconds, he said softly, “I love you, Abby.”

My heart fluttered. “I love you too, Kenny,” I said softly back.

“Good night, sweetie.”

“Goodnight.”

Oh, God! That was the first time we had ever said that to each other. I wish we’d been face-to-face, but it hardly detracted from how I felt right then. I went to bed with a glow.
 
 

Summer was rapidly coming to an end, and I’d be starting grad school in a few more weeks. I had mixed feelings. As much as I looked forward to that, I didn’t want this wonderful summer to end. Kenny and I spent time together almost every day, and it certainly wouldn’t be like that when I was back at college, and he was here working. We wouldn’t be that far away from each other, but it would mean perhaps only occasional visits. I love him and want to be with him all the time now.

We went to a movie tonight and when he pulled in the driveway, I said to him, “Can you come up for a while?”

“Yeah, but just for a little while. I’ve got a big presentation at work tomorrow, and I have to practice for it.”

“You can practice on me.”

“Well, that’s a nice offer, but I don’t have any of my notes with me, and I haven’t exactly got it memorized. I’ll come up for a while. Besides, I’ve got to see my buddy, Lester.”

“I’m so happy he’s taken to you.”

“Is he still your best boy?” Kenny asked me.

“He’ll always be my best boy!”

“Where does that leave me then?”

“You’re my best boyfriend.”

We climbed the stairs and went inside, but Lester was nowhere to be found. He must still be out hunting somewhere, enjoying the summer evening.

We sat down and held hands and talked for a while, then we started kissing. Ever since we’d declared our love for each other, our passion seemed to grow exponentially. We could no longer stop at just kissing, and our hands began exploring each other’s bodies. This was so new to me, for I had never been this intimate with anyone before. I got a little scared, and breathlessly I told Kenny I thought we should stop before we wouldn’t be able to. Like the gentleman he was, he didn’t push it any further. Soon after, when we’d caught our breaths and settled down again, I walked him to the door.

“Sorry I missed Lester,” he said. He kissed me one more time and said, “Goodnight, my love.”

“Goodnight, my love. Maybe next time.”

He looked at me closely and said, “Really?”

“Yeah. Maybe next time you’ll see Lester.”

He smiled at that, shaking his head. Then he turned around and walked down the stairs. What a warm, delicious feeling permeated my body.

I watched him through the window as he got in his car, gave me a little wave, then started backing out. But then I heard a strange, high-pitched sound and saw him lurch to a stop and hop out of the car. He raced around to the back and bent down, then I heard him call out, “Abby!”

My heart thudded in my chest as I raced down the stairs. I hoped beyond hope that what I was thinking hadn’t just happened, but when I ran around to the back of Kenny’s car, my worst fear was realized. Lester lay there, and he was yowling pitifully. Kenny’s rear wheel had apparently run over the rear half of him, and his back was broken with his legs splayed out flat.

I wailed “Ohhhhh! Lester. No, no, no, no, noooo!! I burst out crying as I bent down to hug him. I put my face to his and kissed him over and over as I whispered in his ear, “I love you, my poor boy,” although I knew he couldn’t hear me. He looked at me with fear in his eyes, and as I gently stroked his cheeks and rubbed his ears, he silently passed away.

I pulled him into my arms then and held him as I sobbed and sobbed.

“Abby, I’m so sorry. I didn’t see him,” Kenny said as he knelt down and started to put his arm around my shoulder. I whirled around and said, “Kenny, what did you do! Weren’t you watching where you were going?”

He started reaching for me again, but I ducked away from him. “Just go! I don’t want you here right now!”

He stood up then, bowed his head, and got back in his car without another word. I stood up then too and carried Lester’s lifeless body back up to my apartment.
 

Author Notes Abby St. Claire: Age 20. She has just graduated from Penn State University where she was a math major and has decided to go for a masters degree there next year. She is intelligent and beautiful, yet shy and awkward with most people her age, having been picked on quite a lot while growing up. She works at the snack bar and as a waitress at Brentwood Country Club during the summers. She is dating Kenny who she met earlier this year and is a member at Brentwood.

Kenny Payne: Abby met him briefly at a frat party in her senior year and was intrigued by him, then she sees him again when he walks up to the snack bar several months later. Tall, good looking, and an all-around nice guy.

Lester: Abby's big, black cat who she raised as a kitten from the time she was eight. He provided much needed friendship to Abby while she was growing up.


Chapter 36
Some Call It Luck - Chapter 36

By Jim Wile

(See the Author Notes for a description of the main characters.)
 
Recap: Abby has returned to Brentwood CC to work at the snack bar again this summer to earn money for grad school. While at school a few months back, she had met an interesting guy who she never saw again until he walks up to the snack bar with her friend Eddie. Kenny is a member at Brentwood, and after a rocky start, they begin dating. Kenny is finally able to befriend Abby’s stand-offish cat, Lester, who warms to him after Kenny saved him from choking to death. Toward the end of summer, Kenny and Abby profess their love for each other, but soon after, tragedy strikes as Kenny accidentally runs over and kills Lester. Abby is so distraught that she blames Kenny and tells him to leave her alone.
 
A continuation of the chapter: Abby St. Claire - Summer, 1987
 
At 7:30 the next morning, I called E.J. I knew he’d be getting ready for work now, and I wanted to catch him before he left.

“E.J?”

“Hi, Abby. Is something wrong?”

I guess he could detect an odd note to my voice. “After your round this morning, could you come down and meet me at the snack bar? I need to talk to you.”

“Sure, Abby.” He paused for a moment. “Did something happen between you and Kenny?”

“No… yes… I don’t know. I just need to talk to you.”

“Okay. Hang in there, kiddo. We’ll get through this. I’ll see you later.”

“Thanks, E.J. Bye.”

“Bye.”
 
 

E.J. showed up at the snack bar around 12:15. After the girl who takes my place during my lunch hour came down, we headed up to The Overlook and sat down on the bench. I looked at him and immediately started tearing up. He put his arm around me, and I laid my head on his shoulder. He just waited patiently for me to talk. I finally managed to choke out, “Lester died last night…. Kenny… ran over him as he was leaving my place.” I really lost it then and dug my face into E.J.’s shoulder as he put both arms around me and tried to comfort me.

“Oh, Abby, I’m so sorry! I know how much you loved Lester. You must be sick about it.”

Between sobs I was able to get out, “E.J., I yelled at Kenny and blamed him and… and I told him to go away… but I know deep down it wasn’t his fault. Lester was deaf and must have been lurking right under Kenny’s car and didn’t hear it start up. Kenny wouldn’t have seen him when he looked in his rearview mirror, which I know he always does when he backs out of the driveway. Why did I blame him like I did?”

“No one knows how they will react when faced with a tragedy like that. The natural tendency is to try to find blame. You acted the way most humans would in a similar situation.”

“But I was so mean to Kenny. He was trying to apologize and comfort me, and I cast him away and made him feel worse than he already did. I was such a heartless bitch, but I still don’t think I can look at him without seeing the killer of my cat, even though it wasn’t his fault.”

“You’re being too hard on yourself. I’m sure Kenny understands that you were extremely emotional right then and maybe not totally rational. If he’s any kind of guy, and I think he is, he won’t hold that against you. You two are so great together. I know you love him, and he loves you too. You’ll get through this. It wouldn’t hurt to apologize to him though.”

“I know, and I will. I just don’t think I can face him for a while. And when I can, I hope he can forgive me for being so mean to him.”

“Oh, he will. Don’t you worry about that. He knows what a terrific person you are. He’ll understand this was just your grief spilling out in an unfortunate but entirely normal way. I know a little bit about grief and anger. When I was 18, my mother committed suicide, and I grieved for a long time.”

“Oh, E.J. I’m so sorry to hear that!”

“It was quite a shock, and I was full of not only grief, but rage—at my father who drove her to it. I never forgave him for it.”

“That is awful. I’m so sorry you had to experience that. How did you ever get through it?”

“It just took time, like it will for you too. It might have helped if I’d had a good friend like you to talk to then, but I never really told anyone about it until now.”

“Well, thanks for sharing that with me. It gives me some perspective. And thanks for all your encouraging words. You’re such a good friend to me.”

“You’re welcome. Just call Kenny up when you’re ready and invite him over. You’ll work it out.”

“When I’m ready, I will.”
 
 
 
E.J. Budrowski

2 weeks later
Summer, 1987

Abby is still taking the death of her cat very hard. I hope she and Kenny will succeed in working this out.

When she first told me about how she had fallen for Kenny a while back, I have to confess a momentary feeling of disappointment. Yeah, I knew in my heart there was no real chance of a romance between us, but hearing her talk about another guy the way she did put the final nail in the coffin. I’ve gotten used to the fact that those two just seem to be made for each other, and I hope this won’t cause them to drift apart. She is my best friend, and I want her to be happy.

I know Kenny is taking this equally hard. In fact, he came up to me a couple days ago and asked if he could talk to me. We headed over to The Overlook and sat down together.

“Listen, E.J., I know how close you and Abby are. I assume she told you about what happened with Lester, her cat?” he asked me. He seemed quite downcast.

“Yes, she did.”

“I’m just sick about killing him, and I don’t know if she’ll ever be able to forgive me for that. I’ve tried contacting her for about two weeks now, but she won’t answer my calls, and the few times I tried to talk to her at the snack bar, she just told me she wasn’t ready to talk to me yet. I know she’ll be going back to school very soon, and I don’t know what will happen if we can’t iron this out.”

“Look, Kenny. She just needs time. She knows it wasn’t your fault for what happened, but she needs the time to grieve by herself. That cat was her only friend for a long time.”

“But will she ever be able to look at me again without being reminded that I killed him, whether or not it was my fault?”

“I’m sure she will. You kids are so good for each other. She loves you. You just have to wait it out until she’s ready. I don’t think it will be much longer.”

“Well, thanks, E.J. That makes me feel a little better. I don’t know what I’d do without her at this point. I really love her too.”

“I know you do. Just hang in there a while longer. You’ll see.”

He thanked me, and we parted ways then. Poor guy. I hoped I wasn’t just blowing smoke with him and that my prediction would come true, and soon!

This was really weird for me. Two terrific young kids seeking me out for my advice. Maybe I’m not such a loser after all.
 

Author Notes Abby St. Claire: Age 20. She has just graduated from Penn State University where she was a math major and has decided to go for a masters degree there next year. She is intelligent and beautiful, yet shy and awkward with most people her age, having been picked on quite a lot while growing up. She works at the snack bar and as a waitress at Brentwood Country Club during the summers. She is dating Kenny who she met earlier this year and is a member at Brentwood.
Kenny Payne: Abby met him briefly at a frat party in her senior year and was intrigued by him, then she sees him again when he walks up to the snack bar several months later. Tall, good looking, and an all-around nice guy.
E.J. Budrowski: Age 37. An alcoholic with a traumatic past (an abusive father and a mother driven to suicide) who is a caddie at Brentwood CC. One day he finds a dirty old golf ball on the edge of a pond that seems to have unusual powers, for he makes two holes-in-one with it. He and Abby become friends when she encourages him to take up both golf and bridge again after long layoffs.


Chapter 37
Some Call It Luck - Chapter 37

By Jim Wile

(See the Author Notes for a description of the main characters.)
 
Recap: Abby has returned to Brentwood CC to work at the snack bar again this summer to earn money for grad school. While at school a few months back, she had met an interesting guy who she never saw again until he walks up to the snack bar with her friend Eddie. Kenny is a member at Brentwood, and after a rocky start, they begin dating. Kenny is finally able to befriend Abby’s stand-offish cat, Lester, who warms to him after Kenny saved him from choking to death. Toward the end of summer, Kenny and Abby profess their love for each other, but soon after, tragedy strikes as Kenny accidentally runs over and kills Lester. Abby is so distraught that she blames Kenny and tells him to leave her alone. Both Abby and Kenny seek out E.J. for his advice on what to do to mend things.
 
Abby St. Claire
 
A few days later
Summer, 1987
 
 
After just over two weeks of brooding, I finally took E.J.’s advice and called Kenny at work. He wasn’t there at the time, but I left a message for him to please come over after work today.

He showed up around 5:00, came up the stairs and rang the bell. I opened the door, but before I could say anything to him, he said to me, “Abby, can you ever forgive me for taking away your best boy? You just can’t know how sorry I am about it. You’re right. I should have been more careful, I--"

“Kenny, stop. It wasn’t your fault. You had no way of knowing he was back there. He was deaf, and didn’t hear you start the car. It was no one’s fault; it just happened. Can you ever forgive me for blaming you for it? I don’t know what got into me. I shouldn’t have talked to you like that. I love you, and I know I hurt you.”

He took me in his arms then and hugged me tightly. Then he kissed me. We were both crying now. He said, “I’ll forgive you if you forgive me. I love you so much, I don’t want anything to tear us apart, ever.”

We just stood there like that, hugging and kissing for a long time. We sat down after a while, and I took his hand and said, “You know, Kenny, I felt like he was my kid, not just my cat. I raised him from a baby kitten and did everything to care for him. And he rewarded me with his friendship and love. I talked to him often, and he talked to me in his own way. I wish you had longer to get to know him. He was really beginning to like you.”

“Me too. Where is he now?”

“He’s wrapped in a blanket in a thick plastic bag inside the freezer in the garage. Aunt Helen said I could put him there for a while because she doesn’t use it anymore. I just haven’t had the heart to bury him yet. Will you help me?”

“Of course, I will.”

We got up and went downstairs together to retrieve Lester. I got a shovel out of the garage and handed it to Kenny, and we walked down to Olsen’s Pond where I had learned to ice skate years before. Kenny dug a hole and together we placed Lester in it. We then took turns shoveling the dirt over his body. Tears came to both our eyes again, and I said, ”Goodbye, my sweet, sweet boy. For many years, you were my only real friend. I’ll never forget you.”

Then we turned around and walked, arm-in-arm, slowly back to my apartment.
 
 
E.J. Budrowski
 
Late August, 1987
 
I’ve finally gotten over that humiliating experience from a few weeks ago when I caddied for those two guys who were thinking about joining the club. Their names were Jimmy Fairbanks and Bucky Welborn, and they were playing against Eddie Phillips and Kenny Payne. Brother, what a match that was!

There was big money on this match, and it quickly became clear that my players were there to hustle Eddie and Kenny. But Eddie was onto them from the start, and he figured out an even better hustle against them. Part of it involved giving me a Coke spiked with rum and then later a hip flask with even more rum. I started really screwing up then and cost my players a couple of holes. Before it was over, Fairbanks was so pissed at me that he fired me on the 16th hole after I accidentally stepped on his ball, causing him a penalty stroke. He didn’t pay me anything—just swore at me and told me to get the hell out of there.

After the round was over, which Eddie and Kenny ended up winning on the final putt, Eddie walked up and handed me $200. His hustle ended up working better than Fairbanks and Welborn’s hustle. The $200 was a thank you for contributing to their win, which I didn’t even know I was a part of.

I thanked Eddie for the $200, but I didn’t feel too good about it. I’ve been trying to be a better caddie this year and not drink on the job. I don’t blame Eddie because he didn’t know, but getting fired like that was humiliating now, especially by an uncouth, smug son-of-a-bitch like Fairbanks.
 
 

Anyway, after my loop this morning, I went down to the snack bar to say goodbye to Abby. This was her last day before going back to school at Penn State to start her master’s program. It was her lunch break, so we headed up to The Overlook like we usually did.

“Did you have the fun this summer that you’d hoped you would?” I asked her.

“It was almost perfect until the very end when I lost Lester. I don’t think I ever thanked you for helping me get through that and setting things right with Kenny. So, thank you, dear friend. And thanks again for helping me get over my initial awkwardness with him. You sure know what to say to buck me up.”

“Well, it was obvious to me you two kids were meant for each other. I’m happy you worked everything out.”

“Hey, and we had some pretty good results in the duplicate games this summer too,” she said.

“We sure did,” I agreed. “Do you think there’s any chance we can still play occasionally while you’re at school? You won’t be that far away.”

“I think so. Why don’t we plan on a game about two weeks from now, once I’ve settled into a routine? I can drive back and meet you at the temple.”

“That sounds great, but if something comes up, and you’re just too busy to make it, I’ll understand.”

“So, E.J., are you still thinking about going back to college?”

“Yeah, that’s still the plan. I haven’t decided whether to skip going south to caddie this winter and try for the winter-spring semester or just wait a year until next fall. I’d really like to get into Penn State where you will be.”

“Oh, that would be so wonderful! I sure hope you do it whenever it is.”

We gave each other a hug goodbye and wished each other well. Abby had a few tears in her eyes. I told her to call me to confirm if she was still up for the bridge game in a couple of weeks. She promised me she would, and we said our final goodbyes.

When I got home, I changed into some nicer clothes before heading out to the muni to practice my putting. I was a little anxious because I was having some trouble with my putting lately. I seemed to have developed a little hitch in my stroke that didn’t allow me to square up the putter face in time. I had nearly lost a match the other day because of it. Before leaving to practice, I had a few ounces of scotch—not enough to impair my driving— but just enough to take the edge off. I hoped this would settle me down so that I could concentrate on and correct this little problem.
 

Author Notes Abby St. Claire: Age 20. She has just graduated from Penn State University where she was a math major and has decided to go for a masters degree there next year. She is intelligent and beautiful, yet shy and awkward with most people her age, having been picked on quite a lot while growing up. She works at the snack bar and as a waitress at Brentwood Country Club during the summers. She is dating Kenny who she met earlier this year and is a member at Brentwood.
Kenny Payne: Abby met him briefly at a frat party in her senior year and was intrigued by him, then she sees him again when he walks up to the snack bar several months later. Tall, good looking, and an all-around nice guy.
E.J. Budrowski: Age 37. An alcoholic with a traumatic past (an abusive father and a mother driven to suicide) who is a caddie at Brentwood CC. One day he finds a dirty old golf ball on the edge of a pond that seems to have unusual powers, for he makes two holes-in-one with it. He and Abby become friends when she encourages him to take up both golf and bridge again after long layoffs.


Chapter 38
Some Call It Luck - Chapter 38

By Jim Wile

(See the Author Notes for a description of the main characters.)
 
Recap: Abby has returned to Brentwood CC to work at the snack bar again this summer to earn money for grad school. While at school a few months back, she had met an interesting guy who she never saw again until he walks up to the snack bar with her friend Eddie. Kenny is a member at Brentwood, and after a rocky start, they begin dating. Kenny is finally able to befriend Abby’s stand-offish cat, Lester, who warms to him after Kenny saved him from choking to death. Toward the end of summer, Kenny and Abby profess their love for each other, but soon after, tragedy strikes as Kenny accidentally runs over and kills Lester. Abby is so distraught that she blames Kenny and tells him to leave her alone. Both Abby and Kenny seek out E.J. for his advice on what to do to mend things. After two weeks, Abby and Kenny reconcile and bury Lester together. The summer is over, and Abby and E.J. bid each other goodbye as she is heading back to school tomorrow to begin her master’s degree.
 
Abby St. Claire
 
The next day
August, 1987
 
Yesterday was my last day of work at the club. I had a tearful goodbye with E.J. He has sure come a long way since we first became friends the previous summer. I hope he proceeds with his plan to resume his education, and wouldn’t it be great if he gets into Penn State!

Kenny came over last night to help me pack for college since I would be leaving in the morning. He told me he would accompany me to school in his car and help me move my things into my apartment. I loved that idea mainly because I wanted to show him off to my roommates.

When he arrived this morning, he helped me pack up my car with a few boxes of stuff and all my clothes. Then it was time to say goodbye to Aunt Helen and Uncle Bert. I gave them each a hug and a kiss, and thanked them for letting me stay with them again this summer. All three of us had tears in our eyes as we said our final farewells.

Kenny and I then caravanned the 70 miles to school.

I introduced Kenny to my two roommates who had arrived back at school the previous afternoon. They helped us move my few boxes, suitcases, and hang-up clothes into the apartment. Afterward, we got some Cokes from the refrigerator and headed out to the porch, where we sat around drinking and talking about the summer’s events. I told the others all about how we had met, including the part about the champagne debacle, and we all had a good laugh over that. See, E.J. was right again.

Soon Kenny had to go, and I walked him to his car. I took his two hands in mine and looked up at him. “Thank you so much for everything.”
 
He just folded me into his arms, and we stood there hugging like that for several minutes.

“I’ll call you tonight,” he said to me. “And I’ll come back and visit you Friday night after work, if that’s okay. You know, I’d love to make that a regular weekend event.”

“Me too.”

Then he gave me a long kiss goodbye. “I love you, Abby.”

“Kenny, I truly love you.”

He turned and got into his car then, and we waved to each other before he headed back home.

As promised, he called me that night around 6:30. We talked for half an hour. “You know, my roommates were very impressed with you and told me how lucky I was that you’re just about an hour away and could come and visit as often as we talked about.”

“It’s going to be hard to wait a whole week to come see you again, though,” he said. “Why don’t we call each other on Tuesday nights to help break up the week?”

I thought that was a great idea. We also talked about our weekend plans and agreed that he would come Friday evenings after work and spend the day Saturdays, but leave after dinner. I told him I would need to study, and he said he usually liked to play golf with Eddie on Sundays anyway. Although not ideal, in that we could no longer see each other every day, it would have to do until... well, until things might change.
 
 

E.J. Budrowski
 
Two weeks later
September, 1987
 
It was a Tuesday, and I played a match in the afternoon against a big, strong kid, who had just graduated from college the previous spring. I was 1-up on the kid after the 16th hole, but I missed short putts of five feet and four feet on the last two holes to lose to him. It cost me only $200, but it pissed me off to blow it like that. I thanked him for the match, paid up, and arranged a rematch for Thursday—my day off.

The rematch on Thursday was even worse than the match on Tuesday. I had been missing short putts all day, and the kid had me five holes down with five to go. I had to win every hole just to tie.

On the 14th green, I needed to sink a two-foot putt to win the hole and extend the match. I was so nervous, I backed off the putt twice before settling in. I couldn’t take the putter back! When I finally did, I just jabbed at the ball and missed the hole by four inches on the right. It was a spastic stroke that I had no control over.

I just hung my head for a minute. I looked up at the kid, and I knew he felt bad for me. He was a nice kid and said he hated to win this way. I shook his hand and thanked him and told him he played great, but I was dying inside and had to get out of there. I paid him his $200 and left in a hurry.

There is a name for what I have. It’s called the “yips.” I seem to have lost all control of my right hand which would twitch as I was about to hit the short putts. It was damn frustrating. Nobody quite knew the reason for them. One of the early greats in the game, Harry Vardon, had the yips, but his were probably due to having had tuberculosis. I didn’t even want to entertain the idea that mine might be due to my alcohol consumption.

When I got back to the apartment, I slammed the clubs down into the corner and stormed over to the cupboard by the sink. I took out the bourbon and began swigging right from the bottle. I was so frustrated and angry that I couldn’t do anything else for a few minutes and just kept drinking out of the bottle. Finally, I put it down. My nerves were shot, but I had to relax for a while before bridge with Abby tonight; I hoped the booze would do it for me.
 

Author Notes Abby St. Claire: Age 21. She has just graduated from Penn State University where she was a math major and has decided to go for a masters degree there next year. She is intelligent and beautiful, yet shy and awkward with most people her age, having been picked on quite a lot while growing up. She works at the snack bar and as a waitress at Brentwood Country Club during the summers. She is dating Kenny who she met earlier this year and is a member at Brentwood.
Kenny Payne: Age 22. Abby met him briefly at a frat party in her senior year and was intrigued by him, then she sees him again when he walks up to the snack bar several months later. Tall, good looking, and an all-around nice guy.
E.J. Budrowski: Age 38. An alcoholic with a traumatic past (an abusive father and a mother driven to suicide) who is a caddie at Brentwood CC. One day he finds a dirty old golf ball on the edge of a pond that seems to have unusual powers, for he makes two holes-in-one with it. He and Abby become friends when she encourages him to take up both golf and bridge again after long layoffs.


Chapter 39
Some Call It Luck - Chapter 39

By Jim Wile

(See the Author Notes for a description of the main characters.)
 
Recap: Abby has returned to Brentwood CC to work at the snack bar again this summer to earn money for grad school. Abby meets Kenny, who is a member at Brentwood, and after a rocky start, they begin dating. They spend a beautiful summer together, but the end is marred when Kenny accidentally runs over Abby’s cat. They eventually make up with E.J.’s help, and she returns to school to begin her master’s program.

At Abby’s prompting, E.J. has decided to return to school, financed by his winnings on the golf course, but he starts losing as he has developed a problem with his putting. He has just lost a match then drank heavily to settle down before he has to play bridge with Abby.
 
A continuation of the chapter: E.J. Budrowski - September, 1987
 
I went over and sat down in my chair and tried to put it out of my mind. I had to get a grip because Abby and I would be playing duplicate bridge tonight at the temple, and I needed to get in control before that. She had called a couple days ago to confirm. I turned the radio on and listened to some classical music. It was Beethoven’s Pastoral Symphony, which happened to be very soothing, at least the first two movements—perfect for the mood I was in. I began to relax as the booze took effect. I closed my eyes and just listened to the music and tried to put everything else out of my mind. I listened to the whole symphony. God, that was beautiful.

I felt somewhat better but was still on edge. I needed to take a shower and grab a bite to eat before leaving for the temple, so I had to get moving now. It was 6:15, and I had to be there by 7:00. No time to shave—just shower and eat.

By the time I finished rushing around and got to the temple, I had only two minutes to spare. I had not left myself enough time, and I was on edge again. I took a few big swigs from a bottle I kept in the glove box before heading in. I met Abby inside, and she looked relieved when I got there.

“I wasn’t sure you were going to make it,” she said as she looked at me kind of funny. “We’re north-south, table 2. We’d better get inside.”

As we headed in, I said to her, “Why don’t you sit north and do the scoring. I’m a little bit distracted tonight, and I’d probably make mistakes.”

“Okay. Is everything alright, E.J? You look agitated.”

“I’m fine. The match didn’t go like I wanted today, but I’ll be alright.”

We sat down and greeted our east-west opponents. We got our first three hands and started bidding the first one. Things went well enough for a while, but I didn’t feel very sharp. I made a defensive error that cost us a trick and led to a low score on the hand.

Little things started to annoy me. One of our opponents had a habit of clicking her tongue inside her mouth. She did it several times, and I said to her, “Do you have to do that? Could we have some quiet, please?” She apologized but looked a little hurt. Abby frowned but didn’t say anything.

Near the end of the session, I could tell we weren’t doing very well. My mood darkened. On the next hand, I was declarer (meaning Abby had to lay her cards on the table, and I would play both hands). The opponent to my left, who made the opening lead, was a little old lady named Ruth, who never struck me as particularly bright. She led the jack of spades against my 4-heart contract.

I played the cards assuming she did not have the queen, as the normal play would have been to lead it instead of the jack if she had both. I thought there was no way someone like Ruth would have the guile to try to fake me out by leading the jack if she had the queen too. So later, when she showed up with the queen after all and won the trick, I was flabbergasted! I threw the rest of my hand down and said to her in a peeved voice, “Ruth, what possessed you to lead the jack from queen-jack? Everyone like you leads the queen first! I can’t believe you did that. Did you make a mistake and pull the jack instead of the queen?” I almost shouted it at her. People at some other nearby tables began telling me to “shhh.” Ruth just had a fatuous look on her face and didn’t say anything.

Abby looked hard at me. “E.J., knock it off. She made a great, deceptive lead. Let it go.”

I felt chastened after that and apologized to Ruth for my outburst, but I was still seething inside. How could that twit have faked me out like that?

At the end of the night, I looked at the overall results, and we’d come in 6th out of 11 tables with 47%--a below-average score. Abby and I almost never scored below average.

As we left and were walking to our cars, Abby said to me, “E.J., I know you weren’t quite yourself tonight, but that was awfully rude the way you spoke to Ruth. She didn’t deserve that.”

“I know. I’m really sorry about that. I’m going to have to send her a card or something with a real apology.”

“That would be nice.”

“I had a tough day today. I know that’s no excuse, and I feel awfully bad about it now. I’ll try not to let that ever happen again.”

“Okay. Everyone has a bad day now and then. I’m sure you’ll do better.” She was a sweetie, and I could tell she was uncomfortable having to talk to me this way. She tried to cheer me up some by saying, “Hey, do you think we should consider playing Odd-Even Discards? Maybe we can start reading up on that convention.”

“Sure, why not? Anything to help us achieve greater heights than 47%.”

