The other night, I had a dream. I was driving to work when my car died right near the Charlotte Country Club. I’d passed the exclusive club hundreds of times, but never had a reason to go in. I’d given up golf years before. But here I was in need of help, and walking up the gloriously manicured drive toward the security booth was my only option. It was raining. And cold. And I forgot to charge my phone the night before, so it was dead. I also didn’t have an umbrella. Upon seeing me, the security guard stepped outside of his booth with his hand on his revolver.
“Can I help you sir?” He shouted from about 20 yards away.
“Yes.” I said, jogging toward him.
The guard pulled his gun. “Hold it right there sir.” When I didn’t, he fired a shot. I hit the ground.
“What the hell is that?!” I yelled. He came running over.
“Are you hurt?” He asked, as he holstered his weapon and extended a hand.
“My car broke down. Just outside the gate.” I said as the rain pelted us.
“Let’s get you dried off.” he said. Then he pulled out his radio, pressed a button and said, “We’ve got a Black 47 at the front gate.” To which another man immediately responded, “Roger. On our way.”
The guard then opened an umbrella and held it over me, “They’ll be right over to take you to the clubhouse. Sorry about firing the shot. They’re blanks. It’s standard protocol whenever we have a dignitary visit.”
A black stretch golf cart pulled up and the guard said, “Well, here you are. Enjoy your day, sir.” I then took a seat in the back of the stretch golf cart, which was heated with leather seats
“You can help yourself to a drink if you’d like.” said the man in the black hat who was driving the cart. “We’ll be there in just a few minutes.”
When I didn’t go for the bottle of champagne right away, he looked back over his shoulder at me and insisted, “No really, go ahead. Enjoy.” When he turned back to driving, he pressed both feet onto the brake pedal and the cart came to a screeching halt inches short of slamming into a group of men wearing dark sunglasses and tangerine colored shorts. The men all yelled “WHOA!” And I immediately recognized one of them as Speaker of the House John Boehner, as he was the only one not wearing sunglasses. Boehner peered inside the stretch cart and then continued walking across the path.
“Well, you may as well get out here, sir.” the driver said to me. “Just follow those men into the clubhouse on your left.”
I jumped out and ran to catch up with the men in the tangerine shorts. Upon entering the clubhouse I was amazed by the decor. Dark chestnut walls were adorned with narrow, gold framed mirrors that stretched from the floor to the top of the twelve foot ceilings.
“You!” a man’s voice came from across the room. “Why aren’t you in uniform?” It was Boehner, flanked by a half-dozen men who were all staring at me as I stood dripping wet in the center of the room.
Boehner then turned and said something to a man standing behind him who pulled a pair of tangerine shorts out of a black case and walked them over to me. “Put these on.” he said.
“Snap snap.” Boehner added. “My window for ripping up this course is closing fast.”
Before I could unsnap my jeans, Boehner’s men formed a circle around me with their backs turned. I donned the orange shorts, and the men broke formation. “That’s it then,” Boehner said. “Let’s go.” Then he turned and walked through another door leading to the pro shop. I followed.
Inside the pro shop the men procured twelve dozen Nike 20XI-S balls, and a long-handled Ping Excalibur putter with a gold shaft. “Who is the putter for?” I asked one of the men. He nodded in the direction of Boehner who was now engaged in a friendly conversation with the pro behind the counter as he signed the boxes of balls. “He always uses a new putter from the pro shop he’s visiting.” the man said.
I was standing in the back of the room when one of Boehner’s men walked over and handed me a bright blue polo shirt, and a pair of white golf shoes. “You’re about an 11, right?” I nodded. “Put these on.” Then he snapped his fingers and once again the men formed a circle around me with their backs turned. I changed, the men scattered, and Boehner was standing a few feet away smiling. “Are you ready?” I wasn’t, but nodded anyway. He turned and headed for the door.
“Excuse me, Mr. Speaker…” I said.
The men froze. Boehner stopped and turned back to me with a raised eyebrow.
“It’s just that, well, it’s raining, sir.” I managed to say. The men around Boehner laughed muffled laughs.
“Oh, it’s going to be fine, son.” Boehner said. “Now if you don’t mind, we’ve got a tee time to make.” Then he nodded to one of his men who tapped on a tablet device and looked out at the dark, wet course. The sky began to clear and within seconds, the course was flooded in sunlight. Boehner looked back at me and smiled. One of his men held open the door and Boehner stepped outside where a group of older white men were waiting for The Speaker to walk past. Boehner smiled, shook hands with these men, and handed each of them a dozen golf balls. He then took a deep breath, and rubbed his hands together. “Another beautiful day on the course.” he said. “Let’s rock this.”
At this point I’m obviously starting to freak out a little. First of all, my car is sitting outside the gate of the country club and I couldn’t remember whether or not I locked it. The other thing was, and this can’t be understated, I hand’t played golf in over a decade. I was sure to embarrass myself.
A perfectly-tanned John Boehner placed a dazzling white ball atop a hot-pink tee in the first box, and proceeded to smack a drive 325 yards down the center of the fairway. All of the men clapped. Boehner smiled, and nodded in the direction of the older white men with the new golf balls who were clapping from the edge of the clubhouse. Then he turned to me and said, “You’re up, young man.”
One of Boehner’s men handed me a driver, a ball, and a tee. I punched the tee into the soft ground, and addressed the ball. I settled my hips and balanced my hands below my waist. As I went into my backswing I noticed that the ease of the motion felt different than ever before. Then I exploded through the ball in my downswing and it disappeared into the bright blue sky at a trajectory that would put it somewhere near the green. Boehner snapped his head in my direction and scowled. “Well, then.” he said as he handed his driver to one of his men. He turned his back to me and began marching up the fairway. Another man replaced my driver with a putter, and jogged to catch up with Boehner.
