THE MOST DANGEROUS GAME
SEPTEMBER 25, 2011
It's been an overcast and moody weather week on the Island, our hometown set here in California on the edge of the San Francisco Bay.
A short sharp jolt midweek reminded all of us how ephemeral life really is around here when Napa took a quick 3.2 rocker to the shoulders this week. You may dislike your floods and your hurricanes and your blizzards and your bad weather, but let me tell you, one earthquake will revise your mind about moving here.
The Canadian geese, whom we just learned had flown from upstate Minnesota, are all gone now. Those geese have been honking and pooping all over the golf course greens all summer in droves, driving the groundskeepers and duffers batty to the extent that golf on the Island had become a sport that involved besides a good set of irons, a sturdy shotgun and a hunting dog.
Mr. Howitzer was out there with the Cribbages and a herd of them cause him to slice badly into the rough.
"Dodd!" shouted Mr. Howitzer. "I shall want a weapon for I see revenge!"
"Right you are," spoke the ever patient and ever calm Dodd. "Shall it be the Winchester or Mr. Mossberg?"
"I am wanting firepower to get out of that rough. Bring me the Mossberg!"
"The 8 gauge it shall be, sir!"
"Three and a half inch shells, Dodd!"
"Coming up, sir!"
Down the fairway, just setting up around the 10th hole approach, the VA group that had been exploring the site for the new columbarium was taking its ease. The Navy part of the group had taken the day off for sailing, but these were from the Department of the Army.
When the 8 gauge went off with a terrific roar the geese went flying, all apparently to safety, although a tree branch dropped dramatically near the downwind party, sending the vets diving into the sand trap, save for those who had been officers from the get go. All of them just looked up. Save for their caddy, Pvt. Hiram Ames, who picked up a white cardboard takeout box from the edge of the tee-off pad.
"Hey! Somebody leave their hotdish lunch over here?" Ames hailed from St. Paul.
"Ames!" someone who had lived through the Tet offensive shouted. "Get the f@#k down!"
By the time Mr. Howitzer and the Cribbages had arrived at the 10th hole, the vets were ready for them. As Mr. Howitzer bent to place his tee several golf balls zinged over him, pelting Dodd and the Cribbages in their cart. Cries of pain and anguish were heard down the fairway. Mr. Howitzer stood up and was promptly beaned in a fusillade of golf balls that was followed by a squad of ex-Navy Seals and their wives, all armed with 9-irons.
"Dodd! Protect us!" Mr. Howitzer shouted. But his manservant and much oppressed lackey had gone temporarily to that blissful Island place somewhere in the South Pacific where there were no bosses and no step-n-fetchits. Dodd had been knocked out entirely by a well-aimed missile from Marty, a fellow who had been severely wounded in Vietnam, and Marty was not a man to take getting shot at without reprisal.
Marty's wife, Ruth, took a mighty swing and brought down the roof of the Cribbage golf cart.
Well, that day did not go so well but someone posted a recipe on the Island website for smoked goose and suddenly, almost overnight, all of the geese took off in great chevrons.
People who are newbies and people who are not very observant fail to note how we do experience seasons here in NorCal. The Seasons have a subtler quality to them. For one, all the hummingbirds vanish. People who know about these things all around the Island gather up those plastic red-tinted feeders and wash out all the old sugar water, for the hummingbird is a most remarkable traveler. Not much heftier than a dozen bees, he lifts off and heads down the coast, bypassing Baja, zipping over Guatemala's serapes, dancing pass Managua's baskets, flitting before the mirrored sunglasses of medalled generals, and skirting Venezuela, courses the long length of Chile to arrive in Rio de Janeiro, where bright colored plumage thrives at all times of the year, but especially during Winter.
Such is the hummingbird, sturdy world traveler, worthy of Odysseus fame by dint of his intrepid long distance adventures. Among the ancient Greeks there were no constellations, however the Native Americans clustered hummingbirds in Black Hawk's ears.
