bog is the designated water trap of the thirteenth hole at British
Hills Country Club in Wheeling. It's a deep, mysterious body of
water, and besides a few thousand golf balls that disappear annually
in its muddy depths, nobody quite knows what the bog contains: perhaps
bodies of dead golfers who've been known to disappear around these
parts, perhaps even, something tantamount to the Loch Ness monster.
In any event, this bog, also known as Golfer's Bog, is something
of a tourist trap. It's a golfers trap too, of course, which is
part of the reason hole thirteen is a par six, but every now and
then you can see people who have no interest in golf whatsoever
standing on the muddy banks of the bog, peering into its murky depths.
They like to stand there and watch the huge, mammoth sized, resident
carp, roil to the surface in the afternoon sun, their small mouths
making sucking sounds until evening when they sink back down to
the fathomless depths like old rotted logs. These carp, it's alleged,
can swallow whole children, but they prefer the wayward golf balls
that arrive, daily, from the sky. There are also mosquitoes and
gnats and biting flies, and these pests keep the tourists busy slapping
themselves. I know because I live in the bottom of that bog, or
rather, I reside, with the rest of the decaying muck way down deep
in the dark, dark bog. I'm no longer alive, of course, that's because
I'm dead, and this is the story about how I died, several years
ago, more or less at this very spot.
then, I remember hearing the bog referred to by Country club members
as the "G-Spot". I remember too, that the Country Club itself was
in dilapidated condition, due, not, as I was told by various club
members, to a lack of funds, but rather to a misappropriation of
those funds. I remember how entrenched, Jack Taylor, the president
of the Country Club was back then. He'd held his office for nearly
a quarter of a century, and according to some would probably hold
it until either he literally bankrupted the club, or just plain
died. I'd often see him in the locker room, half naked, or in the
sauna, completely naked. He never seemed to notice me, or if he
did, he never let on that he did. I was just small fry to him, I
was an insect, a mosquito, I was too petty for him to consider,
and I was glad for it, because if the truth be told, he scared the
hell out of me. He usually surrounded himself by a small group of
influential friends. Two men in particular may as well have been
permanently attached to him: Ed Rodgers and Burt Jones. Ed Rodgers
was noted not only for openly carrying a gun-a nickel plated .38-but
also for the fact that, as handsome and rich as he was, he remained
a chronic bachelor. This didn't draw suspicion in the locker room,
so much as curiosity. But when he spoke on something like his golf
game, or tried to carry off a joke, he grew so stiff and self conscious,
that his bachelorhood, or at least the reasons for it, became self
evident. Burt Jones, on the other hand, was a natural force, and
like all natural forces, he was something to fear, to stand in awe
of, and in a small way, to envy. I'd see him in the Country Club
dining room, cutting into steaks, mopping his face with a napkin,
laughing absurdly like a hyena, and I couldn't help but imagine
the day when it was me underneath his knife and fork.
evening, after the locker room emptied out, Taylor, Rodgers and
Jones would meet in the shower or the sauna and discuss misplaced
funds, large investments, and meetings taking place here or there.
Occasionally a club member's name would be mentioned in anger, then
there'd be long conspiratorial silences, broken only by more talk
of money, women, and golf. I'd been caught, more than once, listening
in on these locker room conferences. Frowning, Jack Taylor would
tell me to get lost. "Get the hell outa here, kid!" He'd scream,
his voice echoing in the steamy locker room. I'd flee the country
club as fast as I could, worried that Burt Jones would grab and
molest me, or that Rodgers, at Jack's command, would suddenly, shoot
a caddie then. I'd been a caddie for nearly two years. Actually,
I was a pretty good caddie, or so I was told. More than anything
I was reliable, that is I knew how to do two very basic caddie things
well: 1) I knew how to drive and park the golf cart so that it never
became an issue; and 2) I knew how to mix drinks. At the time, I
was too young to legally mix drinks, but the country club, like
all country clubs, wasn't part of this world. It was its own make
believe kingdom and quite a bit of effort had been put into maintaining
this illusion: from the hills of British Hills that had been bulldozed
by landscape artists, to the club house, modeled on a Louisiana
style plantation home, and built entirely from antebellum bricks,
not a detail was missing. It had its own rules and regulations,
its internal politics, and committees, even its own holidays. It
also had its twelve year old caddies who mixed drinks: Harvey Wallbangers,
Whiskey Sours, Martini's, and Gimlits, these drinks were the call
of the day. I knew how to mix them. And I mixed them well. I had
a talent, an instinct for booze. Unfortunately I didn't have a talent
for staying out of trouble.
over here kid," I heard Jack Taylor say. The three men had been
alone in the shower for nearly half an hour, when Jack Taylor stepped
unexpectedly into the locker room. "Well, boy," he said, dripping
wet. "What the hell we gonna do about this problem?" Rodgers and
Burt Jones quickly flanked him. All three men were naked, pink,
and slick as seals. I also believe they were beyond embarrassment.