She laughed at that and said goodnight. As we were about to get in our cars, I called over to her. “Hey, Abby?”

“What?”

“Do you think she really meant to play the queen but pulled the jack by mistake?”

“Yeah… probably. She never really struck me as all that bright.”

A second or two passed, then we both broke out in a smile, got in our cars, and left.
 
 

When I got home, I headed straight for the cupboard and got down the bourbon bottle. Tomorrow was another day off, and I wouldn’t have to get up early to caddie, so I planned to have a few drinks before bed. Didn’t matter if I went to bed late. I wouldn’t think about the yips or jacks from queen-jack or anything else that got me in such a funk today. I would just drink and watch TV.

The Johnny Carson show always made me laugh, so after a while, I put it on and watched until the end. By that time, I was no longer stressed out, and it was time for bed. I took the Lucky 1 out of my pocket and placed it on top of the footlocker as I did every night, got undressed, did my bathroom routine, then got into bed. I fell asleep almost instantly.
 

Author Notes Abby St. Claire: Age 21. She has just graduated from Penn State University where she was a math major and has decided to go for a masters degree there next year. She is intelligent and beautiful, yet shy and awkward with most people her age, having been picked on quite a lot while growing up. She works at the snack bar and as a waitress at Brentwood Country Club during the summers. She is dating Kenny who she met earlier this year and is a member at Brentwood.

E.J. Budrowski: Age 38. An alcoholic with a traumatic past (an abusive father and a mother driven to suicide) who is a caddie at Brentwood CC. One day he finds a dirty old golf ball on the edge of a pond that seems to have unusual powers, for he makes two holes-in-one with it. He and Abby become friends when she encourages him to take up both golf and bridge again after long layoffs.


Chapter 40
Some Call It Luck - Chapter 40

By Jim Wile

Warning: The author has noted that this contains the highest level of language.

(See the Author Notes for a description of the main characters.)
 
Recap: Abby has returned to Brentwood CC to work at the snack bar again this summer to earn money for grad school. She meets Kenny, who is a member at Brentwood, and after a rocky start, they begin dating. They spend a beautiful summer together, but the end is marred when Kenny accidentally runs over Abby’s cat. They eventually make up with E.J.’s help, and she returns to school to begin her master’s program.
At Abby’s prompting, E.J. has decided to return to school, financed by his winnings on the golf course, but he starts losing as he has developed a problem with his putting. He has just lost a match then drank heavily to settle down before he has to play bridge with Abby. The bridge doesn’t go so well, and E.J. insults one of his opponents. Abby calls him out on it, and he goes home and drinks to forget about the terrible day.
 
A continuation of the chapter: E.J. Budrowski - September, 1987
 
The next morning, I woke up around 9:00 feeling surprisingly refreshed. This would be a new day, and I made up my mind to expunge yesterday right out of my brain. I was hungry and decided to go to Maudie’s Place to have some pancakes. She made the fluffiest buttermilk pancakes I’d ever had. She said the key was not to stir the batter too much. A few lumps were okay.

While I was eating, Eddie Phillips came in. He saw me looking at him and came right over. “Mind if I join you, Sport?”

“Sure Eddie, sit down.”

Maudie came over to pour him some coffee and take his breakfast order, and we got right to talking about putting, his favorite subject.

“Listen, Eddie. You know anything about the yips?”

“Ah, don’t mention that word. It’s as bad as talking about the Sherman tanks [the ‘shanks,’ another dreaded golfing woe]. Why, you got ‘em?”

“Might have. I’ve been missing a lot of short putts lately—pushing them to the right. I can’t seem to control my right hand on the club. Kind of twitches.”

“Yeah, sounds like you got ‘em alright. Tell you what, I’ve known a lot of guys who had the yips, and I know how to fix ‘em. You want me to take a look at your stroke?”

“Would you, Eddie? God, I’d appreciate that! Getting so I get nervous even thinking about putting.”

“Well, we can’t have that. You doing anything after breakfast?”

“I was just planning to go to the muni and practice on their green.”

“Okay, I’ll come with you. I wasn’t doing anything special this morning. We can work on it together.”

“Thanks, Eddie. That’d be great.”
 
 

After breakfast we drove to the muni, parked, and walked to the putting green. Eddie spent the next hour with me watching me stroke putts and demonstrating his method of getting rid of the yips. He helped me develop a complete routine to eliminate them. By the time he finished his instructions, I was sinking the short ones regularly, using his methods, without a single yip.

“That’s it,” said Eddie. “Now all you have to do is practice it about a thousand times to ingrain it. If you do it just like that, you won’t be yippin’ ‘em anymore.”

“Jeez, Eddie. I can’t thank you enough. You don’t know how frustrating the yips can be, or maybe you do. You ever had them?”

“No, not really. There’s been times when I either pushed ‘em right or pulled ‘em left for a while, but I always managed to tweak my stroke or my grip or my stance a little and it always worked itself out. I’ve seen plenty of guys like you go through ‘em, though. They’re a nasty thing. Some golfers even quit the game because they can’t get over ‘em.”

“Well, I’ll stay here and practice the new routine about a thousand times and let you know how it goes. I’d like to keep playing matches, but I’ve got to gain some confidence back first. Thanks a million.”

“Hey, that’s okay. I’ll stay and watch you hit a few more before I take off—make sure I don’t see anything else.”

“Thanks, Eddie.”

He stayed and watched me hit about 10 more putts, then gave me a thumbs up and left.
 
 

Over the next few days, I continued to practice what Eddie told me, and I never again yipped a single putt. Amazing! So simple! I was cured, or so I thought. I got so confident in my newfound routine that I was convinced I was ready for another match.

In thinking over who to call, I had a sudden brainstorm. Oh, this could be good if he agreed to play against me! I thought I’d call Jimmy Fairbanks—my archenemy—the guy who fired me off his bag just a few weeks ago—the guy who cussed me out right and left and nearly clobbered me with a golf club until Kenny Payne stopped him. I knew I could beat him if only he would give me the chance.

I drove back home, went inside and got out my phonebook. I looked up his number and found a listing for him—James S. Fairbanks. I wondered what the ‘S’ stood for. “Shithead” perhaps? I called his number, and a man’s voice answered the phone. “Is this Jimmy Fairbanks to whom I am speaking?” I could barely contain my mirth.

“Yeah, who’s this?”

“It’s E.J. Budrowski calling. You may remember me from a few weeks ago when I caddied for you and Bucky Welborn at Brentwood?”

“E.J? The screw-up caddie who ruined that match for me? What the hell do you want?”

“Well, Jimbo, I’d like to challenge you to an 18-hole golf match at the course of your choosing. We’d play straight-up match play with no strokes given or received… for $5,000 dollars. Whadda ya say? Interested?”

“Is this some kind of joke? Who is this really? Is this you, Welborn, trying to pull my leg?”

“No, it’s really me, Jimbo, and I can prove it. When I stepped on your ball on 16, you couldn’t read the label. You had to dig it out of the mud to identify it as yours—a Titleist 2. I’m the only one who saw that. Now do you believe me?”

Long pause. “Okay, so it’s you, E.J. Say, what’s that stand for anyway? ‘Extreme Jerk-off?’ That’s what you must be if you’re proposing a golf match between you and me. You can’t be serious!”

“I’m dead serious, Jimbo. Why don’t you pick a course and a time, let me know where and when, and I’ll meet you on the first tee with five grand in my pocket. If I don’t show, you’re out nothing, but if I do show, you might have a chance to win the five grand off me. Whadda ya say? You could even bring anyone you want as an observer with you to follow me around and make sure I’m not cheating or anything. Of course, I’ll have one too for the same reason. So, what’s it going to be, Jimbo?”

“Would you stop calling me ‘Jimbo’ already? I hate that. There’s gotta be a catch here. I don’t believe a moron like you even plays golf!”

“Yeah, well call up Eddie Phillips or Kenny Payne. They’ll tell you I play golf with them sometimes. Go ahead. I’ll call you back tonight after you’ve asked one of ‘em. Talk to you later, Jimbo…uh, excuse me… Jimmy.” And I hung up.

Oh, God that was fun! Let’s see if the asshole takes me up on it. I went back to my apartment and began drinking and enjoying myself the rest of the afternoon.

When dinnertime came around, I fixed myself a couple of hotdogs, opened a can of pork ‘n beans, and ate. After that I called Jimmy back. He answered right away.

“Alright, E.J. Seems like you’re for real. I called Kenny Payne—I can’t stand that other asshole, Phillips—and he told me you’ve actually got game. Hard to believe from an alky like you. Oh yeah, I’ll take the bet. How can I lose? You’ll manage to screw it up somehow. Probably step on your own balls this time!”

“Okay, where and when?”

“We’ll play at Ridgewood, where I’m a member, starting at 1:00 PM tomorrow if that ain’t too soon.”

“Ridgewood at 1:00 is fine, Jimmy. I’ll have Eddie with me to watch you.”

“Ah, Christ! Can’t you pick someone else? I hate that little turd!”

“Nope, I said we could bring anyone, and I’m bringin’ him.”

“Ah, shit! Okay, I’ll be there. This better not be some damn trick.”

“No trick. Five grand. Winner takes all.”

With that, he hung up on me. Success!
 
Now I had to call Eddie to see if he could make it tomorrow. He answered the phone after a few rings. “Eddie, this is E.J. I wanted to thank you again for the putting lesson last Friday. I’ve continued to practice my new routine and everything, and you know, I haven’t yipped a single putt since.”

“That’s great, Sport. Keep it up.”

“Hey, Eddie, I’ve got another favor to ask you, but I think you’re really going to enjoy it. Believe it or not, I challenged Jimmy Fairbanks to a golf match for $5,000, and he accepted!”

“You’re kidding! He’s going to play you for $5,000? How’d you get the creep to accept? I can’t believe he didn’t just hang up on you.”

“First I had to convince him it was really me calling, not someone like Welborn trying to pull his leg. Once he believed it was me and that I played golf (he had called Kenny to verify that), he accepted the challenge. He thought it would be real easy money. You know that asshole and his ego. We agreed that each of us could bring an observer to make sure no one was cheating, and I told him I picked you. That got his pantyhose in a wad. I know it was premature without asking you first, but I’m asking you now. Will you do it?”

“When’s the match?”

“Tomorrow, 1:00 at Ridgewood.”

“Okay, Sport, I’ll be there. I can’t wait to see this. I think you can beat that guy. I still can’t get over that he accepted the bet. I’ll bet he still thinks it’s some kinda gag.”

“Thanks, Eddie. Yeah, I’ll bet he does, but we’ll show him. Okay—Ridgewood, 1:00 PM tomorrow. See you there.”

“You got it, Sport. See ya tomorrow,” and we hung up.
 

Author Notes Abby St. Claire: Age 21. She has just graduated from Penn State University where she was a math major and has decided to go for a masters degree there next year. She is intelligent and beautiful, yet shy and awkward with most people her age, having been picked on quite a lot while growing up. She works at the snack bar and as a waitress at Brentwood Country Club during the summers. She is dating Kenny who she met earlier this year and is a member at Brentwood.
Kenny Payne: Age 22. Abby met him briefly at a frat party in her senior year and was intrigued by him, then she sees him again when he walks up to the snack bar several months later. Tall, good looking, and an all-around nice guy.
E.J. Budrowski: Age 38. An alcoholic with a traumatic past (an abusive father and a mother driven to suicide) who is a caddie at Brentwood CC. One day he finds a dirty old golf ball on the edge of a pond that seems to have unusual powers, for he makes two holes-in-one with it. He and Abby become friends when she encourages him to take up both golf and bridge again after long layoffs.
Eddie Phillips: A young member at Brentwood known for his extremely good putting and ability to hustle his opponents. Eddie is friends with Abby and beats Kenny in the club championship with a miracle shot. He and Kenny become best friends after that.
Jimmy Fairbanks: A hustler whom E.J. caddied for a few weeks ago in a match against Eddie and Kenny. A drunken E.J. helped lose the match for Fairchild and his partner.


Chapter 41
Some Call It Luck - Chapter 41

By Jim Wile

Warning: The author has noted that this contains the highest level of language.

(See the Author Notes for a description of the main characters.)
 
Recap: Abby has returned to Brentwood CC to work at the snack bar again this summer to earn money for grad school. She meets Kenny, who is a member at Brentwood, and after a rocky start, they begin dating. They spend a beautiful summer together, but the end is marred when Kenny accidentally runs over Abby’s cat. They eventually make up with E.J.’s help, and she returns to school at nearby Penn State to begin her master’s program.

At Abby’s prompting, E.J. has decided to return to school, financed by his winnings on the golf course, but he starts losing as he has developed a problem with his putting. He has just lost a match then drank heavily to settle down before he has to play bridge with Abby. The bridge doesn’t go so well, and E.J. insults one of his opponents. Abby calls him out on it, and he goes home and drinks to forget about the terrible day.
 
The next day he meets Eddie Phillips who helps rid him of the yips, and with his new-found confidence, E.J. challenges Jimmy Fairbanks to a match for $5,000.
 
A continuation of the chapter: E.J. Budrowski - September, 1987
 
I did it! I still could hardly believe I was able to set this thing up. Man, that felt good. I was going to kick his ass tomorrow! Ah, sweet revenge!

As I sat there savoring the moment, much to my surprise, a sudden pang of nerves hit the center of my core. What was this? Then I started having doubts. What if the yips return? What if I can’t get the ball in the hole? What if I end up looking the complete fool that Fairbanks thinks I am? These sudden thoughts had a devastating effect on me. I felt like vomiting. I gagged once or twice, but fortunately, nothing came up. I’ve got to turn this around!

I have always turned to alcohol in situations like this, and tonight would be no exception. But I did not feel like drinking alone; I needed to be around people to take my mind off these sudden fears.  I decided to go down to Kelso’s bar.

It’s about eight blocks away, and I thought I’d better walk; I may not be in any condition to drive when I get done there later. As I made my way to Kelso’s Bar, I tried thinking of pleasant things, like winning at duplicate bridge with Abby, but thoughts of Jimmy Fairbanks laughing at me as I go down to defeat kept invading my mind.

With this terrible image planted in my brain, I entered Kelso’s Bar. Inside, the merriment was palpable. I threaded my way over to the bar through a group of men and women playing darts up front. I reached into my pocket, feeling for the Lucky 1 that I always kept there, and rolled it around in my hand, hoping this would give me some good karma.

The proprietor, Fred Kelso, was behind the bar tonight along with another bartender. Fred was a short, pudgy guy with a perennial smile and a completely bald head. He saw me sit down at the bar.

“E.J. Budrowski! Haven’t seen you in a dog’s age. How ya been?”

“Not bad, Kelse, not bad. Say, could you set me up with a double whiskey on the rocks and start a tab for me?”
 
“Sure thing.” He prepared my drink and set it in front of me on a little napkin. I downed it in four gulps while he watched me. “How ‘bout another while you’re right here, Kelse.”

“Ah, so it’s going to be one of those nights, huh?” He refilled my glass and put another tick mark on his sheet. “Gotta go wait on these folks down here,” he said, pointing down the bar. “Be back in a few.”

The booze definitely helped to lighten my mood some. I nursed this second one awhile, and during this time, Rafe and a couple other caddies came into Kelso’s. They saw me sitting at the bar and came right over.

“E.J! Good ta see ya here, man!” said Rafe as he clapped me on the shoulder.  Thought you usually drank by y’self.”

“Yeah, you get a lot more bang for the buck that way, but I felt like some company tonight.”

“Well, we’s glad ta see ya here. Why‘nchu come on ova to a table an’ join us?”

“Thanks. Don’t mind if I do,” so I picked up my drink and followed the group to a table.

“Evenin’, E.J.,” said the other two, named Homer and Buddy, as we found a table and all sat down. A pretty young waitress came right over and took everyone’s drink order, including mine—another double whiskey.

“How you fellas doing?” I asked Homer and Buddy.

“Oh, we’re pretty good, E.J.,” said Buddy. “Don’t usually see you in here. Hey, Rafe told us you’re going back to school next year.”

I frowned over at Rafe, who looked sheepish. “Well, Buddy, as a matter of fact, I’m thinking about it.”

“So, you never finished high school?”

Rafe scowled and said, “He goin’ back to collitch, you dumb shit. Dats what I tole you… tho I warn’t suppose’ to,” he finished, lamely.

“That’s okay, E.J.,” put in Homer. “We won’t make fun a you…..….. Mister College Boy!” and they all laughed. I laughed along with them. Okay, the secret was out—might as well not sweat anyone finding out now.

“Where you gone go, da c’munety collitch?” asked Rafe.

“Don’t know yet. But if I apply at all it’ll be Penn State. Course, they’ve gotta accept me too. I don’t even know if they would.”

Soon the drinks came. The place was getting lively now, and after the third drink and then a fourth, I was settled down and feeling pretty good. I quit thinking any negative thoughts and just enjoyed the company. The good feelings increased as we continued drinking, and all of us loopers got pretty looped after a while. We started telling jokes. Rafe told a good one in his inimitable style:

“Guy goes to a psychyjeris…a psycholeris…y’ know—one a dem head-shrinkas. Da guy buck naked an’ wrapped in cellophane from head t’ toe. Head-shrinka say, ‘Ah c’n clearly see yaw nuts!’”

Everyone howled at that.  “Okay, I got one for you,” I said.

“Fellow goes sailing by himself one day, and after a few hours, a big storm blows up. He gets blown for miles and ends up marooned all alone on a desert island. He spends about a year there living off fish and coconuts and shit, when one morning he wakes up to find a big cabin cruiser anchored 50 yards out.

’I’m saved!’ he says to himself as he swims out to the boat and climbs on board. Pretty soon a swimmer in a wetsuit and scuba gear comes aboard, pulls off the suit, and she’s a gorgeous blond with hair down to her shapely ass.

’You don’t know how good it feels to be rescued,’ he says. ‘I’ve been here by myself for a whole year after getting ship-wrecked.’

‘A whole year, huh?’ she says as she sidles up to him. ‘Is there anything you’d like?’

He thinks for a minute and says, ‘Gosh, I’d love a martini!’ She opens up the frig and pulls out a pitcher of martinis and pours him one.

’Is there anything else you’d like?’ she says as she puts her hand on his arm.

’Boy, I’d love some peanuts, too.’ She then opens up a cupboard and pulls out a jar of peanuts.

She starts running her finger up and down his arm and says, ‘You’ve been here a whole year all by yourself, right? Wouldn’t you like to play around?’

His jaw drops. ‘You mean you’ve got golf clubs, too?’”

They hooted and slapped their knees over that one.

The jokes and the drinks continued for another hour or so when it started getting late. I had an important golf match tomorrow and didn’t want to get too blitzed, or I’d be starting the day with a hangover. I got up, said my goodbyes to my friends, paid my tab at the bar, and left. I staggered home but was feeling good—no negative thoughts now. I got undressed, set the Lucky 1 on top of the footlocker, staggered to bed, and was asleep almost as soon as my head hit the pillow.
 

Author Notes Abby St. Claire: Age 21. She has just graduated from Penn State University where she was a math major and has decided to go for a masters degree there next year. She is intelligent and beautiful, yet shy and awkward with most people her age, having been picked on quite a lot while growing up. She works at the snack bar and as a waitress at Brentwood Country Club during the summers. She is dating Kenny who she met earlier this year and is a member at Brentwood.
Kenny Payne: Age 22. Abby met him briefly at a frat party in her senior year and was intrigued by him, then she sees him again when he walks up to the snack bar several months later. Tall, good looking, and an all-around nice guy.
E.J. Budrowski: Age 38. An alcoholic with a traumatic past (an abusive father and a mother driven to suicide) who is a caddie at Brentwood CC. One day he finds a dirty old golf ball on the edge of a pond that seems to have unusual powers, for he makes two holes-in-one with it. He and Abby become friends when she encourages him to take up both golf and bridge again after long layoffs.
Eddie Phillips: A young member at Brentwood known for his extremely good putting and ability to hustle his opponents. Eddie is friends with Abby and beats Kenny in the club championship with a miracle shot. He and Kenny become best friends after that.
Jimmy Fairbanks: A hustler whom E.J. caddied for a few weeks ago in a match against Eddie and Kenny. A drunken E.J. helped lose the match for Fairbanks and his partner, and Fairbanks fired him on the 16th hole after cursing him out.


Chapter 42
Some Call It Luck - Chapter 42

By Jim Wile

Warning: The author has noted that this contains the highest level of language.

(See the Author Notes for a description of the main characters.)
 
Recap: At Abby’s prompting, E.J. has decided to return to school, financed by his winnings on the golf course, but he starts losing as he has developed a problem with his putting. He has just lost a match then drank heavily to settle down before he has to play bridge with Abby. The bridge doesn’t go so well, and E.J. insults one of his opponents. Abby calls him out on it, and he goes home and drinks to forget about the terrible day.

The next day he meets Eddie Phillips who helps rid him of the yips, and with his new-found confidence, E.J. challenges Jimmy Fairbanks to a match for $5,000. The night before the match, he has a sudden pang of doubt which sends him to a bar to drink with his friends. That settles him down, and he falls asleep at home.
 
A continuation of the chapter: E.J. Budrowski - September, 1987
 
I woke up the next day around 10:00 AM with only a slight headache from all that drinking last night. I knew I’d be fine by match time. I took three aspirins and decided to walk down to Maudie’s for some pancakes and coffee. By the time I got there, the fresh air and the aspirins had knocked out the headache, and I enjoyed my breakfast.
 
Back at home, I pulled up a loose floorboard in my closet and pulled out the box where I kept my winnings. I took out $5,000 to cover the bet in the extremely unlikely event that Fairbanks beat me.

My confidence was back, and I gave only a passing thought to my doubts from yesterday. After all, I’d probably hit a thousand putts since Eddie’s putting lesson, and I hadn’t yipped a one. I stuffed the 50 hundred-dollar bills into an envelope and placed it in a side compartment of my golf bag. I headed down to my car, stowed the clubs in the trunk, and drove over to Ridgewood Country Club.

Ridgewood was another beautiful country club in DuBois. It wasn’t quite as lavish as Brentwood but could hold its own against most other clubs in this part of the state. I stopped at the bag drop and unloaded my golf clubs, then I went into the Pro Shop to pay for my round; I knew Fairbanks wouldn’t be treating me as his guest and paying for me.  I hired my own caddie too.

I made my way to the practice tee to warm up and then over to the putting green to practice putting for a few minutes. No yips—just good solid putts.

Fairbanks had arrived at the club about half an hour ago, but he never came near me and warmed up well away from where I was hitting balls. He also hit a few putts on the putting green, but again—far away from where I was putting. Apparently, he wanted as little to do with me as he could manage until the big moment when we would begin our round.

Eddie came up and watched me putt my last few and gave me a thumbs-up before we both headed over to the first tee to begin the match. It was 1:00. Fairbanks had brought along Bucky Welborn as his observer. The day was overcast, and possible thunderstorms were predicted for later.

I started right in on my wise-guy routine. “Afternoon, Jimbo, I mean, Jimmy. Bucky,” I also said as I nodded to him. Turning to Jimmy I said, “Hope you brought you’re A-game today; you’re going to need it.”

“Yeah, I could beat you with my D-game, asshole.”

“We’ll see about that. Flip you for the honors?” I said as I pulled out a quarter. “What’ll it be, heads or tails?”

“Heads.”

I flipped the coin to the ground, and it came up heads. I picked it up and reached over to give it to him with George Washington’s head still showing.

He looked at me quizzically as I held it out to him in my hand. “What’s this for?”

“Just a symbol of how you’re going to have your head handed to you today.”

He scowled at me. “In your dreams. Put that thing away, and show me your money. I ain’t playing you until I see it first.”

“Ah, Jimmy, I’m good for it.”

“I wanna see it.”

I made a big sigh and fished in my golf bag for the envelope with the $5,000 in it. I showed it to him, but he still had to pull it out and count it before he was satisfied.

“Alright, I showed you mine, now show me yours,” I said to him. He retrieved a similar envelope from his bag and let me count his money. Satisfied we weren’t going to stiff each other, he took to the tee.

Fairbanks hit a good drive—not great, but good enough—down the left side of this straightaway par-4. I really cranked one and knocked it 30 yards past his into the middle of the fairway. His eyebrows raised as he saw this drive. He was not expecting anything like that from this screw-up caddie that he still took me to be. We started down #1, Eddie and Bucky in tow. Bucky Welborn was an okay guy, but neither Eddie nor I could stand Fairbanks. Such an arrogant jerk.

Fairbanks hit his ball on the first green in two and two-putted for his par. I had stuck my short iron approach to five feet and confidently stroked it center cut, just as Eddie had taught me, for a birdie three. One up after one.

“See Jimbo—sorry—Jimmy? The slaughter has begun.” Fairbanks said nothing as we headed to the second tee. Man, this was fun!

Eddie pulled me to a stop as we neared the tee.  “Listen, E.J. Take it easy on the wisecracks, will ya? It’s early yet. He’s no slouch when it comes to golf. You’re good, but he could still beat you on a good day for him. Just don’t get over-confident here.”

“Alright, Eddie. You’re right. It’s just so much fun to pull his chain.”

“There’ll be plenty of time for that after you win. Just rein it in for now.”

I hit a good drive down the middle on #2. Suitably chastised by Eddie, I didn’t say anything to Fairbanks, and he then proceeded to hit one a few yards past me. The match was on.

We didn’t say much to each other after that. He realized I was a player and that he wouldn’t have an easy time beating me. I won another hole on the front 9, but he also won two, so after 9 holes, we were all even.

My troubles began on the 10th hole, actually the 10th green. I had a four-footer to halve the hole with a par. I’d already made two or three others of about this length, and there was nothing tricky about this putt, but for some reason, I could feel a little twitch in my right hand as I contacted the ball. It was enough to send it offline to the right, and the ball rimmed the cup and stayed out. I winced. Fairbanks was now 1-up for the first time in the match.

I didn’t really begin to worry about it until it happened again on 12 when I pushed a six-footer to the right, missing the hole by four inches. I was now 2-down. I reached into my back pocket and pulled out the hip flask I often carried when I played golf. I took a big swig from it in hopes it would help calm me down, then tucked it back in my pocket. The overcast sky was taking on a darker look, and it felt like rain might soon be coming.

As I joined Eddie walking to the 13th tee, I said to him, “Any suggestions?”

“Not really. Everyone misses a few putts; don’t let this get you down. You’re not out of it by a long shot.”

He tried his best to encourage me, but it was getting me down. That’s two short putts missed. I’ve got to get this under control.

“Whatsa matter, E.J? Pressure gettin’ to you? Got the yips all of a sudden?” taunted Fairbanks.

“I don’t even know what that means. Just play your game and shut up.”
 

Author Notes E.J. Budrowski: Age 38. An alcoholic with a traumatic past (an abusive father and a mother driven to suicide) who is a caddie at Brentwood CC. One day he finds a dirty old golf ball on the edge of a pond that seems to have unusual powers, for he makes two holes-in-one with it. He and Abby become friends when she encourages him to take up both golf and bridge again after long layoffs.
Eddie Phillips: A young member at Brentwood known for his extremely good putting and ability to hustle his opponents. Eddie is friends with Abby and beats Kenny in the club championship with a miracle shot. He and Kenny become best friends after that.
Jimmy Fairbanks: A hustler whom E.J. caddied for a few weeks ago in a match against Eddie and Kenny. A drunken E.J. helped lose the match for Fairbanks and his partner, and Fairbanks fired him on the 16th hole after cursing him out.


Chapter 43
Some Call It Luck - Chapter 43

By Jim Wile

Warning: The author has noted that this contains the highest level of language.

(See the Author Notes for a description of the main characters.)
 
Recap: At Abby’s prompting, E.J. has decided to return to school, financed by his winnings on the golf course, but he starts losing as he has developed a problem with his putting. He has just lost a match then drank heavily to settle down before he has to play bridge with Abby. The bridge doesn’t go so well, and E.J. insults one of his opponents. Abby calls him out on it, and he goes home and drinks to forget about the terrible day.

The next day he meets Eddie Phillips who helps rid him of the yips, and with his new-found confidence, E.J. challenges Jimmy Fairbanks to a match for $5,000. The night before the match, he has a sudden pang of doubt which sends him to a bar to drink with his friends. That settles him down, and he falls asleep at home.

The match begins well the next day. E.J. plays confidently with no sign of the yips yet. They are tied starting the back 9, but then E.J. falls behind after yipping two putts.
 
