FICTION: Nativity Scene

Golfers drew lots amid hoo-haazs and donnybrooks of hoopla invigorating clubhouse, foursomes crowded around round folding tables food covered food piled round porcelain plates, unheeded air full of dull sound and fork and knife cymbals and cigar smoke swirling around and curling, coming to rest unseen, smoke slicing around slow churning ceiling fans, fading up against sweating wet transom windows.

Open up these transoms why don’t you now, dirty clubhouse cook Harry Green friendly growled to waitress Brilla, turning off breakfast grills and pulling grease traps for cleaning, breakfast behind and prize dinner ahead, day full of rounds of food and drink storied walk and talk all around grounds in middle clubhouse, Oils Club, near refinery and sea and our little town.

Sure and five cool morning when Brilla Solus opened to find place still filthy no note from night crew floor bricks cold and she around wiping and sweeping without yet taking off her jacket or scarf. Harry drawing up around six to fire up grills took bit of chill off and at seven first light club stormed in wanting hot coffees and at eight Brilla carrying four full plates same time out kitchen to dining tables yet topless she hadn’t forgotten tablecloths and wouldn’t it be fine for such nicety but did they want to dress up or eat?

Ain’t piss sorry sordid scandal I get into it with Hopps again, one had not let go his putter through pancake and sausage breakfast scowled.

No worries, Mark, best ball year, not same ball.

I won’t hit same ball as that dipsomaniac again. I won’t. To hell with charity work of it.

Not about charity, fundraiser and all. Fun raiser, too, for that matter.

Charity me I land in group Hopps again.

What did you bring to table? To contribute and share?

Check this out, man, Mark Brandish that name tag boldly proclaimed, snapping green and white bill in that slow man’s face, like spanking new, thousand bucks.

How tactful. Hold back so I can see goddamn thing.

Tactile, you mean. Run your feeling fingers across this warp. That’s enough!

Are these in circulation, name tag Pepe quizzed.

Up to you guys, this weekend, this one could be, Brandish said. 1928, San Francisco.

Hold still and let me see it. Do they say In God We Trust?

Hell, no! There is no God, barked Brandish. Be careful with it. Don’t smudge it.

Grover Cleveland, Pepe read. What about backside?

And check this out, Brandish said. It’s not just any thousand dollar bill either. See that tab on corner? Butterfly, mistake, butterfly error it’s called, really rare, makes bill even more valuable.

More than it promises. So what’s this one worth?

With butterfly error, Brandish said, I think as much as ten grand.

Hoo ha, you don’t say. Why bring it here?

Where did you get it? Matthew Lagu, lacing up mud and black tar caked golf shoes, once white, still sleepy, licking hair of dog, slug mug of coffee Styrofoam cup.

Won it in sales promo. Top dog. Brandish picked up Lagu’s cup and dripped from his lips tar black and brown tobacco juice into it.

Hell, Lagu choked, I was drinking that, man.

Go get yourself some decent coffee some rum in it over to Lucy new cart gal there. I thought your spittoon. Sorry, man. Anyway, top dog, as I was saying, top dog in sales promotion.

Top dodger? John Humulus said, sauntering to and fro, his walking gate.

Hoppy! Pepe Forte sang out.

Bejesus, here he is, just off alley of broken dreams, Brandish said.

What’s word from street of dreams, Hopps? Lagu said.

Street of cracked nightmares, he means, Brandish said.

Big John, Pepe said. Haven’t lately seen of you much.

Don’t get around more any much.

Give us hug you big bear. Get some breakfast, man, going to be today round long haul.

Brilla still serving?

Mark Brandish restored his thousand dollar ice breaker piece to bulging wallet pulled from his right back pocket, billfold attached to his belt with short link chain. Brandish wore starched white shorts with sharp creases and three inch cuffs to knees and candy apple red polo shirt with two crossed golf clubs stitched onto chest pocket tucked there sharp fresh score card folded. Golf shorts lined along side seams navy blue stripes, shirt as light changed through creaky old transoms now being cranked open creamy red, tomato soup. Brandish wore titanium white polished wing tipped golf shoes with dark purple quarter socks.

Clubhouse smoke full and golfers finished plates of runny eggs with fried greasy potatoes with onion and red pepper bits, brittle bacon and plump sausages, plates smeared with toast drawn through red catsup, fat men lighting cigars so big might last front nine, some others still sliding skinny out side door to garden courtyard and practice green cigarettes hanging from hopeful lips curled coughing in morning’s first light.

Cigarettes snuffed into buttery syrupy flapjack tracks. Grease and smoky air, and Lucy and Lilly with roll carts cleaning quickly messed tables, and put some elbow grease in it girls whispered Brilla.

An unnecessary microphone Father Silverfish used regardless spit few sharp and flat hissy notes through tube amplifier and all those shifting men winced as if hit in eyes by flying insects.

Good morning, men, everyone and all, and now, please, official hello and welcome to sure our 40th annual Saint Brigid Christmas golf tournament weekend, fellow with Roman collar who did not need microphone but used it anyway. I like to call it our Advent tourney, don’t you know, as some of you know, because of course we also play just after Easter, Lent past, but you know, and many may not know, how we decide when is Easter Sunday, and of course answer is first Sunday following first full moon of spring equinox. And many don’t know because of course don’t you think it sounds sort of pagan and all. But here we are now our Saturday Saturnalia waiting for our birth of Jesus. Full of celebration we are our church of celebrations.

But wouldn’t you know next year our Spring tourney falls on Easter weekend itself, and we’ll find ourselves lacing up golf shoes on links on Good Friday of all days. And wouldn’t you know, and you might have heard, our beloved straw doll Jesus missing from his Christmas Creche porch of Brigid church.

