We are a fivesome. Me, Girl who is ten, my father, his friend Man and Man’s Son. It is night. There are no lights, but we see in the dark. Father and Man and Son have their own golfclubs and bags and golf balls. Girl and I each have one club, a driver. She drags her club along the ground, pretending it is a tail, and sings softly. Our golf balls are egg-shaped. We can only strike them and watch them roll forward a few inches, the others now so far away we can only see shapes.
“Why are we here?” Girl asks.
“Because they promised us, we would fly,” I tell her. I drop my club to the grass and flap my arms, and Girl jumps and claps. “What the hell is he doin’?” Man says to my father.
Save for the golfers there is no sound. No nighthawks or owls, no insect noises, no jets overhead, no rustling of trees—yet Girl and I watch the trees sway and bend sideways. She chews on her cheek and spits.
Ahead, Father and Man and Son, mime-like, talk to one another, stopping to hit their balls, look back at Girl and me, shake their heads as if bewildered. My father glares at me, his glances like telegraph wires attached to my gut; he has always been ashamed of me, always contemptuous of my skills. Tonight, he had offered me a carrot and stick: play golf and I will take you flying.
“Why are we hear,” Girl says, tugging at my leg.
Why are we hear.
“How shall we fly? Like birds? Like a plane?”
“Like a leaf, my girl.”
We watch each other line up our drivers on our egg-shaped balls, swing, the poor Girl not as tall as her club is long, watch the balls roll sideways a few feet, laugh hysterically then cringe when Father and the Man and the Son yell at us: “Come on!”
And so the golf match goes, no flag or green in the distance, first a par four becoming a five and now, surely, a par six. Girl is exhausted. She falls to the ground and curls up in the fetal position.
“You are fine. Pick up your ball,” I tell Girl. “We’ll wait until they are not watching, and we will throw our balls far ahead.”
Son walks back toward us. “They’re mad,” he shouts. “Why did you agree to play?”
“Because we get to fly,” Girl exclaims. She jumps up and pirouettes, slapping her fanny with her hands. “I am a leaf!”
Son runs angrily at us. He is a kid, and I am an old man. I just now realize I am an old man. He could kill me. He picks up our egg-shaped balls and puts them behind his back, signaling with his head to follow him. Girl and I hurry along and pretend to hit shots.
“Why are we her?” Girls says, hands to her face, as Desdemona. She is a born actor, is this mischievous baby who whistles and pokes.
Why are we her?
When we get close to Father and Man, Son drops the balls behind him on the ground. “You didn’t tell me about the flying,” Son says to Man.
“Flying?” Man asks my father. Father and Man laugh.
They examine the palms of my hands. “These is girl hands,” Man says. Father says, “Girl hands. I tried.”
They look at Son’s calloused hands with approval. Son glares at me with disdain. He has bested me in every kind of sport since we played baseball on the Roosevelt School field. Since that time when he played a game of Butt with me in the basement, and it hurt.
“Why are we here, Uncle Eugene?” my ten-year-old niece Taliana says.
“Tell the little girl shut up,” my father says. To the man, he says, “Where are we? Par ten?”
“I hit a hole-in-one,” Son says, no flag in sight, no evidence. Father and Man high-five Son and punch him on both shoulders.
Suddenly all the sounds of a summer night abound, the jets landing at O’Hare, their lights raking across us and catching us like thieves, and Father and Man and Son wave, night birds and katydids and cricket waltzes, and somewhere children laughing, wriggling of earthworms in the grass, cars on the expressway, mothers singing to babies, “Oh, child.” Lawn sprinklers douse us.
Taliana smashes our golf balls with her club, the eggshells spitting open, chick embryos oozing onto the grass.
“Look’a that,” Son says.
And now I am awake, and I know the answer, why we are her, here, hear.
We will not fly.