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FICTION on the WEB short stories by Charlie Fish

Turnpike Nick
by Michael Eberhardt

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Thwack. Nick watched that brand new Titlist Pro V fly from the tee 270 yards straight down the fairway. He used to love the game of golf. Played it as often as he could. Now he hated it. Actually he just hated the players. He picked up the two trunks the players called golf bags and started humping them down the first fairway, cursing Ron the caddy master under his breath for assigning him these two pompous assholes.

His name was Nick but everyone around the club called him Turnpike on account he retired eight years ago as a toll collector after twenty-three years on the Jersey Turnpike. Nick hated that name.

Word around the club was that he breathed in a few too many exhaust fumes on the job and as a result he was not what you or I would call normal. He was what we would call a bit whacked in the head to be honest. But in all fairness he was just a harmless run of the mill grumpy old son of a bitch. Or so we all thought. Not much could be said for his personality either but once you got your ball on the green ol’ Turnpike could guide that ball into the hole with his phenomenal reads like no other caddy at the club.

The members didn’t like Turnpike all that much but they used the hell out of him to read their putts every chance they got. They tried to make him feel important as they walked off each green. They said things like, “The putting Gods gave you a gift Turnpike, and you’re a real asset out here.” They took care of him with the money at the end of each round as well. None of that mattered to Nick though. He collected more than enough to get by from his pension each month. Social Security kicked in last year as well. And he didn’t need to hear about how good he was on the greens. He’d been reading putts for himself and others long before most of these guys were even born. He knew damn well how good he was. They real reason Nick was looping it four or five times a week was to keep his memory fresh of the greatest day in his life. The day Nick won the state armatures at Baltashul in Springfield back in ’68.

This morning, by the time they hit the second tee box Nick was drifting in and out of his normal daydream about winning the pro tour. Half way through the fourth hole Nick’s patience was wearing thin. He couldn’t concentrate on his fantasy of beating Tiger Woods to win the match billed as the “Greatest round ever played.” This was due to the fact that he had to consistently replace divots the size of toupees and these guys kept putting their approach shots into steep greenside bunkers. Turnpike was getting old and climbing in and out of these traps was getting to be a real bitch and a half. Not to mention the trunk on his left shoulder had one of those damn straps that you could never get comfortable. For about the twentieth time that morning Nick asked himself, “What the hell am I doing out here? I’m too old for this shit and too annoyed with these assholes.” Turnpike was growing more and more miserable with each shitty shot he had to keep his eye on.

About two hours into the round they hit the thirteenth tee, the furthest point on the course from the clubhouse. They were moving along at a decent pace despite the fact that Doctor Vorhees’ (Doc Shank, that’s what Nick called him, but not to his face) game went to shit after the third hole. Nick saw places on that course that he’d never seen before while looking for Doc’s balls. That was another thing that pissed Turnpike off that morning. He hated calling him Doctor. The guy was a dentist for Christ’s sake. Doc Shanks’ buddy he was playing with was a guest of the Doc’s. He was a decent golfer but during that initial stroll down the first fairway Nick learned the guy was a lawyer. That was all Nick needed to hear. He hated lawyers and made no effort hiding his contempt for this guy. Nick even made it a point to tell him the story about how a lawyer royally screwed up his workman’s comp case seventeen years ago and he’d had no use for them ever since. The only thing worthwhile about lawyers, Nick said, is the good jokes.

So there the three of them were, standing in the morning sun on the thirteenth tee. Doc Shanks, the no good lawyer Ken something or other and old Turnpike Nick. Nick handed Doc his three wood. “What the hell Turnpike? It’s a long par five, gimme the Big Dog.” His pet name for the driver. “You’ve been shanking that thing all morning Doc. Take the three wood and put the ball in the fairway for a change, I’m tired of chasing your shots all over the place.” Doc Shanks put the three wood back in the bag and pulled the driver himself. He teed up, swung and sure as shit shanked the ball into the wood line. A string of obscenities flew from the good doctor’s mouth. He slammed the Big Dog back into the bag, looked Turnpike square in the eye and said, “Don’t say a word Turnpike, not a god damned word.” Nick just smiled. Then Doc pulled the three wood, stepped back up to the tee and hit a provisional shot. Not much distance, about 220 yards, but I’ll be damned if that ball didn’t fly straight as an arrow. He turned around and said, “Go find that first one Turnpike, I’ll hold onto the three wood and play that second shot.” Nick had enough. Maybe it was the heat; it felt like 95 degrees out there. Maybe it was the shitty golf or maybe it was the sixteen beers he drank the night before but Nick finally cracked. He did something every caddy has thought about doing at one time or another but never had the balls to do it. “Get your mamma to find your ball Doc, I’m going home.” With that he dropped both trunks on the tee box and headed back to the caddy shack. Doc Shanks and his lawyer buddy stood there on the tee speechless. First came confusion as they watched Turnpike walk away. Next they got pissed. Real pissed. Both realized they were stuck humping their bags back in this killer heat. They planned on giving Ron a real piece of their mind for assigning Turnpike to them.

