The sponge-like lawn in front of the Spanish style clubhouse was enormous. It was ideal for a sprawling and luxurious game of croquet. Smiling players dressed in all white drinking gin and tonic while politely knocking each other’s balls as far away as possible.
People in the front window seemed to be looking toward the street and pointing at something. I often went for a jog after a hard day and I liked to run by the golf course. The soft grass was easy on the knees.
The way I saw it, it was either going to be a stiff margarita or a jog, and today I chose to run around the neighborhood for a while. The long sweeps of manicured green fairways and ponds with fountains created a feeling of partial reality that I enjoyed. What could be wrong with a little civilized fantasy? I didn’t much like golf but I loved the golf course. I like the colors.
Everything at the golf course was well taken care of and tidy. It was like a living Norman Rockwell painting. The lines were long and sweeping and the people seemed to be relaxed and enjoying themselves. Someone was usually shouting a friendly insult to someone else. All in good fun. Even though it was a public golf course, there was an air of personal accomplishment in the place.
The week had ended on a difficult note that was for sure. I had to let someone go and there was nothing I could do about it. End of day Friday is often best, but it puts a dark wrinkle into the weekend. It was characterized for me as “indefinite personal leave with pay, so that way you don’t have to know the details.” He had clenched his teeth and stared at the wall. I handed him the form and he signed it. At the door, he had smiled as he handed over his keys.
This guy had joined the company recently and he had come in with a load of ideas and opinions. He was like a small storm of energy. I liked that about new people. They weren’t yet jaded or acclimatized. Everything was new. But it was a security role, and those guys need to be squeaky clean. It was hard as hell to find security people that were Boy Scouts.
I had to admit, in retrospect, that there had been one meeting where he seemed to get a bit agro with someone who didn’t really deserve it. His face was usually emotionless, like a poker player’s face, and his lips were thin and straight. He moved his eyes around the room but kept his head still. But in this case, he narrowed his black eyes and sneered. He asked a question and didn’t get a straight answer. That seemed to set him off. I took mental note of his reaction but it wasn’t that big a deal.
But then the report came down from HQ. The problem we faced at the time was that we were short handed and we were swamped. There was way more work to do than we could keep up with, and the market for talent was dog-eat-dog. We had put his job application on a fast track, but when the background check came through, it was spotty. We had screwed up. There were issues in his past and they were problematic.
Now, I’m the kind of person who is ready and willing to forgive people for their mistakes. My wife likes to say that I’m always rooting for the underdog and that it gets me into trouble. I’ve made plenty of bad mistakes in my past, so why should I begrudge someone else who’d messed up a few times. We’re all human after all.
Then, when I saw the specific details of his past infractions, I had to admit I was a bit dicey about the whole thing. I wasn’t supposed to see them, but I looked in his file anyway. It was just sitting there on the desk and no one was around. He clearly had an anger problem, and probably a substance problem. And he also seemed to have an appetite for exotic, large caliber firearms.
The wetness in my back was growing. I was afraid that my shirt was getting drenched from the wet grass. I reached out with both arms and stretched. There was a pain in my back that was killing me. On top of it all, I had flown to New York and back in two days with one night stay over and then the rest of the week had been chaos. I had hoped the run would help clear out the noise in my head. It was getting to be like a damn three-ring circus in there.
I had turned the corner and was running toward the golf course, and I’d seen something unusual. I noticed it but it didn’t seem to be a big deal. There was a car and it was parked in the red zone. The clubhouse has a circular driveway so people can pull up and drop off their clubs before they head over to the parking lot. That’s especially useful for the senior crowd who can’t really carry their clubs from the parking lot. This car was parked in a strange spot and it was cockeyed in its angle to the curb. I noticed that as I jogged toward it.
Then I started thinking about my wife and my daughters. I could almost see their faces. They all three looked so much alike. Neither of the girls looked much like me. Why couldn’t I picture their faces? What were they doing today? They had not been at the house when I’d gotten home from work. The air conditioning had been on and it was cold and dark inside. The weather lately had been warmer than usual, and the power bill was going to reflect that fact. Were they out shopping or did they have other plans? I couldn’t remember, but it was becoming important that I remember where they were. The best part of the weekend was spending time with my girls. They usually argued with each other too much, and they usually argued with their mom even more, but it was still what I looked forward to the most.
Then I remembered the flash of light. I had been running and looking at that cockeyed car and I had seen a flash of light from driver side window. It had been like a small revelation, a starburst in the back of my mind. Had there been an explosion as well? I couldn’t recall. But here I was lying on the grass. I looked over at the faces in the clubhouse window and now they appeared to be looking at me lying here on the grass. I was not supposed to be here. It was highly unusual and unexpected. My back was getting wetter and wetter. I wanted more than ever to close my eyes for a few minutes.