The Autumnal Equinox happened this Friday, for those who notice subtle things. A few people have noticed already. The dahlias are all failing with leaf mold and the flowers are going brown. But it was such a moment of glory when they all were bursting along the old fence! My god it was Fourth of July for a while all in flowers down there! A riot of oranges and yellows exploding one after another. Now look at it. Such a sorry sight. Hard to remember why one would bother to look at the tangle there linked by pole bean vines now themselves fading away.
The Almeida family is shifting into the new Seasons. Coldwater fish will be coming back into play. Pedro is a fisherman and so charts his course by the seasons as well, the many thousand year old revolve of the Milky Way and the ever shifting schools of catch, tracked by the weird green blips of the sonar device and the Agencies, all performing their eternal dance. The kids are back in school and the themes are shifting to black and orange for the onset of the coming month. Even the Dollar Store bins have loaded up with early pumpkins. God knows what a person is to do with a pumpkin from September 25th to October 31st. Go all bad it will.
Going out to the Grounds, Pedro got into a conversation on the Ship to Ship with Colum, who piloted the Siobhan heading out north from Princeton-By-the-Sea. There were not so many boats setting out any more from there, because of the Recession and the growth of the tourist industry at the old landing where a dozen ships used to fetch in all kinds of catch to supply the restaurants up in Babylon. But Colum was one of the last who kept his ship moored there, and often as not would sell a baby tuna to tourists off the dock at half the cost rather than let it all go to waste.
Fishing is an early start sort of game, and in this time the sun had long to rise and the ears of the Black Hawk were clustered with the constellations of hummingbirds. The dew dripped from the yardarm and the stays. Black was the color of the heavens and all of the sea. White was the spangle of stars.
"Did you hear all that about the 13 year old girl singing her poor heart out like that on the program?" Colum asked. He knew exactly what program it was. It was the Pastor Rotschue.
"Yeah, she sounded pretty sharp all right." Pedro said.
"I suppose that is the future, then." Colum said.
"Well," Pedro said, thinking of his own children, "She is something of it."
Tugboat, Pedro's seadog, woofed.
"How's that Shelly of yours?" Colum asked.
"She's up in Portland. Going to college now."
"I remember when she was just a minnow of a lass," Colum said. "How time has passed."
"We're all a little older," Pedro said.
"Aye, that's for sure. But you know, this getting old business . . .".
"This getting old business sure beats the alternative. So far as anyone knows."
"I have to agree with you, old pal."
There was a bit of commotion over the radio briefly, and Pedro asked Colum what was the matter.
"O, 'tis nothing. Picked up some flotsam here. Looks like leftover hotdish in a Chinese takeout box.
There was a pause.
"Life is bound in a cosmic lattice of coincidence," Colum said. "Someone says hotdish across the room and wouldn't ya know but a box appears floating by on the ocean of connectedness."
There was another pause.
"You do much drugs in the sixties, Colum?" Pedro asked.
Back on the Island, Denby was tuning his guitar to Open E.
"You are gonna break that string," Eugene Gallipagus said to Denby, as if he knew.
"Hope not. Can't play 'Crystal City' without it."
"That's that song where everybody dies," Eugene said.
"Everybody dies," said Sharon. "All my friends died of HIV. I don't know how I managed to live this long."
"Most of my friends died of murder," Denby said. "I lived so long because I moved away."
The string broke.
"Damn it!" Denby said.
"Watch the language!" warned Dawn. "This aint no speakeasy."
"Why don't you do that one about the feller wantin' to keep on going along with his gal. It's kinda soft like. It goes 'I wanna go along with you hoo . . .".
"That's called 'Genesis'", Denby said. "All right. Let me get this G string back on here."
The long howl of the throughpassing train ululated across the wildflowers quietly nodding among the pasture grasses of the Buena Vista flats as the locomotive wended its way past the shuttered doors of the Jack London Waterfront, headed off on its age-old journey to parts unknown.
The time has come for us to pause
And think of living as it was
Into the future we must cross, must cross
I'd like to go with you
And I'd like to go with you
That's the way it is on the Island. Have a great week.
BACK TO STORY INDEX