Credit: Rachal Duggan

His caddy had been fucking up all morning, and now he’d disappeared. Denton had hooked a ball into the trees on ten and sent the caddy after it. There’d been no sign of him since. Now Denton leaned next to the snack cart, out of the sun, squinting at where the boy had gone into the pines.

“Caddy’s asleep today,” he said. The cart girl smiled and nodded. He set an empty Coors on the counter and headed across the fairway.

It was cool and quiet in the trees. His bag stood at the foot of a pine; his ball sat nearby. No sign of the caddy. Denton crouched over the ball and peered through the foliage, considering his shot. “Bullshit.” He made sure he was alone and, getting to his feet, plucked up the ball. A voice came from the sky.

“Rules of golf, rule 18. Ball at rest moved.”

Denton looked up. His caddy sat on a branch 30 feet above him, legs dangling, a small book open in his hand.

“Article 2. Except as permitted by the rules, when a player’s ball is in play—”

“Very funny. Very clever.” Denton dropped the ball. “There. Now get down and do your job.”

The caddy sighed. “I’m afraid I may have to take this to Fletch, sir. As I’m sure you’re aware, cheating is not taken lightly at Wildwood.”

Kevin Fletcher was the club pro—a man of integrity, well respected, and a damn good golfer. Denton hated him.

“Cut the crap and get down here. Five iron, let’s go.”

The caddy sighed. “OK, but it’ll cost you.” He pulled out Denton’s wallet, evidently lifted from its hiding place in his golf bag, and began peeling bills from it. “How does $200 sound?”

Denton lunged forward and dug his cleats into one of the pine’s lower branches. He ascended, clambering from bough to bough, cursing the caddy through gritted teeth. The caddy cackled as Denton’s sunburned scalp rose through the branches, the tree shuddering and swaying as if in a storm.

Then there was a crack, a crash, and a thud. Denton’s world went blank.

When he came to, Kevin Fletcher was standing over him, holding out a hand. Denton took it and the pro hoisted him up.

“There we go. You all right? Looks like you had quite a fall.”

“I’m fine.” It hurt just to brush the pine needles off his ass.

“Good. Your caddy came and got me.”

“My caddy.” Denton reached into his bag, felt his wallet there.

“He said you treed your ball. What are the odds?” Fletcher appraised the tree. “Now, I’d have recommended deeming that ball unplayable.”

He reached into his back pocket and handed Denton a small book. “Rules of golf, rule 28.”

Denton stared at it. A cartoon golfer grinned back, midswing.

“That’s your bible,” Fletcher said. “Save you some hardship. OK? Be careful out here.”

Denton waited until Fletcher was gone and tore the book in two.   v