Fiction — December 27, 2011 9:37 — 1 Comment

The Picker – John Himmelheber

After both are done with work and school, the father meets his son at the club’s driving range, and says to his son:

The man in the picker is your target, my boy.  Hit him as hard as you can.  We haven’t much daylight left.

But Father, he moves in slow flowing motions over the berms and around the sand bunkers.  I like the way the picker dances, and its disks pluck the balls and comb the grass smooth.  I don’t want to hurt the man inside or interrupt the dance.

That is nonsense, my boy.  He no more dances than you or I, and he is just a worker at our Club.  Besides, he has a cage of lattice-work iron on three sides that protects him.

And can he come out of the cage, Father?  Perhaps to pick up a missed ball or to straighten a target pin that leans while all the rest are upright?  He may want to see how neat the rows are he inscribes on the grass and how the tiny blades turn in his direction after he passes.

He may not come out of his cage until his work is done, even if he must pick into darkness.  Besides, my boy, he is not worth your reverie.  His job is mindless, like the machine he rides.  He is in our employ and it is amusing to hear the clang of our ball on his cage, or to watch him instinctively duck if he sees the ball flying at him.  You will enjoy hitting him.  Everyone does.

But does the man enjoy being hit, Father?

Of course!  Ah!  See how close I came with that last shot?  It is as much a game to him as it is to us.

Then why, when he passed close to the tee last, did he not look at us and smile?

He was not angry, was he?  Did he shake his fist; did he form a curse with his lips?  If he did—

No, no.  He was serene.  I saw him glance at the sunset.  And his hands caressed the wheel as he moved right or left to pick up the balls, the picker gliding like a hawk.  He keeps it balanced, even on the sides of steep hills.  Though the picker may rise and fall as it runs over the furrows left from when this was farmland, he remains steady and rides like a racehorse jockey.

More nonsense!  I’m tiring of your prattle.  I want to hear the crack of my ball on the picker and startle the man.  Then you will understand how much pleasure this game can be.  I will hit him with all my force, with my driver, when he makes his next turn only twenty yards from us.

But why, Father?

BECAUSE I CAN!  It is my right.  I have paid all my life to belong to this Club, and I will hit the picker because I can.

At least wait for him to turn and for his iron cage to protect him, Father!

No!  He is facing me, I can see him clearly through his windshield, and I will hit him. . . NOW!

Father!  Your ball, your ball went through the protective glass.  The picker has stopped, Father.  The man is lying over the steering wheel.  I think he is hurt.  He isn’t moving.  What should we do?  How can we help him, Father?

Go, get in the cart.  Take all your clubs and the soda I bought you— I don’t want to leave anything here.

Aren’t you going to help him, Father?  Father?  Wait!


John Himmelheber retired from teaching and keeps busy writing, playing golf and working on social justice issues. The father of two grown daughters, he lives with his wife and a dog on Prozac in Asheville, North Carolina. He has recently been published in The Cynic.

One Comment

  1. Thank you; I know many people care but the divisions among us are increasing and sadly I read “Upscale” too often.

Leave a Reply

The answer isn't poetry, but rather language

- Richard Kenney