"Well,' he asked. "Do you have an answer for me, or do I have to
wrangle one out of you?" The word 'wrangle' sent Burt Jones into
a tail spin of laughter. Suddenly the world, or at least the world
composed of these six rows of red painted lockers, and the dozen
wood worn benches smelling of Ben Gay, came to a halt. Ed Rodgers,
Jack Taylor and I turned and watched in astonishment as Burt Jones
shook uncontrollably. There was something fundamentally shocking
about his laughter: it reverberated at such a low register that
it didn't seem capable of expressing any emotion other than a sort
of hellish distaste for things. When it subsided, the three men
turned to faced me. I think they were as intent, as I was scared.
It was like a standoff in the Wild West. I found a towel lying on
the floor, picked it up and tried to hide behind it.
my towel, Julian," Jack Taylor said. "Why don't you give it back."
I was so terrified I couldn't let go. He reached out and snatched
it from me, then he dried himself off, and wrapped the towel around
he said, when he was through.
was just mopping up, sir." I said, as calmly as my fear would let
was just mopping up, sir," I heard Rodgers say under his breadth.
he was just mopping up, like he said he was, let him go," Burt Jones
kid," Jack Taylor said. "Go ahead, get out of here."
transfixed, and couldn't take my eyes from Rodgers or Burt Jones,
who, naked as shaved lambs and veiled in the hot steam of the showers,
stood smirking at me. Finally Jack Taylor pursed his lips, and quite
matter of factly said: "Dismissed." That's when I turned and ran,
fast as I could.
word "dismissed" shot through me like a terminal illness. It occurred
to me then and there that they would probably kill me. All of a
sudden I remember feeling like I'd been almost instantly transformed
from the twelve year old boy, which I was, into an old man. "I've
reached the end of my rope," I remember saying to myself as I let
the doors of the Country Club slam behind me. That night, as I ran
home down the streets towards my house, I began to see my future
cast into a series of negatives: no more joy, no more motherly love,
no more happiness, nor life, nor nothing. I remember, most of all,
running past some friends of mine who were playing ball in the street.
I remember what I felt as I passed by them: I felt like the Angel
I was certain to become any moment, observing these simple daily
events with longing in my heart. It made me sad to know that soon,
very soon, these ball playing sounds sent riding upon the air by
children just like me, would, any moment, cease to be sounds. Then
I started to wonder about Jack Taylor. Was he going to shoot me,
or stab me, strangle me, suffocate me, burn me, or beat me for doing
nothing more than overhearing things that I, a twelve year old boy,
couldn't possibly use against him? Alas, he was merely going to
run me over.
home that night, I saw out the corner of my eye the long black '69
Cadillac Limo that Mr. Taylor liked to drive around in. I was running
fast when he caught up with me. I was only three blocks from home.
kid," he said, pulling upside of me. "How 'bout letting us drive
'bout it, lil fella," Burt Jones said from the back seat. "We know
where you live."
only three blocks," I said.
Rodgers said. "Come on, you ain't never been in a car like this
you," I said. "But. . ."
Julian," Jack Taylor said. "You don't have to be scared of
us, we ain't gonna bite you."
Burt Jones said. "Why don't you show those friends of yours back
there what a big shot you are, and hop in."
opened the back door, and I felt the heat from the interior of the
car, rush out and grab hold of me like an old comfortable embrace,
like death. Without saying another word, I turned and ran. To my
surprise they didn't come chasing after me. Instead, the three men
let me run, keeping me in the glare of their headlight beams, watching
as I bounded away like a scared rabbit. Just then, as I was making
my escape, I heard a noise-the noise of doom, my own doom. It sounded
like a sewing machine. I was too afraid to turn and see what it
was, after all, I only had a block to go before I was safe and free
at home, and if I ran fast enough-but the humming sound continued
to grow louder, until I felt something like a warm breadth on my
neck. I turned to see what sort of hell hound they'd sent humming
after me, breathing down my neck. When I turned to look, I saw it-it
was the last thing I remember seeing as a living human being, and
GM should be proud: it was the grill work of that '69 Limo. My very
last vision was of that gold Cadillac hood ornament blazing like
a torch and thrusting ahead into a future I would no longer take
part in. I saw it disappear as I got crunched beneath the wheels,
and left lying for dead with a broken skull. When it was all over,
I remember thinking, a little regretfully, just how transient these
vapors of life actually are: as quickly as I'd been conceived thirteen
years or so ago, earlier, I'd been just as easily deconceived, erased.