A continuation of the chapter: E.J. Budrowski - September, 1987
 
 
I missed yet another short putt on 13, and by the time we got to the 14th hole, I was 3-down. We both hit the green in two, and Fairbanks was 25 feet away, while I was 20. He putted first, and his ball stopped six inches from the cup. I conceded his par. I was a wreck now as my nerves started really getting to me. I babied my putt to two feet from the hole. I looked at Fairbanks to see if he would concede this short of a putt. He looked back at me and snorted. “The way you’ve been putting, I’m not giving you anything. Putt it.”

I walked up to my ball with a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach. I went through the routine, but as I got over the ball, I couldn’t take the putter back. I was frozen. Eddie, at the side of the green, couldn’t even watch. I backed off the putt and started over. Same thing happened, and I backed away again. We heard the first roll of thunder then.
 
Fairbanks was getting impatient and said, “C’mon, hit the damn thing before it starts raining!”

I addressed the ball one last time, took the putter back, and jabbed at it with a spastic stroke. It wasn’t only my right hand that flinched; it seemed to be my whole body. The putter head stubbed into the ground behind the ball and nudged it forward three inches.

We all stood there in shock over that putt—if you could call it that. Another hole lost. I picked the ball up in anguish, and we headed for the 15th tee. I walked very slowly with my head down. I reached for the hip flask again and downed most of the rest of the liquor, but it was a little too late for it now. Nothing was going to calm me down at this point. Light rain began to fall.

Fairbanks had won four of the last five holes. I should probably say that I had lost four of the last five holes, because Fairbanks hadn’t done anything special to win them. I was now 4-down with four left to play. I needed to win every hole just to tie.

“Who’s handing who his head now, huh E.J?” taunted Fairbanks.

“Just shut up, would you, and hit?”

The 15th hole was a par-3 of 152 yards. The green was ringed with trees and had an uncanny resemblance to the old 18th green in the woods over at Brentwood where I had holed those two shots last year. Fairbanks took to the tee and hit a towering 8-iron. The shot looked good right off the clubface and soared on a high arc through the raindrops, landing in the middle of the green and rolling up to six inches just left of the hole. A majestic shot.

Fairbanks looked at me and said, “Wanna concede the match right now, asshole?”

I thought about it. I would need a hole-in-one to win the hole, and I’d still need to win the next three holes just to tie. But something in me said to keep going. Don’t concede to him. As I started toward the tee box, my hand brushed against my side and rubbed against my pocket with the Lucky 1 in it, and I had a sudden idea.

“Hell no, but I’ll concede you your two on the hole. I give you that putt. But I’m not conceding the match. In fact, I’d like to make a little side bet with you. I’ll bet you $10,000 I hole this shot. No, forget that. Let’s double that. I’ll bet you $20,000 I hole this shot.”

Everyone just stood there with mouths agape. It took a minute for that to register.

“What? You gotta be kidding!” said Fairbanks. “What’s the catch here?”

“No catch. I’ll tee the ball right here and sink this shot for $20,000.”

“I don’t believe this. You’re saying one swing from right here, ball goes in the hole, for 20 grand? Are you outta your mind?”

“Nope, that’s the bet.”

“E.J., come over here, wouldja?” said Eddie. I walked over to him.

“What the hell are you doing? Is this some sort of con? What’s the trick?”

“No trick. I really plan to sink the shot.”

Eddie just closed his eyes and shook his head in disbelief as I walked back to confront Fairbanks. “My last offer,” I said to him. “20 grand to watch me hole this shot.”

“You’re on!” said Fairbanks. “I don’t believe this guy,” he said to Bucky, shaking his head.

I pulled out a 7-iron and strode to the tee. On the way, I pulled the Lucky 1 out of my pocket. I may not be able to putt right now, but I know one ball that always goes in the hole on the first shot. My confidence came roaring back, and all sense of anxiety left me. I was as calm inside as the weather was roiling now on the outside. I placed the Lucky 1 on a tee without a tremor to my hand.

Like twice before, time seemed to stop, and everything melted away except for me, the club, the ball, and the green off in the distance. It felt like a dead calm, and the wind and the rain were non-existent to me. In slow motion I took the club back to the top, paused for a brief moment, and started down. The club banged into the back of the ball, which took off high into the air. But as things started coming back into focus now, I could see the ball, which had been heading directly for the flag, start to veer to the right as the howling wind began exerting its influence. We all watched as the ball continued its downward arc, veering more and more to the right until it finally came to rest in the trees right of the green.

I was devastated! The Lucky 1 had let me down! I had lost the match right there, as well as the $20,000 side bet. I now owed Fairbanks $25,000. That represented most of the college money I had been saving. Oh my God, what had I just done?

I looked over at Fairbanks, who was grinning like a demon.

“Okay, E.J., that’ll be 25 large you owe me. You gonna pay up now?”

“I don’t have that much on me, Fairbanks.”

“Yeah, well gimme the five grand right now, and I’ll send some guys around for the rest tomorrow. You better have it.”

“Don’t sweat it; I’ve got it,” I said as I reached into my bag, retrieved the envelope containing the $5,000, and handed it to him.

He grabbed it, shook his head disbelievingly, and sneered, “God what a fool! Easiest 25 grand I ever earned.”

“You didn’t exactly earn it.”

“Yeah, well, whatever.” Then he and Welborn headed back to the clubhouse in the pouring rain. I paid my caddie, told him he did a good job and thanked him with as much cheer as I could muster, but I was dying inside. He made for the clubhouse after saying he would put my bag at the bag drop out front.

That left just me and Eddie standing there in the rain. He was speechless, which was a first for Eddie Phillips. He put his arm around my shoulder as we slowly headed back to the parking lot without saying a word. I didn’t even stop to look for the Lucky 1. It wasn’t so lucky anymore.
 
 

When I got back to my apartment, I headed straight for the cupboard, pulled down a bottle of liquor, and started drinking. Through the rest of the evening, I drank and drank as I brooded on my life right now and my future. I was miserable and anxious and depressed. I didn’t have enough money for college now, and I no longer cared even to go to college. I was a screw-up, just like my dad and everyone else used to think. As I wallowed in my misery, I downed the rest of the bottle and soon got violently ill. I barely made it to the toilet in time to spill my guts out. I sat on the floor for a long time with my head resting on my arms circling the toilet bowl. Then I pulled myself up, staggered to bed, and collapsed.
 

Author Notes E.J. Budrowski: Age 38. An alcoholic with a traumatic past (an abusive father and a mother driven to suicide) who is a caddie at Brentwood CC. One day he finds a dirty old golf ball on the edge of a pond that seems to have unusual powers, for he makes two holes-in-one with it. He and Abby become friends when she encourages him to take up both golf and bridge again after long layoffs.
Eddie Phillips: A young member at Brentwood known for his extremely good putting and ability to hustle his opponents. Eddie is friends with Abby and beats Kenny in the club championship with a miracle shot. He and Kenny become best friends after that.
Jimmy Fairbanks: A hustler whom E.J. caddied for a few weeks ago in a match against Eddie and Kenny. A drunken E.J. helped lose the match for Fairbanks and his partner, and Fairbanks fired him on the 16th hole after cursing him out.


Chapter 44
Some Call It Luck - Chapter 44

By Jim Wile

(See the Author Notes for a description of the main characters.)
 
Recap: At Abby’s prompting, E.J. has decided to return to school, financed by his winnings on the golf course, but he starts losing as he has developed a problem with his putting. He has just lost a match then drank heavily to settle down before he has to play bridge with Abby. The bridge doesn’t go so well, and E.J. insults one of his opponents. Abby calls him out on it, and he goes home and drinks to forget about the terrible day.

The next day he meets Eddie Phillips who helps rid him of the yips, and with his new-found confidence, E.J. challenges Jimmy Fairbanks to a match for $5,000. The night before the match, he has a sudden pang of doubt which sends him to a bar to drink with his friends. That settles him down, and he falls asleep at home.

The match begins well the next day. E.J. plays confidently with no sign of the yips yet. They are tied starting the back 9, but then E.J. falls behind after yipping two putts. After continuing to miss short putts they come to the 15th hole—a par 3 hole—and he is four holes down, needing to win every hole just to tie the match. Fairbanks knocks his tee shot to six inches from the hole. E.J. now needs a hole-in-one just to tie the hole and continue the match. As his hand brushes against the Lucky 1 in his pocket, he is reminded of the two times he had hit that ball for a hole-in-one each time and bets Fairbanks $20,000 that he will hole the shot. Fairbanks takes the bet, and E.J. hits the Lucky 1 for what looks like a perfect shot, but the wind catches it and blows it into the trees. E.J. has just lost $25,000 to Fairbanks—which is most of his college savings—leaves the ball in the trees, goes home, gets drunk, and is violently ill before crashing into bed.
 
A continuation of the chapter: E.J. Budrowski - September, 1987
 
The next morning, I woke up around 9:00 feeling surprisingly refreshed. I got out of bed and made for the bathroom. On the way, I glanced down at my footlocker, and the Lucky 1 was sitting right on top in its usual spot.

Wait a minute. What? I left this in the woods yesterday. My mind couldn’t comprehend what I was seeing. Right then the phone rang, and I went over to answer it. It was Abby.

She said, “I’m just calling to see how you’re doing today. About last night… um, I was thinking about it. It really would be nice if you wrote Ruth a card like you said you would or even call her and apologize again. We’ll be playing against her again in the future, so might as well mend fences.”

Last night? What was she talking about? “Don’t you mean Thursday night?”

“Of course.”

“Well, what’s today?”

“It’s Friday! What’s with you?”

“Abby, let me call you back,” and I hung up.

What was going on here? First I find the Lucky 1 sitting on top of my footlocker, then Abby tells me today is Friday? As my mind tried to reconcile these two facts with what occurred these past few days, it suddenly dawned on me what was happening here: There had been no lesson with Eddie, no drinking at Kelso’s bar with the guys, no competition with Fairbanks. I hadn’t lost the match and blown $25,000. I hadn’t lost the Lucky 1. The last few days had been a damn dream—a nightmare in fact! I just stood there as waves of relief flowed through my body.

After a few minutes of this, I walked over to the footlocker, picked up the Lucky 1, and looked at it as I held it in my hand. I took it over and sat down in my chair to think. There was a lesson here; I just had to figure out what it was. My brain, or was it the Lucky 1, was trying to tell me something. As I sat there, turning the ball over and over in my hand, pondering, everything slowly started to make sense, and it all pointed in one direction.

The Lucky 1 had not gone in the hole on that final shot against Fairbanks. Why? Because I was using it as a crutch—a way out of the predicament I had put myself in. I abused it the way I have abused myself—by drinking my way out of all the challenges I’ve faced in life. It came pounding home that for almost half my life, at least since my one year in college, I have always taken the easy way out of things. Rather than face the difficulties and realities of life, what have I done instead? I’ve retreated to the bottle. When I get back to school, is this what will happen again the first time I encounter some difficulties? In the past, it’s been too easy to just get drunk and forget about my problems. Alcohol has helped kill my motivation to even try to do anything important in my life—to work hard and to realize my potential.

All of this led to just one conclusion: I had to give up drinking—completely and permanently. I’ve never tried giving it up before, nor even reducing it—never felt that I wanted to. But the sudden insight I just had made me realize that my future depended on it. It was finally time to grow up, to meet life’s challenges head-on, and to stop relying on alcohol to get by. Just getting-by was not enough for me anymore. I had to give it up right now, or I would continue to ruin my life.

I started immediately. I got up from my chair, slipped the Lucky 1 into my pocket, and went over to the cupboard. There were two bottles of liquor in there. I took them both down, opened them up, and poured the contents down the drain in the sink. Then I tossed the empties in the garbage can. Not a moment of regret. That actually felt good!

I decided to call Abby back. I wasn’t planning to tell her about this just yet. I wanted to see if I could really follow through with it.

“E.J?”

“Yeah, it’s me.”

“What’s going on? You sounded mighty confused before.”

“Yeah, I had just woken up, and I guess I wasn’t all the way awake yet. Sorry about that. Listen, I will go out and get a card for Ruth today and apologize again. Do you happen to have her address?”

“Yeah, just a minute. I’ve got a handout they gave us at the bridge club with many of our names, addresses and phone numbers on it. Let me get it.” She returned to the phone shortly and read me off the address.

“Thanks, Abby. I’ll really do it. Hey, thanks for calling. I’m sorry about last night. I’d had a bad round of golf yesterday afternoon, lost some money, and it really had me rattled. But I’ve got some ideas that I’m going to try out this morning to fix the problem. I’m in a pretty good mood right now. Hey, I’ll bet you are too since you’ll be seeing Kenny tonight, right?”

“Yeah, we’ve got a nice routine going now. He comes for dinner Friday nights and leaves after dinner on Saturday.”

“Well, you two have a great time together this weekend. Is there any chance you’d be able to make another duplicate game next Thursday? I’d sure like to make it up to you and to Ruth.”

“I think so. Let’s plan on it unless I call to tell you that I can’t.”

“Okay, great. I’ll see you next Thursday at the temple, hopefully.” We said goodbye then and hung up.
 
 

After a big breakfast, I drove over to the muni to practice. I putted for two hours using the phantom Eddie’s tips, and in that time, I didn’t miss a single short putt. By God, it worked! I’d have to thank Eddie when I saw him again, though he wouldn’t know what I was talking about and would probably think I was nuts. I wouldn’t mind; I was just so happy I’d found something that cured my yips. I plan to continue to practice these phantom tips over the course of the next week to prove to myself their worth before seeking another money match where the pressure of competition would really put them to the test.

After the practice session, I drove back into town and stopped at the card shop, where I picked out a nice card for Ruth. It was blank inside, which would allow me to formulate my own apology the way I wanted to say it.

From there I went to the library and spent a couple of hours browsing books in the non-fiction section on a variety of topics, mostly ones that centered around science or mathematics—always my best subjects in school. Nothing definitive yet for a direction of study in college, but I was beginning to turn a few ideas over in my mind.
 

Author Notes Abby St. Claire: Age 21. She has just graduated from Penn State University where she was a math major and has decided to go for a masters degree there next year. She is intelligent and beautiful, yet shy and awkward with most people her age, having been picked on quite a lot while growing up. She works at the snack bar and as a waitress at Brentwood Country Club during the summers. She is dating Kenny who she met earlier this year and is a member at Brentwood.

E.J. Budrowski: Age 38. An alcoholic with a traumatic past (an abusive father and a mother driven to suicide) who is a caddie at Brentwood CC. One day he finds a dirty old golf ball on the edge of a pond that seems to have unusual powers, for he makes two holes-in-one with it. He and Abby become friends when she encourages him to take up both golf and bridge again after long layoffs.


Chapter 45
Some Call It Luck - Chapter 45

By Jim Wile

(See the Author Notes for a description of the main characters.)
 
Recap: At Abby’s prompting, E.J. has decided to return to school, financed by his winnings on the golf course, but he starts losing as he has developed a problem with his putting. He has just lost a match then drank heavily to settle down before he has to play bridge with Abby. The bridge doesn’t go so well, and E.J. insults one of his opponents. Abby calls him out on it, and he goes home and drinks to forget about the terrible day.

The next day he meets Eddie Phillips who helps rid him of the yips, and with his new-found confidence, E.J. challenges Jimmy Fairbanks to a match for $5,000. The night before the match, he has a sudden pang of doubt which sends him to a bar to drink with his friends. That settles him down, and he falls asleep at home.

The match begins well, but the yips come back, and E.J. loses not only the match but a side bet of $20,000 when he bets Fairbanks he will make a hole-in-one. He hits a perfect shot with the Lucky 1, but it drifts into the trees on the wind. He has lost most of his college money, then goes home and gets drunk and is violently ill before crashing into bed.

He awakens the next morning to discover that all the events since the bridge game where he insulted his opponent and came home and got drunk had been a dream. He finally realizes the devastating effect that his addiction to alcohol is having on his life and vows to give it up cold turkey.
 
A continuation of the chapter: E.J. Budrowski - September, 1987
 
The high I was feeling about my new resolve on Friday carried into Saturday morning, but toward Saturday afternoon I began to feel physically uneasy. Though it wasn’t particularly hot that day, I found myself sweating a lot during my loop, which was unusual for me. My hands also seemed to shake a little, and I had a mild headache. And boy, did I crave a drink, but I’d made up my mind I was done with that, and I was going to stick to it.

On Sunday, by the end of my loop in the morning, I was really dragging. I knew I didn’t have the energy for a second loop that afternoon, so I went home following the end of the round for a nap. I never took naps! My headache was back worse than yesterday, and my alcohol craving was intensifying. I held firm, though.

Monday was much the same. Caddying became more and more arduous as my energy level continued to drop. I had trouble getting to sleep that night, so Tuesday morning I slept-in a couple of extra hours; I just couldn’t seem to drag myself out of bed and get going. I finally managed it and came into the caddie yard around 10:00 AM. I guess I didn’t look so hot because Tony asked me if I felt okay. I was disheveled from having slept in my clothes, as well as sweaty and flushed. It was a slow morning, and Tony said there wouldn’t be any loops for a while.

I just decided to go home then. I wasn’t sure I had the energy to caddie now anyway.

It was all I could do not to stop at the liquor store and buy more booze, but I drove right by it. When I got home, I had trouble falling asleep again. I ended up not going to work at all on Wednesday and hung around the apartment all day, reading one of my library books and dozing off. Fortunately, Thursday and Friday were my normal days off, so I didn’t worry about going to work for several more days.

What was wrong with me? Was I having withdrawal symptoms from alcohol, as I’d suspected this might be for a few days now? I still hadn’t had a drop since last Thursday night. If so, how long would this last? Never having gone cold turkey before, I didn’t know. It just seemed to be getting worse. I don’t know how much more of this I can take.

I called Abby and asked her if she could pick me up at my place rather than meet at the temple for bridge tomorrow. I told her my car would be in the shop, and that I would need the ride. She readily agreed. It was a fib, but I didn’t think it would be safe for me to drive tomorrow if I continued to feel like this.

By Thursday afternoon I dragged myself from bed, where I had remained most of the day, and took a cold shower. I shaved and combed my hair and put on some fresh clothes, trying to make myself as presentable as possible for bridge tonight. I also tried eating a little something, but I was feeling slightly nauseous and only managed a few saltines and water.

6:40 PM came around, and I met Abby down in front on the street. I guess I looked presentable enough because she didn’t ask me how I was feeling. We just talked about bridge on our way over to the temple.

The first few hands were uneventful with nothing special in the bidding or play of the cards. Then we came to a close hand that I lost concentration on and had to take a long time to remember what cards had been played. Eventually I remembered and played the hand correctly. I’m normally a fast player, and it annoyed me how long it took me to get it right.

On another hand, which we were defending, Abby played a different suit from the one I led after she won the trick. It turned out not to be the correct play. At the end of the hand, I said to her in a peeved tone, “Why didn’t you return my suit when you won the opening lead? They made an overtrick because of it.”

“I didn’t read the hand that way. In hindsight, you’re probably right. Sorry,” she said.

I said nothing.

A few hands later she was the declarer, meaning I was the dummy, and she played both hands. She made the first dumb mistake I’d ever actually seen her make when she mis-counted the trumps, leaving one with the opponents when she could have drawn it. She subsequently went down two tricks when they trumped in, much to her surprise. It led to a bottom score for this hand.

“Learn to count, Abby,” I said below my breath, not intending for her to hear it, but she did and frowned at me.

On the last hand of the night, she was again declarer. It was a difficult hand, and she ended up going down-1 for an average score. I saw a way to make it, but it required an unusual play.

We ended up coming in third with 57%--not a horrible result, but we could have done much better. I was very annoyed. As we were leaving, I said to her, “Jeez, Abby, you played like crap tonight. You should have made that last hand. Haven’t you ever heard of Morton’s Fork Coup? Perfect example of that.”

She looked shaken. “Morton’s what?”

“Fork Coup. Maybe you should read up on it,” I crabbed at her.

“You know, E.J., I don’t know what your problem is tonight, but all you’ve done is complain about my play the whole time. Maybe you can just find your own way home. I don’t think I want to be around you anymore tonight.”

“Ah, c’mon Abby. Don’t be like that. Grow a pair!”

Her cheeks flushed, and her nostrils began to flare. “E.J.… just… Fork Coup!” and she stormed out.

What an idiot I was! How much more obnoxious and insensitive could I possibly have been? I just pissed off my best friend—probably the nicest, most decent person I’ve ever met. Man, what had gotten into me? I was disgusted with myself and didn’t bother asking anyone for a ride. I just left and walked the five miles back home.

I almost didn’t make it. The shame I felt zapped the little energy I had right out of me. I walked slowly and had to stop frequently to rest. By the time I got home, it was four hours later, and I had to pull myself up the banister to get upstairs to my apartment. It was 3:00 in the morning, and I was dying for a drink, but fortunately, there wasn’t any liquor to be had; otherwise, I might have yielded. I barely had enough energy to make it into bed, where I collapsed in a heap and passed out.
 

Author Notes Abby St. Claire: Age 21. She has just graduated from Penn State University where she was a math major and has decided to go for a masters degree there next year. She is intelligent and beautiful, yet shy and awkward with most people her age, having been picked on quite a lot while growing up. She works at the snack bar and as a waitress at Brentwood Country Club during the summers. She is dating Kenny who she met earlier this year and is a member at Brentwood.

E.J. Budrowski: Age 38. An alcoholic with a traumatic past (an abusive father and a mother driven to suicide) who is a caddie at Brentwood CC. One day he finds a dirty old golf ball on the edge of a pond that seems to have unusual powers, for he makes two holes-in-one with it. He and Abby become friends when she encourages him to take up both golf and bridge again after long layoffs.


Chapter 46
Some Call It Luck - Chapter 46

By Jim Wile

(See the Author Notes for a description of the main characters.)
 
Recap: At Abby’s prompting, E.J. has decided to return to school, financed by his winnings on the golf course, but he starts losing as he has developed a problem with his putting. He has just lost a match then drank heavily to settle down before he has to play bridge with Abby. The bridge doesn’t go so well, and E.J. insults one of his opponents. Abby calls him out on it, and he goes home and drinks to forget about the terrible day.

The next day he meets Eddie Phillips who helps rid him of the yips, and with his new-found confidence, E.J. challenges Jimmy Fairbanks to a match for $5,000. The night before the match, he has a sudden pang of doubt which sends him to a bar to drink with his friends. That settles him down, and he falls asleep at home.

The match begins well, but the yips come back and E.J. loses not only the match but a side bet of $20,000 when he bets Fairbanks he will make a hole-in-one. He hits a perfect shot with the Lucky 1, but it drifts into the trees on the wind. He has lost most of his college money, then goes home and gets drunk and is violently ill before crashing into bed.

He awakens the next morning to discover that all the events since the bridge game where he insulted his opponent and came home and got drunk had been a dream. He finally realizes the devastating effect that his addiction to alcohol is having on his life and vows to give it up cold turkey. This does not go well as he is overwhelmed by the physical symptoms of withdrawal, but has told no one what he is doing. He insults Abby at a bridge game and staggers five miles home, where he collapses in bed.
 
A continuation of the chapter: E.J. Budrowski - September, 1987
 
I awoke Friday around noon. It was now a full week since I had had my last drink. I was still so weak that I could scarcely get out of bed to go to the bathroom but finally managed to make it. My head was pounding, and my heart seemed to be skipping beats. I had no appetite but forced myself to eat some Campbell’s Chicken Noodle Soup and some more crackers; nothing else appealed to me. I knew I just had to wait this out. It couldn’t go on like this forever! I spent the day doing virtually nothing but listening to music and trying to read one of my library books.

By Saturday morning I had at least recovered a little from that exhausting walk home early Friday morning, so I forced myself to have a bowl of cereal and then go into work. I couldn’t stay out forever. Tony saw me come in around 11:00 AM and came over to where I had sat down on the bench in the caddie yard.

“Jesus Christ, E.J. You look like crap. You shoulda stayed home today. You been drinkin’?”

“No, not a drop, but I’ve been sick. Flu or something. I’m alright, Tone. Actually, I’m feeling a lot better than the past few days.”

“I don’t know, E.J. You don’t look like you could carry two bags for 18 holes.”

“Well, give me a single then or give me doubles for 9 holes. I’m sure I can handle that.”

“You may have to wait a while for that. No singles or 9-hole rounds scheduled ‘til later this afternoon, maybe 2:00. I think Mr. Payne and Mr. Young are planning to play 9 this afternoon. You think you could handle that?”

“Sure, Tone.”

“Make sure you drink something; it’s starting to get hot.”

“Okay, Tone.”

Around 2:15, Tony called me over and told me to take Payne and Young’s bags for a 9-hole round. I picked them up and walked slowly to the first tee where I met Kenny and Todd Young.

Kenny looked at me closely and said, “Afternoon, E.J. Hey, are you feeling okay? You look a little… flushed.”

Guys don’t usually notice stuff the way girls do, so I must not have looked too good for him to have said anything. “I’m okay. You’re only going 9, so I should be good.”

“I don’t know, are you sure? We could always take a cart.”

“Nah, I’m good. Say, Kenny, I thought you spent Saturdays with Abby.”

“Yeah, I usually do, but she had a lot of studying to do this weekend for a couple of exams next week, so I left after breakfast this morning.”

“Did she happen to tell you about bridge on Thursday night?”

“Yeah, she said a few things about that.”

“Well, I felt awfully bad about it afterward, and I plan to call her tonight and apologize for my behavior.”

“I’m sure she’d like that. She was pretty upset about it.”

Todd then said, “Hey look, E.J., if you’re really not doing too well, and this round gets to be too much for you, just say the word. Don’t kill yourself. We can always come back in and get a cart to finish the round or even carry our own bags if we get beyond, say, the 3rd hole.”

“That’s nice of you boys, but I’ll be okay.”

“Alright then. Kenny, let’s tee it up.”

I gave Kenny his 1-iron and Todd his 4-wood, and we were off.

I don’t know whether it was the heat or the failure to have more than just the one Coke to drink, but I started getting very light-headed as we made our way down the first hole. I swayed a little with the two bags on my shoulders and couldn’t move very fast. I trailed behind my players by a good twenty yards. Kenny had a concerned look on his face when he looked back at me trying to catch up.

“E.J., you going to make it?”

“I’m fine. What do you want from here, pitching wedge?”

They both hit their second shots, with Kenny hitting the green and Todd ending up in the front bunker. Todd got to the bunker first and was ready for me to hand him his sand wedge while I made my way over to him. I was so light-headed now I could barely walk straight and sort of stumbled on the way. As I started to hand him his club with the bags still on my shoulders, my legs collapsed, and everything turned black.
 
 

That was the last thing I knew until hours later, when I opened my eyes to see the beautiful face of Abby hovering over me. “Abby?”

“Hi, E.J.”

I could see that I was lying in a bed, and there was a tube in my arm. “Where am I?”

“You’re in room 26 of Kane Community Hospital. You’ve been out for about six hours now.”

“What happened? How did I get here?”

At that moment Kenny came into view too. “Hi, E.J.”

“Hi, Kenny. Last thing I remember—I was caddying for you, wasn’t I?”

“Yeah, you were, and it was a mistake for me to let you. I knew you didn’t look quite up to it, but you insisted you were okay.”

“What happened? How did I end up here?”

“You passed out and collapsed and fell right into the bunker by the first green, bags and all. I ran back to the Pro Shop and told Tony. He called 911, and an ambulance arrived within ten minutes. They tried to resuscitate you but couldn’t and rushed you right here. They said your pulse was extremely weak, and they were worried you would die before they got you here. It was very close, and I’m just sick about allowing you to caddie for us.”

“Not your fault. I shouldn’t have even been there today. I felt like crap and should have stayed home.”

Abby then asked, “So E.J., what’s going on? The doctors did all kinds of blood tests on you, and some things were way out of whack. Have you been sick and didn’t tell anyone about it?”

“No, I wasn’t sick. Truth is, I had quit drinking, and I guess I was feeling the effects of quitting.”

“E.J., when did you have your last drink?” asked Kenny.

“It was the evening after I lost that match to Fairbanks. I got so drunk after that. When I woke up the next day, I decided to quit.”

“Wait, what? You say you lost a match against Fairbanks? Jimmy Fairbanks?”

“Yeah, I lost $25,000 to him. Didn’t Eddie tell you about it?”

He and Abby looked at each other.

“Uh, no he didn’t. When did you say this was?”

“It was… it was… I forget now. I’m so confused. Maybe about a week ago? Ask Eddie about it. He was there; he’ll tell you.”

