CW: Unintentional Violence
The 7th hole at the Crowder’s Mountain Golf Club in Crowder’s Mountain, North Carolina is a short par three over a pond. My dad, Paul, rode with my younger brother, Brian in a cart ahead of me. As we approached the hole, a gaggle of geese waddled in front of them toward the pond. Brian swerved at the geese and let out an evil laugh. A twisted smile grew on Paul’s face, he held a club from the previous hole and shook it like a villain’s staff as the geese scurried toward the pond.
Paul strode to the tee box holding a seven wood over his shoulder. A cigarette dangled from his lips and he swirled a Bud Light in his other hand.
The geese bobbed peacefully on the pond.
“I’m going to finish the job you couldn’t, boy,” Paul said. “I’m burying one of these geese.”
He wasn’t really serious, but something rang eerie about the proclamation. He guzzled his beer and thumped his cigarette away.
“I’d be scared to death if I were those geese,” Brian said.
“They must want to die,” I said.
“Will you both shut up?” Paul said. “Couple of jacks.”
Paul readied and scalded a low line drive. The ball screamed at the geese. They scattered in all directions.
The ball cracked the goose’s neck and skirted onto the green. The goose’s head fell beneath the water, limp, and it bobbed, lifeless.
“Jesus, dad, you really killed the god damn thing,” Brian said.
“I didn’t actually mean to, you jackass,” Paul said.
I couldn’t decide whether to laugh or cry.
Brian and I teed off, attempting to ignore the haunting image of the goose between us and the hole.
When we reached the green, Paul bent down to read his putt. Behind him, the goose remained still. Other geese wandered to the bank and regarded their fallen comrade with confusion.
“Should we call the pro shop and let them know what happened?” I said.
“I’m trying to line up a putt here,” Paul responded.
Brian stifled laughter.
Paul stepped to his putt. He pulled back his putter. Behind him, the goose thrashed to life, flailing and splashing, trying to save itself, but there was nothing that could be done. Brian and I watched in horror. Never, have I witnessed something so primal and sad.
Paul ignored the commotion and sank his putt.
On the way to the next hole, I called the pro shop and told them about the goose.
Several years later, Paul, Brian and our cousin, Andy, were playing at the Oak Island Country Club during the family beach trip to the North Carolina coast. As we pulled up to the fifteenth hole—a par four with a tee shot through a tree chute to a wide fairway lined by wind-gnarled Yaupon trees—dozens of seagulls gathered in the landing area. Brian and I told Andy the story of the goose as we approached the tee.
“Y’all are full of shit,” Andy said.
“No,” Paul said. “They’re not.”
He teed up his ball and stared down the gulls.
“These gulls clearly haven’t heard of me,” Paul said, stepping back from his shot. “Why won’t those fucking things move.”
“If they don’t, it’s their funeral,” I said.
“I almost don’t want to hit until they move,” Paul said.
“Hit the ball, old man river,” Brian said.
Paul started at Brian with his driver like he might beat him with it, then returned to his shot. He lined up and sent a screamer hurtling toward the seagulls. They flew off in different directions.
Except one, which fell from the sky and lay motionless in the fairway.
Brian and I howled in disbelief. Andy shook his head, shocked.
Paul rode with me. He fell silent as we drove up to the motionless seagull. We got out and peered down. The seagull was breathing but had thrown up its lunch. It lay flat on its back with its tongue hanging out, appearing on the verge of death.
“Just run over the thing, Wilson,” Paul said. “Put it out of its misery.”
“Are you insane?” I said. “I’m not running over the thing, you hit it, you run it over.”
“Just do it,” Paul said.
While Paul contemplated whether or not he was willing to run over the seagull, Andy screamed, “Fellas, look!”
We turned to see the seagull stagger drunkenly before flying away sideways against a cloudless sky.
“Ah, the one that got away,” Paul sighed.
He wandered over to his ball, a cigarette dangling from his mouth, and hit another gorgeous, low screamer toward the green. Luckily, no birds crossed its path.
Wilson Koewing is a writer from South Carolina. His work is forthcoming in Fiction on the Web, Gargoyle and Bull: Men’s Fiction. When he’s not writing, which is most of the time, he can be found dropping GIFs on posts all over twitter where he tweets @WKoewing and is occasionally tolerable.