I don't know, but it just seems like I shouldn't have been so easy
I was dead, and those three thugs made sure of it by kicking me
several times for good measure, my next concern was about how they
were going to dispose of my body. After I'd been thrown into their
trunk, I sort of imagined that my fate would be to lie and rot in
some nameless ditch alongside some nameless desolate road somewhere
in the wastelands of northern Illinois. Just then, I saw my mom,
in the doorway of our house, calling my name. "Julian, Julian."
For some reason that film, the film of my life after I had ceased
living it, was in black and white. I remembered my mom in that black
and white movie. She seemed older than she was, like a Depression
era dust bowl sufferer weary from crying. Then I heard my name turning
up in her mouth, "Julian, Julian," and suddenly the whole movie
turned to color. I felt like calling out, like telling mom what
had happened: that her baby, her baby boy had been killed. Then
I thought of something else, it occurred to me that if I was tossed
in some nameless ditch, alongside of some nameless country road,
then it just might happen that my remains would be discovered, and
she would be able to find out the true, and unhappy fate of her
son. As it turns out I was to suffer the much more ignominious disgrace
of being buried by bog, or more specifically to be buried in Wheeling's
very own natural bog at the thirteenth hole of the British Hill's
Country Club, where not a soul would ever think to look for a lost
young boy, dead or alive.
jumped out of the car, picked me up, and cussing about all the blood,
threw me in the trunk of the Limo.
am I going to get this blood out of here?" Jack Taylor screamed.
Burt Jones blurted.
Jack Taylor repeated. "This is the last goddamned time we're going
to do something like this, do you hear?"
slammed the trunk shut, got back in the car, and turned the Limo
around to go back to the country club. I remember driving past my
friends who were playing ball in the street. This time I passed
them as a bonafide Angel.
Car!" somebody yelled out.
my friend Steve said. "How'd you like a ride in a car like that!"
fuckin' rich bastards!"
the way back, I remember stopping at least once at a liquor store
or service station for some booze. I remember hearing the car door
slam shut, the heels of the men on the pavement. I remember hearing
Burt Jones crack a joke, and the other two laugh. Then the sounds
of the men disappeared for a while, as they stepped into the store,
and the doors closed behind them. The sort of small talk they enjoyed
outside the car seemed to confirm to me that they'd most certainly
done this kind of thing before: they were expert killers. Suddenly
there was the sound of their voices again, then the trunk opened
and a bag of ice was tossed next to me. Burt Jones took out a baseball
bat, clubbed me one more time for good measure, then slammed the
trunk shut as we drove off. There I lie for quite some time feeling
the bag of ice melt as I grew cold, colder than ice walking step
by step along the road that lead me, irrevocably, to that big parade
in the clouds.
we pulled up to the golf course, the moon was high in the sky. The
three men were drunk as hell. They struggled, pulling me out of
the trunk. My foot got caught on something, and they dropped me
on the ground.
so goddamned dead," Jack Taylor said. "He's stiff."
picked me up, and with their feet shuffling on the asphalt, carried
me to their golf cart. They sat me up in the front passengers seat,
folded my hands across my lap, and put a golf cap on my head. Rodgers
went back to the Limo, and grabbed the bag of ice, but it had already
been completely melted.
stiff," Rodgers said. "Because we had him on ice." Jack Taylor and
Burt Jones laughed.
bring the Shnapps, would you, and let's get going." That's when
they started talking to me, as if I were still alive.
comfortable," Jack Taylor asked sitting down next to me in the driver's
him a glass would you Rodgers?"
opened my hand which had long since clenched up in rigor mortis,
and placed a glass there. Then Burt Jones came over carrying a burlap
bag, a stone, and a baseball bat. "Move over fellas," he said. "Let
me try something here. You who?" Burt Jones sang, bringing the baseball
bat around and clobbering me in the jaw. "You're not still alive
little fella, are you?" He clobbered me again for good measure,
sending me tumbling out of the cart. "He forgot to wear his seat
belt." Burt Jones laughed. "Here, help me pick him up."
came to help. "Jesus he's heavy."
'cause he's stiff," Burt Jones said. "I thought you said you've
done this kind of thing before."
put me in the golf cart, set me up straight, placed the glass back
in my hand, then they jumped in, and we were off, moving fast towards
the thirteenth hole. As we tooled up and down the fairways in the
moonlight, the men became festive. They started mixing drinks, and
cracking jokes. Burt Jones, who seemed to sense in that remote reptilian
brain of his, the uncomfortable situation I was in, drank a few
glasses of Peppermint Schnapps on my behalf and even had a toast:
"To Julian," he said, kissing me on the cheek.
