This story is by James Flanigan and was part of our 2018 Summer Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
Ted Davison had not been in this position for quite some time. He was using his putter to help line-up his next shot, a putt that he now considered the most important of his life. It was a putt that just a few months ago he had been unable to envision attempting. Ted was still re-learning to walk back then, and the thought that he would ever be in a position to attempt such an important putt had been an inconceivable concept for him to grasp. At that time, Ted was hopeful that he would someday walk unaided again.
Neither driver expected the impact many months before. Ted was driving home after another late night at work, or at least that was the story he told his wife. Truth be told, Ted had just broken off an affair he never actually had. Oh, the intent was there, as were the dinners, drinks, and flirting. But the consummation of the affair never materialized. He and his wife had a new baby daughter, and he was determined to work out the differences he had with his wife. Ted hoped that most of those differences had been caused by mood swings of both he and his wife during the pregnancy and after the birth. The nascent affair was over, and Ted had hoped that chapter was in his past.
Ted had been fumbling to plug in his phone with the dying battery so he could read a text, perhaps from his spurned erstwhile quasi-lover as the stoplight had changed from red to green. Ted had just begun accelerating his vehicle into the intersection when the impact occurred. To his left, there was a large semi-trailer truck that had stopped at the red light. There was no way that Ted could have expected that a 2014 Chevrolet Malibu traveling in the left lane next to the semi would not stop. The large truck completely obscured the Chevy from Ted’s view as it barreled into the intersection at full speed. Nobody is certain why the driver of the Malibu failed to stop for the red light, although his blood alcohol level measured at almost four times the legal limit was explanation enough. The other driver was severely intoxicated, and could not recall even getting into his vehicle, not to mention running a red light.
The impact had been sudden. Ted was unable to recall seeing the other car at all. The truck driver who was stopped at the red light was a perfect eyewitness. He reported to the police that the driver of the Chevy was traveling at an extremely high rate of speed, well in excess of the posted forty-five mile per hour speed limit. No mention was ever made of Ted’s cell phone fumbling. Ted’s driver-side door and his body were crushed upon impact. Mercifully, Ted was immediately rendered unconscious as the two vehicles became one T-shaped mess of twisted metal, broken glass, and mangled bodies.
It is a credit to modern automotive safety engineering that both men survived, although there were times in the subsequent months that both men questioned if survival was the best option. The pain for both was horrendous, and not just the physical pain, but the mental anguish both felt. This was not the intoxicated driver’s first infraction for driving under the influence. He recovered from his severe injuries while in police custody, trying desperately to remember details about that night and the accident. Ted would remain a free man legally, but a prisoner trapped in a crushed and broken body. He had survived the crash, but he could not escape the crushing guilt he felt about the affair and cell phone.
Ted’s road to recovery was an undulating path of highs and lows, although the forays into the depths seemed to outnumber the occasional summit of a peak. Ted’s broken bones healed in time, aided by a metal plate and screws to reassemble his shattered pelvis. Traction had not been a fun time for Ted. He had been suspended from cables like a marionette for weeks immediately after the accident, and any little movement of a muscle had sent painful shocks throughout his body. Ted was physically a completely broken man.
There is a saying that time heals all wounds. Ted had not been prepared for how long of a time it would take for all his physical and mental wounds to fully heal. During the time that Ted could not drive a car, it had been virtually impossible for Ted to even ride in a car. His head would get sore from swiveling side to side as he watched and braced for the impending impact that never came.
To the view of the casual observer, Ted’s physical wounds eventually appeared to have completely healed. Ted knew they had not. Although the surface of his skin was healed, albeit scarred, he could feel with each step, each movement that he would never be quite the same inside. Each session of physical therapy had torn at the scar tissue inside; opening old wounds in an attempt to enable complete healing that would never be fully realized.
Ted had never imagined during all those months of recovery and therapy that he would ever be on a golf course again. He imagined golf as a memory from his past, but here he was on a course again. He couldn’t say that it felt good physically, but mentally he was optimistic as he had stepped up to the first tee box.
However, the front nine did not go well. He was fifteen strokes behind his opponent at the halfway point. Putting it charitably, Ted’s short game was terrible. He could still read the greens well, but was unable to turn that into an effective shot. Putts were pulled left or faded right. They came up short or hit the cup hard and rimmed out. But then there was an incident on the ninth hole that started the turnaround.
As Ted lined up his putt for par on the ninth, he could see his opponent openly rooting for him. Not verbally, because golf protocol requires everyone to be all hush-hush when someone’s putting. But Ted looked up briefly and could see the encouragement in his opponent’s eyes. Unfortunately, not keeping his eyes on the ball cost him as his putt rolled left and he accepted a bogey for the ninth hole. But from that hole on, Ted was a different player and his golf comeback was in full swing.
That encouragement lit a fire under his short game for the back nine. The muscle memory was returning and Ted scored pars, birdies and even an eagle. He reached the eighteenth hole tied with his opponent, and faced a long putt that could put him ahead and get him a win his first time back on a course.
This was not an easy putt to make, but Ted’s confidence was back. The onlookers were cheering. He could see his opponent no longer was overtly rooting for him. His opponent must have sensed certain victory slipping away.
Ted read the lie carefully. It was a downhill run with a break to the left. Just a tap was all the ball needed with a little nudge to the left. As he set up the shot, sweat ran down Ted’s nose and dripped onto the ball. As he wiped the sweat off his face, he stole a glance at his opponent’s feet and noticed a drop of moisture falling from above. Was it nervous sweat from his opponent at the thought of losing? He wasn’t sure, but he knew what he had to do.
Ted drew his putter back and nudged it left. The ball rolled directly towards the cup, but the nudge turned out to be less of a nudge and more of a purposeful touch. The ball came up just short of the cup. Ted did his best to conceal a smile. If Ted could just tap the ball in, he would finish eighteen holes even with his opponent.
Ted looked at his opponent and said, “Hey son, do you mind tapping that in for me?” With the slowly rotating windmill of the eighteenth hole at this back, nine year old Ted Jr. gladly obliged and took care of the tap in with a smile on his face that spread from ear to ear. “Good round Dad,” Ted Jr. said beaming at his old man. The onlookers consisting of his wife and toddler daughter cheered and clapped for the tie, although his beautiful daughter clapped more just for the sake of clapping. Even the giant clown’s head on the first hole with the tunnel through its mouth was smiling in their direction. “That’s enough putting for today. Let’s return these putters and get some ice cream,” suggested Ted. His family agreed enthusiastically.