The following day, Sunday, while so many fraternized in their churches, Danny and Landon met. As they had planned, they drank before golf in the Seraville cantina next to the pool. The sun splashed the vast island of concrete on which Los Angeles was situated. Its earliest rays were warm on this day, as if to inspire the young birds to stumble early onto new songs. Considering today’s ripe warmth, Danny and Landon felt less guilty about their orders, many Corona’s and limes. The two played golf together on a monthly basis. Danny dominated, incontestably, the score sheet. Landon didn’t mind.
“Excellent morning for golf, eh?” asked Landon in the form of a greeting.
“Definitely,” said Danny, taking a sip of his beer. “Did you participate in any shenanigans last night?”
“Sure. I met up with a couple friends of mine, hung around and did the usual, but I slumbered early—I need to beat you someday.”
“Well, today might be your day. After last night I drank a coffee mug of wine, listened to Led Zeppelin and smoked my hookah with weed in it. I by no means feel athletic or capable, but you know what they say: Golf is 90% mental and just 50% physical,” Danny philosophized comedy with a smile smeared across his face.
“Didn’t Yogi Berra say that about baseball?”
“Last night, Landon, I looked up pot in the dictionary.” Danny suddenly said and a silence fell upon their table.
“You looked pot up in the thesaurus?”
Without segue, Landon reverted back to the earlier topic: Anyway, I think Yogi Berra had a point. He had his own logic. Good for him. Logic is little more than the standardization of thought within an individual.
“I know not to question the logic passed down from our forefathers, Landon. It paved the way for someone as successful as I, did it not?”
“Weren’t you deemed clinically insane a couple years ago? Remember, that nervous breakdown you had where you…?”
“Nervous breakdown? Psh!” Danny interrupted in a deep voice. “Was that really a nervous breakdown? I didn’t know they could last the better part of a decade. I thought I had just lost it.”
“Lost, you know, it. Don’t they teach you anything at the University?”
“What, how to be sane? Are you crazy? Society is made up of belief processes that birth action institutionalized, Danny, which behave like and are viewed as persons. Religious, political, academic, monetary, ecclesiastical, all of which play some role in the order of shit and the shit has been hitting the roof for the better part 6,000 years; it just so happens that these days University serves the purpose of indebting the better-to-do classes while they’re horny and young. It’s the modern vehicle of indentured servitude parading under the moniker of knowledge and enlightenment.”
“Oh, Landon, how would you get a good job without the good education?” a half-hearted Danny said before he took a gulp of his now half-finished beer.
“At University, you learn from an authority, who learned from an authority, who learned from an authority. The titles people wear and the mythology of borders are in minds, just like the rules that give this lawn of eighteen holes a form and a meaning. The President showers naked, but in $3,000 suit nobody can imagine he’s spent a moment of his life vulnerable and unsure.”
“Hmm,” Danny replied, and then called over the morning bartender and paid the tab, where after the two made their way to the first hole. They did not use caddies for their highly scripted sojourn along the golf course, for privacy liberated themselves to each other. On the way to their tee off they walked in silence, save for a few quick quips regarding the outmoded attire of others. Their tee-time was scheduled for 9:15 AM. It was now 9:22, rather punctual for these two. “What’s your favorite Led Zeppelin album?” Landon asked. “I’m not sure, Lando, but that’s a good question. Led Zeppelin was a premonition. They gave rock n’ roll balls. Most people don’t associate punk and Led Zeppelin, but was Led Zeppelin not punk as fuck?”
“I’m probably not old enough to tell, but when I think of punk in the seventies I think of Strummer and the Clash, and try not to think of the Sex Pistols. Strummer nailed down the motifs of the counter culture: Vietnam, bankers, what have you.”
“Or what have you not. All right Lando, point taken. But, I’ll go on thinking Led Zeppelin was punk.”
Danny then took a step back from the ball he had placed upon the tee and looked in the direction of the hole ahead. He scrunched his eyes, positioned himself and took some practice swings before taking a step forward, aligning himself with the tee. Then, after peering once more with scrunched eyes at the offing, he took a shot—a solid one, indeed.
“I thought you had stayed up all night.”
“Yeah, it doesn’t matter. I got game.”
Then Landon went through his personal routine, faring well with his shot; in fact, better than Danny. The two departed from the tee of the first hole, opening up further a landscape between them and the club lobby which stood adjacent to a walking path behind the first hole. On their left-hand side was the chosen hill which carried the Country Club like a tray upon a servers palm. The landscape wore cactuses, whose pyrogenic seeds cracked while besieged by past conflagrations, and was dotted by an array of shrubs covering the land—like a pimple rising to the surface of skin. During the sunlit hours, hawks and crows surveyed the sand and dirt for snakes and rodents, killing time until they bestowed the day unto owls and orchestral crickets. Danny took a three-iron out of his bag and rounded his ball.