Kenny and Abby looked at each other again with very perplexed looks on their faces.

“Wait a minute,” said Kenny. “Let me see if I’ve got this straight. You’re saying you played a match against Jimmy Fairbanks, lost 25 grand to him, got drunk, and quit the next day. And this was a week ago?”

“No, wait. That was a dream. I’m so confused now!”

Right then a nurse came in and came over to check on the I.V. in my arm. She looked at me and said, “Welcome back to the world, Mr. Budrowski. Now that you’re awake, I’ll let the doctor know. She’ll be in to see you then. I’m going to get you something to drink and a pill to take now that you’re awake. We’ve got to get your electrolytes back up. You were very dehydrated. I’ll be right back.”

“So, wait now,” said Kenny after the nurse had gone. “You lost a match to Fairbanks, then got drunk and quit drinking the next morning. And this was all a dream? Have I got that right?”

“Almost. The first part never happened. But I really did quit drinking. You may not know it, but I’ve been a heavy drinker for many years, and now I haven’t had a drop in over a week. I remember now. It was the morning after we played duplicate bridge that night against Ruth, and I was hard on her for faking me out. You remember that, don’t you Abby? After I got home, I felt so bad about it that I got pretty drunk. That night I had the dream, and it was the next day that I quit drinking for good.”

Kenny had a very serious look on his face. “So, you just went cold turkey over a week ago, and you told no one you were going to do it? E.J., you can’t do it like that! I had a friend in college who tried that, and it nearly killed him. I discussed this at the time with my brother, who is a doctor, and he told me you have to taper down slowly when getting off alcohol. If you try to go cold turkey, you can get into real trouble real fast.”

“Well, I never tried to quit before. I guess I didn’t know that.”

“Oh, E.J.,” said Abby, taking my hand. “I’m so sorry it happened this way. It’s wonderful that you quit drinking, but I wish you had just told me you were doing it. I’m your friend; you can tell me stuff like that.”

“I know you are. I just didn’t want to disappoint you if I couldn’t keep it up. And Abby, I am so sorry about the way I treated you the other night at bridge. I don’t know what got into me. There was no excuse for it, and I’d do anything to take it all back. I wish we’d never played that night.”

“E.J., please don’t worry about that. You are totally forgiven. I know that wasn’t the real you that night. It was the effects of the alcohol withdrawal. The real you is an amazing, gentle, polite, intelligent person who’s been a great friend to me.”

I started choking up when she said that to me. I clasped my other hand around hers as I welled up in tears. I guess the I.V. was working. I couldn’t say anything for a minute. When I could, I said simply, “Thank you, Abby,” and closed my eyes.

Abby said to Kenny, “We’d better get going now. The doctor will be in soon, and they’ll probably kick us out then anyway.” She turned to me then. “I’ll come visit you tomorrow, E.J. You take care now and listen to the doctor and tell me what she says tomorrow, okay?” She bent down then and kissed me gently on the forehead. “See you tomorrow,” she said.

“Goodbye, you two. Thanks for coming.”
 

Author Notes Abby St. Claire: Age 21. She has just graduated from Penn State University where she was a math major and has decided to go for a masters degree there next year. She is intelligent and beautiful, yet shy and awkward with most people her age, having been picked on quite a lot while growing up. She works at the snack bar and as a waitress at Brentwood Country Club during the summers. She is dating Kenny who she met earlier this year and is a member at Brentwood.
E.J. Budrowski: Age 38. An alcoholic with a traumatic past (an abusive father and a mother driven to suicide) who is a caddie at Brentwood CC. One day he finds a dirty old golf ball on the edge of a pond that seems to have unusual powers, for he makes two holes-in-one with it. He and Abby become friends when she encourages him to take up both golf and bridge again after long layoffs.
Kenny Payne: Age 22. Abby met him briefly at a frat party in her senior year and was intrigued by him, then she sees him again when he walks up to the snack bar several months later. Tall, good looking, and an all-around nice guy.


Chapter 47
Some Call It Luck - Chapter 47

By Jim Wile

(See the Author Notes for a description of the main characters.)
 
Recap: E.J. awakens the next morning to discover that all the events since the bridge game where he insulted his opponent and came home and got drunk had been a dream. He finally realizes the devastating effect that his addiction to alcohol is having on his life and vows to give it up cold turkey. This does not go well as he is overwhelmed by the physical symptoms of withdrawal, but has told no one what he is doing. He insults Abby at a bridge game and staggers five miles home, where he collapses in bed.

After a couple of days, he returns to caddying but is in no condition for it. He ends up passing out and collapsing into a bunker. Six hours later he wakes up in the hospital where he was taken after a 911 call. Abby and Kenny are there, and E.J. reveals that he had gone cold turkey a week before. Kenny informs him he needed to taper off, which E.J. didn’t know, having never quit before. Abby promises to come back tomorrow to talk to the doctor with him.
 
The conclusion of the chapter: E.J. Budrowski - September, 1987
 
A few minutes later Dr. Perrott came in. She was an attractive young doctor with a friendly demeanor. The nurse, whose name was Betty, also came back with a cup of some sort of liquid she told me to drink down and a pill of some kind. I didn’t ask her any questions about what she was giving me. I was very tired and didn’t feel so well, so I just did what she told me.

Dr. Perrott checked my vitals and looked over my chart. She examined me in various ways, including pinching the skin on my hand, to see if it would spring back—a test for dehydration. I was still somewhat dehydrated but better, she said.

Right then I told her about going cold turkey with the alcohol over a week ago, and she said it explained much. With this knowledge, she could now understand the blood test results and what she was seeing on my chart. She said that before I left the hospital—perhaps tomorrow afternoon or on Monday—she would talk to me about the proper way to withdraw from alcohol and would give me some information on where to go from here.

She said I needed to follow through with her instructions if I wanted to prevent a relapse in the future. She also told me it would be very beneficial if I had someone with me who could also listen to the instructions and help me to follow them. I told her I was determined to stay off alcohol for good and that I had a good friend who could be there with me to listen. She gave me a few pats on the shoulder and left.

Through the evening, I slowly started to improve and had a pretty good night’s sleep that Saturday night. By Sunday afternoon, I was feeling a whole lot better.

Abby came to visit me and brought me a bridge magazine to read if I felt like it. She stayed for about two hours, and during that time I told her everything about what had been happening to me lately. I told her all about the dream I’d had—about the putting lesson with Eddie to cure my yips, about the challenge to Fairbanks and the subsequent golf match where the yips came back, and how I had made that stupid bet and then missed with the Lucky 1 to lose it all.

It felt so good to get this all out in the open and to be able to share my feelings and my fears about my alcoholism, about my past, and about my future. Abby was terrific through all of it. She held my hand and cried with me at times and just listened, asking only an occasional question as I got it all out.

When I asked her if she would come to hear the doctor’s instructions with me, she of course said yes and that she would be with me through all of what would follow. I don’t know what I had done to deserve such a truly compassionate, wonderful friend, and I broke down at that point. She held me and rocked me as I just sobbed and sobbed.
 
 

Sunday night, nurse Betty told me that Dr. Perrott would talk to me at 10:00 the next morning and that if I wanted to invite someone to hear her instructions with me, I should let them know about it. After that I would be discharged from the hospital.

I called Abby, who was over at Kenny’s house, and told her about the meeting with the doctor, and she promised to be there to participate and to drive me home afterward. I thanked her and said I’d see her tomorrow at 10:00.

I won’t go into all the details of that meeting with the doctor and all the advice she gave me except to say that she strongly advised me to join an alcohol addiction management program. The most well-known was Alcoholics Anonymous, but there were other programs as well. Being around others who can share their experiences, and talking to those who have successfully stayed sober can be extremely beneficial to my recovery, she said.

Abby listened to all of it with me and promised both me and Dr. Perrott that she would be with me all the way. Dr. Perrott was very pleased to hear that. She told her what a fine young lady she was, and she told me how lucky I was to have such a good friend. I thanked her for all of her good advice and promised that I would follow it.

After that I was discharged from the hospital, and Abby drove us to Maudie’s where we had lunch. I was feeling good now and ate heartily. The worst part of alcohol withdrawal—the actual ridding the body of alcohol—was over. It was out of my system, hopefully forever, but this all depended on me to find other ways to cope with life’s challenges and not to give in to the likely urges to begin drinking again. I could do it. I knew I could… I think.

Very soon after, I began to attend AA meetings. There was a local chapter right here in DuBois. Abby came with me to a few of these meetings when she was allowed to, and she continued to be my bastion of support through all this time. I don’t know if I could have succeeded in staying sober without her.

I soon began golfing again, both practicing and playing matches. The yips never returned as Eddie’s dream tips became an established part of my putting. The matches went well, with me winning far more often than I lost. I took my money out from beneath the floorboards and opened up both a regular checking and savings account to put it in.
 
To be continued...
 

Author Notes Abby St. Claire: Age 21. She has just graduated from Penn State University where she was a math major and has decided to go for a masters degree there next year. She is intelligent and beautiful, yet shy and awkward with most people her age, having been picked on quite a lot while growing up. She works at the snack bar and as a waitress at Brentwood Country Club during the summers. She is dating Kenny who she met earlier this year and is a member at Brentwood.
Kenny Payne: Age 22. Abby met him briefly at a frat party in her senior year and was intrigued by him, then she sees him again when he walks up to the snack bar several months later. Tall, good looking, and an all-around nice guy.
E.J. Budrowski: Age 38. An alcoholic with a traumatic past (an abusive father and a mother driven to suicide) who is a caddie at Brentwood CC. One day he finds a dirty old golf ball on the edge of a pond that seems to have unusual powers, for he makes two holes-in-one with it. He and Abby become friends when she encourages him to take up both golf and bridge again after long layoffs.


Chapter 48
Some Call It Luck - Chapter 48

By Jim Wile

(See the Author Notes for a description of the main characters.)
 
Recap: E.J. has gone cold turkey off the booze, and the withdrawal effects are tremendous. After a week of being sober, he returns to caddying but is in no condition for it. He ends up passing out and collapsing into a bunker. Six hours later he wakes up in the hospital where he was taken after a 911 call. Abby and Kenny are there, and E.J. reveals that he had gone cold turkey a week before. Kenny informs him he needed to taper off, which E.J. didn’t know, having never quit before. Abby promises to come back tomorrow, and she and Kenny leave.

Abby returns the following day and E.J. tells her all about a vivid dream he'd had and shares with her everything about his unfortunate past and his fears about the future. He asks her if she will come the next day to hear the doctor’s instructions with him, which she does. He is discharged and begins his recovery by entering AA.
 
 
Abby St. Claire
Fall, 1987
 
I’m a grad student now in applied mathematics—a specialty in which mathematicians work on real-world problems by formulating and applying mathematical models, as opposed to pure mathematics, which is much more theoretical in nature. It’s the application of mathematics to fields such as physics, engineering, and even finance and business. It’s perfect for me, since I still have a keen interest in physics and engineering.

The field is dominated by men, and there is only one other woman in the master’s program besides me. I had met her last year, and we had become friends and now roommates.

My advisor, who is also one of my professors, is Dr. Robert Gregorian. He is actually the chairman of the Math Department at Penn State. When I met with him a few days ago, I found out he is also an avid bridge player and plays duplicate bridge too. He told me there would be a national tournament held right here at Penn State next month.

Maybe I’ll see if E.J. wants to play in it. He’s been doing very well lately after deciding to give up alcohol. He’s committed now to going back to school and plans to apply right here at Penn State. I’m very happy for him. If he can manage to stay sober, I know he will succeed wherever he ends up.

Kenny and I have a nice routine going with his weekend visits. We haven’t missed a single one, though I did have to send him home one Saturday so I could study for two tests the following week.

E.J. is the one who helped me get over my fears and to be myself around Kenny, and our love has blossomed in just a few short months. I think I’ve found my partner for life, and I’m just waiting for the day when he proposes to me.
 
 
 
E.J. Budrowski
Fall, 1987
 
In early October Abby and I entered a national bridge tournament held right at Penn State University in State College. She came dressed in a very sleek outfit that included heels and a short skirt. She had applied makeup, and she was an absolute knockout, which proved to be an effective weapon in distracting some of the male competition. Who could blame her for using every weapon in her arsenal to help us do well in the tournament? That’s what the many bridge conventions we now used were for, wasn’t it?

She told me that she planned to introduce me to one of her professors, who was also a good bridge player and would be playing in the tournament.

National tournaments are multi-day affairs with many different sessions to them. I met Dr. Robert Gregorian during the second session we played in. Abby and I were playing north-south in this session, and on the third round, Dr. Gregorian and his partner came to our table as our east-west opponents. In the minute or so before the play began, Abby introduced us. He was a professor of mathematics, and she was a student of his in his Numerical Methods course.

We didn’t have long to chat before the three hands that we would play arrived, and we started to play them. On the third hand, I was declarer in a difficult 6-club contract, made even more so when the trumps split badly, with Dr. Gregorian holding the greater number on my right. I was able to use a rare play called a double grand coup to make the hand, and we ended up getting a top score for the hand.

Everyone at the table complimented me on my fine play. Regrettably for Dr. Gregorian’s team, that meant a bottom score for them, but he was a magnanimous fellow and just laughed it off.

Later after the session, in which Abby and I came in second-place, we met up with Dr. Gregorian outside the session room. He congratulated us on our second-place result and said how impressive that was for our first national tournament against some expert players, many of whom were grandmasters. His team had come in at ninth place.

He asked me what I did for a living, and somewhat sheepishly, I said I was a golf caddie. He was a golfer himself and said caddying was a noble profession and could be a surprisingly difficult job to do well, especially at the higher levels of golf like the PGA Tour. I said I was a long way from that and that caddying was not my ultimate career goal.

I told him that I was considering a change and wanted to go back to college after a long hiatus. In fact, I was hoping to get into Penn State, though I wasn’t sure what I wanted to be when I grew up. He laughed at this but was intrigued. We talked for a bit more, then he pulled a business card out of his wallet and handed it to me and told me to set up an appointment to come talk to him. I thanked him very much and promised I would do that soon.

Abby and I were done for the day. When we got outside, she could hardly contain her excitement about this eventuality.
 
“E.J., Dr. Gregorian has a lot of influence around here. I didn’t tell you, but he’s actually the chairman of the math department and knows everyone! He must have been very impressed by you to have invited you to come speak with him. You can’t imagine where this might lead.”

The words came pouring out of her, and she said all this in almost one breath.

“Well, what do you think might come of it?” I asked.

“I think he could pull some strings and get you accepted, that’s what. While talking to you, he might also give you some career guidance—you know, suggest to you which fields you might consider pursuing. Please take advantage of this opportunity to meet with him!” She almost pleaded with me.

“I will. I definitely will. Take it easy!”

“Oh, I’m so excited about this!” she said, dancing around a little. She was just beaming as we walked back to our cars.
 
To be continued...
 

Author Notes Abby St. Claire: Age 21. She has just started grad school at Penn State University where she is a math major. She is intelligent and beautiful, yet shy and awkward with most people her age, having been picked on quite a lot while growing up. She worked at the snack bar and as a waitress at Brentwood Country Club during the summers where she met both E.J. and Kenny, who is a member at Brentwood and became her boyfriend.

E.J. Budrowski: Age 38. An alcoholic with a traumatic past (an abusive father and a mother driven to suicide) who is a caddie at Brentwood CC. One day he finds a dirty old golf ball on the edge of a pond that seems to have unusual powers, for he makes two holes-in-one with it. He and Abby become friends when she encourages him to take up both golf and bridge again after long layoffs.

Kenny Payne: Age 22. Abby met him briefly at a frat party in her senior year and was intrigued by him, then she sees him again when he walks up to the snack bar several months later. Tall, good looking, and an all-around nice guy.


Chapter 49
Some Call It Luck - Chapter 49

By Jim Wile

(See the Author Notes for a description of the main characters.)
 
Recap: E.J. has gone cold turkey off the booze, and the withdrawal effects are tremendous. After a week of being sober, he returns to caddying but is in no condition for it. He ends up passing out and collapsing into a bunker. Six hours later he wakes up in the hospital where he was taken after a 911 call. Abby and Kenny are there, and E.J. reveals that he had gone cold turkey a week before. Kenny informs him he needed to taper off, which E.J. didn’t know, having never quit before. Abby promises to come back tomorrow, and she and Kenny leave.

Abby returns the following day and E.J. tells her all about a vivid dream he’d had and shares with her everything about his unfortunate past and his fears about the future. He asks her if she will come the next day to hear the doctor’s instructions with him, which she does. He is discharged and begins his recovery by entering AA.

Abby and E.J. enter a national bridge tournament at Penn State. There E.J. meets one of Abby’s professors who is also playing in the tournament. Dr. Gregorian is impressed by E.J. and asks him to make an appointment to visit with him. Abby is thrilled by this and is convinced this will help E.J. get enrolled at Penn State.
 
A continuation of the chapter: E.J. Budrowski - Fall, 1987
 
I did make an appointment to visit with Dr. Gregorian and met him in his office a week later. It was mid-October now, the time when I usually packed up and went to Florida, but I decided to skip that this year in hopes of maybe starting college next semester, which began in January.

Dr. Gregorian and I spoke for two hours, discussing what my strengths and favorite subjects had been in my prior schooling. I said that math and science were my strongest subjects and that I had scored 800 on the math portion of the SAT in high school. But I also liked English. I was a reader of both fiction and non-fiction and had done well on the English portion of the SAT as well, scoring 760.
 
“I have to confess, though,” I said to him, “during my one year of college, I didn’t study very hard nor get good grades.”

“E.J., in talking with you, it seems like you have greatly matured since that time, which leads me to believe that would no longer be the case. You must have studied hard to become so good at bridge.”

“Yes, I guess I did. I’ve also been studying a number of subjects recently to decide a direction to take in college. Haven’t quite figured it out yet, though.”

“What have you been considering?”

“Biomedical engineering, weather forecasting, and computer science.”

“You know, I think computer science would be an excellent fit for you. I’ve seen your mind at work at the bridge table and through talking with you, and I think that might be a good direction to go. Anyone who can perform a double grand coup for a top score against many experts I think has the right mentality for the field. The head of the computer science department, Dr. Rupert Kaufman, is a good friend of mine. I could put you in touch with him if you’d like.”

“Yes, I would appreciate that very much.”

“Let me give you his phone number. Why don’t you wait a couple of days to call him. I’d like to give him a heads-up about you first.”

“Dr. Gregorian, I can’t thank you enough for spending this time with me. It’s been a great pleasure meeting you and talking with you.”

“The pleasure’s been mine too, E.J. I’m so glad Abby introduced us. Give Kaufman a call in two days. I think you’ll enjoy meeting him.”

I shook his hand and thanked him again before leaving.
 
 

I called Dr. Kaufman two days later and made an appointment to see him the following day. He was a rather rotund fellow with white hair, reminding me somewhat of the singer Burl Ives. He had a wonderful sense of humor and a keen mind. We talked for an hour about the field of computer science: what it was comprised of and what it would take to do well in it.

“I sense a very logical, disciplined mind with you, E.J. Would you like to take a short logic test I often give my freshman students? It won’t take very long.”

“Sure. I love brain-teasers. I imagine it will be like those.”

He handed me a sheet of paper with five logic questions, and I finished it in about fifteen minutes. I got all the answers right.

“Very impressive, E.J. Most of my freshmen usually answer no more than two correctly. Listen, why don’t you stop at the admissions office and pick up an application to Penn State. Fill it out, but don’t bother about providing any transcripts. I will see that you get accepted for the winter/spring semester. You can expect an acceptance letter and the enrollment package in the mail sometime next month. I guarantee it.”

I was practically speechless. I couldn’t believe these folks were doing so much for me with so little to go on after just a few short meetings. They must have seen something in me.

“That’s unbelievably kind of you, Dr. Kaufman. I can’t thank you and Dr. Gregorian enough for what you are doing for me and for all the time you’ve taken with me this afternoon.”

“It was a great pleasure meeting you, E.J. I think you’ll do very well in this program. Thanks for stopping by.”

I shook his hand, thanked him again, and then left. I headed down to the admissions office and picked up the requisite forms.
 
 

True to his word, Dr. Kaufman got me accepted into Penn State as a freshman in very short order. I would start the second semester in January, 1988—two months from now.

As soon as I got accepted to Penn State in early November, I caddied my last round at Brentwood Country Club. There were hardly any loops anymore, and most of the caddies had either headed south for the winter or had just stopped caddying for the year. Unfortunately, Tony Colosi was not there that day. In fact, he hadn’t been there all week due to some sort of family matter, so I never had a chance to say goodbye to him or tell him that I wouldn’t be back.

I played a few golf matches in November while the weather was still decent, but those days were becoming fewer as we headed into the late fall, and I eventually stopped for the season.

I spent the majority of these two months before starting school taking out books from the library and studying up on computer science and computer programming. I bought an especially good book and learned how to program in a language called C++. I developed an instantaneous affinity for programming. I loved the discipline and the logic of it. There was no room for mistakes because a program would not work correctly if there were any, yet in writing so many lines of code, they were inevitable. But I also loved the challenge of debugging a program, for that often required keen analysis and creativity to help you find the bugs.
 
 

I resumed my college education in January, 1988.
 
To be continued...
 

Author Notes Abby St. Claire: Age 21. She has just started grad school at Penn State University where she is a math major. She is intelligent and beautiful, yet shy and awkward with most people her age, having been picked on quite a lot while growing up. She worked at the snack bar and as a waitress at Brentwood Country Club during the summers where she met both E.J. and Kenny, who is a member at Brentwood and became her boyfriend.
E.J. Budrowski: Age 38. An alcoholic with a traumatic past (an abusive father and a mother driven to suicide) who is a caddie at Brentwood CC. One day he finds a dirty old golf ball on the edge of a pond that seems to have unusual powers, for he makes two holes-in-one with it. He and Abby become friends when she encourages him to take up both golf and bridge again after long layoffs.


Chapter 50
Some Call It Luck - Chapter 50

By Jim Wile

(See the Author Notes for a description of the main characters.)
 
Recap: E.J. has gone cold turkey off the booze, and the withdrawal effects are tremendous. After a week of being sober, he returns to caddying but is in no condition for it. He ends up passing out and collapsing into a bunker. Six hours later he wakes up in the hospital where he was taken after a 911 call. Abby and Kenny are there, and E.J. reveals that he had gone cold turkey a week before. Kenny informs him he needed to taper off, which E.J. didn’t know, having never quit before. Abby promises to come back tomorrow, and she and Kenny leave.

Abby returns the following day and E.J. tells her all about a vivid dream he’d had and shares with her everything about his unfortunate past and his fears about the future. He asks her if she will come the next day to hear the doctor’s instructions with him, which she does. He is discharged and begins his recovery by entering AA.

Abby and E.J. enter a national bridge tournament at Penn State in October. There E.J. meets one of Abby’s professors who is also playing in the tournament. Dr. Gregorian is impressed by E.J. and asks him to make an appointment to visit with him. Abby is thrilled by this and is convinced this will help E.J. get enrolled at Penn State. E.J. meets with Dr. Gregorian, and two days later with Dr. Kaufman, the head of the computer science department. He is impressed with E.J. and expedites his enrollment as a computer science student. E.J. begins his new college career in January.
 
Abby St. Claire
June, 1988
 
Back in January, on one of Kenny’s visits, we decided to go out and play in the snow like a couple of kids. We started throwing snowballs at each other. At one point he picked up a handful of snow, turned his back to me, and seemed to be fiddling with something. “I’m really going to get you with this one!” he called over to me, but instead of throwing it at me, he walked over and handed it to me and told me to fish around inside it.

I knew something was up. I removed the mitten from my right hand so I could get my fingers into the snowball. My heart was racing as I broke it open and uncovered a beautiful diamond ring! At that point, he took it from me, knelt down on one knee in the snow, and said, “Abby St. Claire, you are the love of my life, and I can no longer picture my life without you in it. Would you marry me?”

I squealed. “Of course, I will!” He removed the mitten from my left hand, then he placed the ring on my ring finger, and we sealed it with a long kiss as the snow gently fell on us.

We decided to hold our wedding in June, after the spring semester was over, which meant we had to start planning it right away.
 
 
 

The ceremony was held in the church I grew up in, in my hometown of Butler. My sister Lisa was my maid-of-honor, and my two college roommates were my bridesmaids. Eddie Phillips was Kenny’s best man, while Grandpa and E.J. were ushers.
 
I loved my wedding dress, which Mom helped me pick out. It had a bateau neckline with a lace bodice and cap sleeves and was cinched-in at the waist with a flowing chiffon skirt. At Mom’s suggestion, I had had my long, red hair crimped for the occasion with little baby’s-breath flowers running through it. The effect was stunning, and when my dad looked at me before I took his arm to walk down the aisle together, he had to blot away his tears with a handkerchief. “Abby, you are just beautiful,” he said to me.

Kenny was beaming as he watched me come down the aisle on Dad’s arm. He looked very handsome in his black tux as he waited at the altar for me.
 
We recited our wedding vows to each other, but I stumbled a little over my lines. I had been so busy with all the preparations that I hadn’t spent enough time memorizing my part, but Kenny came to the rescue and prompted me through it. I’m sure we’ll laugh about that in the future.

It was a beautiful ceremony and a wonderful reception afterwards at a local restaurant, where we celebrated with friends and family and danced for hours. Grandpa and E.J. hit it off and discussed bridge for a long time. I finally got them up and danced with each of them. Kenny’s and my parents got along splendidly, and everybody danced with everybody.

Right before we left, Eddie handed us his wedding gift—an enormous check! We told him it was too much, but he insisted we put it toward a down payment on a house and stay around for a while. We promised him we would.

Kenny and I honeymooned for a week in Bermuda, and it was a magical time. When we returned, we got very busy moving all our stuff into an apartment we rented in a small town about half way between DuBois and State College. That meant that neither of us would have a long commute to job or college.

We had gotten some very nice wedding gifts but still had to go out and buy a number of things to complete our household. It was a busy time, but we are young and full of energy and didn’t mind all the work.
 
 
 
E.J. Budrowski
1988 - 1993
 
The next few years seemed to pass quickly. I loved computer science and did very well, completing the program and getting my bachelor’s degree in three and a half years. During this time, I was on the golf team and, as a 40-year-old, was the oldest college golf team member in the nation.

I should mention that I still possessed the Lucky 1 but had stopped carrying it in my pocket long ago. I kept it in a treasured place on the mantel above the fireplace in my rented room in a beautiful old house just off-campus.

I saw Abby and Kenny often during this time. They lived not too far away and would have me over for dinner about twice a month. Sometimes Eddie Phillips was there too, and at other times Kenny, Eddie and I played golf together.

Like Abby, I entered a master’s program right there at Penn State after getting my bachelor’s degree. I wrote my eventual thesis on distributed computing. During those two years earning my degree, I worked as a teaching assistant—a job I loved. I seemed to have a natural ability for teaching, and my students often told me I spoke with a clarity they seldom encountered with their other teachers. I was a “good explainer,” they said, of what could be a very complex subject. Maybe being an educator was in my future.

I finally felt like my life was moving in the right direction, and though the pull of alcohol was always there in the background, I never once yielded to its siren call.
 
 
 
This is the end of Part II.  Part III begins tomorrow.
 

Author Notes Abby St. Claire: Age 21. She has just started grad school at Penn State University where she is a math major. She is intelligent and beautiful, yet shy and awkward with most people her age, having been picked on quite a lot while growing up. She worked at the snack bar and as a waitress at Brentwood Country Club during the summers where she met both E.J. and Kenny, who is a member at Brentwood and became her boyfriend.
E.J. Budrowski: Age 38. An alcoholic with a traumatic past (an abusive father and a mother driven to suicide) who is a caddie at Brentwood CC. One day he finds a dirty old golf ball on the edge of a pond that seems to have unusual powers, for he makes two holes-in-one with it. He and Abby become friends when she encourages him to take up both golf and bridge again after long layoffs.
Kenny Payne: Age 22. Abby met him briefly at a frat party in her senior year and was intrigued by him, then she sees him again when he walks up to the snack bar several months later. Tall, good looking, and an all-around nice guy.
Eddie Phillips: A young member at Brentwood known for his extremely good putting and ability to hustle his opponents. Eddie is friends with Abby and beats Kenny in the club championship with a miracle shot. He and Kenny become best friends after that.


Chapter 51
Some Call It Luck - Chapter 51

By Jim Wile

(See the Author Notes for a description of the main characters.)
 