Old Turnpike started jogging back to the caddy shack. He was moving with a purpose now. He was on a mission. Something had snapped in his head a few minutes ago back on the tee box with Doc Shanks and that goddamned lawyer. But for the life of him Nick couldn’t remember what it was. What Nick did know - and this he knew for certain - was that he was about to go postal on whoever was unfortunate enough to be hanging around the caddy shack and the first tee. That bastard Ron would be the first to get it. Next in line would be that loud mouth braggart Carl who was always talking about caddying on the pro tour from ’92 to ’97. He was about to silence Carl once and for all so that no one would ever have to listen to his bullshit again.

Nick reached the caddy yard breathing a little heavy. He hadn’t been eighteen years old for a long time now. “Hey Turnpike, you O.K.?” some young kid, Jimmy I think his name was, asked. “Sure son just fucking peachy.” Nick replied. “You might wanna get the hell out of here though unless you feel like dying.” Nick liked the kid, had nothing against him, and figured he’d give little Jimmy a chance to save his ass. Jimmy saw it differently. Jimmy saw an old man who had lost whatever was left of his marbles in the morning heat. Besides Ron just assigned him to Mr. Collins. Collins paid $70 a bag if you kissed his ass a little and didn’t lose any of his balls. He was due on the first tee in fifteen minutes. Jimmy was going nowhere.

Nick strolled into the caddy shack. Ron didn’t notice as he walked by. His nose was in the daily racing form again. Ponies, that was Ron’s real passion in life. A group of kids were playing Texas hold ‘em poker while Nick opened his locker. Those dumb shits came in here every day and lost money at the table instead of going out and earning an honest buck. He could never understand why caddies took to card games like junkies take to heroin. Dumb shits. An atomic bomb could go off right in the yard and they would keep on playing, Nick thought. He opened his locker and pulled out his .357 Magnum he’d been storing in there for just this occasion.

He walked back out into the heat, right up to Ron and shot him dead in the back of the head. Blood and brains splattered out the exit wound onto today’s Belmont entries. “That will be the last time you stick me with Doc Shanks,” he said to the body of Ron. Everyone around started screaming, “Turnpike’s got a gun.” For the first time ever the card game in the caddy shack ended for something other than everyone losing their money to Fast Eddie, the resident card cheat. Most everybody around was in such shock that they froze in their tracks. Easy targets, that was Nick’s first thought. He aimed and shot old widow McGuire right between the eyes. “That old bat couldn’t play worth a damn anyway,” Nick said to no one in particular. Next he drew a bead on Carl. Bang. Dead. The world has been saved from Carl’s bullshit. Nick caught movement out of the corner of his eye. Jimmy was making a break for it. “Not quick enough Jimmy my boy.” With a squeeze of the trigger Jimmy went down. Nick shot Rahyid, a college kid from the Middle East. Classes didn’t start at Rutgers for another week and Rahyid was there to catch an afternoon loop with Mr. and Mrs. Nogen. Nick was not a big fan of foreigners.

One by one Nick took them out. He was a good shot and no one escaped once he started shooting. In the end he had emptied four clips of ammo. The first tee area was a bloody mess. Bodies everywhere. Turnpike heard the sirens coming in the distance. He dropped the gun and surveyed his work. He felt real good about it and started heading up to his car. It was time to go home.

The damn alarm went off at 6am. Nick was hung over. He got out of bed and got ready to head out to the golf course. He had been having that same dream every night for the past seven years. Maybe today will be the last day those bastards call me Turnpike, he thought as he walked out the door. But not before he grabbed his .357 Magnum from the front closet.

Turnpike went on with his daily routine just as he had for the past six and half years, with one exception. Nick had taken his last Zoloft the day before and was out when he went to take it this morning. He’d have to remember to refill his prescription this afternoon, he thought on his way into work.

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