“You mentioned something about institutions earlier. Do you disbelieve in them? And believe that if all institutions were abolished, humanity would evolve complementary and become beneficial to all,” asked Danny.
“That is probably a gross oversimplification of what I think.”
“The institutions are to the social environment what erratic rocks from the Ice Age are to the environment’s biology: archaic and mammoth boulders difficult to move, but prone, nonetheless, to the violent and displacing seizures of Nature.” Landon said. “Our institutions obfuscate the myriad ways in which they hail from failed times, simply because they helped gives rise to ourselves,” Landon said, more or less wondering out loud.
“Thus, we fail cumulatively.”
“You know that in hunter and gatherer societies the people are the masters of their institutions, not the other way around; when some practice or ritual needs revision, the community tends to do the revising. Their institutions bend to the will of the people: One not attached to form, need not be reformed—advice we ought, perhaps, to heed.” With that said, Danny drove the ball to the green, setting himself up for one final putt.
Landon exhaled a bit, not out of panic, but instead to tune his focus. Seemingly free from the consideration of taking a practice shot or two, he drove the ball directly into a rough patch nudged up against the underbelly of the graded green. Face down, he got his bag and they walked toward their lies.
“Do you have any idea what you’d like to do, Landon? You have just a year left in a college career you started late, your earning power is in this day and age, well, dust like in terms of the global economy, and there’s no need to mention your golf game.”
“Dust like, eh? That’s good enough for me. I was thinking sort of atom like. Anyway, in the survival of those who fit in best, I don’t matter. I’ve got plenty to offer, despite, and so I think you should invest in me.”
“Thank you Landon, but there’s no need for that—I invest in gold bullion.”
Landon reeled his facial features inwards and scrunched his eyes, shooting Danny a terse look that was met with a grin and a glare smeared by design like sophisticated finger painting. The two smiled and Danny made his putt. So too did Landon, albeit by way of a nice shot from the rough. Meanwhile, whilst walking along the path next to the Club’s Lobby, Mr. Avery spoke to a new employee, Sutekh Skorzeny, who was but one part of the torrent of changes rolling over the club.
“What sort of safety system do you have in mind, Mr. Avery?” the new Director of Safety inquired.
“Well, I plan on throwing a healthy sum of money at this project. I don’t want it to be obsolete in two weeks time, you know.”
“Of course, sir, of course. Might I then suggest—since the land sits on a 150 acre swathe—say, 200 cameras for now; the businesses in the mall, as private enterprise, will already be required to install their own.”
“Yes, and the way in which the land was used makes for wide open spaces, just the terrain on which a lion hunts for cattle.
“Sure—we’ll begin there,” Mr. Skorzeny replied hesitatingly, thrown of by the symbolism. “I imagine coordination with the mall will lead to new ideas.” He looked his counterpart up and down for good measure.
Mr. Avery and Mr. Skorzeny strolled past George, the head gardener at Seraville, while he trimmed back a bushel of blueberry plants growing parallel to the walkway separating the lobby from the first hole. George spoke with a lisp and walked with a limp. He never did well at school and was once told by a seventh grade teacher that his penmanship resembled that of Helen Keller. George carried that remark with him through all these years. Thankfully, he thought it a compliment. Helen Keller wrote beautiful prose, hadn’t she? And with that thought he was exactly correct, but few others saw the merit in his line of reasoning.
And now, tending the clean cut acreage, he mumbled to himself various non-sequiturs. Clouds scrolled across the sky, and a dose of sun aided him in his task. The Los Angeles sky was a foray of sounds as the birds and the insects lived incessantly to outdo one another, both gaining and losing, all an attempt merely to strike a balance. Although the natural was suppressed by the cacophony of the city, the city had no pity. On the course that day, also, was Charles Huntington, known as Chuckie while he was a young child, and these days, simply, Chuck. He seldom humored George with drivel, even less often with dialogue of inter-essence, but decided to do so now—that momentaneous certain uncertainty.
“George, how do ya do?”
“Howdy sir, I’m doing well, sir. How about you, sir?” George shifted from one foot to the other and stared at the hefty sheers in his hands.
“Oh, I’m doing just fine, thanks. Enjoying a day on the course. You do a great job with the upkeep of the place. Do you know that, George?”
“Thank you sir, that really does mean a lot. People mention it from time to time, but I tend to just take it as a manners thing.” His lisp forced an f at the beginning of ‘thing.’
“Well, it’s not just that George, we mean it—if you ever want anything, you can ask a good number of us for uh favor.”
“Thanks, Mr. Huntington. Enjoy the back half of your game.”
“And you enjoy the rest of your day.” Mr. Huntington turned from George and headed back towards his gear, where his golfing partners and two club caddies were left in waiting. They continued their game and George continued his work. George felt well after his encounter with Chuck, once Chuckie, and officially Charles. From the offing reverberated hip-hop, seductively taming molecules of air and easing George’s attention, as he liked the rhythm for the orgy of emotions it conjured within. In Mr. Avery’s second storey office above the lobby, the obsessive-compulsive conversation between him and Sutekh lingered on.