Recap: Abby and E.J. enter a national bridge tournament at Penn State in October. There E.J. meets one of Abby’s professors who is also playing in the tournament. Dr. Gregorian is impressed by E.J. and asks him to make an appointment to visit with him. Abby is thrilled by this and is convinced this will help E.J. get enrolled at Penn State. E.J. meets with Dr. Gregorian, and two days later with Dr. Kaufman, the head of the computer science department. He is impressed with E.J. and expedites his enrollment as a computer science student. E.J. begins his new college career in January.

Abby and Kenny get married in June, and E.J. is an usher at the wedding. Over the next few years, he completes his bachelor’s degree and enters a master’s program at Penn State. He is a teaching assistant during those two years and feels his life is finally on track as Part 2 ends.
 
 
Part III
 
Abby Payne
March, 1993
 
I just found out yesterday that I’m pregnant with my second child, and it’s been just a little over a year since the birth of my first. I’m 28 now, and life seems to be moving along at high speed.

So much has happened in these past few years. I graduated from Penn State with my master’s degree in applied mathematics in two years, and shortly after that I started my first real job (aside from the hardware store and the snack bar at Brentwood) as an actuary for a large insurance company called Merton Insurance.

An actuary is a mathematician who measures and manages risk. Working for an insurance company, my job is to make predictive models by analyzing statistics. This helps to determine both insurability and premium rates.

Like mathematics in general, this is another male-dominated field, and I’m the only woman in the actuarial department. But my boss (and mentor) is a very smart man and didn’t let that affect his decision to hire me.

His name is Leroy Evans, a black man, who is a very good mathematician and an excellent boss. He took me under his wing when I started by teaching me the insurance business from top to bottom. Leroy helped me get over my initial fears about fitting in with this group of men. I kept mostly to myself at first, but Leroy helped to crack my shell by including me in meetings with other actuaries and asking me to express my opinions on various topics. He also encouraged me to talk about the things I was working on. This went a long way toward gaining the respect of my colleagues and fitting in with the group, as well as building confidence in myself.

I was a little over a year into the job at Merton when Kenny decided to quit his job at Wingate Industries and become a full partner with Eddie in the golf equipment business. He had been designing putters with Eddie for a number of years on a part-time basis, but some of their putters had hit the big time with purchases by a few well-known PGA touring professionals, and Kenny figured it was time to take the leap.

We had moved to Altoona, Pennsylvania a year ago because that’s where my job was located. Eddie moved down here too. He had been living in a small house in DuBois, but desired a bigger place. It didn’t matter where he lived to do his job, he said, because his basement was his workshop. He hoped that Kenny would come and work with him sometime, and eventually that’s what happened.

We had celebrated the new partnership with a fancy meal out, and it was that very night that I told Kenny I was pregnant with our first baby. I had found out the day before and decided to wait until after the big job celebration to tell him. He was thrilled, as we both wanted children very much.

I continued to work until about a week before my due date. My boss Leroy was also thrilled for me. He told me to take as much time off as I needed, and that my job would be there for me when I came back.

“Even for a year?” I asked him.

“Even for a year,” he said. He adored me and Kenny too. We had been to his and his wife Martha’s house for dinner on more than one occasion. His kids were grown now, but he had been a real family man when they were younger, and he understood the importance of being there for little ones, especially during the early years. He assured me again that my job would be waiting for me. What a boss!

Little Claire was born about two weeks later. We named her after my maiden-name, St. Claire. She was a green-eyed baldy, but when her hair finally came in, she was a little redhead like me. Everyone said she was the spitting image of me.

Neither Kenny nor I got a full night’s sleep those first few months, as Claire proved to be colicky, but she soon grew into a very pleasant baby and toddler.

I stayed home with her for a year before going back to work fulltime at Merton Insurance. True to his word, Leroy hired me back, and it was great to be back. I loved being with my daughter for that first year, but I also loved my job.

I threw myself into my work for the next few months and made a significant contribution to developing some new predictive models.
 
 

So it was with some trepidation that I went to Leroy again this morning and announced that I was pregnant again with my second child. I told him that I hoped beyond hope that that wouldn’t spell the end of my career there, but he was genuinely thrilled for me and Kenny again and said that if I wanted to come back, I would have nothing to worry about.

I thanked him from the bottom of my heart for being so generous with me, and he said that he would be a fool not to hire me back, that I was an invaluable member of the team, and that he envisioned greater things for me if I decided to return. God, I love him.
 
 
 
Abby Payne
1993 - 1997
 
November, 1993 saw the birth of our son, Gregory. He was a strapping little baby with a full head of auburn hair. Claire was two by then and loved having a baby brother. He was a good little baby and slept through the night after only a month.

As I did with Claire, I stayed home for a year after Gregory was born, but I missed my job and eventually returned to Merton.

The job went well for the next two years, and during that time I was promoted to senior actuary. The work was challenging as we continued to develop new predictive models. I began questioning some of the assumptions the old models were based on and started working on a radically different approach to risk management with much support from Leroy.

I was greatly saddened the day he announced his retirement. He had recently turned 65 and now qualified for a nice pension. He could have worked a little longer, but decided he wanted to do some traveling with Martha before he got too old for it.

Leroy recommended me as his replacement to head the department, but upper management had other ideas. Instead, they hired a man from outside the company, who had plenty of managerial experience but seemingly little knowledge of actuarial science.

His name was William Hurley, but he liked to be called Billy. He was a good ole boy and struck me as a real chauvinist. I was still the only woman in the actuarial department, and when his secretary ever needed a day off, he would always ask me to bring him his coffee and type his correspondence—never any of the guys, some of whom were junior actuaries.

It was insulting, but I tried not to dwell on it. Instead, I did what he asked, then lost myself in my work. I continued developing the new protocols I had been working on when Leroy left, and I shared some of my ideas with my fellow actuaries. I never dreamed this would come back to haunt me.

Eventually, Billy Hurley realized he was in over his head, and being the political animal that he was, he talked upper management into assigning him a new role as “Director of Analytics” and letting him appoint an Actuarial Department Manager to do the job he was incapable of doing. This was a totally unwarranted change in the management hierarchy, in my opinion.

Much to my chagrin, he chose Stuart Larkin as his new manager. Stuart was a mediocre actuary at best, but he had pitched a great new approach to Billy Hurley, which turned out to be my new ideas that I had shared with him.

When I heard about this, I immediately went into his office and confronted him. “Stuart, I understand that you told Billy that the new protocols were your idea.”

“They are my idea, Abby. You’re not the only one who’s been thinking along these lines.”

“But do you even understand the mathematics involved? No offense, but you don’t strike me as someone who has studied the Naïve-Bayes conditional probability theorem.”

“Listen, Abby, I don’t like what you’re implying here. Plus, I don’t think you have the ability to be a manager, and neither did Billy. If I hear any more about this from you, I’m going to have to let you go. Are we clear?”

I just stared at him for a few seconds, then I stormed out of his office. I was so angry at the underhanded method he used to get the job that I deserved.

I continued working there, but in just a few short days, my confidence, which had been at an all-time high, was eroding rapidly. Larkin’s words made me question if I really did have the ability to be a manager. I had no experience managing other people. I’ve always liked working on my own and being a behind-the-scenes kind of person. Managing others would be a new kind of challenge, and maybe I wasn’t ready for it yet.

All of a sudden, my dream job had turned into a nightmare, and my future there at Merton was uncertain at best. It was so unfair. I stuck it out for another two weeks, during which time Larkin started to implement some of my new protocols incorrectly. I broached him on this, but he didn’t want to hear it. I just couldn’t stand it anymore, and after a heartfelt discussion with Kenny one night, I turned in my resignation the next day.

How could things have gone so wrong so quickly? I was disgusted with work and decided to just stay home with my kids for a while and not look for another job right away.
 
 

Author Notes Abby St. Claire: She has just started grad school at Penn State University where she is a math major. She is intelligent and beautiful, yet shy and awkward with most people her age, having been picked on quite a lot while growing up. She worked at the snack bar and as a waitress at Brentwood Country Club during the summers where she met both E.J. and Kenny, who is a member at Brentwood and became her boyfriend and eventually her husband.
E.J. Budrowski: A 40ish alcoholic with a traumatic past (an abusive father and a mother driven to suicide) who is a caddie at Brentwood CC. One day he finds a dirty old golf ball on the edge of a pond that seems to have unusual powers, for he makes two holes-in-one with it. He and Abby become friends when she encourages him to take up both golf and bridge again after long layoffs. He finally quits drinking and returns to college.
Kenny Payne: Abby met him briefly at a frat party in her senior year and was intrigued by him, then she sees him again when he walks up to the snack bar several months later. Tall, good looking, and an all-around nice guy. After less than a year of courtship, he marries Abby.


Chapter 52
Some Call It Luck - Chapter 52

By Jim Wile

(See the Author Notes for a description of the main characters.)
 
Recap: Abby and Kenny get married, and E.J. is an usher at the wedding. Over the next few years, he completes his bachelor’s degree and enters a master’s program at Penn State. He is a teaching assistant during those two years and feels his life is finally on track.

After getting her master’s degree, Abby goes to work as an actuary at an insurance company. She has two children, and her boss welcomes her back each time after she spends a year at home with each child. Her boss retires and recommends Abby for his replacement, but the company hires an outsider who treats her poorly. She eventually quits.
 
 
 
Abby Payne
October, 1999
 
Several years passed, and I stayed home with Claire and Greg until Greg was old enough to go to kindergarten. I hadn’t seen E.J. in a few months, so I gave him a call one day. He had recently become an assistant professor of computer science at Penn State after having worked in the business world for a few years as a networking consultant for a large real estate company. We agreed to have lunch together at a restaurant about half-way between Altoona and State College.

“Hey, old friend,” I said when I came over to his table. He stood up and gave me a big hug.

“It’s so good to see you, Abby. You look great. Motherhood seems to agree with you.”

“Well, thanks. You look good too. So how is it being a professor now?”

“I love it. I liked working in ‘the real world’ for a few years, but I guess my heart has always been in teaching ever since my TA days. I hope to make associate professor one day and then full professor, but I’ll need to start on my doctorate soon for that.”

“I’m sure you’ll make it. Just look at how far you’ve come since your caddying days!”

“Almost like a fairy tale, isn’t it? But I couldn’t have done it without you.”

“You helped me too, you know. Remember, I hadn’t had a lot of friends before I met you, and you helped me build confidence in myself. You certainly helped me relax around Kenny, and look where that led.”

“I still think you did a lot more for me than I ever did for you. So, what’s going on with you and your family right now? I guess Greg’s in school full time, so how have you been spending your days?”

“Well, that’s just it. I’m starting to feel the need to get back into the workforce now, but I’ve been out of it for a few years, and didn’t depart from it on the best of terms, and now some of my old doubts have crept back in.”

“Abby, they were idiots at that company. They didn’t deserve someone like you. You were right to leave them. You are a brilliant mathematician and an excellent analyst, and I’ll bet there are hundreds of companies out there who would kill to hire someone with your skills. I’m sure you won’t have any trouble finding new employment.”

“Aw, E.J., you’re always just the right person to talk with to help build my confidence. I hope you’re right about that. I guess I’d better start getting my resume together.”

We had a very pleasant lunch. E.J. told me he had met a woman named Susan who was a para-legal, and they had begun dating. I was very happy for him and suggested that the four of us should get together soon.
 
 

I spent about a week putting together my resume and doing some research on nearby companies that looked promising. I sent them out and began hearing back within a couple of weeks. I even went to two interviews, but neither one seemed like a good fit for me.

I was sitting in my den one afternoon, doing some more research, when the phone rang. I picked it up and said, “Hello.”

“Hi, Abby. This is Leroy Evans. How have you and that beautiful family of yours been?”

“Leroy! It’s so good to hear from you! We’ve been doing very well, thank you. How have you and Martha been?”

“Just fine. We’ve been doing a fair amount of traveling these past few years since I retired. We actually bought an RV and have been all over the country, visiting our children and grandchildren and taking in the sights of this beautiful land.”

“Well, that’s so nice to hear. As you know from the last time we spoke, I decided to take a few years off from work and just be with my family, but I’ve been getting the itch lately to get back into the workforce. Greg is now going to school fulltime, so—it’s time.”

“That’s wonderful, Abby, because that’s actually why I called. There has been a rather large shake-up in management at Merton recently. Apparently, after both you and I left, things started going downhill. You told me once how Stuart Larkin had stolen a lot of your ideas, but he seems not to have understood them very well, because his implementation of them was a dismal failure. Both he and William Hurley are out now, as well as the ones who hired Hurley to be my replacement. I’ve actually been re-hired as an interim manager to manage the actuarial department while they figure out what to do.”

“Are you sure it was their implementation of my new models that was a failure and not the models themselves?” I asked him.

“Absolutely. You and I had talked about a number of your ideas, and what I’ve seen of their implementation hardly resembles what you and I had discussed. Your models were never given a fair chance. Anyway, the reason I’m calling you is to offer you the job of department manager—the job you should have gotten when I retired. I’ve already gotten the okay from senior management, so it’s yours if you want it. I sure hope you do.”

I could hardly believe it. It took a few seconds for me to respond to this bombshell. “I’m flattered that you have such faith in me. Do you mind if I take a day to discuss it with Kenny and let you know the answer tomorrow?”

“Take all the time you need. You and Kenny talk it over, and I’ll wait to hear from you. You can call me at the office or at home.”

“Thank you so much, Leroy. I’ll let you know tomorrow.”

“Okay, honey. Goodbye.”

“Bye.”

Oh, my goodness! What a high that was. For the next few hours, I was in an ebullient mood, but after a while, some of my old doubts started creeping in.

As I said before, I had never been a manager, unless you count being the troop leader for Claire’s brownie troop last year. What if I was no good at it? Would I be able to be firm and decisive? I would still be the only female in the department. Would I be able to supervise a bunch of men, many of whom were a lot older than me?

Kenny and I discussed it that night.

“You know, sweetie, you used to love it there while Leroy was the manager, and your co-workers loved you too. Things only went south when Hurley and Larkin were in charge. Everyone who’s still there knows that it was your ideas that Larkin tried to pass off as his own.”

“I know. I know. They may have loved me, as you say, when I was the cute, young co-worker, but that doesn’t mean they’ll love me as their boss or even like me.”

“Well, they don’t have to love you or like you, just respect you and do what you tell them to. But I’m sure they’ll love you. How can they not? You’re so nice and lovable!” he said with a big smile as he took me in his arms.

“You’re sweet,” I said as I hugged him and gave him a big kiss.

The next morning, I called Leroy back and accepted the position. He was thrilled and was happy that he would be able to retire again with confidence that he would be leaving the department in good hands this time. I just wish I shared his confidence.
 

Author Notes Abby St. Claire: She has just started grad school at Penn State University where she is a math major. She is intelligent and beautiful, yet shy and awkward with most people her age, having been picked on quite a lot while growing up. She worked at the snack bar and as a waitress at Brentwood Country Club during the summers where she met both E.J. and Kenny, who is a member at Brentwood and became her boyfriend and eventually her husband.
E.J. Budrowski: A 40ish alcoholic with a traumatic past (an abusive father and a mother driven to suicide) who is a caddie at Brentwood CC. One day he finds a dirty old golf ball on the edge of a pond that seems to have unusual powers, for he makes two holes-in-one with it. He and Abby become friends when she encourages him to take up both golf and bridge again after long layoffs. He finally quits drinking and returns to college.
Leroy Evans: Abby's former boss and mentor at the insurance company. When he retired, he recommended Abby as his replacement, but the company had other plans, which soon caused Abby to resign.


Chapter 53
Some Call It Luck - Chapter 53

By Jim Wile

Warning: The author has noted that this contains the highest level of language.

Recap: Abby and Kenny get married, and E.J. is an usher at the wedding. Over the next few years, he completes his bachelor’s degree and enters a master’s program at Penn State. He is a teaching assistant during those two years and feels his life is finally on track.

After getting her master’s degree, Abby goes to work as an actuary at an insurance company. She has two children, and her boss, Leroy, welcomes her back each time after she spends a year at home with each child. Her boss retires and recommends Abby for his replacement, but the company hires an outsider who treats her poorly. She eventually quits.

She stays home with the kids for a few years but eventually wants to return to the workforce. After a lunch with E.J. who encourages her, she soon gets a call from her old boss, Leroy who has taken over as interim manager of the actuarial department because Abby’s previous boss washed out. Leroy asks Abby to come back and take over for him as the new manager. Abby talks it over with Kenny and decides to go back.
 
 
Abby Payne
 
One year later
October, 2000
 
 
My first week back at Merton, almost a year ago now, I had been petrified of my new managerial position, but Leroy had helped greatly in smoothing the transition before he finally left for good.

Soon after he left, I had an interesting and gratifying conversation with one of the senior actuaries I was now supervising. He was a big, burly, older guy named Rob, and I had always liked him. He asked if he could talk with me, so I invited him into my office and sat down with him.

“Look, Abby, it’s been hell around here these past couple of years. A few years back, before you left, I remember being excited about the possibility of the new protocols you and Leroy came up with. As you well know, the actuarial field can be pretty dry with not much creativity, but your new approach to analyzing the statistics promised to add some excitement to the job. I would have welcomed you in becoming the department manager, but in its infinite wisdom, upper management let politics guide their decision, and the eventual result nearly doomed us. Hurley was a joke, and Larkin was an idiot, and everyone knew he stole your ideas and claimed them for his own, but he had no idea how to implement them and made a mess out of it. I sure wish they had taken Leroy’s advice and put you in there.”

“That’s really nice of you to say, Rob.”

“Yeah, but here’s the thing. Not everyone feels this way. There were some who didn’t get to know you very well back then, plus there have been a couple of new hires. A few had hoped to get Leroy’s job and were not thrilled when he chose you for it.”

“I can imagine. I know that feeling.”

“I’ll tell you what, though. I’m going to do my best to squelch any negativity I encounter. I think you’re going to be great and pull us out of the mess we’ve been in. I’m not just kissing up here; I’ll be retiring myself in another year or so, and I have no aspirations for anything other than what I’m doing right now. I’d like to finish my career here on a high note, and I honestly think you’re the best one to see that happen.”

“That means an awful lot to me. I’ll try not to let you down.”

“Just don’t take any shit from anyone. You know what you’re doing, whether they know it or not. They’ll come around, though, or I’ll kick their asses!”

I laughed. “Well, hopefully it won’t come to that! Listen, Rob, you’re a brick, and I always used to like working with you. I appreciate your letting me know how things are around here.”

“Wait, what did you just call me?”

I felt a sudden flush in my cheeks. “A brick, you know, a real solid guy?”

“Oh, for a minute there I thought you called me a… never mind.” He winked at me.

I cracked up at that.

“You’re going to be great, kiddo,” he said as he patted me on the shoulder.

He said that in a fatherly way, just like E.J. does sometimes. I liked it. I was so grateful for Rob’s encouragement, and he proved to be right. It took a few months, but I had eventually earned the respect of the other actuaries I supervised. We were a good team, and I had gained my confidence as a leader.

That whole first year back, I was busy getting my new actuarial protocols on the right footing; they really had been botched by my predecessor—not Leroy, but Stuart Larkin, who had gotten the promotion over me. But once I got the correct protocols in place and everyone on board, we started moving in the right direction.

The only real problem I had was that I soon became restless. As Rob had said, the actuarial field does not change that much. My new protocols were the first real change in years, but now that they were properly in place, the challenge of the job was no longer there for me. I have always loved science and engineering and minored in engineering in college. I wanted to create something new, and was beginning to feel the urge to satisfy that longing again.
 

Author Notes Abby St. Claire: She has just finished grad school at Penn State University where she was a math major. She is intelligent and beautiful, yet shy and awkward with most people her age, having been picked on quite a lot while growing up. She worked at the snack bar and as a waitress at Brentwood Country Club during the summers where she met both E.J. and Kenny, who is a member at Brentwood and became her boyfriend and eventually her husband.
E.J. Budrowski: A 40ish alcoholic with a traumatic past (an abusive father and a mother driven to suicide) who is a caddie at Brentwood CC. One day he finds a dirty old golf ball on the edge of a pond that seems to have unusual powers, for he makes two holes-in-one with it. He and Abby become friends when she encourages him to take up both golf and bridge again after long layoffs. He finally quits drinking and returns to college.
Leroy Evans: Abby├?┬¢??s former boss and mentor at the insurance company. When he retired, he recommended Abby as his replacement, but the company had other plans, which soon caused Abby to resign.
Kenny Payne: Abby met him briefly at a frat party in her senior year and was intrigued by him, then she sees him again when he walks up to the snack bar several months later. Tall, good looking, and an all-around nice guy. After less than a year of courtship, he marries Abby.


Chapter 54
Some Call It Luck - Chapter 54

By Jim Wile

Warning: The author has noted that this contains the highest level of language.

Recap: After getting her master’s degree, Abby goes to work as an actuary at an insurance company. She has two children, and her boss, Leroy, welcomes her back each time after she spends a year at home with each child. Her boss retires and recommends Abby for his replacement, but the company hires an outsider who treats her poorly. She eventually quits.

She stays home with the kids for a few years but eventually wants to return to the workforce. After a lunch with E.J. who encourages her, she soon gets a call from her old boss, Leroy, who has taken over as interim manager of the actuarial department because Abby’s previous boss washed out. Leroy asks Abby to come back and take over for him as the new manager. Abby talks it over with Kenny and decides to go back.

After a year’s time, Abby has the place running smoothly and has earned the respect of all her employees, but she begins getting restless as the challenge of the job is no longer there for her.
 
 
Dana Griffin
 
Four years later
June, 2004
 
 
How did I end up here in Al-frickin-toona, Pennsylvania?

My third husband, Steve Griffin, is an investment banker who I met two years ago in Philadelphia. I loved Philly and could have spent the rest of my life there, despite the fact that my father, who pretty much abandoned me when I was eight, lived there. I visited him once about five years ago, but he had developed Parkinson’s disease, and I couldn’t stand to see all that shaking, so I never went back. Unfortunately, my husband would rather be a big fish in a small pond; hence the move to Altoona. At least it’s better than Butler, where I spent the first 25 years of my life.

I was Dana Padgett then—the queen bee in high school: captain of the cheerleading squad, prom queen, and girlfriend of Tommy Boes, who was captain of the football team and the hottest guy in school. Well, it was only right since I was the hottest girl in school. Always had been.

Mother used to enter me in beauty pageants from as far back as I can remember. She was attractive, but not striking, and I think she lived vicariously through me. These beauty pageants were very important to her, and I won a lot of them at first. But as I got older, I didn’t win so many, and Mother’s interest in me seemed to wane.

Mother and Daddy got divorced when I was eight. He moved to Philly then and married my stepmom, Eleanor, who I couldn’t stand. She was always touching him and was all lovey-dovey with him—almost like she was claiming him for her own. He made his choice, and I only got to see him every five or six months.

Mother’s boyfriend, Ray, moved in with us just two weeks after Daddy left. He had no patience for me. He also refused to shell out any money for my pageant dresses unless I did chores for him like shining his shoes and cleaning the inside of his car. Daddy never made me do chores like that. When I wanted to buy a new dress, I would just crawl up in his lap and say, “Pleeease!” and act all cute. He would tickle me, and I’d wiggle all around, and he’d say, “Give me a kiss first,” and when I did, he always said yes. Looking back now, I think it turned him on.

Ray moved out when I was 14. He had caught Mother with another man in bed and said he’d had enough of that. They had never married or had any kids together, so it wasn’t especially traumatic for anyone. We did struggle for a while, though, after that. Mother told me once that if you’re going to cheat, make damn sure you don’t get caught, especially by your meal ticket.

I went to the community college for two years following high school, then married Tommy Boes. He had gone to work for his father selling cars at the dealership his father owned. He wasn’t very happy there because his father was such a tyrant and rode Tommy all the time. He eventually got fed up and quit. He got a job selling seeds, fertilizer, and shit and traveled a lot.

I confronted him once when I discovered a woman’s panties in his suitcase after a business trip. He hemmed and hawed and claimed they were probably mine, but I know my own underwear. He finally confessed and promised not to be unfaithful again. It’s not as though I was totally faithful either, but I was always careful like Mother warned.

That marriage lasted about five years, when we realized that it wasn’t working and decided to call it quits. I got some alimony for a few years but figured I had to learn to support myself, so I moved to Pittsburgh and went to work in a real estate office.

I was young and sexy as hell, and they groomed me to be an agent. I was very successful and sold some lucrative properties.

I was not above using my natural assets to swing a few deals, if you know what I mean, and one of those clients showed particular interest in not only the million-dollar house I was showing him, but in me. I ended up marrying him, and we lived in that house for the next three years.

Unfortunately, I wasn’t as careful as I had been with Tommy, and he caught me cheating on him a couple of times. He decided he’d had enough, and we divorced soon after.

I had also had enough of Pittsburgh and wanted something bigger and better, so I moved to Philly and got another real estate job there, and that’s where I eventually met my third husband, Steve Griffin.

He was a moderately successful investment banker, but couldn’t seem to get his head around the growing tech sector. Many of his fellow bankers were making real money from their tech investments, but Steve was much more conservative and risk-averse.

He didn’t like all the competition and figured he might do better in a smaller place, and that’s how we ended up in Altoona. He did well enough that I didn’t have to work, so I had plenty of time on my hands.

During my years in both Pittsburgh and Philly, I had taken up golf and had become quite a good player. I usually shot around 80 and left Philly with a 9 handicap. I talked Steve into joining Kettle Creek Country Club here in town.
 
 

One day, soon after we had joined, I was practicing on the range when I noticed a little redheaded girl also practicing. She looked to be about 11 or 12. I stared at her, as she reminded me so much of a girl from my childhood in Butler. That girl’s name was Abby St. Claire, and thinking about her brought back some painful memories.

I had always been jealous of Abby because she was so smart. I can’t remember ever hearing her give a wrong answer to a question except for one time when she missed a simple multiplication problem. I never liked her because she was just different from the rest of us. She always wanted to play these weird games that no one else wanted to play.

We used to tease her because of her appearance. She was a skinny little thing with that bright red hair and those freckles and glasses. I gave her the nickname “Shabby” one day when she came in with an old outfit and a hole in her sweater. She mostly ignored us, but I could tell we really got to her.

Then the real capper came in ninth grade when I saw her and that stuttering Fred-something skating in an exhibition. I remember how gorgeous she was. I didn’t know it was them at first, but when she took off her turban after the performance and that red hair came spilling out, I suddenly recognized her. She must have gotten contact lenses because, from then on, she no longer wore glasses.

I couldn’t stand it. Now, she was not only smart, but a real looker too—maybe prettier than me, if I’m honest. She was also a damn good skater. Some people have all the luck. I told Mother I wasn’t feeling well and asked her if we could leave.

She even started dressing better after that. My friends and I purposely bumped into her a few days later while she and Fred were skating at the mill pond, and she fell and broke her wrist. Fred laid into us after that, and I actually felt pretty bad about it.

I didn’t mean to hurt her like that; I just wanted to make her fall on her ass and look foolish, but we ended up looking like the foolish ones. I almost apologized to her, but I lost my nerve. We pretty much left her alone after that; it stopped being fun to tease her. Hell, there wasn’t much we could tease her about anyway.

I don’t know what came of her after high school. I think she went off to Penn State, but I never heard about her or saw her again. But seeing that little redheaded girl practicing golf brought back those memories of her.
 
(10 more chapters to go)
 

Author Notes Abby Payne: She has just completed grad school at Penn State University where she was a math major. She is intelligent and beautiful, yet shy and awkward with most people her age, having been picked on quite a lot while growing up. She worked at the snack bar and as a waitress at Brentwood Country Club during the summers where she met both E.J. and Kenny, who is a member at Brentwood and became her boyfriend and eventually her husband.
E.J. Budrowski: A 40ish alcoholic with a traumatic past (an abusive father and a mother driven to suicide) who is a caddie at Brentwood CC. One day he finds a dirty old golf ball on the edge of a pond that seems to have unusual powers, for he makes two holes-in-one with it. He and Abby become friends when she encourages him to take up both golf and bridge again after long layoffs. He finally quits drinking and returns to college.
Kenny Payne: Abby met him briefly at a frat party in her senior year and was intrigued by him, then she sees him again when he walks up to the snack bar several months later. Tall, good looking, and an all-around nice guy. After less than a year of courtship, he marries Abby.