At such bad news golfers they howled and banged tables.

But we’ll get alternate but of course raise funds for Brigid now isn’t it after all we are here, and that is Easter duty too don’t you know, of course you do. But for now stuff your pockets with mulligans and raffle tickets and contest each hole prizes of course sure there is.

Now, we’ve important announcements to make, get off to good start, so please listen up as Mr. Maccabee you know sure of Maccabee’s Bar and Gruel gives us final foursomes and rules we must all sure follow up and up of course and now before I hand our microphone to Mac quick prayer and blessing that our mission remain clear and bright.

Oh, Lord, Heavenly Mate, may we hit our balls straight and long as we remember those in Brigid parish in need of your gifts and but our gifts too to make ends meet sure that’s why we’re here to help our poor our money poor and our spiritual poor and have some fun and win prize to bargain as we welcome our fine Advent weather not like our old country I can tell you sure.

Thank you, Father Silverfish, that elder Maccabee grabbing microphone symbol of order and authority necessary and looking nine months with child himself now beer bellied out, burp blurted into it. Now guys, let’s listen up to our final foursomes and get into our foursomes together each at their own table so we can hand out tickets and tchotchkes and such and take some side bets and get going down to our first tee.

And then went down to tee whir of electric carts and walking lugging carts too, pull and carry bags, and some there were tugging full bore pro staff bags, and clickety click of golf shoe spiked cadence so random as they would hit followed paved path down to starting foursome all gathered gangle gaggle of ganders to watch first hits find fairway or as likely not.

Were such sea real sea they would have drowned straight away, trying to paddle out, pounded as they were in their so-called middle to late middle to dark ages though none knew they might have been young, old, or ancient, but it was not real sea, though it rolled and heaved with swells sand traps and myriad moral and morale hazards.

Maccabee party moving off tee, starter’s voice hidden in shed behind Rose of Sharon bush hedge crackled.

Silverfish party up, crackle.

Forte party on deck, smackle.

Crux party in hole, dackle.

Girls sloven Harry Green called though Brilla old enough to be his mother, Lucy and Lilly, smoke them if you got them, and these women relaxed now cigarette smoke more blue than cigar smoke and they talked over one another flopping in cushioned couched break room above kitchen with picture window view of first tee.

How long our break, youngest Lucy asked Lilly.

If time has no beginning and no end, Lilly said, are we not then in some middle of time all this time? That why I feel so always tired?

If life is infinite, well, not life, but universe, Lucy said, we’re all middle of life, but no, you’re much older, you are, yes Brilla?

Thanks, Lucy. Always nice to be reminded of one’s age.

But what about Big Bang Lilly put in.

Big what? said Brilla.

Big fucking Bang, scientists call it, don’t you know, and like whistles across pitches it’s got them all hard with their shafts waiting and balls now in play, burning across eternal sky.

No idea what you’re talking about, dear, Brilla said.

Just like these men to think everything play always, infinite number of holes behind and ahead, Lucy said.

Games, house rules. No rules, no game, just chaos. But time has rules, see. You can’t go backwards, for example, Lilly said.

And is this shite you twos be bringing home to your hardworking parents spending stash on your schooling? Brilla said. Jesus but I’m glad I’ll never go to college they call it what waste unless of course you marry up to likes of Mr. Brandish there flapping around his big bill and what kind of time spent in purgatory married to that fart bag I’d rather stay alone single and lonely sure but warm air in my room my own.

Nor forward, really, if you think about it, Lilly said, rearranging herself on cushions. Forever stuck in muck of now. Can’t skip ahead. Not like board game, move ahead three in one roll.

Sleep, though, Lucy said. Wake up and it’s new time. First thing people want to know, what time it is, as if some significant time has passed. Clock right there bedside as if sleep being clocked like our timecard clock. And it’s ten minutes after you nodded off book on your chest.

They lounged and smoked and talked and through picture windows watched little men hit one by one, tee off start of Advent golf.

That’s true, Brilla said. How long did I sleep I want to know. Not that it makes much difference. Always disappointed, waking up tired.

Lucy got up and stretched and let her legs into little dance as she sang wake on wake off, wake on wake off, stroking her hand part of dance, and they all laughed and that late man Harry Green came out porch break room what’s so funny to bring them away from their break and get back to work.

Time for carts, girls, that’s what it is now, loads of indulgences don’t you know, and tips galore to them what knows how to smile don’t you know, Lucy, your first time out and all. You too, Brilla, and that woman let that man have her fist against his chest and Harry Green coughing and laughing said let’s load up snack and drink carts now and get circulating round our course. Round and round we go where we stops nobody knows but always same don’t you know round and round we go.

It was midnight time Brilla got back to her apartment walking away from Oils in cold night brilliant air big fat no to Harry Green’s offer ride for her up to her place. She was tired. She climbed wood stairs to her studio loft, let herself in, and warmed some milk to sit and drink bit of peace before turning in and back to Oils come sunup. She sat in her swag covered chair and reached in and stroked forehead of straw baby Jesus in his crib and said aloud prayer for all lonely hearts worldwide our Advent and sure why not go out and steal Jesus for some company this our Advent. She even thought she heard some faint cry coming from his crib and pulled up his blanket to his chin and arranged some straw to cover his bare head, and she fell asleep in her chair and in the morning did not have to ask what time was it.

Joe Linker is a West-Coast writer and the author of Alma Lolloon (2017), Saltwort (2017) and Penina's Letters (2016). He blogs regularly at The Coming of the Toads. 

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