“Now, Mr. Skorzeny, I want to think big. There is a lot of flux in the markets right now, and I don’t want to be elbowed out. We’ve got to give our members a stake in the sort of moral club we’d like to see.”
“Well, how big are you thinking?”
“I’m thinking as big as we can; for instance, ways of making our members mentally and physically prepared for their lives—electromagnetic frequencies pushing out a certain amount of hertz, those frequencies known to affect human biological and mental functioning for the better.” Sutekh cocked his head to the side and he wondered what sort of insanity he had gotten himself into by accepting the job. He should have stayed with his Intelligence job, he thought. He suppressed the thought deep inside himself, nodding his head and forcing a smile. But seriously, he thought—still to himself—what sent Avery off the deep-end?
“Yeah okay, I guess I’ve heard of such things,” In science-fiction, he thought to himself.
“We’ll look into it. Let’s ask some of our members connected with companies involved in such operations.”
“Oh, I’m sure we can get into touch with the military directly, living in Southern California and all. We are a well known club, been around since the days of the sons of the railroad tycoons, since the days when the California bight was scarcely populated. It should be no problem, Mr. Skorzeny.”
“I’m on it, Mr. Avery.” He pushed back his chair and straightened his knees. With a wink and a nod, he left the office. Avery took a cigar from his desk drawer and lit it. He leaned back in his recliner.
The yoke which knitted skies, seas and continents made feelers, shapers, introducers of novelty, ears and eyes out of creatures great and small. The club—crude in its relative youth—was but a vault swinging finitely amidst this infinite orb. While its collectivity was a pendulum, and the roles the members played their guides, interchange spawned the refashioning in blinks of time enclaved in geologic seizures and yawns. Addicted to the tyranny of belonging, their selves were increasingly subjugated to a carapace that let them be among such a felicitous crowd as this. This carapace, upon removal from one setting to another, was swiftly shed for a total change in conversation, opinion, and idea—new skin: each was one, but plural too. Yet, without trees of assorted shapes and sizes—and the advices and ancient secrets each timber acquired from its own interactions with expression—there can be no forest erupting in choral diversity.
The club would, as all things, one day wither and fade under the stress of monotony. Saliva swapped in the affair of existence and furthered the raveling and unraveling of all there is, and a subsequent creativity festooned the details. Windy kisses swirled around the club and the city, wrapping themselves around the trees and the buildings and the people. Much as the people gave to the city its character, the people meshed with the animals. Once students in the ways of the hunt, curiously studying the leopard, the jaguar, the eagle, wolf, and bear, and now attired in furs and imitations of other species, their human persistence was not solely of their own accord. Flora and Fauna, reptiles and mammals are vestiges in the forgetful minds of humans, overlooked by people in ivory towers in the city centers.
Club members and city dwellers surrendered what they saw to what the others had already and will have seen; the multitude of the past and the multitude of the future. Borrowing ghostly memories from our ancestors and partaking in a hunch that passes for reality, they themselves were the only learning devices they would ever need. They sacrificed this ultimately finite, but combinatorial infinite, knowledge in order to suffer silently alone, rarely discovering suffering alone they were not and never had. With Avery’s speech the club had been born anew, and accumulation of experiences fresh with the scent of change lied ahead.
Danny squared himself up to the last drive of the day, when a great break in calm moments erupted as an earthquake. He looked forward, towards Landon, whose eyes were hard-boiled eggs in sockets. Mouth agape, he uttered the obvious: “That’s an earthquake!”
On the golf course, everyone stood still. Elsewhere, in the buildings of the club and in the city, sequestered persons scattered about, stripped of the illusion of safety. The drinks before the game had made Landon’s and Danny’s stomachs uneasy. As they stood in the tide of seismic ripples, they slowly turned blue. As the quake began, Danny and Landon had made eye contact with the players around them, but now their concentration collapsed in on itself and converted all of its energy towards remaining composed. The shaking did not stop, however, for what seemed to be a very long time. Their needle vision was a laser piercing through all distraction as they tried to focus.
Danny opened his mouth and held his breath, and started to heave. He began to vomit. Landon turned to avoid the sight, but the movement itself was too much and he followed suit. The slimy yellow-red liquid turned the grass below from a dark green to a cocktail of primary colors. The shaking subsided. Hands on their knees, Danny and Landon stood ass-to-ass. Huntington and his partners looked on.
“You two okay over there?” he asked.
“Yes, sir!” Landon yelled, hands on knees, hoping this incident was not to get him fired.
“That just took us a little bit by surprise,” Danny said.
“Mmhmm,” Mr. Huntington responded. “Have a late night last night?”
“An early morning,” Danny replied.
“Shut up, Danny! I work here,” Landon whispered angrily.