Chapter 55
Some Call It Luck - Chapter 55

By Jim Wile

Recap: After getting her master’s degree, Abby goes to work as an actuary at an insurance company. She has two children, and her boss, Leroy, welcomes her back each time after she spends a year at home with each child. Her boss retires and recommends Abby for his replacement, but the company hires an outsider who treats her poorly. She eventually quits.

She stays home with the kids for a few years but eventually wants to return to the workforce. After a lunch with E.J. who encourages her, she soon gets a call from her old boss, Leroy, who has taken over as interim manager of the actuarial department because Abby’s previous boss washed out. Leroy asks Abby to come back and take over for him as the new manager. Abby talks it over with Kenny and decides to go back.

After a year’s time, Abby has the place running smoothly and has earned the respect of all her employees, but she begins getting restless as the challenge of the job is no longer there for her.

Dana Griffin (nee Padgett), who was Abby’s chief tormentor all through grade school, finds herself in Altoona, Pennsylvania. She is a good golfer and joins Kettle Creek Country Club soon after moving there. While practicing one day, she sees a young redheaded girl practicing as well who reminds her of a young Abby. She then reminisces about her relationship with Abby back then and how poorly she had treated her.
 
(A continuation of the chapter: Dana Griffin - June 2004)
 
I watched the young girl for a while. She wasn’t that good, and her swing was awkward-looking. Most every shot was a slice, as she had a loop in her swing and came over the top quite a bit. She seemed to be getting frustrated.

I hadn’t played in a couple months, what with the move and all, so I was a little rusty. I planned to get in some practice before attempting to play here. I hadn’t met any of the lady members yet, but I would try to remedy that soon.

About a week later I introduced myself to another member who was out practicing on the range. We got to talking, and she invited me to join her and a couple of others for a round of golf the next day—a Saturday afternoon.

Her name was Lila, and I said I’d love to play and meet some of the other members as well. We made arrangements to meet for lunch first, around noon, then play at 1:00.

When I got to the dining room a little before noon, Lila was already seated there with another woman named Andrea. She introduced us after I sat down, and they told me the other gal in our group would be here shortly.

She came in about five minutes later, apologizing for being late. I turned around to meet her, and we just stared at each other for a few seconds, while Lila said, “Abby, I’d like to introduce you to a new member here who I invited to play with us. This is Dana Griffin. Dana, meet Abby Payne.”

Abby put out her hand to shake and said, “Hello, Dana. It’s nice to see you again. What’s it been, almost 20 years now?”

“Hello, Abby,” I said, and we shook hands. “Small world, isn’t it?”

God, she looked great! Very stylish in a short, pleated skort, a colorful top, and her red hair swept back in a ponytail that stuck out from behind her green, transparent visor that complemented her green eyes.

“So, you two know each other,” said Andrea.

“We do,” said Abby. “Dana and I grew up in Butler together. We were in the same class all the way through school.”

“And here we are together again in Altoona,” I replied with a wan smile. Neither of us asked one another how we ended up here after all these years. I think Lila and Andrea might have sensed a coolness between us, because they didn’t go on about it.

I did ask, “Abby, I happened to see a young girl practicing on the range the other day who reminded me a lot of you. Is she, by any chance, your daughter?”

“Yes, that was Claire. She just turned 12 and is trying to perfect her golf game. My husband, Kenny, and I have been trying to work with her, but it’s been a struggle so far. She’s nothing if not persistent, though, and she’s been trying very hard.”

“Any other kids?”

“Yes, we also have a son, Greg, who’s 9, and he’s learning to play too, though it seems to come a little more easily to him. How about you? Any kids?”

“No, never had any.”

The waiter came around then with menus, so we put conversation on hold for a while.

After we had ordered, Lila said, “You know, Dana, a number of us ladies like to get together to play on Saturday afternoons, as well as a few times during the week. Would you ever be available to play during the week?” she asked me.

“Why, yes. I’m a lady of leisure now, and my schedule is not too busy yet.”

“Well, that’s wonderful! Abby only joins us on the occasional Saturday because of her job. She’s a… what do you call that again, Abby?”

“I’m an actuary at Merton Insurance.”

“Well, she’s more than just that,” said Andrea. “She’s the only woman in the department, and she’s actually the manager with about six men working under her. You go, girl!”

“Why am I not surprised?” I said, turning to Abby. “She was always the smartest one in school.” Abby didn’t say anything.

“Yes, and she’s very modest about her success,” said Andrea. Those men in her department love her there. She’s also a very good golfer, as is her husband, Kenny.”

“Do tell.”

“Yes, she won the women’s club championship last year!”

“Well, she seems to be good at everything she tries. Always has been, right Abby?” I might have asked that with somewhat of an undertone because she didn’t respond to it—just looked at me.

We shifted topics then, thank God, and soon it was time to go play. I won’t bother to relate how the round went except to say that Abby was as good as they made her out to be.

Some people just have all the luck, and everything they touch turns to gold.
 
(9 more chapters)
 

Author Notes Abby Payne: She has just completed grad school at Penn State University where she was a math major. She is intelligent and beautiful, yet shy and awkward with most people her age, having been picked on quite a lot while growing up. She worked at the snack bar and as a waitress at Brentwood Country Club during the summers where she met both E.J. and Kenny, who is a member at Brentwood and became her boyfriend and eventually her husband.
E.J. Budrowski: A 40ish alcoholic with a traumatic past (an abusive father and a mother driven to suicide) who is a caddie at Brentwood CC. One day he finds a dirty old golf ball on the edge of a pond that seems to have unusual powers, for he makes two holes-in-one with it. He and Abby become friends when she encourages him to take up both golf and bridge again after long layoffs. He finally quits drinking and returns to college.
Dana Griffin (nee Padgett): Grew up with Abby back in Butler. She is a bully and teased Abby unmercifully all the way through school. Coincidentally, 20 years later, she finds herself living in Altoona, where Abby lives, and joins the same country club as Abby.


Chapter 56
Some Call It Luck - Chapter 56

By Jim Wile

Recap: After getting her master’s degree, Abby goes to work as an actuary at an insurance company. She has two children, and her boss, Leroy, welcomes her back each time after she spends a year at home with each child. Her boss retires and recommends Abby for his replacement, but the company hires an outsider who treats her poorly. She eventually quits.

She stays home with the kids for a few years but eventually wants to return to the workforce. After a lunch with E.J. who encourages her, she soon gets a call from her old boss, Leroy, who has taken over as interim manager of the actuarial department because Abby’s previous boss washed out. Leroy asks Abby to come back and take over for him as the new manager. Abby talks it over with Kenny and decides to go back.
After a year’s time, Abby has the place running smoothly and has earned the respect of all her employees, but she begins getting restless as the challenge of the job is no longer there for her.

Dana Griffin (nee Padgett), who was Abby’s chief tormentor all through grade school, finds herself in Altoona, Pennsylvania. She is a good golfer and joins Kettle Creek Country Club soon after moving there. While practicing one day, she sees a young redheaded girl practicing as well who reminds her of a young Abby. She then reminisces about her relationship with Abby back then and how poorly she had treated her.

Dana is invited to have lunch and play golf with a woman she met on the practice tee. At lunch the next day, who should show up to have lunch and play in the foursome but Abby, who is also a member at Kettle Creek. It’s been 20 years since they’ve seen each other, and although they are cordial, they are also rather cool towards each other. Dana learns from the other ladies in the group how successful Abby is at her job and how good a golfer she is, having won the ladies club championship the previous year. Dana finds out that the young girl she saw practicing on the range is Abby’s daughter, Claire, who seems to be struggling with the game.
 
Abby Payne
The same day
June, 2004
 
What a surprise to see Dana Padgett at the club today. Excuse me, Dana Griffin. Who’d have predicted back in high school that one day we’d be having lunch and playing golf together? I certainly wouldn’t have, but life is funny that way.

I’m an actuary, and I understand probabilities, so I guess it wasn’t so far out of the question that we might end up in the same small city 20 years down the road. Pretty remote odds, though.

She seems to have mellowed some since high school. She’s still quite attractive in a more mature way, but with a harder look—especially around the eyes. Perhaps her life has had a few struggles.

There certainly was a coolness between us, as seeing each other brought back a load of memories of uncomfortable moments between us from our school years together.

We didn’t talk much about the past. During the round, she rode in a cart with Lila, while Andrea and I walked and shared a caddie, so I didn’t have much individual time with her during the round. Just as well.

She was a good golfer. She hit the ball a long way for a woman, but had a tendency to slice. I’m a little shorter, but straighter off the tee and had one of my better rounds this summer, shooting a 76. I think Dana shot an 84, which is a good round on a course she had never played before.
 
 

Our family took out a membership here at Kettle Creek Country Club about four years ago—a little after I began working at Merton again. It was a relatively new, full-service country club on the east side of Altoona, replete with 18-hole golf course, swimming pool, tennis courts, bocce ball court, and a lovely clubhouse in a modern style of architecture.

As I’ve said before, I first started golfing when Kenny taught me the swing back at Brentwood when I was 21. For fun, I even took a course in golf during my second year as a grad student at Penn State. I learned a lot and surprised Kenny the first time we played a round together. We started playing together quite frequently after that. Kenny is a very good golfer, and he continued helping me refine my game.

During my young child-rearing years, I hardly played at all, then it was back to work at Merton. That first year back as the actuarial department manager, I had almost no time for golf, but once everyone was onboard with the new protocols, we started working together like a well-oiled machine. I got my work time down to a normal 40 hours a week, which afforded me more time to be with my family and to resume playing golf.

It was right about then that we joined Kettle Creek, and I started playing again and practicing in earnest. We came out here as a family and played often as we helped teach the kids the game. I also practiced a fair amount on my own when I had the chance, which culminated in my winning the women’s club championship last year. Kenny and the kids were very proud of me.
 
 

Claire had always struggled with the game—a lot more than Greg, who seemed like more of a natural athlete. Kenny and I just couldn’t seem to get her to move her body the right way to consistently hit the ball. She tried hard, but it was difficult for her.

She had a good short game, though, which kept her interested in golf. Kenny had built a backyard putting green at our house, and Claire practiced on it regularly. She might actually be the best putter in the family now. Our friend and Kenny’s business partner, Eddie Phillips or “Uncle Eddie,” as the kids call him, worked with her on that. He’s the best putter I’ve ever seen.

One night, a few years ago, I had a heart-to-heart conversation with Claire as she was lying in bed.

“Mom, I really want to be good at golf, but I just can’t seem to get the hang of the swing. I feel like such a klutz.”

“You know, sweetie, you don’t have to be good at everything you do. You can still enjoy things, even if you’re not the best at them. I’m terrible at bowling, but I still like to go. And I can’t carry a tune in a bucket, but I still like to sing, even though other people probably wish I wouldn’t.”

“Yeah, you are pretty bad at singing, Mom, but you and Dad and Greg are all so good at golf, and I just want to be too.”
 
 

That conversation with Claire stuck with me. It was a few weeks later that Kenny and I were sitting in the family room reading after the kids went to bed. Kenny looked up from his magazine and saw me staring straight ahead.

“Penny for your thoughts,” he said to me.

It took me a moment to collect my thoughts. I looked at him and said, “I want to run something by you. I’ve been thinking a lot about my career lately. Things are going smoothly at work now, and the challenge just isn’t quite there for me anymore. Besides math, I’ve always loved engineering too, but being in the insurance world, I haven’t had anything to do with engineering since college. I’m starting to get antsy now, and thinking that I need a new challenge—something involving math and engineering.”

“That’s interesting that you say that. I’ve often wondered how long you might stay in the insurance field. Some actuaries are involved in scientific and engineering fields too, you know. Are you thinking along those lines?”

“Possibly, but I feel like I want to create something. I had a wild idea after talking to Claire a couple weeks ago, and it’s been rolling around in my head ever since.”

He put down his magazine then and turned his full attention to me. “Let’s hear it.”

“You know how Claire has been struggling to get the hang of the golf swing, and nothing we say or show her seems to have made much difference? I think she actually needs to feel a correct swing. What if I were to invent a ‘golfing suit’ for lack of a better term, that a person could wear and that would teach him or her the proper motions of the swing by swinging for them? It wouldn’t force you but instead urge you to swing the correct way.”

“Huh! I go to a lot of golf shows, and I’ve never seen nor heard of anything like that before. How would you get it to urge the wearer to swing?”

“I picture the suit having thousands of miniature solenoids sewn into the fabric of it, all connected by tiny wires to a microprocessor and power source. The correct motion would be initiated when you start your backswing, then the suit takes over. You could fight it and mess up the swing, but if you just let it do its thing, it will cause you to take the club back then down on the correct plane with the same tempo and timing every time. If you use it enough, eventually you won’t need to use it, because it will have taught you the correct swing, which you should now be able to duplicate.”

“Do you think this is really doable?”

“I don’t know. It would take a lot of collaboration and brainstorming between a mathematician, a mechanical engineer, a computer whiz, and probably an experienced inventor who knows his way around fabrication. Do you happen to know any of those?”

“I think I do,” said Kenny, laughing. “Why don’t we invite E.J. and Eddie over this weekend, and we can all bat it around?”

“I was hoping you’d say that. I’ll get on the phone and invite them over for lunch on Saturday, but I won’t tell them what it’s about just yet. Let’s surprise them with it.”
 
(8 more chapters)

Author Notes Abby Payne: She is intelligent and beautiful, yet shy and awkward with most people her age, having been picked on quite a lot while growing up. She worked at the snack bar and as a waitress at Brentwood Country Club during the summers where she met both E.J. and Kenny, who is a member at Brentwood and became her boyfriend and eventually her husband.
E.J. Budrowski: 18 years older than Abby, he is an alcoholic with a traumatic past (an abusive father and a mother driven to suicide) who is a caddie at Brentwood CC. One day he finds a dirty old golf ball on the edge of a pond that seems to have unusual powers, for he makes two holes-in-one with it. He and Abby become friends when she encourages him to take up both golf and bridge again after long layoffs. He finally quits drinking and returns to college at age 40 and earns a degree in computer science. Eventually he becomes a professor of computer science.
Dana Griffin (nee Padgett): Grew up with Abby back in Butler. She is a bully and teased Abby unmercifully all the way through school. Coincidentally, 20 years later, she finds herself living in Altoona, where Abby lives, and joins the same country club as Abby.
Kenny Payne: Abby met him briefly at a frat party in her senior year and was intrigued by him, then she sees him again when he walks up to the snack bar several months later. He is a mechanical engineer and is tall, good looking, and an all-around nice guy. After less than a year of courtship, he marries Abby.
Eddie Phillips: A young member at Brentwood known for his extremely good putting and ability to hustle his opponents. Eddie is friends with Abby and beats Kenny in the club championship with a miracle shot. He and Kenny become best friends after that.


Chapter 57
Some Call It Luck - Chapter 57

By Jim Wile

Recap: After getting her master’s degree, Abby goes to work as an actuary at an insurance company. She has two children, and her boss, Leroy, welcomes her back each time after she spends a year at home with each child. Her boss retires and recommends Abby for his replacement, but the company hires an outsider who treats her poorly. She eventually quits.

She stays home with the kids for a few years but eventually wants to return to the workforce. After a lunch with E.J. who encourages her, she soon gets a call from her old boss, Leroy, who has taken over as interim manager of the actuarial department because Abby’s previous boss washed out. Leroy asks Abby to come back and take over for him as the new manager. Abby talks it over with Kenny and decides to go back.
After a year’s time, Abby has the place running smoothly and has earned the respect of all her employees, but she begins getting restless as the challenge of the job is no longer there for her.

Dana Griffin (nee Padgett), who was Abby’s chief tormentor all through grade school, finds herself in Altoona, Pennsylvania. She is a good golfer and joins Kettle Creek Country Club soon after moving there. While practicing one day, she sees a young redheaded girl practicing as well who reminds her of a young Abby. She then reminisces about her relationship with Abby back then and how poorly she had treated her.

Dana is invited to have lunch and play golf with a woman she met on the practice tee. At lunch the next day, who should show up to have lunch and play in the foursome but Abby, who is also a member at Kettle Creek. It’s been 20 years since they’ve seen each other, and although they are cordial, they are also rather cool towards each other. Dana learns from the other ladies in the group how successful Abby is at her job and how good a golfer she is, having won the ladies club championship the previous year. Dana finds out that the young girl she saw practicing on the range is Abby’s daughter, Claire, who seems to be struggling with the game.

Abby relates how her daughter, Claire, is having trouble learning the golf swing which leads Abby to the idea of a new invention: a golf suit training aid that will swing for you to give you the proper feel of the swing. She tells Kenny about it, and they decide to invite E.J. and Eddie over for lunch and to bat the idea around.
 
A continuation of the chapter: Abby Payne - June, 2004
 
 
And that’s how it all began. I should mention that E.J. had married Susan about two years ago, and they lived just up the road in State College where E.J. taught computer science at Penn State. Kenny and I had gotten together with them often over the past few years, and Susan was part of the group now who came to lunch that day.

They were all intrigued by the idea of the suit and were almost instantly on board. There was one important question that we talked through, though: Would people spend the money it was likely to cost for something they soon wouldn’t need after their swing had become grooved? Kenny assured us that people’s swings gradually change over time, due to physical changes in their bodies, age, and just unknowingly falling into bad habits. That’s why golfers always seem to be experimenting and tweaking their swings. The suit could be used as a refresher to get the proper feel of the swing again. That seemed to satisfy the group.

E.J. would do the complex programming based on the algorithms he and I would develop together. We decided to start with a prototype that Kenny and Eddie would be responsible for engineering and fabricating.

For the first few weeks, I sat and did research on my own. As the thousands of solenoids would act as a group, I needed to study group theory and soon got immersed in such things as Frobenius groups and composition series. But I needed someone to bounce ideas off of. E.J. had a fairly strong background in mathematics, so we began getting together on weekends, when he wasn’t working, to go over ideas.

“Okay, Abby, give me the broad picture of what we need to do here.”

“Have you ever seen a flock of birds, or a murmuration of birds, to be precise, take off at the same time and fly in a coordinated manner, changing direction together all at once?”

“Sure. How do you think they do that?” E.J. asked me.

“There are various theories about that. Some think it’s a rudimentary form of telepathy. Others think it’s like a chorus line where each bird sees their nearest neighbors act, and then they time their own moves accordingly. But how they do it is not as important to us as the simple coordination that is necessary to make it happen.”

“And that’s what we have to achieve with our thousands of solenoids,” agreed E.J. He thought for a moment. “But do you picture it as more of the telepathic theory that sends the correct swing message all at once to all the solenoids, or will it be more of the chorus line theory, where each solenoid is responding to what is happening with its neighbors?”

“I think it has to be both. The correct swing is pre-programmed, which urges the wearer to swing a certain way, but the suit has to be able to respond to any deviation from this if the wearer overrides the correct way.”

We tossed around ideas for several hours. E.J. had to admit that much of the mathematics was above him, but he told me he would try to come up to speed on such areas as geometric group theory and vector spaces.

Over the next year, E.J. and I continued to meet for a few hours most weekends, developing the mathematics and the subsequent algorithms he could then apply his programming skills to. I never would have succeeded in this without his help, and he developed as much enthusiasm for the project as me. When we finally got the programming in place, we were ready for Kenny and Eddie to apply it to their plans for the construction of the suit.

Over the next two years, it was a true collaboration between the four of us, and after thousands of man hours and tens of thousands of dollars, we now have a working prototype.

It works like this: First of all, it’s parameter-driven and designed to be totally adjustable to the person wearing it. Before putting it on, you have to enter your height, weight, body type, age, physical condition and answer a number of other questions to assess your current skill level.

Future models will be able to calibrate the device for you after you first take a few practice swings in it, but for now, you have to manually input much of the data.

You also need to tell it what percentage of a full swing you wish to use; there’s a little dial on the side for that. If you can estimate the carry distance of your shot correctly, you can input that instead, and the device will cause you to swing the proper amount, but it assumes you are using the correct club for the shot. Even if you were built like Tiger Woods, you wouldn’t be able to hit, say, a 9-iron 250 yards.

There are safety considerations built into it, though. For example, Claire would not be able to input a carry distance of 250 yards because, with her size and body type, there’s no way she could hit the ball safely that far, even with her driver.

The golfing suit fits over your arms and torso, as far down as the bottom of your knees. That way, it can train all your golfing muscles to get you to swing on the correct plane at the same tempo and timing on every swing.

The suit is made of stretchable fabric, worn under the clothes, and is one-size-fits-all for now, with future plans for small, medium, and large sizes. Hand-sewn into the suit are the several thousand tiny solenoids, which “urge” you to swing the correct way.

We patterned the “ideal” swing after Kenny’s, since his tempo, timing, and consistency are beautiful to behold and very effective. Future models will allow you to set the tempo or speed of your swing to match your natural tendency. And even newer versions will enable you to adopt the pattern of different professional golfers, assuming they give us permission to measure their swings.

The suit is for training purposes only and could not be legally worn during, say, a tournament, as Rule 4.3 in the Rules of Golf is very strict about prohibiting the use of training aids.

I could talk about all this for hours, but I won’t relate any more details. The prototype is just about ready to be tested by someone outside the design team, and Claire is going to be our guinea pig. In fact, the launch is scheduled for later this week.

It still has a long way to go before I could consider marketing it, but that’s the eventual goal if it proves successful. Time and hard work will tell.
 
(7 more chapters to go)
 

Author Notes Abby Payne: She is intelligent and beautiful, yet shy and awkward with most people her age, having been picked on quite a lot while growing up. She worked at the snack bar and as a waitress at Brentwood Country Club during the summers where she met both E.J. and Kenny, who is a member at Brentwood and became her boyfriend and eventually her husband.
E.J. Budrowski: 18 years older than Abby, he is an alcoholic with a traumatic past (an abusive father and a mother driven to suicide) who is a caddie at Brentwood CC. One day he finds a dirty old golf ball on the edge of a pond that seems to have unusual powers, for he makes two holes-in-one with it. He and Abby become friends when she encourages him to take up both golf and bridge again after long layoffs. He finally quits drinking and returns to college at age 40 and earns a degree in computer science. Eventually he becomes a professor of computer science.
Dana Griffin (nee Padgett): Grew up with Abby back in Butler. She is a bully and teased Abby unmercifully all the way through school. Coincidentally, 20 years later, she finds herself living in Altoona, where Abby lives, and joins the same country club as Abby.
Kenny Payne: Abby met him briefly at a frat party in her senior year and was intrigued by him, then she sees him again when he walks up to the snack bar several months later. He is a mechanical engineer and is tall, good looking, and an all-around nice guy. After less than a year of courtship, he marries Abby.
Eddie Phillips: A young member at Brentwood known for his extremely good putting and ability to hustle his opponents. Eddie is friends with Abby and beats Kenny in the club championship with a miracle shot. He and Kenny become best friends after that.


Chapter 58
Some Call It Luck - Chapter 58

By Jim Wile

Recap: Dana Griffin (nee Padgett), who was Abby’s chief tormentor all through grade school, finds herself in Altoona, Pennsylvania. She is a good golfer and joins Kettle Creek Country Club soon after moving there. While practicing one day, she sees a young redheaded girl practicing as well who reminds her of a young Abby. She then reminisces about her relationship with Abby back then and how poorly she had treated her.

Dana is invited to have lunch and play golf with a woman she met on the practice tee. At lunch the next day, who should show up to have lunch and play in the foursome but Abby, who is also a member at Kettle Creek. It’s been 20 years since they’ve seen each other, and although they are cordial, they are also rather cool towards each other. Dana learns from the other ladies in the group how successful Abby is at her job and how good a golfer she is, having won the ladies club championship the previous year. Dana finds out that the young girl she saw practicing on the range is Abby’s daughter, Claire, who seems to be struggling with the game. She is having trouble learning the golf swing, which leads Abby to the idea of a new invention: a golf suit training aid that will swing for you to give you the proper feel of the swing. She tells Kenny about it, and they decide to invite E.J. and Eddie over for lunch and to bat the idea around. The team is onboard with the idea, and over the next few years the golf suit is created.
 
 
Dana Griffin
Three weeks later
July, 2004
 
 
I’ve been a little frustrated with my golf game lately. It began after watching Abby Payne play that round of golf a few weeks ago. She doesn’t hit the ball as far as I do, but has a beautifully consistent swing, and never seems to miss a fairway or many greens. She’s just an average putter, but her ball-striking is top-notch. It sure pointed out my lack of consistency, as I constantly fight a slice, though it’s not as bad as her daughter, Claire’s.

That is, until last week, when I saw Claire practicing again on the range. The sudden transformation of her swing was incredible. Just two weeks earlier she was hitting these weak fades and slices off to the right, and now she was hitting the ball either straight or with a beautiful little right-to-left draw. She no longer possessed that awkward-looking loop in her swing and was hitting the ball from the inside now instead of over the top.

She swung with abandon, with a look of joy on her face. I’ve never seen such an amazing turnaround in such a short period of time!

A peculiar thing though: Her outfit was rather strange for a warm summer day. She was wearing long pants and a long-sleeved shirt, even though the temperature was in the mid-80s. She also kept pulling at her sleeves and seemed to be straightening something under her clothes. I wondered what that was about.

As I continued with my struggles with the slice, I saw her again a few days later. She had on the same sort of outfit—long pants and shirt—and was hitting the ball just as far and straight as previously.

But the story gets “curiouser and curiouser.” I quit watching her after a while and went over to the chipping green to practice my short game. I practiced there for half an hour or so, then decided to go back to the range and hit a few more iron shots to finish up for the day.

When I got back, Claire was still there, but now she was wearing shorts and a T-shirt. I set up behind her back so she wouldn’t notice me watching her again. She concentrates on her swing so hard that I don’t think she’s ever noticed me watching her.

She wasn’t swinging quite as fluidly as earlier and hit a few bad shots mixed in with the good ones. Her tempo wasn’t quite the same on each shot as it had been a half hour before. She was hitting the ball noticeably better than a few weeks earlier, but it just wasn’t quite as consistent as when she had all those long clothes on.

Something was definitely up, and I had to find out what. She finished up soon and headed for the clubhouse, eventually making her way to the locker room. I surreptitiously followed her in. There were a few other ladies in there as well, so she didn’t pay any particular attention to me.

I watched her as she opened up her locker. Inside the locker, hanging from a hook, there appeared to be a long, tan, one-piece garment, somewhat resembling an old-fashioned swimsuit from the early 20th century. Claire then stripped off her clothes to take a shower. She was modest and quickly covered her body with a long bath towel before heading into the shower stalls.

In the meantime, the locker room had cleared out, and it was just me. The attendant was nowhere to be seen. I quickly crossed to Claire’s locker and removed the garment from the hook. It was surprisingly heavy and nubby all over, and I could see little wires sewn into the fabric—a very strange-looking garment, indeed. I quickly stuffed it in a carry bag that I had gotten from my own locker.

I would examine this thing in detail later when I got home. I had a strong feeling that this is what was responsible for Claire’s sudden turnaround.
 
 
 
Abby Payne
Later that afternoon
July, 2004
 
After work I stopped by Kettle Creek to pick up Claire. She was taking her role as the guinea pig seriously, and has been practicing religiously with the suit. Her swing looks great when she’s wearing the suit, and her ball-striking has improved markedly.

I’ve been encouraging her to start her practice sessions with the suit on, but then to remove it after a while and see how she does without it. She has tried this a few times now, and her swing has definitely improved, though she’s not as consistent as when she’s wearing the suit. I told her that it takes time to retrain the brain and the body to perform new motions and to be patient, but of course she expected to have instant success. Ah, the impatience of youth!

When I arrived at the club and she got in the car, I could immediately tell something was off. “What’s the matter, sweetie? Didn’t it go too well on the range today?”

She didn’t answer and just looked down.

“Claire, what’s wrong?”

She burst into tears then and said between sobs, “Mom, I lost the suit.”

“WHAAAT? What do you mean you lost it?” I hollered.

Among the sobs, she managed to get out, “I didn’t mean to. I went into the locker room to change out of it after I used it for a while, and I thought I hung it up in the locker, but when I came back, it wasn’t there. I looked all over for it but couldn’t find it.”

“Did you lock the locker after you put it in there?”

She hesitated for a moment. “No,” she confessed in a small voice. “I guess I forgot to.”

“Oh, Claire! How could you?” I was really peeved at her because I’d told her many times that she needed to lock it up whenever she was not wearing it. “Alright, I’m going to park this car, and we’re going to go back in there and look again!”

We got out of the car, and I took her by the arm and marched her right back inside. We searched all over and couldn’t find it anywhere. We even looked inside some trash cans in the locker room and clubhouse.