Julian," the others said, tipping their glasses.
than shit, but he's reliable."
we came to the water bog Jack Taylor pulled over. "Fellas," he said
turning to Rodgers and Burt Jones. "Whatd'ya say we go down to the
bog and throw the boy in."
say," Rodgers said.
like a good idea to you?" Jack said, laughing like a child.
either that, or throw him in a ditch somewhere," Burt Jones said.
on," Jack said. "Let's go check it out."
the three men pull me out of the golf cart, and force my body into
the burlap sack. Jack Taylor and Rodgers folded me up, Burt Jones
snapped my back breaking it, and pushed until I was completely in
the sack. They threw the stone in for good measure, and stitched
up the sack real nice so it wouldn't open, not until the end of
time. Then they walked, carrying me, to the banks of that foul smelling
fly infested bog. I suddenly remembered every rumor and fact that
I'd heard about it and I didn't forget that it was the trap at the
thirteenth hole. Then I hoped in one brief act of wishing, that
both rumor and fact would come alive and lash out at those three
men, that every hell sent nightmare I'd ever had about that six
acre body of water would rise from the mud and gobble them up. But
when I saw the drunken men stumbling in the moonlight, when I came
to see these fat, drunk, ungainly men for what they were, when I
saw, most particularly, Jack Taylor who probably pushed the scales
to 350 lbs plus waddle down to the smelly bog bank, I grew dejected,
for then I suddenly realized that he, drunken he, he and his two
other friends: Rodgers and Burt Jones were the nightmare, they were
the monsters-they were the gobblers, and would probably always be
the gobblers, whereas people like me, young dead me, with or without
an instinct for self preservation would almost always probably be
flies.." I heard Rodgers say swatting at a swarm of flies that rose
up like an armed battalion and attacked him. At that point they
set me down, and from the edge of the bog I watched the three men
meet the muck, which like some strange progenitor, seemed to have
been the one that gave birth to them. It was almost a home coming
for Jack Taylor. There was nothing timid nor uncomfortable about
the way he approached it, he quite simply jumped right into the
soft smelly mud. Rodgers followed, albeit a little more gingerly.
When he stepped into the mud I heard some shrill complaint about
how this was going to ruin his golf cleats, then I heard Burt Jones
say, "I'll buy you another pair, if we survive this." Then of course
everybody started laughing. Burt Jones was the last to go in. He
threw the burlap bag over his shoulders, and with me riding on his
back, attempted to step into the bog. I think he was a little scared
of the quicksand mud, intimidated by the mosquitoes that swarmed
about him, in the end however, he must have been drunk enough to
ignore all this, for after a little urging from his Captain, from
Jack Taylor, the President of Wheeling's British Hill's Country
Club, he too, waddled ankle deep into the mud.
give me a little room fellas," Burt Jones said, swinging the sack
with me in it, off his shoulders. "Now lets see how far I can throw
him. I used to be a shot putter, you know. Now how to do this Burt.
Put one hand here, like this, put the other hand here, like this.
Alright, I'm ready. Now on the count of three, fellas. One. . .
Two. . ." Almost in slow motion, Burt Jones swang me like a
pendulum: once, twice, and then with an inarticulate cry, hurled
me and my dead body into the moonlit sky. I seemed to have flown
quite a distance, that's how I remember it at least, I also remember
a growing sense of doom that seemed to be part of the fine summer
night, part of my cascading destiny, that flew through the dark
and beautiful starry sky, only to descend with a proverbial splash
where I was at once swallowed up by the dark and gloomy bog.
in one." Fat Burt cried, seeing me splash in the distance.
Jack Taylor said, scratching a bug bite just beneath his eye. "Looks
like you clobbered that thing with your driver."
fellas," Rodgers yelled as I bubbled deeply down to the bottom of
the swamp. "How long we gonna stay in this fly infested swamp?"
were sure he's sunk." Jack Taylor said itching his scalp where a
horsefly was trying to nestle.
worried about the Loch Ness monster," Burt Jones said swatting biting
flies from the back of his neck.
worried about Malaria," Rodgers screamed, itching and scratching.
Jack said. "How we gonna get that?"
Jones started shaking and scratching like he was having a fit. "Alright
fellas," he said, "The kid's sunk. I'm ready to go."
think he's sunk?" Jack Taylor asked.
sunk," Rodgers said. "Now let's go before we get Malaria. Shit,
I'm going on vacation next week."
three men pulled themselves from the quicksand mud, and stomped
their feet on the grass of the golf green. I heard a little grunting
and groaning, a little laughing, then the quiet hum of the golf
cart, as the three men jumped in and drove slowly away, towards
their homes, their wives, their futures. Meanwhile I spent the rest
of the evening sinking into the fathomless depths of Wheeling's
by now famous bog. I sank into the zone of the forever dead, and
there I lie, with one eye open, looking for you as you peer into
the depths of Golfer's Bog looking for me.