Was this real? Was I somehow a good golfer now? Could I sustain it? The answer was yes. Except – I wasn’t a good golfer, I was a great one. I proceeded to accurately pound the ball off of every tee, consistently employ a deft touch with every approach, and kiss every putt like I was sinking an eight-ball into the side pocket with a felt-tipped cue. By the time we made the turn, I was up on Boehner by 9 strokes. His scowl turned to something like amazement around the fourth hole, and by the time we reached the tenth, he was engaging me in dialogue as though I was a familiar golf buddy. His men gave us the space to talk privately as we walked the back nine together. But I noticed the more we talked, the better he played. He won the twelfth and thirteenth holes on chip ins, and was on his way to eagling the fourteenth when he caught sight of the drink girl coming up the path.
“Jesus, what is she doing out here?” He said. “Men? Men, do you not see this?” As soon as he said this, the men in the tangerine shorts sprinted over to cut off the drink girl, but she’d gained some steam and was heading straight for us. I held up my hand to signal her. I was thirsty. Boehner noticed this and said, “Put that down!” Slapping my hand.
“Dude!” I said in response to the hand slap.
Boehner snapped his head in my direction with raised brows, furrowed forehead, and perfect hair. His blazing blue eyes cutting right through me. I shrunk away from him and he turned back toward the cart girl.
“Howdy! Thirsty?” The cute girl said as she locked the brake and stepped away from the cart. “I have it all. Just say the word.”
“I’ll take a water.” I said.
“Is that all?” She asked.
Boehner smiled at the girl and signaled for one of his men, who brought over a dozen golf balls. “Just the one water is fine, sweetie.” he said.
“Are you sure?” she said. “I mean it sure did turn out to be a pretty day. Be a shame not to enjoy a cold beer as you finish up.”
Boehner forced another smile and said, “Just the water, dear.” handing the girl a box of golf balls as payment. Then he added, “Oh, are those barbecue potato chips?”
The girl beamed and said, “Yup. Best on the course!” and threw him a bag.
“Thanks, doll, that will be all.” said Boehner who then opened the bag of chips offering me first dibs. “Go ahead, you know you want some.”
I did. I was famished. So I reached in and took out two of the larger chips, making sure not to touch any of the others.
“Do you know what make barbecue potato chips so good?” he asked.
I shook my head.
“Because they’re made with P-26.” he said.
“P-26?” I asked.
“Yes, it’s a certain chemical that triggers a chemical reaction in your brain that makes you crave them. You don’t realize this, of course, because all you can think about is getting as much of that salty, barbecuey flavor onto your tongue.” he said, as I reached into the bag for more chips. “The funny thing about P-26, though, is that it directly affects your ability to judge depth. It’s not dramatic, mind you, but we tested the chemical on the battlefield and discovered that even our most consistent marksmen missed their targets shortly after a small dose of P-26. It only lasts a short while, but this is the kind of edge you need in war. That’s why we started parachuting in bags of barbecue potato chips in Taliban strongholds in Afghanistan. And now, they can’t get enough of them. It’s like opium. Which makes it ironic, of course. Oh, and we drop them into Pakistan too, but that’s confidential.”
I was reaching for another handful of chips when I realized that he wasn’t eating any. Instead, he just stood there smiling at me. “You bastard.” I said.
His smile widened. “Son, you don’t get to my place in the world by being an idiot. When you’re in the business of politics, you do whatever it takes to enforce your will and ensure victory.”
He won the fourteenth hole, and because he told me about the P-26 I was able to compensate for my depth perception shortfall well enough not to get buried over the final four holes. As we walked up the eighteenth fairway we were tied. A crowd of white men with white hair gathered around the green. In the distance a storm raged, but we were still under an umbrella of fair weather. I hit my approach thin, and left Boehner with an opportunity to win the round. But just as he struck his putt, a shot rang out. It was the security guard. Some unidentifiable person must have approached the gate. Boehner shanked the putt sending the ball to the apron on the far side of the green. The crowd gasped and turned toward the front gate. Boehner then threw the Ping Excalibur into the lake, where a woman rose up out of the water, caught it, and submerged with it. As I addressed my five foot putt, I could feel the affects of the P-26 fading. I took a breath and struck the ball solidly and true. It clanked when it hit the bottom of the cup. I had won. I’d just beaten Speaker of the House John Boehner in a round of golf. No one clapped. Instead, everyone turned to Boehner who was standing at the edge of the green staring at me with a forced smile. He then turned to his man with the tablet device, and nodded. A burst of wind brought a sudden downpour, and clouds overtook the sun.
Boehner then walked up to me, handed me a dozen golf balls and said, “You play a wolfish style of golf, young man. I’ll give you that.” Then he offered me a handshake. When I took it, he pulled me close and whispered, “Just remember this, when you’re back at your tiny house in your tiny neighborhood later, I’ll be on a private jet to Pebble Beach.” Then he smiled and walked away. But before he reached the clubhouse door, he turned and said, “Oh, and I’ll need to get those shorts back.” His men encircled me again so that I could remove the shorts. I was immediately handed my jeans, which were freshly cleaned and pressed.
“What about the shoes?” I called out to Boehner.
“Keep them.” he said.
And he was gone.
I was escorted by a course employee around the side of the clubhouse to the back where my car was waiting for me. Running. “We fixed it up for you, and filled it with gas.” he said. “Please understand that today was an anomaly. In no way are you ever invited back to the Charlotte Country Club.”
I cleaned off my spikes and got into the car. I rode past the security booth and noticed a man walking up the drive. As I turned the corner to head to work, a shot rang out. And I woke up.