When we got back to the car, I just put my head down on the steering wheel and let out a loud groan. She tried to tell me she was sorry, but I put up a finger to shush her. That suit cost thousands of dollars and hours to create. To make another one will set us way behind schedule.

After a minute or so of thinking through the ramifications of this, I turned to her and asked, “Was there anyone in the locker room who might have seen you when you removed the suit?”

“I don’t know… maybe. There were a few ladies in there, but I didn’t notice anyone watching me. I just don’t know.”

“Claire, I know you didn’t lose it on purpose, but I’ve told you several times not to forget to lock it up if you aren’t using it.”

“I know, Mom.  I’m really, really sorry. Will you be able to make another one?”

“Yes, I can make another one. All the plans are written down and stored in the computer. And I’m not worried about someone stealing the idea from me, because I have a patent on it. But there are thousands of dollars and thousands of hours of work tied up in that suit. It’s a prototype and still needs a lot of tweaking before we can consider trying to manufacture and market it. Now I’ve got to make another one to experiment on. That sets us way back in our budget and schedule. And I’ve got to break the bad news to Dad, and Uncle Eddie, and E.J.”

“Mom, I’m just so sorry.”

“I know you are, sweetie,” I said in a kinder tone. “I think you’re going to have to pay a price, though, for your carelessness. Dad and I will discuss it at home tonight.”

We drove the rest of the way home in silence.

(6 more chapters to go)
 

Author Notes Abby Payne: She is intelligent and beautiful, yet shy and awkward with most people her age, having been picked on quite a lot while growing up. She worked at the snack bar and as a waitress at Brentwood Country Club during the summers where she met both E.J. and Kenny, who is a member at Brentwood and became her boyfriend and eventually her husband.
E.J. Budrowski: 18 years older than Abby, he is an alcoholic with a traumatic past (an abusive father and a mother driven to suicide) who is a caddie at Brentwood CC. One day he finds a dirty old golf ball on the edge of a pond that seems to have unusual powers, for he makes two holes-in-one with it. He and Abby become friends when she encourages him to take up both golf and bridge again after long layoffs. He finally quits drinking and returns to college at age 40 and earns a degree in computer science. Eventually he becomes a professor of computer science.
Dana Griffin (nee Padgett): Grew up with Abby back in Butler. She is a bully and teased Abby unmercifully all the way through school. Coincidentally, 20 years later, she finds herself living in Altoona, where Abby lives, and joins the same country club as Abby.
Kenny Payne: Abby met him briefly at a frat party in her senior year and was intrigued by him, then she sees him again when he walks up to the snack bar several months later. He is a mechanical engineer and is tall, good looking, and an all-around nice guy. After less than a year of courtship, he marries Abby.
Eddie Phillips: A young member at Brentwood known for his extremely good putting and ability to hustle his opponents. Eddie is friends with Abby and beats Kenny in the club championship with a miracle shot. He and Kenny become best friends after that.
Claire Payne: Abby and Kenny's 12-year-old daughter. Her inability to improve at golf was the inspiration for the invention of the golf suit.


Chapter 59
Some Call It Luck - Chapter 59

By Jim Wile

Recap: Dana Griffin (nee Padgett), who was Abby’s chief tormentor all through grade school, finds herself in Altoona, Pennsylvania. She is a good golfer and joins Kettle Creek Country Club soon after moving there. While practicing one day, she sees a young redheaded girl practicing as well who reminds her of a young Abby. She then reminisces about her relationship with Abby back then and how poorly she had treated her.

Dana is invited to have lunch and play golf with a woman she met on the practice tee. At lunch the next day, who should show up to have lunch and play in the foursome but Abby, who is also a member at Kettle Creek. It’s been 20 years since they’ve seen each other, and although they are cordial, they are also rather cool towards each other. Dana learns from the other ladies in the group how successful Abby is at her job and how good a golfer she is, having won the ladies club championship the previous year. Dana finds out that the young girl she saw practicing on the range is Abby’s daughter, Claire, who seems to be struggling with the game. She is having trouble learning the golf swing, which leads Abby to the idea of a new invention: a golf suit training aid that will swing for you to give you the proper feel of the swing. She tells Kenny about it, and they decide to invite E.J. and Eddie over for lunch and to bat the idea around. The team is onboard with the idea, and over the next few years the golf suit is created.

Now it’s time to try it out on a guinea pig—Claire. She has terrific results with it, and Dana notices the vast improvement in Claire on the practice tee. She sneaks into the locker room and steals the suit while Claire is in the shower. Abby is irate when Claire tearfully relates that she has lost the suit.
 
 
 
Dana Griffin
Later that night
July, 2004
 
 
This thing is amazing! It’s a golf swing suit that makes your body move the right way to hit a golf ball. I’ve never seen nor heard of anything like this before. Where the hell did Claire get it?

There’s even a rudimentary instruction book in a little pouch sewn on the outside, so I was able to figure it out after a while.

Steve is at a conference for a couple of days, so he isn’t around to ask me where I got it. When he does, I’ll just tell him I saw it advertised in a golf magazine and sent away for it. He doesn’t play golf himself, so he won’t question it. His sport is tennis, and that’s what interested him in joining the country club.

It took me a little time to figure out how to turn it on and input answers to some initial questions the thing asks you. There’s a little screen and keypad on the side for doing this, as well as a few buttons and dials. It will take some experimentation, I’m sure, to get the hang of it, but I’ve already tried a few things just swinging inside my family room, and by God, the thing actually works!

All those little nubs inside push on your various body parts somehow and guide you into a perfect swing. You can fight it, but if you just stay relaxed and let it do its thing, you can get some beautiful swings going.

I have a long mirror on the back of my bedroom door that I unscrewed and brought into the family room to watch myself swing, and the results were gorgeous to behold!

I can’t wait to try this thing out on the practice tee. I now know why Claire always wore those long clothes to cover it up; she probably didn’t want anyone plying her with questions about it or thinking about stealing it!

It looks like it has been successful in helping her groove a correct swing. She’s not as good without it, which was clearly the case when she was wearing just the T-shirt and shorts. She still needs some more work with it, but she has definitely improved since starting to use it a few weeks ago. I wonder where she got it from.

I think I’ll practice with it away from the club—at a different driving range. Don’t want to arouse any suspicions that I pilfered it.

The ladies’ club championship is coming up in a few weeks. If I can master it by then and make a significant improvement to my swing, maybe I can beat that Abby Payne-in-the-ass and become the next club champion! Wouldn’t that be sweet?
 
 
 
Dana Griffin
Two weeks later
August, 2004
 
 
I’ve been practicing with the suit for a couple of weeks now, and I’ve seen some definite improvement in my game the few times I’ve played at Kettle Creek without it. Earlier this week I shot a 78. I hit 10 of the 14 fairways and 11 greens, which is way better than my usual stats. Still not good enough to beat Abby yet, though.

The club championship comes up in another week, and maybe by then my swing will be grooved enough not to need it. If I don’t feel like it’s quite there, I can always wear the suit while playing.

I’m not above a little cheating now and then if it means winning the title. After all, Mother used to push the limits of the pageant rules and even break a few on occasion, but it did help me to win some of them.

The thing is awfully uncomfortable to use for an extended period of time, though, and it’s starting to stink from all the sweat going into it. I’m afraid to launder it because of all the tiny electronics in it. I’ve wiped it down a few times with a damp cloth, which doesn’t seem to harm it, but that only helps a little with the odor. Maybe I’ll try sprinkling some baby powder inside it. I don’t think that would hurt it any.
 
(5 more chapters to go)
 

Author Notes Abby Payne: She is intelligent and beautiful, yet shy and awkward with most people her age, having been picked on quite a lot while growing up. She worked at the snack bar and as a waitress at Brentwood Country Club during the summers where she met both E.J. and Kenny, who is a member at Brentwood and became her boyfriend and eventually her husband.
E.J. Budrowski: 18 years older than Abby, he is an alcoholic with a traumatic past (an abusive father and a mother driven to suicide) who is a caddie at Brentwood CC. One day he finds a dirty old golf ball on the edge of a pond that seems to have unusual powers, for he makes two holes-in-one with it. He and Abby become friends when she encourages him to take up both golf and bridge again after long layoffs. He finally quits drinking and returns to college at age 40 and earns a degree in computer science. Eventually he becomes a professor of computer science.
Dana Griffin (nee Padgett): Grew up with Abby back in Butler. She is a bully and teased Abby unmercifully all the way through school. Coincidentally, 20 years later, she finds herself living in Altoona, where Abby lives, and joins the same country club as Abby.
Kenny Payne: Abby met him briefly at a frat party in her senior year and was intrigued by him, then she sees him again when he walks up to the snack bar several months later. He is a mechanical engineer and is tall, good looking, and an all-around nice guy. After less than a year of courtship, he marries Abby.
Eddie Phillips: A young member at Brentwood known for his extremely good putting and ability to hustle his opponents. Eddie is friends with Abby and beats Kenny in the club championship with a miracle shot. He and Kenny become best friends after that.
Claire Payne: Abby and Kenny's 12-year-old daughter. Her inability to improve at golf was the inspiration for the invention of the golf suit.


Chapter 60
Some Call It Luck - Chapter 60

By Jim Wile

Recap: Dana Griffin (nee Padgett), who was Abby’s chief tormentor all through grade school, finds herself in Altoona, Pennsylvania. She is a good golfer and joins Kettle Creek Country Club soon after moving there. While practicing one day, she sees a young redheaded girl practicing as well who reminds her of a young Abby. She then reminisces about her relationship with Abby back then and how poorly she had treated her.

Dana is invited to have lunch and play golf with a woman she met on the practice tee. At lunch the next day, who should show up to have lunch and play in the foursome but Abby, who is also a member at Kettle Creek. It’s been 20 years since they’ve seen each other, and although they are cordial, they are also rather cool towards each other. Dana learns from the other ladies in the group how successful Abby is at her job and how good a golfer she is, having won the ladies club championship the previous year.
 
Dana finds out that the young girl she saw practicing on the range is Abby’s daughter, Claire, who seems to be struggling with the game. She is having trouble learning the golf swing, which leads Abby to the idea of a new invention: a golf suit training aid that will swing for you to give you the proper feel of the swing. She tells Kenny about it, and they decide to invite E.J. and Eddie over for lunch and to bat the idea around. The team is onboard with the idea, and over the next few years the golf suit is created.

Now it’s time to try it out on a guinea pig—Claire. She has terrific results with it, and Dana notices the vast improvement in Claire on the practice tee. She sneaks into the locker room and steals the suit while Claire is in the shower. Abby is irate when Claire tearfully relates that she has lost the suit.

At home Dana puts on the suit and figures out how to use it. Over the next two weeks she practices with it.
 
 
Abby Payne
One week later—a Saturday
August, 2004
 
 
Today we completed the first round of the two-round ladies’ club championship tournament on an overcast, blustery day. Despite the chilly temperature and the funk I’ve been in the last few weeks over the loss of the suit, I still managed to put together a good round today, shooting a 4-over par 77.

I’m not leading, though. That distinction goes to Dana Griffin who turned in a 75! I didn’t play with her today, but I will be playing with her tomorrow, as they pair-off the best scorers together for the final round.

I’m a little surprised at her result, but—good for her. She seems to have improved her score quite a lot since the time we played together a few weeks ago. Maybe she’s gotten used to the course by now.

One thing that helped keep me in the game today was the fact that E.J. caddied for me. He was a golf caddie years ago when we first met and is also a very good golfer, himself, so it was great having him on the bag. I would have asked Kenny to caddie for me, but he and Eddie are out-of-town this weekend at an important golf show in Boston to advertise their putters.

E.J. was delighted when I asked him if he would caddie for me and said he would love to. He got me to focus on my game and gave me a lot of good advice, which caddies are permitted to do. He overrode some of my club selections, and he was right every time.

Claire and Greg were allowed to follow around and watch me play too.

Claire and I have finally come to peace with what happened to the suit. Although I was very upset thinking about all the wasted dollars and hours, I realized that she only made one small mistake—not locking up that locker; it just happened to be a very costly one. She’s only a kid after all, and kids make mistakes. That’s how they learn best. Hopefully this experience will make her more responsible in the long run.

On the night of the incident, Kenny and I discussed her punishment. We decided the best thing would be for her to help in the re-creation of the new suit. There is a lot of tedious work involved in hand-sewing all those solenoids and wires onto the fabric, and she will help in that effort.

The tough part was figuring out how much time she would have to put into it. Because it was such a costly mistake, we debated whether or not the punishment should be determined accordingly. Or should we be more lenient with her, because it wasn’t really gross negligence on her part, but just a single slip-up?

Kenny is more of a softy than me and wanted to go easier on her, but I felt we should be a little stricter with the punishment. In the end, we compromised and decided to require 36 hours of work in the next three weeks before school starts up again. That would put a significant crimp in her time with friends and her enjoyment of the end of summer, but we thought that would have more of an impact on her than any lesser amount.

“36 hours!” Claire whined when I told her. “How did you come up with that amount?”

“Your father and I decided that two hours a day, Monday through Saturday, for three weeks would be a fair amount. You can have Sundays off. Consider yourself lucky, young lady, that it wasn’t more!”

“Okay, Mom, but does it have to be every day like that, or could I double up one day and skip the next?”

“I’ll trust you to put in the 36 hours however you want to. I know you’ll be honest about it, right, Claire?”

“I will, Mom. I know I messed up.”

Her brother teased her unmercifully when he found out about it, and I finally had to holler at him to stop or he would end up helping out too. He stopped!

That was all behind us now, so they followed me around today, and it was a pleasure having them out there. They would applaud my good shots and shout, “Go Mom!” It was very cute, and Andrea, who I played with today, was amused.

Tomorrow, we tee off at 1:00 PM, following lunch. It looks like I’m going to need a very good round to beat Dana, who is currently two strokes ahead of me.
 
 

Sunday began overcast and cool like yesterday, which is not that unusual for late August. I decided to wear slacks again instead of a skirt, plus a sweater and windbreaker. I figured I could always take off layers if it started to warm up this afternoon.

I sat with E.J., Claire, and Greg at lunch in the clubhouse. It was pleasant enough, but I was a little nervous about playing with Dana in the final group.

There was so much in our past that was uncomfortable, and spending the amount of time with her that this round would entail was not something I was looking forward to. Plus, I wanted to win, and she promised to be a formidable opponent unless her first round had been a total fluke.

After lunch, I hit a few balls on the range and putted for several minutes to warm up before heading to the first tee.
 
Claire and Greg followed me around again today.

It had warmed up a little but was still on the cool side, so I kept my sweater and windbreaker on to start. Dana was similarly dressed. E.J. was already just in shirt sleeves.

Dana and I were cordial enough, and we shook hands before starting and wished each other luck. The starter announced the final group, and Dana teed off first.

The 1st hole is a long par-4 (at least for us ladies) of 360 yards. Dana stroked a beautiful drive with a slight draw on it that ended up on the left side of the fairway. She was often on the right side of the fairway or in the right rough the last time I played with her, but this drive was perfect. Her swing also looked better than I had remembered—slower-paced and not as long, but she really cranked it out there. I hit a good drive but was twenty yards behind her on a similar line.

I was first to hit my second shot and played a crisp 4-iron to the front of the green. E.J. congratulated me on the good shot, and the kids shouted, “Way to go, Mom!”

Dana required only a 7-iron to similarly hit the green. It was another good shot with a slight draw on it. We both 2-putted for par and moved onto the 2nd hole.

As we stood on the 2nd tee, I said to E.J., “I might have my work cut out for me today. She’s looking good so far.”

“So far,” said E.J. “But you just keep putting the pressure on her with good shots like those last two, and we’ll see if she can hold up. There’s a long way to go, and you’re looking strong too.”

I thanked him for his encouraging words. Dana still had the honors and hit another good drive down the middle. I followed suit, but was 20 yards behind her again. This would become the pattern of the day. We ended up halving this hole with pars again and moved onto the 3rd.

By the end of the 7th hole, she had gained a stroke on me when she birdied the 6th hole to my par. I was playing well at even par, but she was 1-under for the day which, coupled with her 2-stroke lead to start the day, now put her 3 strokes ahead of me. It was going to be difficult to beat her. She was swinging very well and striking the ball much more consistently than I remembered.

I couldn’t get over how good her tempo and timing looked. Before, she always seemed to slash at the ball and cut across it, but now she was swinging right down the line. As I mused about this, a disconcerting thought came to me, but I put it aside for now and tried to think about my round and forget about hers.

It was starting to warm up, so I removed my windbreaker but kept my sweater on. Dana didn’t follow suit and kept her jacket on.

We played another six holes, and her lead had increased to five. I had had a double bogey, a birdie, and the rest pars for 1-over so far, which was very good for me, but she kept getting par after par and another birdie to gain two more strokes on me.

E.J. kept trying to buck me up, but I think even he could see the writing on the wall. Also, the kids had fallen silent as they could envision the final result. They urged me to keep trying, which gave me a lot of comfort, but it wasn’t looking good at this point. There were only five holes to go, and I was five strokes behind. I was playing well, but just couldn’t keep up with Dana.

She and I didn’t talk much during the round. We both said, “nice shot” occasionally, but there wasn’t much more than that.
 
(4 more chapters to go)
 

Author Notes Abby Payne: She is intelligent and beautiful, yet shy and awkward with most people her age, having been picked on quite a lot while growing up. She worked at the snack bar and as a waitress at Brentwood Country Club during the summers where she met both E.J. and Kenny, who is a member at Brentwood and became her boyfriend and eventually her husband.
E.J. Budrowski: 18 years older than Abby, he is an alcoholic with a traumatic past (an abusive father and a mother driven to suicide) who is a caddie at Brentwood CC. One day he finds a dirty old golf ball on the edge of a pond that seems to have unusual powers, for he makes two holes-in-one with it. He and Abby become friends when she encourages him to take up both golf and bridge again after long layoffs. He finally quits drinking and returns to college at age 40 and earns a degree in computer science. Eventually he becomes a professor of computer science.
Dana Griffin (nee Padgett): Grew up with Abby back in Butler. She is a bully and teased Abby unmercifully all the way through school. Coincidentally, 20 years later, she finds herself living in Altoona, where Abby lives, and joins the same country club as Abby.
Kenny Payne: Abby met him briefly at a frat party in her senior year and was intrigued by him, then she sees him again when he walks up to the snack bar several months later. He is a mechanical engineer and is tall, good looking, and an all-around nice guy. After less than a year of courtship, he marries Abby.
Eddie Phillips: A young member at Brentwood known for his extremely good putting and ability to hustle his opponents. Eddie is friends with Abby and beats Kenny in the club championship with a miracle shot. He and Kenny become best friends after that.
Claire Payne: The 12-year-old daughter of Abby and Kenny. Her inability to improve at golf was the inspiration for the invention of the golf suit.
Greg Payne: The 9-year-old son of Abby and Kenny.


Chapter 61
Some Call It Luck - Chapter 61

By Jim Wile

Recap: Dana Griffin (nee Padgett), who was Abby’s chief tormentor all through grade school, finds herself in Altoona, Pennsylvania. She is a good golfer and joins Kettle Creek Country Club soon after moving there. While practicing one day, she sees a young redheaded girl practicing as well who reminds her of a young Abby. She then reminisces about her relationship with Abby back then and how poorly she had treated her.

Dana is invited to have lunch and play golf with a woman she met on the practice tee. At lunch the next day, who should show up to have lunch and play in the foursome but Abby, who is also a member at Kettle Creek. It’s been 20 years since they’ve seen each other, and although they are cordial, they are also rather cool towards each other. Dana learns from the other ladies in the group how successful Abby is at her job and how good a golfer she is, having won the ladies club championship the previous year.
 
Dana finds out that the young girl she saw practicing on the range is Abby’s daughter, Claire, who seems to be struggling with the game. She is having trouble learning the golf swing, which leads Abby to the idea of a new invention: a golf suit training aid that will swing for you to give you the proper feel of the swing. She tells Kenny about it, and they decide to invite E.J. and Eddie over for lunch and to bat the idea around. The team is onboard with the idea, and over the next few years the golf suit is created.

Now it’s time to try it out on a guinea pig—Claire. She has terrific results with it, and Dana notices the vast improvement in Claire on the practice tee. She sneaks into the locker room and steals the suit while Claire is in the shower. Abby is irate when Claire tearfully relates that she has lost the suit.

At home Dana puts on the suit and figures out how to use it. Over the next two weeks she practices with it.

The first day of the club championship is over, and Dana is in the lead, two strokes ahead of Abby in second place. On the second day, Abby is paired with Dana. Both play well, but through the 7th hole, Dana has picked up another stroke and is 3 ahead of Abby. She is swinging very well, and Abby has a suspicion about this sudden improvement.
 
A contination of the chapter: Abby Payne - August, 2004
 
 
The afternoon continued to warm, and I was starting to sweat now, so I removed my sweater. I was down to my shirtsleeves, and felt much better for it. Dana, however, kept her jacket on and looked like she was sweating too. She looked a little uncomfortable, to be honest. I noticed Claire staring at her with a frown on her face.

She came over to me then and said, “Mom, I have to talk to you.”

E.J. and I both stopped on our way to the next tee. “What is it, honey?”

“Something is fishy about the way Mrs. Griffin is playing.”

“What do you mean?”

“I mean, I’ve seen her practicing on the range before, and she’s not this good. She always has this really fast swing and she slices a lot, like I used to. Plus, she really appears to be sweating now.”

“Go on,” I said, though I knew where this was going.

“I think she might have stolen our golf suit that day and is using it now! See how she doesn’t take her jacket off, even though she’s sweating a lot?”

E.J. said to me then, “You know, Abby, I was wondering about that myself. The way you described her to me the last time we talked about her is not at all the picture that we see today. She’s swinging beautifully—so smoothly and with perfect timing. She’s hardly had a mis-hit all day. I think Claire might be right!”

“I confess I’ve had the same suspicion for a few holes now,” I said. “I know you’re both right.”

“I think so too, Mom,” piped in Greg.

I smiled at him. “Then it’s unanimous.”

“What are you going to do about it, Mom?” asked Claire.

“Well, you can bet I’m going to get that suit back, but for right now—nothing. I’m just going to try to keep playing well and beat her.”

“But Mom, she’s cheating! You can’t wear training aids when you’re playing in a tournament. You told me that yourself.”

“You’re right, honey, she is. But I haven’t decided yet the best way to deal with it, so I’ll just keep playing my game and see how it comes out.”

E.J. nodded his approval. He knows me well enough to know that I have to work this out in my own time.

By the time we started walking again and arrived at the next tee, Dana appeared to be very agitated. She still had the honors, but couldn’t seem to get comfortable over the ball. She yanked the club back and slashed at the ball awkwardly, and the result was a topped shot off the heel of her driver. It was her first bad shot of the day.

She appeared to be fighting the suit now, rather than allowing it to take the lead, and the outcome was predictable.

Over the course of the next four holes, she had a number of other bad shots, while I played steadily. I managed to close the gap down to one stroke coming into our final hole.

Dana was visibly shaken and just seemed to be barely holding on to her lead as the perspiration continued running down her face and neck, and she continually wiped it with a handkerchief.

I had the honors on the final tee shot, and hit a good one into the center of the fairway, leaving me with only a short-iron to the green. Dana’s drive was mediocre at best, leaving her with a long-iron to the green.

After fidgeting around trying to get comfortable for her second shot, she slashed at the ball. She skulled a low one that barely got of the ground, but it had a lot of speed on it, and it bounded up just a couple of yards from the front of the green, narrowly avoiding a bunker.

The flag was in the back, and I hit my second shot to the rear of the green, leaving me with a 15-foot putt for a birdie. E.J. told me, “Great shot!” and the kids cheered. Dana looked shaken.

She really took her time with the chip and hit a good one just four feet from the hole.

I also took my time lining up my putt because anything could happen now. I could either win outright, tie, or lose depending on what we both did with our putts. My 15-footer had about a foot of break on it, and as it approached the hole, it looked like it might drop, but it just veered off at the end and rolled 10 inches past. I tapped in for a par and a final score of 2-over par for a 75 and a two-day total of 152.

Dana took a long time reading and preparing for her 4-foot putt. If she made it, she would shoot 76 which, combined with yesterday’s 75, would give her a total of 151 and the probable victory (we still didn’t know how any of the other players were doing, but no one else was that close after yesterday’s round.)

Finally, she settled over her putt and stroked it. It looked a little firm, hitting the back of the hole and jumping up an inch, but it dropped in. She let go of her putter then, closed her eyes, put her head down, and breathed an immense sigh of relief that it was over.

I walked up to her, shook her hand, and congratulated her on a fine round and a probable victory. She thanked me and told me I played well too. We then walked back to the clubhouse to post our scores and see the final results.

As E.J., Claire, Greg, and I began walking, Claire said, “Mom, are you going to tell everyone that she cheated to win? You should have won!”

“Well, we don’t know if she’s won yet because we haven’t seen all the scores. But even if she does win, I don’t think I’m going to say anything right now. I will handle this in my own way at another time. Please don’t say anything to anyone about this, okay?”

“But Mom, it’s not fair!”

“Claire? Please? I know you’re outraged, and I am too, but there’s a better way to handle it than to come right out and accuse her of cheating in front of everybody. Please promise me you won’t say anything.”

“Okay, Mom. I promise. But I’m still really mad about it. You should have won!”

“Well thank you, sweetie. I appreciate your support and Greg’s too all day. It means a lot to me. Now let’s just go and turn in my score and see how it ends up.”

E.J. squeezed my shoulder then and smiled at me as we made our way to the clubhouse.

Sure enough, Dana ended up winning with her 151, while I came in second with 152. The next closest score to ours was 156. Everyone congratulated Dana on her victory, but she looked very uncomfortable and didn’t say much. I’m sure she couldn’t wait to get home and take that suit off.

Tomorrow night would be the celebration dinner where she would receive her trophy and see her name on the plaque that hung in the clubhouse. I’m not sure I would be going.

After accepting a few condolences from some of my friends at the club for coming so close, E.J., the kids, and I left together in E.J.’s car. It had been a long afternoon, but the best part of the day was yet to come.
 
 

When we got home, I went upstairs to shower. E.J. also showered in the downstairs bathroom and changed into an extra set of clothes he had brought with him. He would be staying for dinner with us.

Kenny would be home from his trip anytime now, and we would call up for pizza to be delivered when he arrived.

I came down after a while, feeling clean and refreshed and surprisingly happy for someone who had just lost the club championship to a cheater by a single stroke.

Kenny had returned in the meantime, and the kids had filled him in on the events of the day. When he saw me, he took me in his arms, gave me a kiss, and said how sorry he was that I'd lost, and that he was proud of me for hanging in there and doing so well, even when I had known Dana was cheating. I thanked him for that.

“Have you decided what you’re going to do yet?” he asked me.

“Yes. I’m going to call her up after dinner and demand my suit back. Then I’m going to go over to her house and get it back.”

“What if she denies cheating or refuses to give it back?” Claire asked.

“I’ll cross that bridge if and when I come to it. Hey, I think I hear the pizza guy coming, so let’s forget about that for now and just enjoy our meal. Let’s ask Dad about his trip.”

We had a lively dinner, and Kenny told us all about his trip to Boston with Eddie and what the golf show was like.

I wasn’t worried in the slightest about what was to come with Dana. Years ago, I might have been a nervous wreck at a confrontation like this, but no longer.

(3 more chapters to go)
 

Author Notes Abby Payne: She is intelligent and beautiful, yet shy and awkward with most people her age, having been picked on quite a lot while growing up. She worked at the snack bar and as a waitress at Brentwood Country Club during the summers where she met both E.J. and Kenny, who is a member at Brentwood and became her boyfriend and eventually her husband.
E.J. Budrowski: 18 years older than Abby, he is an alcoholic with a traumatic past (an abusive father and a mother driven to suicide) who is a caddie at Brentwood CC. One day he finds a dirty old golf ball on the edge of a pond that seems to have unusual powers, for he makes two holes-in-one with it. He and Abby become friends when she encourages him to take up both golf and bridge again after long layoffs. He finally quits drinking and returns to college at age 40 and earns a degree in computer science. Eventually he becomes a professor of computer science.
Dana Griffin (nee Padgett): Grew up with Abby back in Butler. She is a bully and teased Abby unmercifully all the way through school. Coincidentally, 20 years later, she finds herself living in Altoona, where Abby lives, and joins the same country club as Abby.
Kenny Payne: Abby met him briefly at a frat party in her senior year and was intrigued by him, then she sees him again when he walks up to the snack bar several months later. He is a mechanical engineer and is tall, good looking, and an all-around nice guy. After less than a year of courtship, he marries Abby.
Eddie Phillips: A young member at Brentwood known for his extremely good putting and ability to hustle his opponents. Eddie is friends with Abby and beats Kenny in the club championship with a miracle shot. He and Kenny become best friends after that.
Claire Payne: The 12-year-old daughter of Abby and Kenny. Her inability to improve at golf was the inspiration for the invention of the golf suit.
Greg Payne: The 9-year-old son of Abby and Kenny.


Chapter 62
Some Call It Luck - Chapter 62

By Jim Wile

Recap: Dana Griffin (nee Padgett), who was Abby’s chief tormentor all through grade school, finds herself in Altoona, Pennsylvania. She is a good golfer and joins Kettle Creek Country Club soon after moving there. While practicing one day, she sees a young redheaded girl practicing as well who reminds her of a young Abby. She then reminisces about her relationship with Abby back then and how poorly she had treated her.

Dana is invited to have lunch and play golf with a woman she met on the practice tee. At lunch the next day, who should show up to have lunch and play in the foursome but Abby, who is also a member at Kettle Creek. It’s been 20 years since they’ve seen each other, and although they are cordial, they are also rather cool towards each other. Dana learns from the other ladies in the group how successful Abby is at her job and how good a golfer she is, having won the ladies club championship the previous year.

Dana finds out that the young girl she saw practicing on the range is Abby’s daughter, Claire, who seems to be struggling with the game. She is having trouble learning the golf swing, which leads Abby to the idea of a new invention: a golf suit training aid that will swing for you to give you the proper feel of the swing. She tells Kenny about it, and they decide to invite E.J. and Eddie over for lunch and to bat the idea around.The team is onboard with the idea, and over the next few years the golf suit is created.

Now it’s time to try it out on a guinea pig—Claire. She has terrific results with it, and Dana notices the vast improvement in Claire on the practice tee. She sneaks into the locker room and steals the suit while Claire is in the shower. Abby is irate when Claire tearfully relates that she has lost the suit.

At home Dana puts on the suit and figures out how to use it. Over the next two weeks she practices with it.

The first day of the club championship is over, and Dana is in the lead, two strokes ahead of Abby in second place. On the second day, Abby is paired with Dana. Both play well, but through the 7th hole, Dana has picked up another stroke and is 3 ahead of Abby. She is swinging very well, and Abby has a suspicion about this sudden improvement. She soon realizes that Dana has the suit on, which is cheating. Dana falters at the end and barely ekes out a 1-stroke victory over Abby, but Abby chooses not to say anything just yet. Abby plans to get the suit back from Dana and will confront her that night.
 
A continuation of the chapter: Abby Payne - August, 2004
 
 
By the time we finished our pizza then all had a bowl of ice cream for dessert, E.J. announced that he had to leave. I hugged him and thanked him for his contribution today, and he told me how proud of me he was. I promised to call him tomorrow and let him know how it went with Dana tonight. We said goodbye, and he left then.

I thought for a few minutes about what I would say to Dana, then without hesitation, I picked up the phone and called her.

“Hello?” she answered.

“Hello, Dana. This is Abby. I’m going to come by your house tonight and retrieve the suit you stole from Claire a few weeks ago. I realized you were using it today, and now I want it back.”

She paused for a beat and then said, “What are you talking about, Abby?”

“Dana, you know what I’m talking about. I put in thousands of dollars and hours creating that suit, and I’m going to get it back from you.”

She didn’t respond for about five seconds. Finally, she said in a weak, shaky voice, “You invented that suit?” thus giving herself away.

“Yes. It’s just a prototype and far from perfected yet, but I need to get it back to continue working on it. I’m coming over now, and you’d better give it to me.” I didn’t even raise my voice; I just said it calmly. After that, I hung up.

I memorized her address from the phone book, said goodbye to the rest, and told them where I was going. Kenny asked me if I wanted him to come with me, but I declined his offer. I told him I could handle it, and that I didn’t think there was going to be a problem. He wished me luck, and I left.

When I got to Dana’s house, I walked up to her front door. The porch light was on, and I could see a bag hanging from the door knob. I looked inside, and there was my suit. What a sense of relief flowed over me to see it again.

And then I left, just like that. Let her have the darn title. I figured it would end up being a Pyrrhic victory for her; how could she possibly enjoy it knowing that she had cheated to get it and that I knew it too? I didn’t care that much about the title—at least not in comparison to the joy I felt in getting my suit back.

When I returned home a few minutes later, I found the kids had begun getting ready for bed. I sat down with Kenny for a while in the family room.

“So how did it go?” he asked me. “You sure weren’t there very long.”

“It went fine, actually. When I walked up to her door, I found it in a bag hanging from the doorknob. I just pulled it off and left. I guess neither of us wanted to face each other about it.”

“So, is that the end of it?”

“It is for now. Except that this experience pointed out the need for me to take out an insurance policy on it. If it gets lost or stolen again, at least we could get some money back for it. Also, I’ve got to get it dry cleaned the first thing after I do that tomorrow. It really stinks! I think all the foulness in her soul just exuded into it.”

We decided to turn in early then; we were both beat, and I wanted to say goodnight to the kids. First, I kissed Greg goodnight and told him I got my suit back and thanked him for his support this weekend. He was very happy for me.

Then I went in to talk with Claire for a while. She was in bed reading when I sat down on the edge of the bed with her.

“Did you get it back, Mom?” she asked as she looked at me anxiously.

“I did, sweetie. I didn’t even have to confront her; she had left it hanging on the front door knob. I just took it and left."

Claire breathed a sigh of relief and gave me a big hug. “I’m so happy you got it back, Mom. Does this mean I don’t have to put in the 36 hours now?”

“You’re not getting off that easy! Your infraction was that you failed to lock up an expensive piece of equipment as you had been repeatedly warned to do. You are still guilty of that. You won’t have to work on the suit now, but Dad and I will find something else you can help us with. Nice try, though.”

She smiled impishly. “I guess that’s fair. I guess I did cause you to lose the club championship today.”

“You know, Claire, I don’t care too much about that. It would have been nice to win, but I know I played my best today, and I can take great pleasure in that. Plus, I had my family and good friend around rooting me on. Who needs more than that?” I hugged her then and kissed her goodnight.

“I love you, Mom,” she said to me.

“I love you too, sweetie. Goodnight, and sleep tight.”

“And don’t let the bedbugs bite!” she chimed in as I left and closed her door.

Kenny and I washed up and brushed our teeth and finally got into bed. As I lay there cuddled up to him, my mind kept going back over this unusual day. I lost the club championship today, and maybe I should be sad, but I’m ecstatic because I got my suit back. Now I can finally relax for the first time in weeks!

(2 more chapters to go)
 

Author Notes Abby Payne: She is intelligent and beautiful, yet shy and awkward with most people her age, having been picked on quite a lot while growing up. She worked at the snack bar and as a waitress at Brentwood Country Club during the summers where she met both E.J. and Kenny, who is a member at Brentwood and became her boyfriend and eventually her husband.
E.J. Budrowski: 18 years older than Abby, he is an alcoholic with a traumatic past (an abusive father and a mother driven to suicide) who is a caddie at Brentwood CC. One day he finds a dirty old golf ball on the edge of a pond that seems to have unusual powers, for he makes two holes-in-one with it. He and Abby become friends when she encourages him to take up both golf and bridge again after long layoffs. He finally quits drinking and returns to college at age 40 and earns a degree in computer science. Eventually he becomes a professor of computer science.
Dana Griffin (nee Padgett): Grew up with Abby back in Butler. She is a bully and teased Abby unmercifully all the way through school. Coincidentally, 20 years later, she finds herself living in Altoona, where Abby lives, and joins the same country club as Abby.
Kenny Payne: Abby met him briefly at a frat party in her senior year and was intrigued by him, then she sees him again when he walks up to the snack bar several months later. He is a mechanical engineer and is tall, good looking, and an all-around nice guy. After less than a year of courtship, he marries Abby.
Eddie Phillips: A young member at Brentwood known for his extremely good putting and ability to hustle his opponents. Eddie is friends with Abby and beats Kenny in the club championship with a miracle shot. He and Kenny become best friends after that.
Claire Payne: The 12-year-old daughter of Abby and Kenny. Her inability to improve at golf was the inspiration for the invention of the golf suit.
Greg Payne: The 9-year-old son of Abby and Kenny.


Chapter 63
Some Call It Luck - Chapter 63

By Jim Wile

Recap: Dana Griffin (nee Padgett), who was Abby’s chief tormentor all through grade school, finds herself in Altoona, Pennsylvania. She is a good golfer and joins Kettle Creek Country Club soon after moving there. While practicing one day, she sees a young redheaded girl practicing as well who reminds her of a young Abby. She then reminisces about her relationship with Abby back then and how poorly she had treated her.

Dana is invited to have lunch and play golf with a woman she met on the practice tee. At lunch the next day, who should show up to have lunch and play in the foursome but Abby, who is also a member at Kettle Creek. It’s been 20 years since they’ve seen each other, and although they are cordial, they are also rather cool towards each other. Dana learns from the other ladies in the group how successful Abby is at her job and how good a golfer she is, having won the ladies club championship the previous year.

Dana finds out that the young girl she saw practicing on the range is Abby’s daughter, Claire, who seems to be struggling with the game. She is having trouble learning the golf swing, which leads Abby to the idea of a new invention: a golf suit training aid that will swing for you to give you the proper feel of the swing. She tells Kenny about it, and they decide to invite E.J. and Eddie over for lunch and to bat the idea around. The team is onboard with the idea, and over the next few years the golf suit is created.

Now it’s time to try it out on a guinea pig—Claire. She has terrific results with it, and Dana notices the vast improvement in Claire on the practice tee. She sneaks into the locker room and steals the suit while Claire is in the shower. Abby is irate when Claire tearfully relates that she has lost the suit.

At home Dana puts on the suit and figures out how to use it. Over the next two weeks she practices with it.

The first day of the club championship is over, and Dana is in the lead, two strokes ahead of Abby in second place. On the second day, Abby is paired with Dana. Both play well, but through the 7th hole, Dana has picked up another stroke and is 3 ahead of Abby. She is swinging very well, and Abby has a suspicion about this sudden improvement. She soon realizes that Dana has the suit on, which is cheating. Dana falters at the end and barely ekes out a 1-stroke victory over Abby, but Abby chooses not to say anything just yet. Abby plans to get the suit back from Dana and will confront her that night.

Abby calls Dana and reveals that she invented the suit and wants it back. She goes to Dana’s house and finds it hanging on the door knob. She takes it home, and the family is relieved she got it back.
 
 
 
Dana Griffin
That same evening
August, 2004
 
Oh, my God! She invented that thing? What can that woman not do?

I thought I would feel better about winning the club championship, but it didn’t bring me much joy—any joy, if I’m honest. And now I find out that I beat her by cheating her with this brilliant aid that she invented!

How can one person be so lucky in life and have it all, the way she does? It’s not fair!

When she called tonight and dropped that bomb on me, I was speechless. I couldn’t deny that I’d pinched that suit. She knew! I felt so miserable then that I just got it, put it in a bag, and hung it on the doorknob. I had hoped that she would just take it and leave, and fortunately, that’s what she did. How can I ever face her again?

All my life, I’ve been jealous of that girl. I hate her, because she makes me realize what a shitty person I am. I’ve teased her unmercifully, gossiped about her and turned other kids against her, made her break her arm, and now cheated her out of winning the club championship. I really am a terrible person, and I’m miserable. I can’t continue to go on like this, but what do I do now?
 
 

After two days of brooding and soul-searching, I finally decided what to do. I called her a while ago, and we talked for a couple of hours. I had tried rehearsing what I would say to her by way of an apology, but in the end, I decided to wing it and just talk to her.

It came pouring out of me, and I talked non-stop for 15 minutes before she said anything at all. I bared my soul to her and told her how sorry I was about the way I’d treated her all my life.

When she finally said something, she was gracious and forgiving. I confessed to her that I felt like such a failure, and that I had never done anything in my life that made me feel successful or proud of myself. She tried to deny that by saying she’d heard I had been very successful at selling real estate, but I told her that was only because I had slept with many of my richest clients to ensure the sales.

“Dana, you didn’t!” she said, and then we both started laughing about it. That seemed to break the ice, and we started really talking after that.

I apologized to her again about stealing the suit and robbing her of the victory, and I told her that I plan to go to the club tomorrow and confess what I had done, so that she could be the rightful winner, and then I would resign from the club. She implored me not to do that. She suggested that maybe we could try to start over and pretend that we had just met, and take it from there. I told her I would think it over.

We made arrangements to meet over lunch tomorrow where we can discuss it some more, and we bade each other goodnight.

I have to say that call went much better than expected, and I think I’ll be able to sleep tonight with a great load off my mind.
 
 
 
Abby Payne
Lunchtime the next day
August, 2004
 
I sat waiting for Dana in the clubhouse dining room where I sipped an Arnold Palmer. She came in shortly, saw me, and came over to sit down.

She looked far better than the last time I saw her—at the end of the club championship when she was a sweaty, agitated mess. Now, she looked pretty, and relaxed, and like an immense weight had been lifted from her shoulders.

We greeted each other, then the waitress came over to take her drink order.

“Abby, I’ve thought a lot about it since yesterday, and I still think I need to fess up to what I did so that you can earn your rightful victory, and then I should resign from the club,” she said to me.

“Dana, I wish you wouldn’t do that. I already earned my rightful victory; I just didn’t get the recognition for it, which doesn’t matter to me very much. If you decide to stay, I know it will be difficult for you to get that trophy at the dinner tonight and see your name on that plaque in the hall, knowing you didn’t earn it, but maybe that will be your penance. I think you have the potential to turn your life around. By what you told me last night, it certainly seems like you want to.”

“It’s so hard for me to relate to your saying that it doesn’t bother you not to get the recognition you earned. My whole life has been about getting recognition for things—whether I earned them or not.” She put her hand on my arm right then and said, “I’ll think about it some more.” Then she sighed and said, “I’ve been so wrong about you for so many years. You really are a good person, and I wish now I had gotten to know you better when we were kids.”

“Me too. I could have used a few more friends.” After a few seconds had passed, I said, “You know, there is one good thing that came out of all this: You sure helped give me further proof that the golf suit works.”

“Well, glad I could be of some help anyway,” she said with a chuckle.

We spent the rest of the lunch just talking, and it was actually quite pleasant. When it was time to say goodbye and we stood up to leave, she noticed something and said to me, “Hey, Abby?”

“What?”

She then put her finger in a little hole in my sweater that I hadn’t noticed before and said, “I’m not going to have to start calling you ‘Shabby’ again, am I?”

I cracked up at that, and she laughed too.

I don’t really know what she’ll decide about staying or resigning. I think there’s hope that she’ll turn things around in her life, and who knows? We might even become friends one day.

(Final chapter coming tomorrow)
 

Author Notes Abby Payne: She is intelligent and beautiful, yet shy and awkward with most people her age, having been picked on quite a lot while growing up. She worked at the snack bar and as a waitress at Brentwood Country Club during the summers where she met both E.J. and Kenny, who is a member at Brentwood and became her boyfriend and eventually her husband.
E.J. Budrowski: 18 years older than Abby, he is an alcoholic with a traumatic past (an abusive father and a mother driven to suicide) who is a caddie at Brentwood CC. One day he finds a dirty old golf ball on the edge of a pond that seems to have unusual powers, for he makes two holes-in-one with it. He and Abby become friends when she encourages him to take up both golf and bridge again after long layoffs. He finally quits drinking and returns to college at age 40 and earns a degree in computer science. Eventually he becomes a professor of computer science.
Dana Griffin (nee Padgett): Grew up with Abby back in Butler. She is a bully and teased Abby unmercifully all the way through school. Coincidentally, 20 years later, she finds herself living in Altoona, where Abby lives, and joins the same country club as Abby.
Kenny Payne: Abby met him briefly at a frat party in her senior year and was intrigued by him, then she sees him again when he walks up to the snack bar several months later. He is a mechanical engineer and is tall, good looking, and an all-around nice guy. After less than a year of courtship, he marries Abby.
Eddie Phillips: A young member at Brentwood known for his extremely good putting and ability to hustle his opponents. Eddie is friends with Abby and beats Kenny in the club championship with a miracle shot. He and Kenny become best friends after that.
Claire Payne: The 12-year-old daughter of Abby and Kenny. Her inability to improve at golf was the inspiration for the invention of the golf suit.
Greg Payne: The 9-year-old son of Abby and Kenny.


Chapter 64
Some Call It Luck - Chapter 64

By Jim Wile

Recap of the last 9 chapters: Dana Griffin (nee Padgett), who was Abby’s chief tormentor all through grade school, finds herself in Altoona, Pennsylvania. She is a good golfer and joins Kettle Creek Country Club soon after moving there. While practicing one day, she sees a young redheaded girl practicing as well who reminds her of a young Abby. She then reminisces about her relationship with Abby back then and how poorly she had treated her.

Dana is invited to have lunch and play golf with a woman she met on the practice tee. At lunch the next day, who should show up to have lunch and play in the foursome but Abby, who is also a member at Kettle Creek. It’s been 20 years since they’ve seen each other, and although they are cordial, they are also rather cool towards each other. Dana learns from the other ladies in the group how successful Abby is at her job and how good a golfer she is, having won the ladies club championship the previous year.

Dana finds out that the young girl she saw practicing on the range is Abby’s daughter, Claire, who seems to be struggling with the game. She is having trouble learning the golf swing, which leads Abby to the idea of a new invention: a golf suit training aid that will swing for you to give you the proper feel of the swing. She tells Kenny about it, and they decide to invite E.J. and Eddie over for lunch and to bat the idea around. The team is onboard with the idea, and over the next few years the golf suit is created.

Now it’s time to try it out on a guinea pig—Claire. She has terrific results with it, and Dana notices the vast improvement in Claire on the practice tee. She sneaks into the locker room and steals the suit while Claire is in the shower. Abby is irate when Claire tearfully relates that she has lost the suit.

At home Dana puts on the suit and figures out how to use it. Over the next two weeks she practices with it.

The first day of the club championship is over, and Dana is in the lead, two strokes ahead of Abby in second place. On the second day, Abby is paired with Dana. Both play well, but through the 7th hole, Dana has picked up another stroke and is 3 ahead of Abby. She is swinging very well, and Abby has a suspicion about this sudden improvement. She soon realizes that Dana has the suit on, which is cheating. Dana falters at the end and barely ekes out a 1-stroke victory over Abby, but Abby chooses not to say anything just yet. Abby plans to get the suit back from Dana and will confront her that night.

Abby calls Dana and reveals that she invented the suit and wants it back. She goes to Dana’s house and finds it hanging on the door knob. She takes it home, and the family is relieved she got it back.

Dana reflects on her life and decides she can’t continue on the way she has been. She calls Abby up and bares her soul to her, apologizing for stealing the suit and cheating and vowing to confess to the club what she did, then resign. Abby implores her not to do that, and they meet for lunch at the club the next day and discuss it further. Abby again tells Dana not to resign and later leaves without knowing the final decision and with the possibility that they would become friends.
 
 
 
E. J. Budrowski
Two years later
October, 2006
 
Over the next two years, Abby, Kenny, Eddie, and I continued improving the golf suit. We had developed four different prototypes in that period, and we all agreed that the suit was now ready for full-scale production.

I had married Susan four years ago, and she was now part of the group, lending her prolific talents as a paralegal to help Abby research many of the legal aspects of the business side of things. Abby was in the final stages of securing a sizable loan to pour into a new branch of Eddie and Kenny’s golf equipment business, as we planned to manufacture the suits right here in Altoona.

During this time, I was promoted to associate professor of computer science at Penn State. I had earned a PhD a few years ago and I’m hoping to become a full professor in the not-too-distant future.

I’m 58 years old now, and the happiest I have ever been. Who could have foreseen the turn my life would take the day I pulled the Lucky 1 out of that pond? I feel like the lucky one to be in this place in my life now, and with that feeling came an idea.

I called Abby up and told her there is something I want to do tomorrow, and that I would love to have her company for it. I also suggested that we could play some duplicate bridge together afterward. She readily agreed.

The next day, I picked her up at her home in Altoona, and together we headed up to DuBois. When we got there, I drove up Astor Lane where I turned into the entrance to Brentwood Country Club. I drove up the long entry drive, around the circle in front of the clubhouse, and parked in one of the parking lots. We got out and looked at the old clubhouse together.

Neither of us had been back in many years, and we marveled at how unchanged it looks since we’d last seen it—still mammoth and beautiful with all the flower boxes beneath the Tudor windows, overflowing with an assortment of red and white geraniums. The huge maples that border the edges of the clubhouse were turning bright gold and red, and the view of the front is still spectacular.

We made our way back through the caddie yard and were about to go in the back door of the Pro Shop where Tony Colosi used to have his office when an old man came out to greet us, and I was amazed. It was Tony, and he is still here! He must have been about 75. I couldn’t tell if he’d lost most of his hair because he still had on a red baseball cap, and there was that half-smoked cigar still in his mouth. Some things never change!

“Can I help you folks?” asked Tony in that unforgettable high, scratchy voice of his. He didn’t recognize me, and why would he? I little-resemble the mostly scruffy-looking caddie I had been back then. Abby hung back a little as I stepped forward.

“Hi, Tony. Great to see you again!”

He looked at me, puzzled. “Do I know you?”

“Yeah, it’s E.J.”

“E.J?” he said with a blank look.

“Yeah, Tone, it’s me—E.J. Budrowski.” I laughed at the sudden look of astonishment that came over his face as he finally recognized me.

“Jesus Christ! E.J! What’s it been, twenty years? You don’t look like, well… what you used to look like back then.”

“I know. A little older and wiser, I guess. You look the same, though.”

He kept staring at me and shaking his head. “Never thought you’d amount to much. So, what have you been doing with yourself?” He smiled and put a hand on my shoulder.

“I went back to school. Joined the golf team at age 40. Studied computers, and now I’m an associate professor of computer science at Penn State.”

He kept shaking his head and smiling. “My God, E.J! Who’d believe it? So, what brings you back to Brentwood?”

I motioned Abby forward. “There’s something I told my best friend here that I wanted to do when I got here. In fact, you might remember her—Abby Payne? She was Abby St. Claire back then.”

He looked at her closely. “Are you that cute little redhead that worked at the snack bar a few summers? You and him are best friends?”

“Hi, Tony. Nice to see you again, and yes, we are,” she said as she put out her hand to shake. He took it in both of his.

“She’s the one who helped me turn my life around,” I said to him.

He just shook his head and said, “Will wonders never cease?”

He kept shaking his head and puffing on his cigar. Then he put his arm around our waists and guided us into the Pro Shop where we chatted for a while.

At a pause in the conversation, he said, “So what can I help you folks with?”

“Hey, Tone, would you mind if we walked out on the course for a few minutes? We won’t bother any groups.”

“Nah, don’t worry about that; sure, you can go. Why don’t you take a cart?”

“No, that’s okay; we’d like to walk.”

“That’s fine. Just stop in here again when you come back.”

“Sure thing, Tone. See you in a bit.” We left him, still smiling and shaking his head, and headed out the front door and down to the back 9.
 
 

“He’s hardly changed at all, has he?” Abby asked me.

“You’re right about that.” Like the clubhouse and Tony, the golf course hasn’t changed much either. Some of the trees are taller than I remembered, and some are no longer there, but the greens and fairways and bunkers look pretty much the same.

We made our way down toward the 16th hole. We had to cross a couple of fairways and pause while golfers played through before we crossed, but eventually we ended up at the corner of the dogleg 16th where so many years before I had hit those two remarkable shots.

“This is the place,” I said to Abby, “where I made those two holes-in-one all those years ago.”

“Doesn’t look like a green anymore,” she said as we looked toward the old 18th green. Evidently, they had stopped maintaining it and let it grow wild, and now it is just some wild, un-mowed grass in the middle of a bunch of trees. The saplings that had been in front had grown into mature birch trees, and there was hardly a hint that there had once been a green there.

“I guess there is one thing that’s changed around here after all.”

“I can think of something else,” she said, cryptically.

“Like what?”

“Like you. Look where you started—a downtrodden caddie—and look where you are now—a beloved professor of computer science.”

“Well, now that you mention it, I can think of another thing—you. Look where you started—a shy, unsure-of-herself young girl—and look at you now—a confident, talented inventor and entrepreneur. I guess we’ve both been lucky.”

“Lucky? Is that what you think we are?”

“Well, it was certainly lucky I found that old golf ball. I’ve often pondered what that was all about. Was it fate that I found it? Could it have been put there to be found by me? If so, by whom and why me? Could there even have been some magic in it? I’ll never know for sure, but I do know that if I’d never found it, I might have remained a drunk the rest of my alcohol-shortened life. Finding that ball was certainly lucky for me.”

“Finding that ball may have given you the spark that you needed to get out of your own way,” said Abby, “but you pulled yourself out of the muck and made a success of your life. That wasn’t luck; that was hard work.”

“Well, how about you? You were born with brains and had wonderful parents who taught you all the right values. Isn’t that lucky?”

“I admit that part is lucky, but I deserve a lot of the credit for taking advantage of those innate qualities. I read books, I studied things, I built things, I practiced a lot, I didn’t waste hours gossiping on the phone with friends, like Dana probably did. I didn’t have many of those anyway, but that’s beside the point. I guess what I’m saying is that luck certainly plays a role in our lives, but I think it’s what you do with that luck that makes all the difference in whether or not you succeed.”

We moved on then. It wasn’t my goal to replay that hole today. It was fun to revisit the site, but I had something else in mind. We made our way over to the pond on the 15th hole and around to the spot where I had pulled the old ball out of the water. The back 9 was pretty empty now. It looked like we’d passed through the last group of golfers back on the 16th hole, and there was no one else around at the time. The shadows were getting longer as daytime passed into evening. The air was still, and the only sounds we heard were a few birds and the occasional croak of a frog on the far side of the pond.

As we stood there looking down at the spot on the edge of the pond where it all started, I reached in my pocket and pulled out the old golf ball. I studied it for the last time. Maybe it was my imagination, but I could easily read the label, Lucky 1, which no longer seemed so faded, but quite legible to me now.

“You know, Abby, I keep thinking of what Eddie once said to me about luck. He said, ‘Was I lucky to have beaten Kenny in the club championship all those years ago? Maybe, probably, but in the grand scheme of things, that didn’t amount to a hill of beans. More important to me than winning a club championship was that I met my best friend, Kenny, that day.’ He made a good point. Maybe real luck is finding those few people, of all the thousands you come across in your life, who you really connect with and consider your true friends. Finding the ball may have set things in motion for me, but I couldn’t have succeeded without your friendship, and that’s a fact. In the end, I guess that’s why I consider myself lucky.”

“You’re making me cry here, E.J.”

She put her arm around my waist and her head on my shoulder then and, in a reverie, we stood there staring at the pond for about a minute before I slowly lowered my arm and dropped the ball into the edge of the water. You could just make it out beneath the surface. We looked at it in there one last time, looked at each other, then turned around and, arm-in-arm, walked slowly back to the clubhouse. It was time for someone else to find it.
 
 
***
 

Author Notes For all of you who have been following the story, wherever you came in, I want to thank you so much for staying with it and for all the reviews you have given me. Your feedback has been excellent and has helped me greatly to improve the novel. I have taken many of your suggestions and made a number of revisions to the story. I really appreciate the thought you put into your reviews.

I have made many friends here at FanStory through sharing this novel with you. I have plans for another novel, but I haven't started writing it yet, so it may be a year or two before I would be ready to share it with you.

However, I'm thinking of sharing a novella I wrote back in 2016 that was the forerunner to Some Call It Luck called Lucky Eddie. It is narrated by Kenny Payne and is about his friendship with Eddie Phillips. Abby and E.J. are also in the story. There is more golf in that story than this one, since I wrote is as primarily a golf novel then, so I'm not sure it will have quite the same appeal, but I will try to make it as understandable as I can to non-golfers. It's only about 1/4 the size of Some Call It Luck, and it may be a few weeks before I start posting it.

Once again, thank you for all of your reviews and input. We don't normally read novels a chapter at a time as we do here, and reviews are for each individual chapter. If any of you have any big picture reviews of the story as a whole (or as much as you have read), I would appreciate anything you have to say about it.

Jim


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